Doug Wilson’s Daughters Defend Him by Attacking Rachel Held Evans

Them’s Fightin’ Words and Daddy Issues are the responses of Bekah and Rachel (Lizzie), daughters of Doug Wilson, the Christian patriarchy leader whose words were quoted in Jared C. Wilson’s ill-fated blog post. Bekah followed up hers with Splashing into it again!

Let’s start with Bekah’s first post. Here are the excerpts I want to talk about:

A woman by the name of (1) Rachel Held Evans has been scampering about on the great wide interwebs, working herself up into a fever of feminist fury. “What has gotten this good woman so steamed up?” you may be asking yourselves. “Why is she breathing into a paper bag over on her blog and calling for her smelling salts?” Well, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. I’ll just go ahead and say it. It’s my dad. …

I’m afraid that the (1) Furiously-Righteous-Evans has transitioned into her squeaky voice, and we all know what happens when a woman gets squeaky. … This subtle and yet unmistakable change in tenor almost unfailingly means that a woman is gearing up to hold a (3) grudge of mammoth proportions, and this is what leads me to believe that my father has been scratched off her Furiously-Righteous Christmas list. … She’s stamping her little foot over there on her blog, and she means business.

(4) As I understand it, Furiously-Righteous is a feminist. She doesn’t want anyone belittling the abilities or women, or telling them they aren’t as good as the men. If a condescending man was to pat her on the head and say, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about things. You leave it to the men to do the intellectual stuff,” I imagine we would see quite a Furiously-Righteous fireworks display and a lot of smoke coming out her ears. So it would have perhaps been better for her cause if she hadn’t gone quite so public with a blog post that makes it clear to the meanest intelligence that she can’t follow an argument to save her life, and her ability to research appears to be completely nil. I mean, if you don’t want people to think you aren’t as gifted intellectually as the men, then for heaven’s sakes don’t give them blog posts in which you demonstrate your inability to think your way out of a paper bag.

I grew up with Doug Wilson as my father. He’s the one who gave me an education. He made sure that his daughters were taught formal logic, Latin, rhetoric, theology, philosophy. He’s the one who taught me not to ever take any crap off of any guy . . . or in your case, a woman. If you want to interact with his position like a big girl, fine. Read a book or two and then get back to us. But enough with the flopping for the refs and playing the victim card. It’s unbecoming, (5) unladylike, and just embarrassing.

Bekah does not seem to be aware that she is insulting Rachel in the most misogynistic of terms: (1) caricaturing her anger as something irrational and frivolous, (2) inferring that such irrational anger is characteristic of women as a group, (3) reducing Rachel’s even-toned, logical and compassionate response to a “grudge” (once again, the specter of bitterness is invoked to silence feminists who point out injustice), (4) ridiculing Rachel’s commitment to intellectual respect for and from both sexes, and (5) accusing her of being “unladylike” – a charge that mystifies me, as Rachel was not nearly as aggressive in her condemnation of Doug Wilson as other bloggers, including the notably angrier Joe of Incongruous Circumspection. Oh, and then there are all the condescending tidbits like “her little foot” and being a “big girl.” But wait! Bekah wants to explain:

Some people thought I was being incredibly demeaning to women in my post – objecting to all the stereotypical imagery I used. “Stamping her little foot,” “Smelling salts,” “Squeaky voice,” etc. But here’s the thing – I was actually making a point with that. If she doesn’t like the stereotypical “little woman” thing . . . then she should stop being the stereotypical little woman. She’s ready to cry and get her feelings hurt at the drop of a hat, and she does so because it’s very hard for a man to argue with a woman who’s pulling that trick. It’s effective. (But it’s also doing the very thing that she objects to men saying about women.) Then she’s ready to flip-flop into a “how dare you” mood as soon as that suits her purpose. Also hard for a man to argue with. 

Except that this explanation is still misogynist. It refers to genuine emotional upset as a “trick” that women play to beat men at arguments. That’s misogynist. Having an emotional response to injustice does not preclude one’s ability to evaluate the severity of that injustice. Do you also mock black men for reacting to the Jim Crow laws? Do you mock Native American men for pointing out the abuses of early European settlers in the Americas? You would find a much smaller platform for that kind of vitriol. Yet you take the words of a woman who is (rightly) disturbed by the pronouncement that women must be “conquered,” “colonized” and “planted” upon in the bedroom and spin them into a hysterical reaction to a slight provocation. Have you considered the effect your words might have on victims of rape, who are regularly ridiculed for their dress, their professions, their looks when they are seeking justice from their attackers? Have you considered that your words have a public audience?

