When A Stay-At-Home Daughter Rebels: Reumah’s Story, Part Three

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Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Reumah” is a pseudonym.

< Part Two

Part Three: Escape

This roller coaster I was one wouldn’t stop. Me, hesitatingly trying to make a step forward, my parents instantly pushing me back. I bought a little pallet of eye shadow one day – my parents told me I looked like a whore. I bought a skirt with a hemline just at the knee. My parents said I was pushing their standards. I desperately wanted a job. My father sat me down and told me how I was actually losing money by taking a job outside the home….and that my skills were better utilized under his roof.

I finally got the job I so coveted, at the age of almost 21.

I must have looked completely lost, walking into the store that first day in a long skirt, unsure of how to behave or what to say in this unfamiliar environment. Over the next six months, I would meet so many new people that would open my eyes to the oppression that I was living in. I made so much progress in that six months, but my parents could only see the negative influences that the “world” was having on me. I had to lie, sneak around, and pretend to be someone I wasn’t to keep the peace in my household.

One morning when I came down for breakfast wearing my favorite pair of jeans, my father told me that he was ashamed of my immodest clothing, and that I wasn’t allowed to wear those jeans ever again in his house. As a 21 year old woman who’d tasted just enough independence to understand what she was missing, I was livid. I started keeping the jeans at work, and changing into them as soon as I left my parent’s house. My days of quietly obeying my parent’s directives were quickly coming to an end.

I applied for, and miraculously received, a full ride scholarship to a distinguished university completely across the country from my parents. I remember my Dad, sitting on the couch in our living room, telling me he would never approve of one of his daughter’s leaving his home to attend college. That he would never allow it. Would never give his blessing.

I remember crying in the living room, desperate for an escape from my prison.

My friends at work told me I had to go. Those women at my first little retail job were instrumental in helping me ease into the real world, and open my eyes to the fact that I NEEDED to move on with my life. Yes, it would be hard. Yes it was scary, especially without any support from my family. But I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to spend 4 years across the country from my family, becoming my own person. Because after so many years living my parent’s beliefs and being told what was right and wrong, I didn’t know who I really was.

After an agonizing summer, I went.

My parents, insistent that they would move the family across the country so I could stay under their roof, drove me out to my new college with the promise that they would be there within a semester. I secretly hoped their plans to move would fall through. Thankfully, they did.

I fell in love with dorm life instantly, and loved the absolute freedom I had over my life. My future opened up before me. Endless opportunities and freedom met me at every turn. I met so many wonderful people who were kind, helpful, selfless, and genuine. I marveled when I met folks who weren’t devout fundamentalists and had never heard of patriarchy, and yet were still amazing people. These students – most of them had been to public school, had been raised in normal American culture; and yet they weren’t raging pagans, criminals, and devils in disguise. How could this be? Maybe my parents had been wrong.

Fast forward almost three years to the present day. It’s been a long road.

The first year of college life was incredibly difficult. I couldn’t keep up with any of the conversations my peers were having. Pop culture references went straight over my head. I hadn’t seen any of the movies people talked about; I didn’t get the jokes my friends made. People were shocked when they learned I’d never had a boyfriend and never been kissed; horrified when they learned I’d never gone to high school, played a sport or gone on a sleepover. I didn’t know who the Backstreet Boys were, had never listened to a Michael Jackson song, and didn’t know the Disney Channel even existed. Eventually, I started leaving those details of my life out of conversations. I created a completely new “me”, and many of my friends never even knew of my life before college.

My relationship with my family is rocky these days. I now stand for everything they’ve ever been opposed to….done everything they always wanted to protect me from. They’re convinced that college has corrupted me in a thousand ways. They don’t approve, support, or accept the person that I’ve become over the past 3 years since I left the movement. On the surface, they’re friendly. They feign interest in my activities, and we talk on a regular basis. But deep down, they can’t stand what I’ve become.

My siblings are still at home, lost in the life from which I’ve escaped. Fortunately, one of my brothers decided to leave too, and he’s now traveling around Europe making up for lost time.

I’m incredibly proud of how far I’ve come. But I have a lot left to go.

While I don’t dwell on my past, it does shape the person that I am today. I still find traces of my upbringing from time to time. My boyfriend is constantly dispelling my twisted views of life, family, relationships, and myself that are still left over from my dysfunctional upbringing.

