The ecumenical religion of patriarchy

I subscribe to a whole bunch of fundie-survivor/recovering fundie blogs. Libby Anne has a terrific list here of the sort I mean, which she describes as “blogs by individuals who grew up in the Christian Patriarchy or Quiverfull movements and have since questioned and left.”

So I’m used to having posts like the one I quote below pop up in my Google Reader, and I was just kind of skimming quickly without noticing specifically which blog this was from:

… this is what The Cult taught: Historically, there is no such thing as a “teenager” — there were children, and then there were adults. A child is a child until he/she reaches puberty, and then he/she is biologically an adult. “Teenagers” are a modern invention, caused by a godless, indulgent consumerist society, family breakdown, peer pressure, advertising and a lack of discipline in childhood.

Therefore, parents could avoid having their children turn into teenagers by raising them correctly, by instilling the fear of God in them, by teaching them to take on as many adult ritual and behavioral responsibilities as possible when they were still young, and by carefully sheltering them from the wider society. …

I hadn’t heard of The Cult before, but I assumed it was the writer’s shorthand for the Bill Gothard gang, which was where I thought I’d heard this bit about teenagers before. I kept reading and tripped over this:

… Because if we sheltered our kids, they would never get the idea that supposedly typical teenage behavior is in any way normal or acceptable, so they would be much less likely to act that way. And if we kept them securely inside our conservative, insular Muslim bubble as much as possible, then community expectations that they act maturely would be constantly reinforced, and it would be that much harder for them to be rebellious “teenagers.”

Muslim? Wait a second … this isn’t No Longer Qivering? I scrolled up to the top and only then did I realize that this was a post from Sober Second Look — a blog much like many other fundamentalist survivor sites, but dealing with liberation and recovery from oppressively patriarchal Muslim fundamentalism rather than from oppressively patriarchal Christian fundamentalism.

Libby Anne had the same reaction to that same post: “My God, They Really Are the Same.”

This is absolutely word for word identical to what I was told growing up in a Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull evangelical homeschool family. Exactly.

I mean, we’re talking so exact that you could replace a few words – substitute “homeschooling” for “The Cult,” say, and “prayer five times each day, fasting the entire month of Ramadan, and wearing the hijab” with “reading the Bible regularly, praying constantly, and dressing modesty” – and if someone showed it to me I would think I’d read it in No Greater Joy, Above Rubies, a Vision Forum catalog, or any other Christian Patriarchy or Quiverfull magazine.

… So very many of the ideas we were raised on are common to fundamentalism across religions. And yet, we thought we were so very different.

Those similarities are revealing.

Here we have identical gender hierarchies set up with identical approaches to two very different sacred texts. The patriarchal boy Christians and the patriarchal boy Muslims have both selectively gleaned what they needed or wanted from their respective scriptures, and their parallel projects reveal that whatever scripture happens to be the one being mined isn’t really important.

The true religion for PBCs and for their Muslim counterparts is patriarchy itself. Given the choice between patriarchy and the Bible or between patriarchy and the Koran, these boys will choose patriarchy every time.

In other words, their purported allegiance to Christianity or to Islam is just a pretext, not a cause. It is secondary at most, and barely even that. The PBCs and the patriarchal Muslims share the same core religion, and it is neither Christianity nor Islam.

Think of this patriarchal religion like Q, the hypothetical lost Gospel source whose existence we can deduce from studying the Synoptic Gospels.

The first three books of the New Testament — Matthew, Mark and Luke — share a bunch of parallel passages. We’re pretty sure that Mark was written first, and that it was later used as source material by the authors of Matthew and Luke in putting together their later, longer accounts.

That’s easy to see from reading all three books. Chunks of Mark can be found repeated verbatim, or with very slight changes, in both Matthew and Luke.

But there are also other parallel passages in Matthew and Luke that do not come from Mark. That might mean that Matthew copied them from Luke or that Luke copied them from Matthew, but that isn’t what scholars who have closely studied the earliest manuscripts think. They think instead that Matthew and Luke were also both using some other common source — “Q” — which they both drew on in the same way they both drew on Mark’s Gospel.

