The Opposite of Feminism

What’s the opposite of feminism? Hierarchy? Patriarchy? Oppression?

For me as a married man, the opposite of feminism is selfishness.

Marriage is great for men. Studies show that men tend to be happier after marriage; women often less so.

And why wouldn’t men be happy? We get to go to work, come home after, and be king of the castle. I can sit around and read books like an imperial scholar, or manage my fantasy football team, or compose long-winded blog posts. Meanwhile, the dishes get done, and the floors get swept, and the kids fed and bathed. It’s like magic!

This kind of set-up is very appealing to anyone who is naturally inclined to be selfish or lazy. And I’ve got both of those attributes, in spades. I’m naturally a selfish, lazy guy. Given a choice, I’d be naturally inclined to sit around the house and blog or read, offloading the domestic responsibilities onto my wife. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t? The choice is a no brainer. Blog, or do the dishes? Read a book, or fold laundry? (I don’t think I’m alone in this natural tendency. Even in 2007, I see all sorts of marriages — often among church members — where the husband doesn’t raise a finger to help around the house.)

What is it that stops me from sliding completely into petty domestic tyranny? One of the keys is feminism. I subscribe to certain ideas on a mental level, and those beliefs in turn affect my daily decisions.

Of course, my wife and I disagree about chores and division of labor sometimes. What couple doesn’t? But those discussions are limited in important ways. My commitment to feminism constrains my actions. I have a tendency towards laziness, but it’s limited by the dissonance that kicks in when the gap between my stated ideals and actual behavior is too great. And that can be enough (usually) to shame me into acting better. Similarly, during discussions, my beliefs prevent me from making certain (self-serving) arguments or suggestions.

Also, of course, my domestic interactions are also limited by my wife’s feminist tendencies. She’s headstrong and independent, and wouldn’t let me make do or say some things, even if I were so inclined.

So for me, feminism is the polar opposite of my natural laziness and selfishness. I’m lazy anyway; but sometimes, my feminist ideals prevail over my selfish tendencies. And when they do, I’m a better person.

I’m not saying that this route is for everyone. For men with greater internal discipline, this kind of corrective measure may be unnecessary. But for me, feminism is a very useful way to keep my baser nature in check. Feminism forces me to be a better, less selfish person. And that’s a net gain, I think, no matter how you look at it.

153 comments for “The Opposite of Feminism

  1. Kaimi, that’s not a “net” gain. It’s a gain (and an interesting one). In order for it to be a net gain we would need to know what the costs were and compare them to the benefits.

  2. True, Frank M. But the kind of feminism KW advocates here–a belief held by men in somewhat traditional marriages–probably wouldn’t have a lot of costs.

  3. Hmm, Adam G.

    Your “its” is not entirely clear — are you saying that the opposite of feminism is the gospel?

  4. How are you defining feminism, for this purpose? It seems to me that what you’re saying is that trying to be less selfish has resulted in you helping out more around the house.

  5. Sounds like this is an attempt to rehabilitate the term ‘feminism,’ which I have always understood to mean ‘turning women into men.’

    I mean, you’re not blurring/elimintating the distinction between men and women: you still go to work and your wife stays home with the kids. I am sure that generally speaking both of you fill your gender roles. But you help outside of your sphere (once your your duties in your sphere are sufficiently taken care of).

    There has got to be a better word than ‘feminism’ to describe this. How about ‘being a good husband and father?” or perhaps ‘selfless?’ Because the people that I have run into that are committed to feminism (like my mom) are to at least some extent committed to selfishness and putting one’s self before others.

  6. Steve,

    I ascribe, on a mental level, to a set of beliefs. Women should be free to develop themselves in a way that fulfills them. Women should not be locked in to traditional gender roles about housework, education, other things. Womens’ choices — to get an education; not to have ten kids — should be respected.

    On a theoretical level, that’s fine. Really, I could study or write about any number of things. I could write about wrinkles in the Probate code.

    On a practical level, where the rubber hits the road for me is home interactions. It’s there where I find out if my stated ideals really matter.

    There are Mormon men I know, who tell their wives that it’s the woman’s job to care for the kids. And frankly, from a perspective of pure self-interest, that makes a lot of sense.

    I’d like to think that I wouldn’t be a selfish oaf, either way. But really, controlling my selfishness and laziness is a constant battle. And one of the pieces is that, if I’m too lazy or selfish, my stated beliefs about gender don’t really mesh with my actions.

    If I’m not egalitarian around the home, in normal things like who gives the kids a bath, then it doesn’t matter how much I write about equal opportunities for women — I’m just Mrs. Jellyby.

  7. Women should be free to develop themselves in a way that fulfills them. Women should not be locked in to traditional gender roles about housework, education, other things. Womens’ choices — to get an education; not to have ten kids — should be respected.

    One could just as easily say: To not get married. To not have any kids. To put their kids in daycare. To have an abortion. To get divorced because their marriage isn’t ‘fulfilling.

    Are you really saying that one must subscribe to these beliefs (or be extraordinarily disciplined), to not treat their wife as a drudge? I don’t buy it. Though I’m glad it helps you. As I’ve said, I’m inclined to agree that feminism among married men in fairly traditional relationships is probably a net positive.

  8. In fact, I think the presence of feminism and the kind of societal changes its been part of, as destructive as they may be for others, enhances my own marriage. It makes me appreciate what my wife does as an act of love and will instead of ignoring it as one of those taken-for-granted unconscious social roles.

  9. Adam,

    Do we respect all choices? It’s a good question. The answer is probably more complicated than one comment, but I tend to think that most of those choices can best be viewed without gender labels:

    Whould we respect a man’s choice to get an education? Yes? Then we should do the same for a woman.
    Would we respect a man’s choice to lightly divorce a spouse? Probably not. And the same would apply to a woman.

  10. Adam,

    I’m glad that you see the benefits of feminism. (grin).

    I don’t think that one must be a feminist in order not to treat one’s wife as a drudge. Clearly, there are other ways to avoid that. However, I think a belief in feminist ideals can provide an added layer of protection against some selfish tendencies.

  11. Nonetheless, KW, feminist ideas have been used as a major justification, if not the major justification, for all of those. And I still don’t see why you think someone has to have your macro feminism (or be extraordinarily strong-willed) to be decent to their wife [Update: I wrote this sentence while KW was posting his comment # 14]. It sounds like you’re defining feminism to mean ‘caring about people (where people includes women)’.

  12. The antonym of feminist is actually mysognist or male chauvenist…

    Says you. That’s like saying the antonym of pro-lifer is baby-killer. Its pure polemic.

  13. I had an uncle who would follow you around the house straightening towels after you used them to dry off your hands. He preferred that no one ride with him so that he would not have to vacuum the passenger side when he got back. He was an impeccable housekeeper but did not often treaty my aunt in a way a feminist would approve. I don’t suppose this state of affairs means that the opposite of feminism isn’t selfishness, just that selfishness doesn’t have to manifest itself in pot-bellied slobs smearing potato chip grease into xbox controllers.

  14. Adam, actually, I just looked it up on I strictly am not a feminist because of the baggage the word carries (and because my wife won’t let me be a feminist.) If feminism were only the definition, I would generally ascribe to that, ie “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.”

  15. KW, correct me if I’m wrong, but modern soft feminism seems to come in two kinds of varieties. One is a soft female chauvinism, a sort of ‘preferential option for women’ . The second is an argument that, just as men are thought to be able to, women should be able to do whatever they want, whether it be career or marriage and children or both; and that no one should argue that some of these choices are inferior or superior.

    I can see why the first would lead to being a better, more solicitous husband, just as I think the father-knows-best male chauvinism probably led to wives who were more Christlike to their husbands, though in neither case do I think thats much of an apologia. I don’t see that the second has anything much to say on the subject of how husbands should treat their wives..

  16. Thanks for this post, Kaimi! It’s nice to have someone offer personal examples of how feminism can help rather than hinder us as we try to live the gospel.

    I have natural tendencies my devotion to both the gospel and feminism help me overcome as well, and it so doing I (hopefully) help our family actualize our potential. I’ll smothermother anything that comes within a 2 mile range. Seriously. And it is not healthy, not for me, not for my husband, and not for our child. When we were newlyweds my husband started saying things like, “you’re not my mother or my wet nurse. I can make my own sandwich. Go read your novel.” You know what? He CAN make his own sandwich! It WAS alright for me to take a break after work, just like he did. DUH. My constant June Cleaveresque hovering not only enervated my own gender ideology and thwarted my ability to develop myself in areas other than cooking, but malignantly suggested that I was both my husband’s servant and that he was a helpless moron. The *counterfeit of nurturing* insulted us both. Truth is, we’re here to serve each other. Sometime he makes the sandwich, sometimes I do. That doesn’t really matter. What matters is that feminism informed my reading of gospel truths in such a way that I was able to treat my husband like a capable adult rather than a child.

