Daughters Have Brains

My parents think I don’t have a brain.

It didn’t used to be this way. When I was a kid, they fostered my love of politics and theology. They loved that I thought about everything, including such issues as gay marriage, abortion, the nature of salvation, how to fix welfare, and solving our nation’s fiscal problems. Of course, never having been exposed to any arguments besides theirs, I always agreed with my parents on these issues. Yet my parents saw this as evidence of true independent thinking, and believed I had come to these opinions on my own, after reviewing the evidence presented. They praised me for my devotion to their views and for my quick wit and steady intellect.

But then I went to college and heard new arguments and evidence I had never heard before, convincing arguments and convincing evidence of issues like evolution and the fallibility of the Bible.
Given new evidence and arguments, I began rethinking what my parents had taught me, every bit of it, truly thinking for myself for the first time ever. Unfortunately, at around the same time that this was happening, I met a young man. So do you want to know how my parents interpreted this situation? They told me that I had illegitimately transferred my allegiance from my father to this young man, taking him as my authority in place of my dad, and that and that only was why I had changed my beliefs.

In other words, women don’t actually think for themselves or have their own beliefs. Rather, they simply believe what their male authority believes whether they think that’s what they’re doing or not. And do you know why? Because, my parents told me, that is women’s nature. Women are geared toward serving serving and pleasing men, and they therefore naturally gravitate toward their men’s beliefs. After all, in Genesis 3:16 God tells Eve “Your desire shall be for your husband.” Women are simply weak in this area, intellectually following the lead of their male heads, even unconsciously. I only thought I was thinking for myself; in reality I was blinded by love.

Of everything I have gone through with my parents, their denial of my ability to think for myself hurts the most. And what I really don’t understand is why they used to tell me that I was a critical, independent thinker back when I simply echoed everything my dad said. How was that being an independent thinker while this is not?

My personal theory is this: My parents hold their exact beliefs so strongly that they believe that anyone who is an honest independent thinker will come to share their views. Because, after all, their views are right. So when I shared their beliefs, I was an independent thinker, following the evidence to its natural conclusion. When I left their beliefs, I could not possibly be an independent thinker, because if I was, I simply could not come to accept things like evolution or the Bible’s fallibility. Therefore, I was not thinking independently, and must be being influenced by something else. My parents needed to find some way to explain my change of views, and my young man was simply the convenient scapegoat. I was changing my views for him!

In other words, the Christian Patriarchy argument that women can’t safely think for themselves and must therefore always be kept under protective godly male authority allowed my parents to understand what was happening without considering that perhaps someone could honestly and truly come to the conclusion that their beliefs were wrong.

Except that it’s total crap.
Every time I hear them say that – and it’s been years, but they still say it – I feel like I’m being stripped naked and robbed of any agency. It’s like my entire existence is being denied, and I want to scream. Because, damn it, if nothing else, my current identity is based on being an independent thinker. I don’t take no for an answer from anyone, least of all my husband. And really, he wouldn’t want me to! My husband values me for my intellect and my mind, not just for my ability to make him supper or clean the house (and it’s a good thing too, because we share the housework and childcare, and neither of us see it as solely my responsibility in any way). And actually, I frequently disagree with my husband on issues of politics and a variety of other subjects, and we don’t see that as a problem. My parents should hear when we argue about the virtues of different economic systems, for example.

Sometimes I wish I had met my husband several years after I left my parents, because maybe then my parents might believe that I was actually thinking for myself. But who am I kidding? That wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. They would have said that I was being brainwashed by my liberal college professors or being led astray by my pagan peers. They simply cannot not accept, will not accept, that I could be thinking for myself. And this naturally drives me insane.

I want to end by saying this: Girls, don’t let anyone rob you of your agency by telling you bullshit like my parents told me. Your have brains (and they are just as good as anyone else’s) and you can be independent thinkers. So question, rethink, and form your own views! And most of all, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do that, ever.

When Men Wax Poetic about My Womb
What the Ruff, the Spotted Hyena, and the Cuttlefish Taught Me about Gender and Sexuality
Fifty Shades of Evangelical Justifications for Patriarchy
Why Does Lily Work Two Jobs while Carl is Unemployed?
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://www.blogger.com/profile/11557037093560947882 Anne — QuicksilverQueen.com

    My dad was always proud of us when we repeated his views in our own way thinking they were our ideas. He also thinks my husband deceived me, a 'weak-willed woman', ugh. I'm so happy my husband doesn't tell me what to believe (his dad thinks he should…his dad is also into patriarchy, just not to the degree my dad is). And we don't always agree. And all the housework isn't solely my responsibility too :D

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11665213464269297006 Sara

    love your blog. your post reminds me when I was having a political argument with my dad and he said he couldn't respect my views, so I told him part of the reason was that i shared my husband's views (still had some patriarchy crap back then) and he's like, oh, i can respect them. yep, brownie points. gah!

