Up Is Down and Down Is Up

I recently came upon this quote from the Botkins, and it reminded me of everything I left behind when I rejected my parents’ belief that, as an unmarried adult daughter, I was under my father’s authority:

Many stay-at-home girls believe that, as they become adults, their fathers’ jurisdiction over their lives will lessen. They feel that, in order to mature into individuals able to think and act for themselves, they must be “liberated” from another’s input into their lives. This is because we’re drowning in a culture that doesn’t understand what the Bible says about individualism vs. unity, autonomy vs. authority, or license vs. liberty.

Dear girls – don’t be afraid of losing your “individual personhood” or the ability to think for yourself, and don’t think that those are the signs of an adult. Any two-year-old girl has a mind of her own and most certainly thinks for herself. Every woman knows her own mind – it’s part of being Eve’s daughters. It’s not a sign of maturity to struggle for autonomy – that’s toddler stuff. The sign of our maturity and adulthood is when we willingly submit ourselves to God-given authority and therefore to God Himself. This is a struggle, and it requires strength, wisdom, responsibility and spiritual maturity.

Truly, in the Christian homeschooling subculture in which I grew up and imbibed these ideas, up is down and down is up. But somehow, when you’re on the inside, it all makes perfect sense.

And with that, you are more than welcome to use the comment section to pick apart everything that is wrong with this quote. Enjoy!

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.

  • Niemand

    Not about the quote per se, but the philosophy is very inefficient. Why should half of humanity “submit” to the other half? That seems like a way to lose all the talent contained in the enslaved half and most of the talent of the masters as they have to spend their time putting down rebellions and longing for something that they can’t have (namely, an adult relationship that is not based on force).

    As for the quote itself, the core problem for me is that I’m not a Christian. Why should I give a rat’s tail vein what the Bible says or fails to say about autonomy, individuality and the rest?

  • butterfly5906

    My favorite is this: “The sign of our maturity and adulthood is when we willingly submit ourselves to God-given authority and therefore to God Himself.”

    1) “Submitting to me is like submitting to God” is clearly pride talking and “My husband/ father represents God in my life” is simply the worst and most explicit idolatry I can imagine.

    2) Romans 13:1 “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” This applies to the US government, right? So that means not being properly submissive (as defined as how a daughter should act towards her father) to the federal government is a sign of immaturity and is like challenging God, right?

  • dj pomegranate

    I have so many thoughts and feelings about this! I’ll try to zero in on the most egregious:

    1. The scare quotes around “liberated,” and “individual personhood.” It’s an obvious way to cast doubt on women’s hard-earned (and recently earned!) rights and discourage impressionable young women from finding out what those words truly mean in today’s society.

    2.”Many stay-at-home girls believe that, as they become adults, their fathers’ jurisdiction over their lives will lessen.” This sounds like a lot of the mainstream evangelical stuff I read/heard growing up. “The world will tell you [thing], but actually God says [complete opposite thing]!” On the one hand, that’s true: Jesus actually did say he’d use the weak things of the world to shame the strong, that he who would be great must be the servant, etc.

    The trouble is that he said that about very specific things: leadership, humility, character, power dynamics. I think a lot of evangelical thought takes this idea and just runs with it: if the world says something, God must say the opposite! How many times have I heard something like, “Well, the doctors said he didn’t have a good chance, but I know God will heal him, and the doctors don’t know God!” Or, “The whole idea of “human rights” is ridiculous…we don’t have any rights! We are nothing before God!” etc. It’s antagonistic, and anti-intellectual, but it’s pervasive! So this quote and phrasing is totally in keeping with that and, to someone in that subculture, won’t ring any alarm bells at all: of course God would want the opposite of what the world says is good!

    3. “It’s not a sign of maturity to struggle for autonomy – that’s toddler stuff.” Ha! Has it not occurred to them that toddlers are VASTLY LESS ABLE TO BE AUTONOMOUS than 20 year old women! Good night!

  • http://www.anthonybsusan.wordpress.com Sarah Jones

    Sounds like embryos enjoy more personhood than adult women do in this movement.

    • Shari

      That about sums it up!

    • Niemand

      Well, slightly more than half of embryos are male, so of course they do. Plus, embryos never disagree with you or fight back so it’s safe to give them rights-they won’t use them.

  • K

    How awful :( The ability to think for yourself and develop your own individual personhood is an important part of being a human.

  • antimule

    Makes sense. Some people love rigid hierarchies because it gives them automatic authority over other people. Instead of working to become someone worth respecting, they want to get respect automatically for being male, white or privileged. Biblical literalism is just a convenient excuse.

  • Karen

    http://www.credenda.org/archive/issues/9-1husbandry.php is a link to a particularly horrible example. (Sorry it’s not a clickable link. The commenting program won’t allow comments containing live links.

    • Tami

      Karen, I read the article from the link you posted (thanks for sharing) and wow…the wife is looked down on and treated like a child – this is just so wrong – I felt sick just reading it. :(

    • The_L

      The worst part is, there’s one sentence in there that’s actually good advice: “When you have problems in your marriage, it’s important to remember that the problem isn’t ‘there’ with [spouse], but ‘here with us.’”

