College Was To Be My Dowry

My dad told me he was going to pay for my college education as a dowry for my future husband. He said it would be wrong to settle my future husband with debt wracked up for my education when I was going to be a stay at home mom and would never work outside of the home anyway. This is what came to mind when I read the recent viral post Six Reasons Not To Send Your Daughter To College.

If I was only ever supposed to be a stay at home mom, you may be wondering, why did my parents bother to send their daughters to college? Oh, they had their reasons. Part of it was that both of them were college educated and came from families where college educations were highly valued. But in a community where sending your daughters to college was sometimes suspect, they definitely had reasons they brought up to justify their decision. In other words, it wasn’t a given.

First, my parents pointed out that there was always the chance that my husband would die, or turn out abusive, or become disabled, or be out of work. If this happened and I absolutely had to take a job, they said, they didn’t want me working at Walmart. Besides, if I didn’t marry immediately I could work until I did and maybe earn some money for a downpayment on a house. I’m very thankful for my parents’ position here, and should Sally ever decide that what she wants to be is a stay at home mom, I would likewise encourage her to get a degree first, “just in case.”

Second, my parents also told me that it was important to be intellectually matched with your husband, and that since our husbands would be college educated we should be too. Otherwise, they said, we might not be able to connect on the same level. I do appreciate that they put this sort of emphasis on being on the same intellectual playing field, though I also question the classism inherent here and would point out that I was still suspected to submit to my future husband, intellectual equal or not.

Third, my parents said that a college education would help qualify me to homeschool my children. I was to be my children’s primary teacher, after all, and my parents were quite insistent that a college degree, regardless of the specific area of study, was indispensable for this task. Again, I’m really grateful that my parents took this position, especially given that there are Christian homeschool leaders who do not.

And then there was the dowry bit, this idea that my college education would be a gift from my parents to my husband. Because apparently paying for my college education as a gift for me was totally out of the question. Anyway, good on them for seeing college as something important and worth investing in, but, come on, really?

I suppose it may seem curious that I would head off to college without any plan to ever have a career, but I did. What did I study, you ask? Quite simply, I chose a degree that I felt could transition into a way of earning extra pocket change as a homeschool mom. My plan was to offer tutoring and camps to others in the homeschool community, and perhaps to write curriculum for homeschoolers, curriculum I would test on my own children. This sort of thing didn’t count as having a career outside of the home, and would, I felt, serve as a good intellectual outlet and bring in some extra cash. Interestingly, my close in age sister did the same thing, also choosing a degree that would allow her to transition into something to do on the side while keeping her house and raising her children. So while we weren’t majoring in homemaking, we majored in things we felt would help us in our careers as stay at home homeschool mothers.

It turned out that the concerns about sending daughters to college put forward by various Christian homeschool leaders were well merited. College corrupted me. Or, rather, it gave me a chance to form my own views and get outside of the box. And that’s the same thing to some people, I suppose. You may wonder whether my parents have since changed any of their positions mentioned above. The answer is yes, and no. For one thing, college choices have narrowed to Christian college or local state college while living at home (I’m not sure which option is better, to be honest). For another thing, my mother told me she is no longer pushing her daughters toward college, and that if one of my sisters decides she wants to be a stay at home daughter, she won’t try to dissuade her. But at least my parents aren’t flat-out barring my younger sisters from attending college, and for that I am grateful.

I remember a summer day years ago when a homeschool mom we didn’t see very often came over to talk to mom and found out that I was to be sent away to college in a few short months. This homeschool mom was horrified. She insisted to my mother that college would ruin me, and would make me unsuitable for being a wife and mother. She was extremely adamant. And indeed, there are girls I grew up with who, based on these ideas, were kept home from college. Some are my age and even older, still living at home, waiting, I suppose, for someone to come marry them. As for me, I will forever be grateful that my parents believed that there were actually good reasons for sending their daughter to college—even if one of them was that college was to be my “dowry.”

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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.

