The Beautiful Girlhood Doll ~ Part 7: Submission & Obedience

by Libby Anne

The Godly Woman recognizes that “the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man…” She willingly and joyfully submits to him in everything as she would unto Christ. What other women view as a burden and degradation, she views as an honor and a blessing.

My parents believed in male headship and the umbrella of authority. They believed that the husband is the head of the wife and that the wife must submit to the husband even as the husband must love the wife. And submission meant obedience.

My mother was constantly reading books like Me? Obey Him? as she strove to be a better, more submissive wife. This was difficult for my mother, for she was a very strong woman. I watched her war with herself as she tried to reconcile her strong spirit with the submission she believed in so steadfastly. I watched her cry over it, watched it eat away at her. Occasionally, my father became upset with my mother, feeling that she was infringing on his authority. His most common response was to give her the silent treatment, and that was enough. In response, my mother generally first felt indignation and then blamed herself for not submitting enough and resolved again and again to do better. While my parents loved each other dearly, this tension added strain to their relationship, and I could see it.

Yet interestingly, even as I watched my mother struggle with female submission, I nevertheless believed in it strongly. At the same time, I usually inwardly sided with my mom in her disputes with my dad, largely because he could appear so unreasonable and become upset over seemingly small matters. I justified this contradiction between my beliefs and my feelings with regard to my parents’ quarrels by telling myself that I would have no trouble submitting to my future husband since I would marry a reasonable man who would not give me such trouble.

Of course, my parents believed in more than just a wife’s submission to her husband. They also believed that children are under their father’s authority and are to submit to him. For boys, this lasted until age eighteen, when they would leave the home and start a career; for girls, this lasted until marriage to a man approved by the father. This meant that while my brothers would be out from under my father’s authority when they turned eighteen, I would not. My parents also believed that if my father died, I would be under the authority of my nearest male relative, which in practice meant my oldest younger brother.

In retrospect, I am almost baffled that I believed this so wholeheartedly and sincerely, but I think I understand why. First, I was also able to endorse female submission because I myself had never been in a position where what I wanted contradicted what my male authority wanted, and second, when I endorsed female submission I found myself praised and affirmed.

I loved and respected my father, and we agreed on petty much everything (except, I suppose, his disagreements with my mother). I was my father’s golden girl, his pride and joy. It was like he had shaped me to be the perfect daughter, to be everything he had always wanted. I was smart, and my parents educated me well so that I could carry on intelligent conversations with him on a variety of issues. I felt his pride in me and I basked in it. I lived for my father’s approval, and this was a driving force behind my diligence in education and in homemaking. I strove to be everything my father wanted me to be, and received nothing but praise in return. I thus had never had any reason to resent the presence of male authority over me and every reason to endorse it and claim it.

In addition to teaching me about theology, politics, and current events, my father taught me to be a critical thinker, to question authority and search for truth. Of course, the context of all this was learning to rebut worldly ideas and bogus concepts like global warming and evolution. I loved these lessons I had with my dad, as he taught me how to understand global politics and current events, and my dad loved it when when I showed I had mastered what he was trying to explain. It was an idyllic time.

Looking back, I would only point out that my belief in female submission was strong largely because, as I stated, I had never been in a situation where I found submission painful and I was at the same time in a position where I would only be praised for endorsing patriarchy and endorsing it more fully. Endorsing patriarchy was therefore only beneficial to me. In addition, it strikes me that my relationship with my dad was like a feedback loop: I agreed with what he believed, he praised me for my beliefs, and I felt affirmed and believed even more in what he believed.

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Libby Anne lives with her husband and toddler somewhere in the U.S. She has left patriarchy for feminism and has found freedom. She is a graduate student with big plans for her life. You can read her blog at Love, Joy, Feminism.

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