Why Complementarian Women Are Complementarian – And: When Women Enforce Complementarianism
There are several reasons why a Christian woman might become a complementarian.
I will present a link much farther below (from Cult News site) that discusses how and why some Christian women pressure other Christian women to conform to sexist complementarian teachings.
I am an ex-complementarian.
Some women, such as myself, were born into complementarianism.
I was brought up in a Christian family that attended Southern Baptist churches, Southern Baptist churches endorse complementarianism, and my mother was always bringing in Christian-based magazines and other literature into the home, which stressed very traditional gender roles.
(When I was a kid growing up Southern Baptist, I don’t recall the Southern Baptists of the 1970s, or even the 1980s, being as nearly obsessed and insistent upon traditional gender roles as they started to become in the 1990s and later.)
If you become a Christian, and you love God, and you believe that God is your BFF (your bestie), you naturally want to live in such a way that is pleasing to God.
Your church and your parents are telling you that complementarianism is pleasing to God.
Furthermore, complementarianism is conflated with codependent attitudes and behavior by its adherents.
When you are a complementarian, you are taught by complementarians that your only alternative to complementarianism is to become an evil, icky, un-biblical, liberal secular feminist.
That is very problematic, if, like me, you are right- of- center politically and have fairly traditional values.
The false dichotomy put forward by Christian complementarians (your choices are either be a complementarian or be a horrible liberal feminist) kept me unnecessarily stuck in complementariansm for many years, even after I began strongly suspecting it was a bunch of sexist swill cooked up by Christian sexists to maintain a male hierarchy in and out of churches.
I rejected complementarianism and remain right of center. I think that complementarian (and conservative) dislike or suspicion of secular feminism is over-blown. Not that I agree with feminists on everything, but I try to give them a fair hearing on a case by case basis.
But I didn’t see for many years what an alternative would or could be to complementarianism.
I sure as hey did not want to turn into an abortion-supporting, LGBT- marriage- affirming, lax border security advocating, liberal- Democratic, man-hating, feminist, so it looked as though I was stuck in complementarianism.
My mother was a strong believer in traditional gender roles.
Mom did not believe women were as smart, competent, or capable as men at some jobs (such as certain political offices). She openly told me so on several occasions.
Of course, Mom came from a family were sexism was rife.
Her dad would get drunk and beat up her mother. Favoritism was shown to one male child in youth (one of Mom’s brothers), even when he was abusive to his sisters (including my Mom).
I could go on.
Mom also told me that one of her other female family members (I can’t recall who, maybe my maternal grandmother) grew up in a very sexist family, where the mother preferred, and let it be known she preferred, male children to female.
Therefore, the daughters in the family were expected to cater to the sons, to wake up early, make them toast, iron their shirts, etc., and this went to the heads of the boys, who became entitled with huge egos. They were rude and abusive to the girl children.
So, when you grow up where sexism is presented as the norm, where boys and men are thought superior to girls and women, you don’t know any better.
When you’re raised in sexism, it does not occur to you for a good long time that maybe the complementarian biblical interpretations you’re hearing at church are wrong. It’s presented as the truth, it’s largely based on what appears to be plain, overly-literal interpretations, and some of those “clobber” verse quoted by Complementarians sure look true at first glance, if you don’t look at the whole of Scripture, the cultural contexts, and so on.
Here is an article which explains other reasons why complementarian women may remain in complementarianism and encourage other women to stick with it, though it seems to focus on the extreme forms of complementarianism that border on full-blown misogyny and patriarchy (I don’t see the name of complementarian Lori Alexander on this list):
(Please note that I am not in agreement with all views of the author of the piece below, V. Garrison, as stated in other articles, nor am I necessarily a supporter of authors referring to Christian beliefs derogatorily or dismissively as “bronze age”):
(same article is also available on Raw Story)
by V. Garrison
…Quiverfull is a growing fundamentalist movement within evangelical Christianity which shuns all forms of birth control and follows the “biblical” marriage model of male headship and female submission.
[snip example of the Duggar family]
…. Quiverfull is a contemporary manifestation of capital-p Patriarchy, but what if I told you that the majority of fundamentalist Christians pushing women to live Quiverfull lives of wifely submission and prolific childbearing are WOMEN?
Believe it … because it’s the truth!
Titus 2 Women
Admittedly, the public face of Quiverfull (also known as “Complementarity”) is overwhelmingly male: John Piper of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, John MacArthur of Grace to You ministries, Dennis Rainey, radio host of Family Life Today, mega-church Pastor David Platt, who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board and author of “Counter Culture” which calls on women to ditch feminism in favor of wifely submission,-
-Voddie Baucham, author of “What He Must Be If He Wants To Marry My Daughter,” Scott Brown of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches (in which “family integrated” is code words for Quiverfull), “Kill The Gays” pastor, Kevin Swanson, the “pissing pastor,” Steve Anderson, and so so many more.
