I was raised on the Pearls’ disciplinary methods. The Pearls teach that you don’t child-proof your house, you house-proof your child. As soon as a child is old enough to move around, say nine or ten months, you teach her what not to touch. If she reaches for a laptop left out on the couch, you tell her “no” and give her a little slap on the hand. If she does it again, you repeat, over and over, until she eventually learns not to touch it.
I was also raised on the modesty teachings of the purity culture. I was taught that women must be careful what they wear so as not to lead men astray into sexual thoughts. Women should cover their bodies to protect the men around them from temptation.
Blogger Biblical Personhood pointed out in an excellent blog post not too long ago that there is a contradiction at work here. Babies are expected to have self-control, but men are not. I’m not sure how I didn’t see this contradiction growing up! Let me fill it in with some more detail:
First, the Biblical Personhood piece quotes from a post on my blog that dealt with my own participation in “house proofing” one of my little sisters when I was in high school.
Sixteen-month-old Faith reaches for a glass bowl on the coffee table.
Faith, no, don’t touch that.
Faith touches the glass bowl. *pop* I slap her hand. She looks startled.
I said no.
Faith reaches for the glass bowl again. *pop*
Her little hand reaches out once again, her lower lip trembling. *pop*
Faith whimpers and looks like she’s going to cry, and I sigh. I gather her in my arms.
Faith, it’s okay, but I said no, and that means no.
She looks up at the glass bowl with pain and confusion in her face. I set her down by her toy box, pointing to her toys, and she soon forgets about the glass bowl and is busy with a doll.
Next, the Biblical Personhood piece quotes from a thread on Gentle Christian Mothers:
The “defrauding” and extreme modesty aspects are also pretty demeaning to men, IMO. Those poor little men who can’t control their animal natures need us women to cover nearly every square inch of our bodies in order to stop them from sinning.
There’s no responsibility for men to keep themselves from sinning by, oh, I don’t know, turning their heads AWAY from the temptation. There’s no accountability for men either. All that responsibility for the men’s lust is given to the women and girls.
Not to say that modesty isn’t a positive thing… but not when it’s used to absolve an entire gender of the responsibility for their own sin and instead places the responsibility for that sin on the other gender.
The piece next directly points to the contradiction.
Babies – should be taught self-control. To not act on what they see. If what they see (i.e. Mom’s glass vase) causes them problems, they should be taught to simply not act on their urges. Nothing should be hidden to protect them from stumbling.
Adult men – should be protected from seeing things that makes them stumble. If what they see (i.e. the female shoulder or knee) cause them problems, it should be hidden from them. Nobody expect that their self-control has to protect them from stumbling.
There is something seriously wrong with a system where babies have to be punished if they don’t act right, and the world has to be adult-male proofed to not tempt them. In a sane world adults are punished for not acting right, and houses are baby-proofed.
. . .
Who are the babies in patriarchy? The 16- month olds who are expected to have self-control even though your ornaments are on display, or the 30 and 50 year olds from whom you should hide things? And why does patriarchy want people to be led by the “babies” from whom self-control is not expected?
As I said, I’m surprised I had never thought of this before. When you’re raised in the movement, even the smallest children are taught to have self control and to not touch what is right in front of their eyes. In fact, it’s considered quite the accomplishment to be able to leave an expensive vase or dish of candy on a coffee table and know that even the child just learning to pull herself to standing won’t touch them. It’s a way of showcasing your children’s obedience and your success at child training.
For some reason, doing the same for adult men – i.e. placing a woman in a miniskirt or low-cut shirt in his line of vision and expecting him to not act on his desires – is unacceptable. Babies have to have self-control. Adult men can’t be expected to have self-control. Parents shouldn’t remove objects of temptation from babies’ line of vision. Women should cover up everything that might prove tempting from men’s line of vision.
And as the Biblical Personhood article finishes, it strikes me as ironic that in the Christian Patriarchy framework the very men who need to be protected from their uncontrollable sexual desires are the ones who are supposed to lead. Maybe they should put their toddlers in charge instead. They, after all, know self-control.