Jojo at Simple Southern Spirit has written a good article titled “My Parents’ Failure” regarding the marriage of her parents, the dysfunction of her parents’ marriage caused by a misplaced prioritization on having an “equal” or egalitarian relationship that in practice led to constant power struggles and arguments over whose job was harder and whether or not the other person was doing their “fair share.” In the process of the parents arguing with each other trying to make sure they as adults were “equal” to each other and that the division of the work of the family was “fair” the children were shortchanged. As is entirely predictable the children are treated unfairly as the adults argue among themselves and fight for dominance in order to achieve feminist style “gender equality.”
As Jojo says in her article in the last paragraph (emphasis added):
“There are a number of other problems with their marriage. The point is it’s a disaster. It’s not supposed to be since it’s a modern “equal” marriage, but it most certainly is. I don’t want that. I won’t have that. I won’t work so I’m away from my children all day and then feed them unhealthy food because I’m too tired to cook. The most important thing is there will not be a power struggle between my husband and myself. He’ll lead and I’ll follow. He’ll provide the income and I’ll provide the home and child care. We’re not going to share our responsibilities. I understand providing an income for a family is a huge responsibility. I’m not hesitant to say it’s a responsibility I don’t want. It should be my husband’s responsibility and I’ll revere him for taking it on. Us sharing our responsibilities would only set us up for failure.”
In the patriarchy of the past conflict in the marriage was resolved very simply and easily; the wife submits. Very simple. Problem solved. The wife submits and therefore there is no conflict. Can it really be that simple however?
Marriage is the mechanism by which men give to women so that women can give to children. The resources of both the mother and the father are directed towards the children. It is unfair to the children for the man to not give to the woman because if the woman is not supported by the man then by necessity the woman will not be able to dedicate herself to the children as she will be distracted by fending for herself instead. So there is nothing equal about marriage at its very foundation. Man gives to woman, woman does not give to man. That is the fundamental originating inequality between man and woman that all other inequality between man and woman is derived from. So equality between husband and wife necessarily means the shortchanging of the children, this is before we even get into the secondary pathological effects of “gender equality” such as the mutual struggle for dominance and associated power struggles two people in close contact with each other who each see themselves as “equal” get into.
However, what about the wife? What happens to the wife when she is dependent upon the man and is to submit to the man? Isn’t the wife just asking to be abused in such a situation? Who or what will protect the interests of the wife?
Now we are getting into the heart of what patriarchy really is. Patriarchy is male dominance but patriarchy combines male dominance with serving and protecting women. Male dominance all by itself is not a workable or functional social system precisely because male dominance all by itself is an open invitation to abuse. Men can see this just as much as women can see this. Indeed men may be able to see this better than women in many circumstances. What is the solution to male dominance run amok? God! God is the solution to male dominance run amok; God is what makes male dominance work. God has power over the man, the man is obligated to obey God, if the man willfully and flagrantly disobeys God he will be punished!
A marriage between a man and a woman is not just between the man and the woman; God is the ultimate authority in the marriage that delegates to the man the powers of the man and delegates to the woman the powers of the woman. God is also a kind of intermediary in the marriage; the man serves the woman as a means of serving God and the woman serves the man and more importantly the children as a means of serving God. The role of the husband is a Godly role for a Godly purpose; it is not just about the man being good to the woman.
Marriage is based on mutual self-sacrifice on behalf of the other, it is covenantal rather than contractual, it is mutual generosity rather than mutual selfishness; it is not at all about fairness or equality, it is instead about both obeying God and serving God and always trying to be good themselves and encouraging the other to be good also.
A woman is in a bad situation if the man she is with has no sense of God or a God concept because the woman can never earn or deserve what she needs and what she is entitled to simply on the basis of what she gives to the man. The woman’s contribution to the man has to be less than the man’s contribution to her because the woman’s role and purpose is only secondarily to serve her husband; it is primarily to serve those who are dependent upon her, namely her children or other members of her extended family or people in the community at large if she doesn’t have close relatives in need of her maternal care. The woman has a Godly purpose beyond her husband her husband is obliged to support her in. The man must see this higher purpose of the woman that is part of his higher purpose as a man that he is bound to support as her husband. The right of the wife to the support and protection of her husband is primarily due to this feminine idealistic service to others that is the woman’s purpose as a woman; it is not based on what the wife gives to her husband directly.
Still, beyond this idealistic picture of how things should be, in real life things go wrong and people, both men and women, do not always act as they should. Under patriarchy the rule is male authority to serve women’s interests. The man is the guardian and the woman is the ward. The man’s authority is superior and the woman’s interests are superior. In the context of marriage the man is to act on behalf of the family as a whole. The woman’s authority is superior to her children but the children’s interests are superior to the woman’s interests so the husband should prioritize his children’s interests above his wife’s interests in the case of a possible conflict of interests between the mother and her children. Similarly a husband should give more weight to the expressed desires of his wife than the expressed desires of his children consistent with the wife’s greater authority relative to her children.
A wife should have almost no power based on her own unilateral assertion; power is instead delegated to her by her husband and by the male community and by God. In a well functioning marriage a husband will delegate to his wife significant power consistent with her role in the family but the power of the wife is delegated to her by her husband rather than being a power she has the right to unilaterally assert on her own. At the same time however a marriage always exists within a broader community and a woman does have the right and obligation to assert power delegated to her by the male community; if a woman is to get in a conflict against her husband she should do so not on the basis of what she wants herself but instead on the basis of what she is entitled to based on what the wider community ethic says she is entitled to. The “male community” I am referring to here can be a church or other external source of authority that a couple relies upon for guidance. The ultimate source of rights for the woman comes from God; the “male community” being relied upon as a source of moral authority over both the husband and the wife should be relying upon the will of God as closely as possible in its teachings. The ideal is obedience to God as the ultimate goal.
