Yesterday an image showed up in my Facebook newsfeed: overlaid in front of a lovely young white woman with perfectly wavy blond hair were the words “Men Prefer Debt-Free Virgins without Tattoos.”
The image came from a Facebook page, The Transformed Wife, belonging to Lori Alexander. Apparently this image links to a blog post, but I didn’t even realize that until I read Samantha Field’s phenomenal response tonight, “Men Prefer Uneducated, Naïve Objects They Can Easily Control.”
I saw The Transformed Wife’s image when a friend shared it, raging. If I’m honest, I saw the image, skimmed the comments, and moved on. I’m sure most of you have read my piece “Growing up a child victim of Catholic Domestic Violence.”
I didn’t need to read anymore of Lori’s gaslighting bullshit. I’ve already lived it.
I was raised by a man who was supported by various matriarchal women like this Lori (though they, like Lori, would deny the matriarch title—it doesn’t fit in with their patriarchal Kool-Aid-guzzling ideologies) from the dried up old pro-life and traditionalist Catholic circles he frequented. I remember the one woman especially who, just like Lori, railed against women attending college, against women who worked outside the home, against wives who were not perfectly submissive to their husbands.
She was the same woman who founded a monthly women’s prayer meeting and guilted my mother into attending. If my mother tried to open up about how miserable she was in her marriage, how desperate her depression made her, this woman told her she must simply become another St. Monica. She told my mother that she needed to accept her suffering with joy and gratitude, as it was “a kiss from the crucified Christ.”
So I still haven’t read Lori’s blog post, because I really don’t need to re-enter the mindfuck and trauma that defined my perfect Catholic homeschooler childhood.
My mom read it, though. And my brother. My mom sent it to me on Facebook saying, “Her stupid philosophy has been tried before and is a horrible failure for many reasons.” I responded that Lori’s ideology doesn’t work because Lori is advocating not godly wifehood, but true abuse and domestic violence. But Mom still struggles to name it that. Because gaslighting runs deep, y’all.
My brother’s only comment was that Lori’s blog seemed like something right out of The Handmaid’s Tale. (Yeah, my brother is a fab feminist who watches The Handmaid’s Tale. His insight and integrity impresses me daily.)
But Samantha Field’s piece—wow. It was powerful.
Her analysis was so clear, so articulate. Take a look:
Lori advocates that women should skip college, refuse a career, have as many “precious babies” as they can squeeze out—and remain as helpless and naïve as possible. That’s the image she’s trying to evoke by using “virgin without tattoos.” She wants women to be uncorrupted by the “ways of the world,” to be innocent; what she’s describing is the idea that a woman should reach marriage a blank slate for her husband to carve. They should have no ideas of their own, and no ability to cultivate ideas on their own. What they think about their life, the decisions that affect them, and their interpretation of the Bible should all come from their husband. This is the definition of “biblical submission” that Lori wants Christian women to adapt: Think what your husband tells you to think. Do what your husband tells you to do. (Bolded emphasis my own)
Maybe this seems farfetched, like it must be a straw man misinterpretation of Lori’s blog post.
Honestly, this whole mess is farfetched, but Samantha’s article is certainly not the one at fault. If you don’t believe me that anyone could be quite this batty, quite this hateful of the members of her own sex as Lori and her ilk, take a look at her page or her blog post. Samantha is not misconstruing this, believe me. That last line from Samantha’s blog comes directly from Lori’s own post:
Secular universities teach against the God of the Bible and His ways. It’s far from what God calls women to be and do: it teaches them to be independent, loud, and immodest instead of having meek and quiet spirits.
“The husband will need to take years teaching his wife the correct way to act, think, and live since college taught them every possible way that is wrong.” (Emphasis Samantha’s)
I could go off on the ways that these teachings are not biblical, the ways that teachings like this are rooted in utter sexism and classism. But I won’t be coherent. So I’ll just let Samantha do the work, since she is somehow able to be rational in addressing this nonsense.
When Lori Alexander says “Debt-Free Virgins without Tattoos,” the post makes it clear that she’s pointing to those items as indicative of what she sees is a larger social problem: women who aren’t utterly dependent on their husbands.
