Yes, Complementarianism Infantilizes Women – and the Complementarian Tie-Breaking Vote Doctrine
When discussing parenting, this post is assuming the parents in question are raising a physiologically and psychologically healthy child.
I recognize that some children are born with conditions that make them feeble-minded or mentally disabled in some capacities well into their adult years, so they will need adult supervision all the days of their lives.
Yet other people, as adults, get into car accidents causing lasting brain injury, or develop dementia, or other conditions, that leave them “kid-like” and dependent on other adults. I’m not talking about those types of situations, either.
As I wrote in a much longer post or two, gender complementarianism is codependency with a christianized veneer, and the God of the Bible does not endorse codependency but cautions against it.
Complementarianism encourages women to think like children, act like children, to shirk responsibility for their own lives, and they usually start this conditioning and brain-washing when the women are still children, if they were raised in a complementarian family or church, as I was.
Here’s some of what the Bible has to say about adulthood vs. childhood:
From 1 Corinthians 13:
‘When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.’
Children, both male and female, start out very dependent upon their parents.
Children don’t yet have the life experience, knowledge, or wisdom to navigate life, so their parents have to make choices for them, and set rules and limits for them when they are young.
If you’re a parent, one of your ultimate goals is to one day raise a child who will be independent, who no longer has to turn to you for every decision.
Even though the Bible teaches that adults – all adults, male and female – should leave childish things in childhood and accept responsibility for themselves and for their own choices, complementarians foster perpetual child-like thinking and a child-like state of being upon the female biological sex and wrongly teach this is, or was, God’s design or God’s intent.
The Bible never teaches that men are responsible for women, not in the sense that complementarians believe or teach.
The Bible does not teach that a husband will be held responsible for his wife’s mistakes, sins, or shortcomings.
As a matter of fact, from Acts 5, God holds a woman responsible for her own sin, not for that of her husband, who committed the same sin:
Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
// end excerpt
The New Testament says there is only one high priest between humanity and God the Father, and that one High Priest is Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 4). No where does the Bible state or even imply that a husband is to act as a mediator between a wife and God the father.
The Bible nowhere says that a man is responsible for the choices or sins of a woman.
Nowhere does the Bible state or even imply that a husband is responsible for the choices or sins of a wife.
The Bible indicates that God holds each person responsible for his or her own sin:
Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.
The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.
The idea that “Person A” will be held responsible by God, especially in the afterlife, for the sins of “Person B” is completely foreign to the Bible, yet some complementarians keep teaching this is true of husbands and wives.
Protestants spent centuries railing against the Roman Catholic papacy and priesthood, indignant that the Catholic Church seeks to put a layer of authority between the ordinary believer and God by way of clergy, but in the year 2017, these same types of Protestants (and Baptists) run around wanting to instill a male-gender priesthood to act as a mediator between women and God.
From the book of Joshua:
…And Joshua said to all the people…
[Choose Whom You Will Serve]
14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.15
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
I don’t see anything gender-specific about this passage. As a matter of fact, verse 2 says Joshua said “to all the people,” and there were women among the ancient Jews who were with Joshua.
Just like the men, the women were being asked to make a choice – their OWN choice. The women were not being told to defer to what the men wanted, the men were not told to make the choice for the women and girls. Nope.
As far as codependency is concerned, codependents, for different reasons, often react in knee-jerk reactionary fashion, rather than thinking over something before arriving at a decision.
(I used to be a codependent, I was one for many years, so I’m also very familiar with how codependents react, feel, and think.)
Codependents do this in part because after years and years of saying “yes” automatically to every request they get, they don’t stop to think first.
They find it easier to just say “yes” to someone’s request, because doing so can avoid a fight or disagreement, and codependents hate to get into fights.
Another large, common trait of codependency is the lack of boundaries.
Codependents either don’t realize they can have boundaries, or, if they do realize it, they are afraid to enact them, for fear or alienating or angering those around them. Therefore, codependents frequently hide their true feelings and opinions and go along with what the people around them want.
Christian gender complementarianism fosters this notion that codependent behaviors are attractive in women and that women were designed this way by God.
Complementarians believe in something called “male headship” and in wifely submission to a husband. Many complementarians believe that male headship is a type of authority men can and should have over women, at least husbands over wives.