    (Really, I don’t see anything wrong with making him a ham-on-rye. It’s just when I run myself ragged with all the various incarnations of ham-on-rye that things get out of sync with both feminism and the gospel of Jesus.)

  17. Interesting, Janet. C.S. Lewis made the same observation about some women’s tendency to want to help a little too much and some men’s tendency to want to be left alone. He was no feminist but my wife and I still benefited from reading him.

  18. Look, y’all, I know my antifeminist position isn’t very popular around here, but can you at least avoid discrediting it by putting up false-flag comments like #24?

  19. I used to consider myself a feminist until I realized that all the visible feminists are nuts. I’m saddened that considers misogynist the opposite of feminist. Shouldn’t the opposite of feminist be masculinist?

  20. Well, I’m happily insane then. And God seems pretty OK with me, so be it ;). Seriously, though–surely you don’t want to rescind women’s right to vote, or re-legalize marital (or other) rape, or, well, the list goes on. It’s easy to dismiss the social good feminism has helped bring and focus on the stuff we don’t like, but that’s hardly…sane.

    Sorry KW, threadjack. Probably shouldn’t take the bait, though, eh?

  21. It might be a good idea to find out a bit more about C.S. Lewis and his evolving views of women before painting him as “no feminist.” Joy Gresham Lewis was a strong, talented woman, and every bit his equal. I doubt he would have been content with anything less. Or try the magnificent woman on the horse in _The Great Divorce_. Yes, Lewis did have the silly bits about “brown girls” (and he did indeed have some issues with a female control freak from his younger days), but he had wonderful things to say on love, marriage, and the surprise of joy.

  22. It comes in many more than two types, Adam G. (grin.) But you’re right, those are two major and important ideas in feminism.

    Perhaps I’m better off explaining what I _don’t_ mean, at least in this post. I see examples of it, all the time.

    Example one: A couple I know. The husband has not, after ten-plus years of marriage and several kids, changed a single diaper. He gets home from work, sits on the couch and watches TV. His wife brings him dinner. If she asks him to watch the kids, he tells her that’s her job. And she hates it, and is awfully depressed, and has major self-esteem issues.

    Example two: A year or two back, my wife was asked to give a Relief Society lesson on something, I don’t recall what, I think on mental health/avoiding depression. And she mentioned in her lesson that it can be helpful for women to take some time off sometimes. If they’re feeling stressed and at wits end, to find a babysitter if needed, to relax for a few hours, to go out and have dinner with friends, or go to a movie, for instance.

    A good sister in the ward raised her hand, and she said — I’m not kidding — “but then who would wash the dishes? My husand doesn’t like it when the kitchen has dirty dishes in it.”

    M. replied, “Is his arm broken? If he doesn’t like dirty dishes, he can wash them himself.” And the good sister looked back at her, in shock.

    This was a very nice couple in the ward. The husband was not a tyrant or a bad person, he’s a very kind man, and his wife smart and capable. It had really just never occurred to her that she could ask him to do the dishes if she really needed an evening off.

    I don’t know if this explains it. And I don’t know that a simple mental commitment to feminism would remedy all wrongs. Husband in Example #1 is enough of an oaf that I don’t know if much would help.

    But really, I think that a simple commitment to greater domestic equality would help out in both of these cases. Simply realizing, “there’s no reason why my wife should be washing the dishes, doing the laundry, changing the diapers, and not me.” Because really, there isn’t. Men (who don’t have broken arms) are more than capable of washing a dish.

    One doesn’t have to call that, feminism. (My dad was a great example of this, and he would probably shudder to think that anyone thought of him as a feminist.) It is a recognition of womens equality, though, and it dovetails well with a commitment to feminist ideals.

  23. Jacob–Wackos of any stripe usually draw the most press, and that’s true of feminism as well. Heck, half the country thinks Warren Jeffs represents Mormonism, and I doubt he even represents fundamentalist Mormons very well. I do take your point–there’s one famous feminist in particular who always makes me roll my eyes and, occasionally, snarl. I don’t want people associating my feminism with hers. But don’t let the wackos define the mainstream.

    I actually am disturbed that the dictionary would list “misogynist” as the opposite of “feminist “as well. Doesn’t the former carry at least connotative baggage indicating a hatred/dislike for women rather than just the belief in clearly defined gender and sex roles? I know plenty of traditional, non-feminist men and women I admire and respect, but I wouldn’t call them misogynists any more than I’d call feminists man-haters. Weird. But would we just oppossitionally define “masculanist” against “feminist,” then?

  24. Adam–thanks for the heads-up on CSL. Do you remember which of his texts that’s in? I’d be interested to read his thoughts.

  25. My own sense is that when we start getting into discussions about what a word “really” means or whether X or Y is “really” an A or a B, that the words are losing their usefulness. At the very least, they are surrogates for a whole host of other things and our fixation on them is probably obfuscating. In my opinion, most discussions of “what is feminism,” particularlly in the bloggernancle fall into this category.

    So if you ask me “What does feminism mean to you?” my answer is, I don’t really care what feminism means.

  26. Agreed, Janet. Not all types of feminism are compatible with Mormonism. The fish-needs-a-bicycle Second Wavers, who tend to draw a lot of press, are also probably among the least compatible with Mormonism. On the other hand, lots of variations of Third Wave feminism can fit rather well into a Mormon worldview, I think.

  27. C.S. Lewis wasn’t a feminist, unless you define feminism to mean “love, marriage, and the surprise of joy,” which isn’t a useful definition in my mind. In any case, the passages I’m talking about where C.S. Lewis talks about women wanting to over-nurture and men wanting to live and let live too much were in his misogynist bachelor days (in my opinion, yes, C.S. Lewis was something of a misogynist until later in life).

  28. Adam G. (25),

    I realize that just as there are different types of feminists, there are different types of anti- or non-feminists.

    Thanks for not being a 24/26, yourself.

  29. Kaimi,

    Every example you have given displays the man as a selfish, thoughtless doofus and the woman as a saintly, caring helpmeet. This makes you an essentialist, and if there is one thing that is guaranteed to make feminists set their own hair on fire and blame it on the patriarchy, it is gender essentialism.

    I’ve given up trying to define it, but it seem to me that any useful definition would have to account for the natural woman as well as the natural man. Seriously, I know more women who are tyrants in the home than I do men.

  30. KW, you say that you don’t think you have to be a feminist to not treat your spouse like a drudge, but your title and your #29 contradict that. In both you set up a simple opposition between accepting some notion of feminism (and the equality/identity of the sexes) and being nasty to your wife. I don’t see it. I help my wife because we love her and because we’re jointly committed to the success of our family enterprise, which usually requires all hands on deck. I could care less about feminism.

  31. Male Chauvinism is probably the most accurate antonym: ” A man whose behavior and attitude toward women indicate a belief that they are innately inferior to men” while Mysogyny (which I thought was a synonym for male chauvinism until the concern here) seems a bit more askew: “One who hates or mistrusts women”. My favorite (and most frightening) antonym was Misanthrope: “Hater of Humkind”, but I thought that would be too polemical, so didn’t mention it.

    I decided some time ago, so as to avoid confusion that I would call myself an egalitarian or an Equalist, rather than a feminist, as that avoids the baggage, and allows me to promote views to people who would simple be put of by the title feminism and/or the history of certain people who consider themselves feminists.

  32. What does feminism mean to you?

    Thanks for asking, Nate O.:

    To me, feminism means motherhood, America, and apple pie. George Washington is my first feminist hero, because he didn’t suffer familiarity gladly and because he practiced republican virtues. Daniel Boone and Sergeant York are my other feminist heroes, because boy they could handle the long rifle. My feminist slogan is ‘Remember the Alamo!’

  33. Adam G.,

    I think I’ve been clear. I’ve repeatedly said that this is something that works, for me. And I said in the original post, and in comments since, that I don’t think it has to be for everyone.