We have Mark, but we don’t have Q. All we know of it is what we can infer from those identical passages appearing in Matthew and Luke.

So think of patriarchal religion as being like Q. We can’t study it directly because its devotees all pretend they’re actually adherents of some other religion. They pretend to be Christians or they pretend to be Muslims, but really their main allegiance lies with this hidden religion of patriarchy.

We can examine this hidden religion the same way we can examine Q, by studying the parallels — the identical dogmas and rules and teachings shared by patriarchal Christians, patriarchal Muslims, patriarchal Jews, patriarchal Pagans, patriarchal Hindus and even patriarchal atheists.

They claim allegiance to so many different texts and traditions, yet they all wind up in the same place. And the closer I look at these supposedly disparate patriarchal boys across lines of religion, the more I find myself saying just what Libby Anne said, “My God, they really are the same.”

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    The only part of the causal relationship between sex and pregnancy that they’d be in a position to actually observe is that if someone abstained long enough, they wouldn’t get pregnant.

    They would also be in a position to observe that there was more of a resemblance between a woman’s children and the men she’d had sex with than the men she hadn’t had sex with. A clever observer could work out a connection between sex and pregnancy from that.

    Admittedly, when there isn’t much genetic diversity within a community, that pattern is trickier to observe.

    And who exactly would volunteer for this experiment, and why?

    Well, one place to start might be with nonhuman animals, who also get pregnant after having sex. Indeed, many of them have relatively fixed mating seasons, which are followed by breeding seasons, which might make the connection easier to work out.

     And it doesn’t take a genius to speculate that human sex and pregnancy might work the same way as in other animals, given the other similarities we can observe.

  • Madhabmatics

     It wasn’t just a patriarchy, it was a patriarchal patriarchy. It was literally a patriarchy run by fathers!

  • Madhabmatics

     No True Scotsman/Atheist would send rape threats!

  • Carstonio

    I was really wondering about effective ways for parents to prepare kids emotionally for  early puberty.

  • SisterCoyote

    …that’s so backwards, it’s scary.

  • mb

    Actually, “sometime way back when, some man (or group of men) decided that they’d like to be in charge of everything, esp. the supply of, let’s say, female companions” could be a good explanation. Men seem to have this impulse quite often; women, not so much.This could be culturally determined, but it also makes sense: a man “owning” a lot of women could have a lot of children. A woman “owning” a lot of men wouldn’t necessarily have more children.

  • Carstonio

    All the more reason to be skeptical of folks like Heinlein, or at least his protagonists.

  • LMM22

    Cancer is a real concern, though. This isn’t just some sort of social evil.

  • LMM22

    Many of the possible explanations given here have predictions, many of which can even be expressed formally.*  Actually running the test requires more expertise than most of us have due to most of us not being anthropologists, but that’s another matter.

    Theory or not, the issue is that there is an entire discipline *filled* with data about this discussion, and everyone here is ignoring it. We don’t do that with physics or even linguistics. But, for some reason, everyone wants to pretend that there aren’t experts who have discussed these issues in depth for decades now. It’s like trying to disprove the theory of relativity by coming up with thought experiments.

  • Carstonio

     For clarification, what is the name of the discipline? I’ve long been skeptical of claims that specific gender behaviors are solely or mostly innate instead of learned, because of the usual agendas of the men who make the claims. (I suppose their equivalent on the other side is someone like John Money.) But ultimately I know of no way of testing any particular theory about such behaviors. One would need a control group of people raised without any societal influences.

  • LMM22

    I’ve long been skeptical of claims that specific gender behaviors are solely or mostly innate instead of learned, because of the usual agendas of the men who make the claims.

    Anthro-effing-pology, for Christ’s sake. This isn’t about “test cases” or “controlled trials” — this is about why (i.e., in large part, under which circumstances) different societies adopt different power structures.

  • Carstonio

    I thought for a minute you were talking about a more obscure scientific discipline. The question here is what role biology plays in forming different power structures, and that would seem to involve additional disciplines.

    circumstances which favor a
    patriarchal structure (e.g. the fact that, in agrarian societies, women
    tend to be pregnant or nursing for a pretty decent chunk of time)

    My specific criticism was of the theory that men holding all the authority in a society offers evolutionary advantages over the alternatives – women holding all the authority, or no gender barriers to serving as societal leaders. In principle that’s different from the strict gender roles that you describe, although I doubt that there have been many societies where those roles didn’t also include male authority.

