Friday, December 9, 2016

Research Project Announcement

As long as Michael and I have been married, we’ve had this ongoing discussion around gender roles, feminism, marriage, and the Bible.  There are so many voices out there, so many opinions on this rather wide and controversial topic.  There are some things we have definitely agreed on, like any extreme is probably not right and your ideology has to work in the real world.  There are also many areas in which we don’t agree 100% with the ideas we were raised with.  The concern now is, are we starting to believe what sounds good to us?  Or are we genuinely finding the truth?  I know that the Christian life is not supposed to be easy.  It is about self-denial and learning to be holy.  I suspect that some of the ideas I like are not in line with the Bible, because I know that as a human it is easier to follow what feels good than what is right. 
For a bit of background, my husband and I were both homeschooled.  We grew up in a fairly conservative church community where it was sort of taken for granted that the husband is the head of the family, that wives are to submit to their husbands, and that children are to obey their parents.  This was definitely not Christian Patriarchy.  However, through the magazines, blogs, and books I read as a child and as a teen, I was exposed to the ideas of the patriarchy movement and was in some ways drawn to it.  By nature I see the world in a black and white way, so the clearly laid out rules and apparent possibility of achieving perfection really appealed to me.  As I became an adult, however, things changed.  For one thing several leaders of the movement have been exposed for sexual misconduct.  For another, I am an independent person who doesn’t like to be told what to do, and for another, I started going to school for child and youth work and realized that patriarchy’s idea of keeping our families pure and unaffected by the world leaves no room for caring for the hurt and broken in society. 
I know patriarchy and complementarianism aren’t the same thing, but I also have found that a lot of people who come out of patriarchy also reject complementarianism.  It’s hard not to be affected by these ideas.  I’ve also always believed or at least absorbed the idea that feminism is a bad thing, that it is destroying families (and thus destroying society) and that it is responsible for the deaths of millions of babies through abortion.  This may be true, but at the same time isn’t feminism responsible for my ability to vote?  And wouldn’t feminism be a good thing for women in countries where in the judicial system a woman's testimony is only worth half of a man’s?
In light of all this, I have embarked on a research project investigating these topics.  This is the purpose statement I am starting out with:
“The purpose of this research paper is to examine the topics of gender roles, the place of women, family structure, etc., including subtopics like modesty, child raising/training, feminism, complementarianism,  egalitarianism, patriarchy, the patriarchal evangelical homeschool movement, dating, courting and so on, in order to form a well-grounded philosophy for my own life and family.  I take as absolute authority the word of God.  Beyond that I hope to examine many sources, taking the good and leaving the bad.”
In the last week or so, I have fallen down a massive rabbit hole of reading blogs written either by people who have left patriarchy or left Christianity all together, or who are stay-at-home daughters or wives.  The problem is remembering to take notes and keep track of sources…

I have a big pile of books I plan to use as well as blogs and websites to look into.  I am also open to suggestions.   In fact, I strongly desire suggestions.  Give me your suggestions!  I’d also like your opinions, provided they are stated respectfully and without the use of profanity. 

*note.  this research project is being undertaken as a hobby/ side interest, not a work project.  It may take me a long time to finish it.


  1. That's a big project! I hope it helps you both. For what it is worth, for us, leaving the patriarchal movement and embracing an egalitarian relationship, probably ended up saving our marriage. It was definitely a turning point in improving my mental health. I still have anxiety and the ocassional panic attack, and I had really bad post partem anxiety after Emma was born. But it is so much more manageable now.

    1. Thanks for your input, Jolene! I'm glad to hear you found a way to make things better for you!

  2. Hi, Justine! I'm David, and I'm *thrilled* to meet you. Oh my gosh, you don't know how excited I am right now.

    I am -- and I hope you don't think this is *too* weird, but all of it is true -- a secular Jew who's an interested observer of evangelical culture and its discontents. I've done a bunch of reading about deconversions and faith transitions and I'm just now gettin' started on trying to understand how complementarian / stay-at-home women see *themselves*, so I'm just EXPLODING with excitement right now. I mean-- boy howdy, your project is RIGHT up my alley. RIGHT up it! And I have so many resources to share.