      And then they spoil and contradict this message by saying, “You should be the grown-up and treat your wife like a preschool-aged child who needs to be constantly shown and told what to do.”

      The doublethink is strong in this one. Minitru would be proud.

  • jose

    “It’s not a sign of maturity to struggle for autonomy – that’s toddler stuff.”

    Then tell men to stop struggling for autonomy.

    “The sign of our maturity and adulthood is when we willingly submit ourselves to God-given authority and therefore to God Himself.”

    The sign of our maturity and adulthood is when we willingly submit ourselves to men and therefore to God himself.

    And I’m damn well not posting comments too quickly.

    • The_L

      Not to mention, a toddler’s struggle for autonomy is generally “I want to put my clothes on myself and use the potty like a big kid.” A young adult’s struggle for autonomy is generally, “I want to choose the course of my entire life.”

      Those are not the same!

      • Whirlwitch

        Actually, as someone who studied child development and developmental psychology, I can tell you that there are definite similarities in the push for autonomy by each age group. Toddlers and teenagers are each at a developmental stage where their physical, mental and emotional growth is very fast, and the struggle for autonomy is crucial for development in both cases – they’re learning how to apply and use their new capabilities. And there are similarities between how the two age groups express themselves in the process. That’s not a reason to put either group down, though. The struggle, conflict and rapid development changes that occur are not a sign of maturity, but they are a sign of maturation. And despite what the Botkins think, all of it is crucial for the growing person to become a healthy adult.

  • Karen
    • Lunch Meat

      That frustrates me so much, considering how difficult it is for me to be assertive and how much my husband has to remind me that he *wants* to hear what I think and what I want.

      That quote and the one in the original post both infantilize women by comparing a perfectly legitimate desire to make my own choice to a toddler crying because it doesn’t want to go to sleep. They also make the completely incorrect claim that male Christianity and adulthood/maturity are somehow essentially different than female Christianity and adulthood/maturity. As they grow up, men must learn how to lead and be aggressive and do/want more; women must learn how to submit and be passive and do/want less. Christianity is also removed from the simple command to love one another and treated as if the “point” of religion is a perfect marriage relationship and family. For all the macho blustering about how Christianity is inherently masculine, there’s a whole lot in the Bible about being meek, being silent when people accuse you, accepting suffering, and being at peace. Yet it’s women who are reminded that strength is in shutting up, while men are encouraged to rule their families.

  • http://shinybutter.com Coco

    Weird how logical that almost sounds.

    My dear sister subscribes to a fundamentalist Christian point of view and I’ve had a few heated arguments with her husband. Luckily, only a few. Where the two of them have perhaps assumed that I’ve accepted their point of view on this subject and so many others since I’ve backed down from discussing any of it with them (which is not actually possible, since there is no discussion), what I’m actually thinking is that my sister has such an incredibly strong personality, I wonder how much longer it will be till she blows?

  • smrnda

    It’s the typical inability to distinguish between a healthy desire for self-determination and amoral and irresponsible selfishness that characterizes fundamentalist Christians. When people tell you that you can’t trust your judgment and that you need authority, they’re out to get you to be a sheep and submit to them.

    • Nea

      In this culture, that’s not a bug, it’s a feature. The women have to submit to the men, and the men have to submit to the church leaders and the church leaders have to submit to… well, as far as I can tell, all they submit to is their own lust for power and control.

      • Brightie

        Well, they submit to whatever interpretation of “God’s Word” they were taught to be true, which may or may not operate on their conscience to keep their “lust for power” in check depending on who else of equal or superior hierarchical rank they are accountable to and how seriously they take what they were taught.

  • http://thechurchproject.me Tracey

    “Every woman knows her own mind -it’s part of being Eve’s daughters.”

    Notice subtle suggestion that knowing her own mind is the same as being sinful? No one should have to worry that thinking = sinning. It’s creepy to see that idea stuck in there. No, actually the whole thing is creepy.

  • minuteye

    But surely, in order to be in charge, men must know their own minds. So are all men Eve’s daughters then? All women have this characteristic because Eve sinned… but it’s not that men lack this characteristic. So, all humans know their own minds? What does that have to do with Eve? The more I read this, the more confused I get.

    • dj pomegranate

      Men “knowing their own minds” is a GOOD thing. Women “knowing their own minds” is a BAD thing.

      Obviously.