Aside: UNMARRIED WOMEN
The Bible never asks single – as in divorced, never married, or widowed – women to submit to men; not submission as taught by complementarians, where one party is thought of as being in a “boss like” authority position over a subordinate who must obey, like an employee would to a boss.
Concerning how sexist or how strict they are regarding the roles of women, complementarians range on a scale from mild (usually referred to as “soft comp”) to very severe (“hard comp” to “patriarchal”), and there may be complementarians who fall somewhere between those two points .
TIE BREAKER VOTE
Even among the “soft comps,” they advocate this odd view that is nowhere taught in the Bible, (it is just assumed, because it seems to fit in neatly with the rest of their views about gender roles), that if a married couple is in a dispute and cannot apparently reach a compromise, the male gets the “tie breaker vote.”
The female should or must, they say, abide by this husbandly, tie-breaking vote, merely due to the fact that the husband possess male genitalia, which apparently, complementarians feel, endows the male with some deity-given superior propensity to make better choices or wiser choices than women – again, even though the Bible does NOT TEACH THIS. AT ALL.
CONSEQUENCES AND PENALTIES FOR THE NON-CONFORMING
Complementarians never really explain what can or should happen if, in these situations, the wife does not cave in and abide by the man’s choice, but goes her own way, or tells her husband to stick a sock in it.
One of the few times I recall complementarians addressing this was in a post by Doug Wilson (who’d I say is more sexist-patriarchalist than garden-variety complementarian) who offered a set of criteria a husband could follow if his wife is failing to clean dirty dishes around the home.
You can read more about that Wilson post here, starting about half way down the original post:
Doug Wilson on Doing The Dishes and Discernment Blogs – via Wartburg Watch blog
Here is an excerpt from that blog post:
Step 2 For the little woman who continues to rebel, call in the elders! I kid you not.
[by Doug Wilson]:
If she [the wife who won’t clean the dishes] rebels, he must call the elders of the church and ask them for a pastoral visit. When the government of the home has failed to such an extent, and a godly and consistent attempt by the husband to restore the situation has broken down, then the involvement of the elders is fully appropriate.
Other than that, I’m hard pressed to think of another complementarian coming right out and saying what should be done to a woman who refuses to cave in to any and all of a husband’s whims or choices.
(The guy at the “Biblical Gender Roles” blog is supposedly a troll, so I’m not going to toss him in as an example.)
Wilson’s remedies are laughable and chock-full of sexist assumptions, but he’s at least addressing this situation, which is more than I can say for other complementarians. (I have more to say about housework and dish cleaning at the bottom of this post.)
So, if a woman refuses to be submissive to a husband, if she refuses to play by the ‘tie breaker vote’ rule and all the other complementarian malarky, how do complementarians propose a husband “handle” such a wife? By abusing her?
Most complementariains would recoil in horror and strongly deny they support domestic violence.
In theory, I’m sure most complementarians are in fact repulsed by domestic abuse, but in reality and in practice,
- complementarian assumptions and teachings about marriage, God, and gender roles, help to either perpetuate the domestic violence they claim to be against,
- or it helps to lend “biblical” and moral justification in the mind of the abuser as to why he is entitled to continue abusing his wife,
- their lack of concrete support to women in abusive marriages (such as, offering funding to a woman to help her divorce her abusive husband)
betrays their concern.
So, if you as a complementarian are not going to promote the idea that a husband can or should give his wife a slap, shove, kick, black eye or broken rib to force her to go along with his male headship, his choices, his male rule, and his “tie breaker vote,” how exactly do you expect your teaching to be carried out?
You cannot brainwash every woman out there married to a complementarian man to seriously believe it’s her “godly” or “wifely” duty to turn over all or most of her agency and adult responsibilities to the guy she’s married to.
This post gets the complementarian position on this exactly right:
Control: The Reason The Gospel Coalition and CBMW Cannot Actually Condemn Spousal Abuse – via Autodidact blog
This following link comes via the Housewife Theologian blog, via Mortification of Spin site, by soft complementarian Aimee Byrd:
Does Complementarity Just Boil Down to a Tiebreaker? – Housewife Theologian blog by Aimee Byrd
While I do appreciate Byrd’s saner approach to gender role topics than that of most other complementarians, I still have areas of disagreement with her in this essay.
