Diminished Dreams

Many of those in the Christian Patriarchy movement believe that girls should not go to college. Thankfully, my parents did not believe this. My parents both had college degrees, and they believed that a good education was extremely important. Therefore, my homeschool program was rigorous and quite adequate, and I left for college on an academic scholarship. It sounds like I escaped the detrimental effects Christian Patriarchy can have on girls’ educations, doesn’t it? Don’t kid yourself. Every daughter of Christian Patriarchy, no matter how well educated academically, sees her education detrimentally affected.

Why? Because every daughter of Christian Patriarchy is told that she should not ever have a career or hold down a job outside the home. She is told to aim low and forget any dreams or ambitions besides motherhood and homemaking. Even if she is sent to college, she is sent away with dreams carefully clipped like captive birds’ wings.

When a girl grows up in Christian Patriarchy, she never thinks about the fact that she could be a lawyer. Or a teacher. Or a doctor. Or an accountant. Or a professor. Or a policewoman. Or a soldier. Or an engineer. Or a research scientist. In today’s world, a girl can do and be anything she wants, but only if she dreams it first. And in the world of Christian Patriarchy, girls never learn to dream big dreams. If, by chance, a daughter of Christian Patriarchy does think outside the box and dream big, her dream is immediately squashed and she is pushed, kicking and screaming, back inside the box.

I went to college to study teaching, but not so that I could have a job and a career, oh no! I wasn’t studying teaching so that I could actually teach – I was studying teaching so that I’d be able to teach if I couldn’t snag a man before graduation, or in the off chance my husband down the road was disabled or deceased. I had no plans and no desire to teach. All I wanted to be was a wife and mother.

Even after I left Christian Patriarchy, this mindset took years to overcome. I still planned only to be a homemaker, a wife and mother, even after marrying an egalitarian man and beginning a life outside of Christian Patriarchy. Yes I was in college, but I saw college as something to get through, something to be accomplished before beginning my actual life as a homemaker, not as a gateway to a career.

And then one day it hit me. I could have done anything. I could be a research scientist for NASA, a doctor with Doctors Without Boarders, a veterinarian with my own practice. I could have joined the Peace Corps, I could have lived abroad, I could have studied music or painted great art. I could have been anything. How had I not seen this before?

Christian Patriarchy stifled and trampled on my dreams and ambitions, telling me to aim low and shuffling me down one prescribed path. If I hadn’t been raised in Christian Patriarchy, I might today be a biologist or a paralegal. I almost certainly wouldn’t have chosen the undergraduate studies I did if I had known just how wide my range of possibilities was, but I had no idea. No one had told me. In fact, everyone had actively not told me.

And that is the story of how even though I was well taught academically, Christian Patriarchy detrimentally affected my education and taught me to have low expectations of myself and my abilities. And of course, it’s not just me – this happens to every daughter of Christian Patriarchy.

Of course, my life is not over yet, and I can still dream big dreams. I just wish I could have started dreaming these ten years ago, instead of waiting until my mid-twenties to do so. I still don’t know what I want to be yet, and I may have to give it several tries before I figure that out. Fortunately, no one is trimming my ambitions and desires any longer, and I am for the first time in my life truly free to dream big.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://chandra-bernat.blogspot.com Chandra

    Excellent points. I found you through a friend on facebook. I would love to have you follow me! http://chandra-bernat.blogspot.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15528465833214550644 Katy-Anne

    I'm only just now going back to college. I did one semester, signed up for the next semester and then never finished, resulting in the results "incomplete fail" because the patriarchy cult told me that I ought not to be in school because I was supposed to "just get married". And at any rate, psychology and sociology were not subjects a Christian ought to be studying, apparently. Now I'm going back and my husband and I are happy with that decision. I have three (will be four ANY time now) small children but I know I can do this.

  • Anonymous

    It is NOT too late to think those big dreams. You can still become a teacher, lawyer or NASA research scientist. I am proof that it is possible. I am a 53 year old PhD student in the physical sciences and I attend a top tier research school. I also have an autoimmune disorder that causes severe fatigue and almost robbed me of my sight. I began my studies at age 46, after my husband died of cancer. I won a 2 year NASA fellowship even though the review panel was fully aware of my age. When I graduate in about a year, my age and health problems may preclude me becoming a tenured professor. But there are many other options including becoming a research scientist at NASA.So please think those big dreams. I did and so can you. Go back to school if that is what you want to do. Get your GED if you do not have a high school diploma. Once you obtain your GED, consult your local community college which has wonderful remedial programs for adults just like you. Then you can earn an associate's degree and transfer to a 4-year college. So what if you are 40 when you finally earn a bachelor's degree? By that time, you children will be adults and you will have 25 years to serve the Lord in some vocation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16232186225573312896 Incongruous Circumspection

    DREAM kid! In the words of that weird guy in Happy Gilmore, "You can doooooooooooo iiiiiit!!!"Anyway, my wife started college this year. She squirted out six kids and is now studying her dream subject of History. She didn't grow up in patriarchy but she did marry a man who believed in the crap even though he had escaped from it. My wife's husband was a top rate arse for half their married life and, only in the past 2 years, have I begun to reject all, start from a clean slate, and refresh my life. Er…yep…I'm my wife's husband.No time like the present to hit that reset button and discover cold fusion.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11557037093560947882 Anne — QuicksilverQueen.com

    I don't even really know what my dreams are, because I was just supposed to be a wife/babymaking machine. lol

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03175306040944102539 Violet

    It's difficult to do something else once you have been told that your calling is to be a homemaker, wife, and mother. I know this all too well.

