Sunday, July 10, 2016

The War On Femininity, Part 2: The Female Role

Those Christians who still believe in the natural distinctions between the sexes like to cite Deut22:5 but few will go out further than pointing out that there should be some distinction between the appearance of males and females. Yet, in less enlightened times the verse was understood as to refer to much more than just clothing. As Matthew Henry puts it in his famous Commentaries:

It forbids the confounding of the dispositions and affairs of the sexes: men must not be effeminate, nor do the women's work in the house, nor must women be viragos, pretend to teach, or usurp authority, 1 Tim. ii. 11, 12.

 Since our society's ideal currently appears to be unisex, it naturally leads to the blending of male and female traditional roles. Yet, though we have some rise in stay-at-home-fathers this blending has mostly been one-way-street with feminine role diminishing and some tasks disappearing all together. Take the previous discussion on clothes, for instance. It has always been one of the tasks of a traditional wife to take care of the appearance of her family members. She would wash, mend and iron, polish shoes, fix the children's hair, shop for clothes and sometimes make them at home.

Being well-dressed isn't just something which happens randomly, it takes some consideration and experience, knowledge of different fabrics, the eye which can discern quality, planning beforehand when there is an event calling for it, like a birthday party. It all takes time and time is something which most couples with both partners working simply do not have.

Furthermore, things like washing and ironing fall under "housework" and it's something which feminists have traditionally hated. Some people even speculated that the whole feminist movement of the 1960s was motivated by the disappearance of cheap servants so that UMC women tried to push their husbands into the maid's role.

All this was supposed to help women but more often than not it actually led to the denigrating of the traditionally female tasks which started to be seen as degrading and oppressive, or as Betty Friedan so eloquently stated in her famous book: "peculiarly suited to the capacities of feeble-minded girls" (quoted from Domestic Tranquility by F. Carolyn Graglia, p.116).

While feminists like de Beauvoir calling housewives  parasitic creatures is old news, the new phenomenon is that now we have men on the internet who describe themselves as the supporters of the traditional patriarchy in full agreement with her assessment of the housewives.

Nor is it in the man's interest, de Beauvoir continues, "that woman is supported by him like a parasite". (idem, p.107), and these men agree. I have lost count how many times I read about there being nothing to do at home, since we have a vacuum-cleaner (invented by men, so there!) and a washing machine, and how it's really not necessary to vacuum or clean the toilet more than once a month.

Nowadays there is a lot of talk about female submission but it's rarely pointed out that this wifely submission was directly tied up to man's duty to provide for his family. Since he bore all the costs it was only fair that he took all the final decisions. You simply can't have a traditional family with both husband and wife working full time or very close to it and earning approximately the same. Feminists of the 1960s understood very well that even if the law made the sexes equal, the chief breadwinner wielded a tremendous economic power hence they wanted all wives to get a job because it meant financial independence.

The female role in the present day has been largely restricted to motherhood, though even this primary function is heavily under attack, but the traditional definition of the female role would be something like "a caregiver". Women would take care of their husbands, their children, their family members, the neighbours etc etc and it included just as much providing a listening ear and some sympathetic understanding as cooking nutritious meals and running the house.

Moreover, in the Western culture women were traditionally seen as the companions of their men. The law which prohibited divorce ensured that the man couldn't kick out his wife for failure to produce a (male) heir or in fact, any children at all. Even in pre-Christian times the husband was supposed to treat his wife kindly and marital love was praised. F. Carolyn Graglia documents it in her book by, among, other things, narrating the story of a Spartan king Anaxandrias who refused to divorce his infertile wife despite the outside pressure because he loved her. (idem., p. 234).

 However, a wife can't properly function in her role unless she is supported by the breadwinner husband since fulfilling all these traditional tasks takes time, that is, unless you agree that vacuuming once a month is a proper way to run a house.


  1. This is what women have been asking for and yet we hear complaining from them. They are stressed out, overworked and feel that their homes are not operating as they would like. The art of homemaking is being lost and the pride of keeping the family as a family unit is rapidly disappearing. Maybe having roles is a good thing.

  2. Marietta, there is a theory that Neanderthals died out because they didn't practise the division of labour:) However, the matter of married women and mothers going to work en masse is rather complicated as in many (Western) countries the government deliberately encouraged high female labour participation. I'm going to write about it in more detail in my next post.