Here are a few excerpts from Byrd’s blog essay:
… As the head in the Christian context of the kingdom of God, he [a husband] should be the first to sacrifice. But I do have a caveat. Every situation is different.
If we are talking about where to eat dinner, husbands submit to your wife and sacrifice for her in that way—unless your wife seems to have no concern about pleasing you ever.
If she is never willing to sacrifice and submit her own desires to please you, then you have a problem. That doesn’t mean it’s time to “rule over her,” but it probably means it is time for a conversation about how you are to love one another.
You don’t demand submission, it is a voluntary gift. Wives, care about where your husband wants to eat too. Don’t take advantage of his being the first to sacrifice. But most of us already know this, right?
As the head, the husband bears a responsibility to which the wife should lovingly submit to and not try and sabotage. In a godly marriage, the wife knows how much her husband wants to please her. She knows he’s called to be the first to sacrifice, the first to love. So she shouldn’t manipulate that by her own selfishness.
…When it comes to something more substantial, like uprooting the family for a career, both husband and wife should empathize with one another. I do believe the husband is called to sacrifice first for the wife. But the first priority of that sacrifice for his wife is to consider the effects of their decision under the mission of God he is entrusted to for his family.
..The thing is, everyone is called to submit in the tiebreakers. A marriage is a unity and decisions are made together. But the special responsibility of the husband as head isn’t about a moment in a tiebreaker decision…
What Byrd’s post or view essentially comes down to, is yes, Byrd believes one aspect of complementarian marriage is that the husband gets the tie-breaker vote. She tries to soften that or dance around it, but what she’s communicating is that at the end of the day, the man gets the “final say so” in large marital disagreements.
What killed me in reading her post, however, is that she qualifies it to mean the husband gets the tie-breaker vote in only “big” life choices, such as when and where to move to a new city.
In “lesser” matters, such as, where to eat dinner tonight, Burger King or Taco Bell, the husband should cave in to the wife’s preference and got to Taco Bell, if that’s what the wife wants.
Byrd seems to feel that God endowed or gifted male DNA or male brains with better choice-making capabilities, when the Bible says no such thing. There is no Bible verse, story, or lesson that conveys that God gifted men “More” in the areas of family leadership, leading, or making wise decisions.
The word “head” in Ephesians not only does not mean “authority figure,” nor does it mean “boss,” but it also does not mean “only leader of a family,” or “better at making decisions,” or “whose preferences should take precedence over those of anyone else’s in a marriage or family.” Yet, Byrd is choosing to read the word “head” in that manner.
I see nothing in the Bible that says God created or gifted men to be better at making decisions than women. Nothing.
By the way, where Byrd writes,
“In a godly marriage, the wife knows how much her husband wants to please her.”
Notice that for complementarianism to work and be non-abusive, it has to meet all sorts of very specific criteria, such as the marriage has to be “godly,” (what exactly does “godly” mean, by the way, loving and compassionate?), and the husband has to want to “please the wife.”
What about marriages where the husband is a self-absorbed jackass, or is abusive, and has no interest in pleasing his wife but only himself? Such marriages do exist, and I was engaged to such a man for several years. Complementarianism has no workable solution for this scenario.
At any rate, Byrd is still pushing for a view that says God has somehow, in some way created men to be more capable of leading, and married women should always defer to their husband.
All these views, whether we’re talking about soft comp, hard comp, or tie-breaking votes are pressuring women to give up their agency, to tell them to turn over all their decision-making to a man.
In the case of Byrd in particular, who is a soft complementarian, she is in a patronizing manner telling women,
“Oh sure, I’m asking you to voluntarily lay down your choices and your right to function as a full-fledged adult, but only in the “big things.”
Hey, in the little things, if you want to eat at Arby’s and your husband wants to go to Pizza Hut, he should really cave in and go to Arby’s, but even then, ladies, you should cave in and let him have the pizza, because that would be loving and non-manipulative of you.
