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.