And it’s overwhelmingly difficult to know that I don’t have the support of my family.

And yet,

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow.”  ~ Thomas Paine

End of series.

When A Stay-At-Home Daughter Rebels: Reumah’s Story, Part Two

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Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Reumah” is a pseudonym.

< Part One

Part Two: Trapped

I was trapped.

As I’d gotten older, my parents had gotten stricter, more isolated, and more focused on minute details of our lives.  We spent our mornings listening to my father read the Bible to us and decry the evils of the world, the culture, and anything he associated with it.  We weren’t allowed to watch films in the movie theater.  My brothers weren’t allowed to participate in organized sports, or watch football games; it took them away from family time and smacked of worldliness.  The only music in our home was hymns or peaceful praise songs. Even Christian radio was out of the question.    Dating was completely off the table…my parents were firmly entrenched in the values of courtship, and any potential relationship would be controlled completely by my father.

As time passed, I became less and less content with my life as a home maker in training. I’m not sure what changed. Perhaps it was just the passage of time, or perhaps it was the endless monotony of my days as they ran into each other. Getting up, weeding the garden, fixing breakfast. Washing the endless amounts of dishes, watching my little brothers, putting in laundry. Fixing lunch, lying around most of the afternoon on the internet or reading a book, then sluggishly helping put together dinner and going back to my computer to entertain myself until it was time for lights out. I didn’t have any friends, and nothing with which to break up my days.  I didn’t have anything to look forward to, and the glorious prospects of winning the culture war and raising a family of warriors for Christ began to seem a little bleak.  I began to envision the reality of the future I had willingly committed to, and it wasn’t a prospect I liked at all.

Yet, in spite of my growing restlessness, I was trapped.  No, I wasn’t being forcibly held at home.  My family loved me, and I loved them. But I slowly began to see the bars of the invisible prison into which I had unknowingly walked.

I was stuck. 

I had no discernible skills.  As a home school student, I hadn’t participated in any extra curricular activities, teams, or competitions for fear of being corrupted by worldly influences. I’d never held a job outside of my family, and didn’t have any means of getting one without a vehicle.  I’d briefly brought up the prospect of perhaps a part time job at our local library or a little boutique, but my father had quickly shot that down with a reminder about the Biblical role for women, and had placated me by piling on lots of mundane tasks he needed done for his own business. To him, I already had a job.

Without my father’s approval and permission, I wouldn’t be allowed use of the family vehicles to get to a potential job. So that was out of the question.  Without a job, I had no income.  And without income, I was powerless.  The money I did have came from my parents; wages I ‘earned’ for helping out around the house or for balancing my father’s checkbooks each month. I searched for ways to fill the void that wouldn’t clash with my parent’s ideals. I looked for ways to volunteer (online, of course), and tried to start a web based business. I explored the idea of beginning online classes in business; starting my college education was grudgingly allowed as long as I did it from the comfort and safety of my bedroom.  And, it was made clear, any post high school education would only be for the purpose of preparing me to be a better home schooling mother and a more helpful and supportive wife. Somehow, this didn’t sound very appealing.

I started blaming my situation on our location.  If only we would move to a different place, it would all be better. I would find friends. More importantly, I would find a husband.  Prince Charming, my future husband, would be the key to freeing me from my prison.  But after years of staunchly backing the patriarchal movement and spewing my legalistic views on Biblical womanhood to everyone who would listen, I felt embarrassed when I started questioning my long held ideals.

This inner turmoil haunted me for over a year and a half.  A constant battle between what I knew I “should” believe, and what another part of me was starting to explore.  I was curious about the world beyond the four walls of my home.  I caught snatches of secular music at the grocery store, and didn’t hate what I heard.  I saw commercials for TV shows that were well below my age level, yet I was still captivated with what I saw.  I noticed happy college students, books in tow, walking freely along the streets close to the campus of a nearby university, and harbored a quiet jealousy for the opportunities they had.

I started to resent my parents and their rules, and I started to resent myself for having trapped myself into a prison from which I saw no escape. I became angry for the time I had lost, the things I had never experienced, and the life that I saw slipping away from me.  I secretly resented my church, religion, and eventually the God I had believed in for so long.