    Let me try to phrase it this way:

    It is, I think, impossible for a man to be a feminist, be internally consistent, and treat one’s spouse like a drudge. That does _not_ mean, and should not be taken to imply, that being a feminist is the _only_ way to avoid that behavior.

    Feminist men, who are internally consistent (not Mrs. Jellyby’s), are bound by their beliefs to treat their spouse more equally. Non-feminist men are not so bound, in this particular way. That doesn’t mean, however, that they won’t treat their spouses well, for other perfectly good reasons.

  34. So then what’s the word for a feminist woman who takes advantage of the goodness of her feminist husband so she can read books and blog while he does everything?

    Because that would be me.

  35. It does seem like “feminism” is not the word you really meant, Kaimi. Feminism (as a word we use) has come to mean a movement, begun by women, to help other women empower themselves. The opposite of it isn’t either selfishness, or the Gospel, or sanity, or insanity, or… I know what you meant by your post, but I’m not sure you meant to say it the way you did.

    There are men in the Church and outside it who think of their wives as some kind of household slave, and that’s obviously not a very good relationship to be in.

    But there are plenty of married men who don’t even think those thoughts. Their married life is *shared* with their wife, in everything, even if the wife is staying at home with the kids. A woman may be a superior nurturer (though I don’t believe it), but that doesn’t mean she should have to vacuum too.

  36. #29 should not imply that all non-feminists are tyrants. As I said,

    “Feminist men, who are internally consistent (not Mrs. Jellyby’s), are bound by their beliefs to treat their spouse more equally. Non-feminist men are not so bound, in this particular way. That doesn’t mean, however, that they won’t treat their spouses well, for other perfectly good reasons.”

    The two examples in #29, though, are people who _aren’t_ treating their wife well based on some non-feminist reason. They could use a good dose of feminism.

  37. KW, are you defining “treating your wife as an equal” to mean “spending as much time/energy as her in family work (including work that brings income to the family)”?

  38. The two examples in #29, though, are people who _aren’t_ treating their wife well based on some non-feminist reason. They could use a good dose of feminism.

    Or they could use a good dose of being told to stop treating their wife like a drudge and start loving her through works.

  39. So then what’s the word for a feminist woman who takes advantage of the goodness of her feminist husband so she can read books and blog while he does everything?


  40. #46–Well, yes. When the word becomes the point rather than the behavior, then things devolve. As I suppose Nate said. (I nonetheless enjoy explicating possible word use, just not when the teleology of so doing so is explicating possible word use. I think Kaimi’s endgame is something different here). I honestly don’t care if a person self-identifies as a feminist so long as they avoid treating either their wife or themselves as drudges. I agree with Kaimi that someone who has internalized the core values of mainstream feminism will expect some balance of drudgery upon each spouse (drat, no ideology can, of itself, clean my toilet. Drat again!). Of course, men also exist who call themselves feminists and nonetheless treat their wives like slaves. I know several. It’s not the word–it’s the heartfelt embrace of what it can signify–that prevents spousal yuck yucks.

    Seriously, do you remember where the CSL bit was at? I have most of his stuff but don’t remember reading that part. I really do have to smack myself about the head with Mary/Martha stories and my own feminist tenets to avoid acting like a rhoomba. God does not want me to be a rhoomba. And CSL was pretty good at talking about God. So…reference? If you can recall?

  41. I’m sorry, Janet, I don’t recall. But its something he said in more than one place. I think its implied in the mother-love sections of the Great Divorce but more clearly stated elsewhere.

  42. I ascribe, on a mental level, to a set of beliefs.

    Yikes, it seems like people are mixing up “subscribe” and “ascribe” more and more lately!

    In any case, this post is actually just about exactly my life. I often find myself screwing around on my computer while my wife complains that stuff needs to get done and then eventually she just does it. We both work (no kids yet) so I really don’t have even the ghost of an excuse there. Usually I realize after a while that I’m being a jerk and probably chauvinistic and I help out.

  43. Matt W., Mr. Greenwood’s paragraph was the funniest thing you have ever read? Seriously? Wow.

  44. Matt W., Mr. Greenwood’s paragraph was the funniest thing you have ever read? Seriously? Wow.

    True. Matt W. needs to read some of my other stuff.

  45. Adam, I also loved your comment. And to find someone else that knows of and respects Sgt. York! :-)

  46. I try hard to be a good husband, not because I have a commitment to feminism, but because I have a commitment to my wife. Thus, I help with the children and housework, but I do not help with the garden because I feel that is an unnecessary activity she imposes on herself. Similarly, she does not require that I work at a job that I do not like, or work more hours than I want to. I don’t believe this is because of her commitment to any philosophy, but because of her commitment to me.

  47. Can’t you reach these same results through application of the (anti-feminist) set of ideals called “chivalry”?

  48. Janet, the passage Adam is likely thinking of is this: “She lives for her children. You can tell from the hunted looks on their faces.”

    Lewis did indeed have much to say about controlling women (the woman in _The Great Divorce_ , for example, who is so determined to keep her son that she is willing to take him to Hell with her, for example). Best source on C.S. Lewis: Bruce Young. (At least the best one I know.)

  49. Maggie– Thanks! And that’s a great line ;)

    Rick–“but I do not help with the garden because I feel that is an unnecessary activity she imposes on herself.” My husband recently came to the same conclusion regarding cloth diapering our baby. It vaguely irritates me since I cloth diaper for environmental reasons, but I DID just impose the anti-pampers regime upon him without his consent. So now the deal seems to be, “whoever deals with the poop gets to determine where the next one will go.” I think it’s fair.

    gst–That’s an interesting question, really. I am not a medievalist, but I don’t recall the Arthurian legends containing male help with housework so much as with stuff like helping women onto horses and the defense of virtue. Chivalry inherently contains the premise that women are exalted beings (the knights sort of served them as in a Dante-worships-his-lady kinda way, if my memory is right). Men protected women from worldly sullying, but I do not think they protected them from scullery. Actually, women performing scullery were probably not subject to chivalry since it was the code of nobility, and not the common citizen. But, possibly flawed-memories of medieval codes aside, women generally don’t enjoy the chivalric code because it puts them on a pedastool and then, in the words of Louisa May Alcott, asks them to get down on it. It’s seen as patronizing. When service is performed in the spirit of partnership rather than protection, I think things go along more nicely. (I’m not opposed to someone opening the door, btw.)

  50. Boy, it’s obvious that you’re all a bunch of professionals. Believe me, in the “real” world (the one that the other 97% percent of us live in) there’s plenty of drudgery to go around–in as well as out of the workplace.

    I’ll tell you what the opposite of feminism is: under-privileged. Of feminism’s thousand faces “privileged” is the one that out shines them all.

  51. What exactly is so obviously privileged about this discussion, Jack?

    Thanks for telling us we’re all a bunch of silver spoons. You may want to check your facts first.

  52. 1. I believe that people don’t have different value because of their gender. I believe people have different value because of the choices they make.

    2. I’m not a feminist, because any time I try to claim to be one, somebody tells me what that means about me, and they’re wrong. So I don’t play that game anymore.

    3. I don’t live in your linear world where everything has one opposite.

    4. I clean up after myself if anybody does, except for the past few days since my sister moved in and she’s really bored. When she gets a job (soon), I’ll probably clean up after myself again more.

    5. I think all guys should live without their wives for a while, so they can appreciate what they do for them. I mean long enough that they actually have to deal with their messes, rather than letting them pile up for their wives to have to deal with when they get back. I think this is where I’m agreeing with Kaimi.

  53. I like Kaimi’s original qualifier, “For me . . .”

    For me, “feminism” is such an amorphous and malleable term that I can’t pin down an antonym. I am feminist to the core if it means “equal pay for equal resumes and work” – not so much if it means “SAHMs are contributing to the oppression of women world-wide” – middle of the road if it means “able to do whatever they want to do” – passionately pro if it means “treated with the same respect *and* censure as men” – ad infinitum. The antonym is anything that disagrees with what it is “to me”. *only half-joking grin*

    As far as marriage goes, the feminist ideal, imo, is “fulfilling a primary role but working as an equal partner in the fulfillment of all duties related to the family” – “roles” and “duties” being two very distinct and separate things.

  54. I don’t have a wife, and I don’t seem to have any problem cleaning up after myself. Or just because it needs doing. I’m cleaner than a lot of single women I know, if it makes any difference in this discussion.

  55. Jack–there’s actually an entire school of feminist thought based upon the elitism which unfortunately sometimes infiltrates feminist activism/conversation. It’s called “womanism” and it rocks. bell hooks is one of the women associated with it, if that helps at all.

