Egalitarianism at Work11:12 AM
I’m guessing little kids love me. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for cute little boys who really, really want to play with me and promise undying best friendship if I comply. I cain’t say no. Who could?
That’s how I ended up following my little man around our church playset, up and down the slide, up and down the slide, up and down the slide—did I mention I was his wife? And he would leave me up at the top of the slide, keeping house, while he slid down and went to work.
Then one day, thirty seconds later, he climbed up into our slide house and shoved me down the slide—“Now you go to work.”
“Oh, we’re going to be an egalitarian household, are we?” (as I flew down—we broke up several minutes later, though it involved much heartache on my part to see him following me around, begging me to keep playing).
And of course he didn’t know what “egalitarianism” meant. (Neither did anybody else around me, though I heard attempts at explaining it while I followed my treacherous little husband back up the slide for more fun. It’s the fourteen letters.)
I mentioned in Sunday’s post that the question of egalitarianism is not just theoretical to me; and besides adding a dramatic flair, I was dead serious. Feminism I can handle—it and me part ways like water and oil. Egalitarianism—not so much. It’s far easier to be neutral and ambivalent—work if you want, stay home if you want, do whatever your want—and not take a stand either way. It works its way close to you and the ones you love.
Especially when it comes to the marriage relationship.
“Well, Bailey, pardon—you’re not married.”
I know. It’s weird, but the current state of Christian marriages really does dampen a girl’s hopes. It hurts to see marriages crumble over this issue of stay-at-home—go-to-work. I’ve cried over it—and I was crying for myself just as much, begging God equally to spare me as much as her.
All over an issue that’s been touted as women’s rights, that claimed to liberate us to pursue our own opinions and passions.
I’ve learned, though, that this egalitarianism business hurts true passion and conviction. How does it help feminism, that flatly denies the “weaker” aspect of women’s nature? How does it help the wife who truly believes that staying home and keeping the home is best? It doesn’t recognize that there are two different visions behind both ideologies and that they both have different consequences.
Christian chivalry nowadays emphasizes the woman’s decision—go off what she wants and what she desires, especially in this area of work. No decently raised Christian young man would think of suppressing his wife’s desires—who cares if she works? Who cares if she stays home, especially when children are involved? Our mothers and grandmothers before made like decisions, with no ill consequences. “Go ahead, honey—I’ll support you.”
And then she’s tired from screaming kids, tired from working long hours, tired of slaving thanklessly in the house, tired of balancing work and home. But whatever her decision, her protector is off the hook. That was her decision. That is her problem.
And that’s what they’ve been groomed to believe, even though it’s wrong to the core. A husband ought to take some stand, to have some vision in what his wife is doing—whether working outside the home or staying home.
I picture myself in the kitchen for four hours, trying to whip something scrumptious and in the end beating myself to floor after some ridiculously simple cooking conundrum. I’m tired. I’m lonely. The baby woke up from the nap again and is currently screaming as my protector walks through the door.
I’m not marrying someone whose response is, “I’m sorry you had a bad day, baby”—*kiss*—off to take a nap. He better sit me down fast and tell me I am above self pity, because I am doing kingdom work. He’s got to have a vision. That’s what being a protector and spiritual leader is all about.
I got a question—more a rhetorical question—from one of my all-time favorite commenters. And it got me thinking, because it really points out just what the issue is.
What about, she said, if one’s husband feels called to a career that does not initially make enough money to support a wife and family? Should one require that a man give up his dreams [that he may believe God has given him] in order to allow his wife to follow traditional gender-roles? Maybe a man shouldn’t get married until he can support a family financially.
A wife could be perfectly fitted to be her husband’s ‘help meet’ by making enough temporary income to allow him to get started as an artist or writer [or missionary…do they make any money? Erm?]. Most complementarians, however, would think that would be outside of God’s specific design for the sexes though....
That’s the question: Should one require that a man give up his dreams (that he may believe God has given him) in order to allow his wife to follow traditional gender roles?
I think this presupposes two things—first, that God would give a man a dream that goes contrary to His revealed will about role, and second, that it’s sort of a privilege and a private dream for women to stay at home and follow “traditional” gender roles. One can approach it with the egalitarian view that if a woman wants to stay at home, that’s fine and good, but that’s just a dream she has—not a principle of Scripture. I think every couple—preferably before marriage—should work out if they believe gender roles are merely “traditional” or, in fact, God-given. If there is a vision behind women keeping the home and men bringing home the bacon, the perspective changes: How can we shuffle our dreams to fulfill this higher vision of family?
If that perspective isn’t there, if the egalitarian view is at work, then when the going gets tough, the wife’s personal dreams no longer matter. It’s the quick and easy way out: two incomes.
I know so many wives whose husbands push them to work because of tight finances, because pragmatism came before dreams. Then there are the men who do the opposite—work even harder to ensure their wife can stay home. It’s the difference between belief and preference.
There needs to be clear roles of men and women in order to sort out just how exactly a woman should be a helpmeet to her husband. Should she take over his role as breadwinner, should she try to supplement...? It may look different for every family, but we’re going to have to base it on principle, not just preference.
More than anything in the world, I am looking for vision and leadership. I thrive in that environment, and it’s innate to who I am as a girl. The very thing that ensured my “liberty”—egalitarianism—has hurt me in the long run.
“Yes, I know I’m capable of making decisions. Yes, I think I know what I want to do—but I want you to lead me. I want you to come behind me and be the strength for me when I lose my vision.”