But honestly, no sensible woman would give these misogynistic jerks the time of day if it weren’t for the influence of dedicated Christian female mentors: the “older women” of Titus 2 whom the apostle Paul charged to “teach the younger women” to be obedient keepers at home.
“Mother, you are not wasting your life in your home. God says that children are at the very center of life in the kingdom of God. When you take time to hold a little child on your lap, you are wielding a mighty power. You are in the perfect will of God. You are not only doing something that is good. You are doing what is BEST. You are in the very center of God’s heart.” -NancyCampbell
Other prominent female leaders in the Christian Patriarchy movement include:
Debi Pearl, author of Created To Be His Help Meet, teaches wives to study their husbands’ idiosyncrasies in order to anticipate and meet the patriarchs’ every need. [snip horrible advice from Pearl to women in abusive marriages]
…“Lady Lydia” Sherman and Jennie Chancey of Ladies Against Feminism — a website devoted to “promoting beautiful womanhood.”
Kelly Crawford …. Teri Maxwell… [both promoters of complementarianism to other women, and/or who run anti-feminist web sites]
Other popular pro-patriarchy ministries which are run by women include: Young Wife’s Guide, The Humbled Homemaker, Loving Life at Home, Far Above Rubies, Equipping Godly Women, Hearts At Home, Victorious Christian Women, Simply Living For Him, In the Nursery of the Nation, Raising Olives, Molding Into a Lady, Christian Feminine Homemaking, Beautiful Life of Joy, Ladies in Godly Holy Teaching, Life in a Shoe, Large Families On Purpose, Proverbs 31 Ministries, Club 31 Women, Love Your Husband, Planet Mommyhood, Time-Warp Wife, …
You might be wondering, but why would any woman promote this garbage to her friends, family, and neighbors?
Why, Why, Why?
From my own experience, as well as from listening to the stories of the women from No Longer Quivering who have left the lifestyle and are in the process of healing from seriously abusive relationships, here are the most common reasons why Christian women follow Paul’s Titus 2 directive to persuade younger women to devote their lives to the pursuit of biblical womanhood:
They’re married to losers
Every Christian woman knows the bible says that God hates divorce. While some churches allow a few exceptions to the “till death do we part” marriage vow – perhaps for reasons of abandonment or adultery – the primary message is that the union with her husband is a sacred representation of the relationship between Christ and the Church and she must therefore make every effort to save her marriage.
… So what’s a good Christian woman to do if she’s married to deadbeat man?
She’ll have to dig in, try harder, pray more, trust more … be a better Christian.
That’s where “biblical family values” come in: according to the Christian headship model, the more of herself she surrenders to God and submits to her husband, the greater the likeliness that the Holy Spirit will intervene and change her husband’s heart. (See Debi Pearl’s advice to an abused wife above.)
Christian women who are trapped in unhappy marriages will seek out biblical solutions, and when they discover the key: male headship and female submission, they tell their husbands in the hopes that he will do the godly-man thing: step up to the plate and lead the family in the paths of righteousness.
True story: I have never encountered a happy couple in an egalitarian partnership that, when presented with the bible verse, “The husband is the head of the wife …” actually took it seriously and changed their relationship patterns to fit the patriarchal blueprint for marriage.
It is only when the marriage is already dysfunctional – when the husband and/or wife are controlling, manipulative, petty … abusive – these are the couples who latch on to Christian patriarchy and implement the strict gender roles in the extreme.
Tragically, the advice a troubled couple is most likely to receive in Christian marital counseling is the worst instruction ever and will only lend biblical credence to the abusive partner’s worst tendencies.
The power imbalance which is inherent to the headship/submission model is guaranteed to compound every pre-existing problem and create new difficulties as the woman’s indiscriminate catering to her husband transforms him into a narcissist and herself into a living martyr.
Read the rest of that page here.
Some woman (or man?) left a comment below objected to the author including more run of the mill complementarians in an article that also addressed Quivering ideology. I for one consider it a distinction withouth much of a difference.
Complementarianism runs on a continuum from slightly sexist and awful to full-blown abusive and misogynistic, but it all rests on the same sexist assumptions and the same sexist foundations, and they all quote the same exact Biblical passages and verses to back up their views, whether they are soft comps or more hard-line comps.
So it does not really matter, in the end scheme of things, if complementarian guys such as John Piper, David Platt, and John MacArthur are not as bat sh*t crazy with the gender role teachings and views as are the Duggars of Quivering fame.
Occasionally, complementarians say or do something so bizarre, sexist, or tacky, it causes even (mild to moderate) complementarian women (and sometimes the men) to do a double-take and make blog posts or pod casts refuting whatever crazy thing other complementarians have done or said; an example or two is below under the “Other Sites” links.
Aimee Byrd [who is complementarian] says that CBMW has betrayed women
-addressing the views of complementarian Mary Kassian
-I believe the author of the above is a very soft complementarian, but she sometimes writes blog posts critiquing the excesses she sees in complementarianism