CTBHHM: Are You a Dumb Cluck?

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 217—219

Dear Mrs. Pearl,

I am so tired and discouraged. I feel as though my husband just doesn’t love me or care for his family as he should. The house is falling apart. The yard is full of trash. The last straw is that the sink is leaking so badly that the floor under the sink always stays wet. He is quick to help anyone who calls for help, but to get anything done around here is impossible. Last night we had a big fight because of the screen door. It has a big hole in it that I asked him to fix months ago, and it is still not fixed. Then some old lady called and needed her car started, and he up and left to help her. What is wrong with him? Why can’t he see his family should be first? What should I do?

Vicky

Dear Vicky,

Have you talked to your husband about how you feel? And I don’t just mean fighting with him about the screen door, I mean telling him you’re frustrated and that you’d like to brainstorm with him about how to set better patterns. It may be that it would go better if you did some of the projects together, turning odd jobs into fun family projects. Either way, you really should communicate with your husband about how you feel, and listen to how he feels in turn. Communication is a healthy part of any relationship.

Sincerely,

Libby Anne

But of course, that’s not how Debi responds.

Dear Vicky,

Before I answer your question I want you to take the following test.

A Standard Dumb-Cluck Test

  • Does natural healing not grab your attention?
  • Have you neglected to check out what vaccinations might do to your child’s health?
  • Have you considered what store-bought, prepared cereal has in it?
  • Do finances and business matters confuse or bore you?
  • Are you satisfied with knowing who’s who in Hollywood but really don’t care a fig’s worth who is deciding the fate of your children’s future in world events?  
  • Do you love fiction romances but find books that will teach you practical knowledge a drag?
  • Have you ever checked the oil in your car?
  • Can you use a hammer, saw, tape measure, and screwdriver? 

Well, are you a dumb-cluck? You might be asking what that has to do with your “lazy” husband. More than you think!

I’ve noticed that name calling is one of Debi’s favorite things, and she’s quite blunt about it. That aside, I find this list fascinating in its diversity. Natural healing, business and finances, checking your own oil . . . Debi wants women to submit to their husbands, but in some areas, at least, she also wants them to roll up their sleeves and help themselves instead of being helpless flowers. This part is something I agree with—though for very different reasons from Debi’s reasons.

Also, Debi’s test reminds me of a line in the movie Paradise Recovered.

The point on the ideological spectrum where far-left bohemians and rightwing fundamentalists meet is the health food store.

You can find this bit in the trailer at 0:27.

It’s so true. It’s weird to experience, too. I live in a progressive college down. Many of the women in my moms groups are into natural healing, anti-vaxxing, and and health food, along with home birthing and even homeschooling. Sometimes things feel eerily similar in a weirdly backwards sort of way.

Anyway, back to Debi!

Vicky, you asked me, “What should I do?” You should get off your easy chair and learn a think or two. Any good woman should be able to fix a screen door. Plumbing is not so hard, either. I have fixed several broken popes in the dead of winter and replaced at least two toilets. There are some good books at the library that you will find helpful for those things. If a man can do it, why can’t a woman? It doesn’t take great strength.

There, for a moment, Debi sounds like a feminist! If a man can do it, why can’t a woman? Yes, she actually wrote that! It’s a pity she can’t apply that more broadly!

You are the keeper of the home, are you not? The yard is certainly not his job. Get off the couch, go outside with the children, and start cleaning the yard. You will be shocked at how much good training the children will acquire, and he will appreciate you when you show some initiative.

Ah, but, there, you see, it’s about being a proper help meet, not about being an independent woman. I can’t say I didn’t see that one coming!

A man works all day long and comes home to a messy yard, dirty house, leaky faucet, and a lazy, complaining wife. He sees so much that needs to be done and just feels overwhelmed that he is apparently carrying the whole load himself. He feels as though he became a slave when he married. He doesn’t have a help meet pulling her share of the load; he has a cranky, demanding leech sucking him dry. So, when a call comes from the little old lady in distress, of course he will drop everything and run. She will smile sweetly at him and tell him how much she appreciates him. When he gets her car running again, it will be a job finished, and he will feel good about himself. If he stayed at home and fixed the screen, the faucet would still be leaking, and you would still not be happy.

This is not entirely false, though it is of course filtered through Debi’s help meet lens. As someone who often puts in a full day of work only to come home to find that supper needs cooking, the house needs cleaning, the laundry needs doing, and the children need entertaining, yes, it can be very demotivating. Sometimes I just want to sit and do nothing, leaving the sink full of dishes and living room covered with construction paper to their own devices.

That said, I don’t know enough about Vickie’s situation to know whether Debi’s accusations that Vickie is a lazy nag and a leech are true. It could be that Vickie pulls her share of the load, and that at some point she and her husband divided responsibilities such that he was to fix things that broke around the house. It could be that the problem with the yard is that it’s full of old equipment that Vickie’s husband left there, with the promise that he would take care of it later. Despite what Debi says, Vickie never said her house was dirty. She only said it was falling apart, and by that she was talking about things like the sink and the screen door. Debi also does not know the age of Vickie’s children. If Vickie has three children under five, say, she may have very little time to go about doing these projects herself, and may be just as tired as her husband.

He was not created to be your servant. You were created to be his helper, so get to it. Learn to make yourself useful. I have found that when there is a job too big for me, if I at least start it, my husband will see that I am in over my head and will step in and finish the job. Then I can brag on how smart he is, and he doesn’t even realize that I just inspired him. 

As you may also notice, Debi instructs Vickie to learn to fix screens and sinks because she is to be her husband’s helper, and not the other way around. In other words, her basic response to Vickie is “how dare you expect him to serve you—you should be serving him!

As you may also notice, there is nothing here about communication. I’m not saying that Vickie should not learn to fix screens and sinks herself. I am completely in favor of Vickie branching out and gaining new skills and a new level of independence. But I don’t think Vickie should do this without also resolving her frustrations with her husband. She needs to sit down with her husband and share her thoughts and listen to his in return. They need to hash out a solution together. Yes, that solution might involve Vickie doing some of the fixing. It might also mean turning some of the jobs into family projects. But regardless, the problem is a bad pattern, and fixing bad patterns is not something one party should do on their own.

Okay, personal story time. I, too, got married with the expectation that my husband would be the one to fix things around the house when they break. I was raised with very traditional gender roles—women cook and clean and do the laundry, men do yard work and fix things that break. I expected my husband and I to replicate this pattern. And for the most part, we did. But there were times when Sean didn’t hang pictures I’d asked him to hang, and I grew annoyed. For my part, I tired of folding laundry.

Finally, I became frustrated enough that I got out the hammer and nails and hung some pictures myself. It wasn’t actually all that complicated. But the frustrations were still there, so Sean and I had a discussion about our division of labor and expectations. This was during the time that I was learning more about feminism. Today, our division of labor is still fairly traditional in many ways—Sean handles car repairs and I do the majority of the cooking—but we’re a lot more flexible about it. We’re faster to communicate about our frustrations and I’ve definitely become more handy with a hammer.

I’m not completely sure what my own personal story really adds to my commentary of Debi’s post, except to highlight the importance of communication. Debi wasn’t wrong to tell Vickie she might want to consider fixing the screen door and sink herself (although her reasoning for doing so was warped). Debi’s problem is that she does everything she can to avoid any mention of communication between husband and wife. Because, I mean, it’s not like communication has anything to do with healthy relationships.

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.


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