I Don’t Want To Be Anyone’s Special Little Princess

I recently ran across this quote from Christian Patriarchy advocate Don Miller. Let’s take it from the top, shall we?

Do you want to be treated like men in every area of your life? And if not, is it confusing for you to want to be treated more kindly and tenderly in a social area, but more straight-forwardly in the sense of economic and cultural equality?

People like Miller are always saying that feminists want women to be treated “like men.” The reality is that I and other feminists want women to be treated like people. Like individuals. Part of what is going on here is that men treat other men like individuals, but they treat women as “the other.” Men frequently see each other as individuals first, but see women by their gender first. If a man messes up at his job, he will be individually blamed for it; if a woman messes up her job, it will be blamed on her gender. So I suppose that yes, we want to be treated like men, but we only inasmuch as men treat each other as individuals.

Also, is it just me or is Miller suggesting that because women are (supposedly) treated more kindly and tenderly in the social area, they should be a-okay with not having economic and cultural equality? Because, newsflash: Being treated “kindly and tenderly” in exchange for my giving up my equality sounds like a terrible deal. Is it a deal Miller would like to take, I wonder?

This is actually a constant theme for complementarians and defenders of patriarchy. They act as though women get sweet deal because they get to be taken care of by their husbands, and in return all they have to do is give up their autonomy and submit to their male authorities. Sometimes they go so far as to paint themselves as the martyrs, getting the raw end of the deal. And I have to be honest, the more I run across this trope the more it grates on me. Because no, being “taken care of” does not make giving up my autonomy a-okay. I would much rather be able to make my own decisions and choose my own path, even if it means having to do things myself.

Let me be more pointed: As women, do you want for men to say you’re beautiful? Because if we treat you like men, we will never say you’re beautiful. We don’t really care. And we won’t make you feel small or special or precious, either. We won’t protect you because, quite frankly, you need to protect yourself or you’re a wimp. Do you really want us to treat you like men?

Oh, so much wrong here.

First, honestly? I don’t want men in general telling me I’m beautiful. The only man I want telling me I’m beautiful is the one I’m romantically interested in. I would actually much rather other men refrain from telling me I’m beautiful. And is it just me or is Harris acting like being told you’re beautiful is some kind of favor gifted from men to women in exchange for women giving up equality? The thing is, I would rather be respected as an equal than flattered with pretty words. I don’t want to be told I’m beautiful. I want to be treated as an equal. I want respect.

You know what’s interesting? My husband wants to be told he is handsome more than I want to be told that I am beautiful. It’s true. Sean is always showing off for me, always inviting my approval and praise. He absolutely loves to be told that I find him attractive. Nay, he craves being told that. And so I do, often. But I don’t feel the same need for him to tell me I’m beautiful. It is enough that I know he finds me attractive. Does Sean’s desire to be told that he is attractive make him somehow feminine in Miller’s world?

But back to the issue of respect. I am reminded Love and Respect, a Christian marriage manual, which I saw quoted on Sarah over the Moon recently:

Psychological studies affirm it, and the Bible has been saying it for ages. Cracking the communication code between husband and wife involves understanding one thing: that unconditional respect is as powerful for him as unconditional love is for her. It’s the secret to marriage that every couple seeks, and yet few couples ever find.

You know why this makes no sense to me? Because I personally crave respect more than I crave love. Really. I would rather be respected than loved. Of course, in reality I want both, and I think in reality everyone wants both, but if I had to choose, that’s the way I’d go. I think it’s because I cannot imagine love without respect. The condescending, belittling, sicky-sweet, parent-child love so many Christian marriage manuals suggest husbands offer their wives makes my skin crawl.

Next, about being made to “feel small or special or precious.” That actually doesn’t appeal to me one wit either. In fact, Harris’s entire idea of what women want makes me feel stifled. You know why? Because it’s not what I want! Not in the slightest! I don’t want to be treated like a precious little princess and told how sweet and pretty I am. In fact, that’s honestly the opposite of what I want. I want to be respected as an individual. I want to be seen as a person first and a woman second.

I don’t like gender roles, I really don’t. People are individuals and have individual talents, needs, desires, abilities, and interests. Why can’t we just see each other as individuals first? Why can’t we judge each other based on our talents, abilities, and interests rather than based on what’s between our legs? Why is this concept so hard for Harris and others to grasp?

Let me conclude with a quote from a post by Grace is Human:

But the other thing is – what makes Miller think all men don’t want to be told they’re beautiful? Including by other men? Do men never feel the need for protection? Do all men embrace or benefit from the idea that any man who can’t protect himself is a “wimp?”

Contrary to popular misconception, gender justice activists have had quite a lot to say about how patriarchal masculinity hurts men – how it makes men more vulnerable to certain kinds of violence, how it damages men’s health and wellbeing by encouraging them to ignore or suppress pain and other signs of illness, how it limits the range of men’s emotional expression in ways that damage their emotional, mental, and physical health and the strength and health of their intimate relationships.

The question isn’t whether women want to be treated “like men” (where the definition is what Miller and other white patriarchalists think “like men” means). The question is whether being treated like men – being expected to behave “like a man” – is even good for men.

Yes to all of that.

See, feminism really is revolutionary. Men like Miller assume that the goal is to have women treated “like men,” or even that in egalitarian marriages the wives become the men in the relationship while the husbands become female and passive. But the reality is that feminism isn’t about men and women switching roles, or about women jumping into men’s role along with them. No. It’s revolutionary. It’s about upsetting the entire patriarchal system and rebuilding it on values like equality, compassion, respect, and cooperation. And there’s something simply amazing about that.

Note: The original version of this post attributed Miller’s quote to Joshua Harris, who has made similar statements in the past.  

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