Egalitarianism at Work

11:12 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 Sundays 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.”


You Might Also Like

10 impressions

  1. :) That little boy sounds so-ooooo cute!

    Can't wait to see you in like..two minutes!'re late. :)

  2. I didn't hear that story...

    If only everyone saw it as Daniel does. He goes to work. Here's the food. He goes to work. Here's the money. So hard workin'. *wink*

    Sometimes, I think, that wives have a nice excuse to work. "I have to."

    Which is really not a great excuse - because there are so many people who could work in the home. If you need money - you don't actually have to go outside the home. Whatever happened to that lady who supported all her sons to an expensive collage using her ironing money? Hmmm?

  3. Kara - I had so much fun over at your place! *hugses* And Happy Birthday!

    Floppeth - well, sometimes it is a good excuse and sometimes it isn't. It really depends on the family, the circumstances and the vision...and sometimes it isn't as clear cut as we'd like to make it out to be. Not all of us can iron. *cough* Not all women can stay home, at least for certain periods of time. In some cases it's a bad excuse...and sometimes it isn't.

  4. Well, that's interesting. My mother does work, she's an occupational therapist. I think i spelled that right! When we were in public school, she worked part-time because she loves her work with birth to age three children.
    However, when she started homeschooling us, she cut way back. Last year, she considered not working, but kept it. Now, she only works about 3-4 hours a week. She also works in her clients homes, so she will be gone for like an hour then come back and teach us.
    So, I have to say, I see both sides of this issue. However, I'm not sure I have a decided opinion. But, it does depend on the family's personal situation!
    Love you!

  5. Hahaha! That little boy was wonderfully adorable. (As was your telling of it.) It worked to prove a wonderful point.

    I think it's so important to remain founded on the word, no matter what life situations may crop up. God has an answer for every problem we have. He's faithful when one income "doesn't stretch" quite far enough, when the children seem like too much to handle...

    Sometimes, I think, having to rely on God for things makes Him more real to us - if you know what I mean.

    Have a great day!

  6. Thank you for debating with such humility.
    Not sure I want to argue right now.....just want to perhaps clarify my position:
    I tend to ignore the fact that some women might want to, but not be 'allowed to', stay at home.

    This is because I, while I do want to be a 'stay-at-home mother', cannot envision a situation in which my husband did not also want that. I can't envision it for myself: but I'm sure it is true for some women, and this probably doesn't help my grasp of the situation.

    When I said 'allow his wife to follow traditional gender roles' I was really thinking more of 'letting his wife submit to those who would IMPOSE gender roles'.
    I've considered being a stay-at-home daughter/wife extensively in the past years, and somehow I've never thought that it would please my future husband.
    Recently I've been thinking more along the lines of 'get the patriocentrists off my back..make them stop tormenting me....just GIVE IN and do what they want'.

    I don't necessarily think that homemaking is 'just a personal dream' so much as something that can be applied and prescribed in a very restrictive way, by people [not you, btw] who embrace gender roles as the ultimate meaning in life [exaggeration but that's how it seems], and seek to impose them on everyone most authors I've read who advocate women staying home [Botkins, Chancey, McDonald].

    [most unintelligible sentence in Blogger history...I will continue this comment, as I think Blogger will eat it otherwise.]

  7. [from above]
    My interactions with a couple of these big-name patriocentrists have confirmed my opinion: these people truly believe that they are doing the right thing. They have also closed themselves off to considering any differing viewpoints as potentially valid. I was recently told I should evaluate what my opinion of patriocentrists is: are they sincere but misguided, or are they trying to deceive and wield power over others? [There is also the possibility that they are right.] My discussion with one author, Stacy McDonald, has convinced me that she at least is well-intentioned, but has also decided not to consider or give credence to opposing views. [I love to trot out the word 'disingenuous' in regards to that...]

    Arguing with such a person is useless, except for strengthening or undermining my own opinions.
    Arguing with you is more fruitful, because you are not as adept as Stacy McDonald is at dismissing others' arguments based on the strength of their writing or expressive skills.....nor are you as good at clinging to preconceived ideas as she is. And you really fail at the ole straw-man argument [I think that's the term.....defeating an argument your debate opponent never espoused, then saying 'See? That argument was clearly ridiculous so yours must be as well!']
    I hope you never get as good at holding on to your views as Stacy McDonald is.

  8. Hi, Bethany! I really do hope you didn't mind I used your comment in this post. I didn't mean to pick on you or point out faults or whatever. Just as a catalyst, if you will.