But it would be nice and loving for your man to at least pretend to care for three minutes to seriously weigh and entertain your preference of Arby’s before unilaterally choosing Pizza Hut for the both of you. That is a godly marriage.”
(end my summary of Byrd’s views)
Whether you’re measuring to what degree and when a wife should lay down her choice-making capabilities, whether it’s for “big” things or “little” things or is motivated by “love” or a duty to live out so-called biblical gender roles, you’re still, in the end scheme of things, asking a woman to give up her choices and her right to make choices, based on nothing more than her XX pair of sex chromosomes or possession of ovaries.
And there again, I am sorry, but I find it condescending for a complementarian, even a lady one, to tell women (to paraphrase),
‘Yes, in a marriage, women, you should be able to choose whether to eat at Burger King or McDonald’s but dad- gum- it, your man gets to choose how many kids you have together, if you have any kids at all, or if or when you move to a new city, if one of you gets a new job offer.’
My husband (should I have one) would be allowed to make major life choices for me, even ones I don’t agree with or want or like, but I get to choose….
Whether to have a Big Mac or a box of Chicken McNuggets for dinner? Are we serious with this stuff?
Sigh. That is really not an inviting view. It certainly does not make me want to run out and marry a complementarian man.
Complementarians manage to make marriage look totally unappealing to most single women –
Except, I suppose, single women who are happy to shirk all responsibility in their life on to another person (i.e., a husband), but avoiding all responsibility in life is generally something kids, teens, or college frat boys do, not adult women.
At any rate, I don’t see any verses or passages in the Bible where God authorizes husbands to exercise a “tie breaking vote.”
I take it that complementarians arrive at their “Tie Breaking Vote” view because they first erroneously assume that God has placed husbands in authority above wives (via e.g., Ephesians 5:22-24), so no duh, they must further reason, if there’s a dispute in a marriage, of course! the husband gets to veto the wife’s concerns, wishes, or preferences.
First of all, you have this, just one verse before:
v 21: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Yeah, that is directed at all believers, even Christian married men.
Here’s the rest of the passage:
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Where, in that passage, is a message or concept of a “tie breaking vote?” It’s not in there.
Why do complementarians assume that “submitting to their husbands in everything,” translates to, “the wife must hand over all her decision-making to the husband, and the husband gets to choose whether the couple moves to New York City or not.”
Where is that meme – I do not think that verse means what you think it means, complementarians.
Especially not in light of the fact, as I’ve already discussed, God says all people are responsible for their own choices.
No where does God demand, ask, or expect one adult to hand over all decision making to another adult carte blanche, in every and all circumstances, and certainly not due to something like their biological sex.
If you have a daughter, you expect to make most of her choices for her when she’s a 5 year old child, but by the time she’s somewhere around ages 18 – 21, you, as a parent, should raise her to be an independent thinker, to make choices on her own, and not tell her once she marries around age 25 or 35 (if she marries) that she cedes all that instantly upon marriage to some guy. None of that makes sense.
I want to see the biblical passage, or the concept, that states that God demands that a woman, that all women, always do what a man wants and prefers. It’s not in the Bible.
I want to see the Bible verse that says, “Under Christ Jesus, a husband gets the final say-so within a martial dispute.” That concept is simply not in the Bible; complementarians just exercise a form of eisegesis and assume it’s implied in Ephesians 5, I suppose.
I have never been married. I do not have a husband. “Male headship” does not apply to me, and it doesn’t do anything to help me or make my life easier.
I’m getting along just fine in life without having a “tie breaking vote” practitioner in my life, nor do I need a “male covering” to get through life. I’m making choices fine on my own, I don’t need a man to make decisions for me, big or small.
Then, of course, there are women who married when they were 25 years old, but ten or 20 years later, their husband dies in an auto accident or of a heart attack. These women find themselves single again, having to support themselves and make choices for themselves.
Given that never-married, widowed, or divorced women have shown themselves quite capable of managing life and career without “male headship,” tie breaker votes, or male coverings, why do complementarians keep insisting all this nonsense is necessary for married women?
By the way, in my time at a professional, full time job, when disagreements and disputes arose, and I found myself at logger-heads with male co-workers, we managed to reach compromises and solutions, and none of those solutions revolved around me deferring to their male headship, maleness, masculinity, or male covering.