  • http://www.ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com Young Mom

    This drives me crazy too! Anything my parents don't like about my descisions, they attribute to my husband, and they'll say stuff like "you don't have to do whatever he says honey" even though that is literally all they ever taught me about marriage. They also think that if they can convince my husband of something I am going to automatically go along with it.

  • May

    Libby Anne, run a google search for the song "no hole in my head" by Malvina Reynolds and listen to it on youtube, think you might like it.

  • Anonymous

    Sadly, I've had this conversation with my dad as well. We disagreed on more than a few topics one holiday and he told me I was "brainwashed".At which I replied that if I was ever brainwashed, it was when I was young and was not allowed to see unapproved friends, read unapproved books, or go to school because there were opposing, unapproved views. Even several of my older brothers every so often infuriate me with their insinuations that I "picked up" my personal liberal views because I was so easily influenced.

  • Anonymous

    *facepalm*I was raised the same way. As long as I agreed with my mother, I was "smart". Once I went to college, got a job, and was exposed to other opinions, my own views on things changed and my mother was convinced people had influenced me to think "wrong" things. (which meant anything that wasn't parallel to her ideas).She thinks she has no backbone or independent thoughts of my own and blames everyone I associate with for my "rebellion". It's funny cause I'm the most stubborn person I know. She has no clue. lol

  • Caravelle

    Weird, you'd think they'd be all over women transferring their allegiance to their husbands and slavishly copying their every belief. I find it pretty hilarious that they'd quote a Bible verse saying it happens yet disapprove of it.It's almost like there more going on here than just following what they think the Bible says…

  • Anonymous

    "My parents hold their exact beliefs so strongly that they believe that anyone who is an honest independent thinker will come to share their views. Because, after all, their views are right."I'm pretty sure that is the way my mom thinks.

  • Anonymous

    Hello. I came across your blog when studying for psychology. I see what you are saying and it frustrates me. It's unfortunate that you had that experience, but I was just thinking that you at least are now open to more ideas than just one. I would like to point out that the way you were raised, as you described, does seem silly. I hope that just because you feel that your parents brainwashed you or something that you don't rule out the possibility that certain things pertaining to Christianity might actually be true. It would certainly be sad if this experience of yours tainted your view of Christianity. I encourage you, if you haven't already, to look into other views of Christianity. I hope that you find the truth in the end and that you will be healed from your experience. I wish you the best.

  • http://nadiawilliams.wordpress.com/ nadiawilliams

    I know this is an old thread, and I had no intention to comment until I read this last remark. Anonymous, saying "I hope you find the truth in the end" is one of those comments Christians often make which is just a mild annoyance, until you hear it the thousandth time. I actually hope YOU find the truth in the end, you poor, misled soul. How does that feel? Not great? Well then stop saying it to other people. "I hope you find the truth in the end" implies you have it, and the person you're addressing doesn't. It's arrogant and looks down on everyone else. I know you meant well, but perhaps this is a central problem to so many online spats between Christians and atheists: being a Christian inescapably means you believe you have the truth while others don't. You will always, no matter how hard you try to do otherwise, see yourself as superior, and it filters through everything you say./rant, sorry about that, it's the umpteenth Christian snooty I've seen this week and I'm just fed up.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14493852923455374220 Ava

    I had a taste of this when my parents couldn't believe I was choosing to be sexually liberated. I initiated the sexual relationship with my boyfriend, yet my parents immediately blamed him for the relationship, as if I couldn't possibly _choose_ to have sex on my own. (This after I told them that I had initiated the relationship.) This happened when I was about 20, living far from home, and trying to make my way as an independent adult.

    • Christine

      And here I thought it would have been your fault (no matter what) for not being modest enough. After all, he can’t help it.

  • Loegria

    I can tell you from personal experience that this sort of thinking isn’t limited to the Christian Patriarchy. My father was a strong agnostic, who wanted me to be an independent, critical thinker…but only if I agreed with him. And I was his “golden girl” until he took up with another woman (while still married to and living with my mom) and kept up the affair for 20 years, until the woman and her husband moved out of state. His selfishness and belief he had nothing to justify (it was the elephant in the living room that we never talked of, actually) affected me deeply. To make it short, after the age of 9, I believed that no matter what I did, my daddy would never love me again, and that somehow it was my fault that he wouldn’t. I’m currently in therapy, trying to exorcise this notion that’s stuck in my heart and soul for 40 years. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

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