    But rather than overload you with links right away (especially since you seem to already be off to the races all on your own), can you list the sources you're using? If I've got any to add -- and I'm pretty darn certain I will ;D --I can fill you in. And if you've got any I don't have -- and you will! --, I'll be thrilled.

    As you work, would LOVE to compare notes on our findings; given our very different backgrounds, I think each of us can add a valuable perspective to the other.

    So, uh, whaddya say? You wanna be Internet research buddies?

    Best regards,

    P.S. Please forgive the length and enthusiasm of this post. I'm just -- you have noooooo idea how excited I am to find someone who's doing exactly the same thing as me but from, as it were, the other side of the mirror.

    P.P.S. My girlfriend adds: "PLEASE SAY YES. If you give him another outlet so he doesn't just talk to ME about this stuff, I'll build a small shrine to you." And I'm like, "See, that's the wrong thing to say to an evangelical becau--" and she's like, "NOT ANOTHER WORD, or I'll kill you with this barbecue fork." So quite apart from any research benefits, you would be doing, as we'd say, a mitzvah. :)

    1. Hi! It's very interesting to find someone looking at the same topic from a different angle. Here are some of my sources: (this one is a bit over the top, but still interesting) (I haven't looked at these too much yet, but I've read their magazine)
      Also books:
      anything by Douglas or Nancy Wilson
      books by Voddie Baucham
      Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
      Which direction are you looking to go? Are you interested just in complementarianism or are you looking at patriarchy as well? And then there are all the other side trails: homeschooling, modesty, courtship....
      There is a very broad spectrum that falls under the title "complementarian". Is there a broad spectrum on the egalitarian side as well?

    2. Hi, Justine -- and merry Christmas.

      You ask phenomenal questions. I hope mine are half as good.

      Taking them in order: 1. Understanding Christian patriarchy is my end goal for sure! But I need to work my way up to it, so I'm starting with the softer side of the complementarian spectrum.

      2. Homeschooling, modesty, and courtship are three of the /really big themes/ that keep coming up in my research. I have a sense that they're very tightly interwoven – that there's a common thread running through all three of these practices. But I find it very hard to explain what the common link might BE. Can you shed some light on it? Does it even feel like they're linked, from the perspective of someone who grew up in the stay-at-home world?

      3. I don't think there's a wide spectrum of egalitarian *belief* – equality is equality, right? But practice is a whole 'nother kettle of fish. Certainly, every couple needs to have its own way of making decisions -- but that's true for complementarians as well. It's just that 0% of egalitarian couples will make decisions based on "Well, the husband gets the final say no matter what." I'd be happy to share how my GF and I sort out the tough decisions if you'd like -- we have a pretty good system worked out, and it hasn't led us astray YET -- but there are millions of other good examples you can follow. :) So by no means should you take anything I say as normative.


    3. P.S. Your sources are great! Especially Biblical Gender Roles, which I hadn't come across. Are we sure it's not satirical? I /want/ it to be, at least.

      And, as promised, some sources of my own: and (a formerly fundamentalist Christian, now family-law lawyer. He's really informed my perspective on this stuff.); (a group blog started by a former Quiverfull wife now turned atheist); and (magazine produced by Quiverfull adherents from 2000 to 2005. I'll circle back to this source to see what's changed over the last 10-15 years, though I realize the editor's views may not be representative.)

      … and obviously there are a whole bunch of others, but I'm gonna cut the list short because I have a vital brownie-baking mission to attend to.

    4. Hi David! Sorry it took me a while to get back to you... It's been busy with Christmas and all. Those look like things I'll have to check out. Another one you could look at is the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I think they are basically the manifesto if you will of the complementarian view.
      Can I answer your question about the link between homeschooling, modesty, and courtship later?

  3. Of course! De nada. :) Hope you had a great Christmas.