  56. Re: #62: 3. I don’t live in your linear world where everything has one opposite.

    Wow, that’s a great statement. I couldn’t agree more. Although it can be a useful abtraction, sometimes complex issues cannot be simplified down to one dimension.

    How about this for a motivation to help my wife around the house: guilt (or is that the promptings of the Spirit?). I don’t see how any man could sit around while his wife does housework. If I want to be lazy I usually try to convince my wife to be lazy too. Usually it doesn’t work and I’m forced to help or feel like dirt.

  57. Janet, I had thought that womanism wasn’t so much a class issue as a racial/ethnic one. (Of course, those issues often overlap.)

  58. (Yup. Coined by Alice Walker to address needs of “women of color.” If you haven’t read “In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens,” well, it’s worth a couple hours of your life.)

  59. Julie–yeah, it started out as an ethnic offshoot of feminism, but the texts focus on class quite a bit as well. I know women of color who object to white women claiming the label and of those who happily embrace participation. Like most feminist “schools,” few hard and fast boundaries seem to hold. Oddly enough, when I’ve heard bell hooks speak in person, she extends a great deal more anti-elitist scorn on blacks she thinks guilty than the whites. I really like her, but whoo-boy, I saw her dress down this poor African American male professor so thoroughly I sort of wanted to shield him from the rhetorical arrows.

    Hmm. There’s that unhelpful smothermothering again ;)

    Womanism fits in especially well with the narratival aspects of 3rd wave feminism and thus cuts a more friendly figure to a lot of people starting out in feminist studies. Less obfuscation, less esoterica, less disembodied academia. I am happy as the next gal to read the frenchies or Judith Butler, but Womanism very much appeals to my blue-collar background self. And hey–reading Alice Walker is always a treat!

  60. Janet, I hear you. I got to listen to Renita Weems years ago and it was definitely a treat.

  61. I’m not married, just an observer. I’ve never bothered to ask personal questions about people’s experience in marriage. Well, now I really want to know.

    It seems to me, just from the observable evidence right on this thread, the men are only willing to help their wives run the home when they’re asked, or *guilted* into helping. Is that how it is?

    I’m ashamed for my sex.

  62. D.Fletcher
    Speaking for my husband, when he’s home he does most of the childcare, less of the cleaning, and virtually none of the cooking. I’m happy with this arrangement, b/c I can spend the days with my kids, but I’d rather have him play with them while they’re awake, he’s home, than have him making dinner or cleaning.
    I do ask him to do a lot of things, take out the trash, change lightbulbs, mow the lawn, hang miniblinds (which almost caused a legal separation :) He hates all of it, and lets me know it by grunting and groaning the entire time. But, I don’t stand down. I don’t keep an immaculate house, so we compromise. Neither of us likes housework, so we live in a mess most of the time.
    But, because of my asking, he hardly ever volunteers. So, I guess Mark IV (36) was right that there are more women tyrants in the home than men.
    Kaimi, thanks for the post. It’s a good idea, and one that I hope more men will adopt.

  63. Yes, it’s a small sample size. I dare the others to speak out. I’d like especially to hear from the wives.

    Come out of the woodwork, all you guys who help your wives without being asked, who change diapers, make dinner, clean the toilets, help with the homework, and still bring home the bacon, all with a smile.

  64. The opposite of “feminist” for me is “person for whom sex isn’t the most important thing you can know about a person.” I do wish words like “humanist” didn’t have the meaning they do.

    D. Fletcher: my dad cleaned and cooked all the time when I was a kid. He was a single dad — when I was in his house instead of my mom’s, it was him and me, till I was nearly 10 years old. I didn’t need to remind him to do anything except get to appointments on time: he has a terrible sense of time and is late to everything. And he and my stepmom divide tasks equally based on what they like to do — my dad likes cleaning and fixing things, my stepmom likes cooking and gardening. They were in their late 30s when they married, though, and both had been single adults living alone for at least half a decade by then. Perhaps people who marry out of the dorms (or their parents’ houses) are more likely to conform to whatever gender roles they remember from childhood, and/or just let other people (whoever they are) take care of things unless they’re put under pressure? I can tell you stories about the kinds of things dorm residents sometimes expect other people to take care of.

    On Lewis, women, and the Great Divorce (which I randomly re-read last night):
    — the first female ghost that we really meet (besides, say, the one who gets cheated out of her place in line) is found on page 59 (Touchstone edition.) She’s embarrassed because she’s so transparent, and her guide, whose sex is never made clear, tries to shake her from her self-absorption by siccing a herd of unicorns at her. No, really.
    — the next we see is a grumbler, who does nothing but complain, on page 72.
    — the third one we see spends all her time trying to attract the bright people, sexually. She is completely unaware of her transparent and pitiable status.

    Probably the most noticable thing about the Great Divorce, for me, is that women are always there as Women. That is, the Communist, the Murderer, and the Author are all male — the only time a substantial character is female is when it’s a necessary element in her personality. You can’t be a Mother and be male, you can’t be the Seductress unless you’re a girl. The closest either/or type seems to be the grumbler — but again this is a pretty stereotypically female (older, single) type. The next woman we meet after the sedeuctress is the controlling wife, on page 85. She mutters the memorable passage:

    “He’s not fit to be on his own. Put me in charge of him. He wants firm handling. I know him better than you do. What’s that? No, give him to me, do you hear? Don’t consult him, just give him to me. I’m his wife, aren’t I? I was only beginning. There’s lots, lots, lots of things I still want to do with him. No, listen, Hilda. Please, please! I’m so miserable. I must have someone to — to do things to.”
    (I love that last sentence. She actually goes on for a while in this vein, through to page 87. Hilda is incidentally the first female bright person I can remember meeting.)

    The next one we meet after that is on page 89, and it’s the mother who’d drag her son into Hell (and did her best to do that in an earthly context to her husband and daughter, after her son’s death.) After that it’s page 104 and the woman who made everyone love her (she has a train of hundreds of animals and humans singing her praises following her everywhere) who can’t be made sad by her ghost husband, who won’t give up his need to be pitied. She (and her husband) are the last new people we meet in the book, which ends on page 125.

    The “you can tell by their hunted expression” line comes from the Screwtape Letters, which I read the day before yesterday. Short books are a good choice when you’re babysitting. ^_^ The women in that book are mostly hidden: we hear a lot about the patient’s mother and later his girlfriend, but they’re not particularly relevant except as potential tools/foils for the devils’ work. We also hear about women in the context of chastity, temptations and media images that Screwtape feels are useful.

    In other Lewis texts: I don’t agree with the typical complaint that Susan is an example of misogyny (especially since Polly, Lucy, Aravis and Jill are all pretty cool) as much as that she’s an example of what Lewis thought of Fashion and trends in general. Till We Have Faces has women as people (with good and bad traits,) which I love. There aren’t any women (except amongst the aliens) in Out of the Silent Planet, and I haven’t gone and bought the next two in that series yet. I’m trying to think of other women in other Lewis books and failing, though it’s rather late where I am, so. I always thought Lewis’ biggest problem is that he just didn’t know nearly as many women as men, and had to extrapolate from some very limited information.

  65. I just want to protest the phrase “help your wives” that’s being used so often. When the family eats dinner and there are lots of dirty dishes, the dirty dishes are everyone’s. They aren’t just hers. She only ate off of one plate. When you do them, you aren’t helping her. You’re simply doing the dishes. The kids are also both of yours, not just hers. When you take care of the kids you’re not helping her, and you’re definitely not babysitting. You’re taking care of the kids.

    Similarly, if she has a job outside the home, she’s earning money, she’s not helping you earn the money. If she takes out the trash or mows the lawn, she’s not helping you do these things. Do wives ever say “i helped my husband with the trash”?

  66. “Come out of the woodwork, all you guys who help your wives without being asked, who change diapers, make dinner, clean the toilets, help with the homework, and still bring home the bacon, all with a smile.”

    Present, D!

    I guess I’m a special case, because my wife works full time and has for most of our marriage, which means we share everything. Bacon bringing, child care, lightbulb changing, laundry, all that stuff. I do more outside stuff and she does more inside stuff and I have to admit that she does more housework in general because I’m lazy like Kaimi and she’s a workaholic. I cook for the kids and for myself when she’s at work (she works a lot of evenings).

    To me, being a feminist means that I don’t force her into any role she doesn’t want. I let her live her life and don’t try to live it for her.