The God who would send me to hell if I didn’t do what he wanted. 

Part Three >

When A Stay-At-Home Daughter Rebels: Reumah’s Story, Part One

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Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Reumah” is a pseudonym.

Part One: Return of the Daughters

My parents represented typical suburbia during my early child hood; my Dad with his upper middle class corporate job, and my Mom puttering around the house taking care of us and making our lives happy and healthy.   We had the brick three bedroom ranch-style home you see in the magazines; two or three cars in the garage, money in the bank, a good circle of friends, and a cute little church with a steeple we attended religiously on Sunday mornings.  Church services were always followed by lazy afternoons where my Dad grilled out on the back porch while we children played in the fading sunlight.

My parents had always been good Christian people. They raised us in the church, took us to Sunday school, taught us about Jesus and the Bible at home.  Christianity was a fundamental pillar of my early childhood. It fit comfortably into our lives, right along with everything else we held dear.  But sometime around my eleventh birthday, my parents transitioned from mainstream Christianity towards something more radical, conservative, and polarizing.

My parents became exposed to the teachings of organizations and individuals such as Doug Phillips (Vision Forum), Bill Gothard (IBLP), Geoff Botkin (Western Conservatory), and Mike & Debi Pearl (No Greater Joy). On the surface, these people seemed like admirable champions for morality, truth, and wholesome family values.  What could be better? My parents wholeheartedly subscribed to their teachings, and eventually steered the direction of our family away from mainstream Christianity and into the ditch of these extreme right wing fundamentalists.

These organizations promised the world if you followed their “Biblical” teachings; perfect families, obedient children, protected daughters, reprieve from all heartbreak, answers to every problem you could imagine. These God-like men fiercely taught the tenets of patriarchy; they eschewed all forms of feminism; paraded the perfection of male authority and total female submission; warned of the great dangers of the world, and lauded those who welcome as many children as humanly possible into their families.  After all, we were at war with the culture, and we needed to out-number them.

We left our mainstream church with the friendly steeple and started a “home church” with two or three families who felt the same way as my parents did. Home church consisted of singing hymns at home on our couch, while one of the fathers “preached” on the dangers of the world and how we needed to be protected from it lest we be corrupted.  Gender roles were strongly emphasized and the liberal agenda was held up as the devil of our age; something we needed to defeat lest the homosexuals, abortionists, feminists, and the government take over the world.

But my 11 year old mind couldn’t wrap around these concepts.  All I knew was that my parents were happy; they’d found the answer to their problems and the solution to all future familial woes. They taught us the principles they believed in, and as children we knew no different.

 We took to this new patriarchal fundamentalist culture like bees to honey; it was easy, we knew what the rules were, and it made us feel better than the rest of the lazy Christians our friends talked about.

But little did I know where these teachings and philosophies would lead our family, my parents, and myself.  How could I have known? I was just a kid, doing what I was told and learning what I was taught by my well-meaning parents.  How could I have foreseen the heartache, the lost time, the lost opportunities, the emotional bondage, and the dreams I would have taken from me before they even had a chance to develop?

Fast forward to 2008 – my excitement was palpable as I unwrapped the most recent birthday gift from my well-meaning parents; Vision Forum’s newest DVD release “Return of the Daughters” promoting Biblical womanhood and a return to the supposed woman’s role in the home.  I turned over the shiny DVD and read the beautifully crafted summary on the back;

“This highly-controversial documentary will take viewers into the homes of several young women who have dared to defy today’s anti-family culture in pursuit of a biblical approach to daughter hood, using their in-between years to pioneer a new culture of strength and dignity, and to rebuild Western Civilization, starting with the culture of the home.”

Christian patriarchy taught that the woman’s role was in the home.  Her purpose in life was to further the vision of her husband by supporting and obeying him.  Women were to be under the protection and authority of their father until they married, and the time after high school graduation didn’t include college or jobs outside the home. These were deadly distractions that would only corrupt our innocent minds and hearts with feminism and the liberal agenda.

To my innocent and sheltered sixteen year old mind, this sounded like the ultimate ideal. Controversial? Check. Counter cultural? Check. Revolutionary? Check. These ideas all sounded so exciting to me, post high school and bored as I was.