  • Anonymous

    Homeschooled children have learned how to study independently, a skill that is invaluable to suceed in college. Consequently they can do well in college even if their academic background has gaps.I have been mentoring a home schooled girl who is interested in science. She won the grand prize at the local science fair. I accompanied her to the International Science and Engineering Fair, where she won a full, 4-year scholarship. This fall she will be entering college and she wants to become a doctor.

  • http://www.sustainablemommy.wordpress.com Naomi

    "I could have done anything."How well I know that feeling! I was homeschooled and attended church school (virtually as isolating and mind-numbing as homeschooling was), and finally started college at 25. Nearly 10 years later, I'm a feminist grad student and still trying to catch up. No matter how much pop culture I consume, no matter how many books I read, papers I write, conferences I attend, or awards I win, I always feel woefully behind, unqualified. It's an exhausting life, but the only thing worse would be not pursuing the dream at all.BTW, Katy-Anne, you may be able to get your school to do a revision of records to clear those incompletes. At my university this is an option for students who have encountered major life situations mid-semester that threw them off course. Of course it involves a lot of explaining and paperwork, but it might be worth your while. Best of luck!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Katy-Anne and Incongruous's wife – Good for you guys! I wish you all the best!Anne and Violet – That is exactly the point. I haven't figured out what I want to be yet either. And I think it's important to remember that realizing that I can be anything does not automatically negate the reality that my brain has been trained for over two decades to think that I all I'm supposed to be is a homemaker. My desire to be something else was starved to death years ago, and now I'm working on resuscitating it. These thought patterns can be hard to kill!Anonymous – Thanks for the added dose of inspiration! Anonymous of 2:32 PM – I in no ways meant to imply that EVERY homeschooled girl faces diminished dreams!Homeschooling is not the problem here. The beliefs involved in Christian Patriarchy – that women are always to be under male authority and that their place is in the home – are the problem. See my definitions section for more information on what Christian Patriarchy entails.You are correct, of course, that homeschooled girls can and do succeed academically – I am one who did, and even won a full scholarship! The problem was that, unlike the girl you tutored, I was taught that as a woman all I was to ever be in life was a homemaker, a wife and mother, and any dreams I might have had – to be a doctor, a lawyer, a scientist – were starved to death by that teaching.

  • http://thishadtobesaid.blogspot.com Cluisanna

    "In today’s world, a girl can do and be anything she wants, but only if she dreams it first."Maybe if you live in a first world country and your parents are middle- to upper-class and pay for your college education… but even in the USA many girls can not be and do what they want to be (do), not only because they are told not to, but also because they do not have the resources needed. Telling these women they simply have to have dreams to be what they want to be is like telling them they only have to pray and their wishes will come true. It's a lie.

  • Anonymous

    (This is Libby Anne, I'm just not signed in for some reason.)Cluisanna – I was speaking of the West, not the world in general, and should have clarified that. Sure, not everyone starts at the same starting points even in the West, but there are such things as college loans and scholarships, so I don't think it's a problem to tell even a girl from a poor family to dream big. I never said getting there would be easy, only that it's possible.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17223859994666636372 Cluisanna

    Well, I knew you meant people from the Western world, but your sentence just reminded me of those people who say "you're just too lazy to work! there is no classism/racism/sexism!" – I understand though that you are not one of them and am sorry.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Cluisanna – Haha, no, I'd never deny the existence of classism, racism, and sexism! I don't think that the fact that they exist means that we should give up in trying to do achieve and do great things. I do think there is something to be said for being realistic. An African American girl from a poor family might have serious trouble becoming a writer or astronaut, but she could probably be an ultrasound tech or a dental hygienist with a bit of work. I personally think that even if a woman decides to be a homemaker she should have a career option available – and by "career," I mean something at least slightly skilled (nurse, teacher, accountant, or simply bank teller or administrative assistant). Of course, most women from disadvantaged backgrounds don't have the option to stay at home, and it's in their best interest to have some sort of job options besides Wal-Mart or MacDonalds. Technical colleges offer a lot of options, though they're unfortunately still out of reach for many people.

  • Anonymous

    I didn't grow up in a Christian Patriarchy, but my experience is similar. My parents had three children- it doesn't sound like a lot, but for us it was too many. My dad was never home, and my mother worked two jobs. I was pulled out of high school, to take care of my two (much) younger siblings.The experience has left me bitter towards children in general, and I can't imagine actually having an enjoyable career, or goals, or anything of the sort. Raising my siblings broke me, and reading this blog shows me that I'm not the only one.

  • http://liseusetheloverofreading.wordpress.com/ Natalie

    This is actually something that I agree with…within reason.

    I’ve actually heard many Fundamentalist girls regret that they were not pushed into challenging classes and toward challenging careers.

    Some parents pay exhorbitant prices for an excellent private school, but most students in home schools or Christian schools don’t have the same opportunities for advancement presented to them as those in public education (or excessively exposed to popular sentiment.)

    We do live in the land of opportunity, and some overcome. But most often, where you come from dictates where you go.