First of all, I want to address a comment that I keep getting on posts like this one: that Helen Andelin (or someone like her) doesn’t speak for modern, mainstream evangelicalism. That all of these women and men hold to rather extreme positions and the bulk of evangelicals today disagree with them. And, in one way, that is absolutely correct. They are extreme. They made their money and got to where they are today by being extreme.
However, and I’ve said this before and I will say it until I am blue in the face: For every single concept Helen has promoted in this book, there is a modern evangelical person making the same exact argument.
I’d like everyone, before we get into today’s post, to read “When a Woman Makes a lot of Money,” by Mary Kassian, published in June last year. Mary Kassian also published a book with Nancy Leigh DeMoss last year called True Woman 101: Divine Design, and you can find two posts I wrote critiquing an online interview they had with Focus on the Family here and here. Read through everything that they said, and tell me that what they say aren’t the same exact arguments Helen’s been making. They talk about how being “strong and independent” can only lead to “dysfunction” and ultimately depression and suicide. They say that not adhering to old-fashioned gender roles will make your children gay. They tell women in abusive marriages to “lay down their rights.” How is any of that substantively different from what Helen’s been saying?
And, they even say this:
Don’t make decisions based on practicality. You may have a job where you earn more money than your husband, and it may be practical for you to go out and earn the money and for him to stay home. But there’s something in terms of identity that you’re going against when you do that . . . Women have a unique and specific responsibility for the home in a way that men do not have.
Helen says this, almost word-for-word. And Kassian, in the article I linked to, said this:
Because when you boil it right down, you’re not going to be satisfied with a man who’s a beta boy. Deep down, every woman wants her man to be a man. And you’ll only inspire him to be a man when you act like a woman . . . when you choose to stand against culture and embrace, delight, and live according to God’s created design.
And you’ll only inspire him to be a man when you act like a woman.
That’s the only message in Helen’s book, really. She harps on it every single chapter:
When a man is in the presence of a tender, trustful, dependent woman, he immediately feels a sublime expansion of his power to protect and shelter this frail and delicate creature. In the presence of such weakness, he feels stronger, more competent, bigger, manlier than ever.
Yes, the language Helen is using is right out of the 60s. But it’s the same idea. And who are the people making this argument today? Focus on the Family. Moody Publishers. John Piper. Mark Driscoll. Some of the biggest, most influential people and organizations in evangelical culture are simply presenting the same argument in 2010 language. And if I sound frustrated, it’s because I’m terrified.
Anyway, on to the actual chapter for this week. It’s about everything you could have expected: she lays out all the reasons a woman that could possibly justify a woman working outside the home, and it’s when your family is destitute and starving, you are putting your husband through college, or if you have no children at home (although she warns that you must be available to your children and grandchildren at all times).
Then we get the reasons for why you should never work, and one of them is “to do something important.” If a woman wants to make noble contributions, to use her gifts, talents, abilities, skills, or intelligence to try to make the world a better place: nope. You have a “false notion.” As amazing as curing cancer might be, you must be in the “simple routine of your home,” because, if you aren’t, your children are going to hell. No, really. That’s what she says. Then she goes on to give a few pages of quotes from “career women” who regretted having careers.
She also, fascinatingly, brings up something some of you have mentioned: someone apparently pointed out the hypocritical contradiction of telling other women that they’re not allowed to be career women when she herself is a career woman. Her response is hysterical:
Call me what you like, business executive, career woman, or working wife, but I never looked at it this way. To me it has been a mission of charity . . . the personal sacrifice has been well worth it.
I never wanted to be a career woman, see? I wanted to be a stay-at-home wife! That’s what makes it ok! I didn’t want to do this. It was a sacrifice, a necessary evil!
Uh-huh. Keep telling yourself that.
Then she moves on to the age-old question: should daughters be allowed to go to college? Answer: no. Because it could make her independent (“by doing so she loses her need for manly care”), she could escape her marriage (“the ability to make money can be a dangerous thing for a woman”), and she’d lose out on the opportunity to read lots and lots of literature! (apparently, it “makes you more interesting” to men).
Also, if women go out to work, it could “rob your husband of his right” to be needed and masculine, and you could even lose your “womanliness” and your “charm.” (charm = attractiveness to men, as defined by Helen). Also, you’re destroying society when you work and wrecking untold damage on our national economy (something she says with absolutely nothing to support her).
So, there you have it, all you women who work: you’re hurting men, making yourself unattractive, and you’re also ruining the United States economy. Go you.