      *sigh*

  • http://brokendaughters.wordpress.com Lisa

    Oh yes, the Botkins. I used to so look up to them, they were so pretty and so godly and wise and awesome and actually, I worshipped them almost as much as if they were goddesses.
    I now realize that the Botkin sisters are filled with dread and anger about the fact that they did everything and did not receive what they thought was promised to them. They’re still unmarried and under the authority of a father who will not give permission to let anybody “court” them because they are the family’s money horses and who the heck will feed them once the girls are under the authority of another man who will then cash all their cheques?
    I know I know, it’s the “unspoken” law that girls are married off to men who can provide them with at least the same standard of living they now enjoy, but really, these girls make a ton of money and it’s probably very hard to find a guy who makes more so that he will not feel emasculated by his wife. Oh my, they’re in a pickle!
    Not to mention that their dad needs SOME sort of excuse to enjoy all the benefits that come with highly popular daughters. Just imagine they’d go ahead and be independant… Don’t even want to think of what they’d do!

    Either way, I find the biggest problem here is the fact that they consider the struggle for independence and having an opinion with the behavior of toddlers, when just the exact same behavior is grown up and strong when a man does it. No, women who try to figure out things by themselves are toddlers – men who can’t take critizism and cry and whine when they don’t get their way are… strong leaders? I can’t even explain how angry this makes me.

    • Karen

      The saddest thing I’ve read recently that wasn’t this week’s news was the Botkins’ description of their brother’s wedding. He gets a family of his own, his wife will have kids, yet here they are, still in limbo and nearly 30 years old. The ambivalence they feel about marriage –it’s both The Only Thing For Women and the route to oblivion for them – drips from their writing. They are in a pickle indeed.

      • http://brokendaughters.wordpress.com Lisa

        Oh yes, it is very sad.
        I’m not speaking out against wanting to get married badly. If that’s the person’s free will, go for it, you know, enjoy the right. Everybody’s plan for life is ok as long as it hurts no one. So if they really want to be wives and mothers, that’s great.
        The sad thing is that while they obviously wish for something so badly, they are withheld the thing which would (hopefully) make them happy. Their whole situation is in a limbo somewhere between “Dieing to self” in one of the most crude ways and making sure others are just as miserable.
        I can’t decide whether the Botkins make me angry, or make me pity them.

  • Christine

    Am I the only person here who thinks that the “horrible” need for self-determination that toddlers express is actually a good thing? I agree it’s a false analogy, but even if it worked it would be a horrible reason to say that wanting to be an independent person was bad. A 9-month-old manages to defeat a babyproofing measure? Sure it’s annoying, and I’ll need to come up with a new one, but that is a very good thing for them to do. I’m proud of her for doing it. She wants to walk without holding my hand? I may not allow it, but it’s good that she’s trying to be independent.

    • Nea

      Remember this is part and parcel of the lifestyle that says it’s perfectly okay to beat a baby until it stays on a blanket, afraid to explore the world around it. From that point of view, autonomy, be it from a 2 year old or a 20-year-old is horrible. Independece, from church or family, is treason.

      For anyone outside the lifestyle, it’s insane to stunt human growth at any age. It’s the insistence to walk alone as a toddler that teaches us to travel alone as adults.

      • Christine

        Oh, I know. It’s actually a really good quotation that shows the problems with the mindset – faulty logic is easy to dismiss, because it can be remedied, but this shows how messed up the foundation is. I’m not at all a believer that we should all be able to do whatever we want, but reading this kind of nonsense makes me wonder if I should be in favour of that, just to avoid the CP stupidity.

      • Nea

        I was pagan once, and they had the rule “If it harm none, do what you will.” It’s not bad advice. Technically, I *am* able to do whatever I want. In reality, everything has consequences for good or for ill, but they’ll be consequences of my actions, not random beatings by a control freak swinging plumbing line.

    • Rosie

      Christine, I’m pretty sure most developmental psychologists would agree with you that a toddler’s desire for autonomy is a good thing. And if a parent is determined to quash it entirely in that stage, the kid will probably have some difficulties for the rest of its life.

    • Rosa

      I agree!

      Also, the reason adults don’t have the same struggles for autonomy as toddlers is that we’ve ACHEIVED autonomy. If someone is stuck in a situation that doens’t allow for autonomy, whether it’s a totalitarian state, a prison, or a terrible job, they generally continue to struggle and the hierarchy above them has to bring a lot of power to bear to keep them in line.

  • Muthr of four

    Just had to note……i taught my daughters that i was there to be challenged. I told them they would not ever succeed because socratic teaching styles encourage the learning of how to think autonomously, but it doesnt teach dictatorship or takeovers. As a result, all these years, i told mine i welcomed any and all effort on their part to prove me wrong or prove themselves right. I am human, and i am not anyone but me, so i can be convinced. They are now 20 and 21 yrs. one is entering an ivy law school after completing her masters, in two year, the other was approved for an accelerated double grad degree program in two seperate fields of engineering. She is employed part time in a third engineering field that she had zero experience in until this summer. Both graduate the same time, in two years. Both were unschooled and are balanced, happy, social, mature, have well developed sense of humor, and learned critical problem solving and core thinking skills waynoutside the boundaries of….well, everything!

    Never never never doubt your ability as a parent or your childs ability as a sentient being. Myself, i have only a two year degree, but never stopped learning about everything that interested me. And everything interests me. Especially the way the minds of my four children worked!

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