    Tatiana: I agree 100%. But women need to guard against that too. I have been trying, with limited success, to break my wife’s habit of saying “I need you to help me with…” whenever she asks me to do something housework or childcare related. We need to banish that language. Housework and childcare are not the exclusive province of the woman until or unless she opens the gate and allows the man to enter.

  67. re # 77, so husbands and wives can’t help each other? When they do work they are just doing work? Hopefully, at least, the effect is still that one or the other has been helped, even if it can no longer be described this way.

  68. Janet (#58), on chivalry:

    That’s an interesting question, really. I am not a medievalist…

    Nor am I a medievalist, but I do own a pair of pliers and a blowtorch. And I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

    But, possibly flawed-memories of medieval codes aside, women generally don’t enjoy the chivalric code …

    Here’s something that might be helpful to know about men who subscribe to the chivalric code: They don’t care whether women enjoy it.

    … because it puts them on a pedastool and then, in the words of Louisa May Alcott, asks them to get down on it. It’s seen as patronizing.

    Which I suppose is why all good Prairie Muffins affirm their intolerance of Louisa May Alcott. (See item 19 of the Manifesto.)

  69. Re #72. If you were directing your statement partially towards my post (#66), let me be clear that I wasn’t saying that my wife makes me feel guilty if I don’t help–but I make myself feel guilty, in the sense that I know what’s right and I want my wife to be happy because I love her so if I don’t help–I mean work beside her–then I feel guilty for ignoring what I know and for not doing what I need to do to preserve what is most important to me.

    Perhaps I used the word “guilt” too light-heartedly. I apologize.

    My point is that for me, selfishness is not the opposite of feminism because part of my motivation for doing housework is selfish, since if I don’t do it then I feel guilty for not living up to my principles.

  70. There’s this guy in my ward. He helps his wife. He’s so insensitive that way, the pig.

  71. When service is performed in the spirit of partnership rather than protection, I think things go along more nicely.

    Perhaps all women do prefer a spirit of egalitarian rights and duties rather than of romantic protection, or of some third thing that is neither–though I doubt it. But that’s not the claim that was made: the claim was that a husband could be stirred from his sloth by his sense of chivalry the way KW was stirred by his sense of feminism.

  72. I am not a feminist (in fact, given how often I find myself in vehement disagreement with the self-described feminists around the blogs I might even be an anti-feminist) yet I still feel a responsibility to help my wife with the housework. And yes, it is “helping.” The way our family works right now is that I work full time outside the home and my wife works full time inside the home (and around town taking the kids about and running errands, etc.). The housework is primarily her responsibility right now, not because she’s a woman, but because she’s the parent that stays at home. If I were the parent that stayed home it would be primarily my responsibility and the housework my wife did would be “helping” me.

    It isn’t a devotion to feminist ideals that makes me feel responsibility to help with the housework, it’s a devotion to fairness and a desire to take some of the load off of my wife and make her feel supported. I’m sure if she could take some of the load off of me in my outside-the-home responsibilities she would. And don’t tell me that fairness is feminism and I am showing devotion to feminist ideals. Feminism doesn’t get to claim every good ideal.

    I’m sure my wife would scoff if she read this because my actions probably don’t reflect my feeling of responsibility to help as much as they should. But I still feel it. And when I am helping a lot I’m not being a good feminist; I’m being a good, helpful, supportive husband. I need to be that more often.

  73. Adam(#84)–part of my response was that traditional notions of chivalry would NOT stir men from the sort of sloth to which Kaimi’s post alludes: housework. I imagine reinventions of chivalry could, though I’ve yet to see a discussion of that anywhere. Rarely do women need protection from the dirty dishes….just respite ;). There’s a sink-full emanating an evil aura towards me from the kitchen, and should anyone truly want to “save” me from them, I’d happily let you. But really, they’re an annoyance. As would be a husband who doesn’t pitch in because they don’t actually threaten my life and limb.

    But I’m still reeling from the idea that chivalric men care not a whit how women feel about their behavior. That’s the central difference I see between gst’s take on chivalry and Kaimi’s take on feminism. If chivalric men don’t care how the women feel, then their behavior likely has little to do with the women at all, and instead concerns the self. Which alarms me…as does radical feminism which expunges any discussion of partnership.

    FWIW, I think plenty of women (and men) appreciate protection when protection is needed. Feminists and non-feminists may disagree, however, on when that might be.

    gst–I also own a blowtorch. I use it to make creme brulee, but I don’t suppose Prarie Muffins make creme brulee. So doing could lead to the worship of creamy idols ;).

  74. Oh yes, I also wanted to count my DH in as a guy who helps without being asked, at least in some household arenas. He will do dishes, cook, and fix stuff without goading. He does not voluntarily clean because he generally doesn’t see that something is dirty nor the point in making a bed which will be unmade by nightfall. But–and here’s some traditional gender roles for ya–I don’t see that the tires need rotating or that the gate needs re-staining. He does, and I’m happy to “help” him if he brings such things to my attention. When it comes to rewiring stuff, he’s on his own.

  75. I would like to take credit for helping with the cooking, which I do very often, but I like to cook, so cooking gets me no brownie points. Well, it gets me brownie points with the wife, but it doesn’t make me feel like a good, helpful husband like vacuuming does.

  76. “Which alarms me…as does radical feminism which expunges any discussion of partnership.” I should add a qualification: arenas exist wherein women and men should examine the importance of self. It just shouldn’t be the primary focus in an examination of domestic union.

  77. I have to love a Mormon setting where Louisa May Alcott can be confused with Kool and the Gang, and both are seen as relevant to any question.

    No thread-jacking attempt here. Just loving this moment.

  78. D Fletcher –
    I’m married with no kids. We both work full time. Because he works longer hours, I do most of the cooking and dishes, etc because that seems fair and I prefer to eat food that I make vs food that he makes :). I do most of the heavy duty cleaning but he NEVER leaves stuff out or makes a mess and ALWAYS does his own laundry, waters the plants, and takes out the trash, all without me asking.

  79. MCQ-“To me, being a feminist means that I don’t force her into any role she doesn’t want. I let her live her life and don’t try to live it for her.”
    Well stated. Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if this was practiced on a broader scale?

    There is so much labor involved in parenting and running a household. The sexual division of labor (e.g. you’re a woman, only women do dishes OR you’re a man, only men take out the garbage) is silly but if it works for both spouses, then who’s to say it’s wrong?
    One problem with feminism (and so many other -isms) is that it frequently attempts to posit the ONE TRUE WAY. Unfortunately, rarely is life so tidy. Women who find peace and contentment in so-called “traditional” roles aren’t given much respect by some feminists.
    In my mind, true feminists allow for the multiplicity of experience across the amazing spectrum that is woman (ahhh, I’m waxing…)
    BTW, without feminism, women wouldn’t have a lot of the rights that we currently enjoy. Whether you embrace or deplore it, it’s changed the course of history for the better.

  80. BTW, without feminism, women wouldn’t have a lot of the rights that we currently enjoy. Whether you embrace or deplore it, it’s changed the course of history for the better.

    Non sequitur.

  81. Re:#86, my very egalitarian husband does indeed rescue me from the dishes in the sink in a very real way. Since I’ve been pregnant, my nose can’t get near a sink full of dishes that have been there more than a day (otherwise the sink will end up with a lot more than dirty dishes in it). He gallantly rushes in and saves the day. If I’ve been having an especially good day, I am able to ‘help’ with kitchen and bathroom work. In my normal life, we both just do what needs to be done (except that he takes out the trash because he thinks that should be his job and I can’t seem to find the decency to argue). So, is it chivalry or feminism or equalism or just love? I don’t know – you’d have to ask him.

  82. Why, why, why are you so hostile to feminism, Adam Greenwood? Conservativism isn’t an excuse for bitterness. Whatever you think is so horrible about treating women like responsible adults, out with it. Why don’t you just get it off your chest?

  83. z, Before launching your standard bombs, it would be helpful to read and take seriously all of the comments in a thread. Adam has said more than once here that feminism overall has been a net positive and has helped his marriage.

  84. Thanks, Ray, but I’m not sure feminism has been a net positive overall. I think it has helped my marriage though: feminism helped to cause a shift away from the surly-boss model of marriage (I’m exaggerating to make a point), which allows more companionship, which I enjoy and which I think makes for a better marriage; and before some of the excesses of feminism I wouldn’t be able to appreciate my wife’s non-feminism as I do.

