So Much More, p. 33-51 – Part 1: Asking the Right Questions

After receiving complaints from readers that they did not know who “A&E” was referring to, each So Much More post will now include a note at the top clarifying this information. “A&E” refers to Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, authors of So Much More. I chose the abbreviation to save space and time.

A few weeks ago, I questioned whether Michael Farris had really, as claimed by others, “strawmanned” patriarchy in his white paper “A Line in the Sand.” At the end of that post, I stated that I was confused and that A&E seemed to be logically contradicting themselves. Then in a second post, I covered some more of A&E’s statements about gender relations, in which they seemed to be saying that all women should submit to all men.

Well, today I am pleased to announce that I don’t have to use the word “seem” anymore (at least not about this). That’s because, in chapter 4 of So Much More, A&E finally lay out all the details of their gender bureaucracy in a clear way. After reading what they wrote, I had a bit of an epiphany. In fact I’m pretty sure I looked like this.

ksz0kpkoelzpo0rolkmt

Which quickly turned into this…

abc_scared_baby_blowing_nose_nt_110323_wmain

…and then this.

you_make_bunny_cry

In the end, I came to the conclusion that many are asking all the wrong questions of the patriarchal position on this point. And by now you’re probably wondering what exactly A&E said (emphasis A&E’s):

Ephesians 5:22 commands, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Various forms of this command are repeated in numerous places throughout the New Testament. An interesting point to note is that all women are not to be in submission to all men. Wives must be in submission to their own husbands, and daughters must submit to their fathers. If all women had to submit to all men, it would put women in a very vulnerable position, but God’s design gives each woman, whether married or unmarried, a protective head to whom she must submit. As we have said before, a woman’s life will always be tied into a man’s life, whether she is married or not. This is a basic feature of womanhood, and women are to be dependent on men’s protection and leadership. This is how God created it to be.

Before getting into the practical implications of this, let’s review some of the controversy surrounding Michael Farris’ white paper. In “A Line in the Sand,” Farris wrote the following:

In sum, patriarchy teaches that women in general should be subject to men in general. The Bible teaches no such thing.[1]

In brief, these two little sentences caused a number of patriocentrists (most notably Beall Phillips) to feel that Farris had misrepresented and betrayed them, and a number of anti-patriocentrists to accuse him of “strawmanning” patriarchy (see Libby Anne’s post at Love, Joy, Feminism for the more detailed version). For my part, I questioned, in my September 27th post, whether Farris had really “strawmanned” patriarchy as badly as was widely claimed. I remained skeptical that he had done so all of October, based on the statements I kept encountering in So Much More that seemed to indicate his characterization may have been largely correct. Today, however, I can say safely say that he did in fact “strawman” patriarchy – though the truth is just as horrifying as Farris’ mischaracterization.

Now, let’s begin the dissection.

Using a shovel to make soup

A&E’s statement CANNOT be properly understood without setting it side by side with this closely related item from Doug Phillips’ Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy.

14. While unmarried women may have more flexibility in applying the principle that women were created for a domestic calling, it is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.). The exceptional circumstances (singleness) ought not redefine the ordinary, God-ordained social roles of men and women as created.

In this, we learn that it is not “fitting” for women to act publicly as the functional equals of men, because this would fail to visually reinforce their “God-ordained social role” as homemakers, wives and mothers. Notice also that Phillips ties this idea to creation in the last sentence. In other words, according to Phillips, there is something inherent in women’s natures that makes a social role as man’s equal inappropriate for them.

When we encounter this statement without context, it may seem natural to ask whether all women must submit to all men. When we ask this question, however, patriocentrists answer no (in fact Beall Phillips was quite emphatic on this point in her angry response to Michael Farris). It may not seem immediately obvious why. This is where A&E’s statement comes into play. Here it is again.

Ephesians 5:22 commands, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Various forms of this command are repeated in numerous places throughout the New Testament. An interesting point to note is that all women are not to be in submission to all men. Wives must be in submission to their own husbands, and daughters must submit to their fathers. If all women had to submit to all men, it would put women in a very vulnerable position, but God’s design gives each woman, whether married or unmarried, a protective head to whom she must submit. As we have said before, a woman’s life will always be tied into a man’s life, whether she is married or not. This is a basic feature of womanhood, and women are to be dependent on men’s protection and leadership. This is how God created it to be.