    Of course patriarchy happened. The question of biology is one of answering the question of whether patriarchy is inevitable based on biology. My personal opinion is that if it is inevitable, then all of civilization may be pointless. I can imagine few things sadder than bringing into the world a daughter who would be doomed to domination and brutalization at the hands of men. There’s been speculation that many sex-selective abortions in India happen because mothers cannot bear that fate for their daughters, and I deeply sympathize with that sense of misery. Obviously humans can have the capability and desire to achieve gender-egalitarian societies, but the biology theory behind gender behavior would mean that doing so would be Sisyphean.

  • LMM22

    No offense, but we’re rapidly hitting something-is-wrong-on-the-Internet territory here, and I have other work to do today.

    The question here is what role biology plays in forming different power structures, and that would seem to involve additional disciplines.
    It *does* — but there’s a long list of questions to ask first (e.g. what power structures do we have? how do they correlate with material culture?), none of which can be addressed very well in a non-academic setting. (The scientific method — which is basically presented only to be abused constantly in practice — omits one very important first step which is “read the literature.”)

    As for myself, nature vs. nurture debates seem to be a little preliminary. There’s a lot of evidence that hunter-gatherer cultures tend to be, well, nearly utopian in a lot of ways. That being said, if the issue is nature, well, I’m predicting genetic engineering within a few generations. (*)

    (*) First thing we’re getting rid of is wisdom teeth.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     In addition, as I observed below, the question isn’t really “nature vs. nurture” because that isn’t an either-or situation.  Frequently the answer is “yes” — it’s both biology AND the environment.

    This isn’t my area but I suspect that biological and cultural influences can also form a sort of feedback loop.  Suppose there is an inherent biological tendency for men to be more aggressive than women.  Thus on the whole men would tend to act somewhat more aggressively than women do, thus aggressiveness becomes associated with masculinity, thus a cultural norm develops that men should be agressive and women should not be.  The cultural expectations would then reinforce the biological differences, exaggerating them and making life difficult for people who don’t fit what has become the cultural norm.

    As far as distinguishing what’s biology and culture — well, yeah, it’s tough.  (It drives me nuts when I see people write columns to the effect of “I used to think the difference between boys and girls was cultural, but then my son played with trucks and my daughter played with dolls even though I was totally gender-neutral raising them, so now I know it’s biological.   Leaving aside the question of whether someone can really be gender-neutral raising their kids, unless this person raised her children locked in the basement, they weren’t free of cultural influences.)

    Again, this isn’t my area, but I get the impression that one thing people look at is cross-cultural differences.  If the tendency for men to be higher status than women, to be more aggressive than women, or to try to control sexual access to women tends to be a common thread across many different cultures (and I gather it does) then that arguably suggests that there’s SOMETHING going on there.  If it was totally arbitrary whether men or women had higher status, you’d expect to see about a 50/50 split across cultures once you control for cultures influencing each other, etc.  We very much don’t see this, which suggests that’s it not completely arbitrary.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     

    My personal opinion is that if it is inevitable, then all of civilization may be pointless. I can imagine few things sadder than bringing into the world a daughter who would be doomed to domination and brutalization at the hands of men. Almost as sad is the prospect that no matter how a parent socializes a son, he would be doomed by testosterone to regard women as property to be seized and conquered, as the gender essentialists imply.

    I think that’s excessively pessimistic.  The idea that there’s a biological tendency for men to be more aggressive than women doesn’t imply that all men are doomed to regard women as property.  Our minds are influenced by our biology (anyone who’s dealt with mental illness or even become cranky and irritable because they’re hungry and their blood sugar is low knows that) but we’re not mindless automatons, either.  As I said, it’s not nature OR nurture, it’s nature AND nurture.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    Obviously humans can have the capability and desire to achieve
    gender-egalitarian societies, but the biology theory behind gender
    behavior would mean that doing so would be Sisyphean.

