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.


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