Fascinating Womanhood Review: Family Finances

by Samantha Field cross posted from her blog Defeating the Dragons

Occasionally during the course of her book, Helen gives her readers practical, “down-to-earth” level advice. This is one of those chapters, which is dedicated to telling women how they can help their husbands by “developing the womanly art of thrift.”

 

Like she usually does, she opens up her chapter by appealing to the Bible, which “makes it clear” that it is “the husband’s responsibility to provide the living.” However, also like she usually does, she doesn’t reference any particular passage, just expecting us to know what she’s talking about. However, I can think of a few examples that render this claim completely unfounded:

 

  • The Proverbs 31 Woman. She’s been used to bludgeon Christian women for decades, but one of the things that “the Bible makes clear” that she does is not just “practice the womanly art of thrift” but she also makes money. Proverbs 31 describes a woman who is like “the ships of the merchant,” whose “merchandise is profitable.”
  • Priscilla, who with her husband runs a profitable tent-making business. Paul frequently talks about how indebted he was to this married couple, and he always lists Priscilla first. Considering that the culture of the time always listed the head of the household first, Paul’s decision to lead with her name is significant. (Acts 18).
  • Lydia, the “seller of purple,” and traditionally considered the first Christian convert in Europe. Because of her wealth and her status as a free woman, she invited Paul and his companions into her home, which she would not have been able to do if she was under the legal control of a husband or father. She was clearly in control of her home, independent of any man (Acts 16).
  • Phoebe, who Paul describes as “minister” (the same word he uses to label other notable pastors) and a “leader” or “patron.” She was tasked with delivering his letter to Rome, a duty that also would have required her to read and interpret it for the church there. She was certainly not staying at home, behind closed doors, hiding behind her husband. (Romans 16)
  • Titus specifically tells Roman-Christian women to be “keepers at home,” which as I’ve written about before, was a charge to run a profitable family business; it was not something Paul wrote to make sure women stay in the kitchen.

 

“The Bible makes clear” Helen? I’m not sure what Bible she’s reading, but it’s not the one I’m pretty sure everyone else in the world has.

 

But, the biggest thing that bothers me about this chapter is how harshly she divides up people. The way she talks about married couples in this chapter is incredibly divisive. She boxes every single last human being on the planet into what she thinks is “biblical” without any sort of exceptions, without extending grace, without viewing difficult situations with compassion.

 

She is strictly addressing wives, here, and what she tells them is that they are to be given “allowances” to cover the “household budget”– which does not include anything outside of groceries and clothing. She forbids women from making any sort of purchase– at all– that doesn’t fit inside of “anything in regular demand.” Any kind of need, like furniture or repairs, is to be sought out and paid for only by the husband, and he has “major jurisdiction and final say.” She tells us that we’re not allowed to discuss these sorts of things with him– ever. If we do, we risk emasculating our husbands and “relieving him of his responsibilities” which, somehow results in husbands becoming incapable of handling money wisely.

 

This actually fits into Helen’s pattern, and is a direct result of how she views communication. To Helen, any possible sort of discussion (“conflict”) is to be avoided at all costs. If a conversation between a husband and a wife could lead to any sort of disagreement whatsoever, she absolutely forbids you from having it. To Helen, a marriage is only “successful” if the two never disagree, and the only way for that to happen is for one person to never have a say. In Helen’s world, that person is always the wife. The fact that one of the biggest sources of conflict in marriages is money (couples who fight over money once a week are 30% more likely to get divorced) has led Helen to believe that husbands and wives must never, ever talk about it. If you never even discuss money, you can’t fight over it, and presto-change-o, happy marriage!

 

For families in “financial distress” she tells women they they aren’t allowed to go get a job. Instead, we’re supposed to “reduce expenses” and “trim the luxuries” which… gah. The suggestions she makes for how women could do this? Selling their second car. Cancelling vacations. Don’t be tempted by advertisements. Which, in some situations could be perfectly reasonable advice. However, I’m becoming more and more convinced that Helen has never interacted with a poor person in her entire life. People who have two cars and can afford to sell one of them aren’t in financial distress, I’m sorry. Maybe someone who has two cars is living outside of their means, but that is nowhere near the sort of scale many families are facing when 20% of all children go hungry because they live in “very low food security households.” Selling your second car isn’t going to fix that.

 

And what are we supposed to do when men “make a mess of things”? When they don’t pay the mortgage, or the bills, when they overdraft their accounts?

 

Let go completely and turn your back on things. Don’t be anxious, checking the books to see if he added right, or is neglecting anything. If he make a mess of things, let him suffer the consequences, no matter what they are. That is the only way he will learn.

 

I might have thrown the book across the room at that line. Because he’s not the only one suffering consequences when the bank forecloses on your house because he didn’t pay the mortgage. This sort of comment doesn’t even begin to make sense, but she justifies it with “psychology”:

 

He will begin to feel responsible, to know that if anyone is to worry about the money, it will have to be him. And he will notice your relief, that you are happier. Let him know you are. As he sees you brighter he will try harder to make a go of things, to keep you happy.

 

Helen doesn’t live on this planet. I’m positive. If she did, she’d realize how ridiculous a statement this is. Sure, some people are motivated by wanting to make the people in their life happy. I’m one of them. But there are plenty of people who couldn’t give a damn, but she doesn’t even acknowledge their existence. This chapter, while Helen has presented it as practical advice, it is almost entirely inapplicable for huge sections of humanity. It is only relevant to the top 20% of all American households, and is wholly incapable of even making sense anyone who doesn’t have the luxury of two cars and a $70,000-a-year income. Helen, here, is displaying an astounding lack of compassion or even awareness that some families really are destitute. Her white, middle-class privilege is pouring out of her, and it’s more that just disappointing.

