Get Married and Be Submissive. That’s the advice coming from a best-selling new book by Italian author Costanza Miriano.
And while the book—which was published in Spain with the support of Francisco Javier Martinez, the Catholic Archbishop of the Spanish city of Granada—has hit the top of the Amazon charts, the just-released Spanish-language edition Cásate y se sumisa has provoked Spanish feminists. Protesters have taken to the streets, ripping copies of the book to shreds, claiming it promotes violence against women.
Spain’s health minister Ana Mato, according to a report in The Telegraph, said: “I think it is inappropriate and disrespectful to women.” Mato has called for the book to be withdrawn.
Activists from the group Anonymous have also weighed in on the book, labeling it “misogynistic and oppressive.”
In particular, opponents of the book cite one passage which reads, “We [women] like humiliation because it is for a greater good.”
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No matter that the book is based on the teaching of St. Paul, who writes in his Letter to the Colossians, which is the Second Reading in today’s liturgy for the Feast of the Holy Family:
Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,
as is proper in the Lord.
And no matter that the next line, directed toward husbands, challenges the menfolk to an even greater responsibity, that of loving their wives:
Husbands, love your wives,
and avoid any bitterness toward them.
Indeed, St. Paul’s directive for a successful and happy marriage is sometimes criticized in today’s egalitarian society. But only if both partners in marriage commit themselves to the ideal of self-sacrificing love will their union reflect God’s abiding love for each of us.
The strong sales of the book suggest that not all women oppose Miriano’s plan for a successful marriage. And Granada’s Archbishop Martinez has called the book “very interesting from a Christian point of view.”
The book’s author Costanza Miriano, a 43-year-old married woman and a devout Catholic, defended her position—explaining that when she speaks of women being submissive in her book, she is not advocating submission in a marriage as something negative. “I don’t know the coloring the word has in English,” Miriano said in a BBC interview,
“…but I don’t use it in a negative way. It’s a word taken from the Letter to the Ephesians. It doesn’t mean in any way being like a doormat for the husband. I use it in the etymological sense of being beneath or underneath, providing the support like a column supports a roof, because we as women we are stronger.”
Miriano went on to reference the encyclical of Pope John Paul II Mulieris Dignitatum on the “feminine genius”:
“We are able to put persons in relation[ship]. John Paul II wrote that the woman has the genius, the talent of the relation[ship] so we are able to be the heart of the family. Submission is something very, very good for a woman.”
Asked why the Spanish health minister has called for the book to be withdrawn, Miriano speculates that perhaps the health minister has a problem with the use of the word “marry.” According to the Christian Post’s report of the BBC interview, Miriano said:
“I really don’t know. I thought it was because of the word ‘sumisa [submissive]‘ but I found that there are many books with the word ‘sumisa’ in the title sold in the Spanish shops like ‘Diario de una sumisa‘… so, I think the problem is with the word ‘cásate [marry]‘ because I think that being submitted to a husband is felt like something terrible. I don’t know why,” she said before explaining that she also wrote a book for men with a title that translates to Marry Her and Die for Her.
Why are some women so angry about the book? Miriano has an idea:
“Maybe we are not free from the need to be recognized. When a woman is completely at peace with herself, is completely fulfilled, she doesn’t need to be recognized and she can take a step back, not in the sense of being a doormat but of being completely able to be the column.”
Asked whether she believes that feminism has damaged marriage, Miriano explained:
“I am a worker. I work as a journalist during the day and I write books during the night. I have four children. I think that women who ask the same rights of the men are lacking in imagination and ambition because we are so different from men.”
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St. Paul’s recipe for successful family life, as delineated in today’s reading from Colossians 3:12-21, is outlined in greater detail in Ephesians 5:22-33:
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
For information on ways to improve your marriage, visit the U.S. Bishops’ comprehensive and very helpful website, ForYourMarriage.org.