Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Owen Strachan, the president of [the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood] and co-author of The Grand Design: Male and Female He Made Them, agreed with Beaty that God intends both men and women to work. But he said the work they are called to do is distinct. Men are to be the primary breadwinners—Strachan once controversially called stay-at-home dads “man fails”—who should not be “working at home” like women. He said the Bible teaches that a woman’s “intended sphere of labor” is the home. Deviation from this model is sinful, in his view.
The Conservative, Christian Case for Working Women
When I read this, the first thing that came to mind was this quote (which you have read me relating before) from the late pastor of a local church (and former football player): “God hates soft men. God hates effeminate men. If I was in a drugstore and some guy opened the door for me, I’d rip his arm off and beat him with the wet end.” The second thing that came to mind was this: “And when a man lies down with a male the same as one lies down with a woman, both of them have done a detestable thing.” (Leviticus 20:11)

I don’t mention these things with the intent of making Christians out to be violent or homophobic. Instead, I do so in the service of pointing out a common thread. It is sinful, in this view, a) for a man to behave in ways intended for women and b) to interact with a man in the same way one would with a woman. Note that for The Atlantic’s article, the chosen quote has Strachan deriding men who work as home as “man fails,” he is not quoted derogating working women in the same way. Likewise, Pastor Hutcherson considered having the door held open for him as marking him as “soft” and “effeminate,” and therefore he would have to prove his masculinity with violence. One supposes in this that they may have agreed with my father, whose common response to my complaining about the boredom inherent in vacuuming and other housework was “go get yourself a wife.” (As an aside, I still encounter people, from time to time, who seem to be impressed that I have learned the skills to keep up a home on my own, despite the fact that as a middle-aged bachelor, I’ve been doing so for pretty much all of my adult life - being too cheap to part with the bread that I win to hire a personal drudge.)

It’s worth pointing out that one doesn't have to be a pastor or conservative Christian activist to buy into this line of thinking. A friend of a friend once told me that men had no business working with children - they were no good at being nurturing, and any man who willingly worked a job that required them to around children was undoubtedly simply seeking to groom them for later sexual abuse. (The look on her face when she learned that I was a child and youth care worker was priceless.)

By this line of reasoning, as I’ve pointed out before, masculinity isn’t something that men have - instead, it’s something that has them, and they may not leave it behind (or be thought to have) without serious consequences. It’s like clothing, in a sense - there are several perfectly fashionable styles of women’s clothing that are adapted from men's styles. Men’s clothing openly adapted from women’s styles is rare to non-existent. And this creates a status difference - to the degree that two people cannot fulfill each other’s roles, they are different, and that difference often expresses itself in some sort of hierarchy. Granted, this is just a personal theory of mine, but as long as men suffer a severe loss of status (at least in some circles) for taking on roles earmarked for women, then women will, in effect, suffer that same loss of status for simply having the ability to take on those roles. It’s like a caste system that limits certain jobs to people at the very bottom of the social order. Not all of the lowest caste will hold the undesirable jobs - but as long as they are the only people allowed to perform them, the caste system will continue to push them to the bottom.

This isn’t to say that every man needs to have a stint as a stay-at-home-parent or secondary breadwinner. But as long as those roles are considered taboo for them, women are unlikely to be considered truly equal.

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