Here is a little bit of what Rachel said:

Well, we can get angry. I think it’s totally justified in this case. The Church needs to see that women—and men—will not stand for this kind of language, as it is degrading, hurtful, and not even remotely biblical. But we must temper our anger with hope, keeping in mind that we serve a risen Savior who has promised that his vision of reconciliation and healing will one day be realized.  It will not always be this way, and that truth brings joyful tears to my eyes.

This is the most emotional excerpt I can find. And it’s a call to tempered, focused anger and a commitment with “joyful tears” to the promise of Jesus. The latter certainly isn’t something that deserves ridicule from another Christian woman, and the former shows incredible restraint.

Then there’s “Daddy Issues,” in which Lizzie takes it upon herself to psychoanalyze Rachel Held Evans, assuring her that “authority and submission” are never the source of harm:

While there are those who believe that authority is all about power and that submission is all about subservience, they are clearly not people who have experienced either. I always knew that my Dad answered to another authority. I always knew that submission was not inferiority. When my husband came along and we got married, my father gladly gave me away, and I gladly left.

I understand that this whole discussion is a bit like trying to have an oil pastel still-life workshop in a closet with a strobe light and a disco ball running. If you can start a fuss with key words like patriarchy, submission, authority, sex, and misogyny, you can be pretty certain that almost no one will be listening to anything other than their own baggage, their own worries about other people’s perceptions, their own anger, and their own refusal to deal with sin in their lives.

So pardon me if it offends any of you, but I am not worried about misogynists. But the only reason that they do not bother me is that I have never been without the protection of a sacrificial man. I am not worried about them because we are actively engaged in work that makes them ineffective. Back to my original story – we are working on raising daughters who are never pressured with premarital sex. We are working on raising young men who are looking to be protectors and not predators. We are working on repairing the fence that keeps the misogynists out.

A little later in my college life there was a big local dust up that involved many of the same trumped up charges and hot button issues. I was on my way to some event on the University of Idaho campus when I ran into a local lesbian activist wearing a large sandwich board. I don’t remember the full text of her sandwich, but I believe it opened with “Doug Wilson is a Racist!” I said something like, “What’s all this?” and she took off telling me all about him. I asked if she had met him. Nope – but she didn’t need to. She knew! I said I knew him quite well and he wasn’t. She didn’t care. She was yelling. She was getting hotter and hotter about it. “He totally is! He teaches it all day and all night! He is a huge threat to us all!”

And here is the thing. I grew up in his house. I grew up under his teaching. If he is such a tremendous threat with his teachings of male dominance and racism and such forth and so on, wouldn’t you think that the women closest to him would have heard it by now? Either he is an amazingly ineffective teacher, or it isn’t what he is teaching.

The sandwich board encounter didn’t really progress anywhere. It was not long into it that I could tell that this was one hurting woman. This was a woman who was unprotected, unloved, and insecure. She was, in short, suffering from some serious Daddy issues.

Lizzie argues that Christian patriarchy protects women from misogynists. I’m not sure where to start with that, but I’ll try:

The belief that women need protection from men is intrinsically misogynist because it presents adult women as weak, vulnerable and dependent, like children. Would you argue that paternalistic white men who called black men “boy,” argued that good masters protected their slaves from abuse, and saw them as children were not racist? Just because they supposedly meant well?

Second, good job not-so-subtly stuffing your post with keywords (and even pointing out that they’re keywords) to boost your SEO rating. I see what you did there. And yet here I am linking you… oops! My poor lady brain!

Third, no one disputes that you know your father well. No one disputes that you love him, or that he loves you, or that he raised you kindly. We do dispute the way he thinks about women. You have heard what he teaches; indeed, you repeat it. You claim that women need protection by “sacrificial” men. You say you were glad to be given away. You imply that as long as a man isn’t trying to pressure you for sex, he is respecting you (by being a “protector” rather than a predator).

These are not the ideas of a person who respects women.

Douglas Wilson may love women, treat them well, and educate them (as Bekah points out – although I don’t see “a skill to earn a living” among the things he taught). That does not mean he respects them. That does not mean he sees them as his intellectual and spiritual equals.

Going back to Bekah’s post for one more moment. Believe me, I’m very familiar with the rhetoric about how submission does not mean inferiority. It may not mean that in theory, but it does in practice. When one person is systematically denied the ability to teach others, to make decisions for her family, to deny sex or pregnancy, to disobey her partner or to live and work independently, she is made the inferior of her partner. This does not mean she is inferior intrinsically. It means she behaves as though she is. It means she is treated as though she is. It means she thinks it’s right for one person to be freer than another on the basis of birth. That is wrong.

And that’s what all the gawsh-dorn hysterics are about.

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The Fistfight Fallacy: rape culture's ahistorical premise
Daughter of the Patriarchy, epilogue: What does leaving fundamentalism look like?
What my feminism is, and why I'm not okay with "mansplaining"

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