After graduating from high school at the age of seventeen, I hadn’t given college a second thought. According to the teachings of Christian patriarchy, college was no place for the Godly woman. Modern day institutions of higher learning, I was taught, were bastions of liberal thought and hatred for God, and no good could ever come of me leaving my father’s protection for such a place. If higher education was to even be considered, online classes in herbalism, nursing, teaching, or other such womanly arts were the only options I had available to me. But I was far from being deprived by my parents – I’d been taught these ideals for so long that I was the one vehemently asserting that I would never attend college.

My place was at home, waiting for Prince Charming to come along and sweep me off my feet.

So, there I was; post home school high school, insanely bored, and more sure of what NOT to do with my life than what TO do with it. The Botkins’ revolutionary documentary Return of the Daughters was just the fanatical fodder I needed to fuel my ever increasing disdain for modern ideals of the woman.

By this time, we’d joined an actual church that sadly subscribed to all the same beliefs as my parents. One Sunday, in lieu of a sermon, this stomach churning documentary was shown in church. Looking back, the thought of all the little girls (and boys) sitting in those pews watching a film teaching them that girls weren’t mean for education, experience, or college life makes me sick to my stomach. But back then, it was the norm. I watched in awe as my female ideals, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, looked into the camera with their poised grown up demeanor and proclaimed their truth; that feminism was all a lie. An evil ploy by secular humanists to destroy the family and take women away from their God given sphere. A Communist plot to chip away at the fabric of Christian society. That by going to college, holding down jobs, and leaving our father’s protection, we were unwittingly playing right into their hands and helping them destroy God’s design for families. And what’s worse, is it all sounded so plausible. So righteous. So moral. And I ate up every word.

As a home schooled sheltered child, I’d never been exposed to anything different. Anything resembling a feminist idea had been quickly removed from our home, and we’d been consistently taught that women were to be in submission to men. That by submitting to our father, we were practicing for the day when we would be submitting to our future husband. According to the Bible, our job was to support and obey our husband. Our sphere was the home; cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and raising the children while our male authority figure went out to do battle with the real world. Anything not directly supporting this God given mission, we were told, was only the world’s attempt to draw our attention away from our purpose in life.

With this background, I had no trouble swallowing what Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin were all too eager to dish out. In their documentary, they portrayed graceful young women in their early twenties busily staying at home helping their mothers, teaching their young siblings, cooking delicious dinners for daddy, and sewing modest clothing just like the Proverbs 31 woman.

They made it all look so important. So purposeful. Godly women were submissive. Godly women were graceful and modest. Godly women respected and revered their fathers. Godly women spent their days being a servant to their family, without thought to their own wants or desires. And one day, if we were Godly enough and obedient enough, we would be rewarded with a husband of our own – the ultimate goal for a stay-at-home daughter.

I embraced my mission in life vehemently. I cooked, cleaned, and ironed with a passion. I crocheted blankets, sewed skirts, baked bread, copied recipes for my own collection, and washed dishes. After all, I didn’t have to worry about where to go to college, or how to survive on my own as an independent woman. I didn’t have to worry about finding a job, or picking a career. Money wasn’t my problem…..I would be provided for by my future husband.

But my personal version of paradise wouldn’t last.

I was trapped.

Part Two >

Life in the Dollhouse: Stay At Home Daughters, by Lea

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lea’s blog Emancipated Atlas. It was originally published on May 31, 2014.

As little girls play with dolls in dollhouses, so Christian fundamentalist parents play house with their daughters, teaching them from a young age that women are to be homemakers- any college degree or job outside the house being considered prideful or sinful. Worse, college degrees for women are not God’s design. This isn’t your average “homemaker in training” evangelical culture, this is an agenda that reaches far beyond training daughters to know traditional life skills. This takes everything you know about conservative Christian womanhood to an extremist level.

*****

I’d like you to meet several people I have met through the years and was in contact with during my time as a stay-at-home-daughter.