    Also I am sometimes bitter and usually conservative and I do think its horrible to treat women like responsible adults on my chest.

  85. And why wouldn’t men be happy? We get to go to work, come home after, and be king of the castle. I can sit around and read books like an imperial scholar, or manage my fantasy football team, or compose long-winded blog posts. Meanwhile, the dishes get done, and the floors get swept, and the kids fed and bathed. It’s like magic!

    This caricature is not why married men are happier, healthier, more stable, more long-lived, more prosperous, and so on then their single counterparts.

    What are imperial scholars? Mandarins?

  86. re # 99, Whatever you think is so horrible about treating women like responsible adults, out with it.

    Is it safe to assume from this injunction that you define feminism as “treating women like responsible adults”? Is that the standard definition of feminism? If AG is hostile to feminism, are you assuming that the hostility is against this definition of feminism or some other definition of feminism? In other words, do you imagine that AG has something against treating women like responsible adults or against feminism?

  87. Who knows, john f.. I really haven’t a clue what Adam’s issue is, but I think he’s against both. That’s why I’m asking him to spell it out. I do, personally, think the feminist worldview does the most to treat women as responsible adults in the fullest sense of the term. And feminism is not responsible for the excesses carried out in its name, no more than, for example, LDS is responsible for the excesses of FLDS. I would anticipate that Adam’s critique of feminism, outside of religious arguments, rests on some notion that feminism should be held responsible for every related development since its inception, which is the classic post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Or maybe he’s holding women and not men responsible for our culture as a whole, and for the home and well-being of children, which just displays ignorance of the feminist deconstruction of that allocation of responsibility. But that’s just a guess. I’m sure Adam’s anti-feminist reasoning would make for an interesting post. He and Kaimi could debate like they do on

  88. With respect, z, don’t you think that much of the feminist critique of society rests on a shaky foundation of post hoc arguments? “I Blame The Patriarchy” isn’t just a website, it’s a way of life for lots of people.

    And I simply cannot express how much I look forward to A. Greenwood’s deconstruction of your feminist deconstruction of the allocation of responsibility. Now THAT will make for some quality reading.

  89. z., let’s put ideology and rhetoric aside. Do you really think that AG is against treating women as responsible adults?

    Also, are you saying that the definition of feminism is “treating women like responsible adults”? What I want to know is whether this is really an accurate summary of the feminism movement. Anyone can define anything in any way. If the definition of feminism is really “treating women like responsible adults” then you would be hard pressed to find any man or woman in Western society, from the Catholic Pope to President Hinckly to Jerry Falwell, who would not, under such a definition, agree that they, too, are feminists. (Of course, you will find some small percentage of true mysoginists who would recoil at that definition too.) As many disagree they are feminists, however, we can deduce that something else must be at least perceived as the definition of feminism.

  90. john f., I’m not sure whether “something else” being perceived as the definition of feminism is the responsibility of feminists to correct. Many people do not include Mormonism in the definition of a “Christian” religion, afterall.

  91. “then you would be hard pressed to find any man or woman in Western society, from the Catholic Pope to President Hinckly to Jerry Falwell, who would not, under such a definition, agree that they, too, are feminists.”

    I agree, john f. But you *would* likely encounter a great deal of disagreement regarding whether or not they are responsible adults in the same was as are men, and for that matter what the words “responsible” and “adult” signify in the sociopolitical, or religious, context. Definitional elusiveness can exhaust even the happiest of linguists ;).

    I like your idea for assessing the efficacy of a feminist movement (pick one–or a particular feminist “school”) in establishing social change. It’s way too big a topic for this thread or even a whole blog, though! If, however, the feminist mantra that “the personal is the political” holds, and if feminist men truly find impetus in feminism for sharing household drudgery with their domestic partners, then I’d say feminism has had at least one very positive social effect. There’s scores of other stuff we could look at, but in the context of Kaimi’s thread I’d say feminism has done well.

    (btw, total non sequitur, I think I used to TA your wife in high school English. Are you Ros’s BIL?)

  92. ECS, Mormons assume the responsibility and make great efforts to correct the misperception that Mormons aren’t Christians, afterall. So if it isn’t the responsibility of feminists to correct misperceptions of feminism, who’s going to do it? Who else would benefit by making the effort? Who else would care?

  93. Janet, yes I am her BiL.

    I agree that we will also have to discuss what “responsible” and “adults” mean in the definition but first we need to see if what z is doing to Adam is fair by (1) saying AG is hostile to feminism but then (2) defining feminism in a way that renders anyone who really is hostile to it a full on mysogynist.

  94. Terrified: “feminists” aren’t a monolithic force – there’s a lot of variation in the beliefs and practices of feminists. Why is it my responsibility to correct your misinterpretations of feminism? Firstly, I doubt you’d be persuaded. Secondly, I don’t really care what other people think about my beliefs. (using “you” and “your” in the general sense). I guess the real question is whether someone can call herself or himself a “feminist” if they advocate, say, the return to the Law of Coverture – where women weren’t acknowledeged as a separate entity apart from their husbands.

    The definition of feminism as “treating women as responsible adults” is pretty basic and fraught with its own definitional problems, but it’s a good a definition as any. I think it was President Nixon who said, “we’re all feminists now.” :)

  95. ECS, the problem with z’s definition is that it is a premise slipped in to her argument to force a conclusion. I do not know AG personally but my assumption is that he encourages and supports “treating women as responsible adults” and very likely actually does so in his life. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to find someone who is hostile to this maxim.

    If “treating women as responsible adults” really is a valid summary of feminism such that it can be used in a charge against an individual of being hostile to feminism, then must we assume as follows:

    “treating women as responsible adults” = believing that a fetus is not a human being

    In other words, does “treating women as responsible adults” only actually work as a definition of feminism if it can be decoded to mean the latter?

  96. Yikes! Linking “feminism” with abortion is unnecessary, and one reason why people are “terrified” of feminists.

  97. Thanks for the discussion, guys. (Oops, sexist term.) Um, thanks, guys and gals. :P


    I appreciate the point that you and others have made, repeatedly, that there are elements of certain types of feminism that potentially raise questions for church members. However, I don’t think that we have to go down that road. I’m talking about a definition of feminism that suggests that I help more evenly around the house. That’s the point of this post. I’m not talking about abortion. The element of feminism that I’m discussing here is agnostic on the issue of abortion. It would fit equally well into pro-life or pro-choice formulations (or undecided).

    To follow up on E’s, example, it would be wrong to suggest that every opponent of feminism is in favor of a return to coverture. (Anti-feminism = coverture). And it’s similarly wrong to suggest that feminism = abortion. There are a number of different substantive positions on both sides of the (somewhat fuzzy) feminist divide.

    This post isn’t about the merits of different branches of third-wave feminism and how those elements reconcile with LDS theology or politics. I’ve posted on some of that before, and may post on the topic again, but that’s not what I’m doing here.


    I think it’s equally unhelpful to suggest that Adam doesn’t want to treat women like responsible adults. It’s fine to disagree with him on the merits. In fact, I tend to think that disagreeing with Adam on the merits is usually a good sign. :P (The same applies to Steve Evans). But let’s not try to tie his ideas to extreme, silly caricatures.


    I promise, most feminists aren’t really all that scary. We’re not nearly as vehement as we’re made out to be. It’s been at least three days since I last burned a bra. (And I even let Steve Mark take it off _before_ I started burning it!)

  98. Terrified–of course, Kaimi has probably never shaved his legs, so be terrified if you must ;)

  99. Kaimi, if you don’t want to discuss it anymore I guess I’ll leave it at this: don’t you think the idea that the man should be head of the household and the woman should obey is premised on less than complete adulthood and moral agency for women? To me, submitting to someone else’s will and passing off ultimate moral responsibility to that person is what children do, not adults. The idea that non-feminists aren’t treating women as full adults is one of feminism’s core tenets, and I don’t find it offensive to suggest that Adam, as a self-avowed non-feminist, is doing that. Maybe he won’t agree, but it isn’t a caricature.

  100. Now, Janet, don’t go telling tales out of school. :P


    It’s a complicated question, and one outside the scope of the post. So it’s officially a threadjack.

    That said, I’d disagree with you on a few points.

    First, I don’t believe that Adam is in favor of compulsory male domination. He can correct me if I’m wrong. I don’t believe that he favors telling women, “you must obey your husbands, whether or not you wish to,” or authorizing husbands to force wives to submit.