The woman is not to protect herself and make demands unilaterally, she is instead owed protection and support from her husband and her husband is to be socially pressured into treating his wife well and outright punished by the male community for treating his wife poorly and of course men should be taught from an early age what their duties and obligations towards women are so that they will be socialized to treat women right and therefore avoid the need for more coercive measures being taken against them to enforce their duties on behalf of women. During coverture they actually had a system where a wife could unilaterally make purchases on her husband’s credit incurring debts the husband would then legally have to pay off; this being the mechanism by which the man’s legal duty to financially support his wife was enforced. This is a good example of the kinds of tools that can be used by the male community to enforce men’s responsibilities towards women.
So how are women protected from abuse in a patriarchal family system? First by the teaching of God based moral values and moral rules of how men should treat women so that a man will internalize a good sense of ethics regarding how he should treat women and what he owes women; what his obligations to women are. Secondly there should be a legal structure in place to impose upon men the basic duties a man owes to women; financial support of the wife by her husband and punishment against the husband for clear abuse against the wife being obvious examples of this. Thirdly there should be social ostracization and social pressure against men not treating their wives well in situations that may fall short of outright obvious abuse or violation of duty but are still bad behaviors on the part of the man nonetheless. Fourthly it is legitimate for the wider community to directly provide support and protection to a woman who is endangered by her husband being unwilling or unable or unfit to give to the woman such support and protection himself. The duty of Chivalry let us remember is a generalized duty of men on behalf of women not restricted to the marital context.
Men must protect women both directly and indirectly; the man has a duty to treat the women he is in direct contact with well and he also has a duty to treat women as a class well. This means the man not only has a duty to do good regarding his own family but also has a duty to enforce moral standards upon other men. Men must protect women and men must protect women from other men who are not protecting women as they should. A woman has two sources of rights; the rights her own husband delegates to her and the rights the male community delegates to her as an imposition upon her husband. A woman likewise has two sources of protection and support; the protection and support her husband gives to her directly and the protection and support the male community gives to her as an imposition upon her husband. On a theoretical basis the woman has a third source of rights and a third source of protection and support hierarchically above both her husband and the male community; this being the rights granted to her by God and the protection and support mandated on her behalf by God. God is the ultimate basis of what the male community assigns to the woman and what the husband owes to the woman on the woman’s behalf. Chivalry is a duty imposed upon men by God.
Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church has some relevant things to say regarding the protection of women’s interests in marriage while submitting.
The Respectful Wife – Real Marriage – February 5, 2012
25:59 to 29:52
“Wife number one who is disrespectful. She is silent and compliant. She is too silent and too compliant. She thinks “Well I’m respectful. I never disagree with him. I always tell him he’s fantastic. I let him make all the decisions. I’m very respectful.” You’re not respecting the Lord. Because you’re worshipping your husband. And the root issue for these women [is she reads] . . . “Wives submit to your husbands” and what she hears is “He makes all the decisions, he thinks through all the issues, he’s the boss, I just shut up and do what I’m told.” That’s not what it means. . . . He’s [Jesus is] not just always silent, passive, without opinion, no conversation, no communication. He’s not that way. And for a wife to submit to her husband is to submit to her husband in a way that Jesus Christ submits to God the Father. . . . A woman who is silent and compliant, overly silent and overly compliant, her issue is not that she’s a Godly submissive woman, her issue is that she struggles with fear of man. . . . There’s a difference between submitting and enabling. Submitting is “He is submitting to the Lord and I am submitting to him and helping him to honor the Lord.” Enabling is “He is not submitting to the Lord and I am still helping him to do things or do things in ways that are dishonoring to the Lord.” Why would a wife do that? And again back to the theme. It’s disrespectful! It’s disrespectful to the Lord and it’s disrespectful to the husband because the Bible says in Genesis 2:18 ladies you were built to be a what? A helper! And enabling is not helping. Enabling is not helping!”
In addition to this segment where Mark Driscoll emphasizes that the wife’s primary duty of obedience is to God, not her husband, and that the wife is to help her husband better follow and obey God himself Mark Driscoll also lays out a preference hierarchy of how serious disputes between a husband and wife should be resolved.
36:58 to 39:18 – Based on the Message Board
“But what do you do when you disagree? Good question, right? How do you disagree respectfully?”
Option #1 – Most of the time a husband and wife lovingly and patiently keep working for a unified decision.
Option #2 – Some of the time a couple cannot agree and so they bring in a third party, such as a ministry leader or biblical counselor, to help in the decision making.
Option #3 – Some of the time the husband makes the decision as the head and the wife follows it by submitting. If he is wrong he repents and she forgives, and together they work to fix their problem(s).
Men protect women both individually and collectively under patriarchy but women do not protect themselves unilaterally without reference to a male authority figure who is above them to whom they are in obedience to; the act of self-protection for the woman then being part of her obedience to either the male community or to God when she is seeking protection from her husband. This being contrary to the ordinary situation where obeying her husband is consistent with her being protected by her husband. There is a very important reason for this; that is that it is very harmful for a woman to protect herself, it is always better that she be protected by a man instead. This is because a woman who is protecting herself is driving men away from her and therefore driving away the support men can offer her. When a woman instead seeks protection from men through obedience to men she is drawing male support to her rather than driving male support away from her. In addition to this men can protect women more effectively than women can protect themselves because men are more powerful than women. So the goal is that a woman should always be in obedience to a man; the good man protecting her from the bad man if for some reason a man who should be protecting her turns against her instead. A woman should always place herself in a position where she can gain the support of men through obedience to the men she is seeking support from; this being a general rule that applies to the protection of women from male abuse as well.