“Wendy”, a late 20-something from Idaho, considers her work to be Pinteresting. She tries to pin 400 things each day. When I talked with her, she said she felt called to “inspire” others and give them a hobby of repinning her pins. When we were friends on Facebook, she listed her work as “Editor of Pins at “Wendy’s” Pinterest.” She takes direction from her parents, from getting her father’s approval every morning on what she wears, to waiting for her mother to choose the meal Wendy will make for dinner. Wendy’s mother still ‘screens’ books and movies to make sure they are wholesome before Wendy and her older sister can read or watch them. Wendy does not make many decisions for herself, without first getting an answer or at least plenty of information from her parents about something. Wendy hopes that a man will come along and marry her- a man who would first have to be interviewed with a several hundred question form and approved by her father before she knew anything about his interest in her, typical of courtship culture ingrained in the stay-at-home daughter movement. Last I knew, she claimed her father’s vision was for her to “refrain from work outside the home” -yet she offered no other clue as to what her father said she should do instead.

“Wendy” seems perfectly happy with her life and being happy and content is important. Yet, she does seem to be oblivious to any other choices available to her. She claims that “deep Bible study” for a few minutes each morning is better than any college degree; that her parents are her shelter from the “evil world” and that if she becomes too educated, she may end up choosing a sinful lifestyle – which she defines as “living outside her father’s home as an unmarried woman.”

“If I become too independent,” “Wendy” said once, “I will not only be disobedient to my parents, but to God who desires all unmarried women to remain at home. I don’t want to live in sin.”

Where did this idea of sin come from?

Doug Phillips, former leader of the now-collapsed Vision Forum empire in the dominionist branch of homeschooling, says in a documentary called “Return of the Daughters” 

“Daughters, by no means, are not to be independent. They’re not to act outside the scope of their father, and then later, their husbands. As long as they’re under the authority of their fathers, fathers have the ability to nullify or not the oaths and the vows. Daughters can’t just go out independently and say, ‘I’m going to do this or marry whoever I want.’ No. The father has the ability to say, ‘No, I’m sorry, that all has to be approved by me.”

You’ve guessed it, stay at home daughters live under the roof of their parents until they marry- even if they never get married because their father couldn’t approve those who asked! Those who follow this lifestyle believe it is sin for a woman to do anything else, thanks to the teachings of Doug Phillips. It should be noted that Doug, an advocate for “strong, godly families” within the conservative homeschooling community was recently exposed for having an affair with a young girl who worked without pay in his home as a nanny. The girl appeared in an interview in the same documentary mentioned above. While his actions do not automatically “nullify” his teachings – sound doctrine does- it does show the rampant hypocrisy and cover-up that occurs in the every day of dominionist and neo-reformed sects.

Generally, stay at home daughters can volunteer outside of the home, as long as they do not go far, work in a family or Christian setting, and are not paid for their work. You will even find them volunteering in local hospitals with siblings or like-minded friends- again without pay and in context and “accountability” of a family.

Steve and Teri Maxwell, fundamentalist homeschooling parents with a number of adult daughters at home, recently posted an article on their family “Titus 2″ blog detailing the ‘benefits’ of adult stay at home daughters. Though they make it clear their daughters stay at home by their own “choice” – I am left wondering if the women know there are other options, and if those options have been presented in an objective manner.

Teri says “Sometimes our girls are asked about their plans for the future. Right now they are 17, 22, and 31. They are all unmarried and living at home.” She does not address the possibility of how she would respond should one of the daughters want a job or desire to attend college. Teri claims her daughters desire the protection and safety of home and will remain there until marriage. This means that they will likely remain at home until they die since Steve and Teri have apparently made legal provisions that the house remains for their use upon their death. Also, the women and their marriages hinge entirely on Steve’s consent and his interviewing an interested young man- of which he has been rumored to have already turned away several. Nicknamed “Stevehovah” by his “homeschool apostate” critics, Steve Maxwell is known for shadowing his daughters wherever they go- from church to speaking at homeschool events and being a middle man between his children and all incoming contact.

Another argument the Maxwells make on their website is that they enjoy having a strong family unit that is inseparable, citing the Ecclesiastical verse “a threefold cord is not easily broken” using the mother and father as 2 cords and the daughters as a single cord. They enjoy seeing their daughters delight and work in their family’s home, making meals together for their parents and enjoying reading out loud to them in the evenings.