Notice in the third sentence that A&E clearly say all women are not to submit to all men. In fact they emphasize this point further by saying, in a rare moment of insight, that telling all women to submit to all men would put women in great danger. What, then, are we to do with all their previous statements comparing gender relations in general with Christ and the church?

Well, read further. You will see that they immediately lay out exactly which men any given woman must submit to (her father when single, her husband when married). They then claim that all women’s lives must have male involvement, and that this is a “basic feature of womanhood” (i.e., originating in creation and inherent to women’s natures). Thus, God designed women to need a male head, and she must be “the church” to a designated individual man (“Christ”) at all times.

Notice also how perfectly this meshes with Phillips’ statement above. Since women are inherently “churches” to men’s “Christ,” they must not be seen to be publicly acting as their equals, or else they would be incorrectly imaging Christ and the church by either setting Christ and the church equal to each other, or going around acting as a “Christless” “church” with no head at all.

Now we can see why “Do all women submit to all men?” is exactly the wrong question to ask. A patriocentrist can (and will) honestly answer no, and then the questioner will go away thinking that the patriocentric system is really not that oppressive after all. In other words, this question masks the fact that in the patriocentric system, all women must be under a man, and thus men (because they represent “Christ”) do have some kind of group authority or privileged position over women (because they represent “the church”), even if they do not have specific individual headship over one woman in particular.

Let me repeat that last part for the takeaway.

Men (because they represent “Christ”) have some kind of group authority or privileged position over women (who represent “church”) – even though any individual man only has personal headship over a few specific individual women – and the system was set up this way by God.

If this sounds confusing, there’s actually a near perfect parallel in our very recent history: slaves in the antebellum South.

Let’s say we have a black slave, Cicero, on a plantation in Anytown, Georgia in 1845. The plantation is owned by John Andrews, who is white. Down the road is the house of a poor white farmer, James Jones. So who is Cicero’s master? Obviously, John Andrews. If John Andrews gives Cicero an order, Cicero is obligated to obey because he is John Andrews’ property. If James Jones gives Cicero an order, things get a little more complicated, because James Jones is not Cicero’s master. After all, it’s not as though any random person can march onto someone else’s plantation and start ordering their slaves around! In spite of all that, however, it’s obvious to anyone who’s even slightly historically aware, that whites as a group were in a privileged position over blacks in the antebellum South – and this remains true irrespective of whether any individual black slave was obligated to take orders from any individual white person.

This system, like A&E’s, was also based on supposed natural differences between whites and blacks. Diary of an Autodidact has collected lots of helpful information, especially quotes from prominent Southern writer R. L. Dabney (whom Doug Phillips idolized, by the way), to demonstrate that blacks were considered inherently inferior to whites. Here’s just one of those Dabney quotes:

Hence, the general equality of nature will by no means produce a literal and universal equality of civil condition; for the simple reason that the different classes of citizens have very different specific rights; and this grows out of their differences of sex, virtue, intelligence, civilization, etc., and the demands of the common welfare. Thus, if the low grade of intelligence, virtue and civilization of the African in America, disqualified him from being his own guardian, and if his own true welfare (taking the “general run” of cases) and that of the community, would be plainly marred by this freedom; then the law decided correctly, that the African here has no natural right of self-control, as to his own labour and locomotion. Hence, his natural liberty is only that which remains after that privilege is retrenched.[2]

Naturally, Dabney used similar ideas to argue that women’s place was in the home and not in the public sphere. In fact, many of his ideas are basically identical to those used not just by patriocentrists, but also by modern complementarians who wish to emphasize the supposedly inherent differences in men and women’s temperaments and interests!

Women are here assigned to a social subordination, and expressly excluded from ruling offices, on grounds of their sex, and a divine ordination based by God upon a transaction which happened nearly six thousand years ago! The woman’s sphere is expressly assigned her within the home, and she is taught that the assumption of publicity is an outrage against that nature with which she is endowed.

