Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 139—40
Before getting to the purple flowers PJ girl, Debi throws in this bit:
It doesn’t seem fair that the wife is expected to honor and obey her husband even though he has not earned the right; yet she must also earn the right to be loved. If she has to honor him regardless of how he acts, why shouldn’t he love her regardless of how she acts?
Um. What. Debi is, of course, referring to the New Testament passages that require husbands to love their wives and wives to obey their husbands. Neither statement is conditional. There is nothing there about one partner having to “earn” anything, and suggesting that wives have to earn the right to be loved while husbands don’t have to earn the right to be obeyed is inserting things into the text.
If my husband were talking to men, he would tell them to love their wives regardless of how they act. But remember, this is me, the aged woman, telling the young girls what they can do to make a heavenly marriage. You cannot command your husband to love you, and you have no right to expect him to love you when you are unlovely.
Debi has made it clear that men have a right to be obeyed even if they are unkind and unloving. How is it that husbands have a right to be obeyed no matter what, but a wife doesn’t have a right to be loved no matter what? This is a blatant double standard. But it does reinforce something I’ve said before—the love/obey dichotomy is not in any sense equal in its requirements or its application.
But God has provided a way for a woman to cause her husband to love and cherish her. God gave us ladies some keys to the avenues of a man’s heart. God made it so that we can actually inspire him into fulfilling his God-ordained duty. His very nature is made to respond to us it we will only treat him with reverence. A man does not have such power to influence his wife. Women are not built with the same response mechanisms. God did not give men the wonderful promise he gave to women, that they can win their wives with proper behavior.
This . . . is also not actually in the Bible. Debi’s completely making this stuff up.
Now on to the purple flowers PJ girl.
Just last week, while I sat in my van in the parking lot of Wal-Mart, waiting for my daughter, I watched the people as they walked into the store. It was an interesting study in human relations. Of the 25 or so couples who walked into the store together, only three of them were touching each other, and those three ladies were the only ones smiling out of the 25 I observed. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the prettiest, all three of these gals were 1s or 2s.
Debi’s not very nice. Throughout the book, she calls attention again and again to women’s looks—and more often negatively than positively. Her descriptions are most frequently, well, like this:
The third smiling couple took the award of the day. He was a muscled-up, gorgeous hunk, and she was almost past describing. She was wearing flannel PJ bottoms that were cut off just above the knees. The shortened pants had 5-inch purple flowers scattered over the white, almost see-through material. She was short, and at least 50 pounds overweight, with most of the extra weight bouncing in the skin-tight PJ shorts. Her hair was chopped off in an ugly cut and really greasy.
Honestly? It seems from her book that Debi’s first instinct in surveying the people around her is to criticize—and this is especially true of women’s appearances. Remember how she described single moms’ looks? Yeah . . .
Her gorgeous hunk had her in a headlock hug. She was laughing and poking him in the ribs while hollering for him to let her go. You would have thought he was hugging Miss America by the way he was grinning. He was really enjoying his purple-flowered sweetie.
Um. Not to belabor the obvious, but it’s kind of important to respect people’s consent regarding their bodies. If this young woman was “hollering” for her young man to let her out of the “headlock” he had her in, and instead of letting her go he was grinning and “enjoying” holding her like that . . . well, some of those things sound like red flags. Sure, Debi says the young woman was “laughing,” and this could have been nothing more than playful roughhousing—but does Debi really know for sure? To be honest, I don’t think Debi knows the difference. She doesn’t think it’s legitimate for women to have physical boundaries in their intimate relationships, because, in her world, women’s bodies literally belong to their husbands.
I caught his eye, and he grinned back at me, not one bit embarrassed. That gal had totally won his heart and my respect. He was proud to be her man. Of all those beautiful girls who walked into Wal-Mart while I waited, it was this girl who was publicly being adored and appreciated. I suspect that she has never removed her husband’s hugging arm for any reason, much less to save her hairdo. She has excepted all of his overtures with thanksgiving and delight.
I’m trying to come up with a cohesive response to this, but I’m having trouble doing so. For one thing, this young woman is not accepting her young man’s overtures with “thanksgiving and delight”—she’s hollering for him to let her go. You know, I think the reason I’m having trouble pulling my thoughts together is that I can see this anecdote in two different ways. Let me address both.
First, it might be that the couple is just playing around, enjoying each other’s company, roughhousing, and laughing together. In this case, Debi’s analysis is off—she attributes their positive and companionate relationship to the young woman having no physical boundaries when it comes to accepting her young man’s amorous moves. But where in the world does she draw this inference? How does she know that it is not, say, their mutual respect for each other and cooperative egalitarian approach to life that has resulted in this degree of camaraderie? I mean come on, she only saw the couple for less than a minute!
Second, one of the hallmarks of abusive men is an inability to accept their partner’s physical boundaries. What Debi witnessed could very well have been a power play in just such a relationship—an abuser making it clear to his victim that he can make her submit to his every whim even when they are in public. In this scenario, the young man takes delight in causing the young woman embarrassment, and grins at Debi in a triumphant and devious “see how much I have conquered and how much I can get away with” sort of way, basking in his power. Debi may be wrong about the young woman laughing, or maybe her partner is tickling her, or perhaps she is laughing to try to cover for her humiliation in an effort to get people to think it’s only roughhousing.
But, of course, Debi doesn’t think about any of this.
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Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the religious right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the problems with the “purity culture,” the intricacies of conservative and religious right politics, and the importance of feminism. Her blog is Love, Joy, Feminism
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