“Our culture typically says for young people to leave home when they are eighteen, and often the parents are happy to be free of them,”  says Teri in an article.  “We love conversations with our adult children. We like doing things with them. We like them to… ask for counsel. They are Steve and I’s best friends, and we are delighted that they want to live in our home! Allowing our adult, unmarried children to live in our home provides accountability for them. Our daughters are not isolated, they have opportunities to attend church and attend ministry events outside of our home with us.”

However, what exactly is this “protection” they are talking about? Is it not possible for Christian adults of age to handle their own lives, while remaining accountable to God? Where does personal responsibility come in? Why does a 31 year old woman need a fatherly chaperone? In Wendy’s case, why must her father approve her outfit each day to make sure it is modest when Wendy is nearing 30? What is so dangerous and unsafe about the natural maturing of your children? And, within the Maxwell family, who or whom  exactly made this decision to keep their daughters at home?

The language used by Steve and Teri is loaded with much authoritarian heavy-handedness, making it seem like the family is all about mom and dad’s wishes for the children- and a quick study of the Maxwell family’s belief shows this is explicitly their intent! From parent-centered curriculum for new parents like controversial Ezzo’s “Babywise” to Bill Gothard’s ATI homeschooling curriculum, many Christian homeschoolers, like the Maxwells, believe that children’s lives should be ordered around their parents’ schedules, plans, and wishes.

The voices missing from this discussion, at least in the Maxwell family- are the daughters’ – who have been raised in an isolated sect of the conservative homeschooling community with few social opportunities outside of Christian homeschool conferences where they speak.

Continue reading this piece on Emancipated Atlas.

What “Christian Patriarchy” Is Not

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

“Patriarchy” has suddenly become a dirty word in the homeschooling movement. Whereas a short while ago it was a badge of honor, a symbol of pure righteous manliness, now leaders are scrambling to distance themselves from this word. They are swearing left and right that they aren’t “it” and they never were “it” and gosh, why are people saying they are? They have been so gracious about “allowing” their daughters the privilege of wearing pants — or the privilege to go to college — they, the men with the divine authority, have allowed this. How could anyone think poorly of them?

The sudden energy exerted by these leaders to claim they oppose Patriarchy has reached corners that are so actually patriarchical it has become almost humorous to observe. Kevin Swanson recently wrote a post on April 18 where he matter-of-factly declares, “I am not a patriarchal-ist. I have never been a patriarchal-ist, and I’ve never called myself a patriarchal-ist.” As evidence he offers the following statement: “It is no sin for a woman to take college level classes.”

Well, gee, that settles that. I eagerly await Bill Gothard’s declaration that he’s not a legalism-ist.

As news about the predatory conduct of Doug Phillips — one of the key figures in the Christian Patriarchy movement — and Bill Gothard — one of the most ardent advocates of Legalism — spreads into the mainstream media, this will become a more common occurrence. The problems plaguing the Christian Homeschooling Movement will be chalked up to “Christian Patriarchy” and “Legalism.” Leaders will swear they aren’t those things and therefore they’re safe. We will be tempted to become fixated on labels and forget that labels aren’t the problem. The problem, as Libby Anne points out, are “the beliefs [they’re] promoting.”

Furthermore, while I agree with Libby Anne that the beliefs should take central stage, I am mystified because few people seem to understand the words themselves. And I wonder whether that’s why the beliefs are getting the short end of the stick. We’ve turned “Christian Patriarchy” into this bizarre caricature — i.e., “not letting your daughters go to college” — that’s completely untrue. Go look at Vision Forum’s “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy.” Not letting your daughters go to college is not on the list. We’re collapsing so many different categories — Quiverfull, Christian Patriarchy, general Patriarchy, Stay-At-Home-Daughter Movement, Complementarianism, etc. — that these words are becoming powerless.

A fundamental rule of communication is this: “The One Who Defines the Terms Controls the Argument.”

This is true.

But there is another fundamental rule of communication: “The One Who Employs the Definitions Sloppily Loses Control of the Argument.”