 

Helen isn’t alone in this attitude, which is heartbreaking. Many people in conservative evangelical America share the exact same blinders that Helen has on in this chapter. We’ve forgotten that Jesus said “the poor you will always have with you” and that our primary responsibility as the Church is to care for the widows, the orphans, and the poor. We don’t even know they exist anymore. Not really. Oh, we do the Christmas shoebox drives and the book drives and the canned food drives and the backpack drives– one for each season. And then we completely forget about them, except for those four times a year.

 

I want to be angry with Helen, but I can’t be angry with Helen without feeling anger towards the modern American church in general.

Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6| Part 7

| Part 8 |  Part 9 | Part 10

Comments open below

Read everything by Samantha!

Samantha grew up in the homeschool, patriarchy, quiverfull, and fundamentalist movements, and experienced first-hand the terror and manipulation of spiritual abuse. She is now married to an amazing, gentle man who doesn’t really get what happened to her but loves her anyway. With him by her side and the strength of God’s promises, she is slowly healing.

Samantha blogs at Defeating The Dragons and is a member of The Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

 


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  • Madame

    It just makes sense, doesn’t it?

  • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

    I suggest that in order to be a proper “help, meet-for-him”, which could also be translated “equal strength” , a wife needs to help shoulder the burden of handling money (- and the one of making decisions.)

  • texcee

    What I was hearing in my head as I read the article was: “Lucy! You got some splainin’ to do! Why you overspend your ‘lowance again?!”

  • Silky

    If I was worried about our finances and I had to “turn my back” while my husband figured it all out- especially if I wasn’t sure of his ability to do so!- I would NOT find it a relief to refrain from even looking at the books. I would be so nervous and worried that telling my husband I was happy would be breaking the commandment not to lie (in a big way). And then he couldn’t even support me in my unhappiness!
    Furthermore, where does it say in the Bible that a husband has to give his wife an allowance? I’m fairly certain that it’s found in the book of Nowhere, chapter 0.

  • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

    “the book of Nowhere, chapter 0” Your expression is useful. I’m stealing it.

  • KarenJo12

    Exactly!!!! Andelin assumes not only that all men make large salaries, but also that they work at middle class or higher desk jobs that allow personal call and time off. Or, more likely, that men have female secretaries who take care of the personal crap so he can be the Big Manly HeMan Boss. This makes her position even more nauseating.

  • texcee

    If women aren’t supposed to work outside the home, explain the female secretaries.

  • Madame

    Female secretaries are ok (as long as they are unmarried) because they are subject to their male bosses.

  • houstonschic

    Thank you for sharing your anger on this. I was raised by mentally ill parents who literally separated twice a year, until they divorced right before their twenty-sixth wedding anniversary. I witnessed violent fights, where my mother was the aggressor. I never once saw my dad hit my mom, but once my mother broke my father’s jaw. I was terrified of becoming like her. Even though I was a strong woman who believed I should have the right to teach others the Bible, I had no guidance on how to live day-to-day life as a woman, except for what my mother taught me. When I turned eighteen, someone gave me this book, and it became my lifeline–my way of being everything that my mother wasn’t. It was also the beginning of a self-inflicted journey into the quiverfull/patriarchy nightmare.

    The money issue was the worst part. I didn’t know that I married a compulsive spender who had undiagnosed ADHD. I’d been introduced to CTBHHM by that time as well, and tried to “submit” myself into getting us financially stable. We still descended into an unbelieveable amount of debt. And I kept getting pregnant. It wasn’t until I realized that nothing would ever change with my husband unless I [GASP} “put my foot down” that I told him to get a job or go move back in with his parents. That was two years ago, and LO AND BEHOLD, me growing a spine has changed so much in our marriage for the better. My husband even got treated for ADHD, and I’m contemplating going back to school, even though I’m pregnant with our fourth child.

    I have absolutely not left Christianity, and I never will. I have, however, left the heresy of the patriarchy movement for good. I hate that I was once a strong voice, and believed that becoming mute was God’s will for me. I’m trying to learn how to make good decisions….I just really appreciate everyone at NLQ for sharing their stories.

  • houstonschic

    I want to also mention that I watched a man daily being emasculated, and saw how powerful emotional abuse could be towards a man’s self-esteem. Any information that could teach me how to build a man up was welcome, was new, and was something I’d never seen in everyday life. There was no desire in my heart to escape responsibility for my life or my choices: rather, I erroneously saw myself as taking initiative towards a good marriage.

  • houstonschic

    I disagree. See my post above when the moderator clears it.

  • Edie Moore McGee

    I read your post, and I wonder how common women like your mom are in QF/ATI/Reconstructionist/Dominionist circles. I am going really more by what my mom was like. She would have liked being in the movement, so to speak. The folks were charismatic, converted out of a liberal denominational church in the early 70’s. I was a young teen at the time and got dragged to loads of house prayer meetings and to this camp each summer that had lots of speakers, some of whom were early ATI and Dominionist types, turns out. My mom loved it including all the marriage teaching. My dad, though, was a pious and Godly man who saw right through the legalism. He was a sweet man and would have been easy to submit to, but we didn’t go down that road. But what attracted Mom, I think, was the fact she was the type that took great comfort in not having responsibilities she didn’t understand and didn’t feel like she could handle. Don’t get me wrong, the woman was SMART and saavy in many areas. Big financial decisions scared her. Big life decisions scared her. It was easier for her to have a rule book. YET, you ‘d have never know this if you weren’t really close to our family. She was the loud, outgoing, opinionated one. She was the disciplinarian, too, and could sometimes be pretty harsh for all the wrong reasons. I was the classic “great kid,” but could never please her. This was a woman who scolded at me when I got a B in a law school course at 37 years of age!