    Why? Why should a biological component to human behavior be insurmountable? Why should it even be *hard* to surmount? So what if there are biological reasons for neolithic humans to trend toward patriarchy under conditions found in the levant five thousand years ago?

    Man is biologically disinclined toward flight. We cracked that one.

  • Carstonio

    Obviously I agree. I wasn’t asserting the opposite. Instead I was addressing the arguments of the gender essentialists and taking these to what I see as the logical conclusions. Their boys-will-be-boys notions strongly imply that patriarchy is natural. It’s a sexist variant of the idea that existence about dominating or be dominated. We can and do condemn gender essentialism as morally repulsive, but I admit I also want to prove that it’s factually incorrect.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     I don’t remember it in the Historical Illuminatus books, but Wilson’s short-story “The Horror on Howth Hill” (From the SubGenius anthology “Three-Fisted Tales of “Bob””) has Our Heroes theorizing that dick-size is how the Pope is chosen. 

    Then the Knights of Malta break in with guns, and things get even weirder.

  • Carstonio

     See my reply to B. I was asking “what if the gender essentialists are right?” They seem to be arguing that human males are incapable of viewing human females as anything other than prey and property. As I interpret their ideas, patriarchy would be not merely a tendency but an inevitability.

  • Daughter

     I’ve read that the beginning of modern teen “culture”, as in teens having their own fashion, music, slang, etc. , began with the rise of high schools in the 20th century. With a group of same age peers congregating together, the rise of teen culture was inevitable. So it’s not entirely due to suburbia, a newer phenomenon.

    Nevertheless, the teen ennui that suburbia produces is a real thing. I grew up in a city with a good transportation system. At age 11, I was allowed, along with my 9-year-old neighbor, to take the bus to the movie theater for the first time, and from then on I was pretty much able to independently get around without needing my parents to drive.

     

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    Why? Why should a biological component to human behavior be insurmountable? Why should it even be *hard* to surmount? So what if there are biological reasons for neolithic humans to trend toward patriarchy under conditions found in the levant five thousand years ago?

    Insurmountable?  Maybe not. However, some biological components of human behavior are easier to surmount than others.

    One could equally well say, “So what if there are biological reasons for paleolithic and neolithic humans to crave fats and sweets under conditions found thousands of years ago?  What does that have to do with life today?”  The answer to that one turns out to be — quite a bit.  Humans aren’t mindless eating machines* and it’s not like we have no choice about whether we eat fats and sweets.  Nevertheless our craving for fats and sweets is a huge public health issue.  It turns out thousands (or millions) of years of evolutionary imperative aren’t that easy to just walk away from.

    (See also: abstinence-only sex education.)

    Where whatever underlies the tendency towards patriarchy falls on this scale I don’t  know (and I’m guessing neither does anyone else).

    *Although Mindless Eating is a fantastic book for anyone interested in food psychology. In some situations we do kind act like mindless eating machines.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    We can and do condemn gender essentialism as morally repulsive, but I admit I also want to prove that it’s factually incorrect.

    So do I!  Sadly, whether I want something to be factually incorrect has no bearing on whether it actually is factually incorrect.

    That said, it seems to me that the available evidence is plenty strong enough already to show that this strong form of gender essentialism is factually incorrect.

    The analogy I like to use when I get into debates about gender differences is height:  Men are undeniably taller than women, on average.  Nevertheless, I’ve met many men shorter than I am.

    So even for variables for which there ARE overall differences between the genders it doesn’t imply that men and women are completely or even mostly separable on that variable.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    We can and do condemn gender essentialism as morally repulsive, but I admit I also want to prove that it’s factually incorrect.

    One argument against it is that the existence of sexual dimorphism does not perforce equate to observed mental differences.

  • LMM22

    The speaker also pointed out that in colonial America there were quite a few young women who weren’t starting their periods until 15 or 16 and that even then people felt it wasn’t a good idea for girls to get pregnant for the first few years after menarche.

    We often forget that the age of menarche has dropped substantially over the past half-century. A lot of squicky rules (e.g. girls should marry before they get their periods) are *slightly* less squicky once you take that into account.

  • Norman

     There’s some interesting recent economics research in this vein focusing on the development of the plow and the gender specialization resulting from its use.


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