It is entirely possible for two adults, one male and female, to iron out differences without making appeals to Bible verses, notions of male headship, and so on.
If I, as a not-married career woman, managed to resolve disputes with male co-workers with no appeals to the Bible, or to male headship, and to an argument of ‘but who gets a “Final Say So” and “Tie Breaking Vote” in a relationship’, so too can married people work out their differences without dragging gender into it.
Any time you have a teaching that insists that an entire group of people (in complementarianism, that would be women, or, at least, women under special circumstances, such as being married) automatically defer and put-off their own choice-making ability and responsibility to an entire other group of people (males), you’re ultimately teaching a form of child-like dependence, immaturity, and codependency.
The Bible does not say God wants anyone to be fully dependent on another adult (special situations aside, such as an elderly dementia patient needing supervision), nor does God say in the Bible that he accepts one adult turning over all or most decision-making to another adult, whether for big or little decisions.
The Bible actually fosters the opposite ideas: God asks and expects everyone to be responsible for her own choices in life.
The Bible does indicate that a person can, out of love, defer to the preferences or needs of another person, but no where in the Bible is this idea grounded on the basis of gender, or the notion that only women do this, and not men.
Complementarianism is actually teaching concepts that are exactly opposite of what God teaches in the Bible, ones that are anti- or un-biblical.
Complementarianism ends up telling husbands to view their wives as over-grown toddlers, and to treat them accordingly.
COMPLEMENTARIAIN MARKETING TO GET WOMEN TO BUY INTO THIS SWILL
Complementarians try to soften this sexist, insulting dreck by instructing complementariain husbands to ( paraphrasing sermons and blogs I’ve seen),
‘Occasionally give your wife a cookie and a pat on the head to keep her appeased so she doesn’t have a temper tantrum, but you are still to act as her parent and direct her.
Allow your wives to occasionally make the “little” choices in marriage, like allow her to choose whether you paint the dining room off-white or cream white. That ought to keep the wife content.’
Then you have complementarian pastors who try to soften and sugar coat the same dreck by trying to convince women they will ENJOY and BENEFIT from being treated like toddlers in marriage:
“If your husband “servant-leads” you and loves you the way Jesus loves the church, ladies, you won’t MIND at all if your husband is the head of the home!,”
I have heard them say.
Yet other soft complementarian preachers will say so long as the husband is performing sexist stereotyped functions for his wife (such as rubbing her feet, writing her love poetry, etc), the wife will adore being led around like cattle.
As long as she’s getting those stereotypical things all women supposedly want and love, she won’t mind at all that her husband is in charge of her, the way a parent is in charge of a child.
Yes, yes, complementarian pastors or lady complementarian bloggers, I still mind very much because this stuff you’re peddling is patronizing. I’m an adult. I can make my own choices.
Oh sure, I’ll toss out my power, agency, control, and decision making to a man, all for a foot rub!
No, I’m not going to accept the idea a husband of mine gets to rule over me just because he gives me a foot rub once every three years (I don’t want a foot rub, I don’t really like them. That’s right, not all women like those stereotyped things complementarian pastors think they do).
No, any husband of mine does not and will not get a “tie breaking vote” with me, not in big or little choices, certainly not automatically, and not based on a distorted view of the Bible that God supposedly put husbands in charge, or gave them minds that are more conducive to choice-making.
For any complementarian woman who may respond by saying, “But my husband lets me work outside the home…” or, for any complementarian man who may say, “But I often allow my wife to choose where we have dinner…”
Your language indicates that yes, complementarianism infantilizes women. One adult does not “let” or “allow” another adult “do things,” not in the context of marriage, not like that.
Your wife is an adult. She can work outside the home if she so chooses; she does not have to ask a husband’s permission, like a child would need to ask Mom for permission to have an extra cookie after dinner.
Any view point that argues an entire group of people should give up their choice-making ability for whatever reason (God, Bible, male headship, Ephesians 5, tie breaking vote myths, love, to whatever else) to another person is advocating that an adult allow herself to behave like a child and be treated as a child. The Bible does not support perpetual toddler-hood for grown women, complementarians.
For additional reading (other sites):