    And as to my poor strawman arguing skills and the like - thanks. (I think.) ;o) No, seriously, several people have told me I'm very tolerant and open to other views and I will take that as a compliment until someone says I'm a spineless chicken. Then I'll reevaluate.

    I'm not an expert on Mrs. McDonald or the Botkins or the Chanceys. They get a lot of flak for standing up for what they believe in, and I don't feel qualified to speak on their beliefs. I think maybe they come across as a bit hardnosed because they are speaking to a "group" who is already pretty much likeminded. And that's just their expression of God's vision. But to be honest, I get what you're saying. (Does that make me an evil complementarian? Hmm.)

    Yeah, someone really close to me is in the position of working (as a mother) at her husband's desire. And let me tell you, she is the greatest homemaker of all time, in spite of it all. Her humility and submission and dedication blows me away.

    I want to be like her...even though she doesn't stay at home. And that's where maybe I and other likeminded believers part company a bit. I don't advocate girls training to become careerists while all along planning to be full time homemakers upon motherhood...I DO support cultivating gifts and talents...and honest hard work for pay is not a sin, even for a stay-at-home daughter. ;o)

    The thing for me is vision. Vision for womanhood. We all have it - Vision Forum folks, plain complementarians and egalitarians alike. What Christians should be worried about is not forcing a physical mass exodus of women from the workforce to home but a desire to serve God through His design of womanhood in a woman's particular circumstances.

    I was hardnosed myself about stay-at-home-ing and all, until I saw that God's vision for women is SO HUGE that it cannot be captured in the words "stay-at-home."

    That's how I can say that my dear friend who is not "stay-at-home" in the least still is an exemplary homemaker.

    I think I'll write a post about it after the Christmas weekend. :o)

  9. I don't mind at all, actually I was rather pleased :)

    Hrm, I'm not sure that the likely very true fact about the Botkins, McDonald etc speaking to a like-minded group really excuses their beliefs. That seems to me like saying members of a cult can be hardnosed because they're talking to other people in the cult.....Possibly I missed your point though. And yes, in my saner moments I do believe that patriocentricity is a cult. Or at the least, headed that way. The moment one starts to say 'Jesus and' I think it gets onto dangerous territory. [That being a reference to the idea that 'All you need is Jesus, but you don't REALLY know Jesus unless you do this, this, and this.']

    I particularly like and support this sentence: 'What Christians should be worried about is not forcing a physical mass exodus of women from the workforce to home but a desire to serve God through His design of womanhood in a woman's particular circumstances.'
    THAT IS THE KEY POINT.....and, I think, where you part ways with the patriocentrists. No matter how they hedge, most patriocentrists believe it really is a sin [or at least a willful disregarding of God's best plan] for a woman or girl to work or live away from home. Some have even gone so far as to call it blasphemy:

    As far as I can tell, your views are more broad and also perhaps more specific. More specific, because they don't leave any room for 'I'm staying at home therefore I must be a good person' [which I'll admit, most patriocentrists don't say] and more broad, because you allow for different applications of that oft-used

    Hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas. Looking forward to further discussion....

  10. I don't even know what "hardnosed" means. It just sounded good. :o)

    I just meant to say that if they come across as harsh or a little intolerant, it's because they're discussing issues, not people and circumstances...and people on the inside of the discussion know that. They make exceptions and they know exceptions.

    But yeah. This discussion could around in circles forever, with both of us more firmly grounded in our beliefs about the "patriocentrists." ;o) (For me, there's a big line between passion and vision and abuse, which is a line the Vision Forum folks have not crossed yet. Patriocentrism is sin. And it's disgusting. Not quite sure where I stand on the entire patriarchal issue, but I'm getting there.)

    I'd like to think I'm not the girl who would build her reputation by putting down others...I greatly respect all the people you mentioned and have interacted with all of them and even some daughters and friends too. They aren't cultish and they love God with their whole heart. Some things come across as more intolerant than others - that I can understand. And too, we've been in this debate, like, forever, so to us it may seem like beating a dead horse and being legalistic and putting too much emphasis on Christian living and not on Christ...but to others just coming into the discussion, their ministries are truly helpful. They were for me.

    Yeah, I'm definitely going to write a post now. :o) (By the way, I responded to your comment on "Get Smart"...just so you know that this post wasn't the only thing I got out of it. ;o))

    Oh, and about the blasphemy thing? I think if a woman wilfully disregards her duty at home and denigrates and belittles the importance of her role in the home...that's blasphemy. Not working outside the home. That can be an expression of a rebellious attitude, but we shouldn't assume that.


Hit me with your best thought! I'm very interested in your unique perspective. If you'd like to discuss things in private, feel free to email me! :)