Great news, ladies! According to God/a new ideological movement, it turns out that the best thing a woman can do is submit and let her husband do all of the hard, thinky stuff. How novel!
She's part of a group of people who call themselves "complementarians," which is not an alien race from The X Files, but rather a philosophy of gender roles as gleaned from Biblical text. Complementarians believe that women and men have strict, Biblically defined gender roles that are non-negotiable and natural and that women were designed to submit to their husbands, that the only path to true holiness is to let him make all of the decisions. A New York Times Magazine profile describers Priscilla Shirer thus,
(Shirer) is an evangelical Bible teacher who makes her living by guiding thousands of women through the study of Scripture in her books, videos and weekend conferences - in which she stresses that in a biblical home and church, the man is the head and the woman must submit. She steers women away from the "feminist activists" who tell women to "do your own thing, make your own decisions and never let a man slow you down," as she puts it. "Satan will do everything in his power to get us to take the lead in our homes," she wrote in her book "A Jewel in His Crown: Rediscovering Your Value as a Woman of Excellence." "He wants to make us resent our husband's position of authority so that we will begin to usurp it. . . . Women need to pray for God to renew a spirit of submission in their hearts."
Women can only be powerful by submitting to another person? Is this opposite day? And how is this line of thinking in any way new or different? It sounds like the same "women should let men do all of the thinking" bullshit that certain sects of organized religion have tried to normalize since forever, now in a shiny new package. With Powerpoint presentations.
Other Christian theologians aren't particular thrilled by Shirer's prescription for female submission.
"There is a sense in which their identity as a Christian is tied to first not who they are in Jesus as a human being, but their gender," says Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality, an organization that takes an egalitarian stance toward men and women. In Haddad's view, "In Scripture, it's your humanity" that matters.
Hey, if Priscilla Shirer is happy in her submission-based relationship with her husband, good for her. If that's what she needs to do to find happiness, then far be it from me or any other person to infringe on her right to make that choice. However, I'm leery of anyone who uses dubious source materials to claim to know the divine meaning of gender and thus what I must do as a woman, and I'm doubly-side-eyed toward anyone who tells me that Satan wants me to think for myself. And I'm triple-y leery of someone whose grasp of irony is so weak that they don't understand how goofy it looks to lead-by-opposite-example. Speaking up to tell women to shut up and the doctrine that women must submit in order to be powerful sounds like it requires a fair amount of mental gymnastics to deliver with a straight face.
Reading about movements like the complementarian movement make me think that it's really too bad that Jesus never said, "Keep your hands to yourself" or "Mind your own damn business, My Children."
Housewives of God. [NYT Magazine]
[Image via Pawe Michakowski/ Shutterstock]