My experience growing up in complementarianism, all my research over the last few years, all the review series I’ve done on books like Captivating, Real Marriage, and Fascinating Womanhood points to one thing: complementarianism is intended to render women helpless and strip them of their autonomy. The ultimate goal for people like Lori Alexander is that women should be universally and totally dependent on their male spouse for their safety, shelter, livelihood, and purpose. Walking down the aisle as tattoo-less virgins is just a bonus– the main focus of the post is that women should not be college educated because it makes it more difficult for their husbands to control them.
But then Samantha spins her piece in a fully unexpected direction.
Lori is absolutely correct that a college education will interfere with this goal.
And that’s why I felt the need to write my own response—because Lori is indeed right. And I, like Samantha, am standing here to prove it.
When I was younger, I remember telling my father that I wanted to go to college, and he flipped out on me (similarly to how Lori would): Why did I need to go to college? I’d just wrack up debt, and all I wanted to be was a stay-at-home wife and mother and homeschool my kids, right? Right? So I’d just be saddling my husband with all that pointless debt.
At the time, that’s honestly what I believed my dream was. And here’s the thing: that’s a beautiful dream. I have many friends with that dream, and I think it’s gorgeous. I’ve simply realize that it isn’t mine.
(Also, my friends know that if they ever marry an abusive Catholic bastard, I’ll probably poison him and bury him in my backyard. Just saying.)
(Okay, that’s not true. I am a pacifist and I vehemently oppose all violence against another person. But I would strongly and vocally oppose their marriage, I would make sure my friend knew what domestic violence was, what the differing forms of abuse look like, and exactly what the Church actually teaches about such marriages. And that I would always be there for her and support her if she* decided to leave him.)
*I would do the same were the victim a male friend and the abuser his wife. Because #MenToo
Anyway, after my father laid into me about the college thing, I spent about a month agonizing over it. Finally I remember going to him meekly and telling him I’d decided he was right: I wouldn’t go to college.
I’d stay home and work and prepare to be a good Catholic wife and mother.
And he flipped out on me again. “Why the hell wouldn’t you go to college? You’re intelligent and gifted! This is just your fear talking. You being lazy. You just don’t want to apply yourself.”
Yep. Mindfuck. I’m telling you.
So, like Samantha, I eventually did go to college (no thanks to my father, who was convinced we could not afford it—which meant he simply didn’t want to try). I picked Franciscan because it was a “thoroughly Orthodox” conservative Catholic college. It was on the revered Newman List! And unlike Mount St. Mary’s, everything about it breathed Catholic. Like my father’s beloved Christendom College, where my elder brother had gone, at Franciscan the faith infused every class, every dorm, every friend. Or so I was told.
I went there fully hating feminists as devil spawn, fully intending to champion the conservative Catholic faith and the old pro-life movement all my life.
Well. How do you like me now?
I am deeply grateful for my time at Franciscan. I met incredible people there, people who loved me, formed me, were there for me in the shit and sass. And I found the professors, especially the badass women ones, who were willing to skulk in corners and teach me that feminism is good and even holy, that the Church never wishes to keep men or women in abusive families or marriages, and that there is good left in the Church, Mr. Frodo.
But, as Rebecca taught me so well, it doesn’t consist in the patriarchy.
Samantha ends her piece by describing where she is in life currently.
Now I’m getting a tattoo this Christmas, had sex with my partner before we got married, and best of all, I tell him what to think about the Bible thanks to the fancy seminary degree I’ll be getting this spring. I’m all of Lori’s worst fears made flesh: ex-fundamentalist, ex-Stay-at-Home-Daughter, ex-complementarian, ex-homeschool; now pro-choice, queer, and feminist.
I can relate. I’m not pro-choice, but I agree with their principles of helping women and the marginalized more than I agree with the old pro-life movement’s methods (which I find to be hateful and really not Christlike). I don’t identify as queer, primarily because I don’t like boxes, but I can relate to many of their experiences and I have many beloved queer friends. I think homeschooling can be amazing or completely toxic depending on the family—but in the unlikely scenario that I ever marry, I fully doubt I’ll homeschool my children. Oh, and I’m still a virgin—not that that’s any of your business. And I definitely don’t wear it as some weird badge of honor anymore. I mostly don’t really think about it at all.
I don’t like gender essentialism. I’m a feminist. And I’m Catholic.
How do you like me now?