Are women born into an oppressive paradigm?

"Object" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“Object” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

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When I read the Duggar story, my first reaction is sadness. I feel sad for the girls who grow into women whose purpose in life is to serve men.

Useful objects.

It was about a year ago when I read a story of a young woman, a pastor’s wife, who blogged about how she was going to make it her life’s purpose to be the perfect wife and mother. She was going to keep her mouth shut and serve her husband faithfully, have sex whenever he wanted or needed it, be modest publicly so as not to make her husband jealous, always deflect attention from herself and towards him, and basically be the fulfillment of all his fantasies or ideas of what a woman and wife should be. She received an incredible amount of ridicule for that. It felt unfair

So, I felt sad for her. Not in a condescending, pitiful kind of way. Just sad because I knew she meant well. In her world, being the perfect woman and wife looks just like how she imagined and described it. She could be no other. At that point.

The same applies to the Duggars. I don’t think they have chosen this lifestyle. They’ve been born into it, trained by it, and rewarded by it. For them to think or behave otherwise would be a direct betrayal of everything they have learned or been trained to become. It would be a spiritual and a social suicide for them. At least they think so.

Like Aimee Lutkin writes in her excellent post, A post about how to raise your daughter so she doesn’t end up like Anna Duggar went viral:

”Anna Duggar was taught that her sole purpose in life, the most meaningful thing she could do, was to be chaste and proper, a devout wife, and a mother.”

What really got me thinking about this more recently was when I read the also sad Ask Pastor John Piper post where Beth says she wants to be a police officer. But since she is a complementarian, if she gets married and her husband objects to her being a police officer, she will quit. Piper’s advice is clear: women should not direct, order, or have authority over men. Period. If you shape your whole life by scripture, then women should submit to men as they do Scripture.

I felt sad for Beth. Again, not in a “poor stupid girl” kind of way, but in a genuine lament kind of way.

Now, I realize I am looking at this from my particular perspective just as they are looking at it from theirs. So, for example, if my daughter met a man that told her he objected to her being a police woman and that she should quit, I’d expect my daughter to say to the guy, “FFFFFFF*** Ya, right! See ya later loser!”, and move on. But what if I raised my daughter in a complementarian culture where this would be totally normal, expected, and applauded? She may feel she’s fulfilling her highest destiny as a woman and feel incredibly fulfilled in doing so.

Actually, my daughter just missed it. I grew up in a complementarian kind of culture. Lisa and I were very much into a milder version of it. But we started, many years ago, to break away from that mentality when we realized Lisa was being asked to be less of a person, less free, and less happy as a result. I can personally attest, as may you, that when we are deeply embedded in a worldview, no matter how oppressive it might be, we find ways of making a life within it and even achieving certain levels of contentment and happiness. When we’re inside a worldview it is the only paradigm available to us. There is no choice.

Which is why I don’t blame the women I believe are stuck in them. Personally, again from my own perspective, I hope they wake up. Just like I must. Just like we all must. Every oppressive system needs perpetrators and victims to work. I think it is wise to try to discern the difference.

This is all sad because it all comes down to men getting and doing what they want while women must submit their dreams and aspirations, even their intelligence and strengths, to those of men. In fact, they must often abandon them, as we see Beth is willing to do… not because she resentfully must, but because this is the honorable, spiritual, and most beautiful sacrifice a woman can make.

So I believe Beth and the Duggars and all the women they represent are just a small part of the issue. The issue is systemic. The oppression and suppression is global, permeating even the air we breathe, deeply established in our minds, our transactions, our speech, our behaviors, our laws, our structures… in everything.

It takes a great deal of continued effort to break free from it.


13 Replies to “Are women born into an oppressive paradigm?”

  1. Also remember these cultures purposely cripple the women-little to no education means they cannot support themselves even if they wanted to get away.

  2. David, this may seem like I’m ‘off topic’ but I would like to broaden the discussion based on YOUR FOUNDATION.

    What you describe happens within YOUR church, also has a much much wider meaning.

    I am of course referring to the Islamist Fundamental movement going on.

    As I read your post I kept thinking this could easily apply to ISIS or ISIL or whatever the HELL they and others call them.

    Again as you suggest …. it is NOT ACCEPTABLE within your ‘domain’ and nor is it acceptable within the wider world of Islam.

    Sometimes it takes ‘some one else’ to highlight the bigger issue. Thanks for doing that.

  3. This is a very insightful and helpful post David. You are right, it seems appropriate to feel sad for these women but at the same time not pity them. It seems like the best way to show love to women in these kinds of situations is to be a good listener and then help by demonstrating compassion, love and patience.

  4. How to see outside the paradigm …. I have come to believe that most people shatter within the paradigm, and then later, pick up the pieces of their life, and return.

    After a repeat of the cycle, they return to a variant of their paradigm.

    After another repeat of the cycle, they cease returning.

    Few of us are taught to question, to think, to explore, and to ‘put together’ our own paradigm-mixes that work for us.

    My observation is that most of us had to sink first, and nearly drown, before we realized our ‘ship’ could not overcome all icebergs. Some of us rebuilt a ship; some changed to kayaks, and some decided to stay on dry land.

    I think that is one reason I like TLS – we have people in their first or second ship, others in kayaks, and still others on dry land. We do have some that are in shock, anger, wishing the iceberg never came along… or just depressed.

    But… we dialog. In essence, we learn of paradigms that may work ‘for us too’, before we encounter the next iceberg.

  5. For all those not born “with a silver teaspoon in our mouths” we are all born into an oppressive paradigm – just the nature of living in our current social/political/economic milieux. Being a male I could be wrong, but believe it’s general and not specific to females.

  6. To continue with the broader scope regarding all religions in particular, Islam:

    o Islam gives women almost no rights and treats them like fodder for the male species as so bluntly noted by Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her autobiography, Infidel.

    “Thus begins the extraordinary story of a woman born into a family of desert nomads, circu-mcised as a child, educated by radical imams in Kenya and Saudi Arabia, taught to believe that if she uncovered her hair, terrible tragedies would ensue. It’s a story that, with a few different twists, really could have led to a wretched life and a lonely death, as her grandmother warned. But instead, Hi-rsi Ali escaped – and transformed herself into an internationally renowned spokeswoman for the rights of Muslim women.”
    ref: Washington Post book review.

    One excerpt:

    “Some of the Saudi women in our neighborhood were regularly beaten by their husbands. You could hear them at night. Their screams resounded across the courtyards. “No! Please! By Allah!”

  7. The current “paradigm” has been taught in our culture for more than half a century; referred to as modern feminism. Women who dare to do such things as be “stay at home moms” are pretty much dismissed as neanderthals by “those in the know” (elites). We praise women like the late Mother Theresa who devote their lives to the poor, but heap disdain on those who devote their lives to children (unless they are government school teachers and administrators). Some people CHOOSE to serve others with their lives. And yes, some of those people who CHOOSE to serve others may CHOOSE to serve their husbands, children, elderly parents, etc…. The elites (with noses held high) think it is “such a shame” that these women don’t have professional careers and have instead have . . . “made themselves nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” Philippians 2:7

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