Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The I in Team

I spent Sunday afternoon attending the bridal shower of a close friend. It was an old-school shower, the kind held in the fellowship hall of a church, filled with an interesting mix of girlfriends and church ladies. Halfway through the event, one of the church ladies gave a devotional on the characteristics of a "good wife." Some of the attributes were hard to disagree with: Compassion, kindness, wisdom. Then she requested that other married women in the group give the bride their best marriage advice. At this point, a word kept coming up that made me a little nauseous. Submission.

"Submit to your husband."
"Let your husband be the leader of the home."
"Allow your husband to guide you."
"Give him the final decision."
"The husband is the head of the household."
"Order your home as God intended."

I watched the bride nod politely, and I hoped she wasn't buying the advice wholesale. Another friend leaned over, "I'm going to lose it here in a minute." As I sat listening to their words, I remembered why I grew up with a screw-that attitude toward marriage. On one hand, marriage was billed as the spiritual and physical joining of two lives. On the surface, that sounds like an equal partnership, except for the little matter of the philosophy that god made men leaders and they should be in charge of everything in the household, including the woman. Ummm, sorry, count me out.

Plenty of religious texts support either implicitly or explicitly the idea that men are somehow more valuable than women in this capacity (plus, if the woman is busy making babies, like she's supposed to, how is she going to have time to be an equal partner??) Most ancient cultures were patriarchal in nature. Of course the men writing the texts were going to hear their god(s) tell them to stay in control. And might I point out, there were also rules about keeping women away from others during their periods and after childbirth and forcing women and men to worship separately, both of which we mostly no longer observe. If we've been capable of identifying other ideas as culturally obsolete, why can't some people see that subjugation of women in marriage is equally ridiculous? Women run companies and countries. Women are as intellectually and emotionally capable as men. So, why then wouldn't women be able to lead a home with her husband?

What about teamwork? I see myself as more valuable than a supporting player always being told to pass the ball to the star of the team, even when I have an open shot. Maybe this idea worked when a girl was passed from her father's house to her husband's. But in a world where most people don't get married until many years later, those old philosophies just don't work. I love B. more than anything, and I love all the little ways in which he makes me feel cared for, but I've been taking care of myself on my own for more than a decade. I don't need or want someone to make decisions for me (except maybe which restaurant to eat in). I don't want to acquiesce simply because I'm a woman and he's a man. I won't be a second-class citizen in my own home.

To the bride, if she's reading, I'd say what I didn't have the opportunity to say that day: Make your marriage a parliamentary democracy. Discuss the pros and cons of decisions together and make decisions based on logic rather than which partner thought of the solution. Be all of those other great things, compassionate, kind, and wise. If you truly want the best for each other, finding satisfying compromises for the daily issues of life will come easier. When they don't come easy, keep talking it out. Hold onto each other and float, rather forcing one person to swim and pull the other along. No one need "wear the pants" in the relationship; share the pants. If anyone must submit, keep it in the bedroom. *wink*


  1. i can't believe you said "share the pants" hahaha

    i don't get why you can't just accept it that we women are only meant to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. you dreamer, you ;) haha

  2. I agree, and having been married for just shy of 5 years now, I can say that we make decisions together and butt heads over the small stuff, but the major stuff we can usually agree on. We share the responsibilities and the struggles. He did find me barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen once and had to comment on it, but I hold as much stake in the relationship as he does. Love ya!