We’re at a point now where someone has claimed that Patrick Henry College is not patriarchical and “proved” it by describing the college in blatantly patriarchical terms. And the reason for that is simple: we’ve exchanged the phrase “Christian Patriarchy” for “Patriarchy,” when the former is simply a particularly extreme version of the latter. Patriarchy is any and every system based on male authority and dominance, one manifestation of which is Christian Patriarchy. We’re also at a point where Michael Farris is confusingly equating “Quiverfull” with “Patriarchy”: not only did he think “not sending your daughters to college” had something to do with “Quiverfull,” he also thought that “not sending your daughters to college” (a caricature of Christian Patriarchy) was the definition of Patriarchy (which is has nothing to do with whether or not your daughters go to college).

So I’d like to dispel a few myths about what Christian Patriarchy is. I’d like to emphasize that, by saying Christian Patriarchy isn’t these things, I’m not saying it cannot be. I am saying it is so much bigger than these things. To limit it to these things enables misdirection.

Myth #1: Christian Patriarchy is Patriarchy.

Christian Patriarchy is Patriarchy in one sense: insofar as Christian Patriarchy is a system based on male authority and dominance, it is a subset of Patriarchy. But as I stated previously, Patriarchy — being a system based on male authority and dominance — is huge. Any system grounded in male authority and dominance is Patriarchy. Thus even Complementarianism — however mild or extreme — is still Patriarchy because it still rests upon the foundational idea that males have a unique authority or right to dominance.

When we say that, “Oh, ____ isn’t into Patriarchy” — when we what we mean is, “Oh, ____ isn’t into Christian Patriarchy” — we are giving someone an opportunity to downplay the fact that they are still into Patriarchy. And the problem with the subset of Christian Patriarchy isn’t that its an extreme version of Patriarchy. The problem is that it is Patriarchy. Period.

So for example, Michael Farris does believe in and advocate for Patriarchy. Just observe any of the politicians he endorses or, simpler yet, read his 2004 book What A Daughter Needs From her Dad. Sure, Farris doesn’t believe in and advocate for the limited caricature of Christian Patriarchy where daughters can’t go to college. But again, as stated earlier, even that’s a caricature of Christian Patriarchy (as we’ll discuss shortly). Michael Farris agrees with Christian Patriarchy far more than he disagrees with it.

Myth #2: Christian Patriarchy is Quiverfull.

Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy are often confused as the same thing. In fact, Michael Farris himself has confused these categories, when he said that he does “believe women should go to college.” Whether or not you let your daughters go to college has nothing to do with Quiverfull. Quiverfull is, more or less, a specifically Christian form of natalism — the idea of employing procreation as a tool of sociopolitical dominion and categorizing birth control as rebellion against God. Michael Pearl gave us a perfect embodiment of Quiverfull’s dominionist streak, when he recently stated,

“If you can’t out-vote them today, out-breed them for tomorrow.”

That is Quiverfull (albeit a distilled, intense version of it). And see, that sentiment could exist in a matriarchicial society. (In fact, Mary Pride — often considered “the Queen of Quiverfull” — personally insinuated that she believes in Matriarchy more than Patriarchy. Though she has a nonsensical definition of Matriarchy, she has harsh words for Christian Patriarchy advocates.)

Yes, there are many advocates of Christian Patriarchy who are Quiverfull. And by all means, speak out against the dehumanizing and toxic idea that your children are your weapons, and a woman’s vagina is a weapons-building factory.

But remember these are distinct, especially considering there are many advocates of Christian Patriarchy who are not Quiverfull. Take Doug Wilson, for example. Doug Wilson is considered one of the pillars of Christian Patriarchy but believes birth control can be useful to ensure you’re actually taking care of your current children. That’s outright heresy to the Quiverfull crowd.

Myth #3: Christian Patriarchy is Opposed to Daughters Going to College.

The Stay-At-Home-Daughter Movement rose out of Christian Patriarchy. Indeed, many of this movement’s advocates — for example, Voddie Baucham, Doug Phillips, and Geoff Botkin, who promoted or were featured in the film, “Return of the Daughters” — are giants in the Christian Patriarchy movement. But — and this is crucial — not all advocates of Christian Patriarchy believe daughters cannot go to college. In fact, the majority of them are okay with it, provided their daughters (1) are still at home while attending college, (2) do not go to a secular college, and (3) study something relevant to “domestic affairs.” There is plenty to critique about that criteria, but using this “can daughters can go to college” litmus test is a red herring. Case in point: Baucham’s daughter Jasmine — while still living at home — not only has a Bachelors degree but is currently pursuing a Masters degree.