    I believe (and again, I could be wrong), that his philosophy basically holds that women _should_ accept a different role than men. That women’s role should be primary nurturer, point person in the household, and generally submit to a husband’s authority on some matters. I think that he operates under this model in his own family, and believes that it works well.

    If his wife _agrees_ that he’s to be in charge of bringing home the bacon, and that she’s the one who cooks the bacon (so to speak), is it really our role to tell her that her views of marriage are incorrect? At some level, that becomes awfully patronizing and actually disrespects his wife’s agency.

    On the broader question, yes, I think that women should have an opportunity to develop as they believe is appropriate for them. If they wish to participate more in marital governance (so to speak), they should have that option. If they wish to carve out a role in marriage that is less domestic, they should have that choice. I think we’re on the same page here.

    On the other hand, I think you’re overstating the harm, pretty drastically.

    Take your line, “don’t you think the idea that the man should be head of the household and the woman should obey is premised on less than complete adulthood and moral agency for women?”

    Come on. People just “obey” all the time, in just about every facet of life. My employer tells me what to do, and I obey. The dean is the head of the school, and tells me what classes to teach. Of course, this process is collaborative, and I make suggestions and give feedback and so on — but at the end of the day, he commands and I obey. Does that make me less than a complete adult or moral agent? The governor and legislature command — I can’t drive 75 in a 35 zone; I can’t sell cocaine; I can’t marry polygamously.

    The command-obey relationship governs what, 97% of everyone’s daily life — male, female, everyone. It doesn’t by its nature — by the fact that one person obeys another — inherently undercut the human worth of the obeying person.

    This isn’t to say that some relationships can’t be oppressive, harmful to our dignity or human worth, and so on. Many relationships are, and that’s bad. But that stems from a variety of other factors — power disparities in the relationship, inability to raise concerns, lack of consent, physical or emotional coercion.

    I’ve known Adam for a few years. I have no reason to suspect that he beats his wife to make her wash the dishes. If she’s happy in their relationship (and I’ve seen every indication that she is), it’s patronizing to suggest that she’s not a full adult or moral agent.

  101. All it takes for you to know that Adam treats his wife like a child is his saying that he’s not a feminist?

    And where are these “core tenets” written?

  102. The idea that Jews are hooked-nose grubbers for money is one of anti-semitism’s core tenets and I don’t find it offensive to suggest that self-avowed Jews are doing just that. Maybe Jews won’t agree, but it isn’t a caricature.

  103. #96 Women can vote, are no longer treated as property (in many countries), can own their own property, cannot be raped within marriage, can enter universities and professions previously closed to their sex, have access to effective birth control, etc. I call these positive gains. Is this a logical fallacy because I didn’t qualify all the other potential detrimental effects of feminism (which, clearly, do exist)?

    I understand being put off by a term that has been manhandled :( However, I do think that with the multiplicity of feminisms out there that most men would be able to agree with at least one tenet.

  104. re # 114, ECS, please do not misunderstand me. Given z’s posturing with regard to AG, I am just exploring the boundaries of this definition of feminism.

    If a person wishes to treat women as responsible adults but nevertheless believes that a fetus is a human being and therefore cannot be killed without triggering legal consequences, then would this belief, under z’s definition of feminism, contradict the person’s desire to treat women as responsible adults or rather, would z consider this belief evidence that the person does not actually desire to treat women as responsible adults?

    This abortion thing was just one example of many that could be chosen to probe what this definition of feminism actually entails, especially as it was used on this thread to identify AG’s hostility to feminism (i.e. the claim that AG has something against “treating women as responsible adults”).

  105. Kaimi, I’m not talking about abortion either except to ferret out the substance behind what is claimed by z to be the definition of feminism. Abortion was just an example; others could have been used.

  106. I don’t think it’s patronizing. I think it’s the result of false consciousness i.e. she seems to have internalized a bunch of sexist ideas, but false consciousness is something that happens to the best of us. Women are capable of being sexist, and of applying sexist ideas to themselves even to their detriment. Also, it’s not a fully free choice to the extent that it’s the result of indoctrination by a sexist society, and a result of the economic disparities caused by a sexist society.

    The thing that makes gendered marital obedience different from the other types of obedience you list is that they’re not premised on essentialist claims. Nobody thinks there’s something very special about students that means they ought to obey deans. It’s just a contract. Gendered marital obedience isn’t contractual in the same way if it’s premised on essentialism or a religious idea that a deity wants women to obey men. In short, it’s not the obedience itself, but the reasons behind it. Marital obedience is based on the claim that things will go better if the man has ultimate decisionmaking responsibility. How could that be anything but a claim that women’s ability is inferior, and that women are better off not making their own decisions?

    Anyway, it’s a threadjack, so help yourself to the last word if you like. I do think it would be interesting for you and Adam to debate– I guess what annoys me the most is Adam’s constant anti-feminism in the absence of a full articulation of his views. It’s difficult to debate him under those circumstances.

  107. Women can vote, are no longer treated as property (in many countries), can own their own property, cannot be raped within marriage, can enter universities and professions previously closed to their sex, have access to effective birth control, etc

    This depends on how you define feminism. If by feminism you mean ‘beliefs that have improved the status of women’ then you’re partly* right, though that’s a pretty silly definition.

    *partly right because some of the good and the evil that feminists have advocated would have happened regardless of their advocacy.

  108. “The command-obey relationship governs what, 97% of everyone’s daily life — male, female, everyone. It doesn’t by its nature — by the fact that one person obeys another — inherently undercut the human worth of the obeying person.”

    Of course, Kaimi, there’s an essential (ahem) difference between obedience based on relationships which are subject to change (boss/employee, teacher/student) and one based on unchanging sexual identity. I can’t speak for her/him, but I think z may be referring to the oft-cited idea that men ultimately hold spiritual responsibility for the welfare of their families. By serving as “head of household” the man protects the woman–as he does the children–from full accountability for her choices. I’d call that the insulting face of chivalry once again, because I don’t want to be protected from my accountability to God except for by the grace of the Saviour. Shielding me from God keeps me from God, perhaps? Either way, I don’t think z was really alluding to housework so much as theology.

    I am happy to grant, however, that most men and women who’ve offered to me the “men protect women by being head of households” argument did so without the slightest nefarious intent and that they seemed to generally enjoy happy marriages, although not ones in which I could exist. I don’t doubt that Adam treats his wife well. But I think z’s point about infantilizing women wasn’t aimed directly at Adam. Or I hope not. Personally, I find questioning an identified individual’s standing as a good spouse discomfitting. I prefer hypotheticals, especially when I lack essential knowledge.

  109. non sequitur, but in our house the 4-month old does all the commanding. We’re infantilized by the infant? Sorry, couldn’t resist ;)

  110. john f., I don’t think it necessarily entails being pro-choice, but I think treating women as adults would rule out certain types of abortion restrictions. For example, one couldn’t allow abortion only with male approval, because that would be premised on the idea that men are capable of making that type of decision but women aren’t.

  111. By serving as “head of household” the man protects the woman–as he does the children–from full accountability for her choices.

    Were the Nephites not fully responsible for their choices because Jacob was spiritually responsible for their welfare? Are you infantilized and demeaned because Christ has taken you into his charge?

  112. re # 123, I see that in # 117 z decodes “treating women as responsible adults” with reference to patriarchy in the homes of the religious. Again, I am not equating abortion with feminism except as an example to find out what was meant by “treating women as responsible adults”.

  113. I don’t know, Janet. Is that really the idea? It’s easy to criticize, but I think it’s a straw man.

    If my wife decides to go commit some sin, am I really on the hook for that? I don’t think there’s support for this view in traditional LDS theology.

    Of course, if I aid and abbett in some way, I may be implicated. If I’m buying the beer and she’s drinking it, then I may be on the hook. But if she just decides to go buy and drink her own beer — um, what is it that suggests that I’m culpable?

    Ultimately — and I’m a bad person to be explaining and defending this, but I’ll try anyway — I think that a traditional LDS view would have the husband make certain decisions. Where to work; where to live; what kind of car to buy. Some spiritual decisions as well — he’s supposed to lead in family prayer, family home evening. That doesn’t get the wife off the hook for those, though. If the husband doesn’t call family prayer, then she does.

    So, I’m failing to see the instances in which the husband really stands between the wife and God. He presides in the making of a bunch of decisions which are helpful, but ultimately non-essential to salvation. In all salvific decisions — having faith, repenting of sins, being baptized, and so forth — the wife’s ultimate status is entirely based on her own decisions and actions.