  • Anat

    Israel. There is a national system of matriculation exams, so schools have to prepare students to that level.

    My school

  • Susie M

    You’ve mentioned that your sisters are allowed to go to Christian colleges…and I keep meaning to ask: any Christian college or something akin to Patrick Henry or Bob Jones?

    I live in CA so there are quite a few Christian colleges in southern CA that would probably horrify your parents. The girls there wear cute things like actual shorts, tank tops, bikinis, leggings, and and people date, girls get pregnant, etc. (I went to one of them. I enjoyed it, but hindsight, definitely not worth the 35 grand a year.) Anyways, I’ve been curious.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    But will you let them stop learning math at multiplication? Will you let them stop writing at eight years old? How does unschooling work when the child simply refuses to learn the very basics?

  • L.J.

    “The way Baby_Raptor’s rapist tried to use it is cruel and despicable in any cultural context.”

    What really blows my mind is how her own FAMILY tried to badger her into marrying this man. The existence of abusive rapist shitheads has ceased to amaze me, but the fact that anyone could think this man is husband material for their daughter/granddaughter is… just… wow. I cannot begin to unpack the fractal levels of fuckery that’s going on here.

    I’m guessing that was the reason the rapist wanted Baby_Raptor to be the “lucky” girl *gags* and not the other woman he raped. (I hope to God there weren’t more.) A woman whose own family wouldn’t support her against her rapist, that’s like blood in the water for predators. Thank everything that’s holy Raptor has nothing to do with those people family anymore.

    • attackfish

      A woman whose own family wouldn’t support her against her rapist, that’s like blood in the water for predators.

      This is what really kills me about this attitude that a lot of people have when so-and-so victim reveals that more than one person at more than one time has raped and/or abused them. I get this when people find I had two separate stalkers. They look at you and think “well, lightning doesn’t strike twice,” and think you’re making it up for attention. But guess what, if you’re raped/abused/stalked whatever once, it’s statistically more likely that you will be raped/abused/stalked again by the same or different person than a given person who hasn’t become a victim will be victimized. This is because the same circumstances that lead to the first victimization often still exist, such as a family colludes with her rapist in Baby_Raptor’s case, or in my case, the fact that the school administrators thought I was crazy and a liar, and so wouldn’t punish any wrongs against me because they didn’t believe they were happening.

      Victim blamers who do believe victims of multiple events and perpetrators often tell us victims that the only constant is us, that all of these victimizations have us as the victim, so we must be doing something to bring it on ourselves. This ignores two simple facts, first that not having perfect victims will not make a predator not victimize, it will just make them pick someone slightly less vulnerable, so blaming victims will not keep anybody safe. And second, that often, what makes us easy targets is outside of our control. It’s a family situation, or a social situation, or a cultural situation, or a financial situation, or a psychological or psychiatric situation, or some other situation that the victim would happily be out of, but can’t get themselves out of. And maybe they could get themselves out of it with a little help, but guess what the victim blamers try to deny them?

  • L.J.

    “if not for the presumption that the level of financial means or gendered job status directly equates to a man’s worth, how many women might readily admit a major reason for wanting husbands or boyfriends is the prospect of regular, satisfying sex and emotional support regardless of his social standing / financial situation?”

    *sheepishly raises hand*

    Seriously, no matter how much more financially successful I may become than my husband, money could never compare to the emotional and moral support he gives me. Also, every cent of financial support and more is worth it for that fine ass and mad bedroom skillz.

    Of course the real trick is that I can’t buy his wonderful, all-encompassing love or even the exciting intimacy of sex. Those things are only possible because we love each other. Everything else, money, childcare, housework, those are just arrangements to make our lives work together, pooling our different strengths and resources. That’s why the people who insist on rigid gender roles are missing the point by a ridiculous margin.

  • Ismenia

    It also sounds like having been convicted of rape, he realised he didn’t want to continue with that risky path so was looked for a socially sanctioned way of continuing to abuse women. I really hope he never found a wife.


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