Political excitements will corrupt women tenfold more than men; and this, not because women are naturally inferior to men, but because they are naturally adapted to a wholly different sphere. When we point to the fact that they are naturally more emotional and less calculating, more impulsive and less self-contained, that they have a quicker tact but less logic, that their social nature makes them more liable to the contagion of epidemic passions, and that the duties of their sex make it physically impossible for them to acquire the knowledge in a foreign sphere necessary for political duties, we do not depreciate women; we only say that nature has adapted her to one thing and disqualified her for the other.[2]

See now why I said that the antebellum Southern slave system is an almost exact parallel, in terms of authority structure, as A&E’s conception of gender relations? As far as I can tell, the only material difference is that wives and daughters are not owned by their husbands and fathers. So if you as a woman still want to sign on to A&E’s system and encourage others to do so, go right ahead, I can’t stop you. But at least be honest about the fact that you are, in several historically demonstrable ways, putting yourself in the same position as a slave, and telling other women to do the same.

Trying to have your cake…

…and it isn't even a GOOD cake.

…and it isn’t even a GOOD cake.

So much for what A&E are proposing. But is their proposal internally consistent?

I’ve mentioned many times before that A&E love to point to Ephesians 5 as a model not just for husbands and wives, but also for relations between men and women in general. I don’t see how this is possible, since the passage is clearly directed only at married couples. Nonetheless, this seems to be the foundation of most of A&E’s thought.

But in this chapter, they finally seem to have slipped up. In this chapter, they explicitly claim that Ephesians 5 limits women’s submission only to their husbands:

Ephesians 5:22 commands, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Various forms of this command are repeated in numerous places throughout the New Testament. An interesting point to note is that all women are not to be in submission to all men. Wives must be in submission to their own husbands, and daughters must submit to their fathers.

But in chapter 2, citing the very next verse, they claimed that Ephesians 5 is about all men and all women:

Ms. Steinem’s statement was not only absurd; it was blasphemous. This is because the relationship between men and women parallels the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:23). It’s the equivalent of saying, “The Church without Christ is like a fish without a bicycle.”

So, A&E, which is it? Is Ephesians 5 about husbands and wives, or men and women in general? You can’t have it both ways. You’re trying to have it both ways, by constructing a gender bureaucracy in which all men do have authority over all women, but no not really because it’s only generalized privilege and not direct headship. That’s nice, but you can’t get that out of just Ephesians 5.

Interestingly, despite the numerous citations of Ephesians 5, A&E do in fact seem to realize that they can’t derive their entire system from that one passage. I say this because they go on to cite Numbers 30 and a few other passages when they talk about fathers’ authority over their daughters. So I’m not sure what exactly they think they’re accomplishing by repeatedly claiming that Ephesians 5 is about all men and all women, when they have to derive their rules about every relationship other than marriage from several other places in the Bible.

Rest assured, readers, I will address those other passages. Just not today. Because my silly little ladybrain is thoroughly exhausted from all this logic and analysis stuff that it just wasn’t designed to handle.

tired-cat

Advertisements

4 comments on “So Much More, p. 33-51 – Part 1: Asking the Right Questions

  1. fiddlrts says:

    This is outstanding, and gets to the true heart of the gender role debate.

    I might go one further, however. I fail to see a qualitative difference between “ownership” and a right to control. For Phillips and A & E and other patriarchists, fathers have the right to control daughters until they are “transferred” to the husband. If you add in the courtship/betrothal model, then it becomes pretty clear that women do not “own” themselves in any significant way. When someone can direct your life with absolute power, that is in fact ownership, even if you do not call it that.

    Just my two cents.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The qualitative difference is best expressed in this South Park snippet, from the episode “Sexual Harassment Panda”:

      KYLE: But Dad, isn’t that Fascism?
      KYLE’S DAD: No it isn’t, Son. Because we don’t call it Fascism. Do you understand?
      KYLE: Do you?

  2. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    A&E’s statement CANNOT be properly understood without setting it side by side with this closely related item from Doug Phillips’ Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy.

    Doug Phillips ESQUIRE, Cosplaying Commander of Gilead whose Commander’s sexual claim over his Handmaid broke into a big sex scandal earlier this year?

    Diary of an Autodidact has collected lots of helpful information, especially quotes from prominent Southern writer R. L. Dabney (whom Doug Phillips idolized, by the way), to demonstrate that blacks were considered inherently inferior to whites.

    Stonewall Jackson’s aide Dabney who was considered a rabid racist even by 19th Century Confederate States standards?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s