And this isn’t a “new” development in Christian Patriarchy. John Thompson, writing in Patriarch Magazine (a cornerstone publication of the Christian Patriarchy movement during the 90’s), articulated over a decade ago that it was tolerable to let your daughter get college-educated provided that education is gender-oriented and via home study.

So, again — this college litmus test is a red herring.

Myth #4: Christian Patriarchy is two steps away from wearing a burka.

This myth was articulated a few days ago, and I couldn’t help but laugh. Seriously, let’s look at two images of the daughters of popular proponents of Christian Patriarchy:

Geoff Botkin’s daughters, Anna-Sofia and Elizabeth:

anna-sofia-and-elizabeth-botkin

Voddie Baucham’s daughter, Jasmine:

jasmine

Burkas? Seriously?

Look, there are many, many parallels and connections between Christian fundamentalism and Islamic fundamentalism that one can make. Likewise, there are many, many parallels and connections between Christian Patriarchy and Islamic Patriarchy that one can make. The parallels exist because fundamentalism and patriarchy as systems transcend people groups and cultures. Identifying and speaking out against those parallels and connections is important; it should be done frequently, passionately, and loudly.

However, to say that, “Christian Patriarchy is two steps away from wearing a burka” is an asinine argument. Christian Patriarchy is not defined by clothing. Yes, there are many people within the Christian Patriarchy movement who have swallowed Modesty Culture. In fact, the above two images do not disprove this. (“Modesty Culture,” like Christian Patriarchy, is not defined by how many “steps” it is away from wearing a burka.) But they do demonstrate that slapping Christian Patriarchy with “burka” confuses the issue.

Myth #5: Christian Patriarchy is Limited to Homeschooling.

This is the weirdest myth. Rumor has it that Christian Patriarchy advocates are only into homeschooling, whereas Christian Patriarchy opponents tolerate other forms of education — for example, classical education in a private Christian school.

This is pure nonsense. Doug Wilson adamantly and vocally prefers private classical Christian education to homeschooling. He personally founded a private school and did not homeschool his kids. In his 1991 book Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, Wilson makes clear that he believes “classical private schools to be superior to classical homeschooling.” He states his case so strongly, in fact, that some say “he condemns home school as a viable option,” and one homeschooling parent demanded he “stop being asked to speak at homeschool events.” In his own words, though, it’s not so much homeschooling itself that he objects as much as it is “a radical home-centeredness” that “[insists] that the home can not only replace the school, but also the church and the civil magistrate.”

An appreciation of private Christian education among Christian Patriarchy advocates is not limited to Wilson. R.C. Sproul, Jr. — who co-wrote Vision Forum’s “Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” with Doug Phillips — agrees to some extent with Wilson. In October 2011, Sproul Jr. said that, ultimately, what’s important is Christian education that teaches “day in and day out the Lordship of Christ over all things,” and thus “the real issue is the secular perspective of the public schools, more than the methodology of homeschooling versus Christian schooling.”

Similarly, Patriarch Magazine argued over a decade ago that, while homeschooling is “ideal,” “Christian schools are a commendable alternative to the degenerate state schools.”

*****

It is pretty amazing that “Christian Patriarchy” as a specific concept — and Patriarchy as a general system — is finally being widely discussed among Christian homeschoolers. Seriously. It is amazing. This is the first step towards wider awareness and change: our vocabulary is being adopted and we can point to that vocabulary to facilitate conversation.

However, we take a step backwards if we start equivocating between terms and diminish those terms’ potency. If you are new to this conversation, please take the time to educate yourself about what these words mean. Libby Anne has a great breakdown of what “Christian Patriarchy” is that she wrote in 2012. Read it. Think about it. Also read about what Patriarchy is and how it differs from the specific subset of Christian/Biblical Patriarchy. Educate yourself about how similar Christian Patriarchy and Complementarianism are (and arguably even identical), and why both are Patriarchy. (And while you’re at it, look up Kyriarchy, too.)

Then reassess this mass hysteria among homeschool leaders who are begging us to consider them anti-Patriarchy. Because they are not.

Sugar-coated Patriarchy is still Patriarchy.