  114. “? Are you infantilized and demeaned because Christ has taken you into his charge?”

    Adam, I think I answered your question with this portion of my comment: ” . . . because I don’t want to be protected from my accountability to God except for by the grace of the Saviour. ”

    Christ is my mediator and saviour. I do not require another.

  115. treating women as adults would rule out certain types of abortion restrictions. For example, one couldn’t allow abortion only with male approval, because that would be premised on the idea that men are capable of making that type of decision but women aren’t.

    Huh? That would only be the case if the restriction were that the father got to decide but the mother didn’t, or if the mother just had to get the permission of a man, any man, to abort the fetal child. But that’s light years away from reality. A few states have tentatively considered requiring a mother to *notify* the spousal father before getting an abortion, with lots of caveats and exceptions. A Pennsylvania requirement to this effect was struck down in Casey I think there might be a few places that have this kind of requirement. I don’t believe any state or locality requires spousal consent or the consent of an unmarried father.

  116. A fine sentiment, though, I would argue, at root a Protestant one. But I do think it undercuts your position that having anyone be spiritually responsible for your welfare removes your moral agency and your adulthood. Christ did say that he wants us to be as little children but I don’t think he meant that he intended to infantilize us by giving us his help.

  117. Kaimi–I don’t actually think the “protection” argument I’ve often heard cited is *inherent* in the church’s direction that men preside in the home. But as the multiplicity of ‘nacle discussions on the meaning of “preside” reveal, we can’t be sure. Nobody seems to pin down exactly what that slippery little beast of a word means! I just know that many people have presented the reasoning I glossed as theology. I agree with you; people are responsible for their own choices. To whatever degree they are not–factoring in mitigating genetic, cultural, or other situational influences–nobody but Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father can tell. We have to operate without their insight on others’ souls, though they kindly reveal insight into our own.

    Dang, I’m sounding preachy. Sum up: I was referencing folk theology.

  118. I think the point you’re missing, Adam, is that men aren’t regularly asked to have women mediate between them and the divine. Christ mediates (for believers) without regard to gender. When it’s suggested that women aren’t being treated as full adults, the metric is how men are being treated. (Just a little norm of masculinity for ya.)

  119. Adam–oh, compared to Christ I AM an itty bitty baby and am quite happy with the comparison. A *human* adult is still *childlike* to deity, yes? I find 1 Cor. 14:20 helpful in this context: “be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” Of course, I’m a baby compared to deity in understanding as well, but when God asks us to be childlike in malice I assume it’s because so doing augments the ability to gain further understanding. The combination of the guileless hearts and growing intellect joined with grace eventually make us like God. Or at least that’s how I read the NT in combo with Joseph Smith. I suppose that last part is where I deviate from protestantism–teleology of diefication.

    And now I’m threadjacking. It’s interesting though, to ponder the paradox of the childlike road to becoming a God.

    Sorry, KW, I’ll stop now. Cheers to you all–I’ve got to answer to that “boss” whose nap is ending.

  120. Mother love and feminity are aspects of divinity that are in fact mediated by women in my opinion. I don’t learn them ineffably from the upswellings of my communion with Christ, at least not entirely (my upswellings are awesome but not that awesome). I learn them through my mother and my wife.

  121. And Kaimi, I do think presiding means women have less responsibility. Let’s say, for example, that the man wants to buy a Ford Pinto. The woman says this is a dumb idea, but because he’s supposed to preside, she goes along with it. Then it blows up and someone is killed. She’s not responsible, because of the priesthood, even though she went along with a dumb idea, right? In a model of equal decision-making responsibility, wouldn’t she be half responsible?

  122. To briefly follow on 137 (and introduce yet another threadjack) — various commenters have suggested that Heavenly Mother’s role in the Godhead is that She is the Holy Ghost. This has been suggested by a lot of people who have written about Heavenly Mother. (A few of them have been subject to church discipline; but the idea has also been suggested by a number of active LDS commenters).

    If that’s the case, then just about _all_ of our experiences with God are mediated by a Woman. Everything except for pure theophanies (such as the First Vision) would be woman-mediated.

  123. But not mediated by a human woman, Kaimi. It’s a totally different experience from being asked to place a fellow human being who’s ostensibly an equal in a mediating position. And Adam, you may find that your experiences are mediated by human women, but that’s not by order of a massive matriarchy that will throw you out for rejecting that mediation. Nobody’s forcing that upon you.

  124. Sure, Z (141). For that particular decision, he’d have more responsibility.

    Now, suppose that the mother decides to raise the kids a certain way. She decides to raise them with no spanking, for instance, or to home school, or to feed them brownies every day at 2:30 p.m. Or whatever. She’d be on the hook for the outcomes of those decisions, wouldn’t she?

    The traditional model (and again, I find it funny that I’m defending it, because I’m not really a proponent of it — but I do think your critique is incorrect) divides responsibilities in certain ways. Sure, some decisions will be more the responsibility of one party. But only some.

    If anything, I think the traditional model may put _more_ responsibility ultimately on the woman. The man makes a lot of trivial decisions — where to work, whether to move, how to pay taxes. Meanwhile, the mother makes the decisions with the furthest-ranging eternal consequences — how to raise the children. She’s the primary decisionmaker there, and has ultimate responsibility in that sphere.

  125. Z,

    Do you really think (to follow your implication) that there’s a massive patriarchy that will throw women out [of where?] if they reject the idea that spirituality is to be mediated by human men [husbands]? Is that really your claim?

  126. I’m not sure– I’m not in any real position to defend or even define the traditional model, but isn’t it the case that presiding includes the right to make decisions about how children are raised? I don’t think a mother could home-school or whatever without having at least implicit authorization. Are you really saying “presiding in the home” doesn’t include responsibility for the things you list?

  127. In councils, the president of the council is individually responsible for the decision made and the members of the council are individually responsible for the counsel they gave. There is probably also a kind of collective responsibility that doesn’t adhere to anyone individually but I’m still thinking it over.

    There is no model of group decisionmaking that can make every member of the group fully responsible for the decision, unless the group does not make a decision unless every member of the group is fully agreed and unless no member of the group agrees until that member is fully convinced that the decision is the correct one irrespective of the need to compromise with the other members.


    I’m bowing out of this discussion. We’ve had a million feminism debates and every last one of them has been utterly pointless. If you really think you have some new point I need to consider, email me at adam at times and seasons dot org
    Z, you can send your mindless vitriol there too if it will make you feel any better.

  128. Well, I don’t think the existence of a massive patriarchy can really be disputed. And at least in the eyes of said patriarchy, an important part of what it means to be a Mormon is to recognize the existence of the priesthood and its implications for mediated spirituality. “Throw out” was an exaggeration, I suppose, but I think the experience Adam describes is qualitatively different from having one’s spirituality mediated by order of an institution.

  129. Like I said, Adam, I’d love to know where your utter disdain for feminism comes from. You seem to stick around long enough to disparage it, but not to articulate your own position. Do you really think it’s all been utterly pointless, even though you say it’s helped your marriage?

  130. Since Adam has bowed out of this, let’s close the “what Adam believes” threadjack. If he wishes to address that topic in more detail, I’m sure he’ll post or comment on it; absent that, it’s not really a topic any of us are well qualified to discuss.

  131. #126 Partly right and espousing silly definitions–you left off thick-skinned :)
    I’m not going to argue definitions of feminism as there are too many to do so in a blog format. Regardless, I find the argument that the history of women would have played out the same with or without the advocacy of feminists as very strange.

  132. I come late to this discussion, but see that not too much new ground has been covered. Seems like it’s pretty difficult these days to get women much worked up about the cause. How long has it been since there was a feminist demonstration at General Conference? Does anyone seriously wish to characterize, say, President Hinckley, or perhaps President Eyring, as some kind of tyrannical despot of patriarchy?

    I would suggest that the opposite of feminism is well characterized in the scriptures and doctrines of the Church, and succinctly described in Doctrine and Covenants section 84, verse 110 — “…the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect.”

  133. Well thought out argument Kaimi, now we just need to convince all women to support a patriarchy as masculinists and we will all be perfect.

    I believe the opposite of Feminism is humanism.

    The sadness of the women\’s movement is that they don\’t allow the necessity of love. See, I don\’t personally trust any revolution where love is not allowed.
    -Maya Angelou, I know why the caged bird sings.

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