No More Wimpy Woman

workout

In my Christian community, marriage meant wives stayed home while the husbands took home the bacon. If a woman felt slighted or discomfited by her role as a homemaker-only, patriarchal apologists pointed back to the curse: “Men received the curse of toiling in the fields. Women received the curse of pain in childbirth. Why would you want the double-curse of childbirth pain and working?”

Leaving aside the terrible theology and exegesis of that claim, this idea made for some pretty entitled women. I frequently heard of the relief of new wives finally getting to quit their jobs once they married, now that their husbands provided for them. They lauded the pleasures of having their husbands make hard decisions for them so that they didn’t have to worry about them. They enjoyed having doors opened for them, their seats pulled out and pushed in, their bags carried, etc. Men took out the trash, mowed the lawn, fixed the broken appliances, and did the dirty, hard things of life that women were too weak (or lazy) to do.

I am one such entitled woman. My father is an excellent, hardworking man. He would fill up my car with gas, take care of finances, run errands, and fix whatever I broke without me asking. I never took out the trash, mowed the lawn, fixed a broken doorknob, or checked my car oil. My dad mediated much of the stress of life for me as I transitioned into adulthood. And I’m not going to lie — I miss my dad’s mediation between me and the hard, dirty, frustrating things of life.

One of the things I miss the most is my dad’s legendary insistence that he drive. I hate driving in the city, whether it’s a tiny college town or a metropolitan area, but particularly a metropolitan area. Erich hates driving in the city. In both of our families, our dads do the driving. I grew up expecting my future husband to slay the dragon of city-driving for me. But here I am, married to a man with a hatred of city-driving that probably surpasses mine.

Erich and I just spent the entirety of yesterday visiting apartments, driving a car without air conditioning in the boiling summer sun, in the craziest traffic, and in some sketchy parts of the city. We were sweaty, cranky, discouraged, and exhausted. And we never wanted to venture into the city again.

As we lay in bed recovering from the insanity that was yesterday, Erich said, “Can you please drive tomorrow?” I said yes, but only because I loved him and knew it was only fair for me to shoulder an equal portion of that stress. And as I lay in bed dreading the coming apartment hunt and city driving of tomorrow, I thought about all the things I’ve had to do in my egalitarian marriage.

I work hard to provide for us. I take out the trash. I carry heavy boxes when we move and fit seven grocery bags over each arm after shopping. I troubleshoot my numerous car problems. I handle the finances. Erich expects me to know self-defense and city smarts to protect myself when he’s not around. He wants me to play hard and get dirty. He can’t/won’t solve all my problems or do all the things I don’t want to do. We make our decisions together. Neither one of us gets to quit and leave the other person to handle the hard things alone. We’re in this together.

That sounds cute: “We’re in this together.” But it’s hard. Life is hard, and yes, it feels like a curse sometimes. There have been numerous times when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and say, “Erich, you make this decision. You do this thing. You drive the car. I can’t handle this anymore.”

But that’s not my natural feminine weakness demonstrating the God-given order of male leadership and relieved female submission. That’s my lazy, frustrated, quitter side popping up to remind me that I’m not perfect and I’ve got plenty of growing up left to do. That’s not femininity. That’s being a pansy.

In my egalitarian marriage, our union isn’t about Erich doing the hard things and slaying the dragons for me. We do the hard things together. We slay the dragons together. We lift each other up when the other one falls (or sits down and throws a tantrum). And I’m growing in my character because of it. Hard work is a good, needed thing in my life. As much as I hate it, it needs to be done.

I can’t play the gender trump card to get out of growing up and getting dirty, because I am a woman, made in the image of a strong God. Because I am a woman, a human, an ezer, a strength equal to my man, I can endure, conquer, and get over myself. City driving, here I come.

// More on egalitarian marriage and coming out egalitarian

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12 thoughts on “No More Wimpy Woman

  1. Erin S.

    Marriage is hard, no matter what, and I think both sides of the coin would agree on that! Either way, you are dying to your sinful self in some way. Egalitarian marriage is tough in part because it requires conscious, continuous active mutual participation in a manner different from complimentarian marriage. It might be equally hard depending on the person, but I feel like different muscles are exercised in eg. vs comp. marriages. Instead of the (very hard) struggle to submit to my husband, I find it’s more challenging struggling to find compromise that will respect both of us. Some people have said (to me directly) that it’s impossible to do so, especially in big decisions – one person *must* be the one to make the final call. While that could be true depending on the circumstances, I think it’s possible more often than people might think; it just takes far more work and discussion and “hashing it out”. For example, technically, *I* was the one who ultimately made the decision about which job offer I accepted. But I made the decision based on what my husband and I discussed, and we came to a mutual agreement on what would be the best decision for me and the two of us. Same with many other major (and minor) life decisions we’ve had to make.

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    • Bailey Steger

      I agree that compromise is completely possible! Erich and I spent the entire day at loggerheads with each other over what apartment we wanted to rent. Finally, after discussion, compromise, a list of pros and cons, and feeling like we weren’t getting anywhere, we reached a decision. Hard, but totally possible!

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  2. milkandpickles

    Your dad sounds just like my dad. Especially with the driving everywhere and filling up the cars with gas. :)

    I would be interested to read your definition of what exactly egalitarianism IS. I’ve kind of associated the word with people like Rachel Held Evans, but what you describe sounds much closer to what actually happens in our marriage, though I’ve always thought of myself as leaning a bit more toward the complementarian side of things, as I grew up in a family very similar to yours. Do you mind doing something like an “Introduction to Egalitarianism” post for those of us who haven’t done all the reading and researching you have?

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    • Bailey Steger

      Yay for great dads!

      I can do an Egalitarianism 101 post. :) Interestingly, I agree with Rachel Held Evans 100% on women’s issues and pretty much everything else (more hesitant about LGBT+ issues than she, though). To tide you over before I write the main post, egalitarianism, for me, is simply the emphasis of person over system/roles/hierarchy/stereotypes/anything. Egalitarianism seeks to understand the person as a *person first,* with his/her femininity or masculinity subordinate to and defined by his/her person, not the other way around. In other words, egalitarians don’t believe in a uniform “Biblical womanhood or manhood”: women ought to do/be X because they’re female; men ought to do/be X because they’re male. What you ought to do and be is dependent on who you are as a *person.* Egalitarian marriage, then, would be a marriage that does not box the husband and wife into predecided roles, but rather allows both to use their gifts to work together outside of set gender roles or associations, with the goal being ultimate unity and growth. Check out this post for more on that: https://weareezer.com/2016/06/10/an-egalitarian-wife-submission/

      Many complementarian couples emphasize the unity and oneness of marriage over headship/submission and are effectively egalitarian in practice, so it makes sense that you’d resonate with an egalitarian marriage even while leaning complementarian! :)

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    • Erin S.

      I’ve probably not done as much research as Bailey, but what she’s mentioned is similar to how my marriage plays out. In many senses, I follow the complementarian model on the surface because of how many things fall out between my husband and I, to the point that I might be able to concede that we have elements of complementarian in our marriage – we’ve taken the good we’ve seen from our parents’ marriages and left out the bad. But I think we diverge when it comes to motivation. The decisions and roles and tasks we take on in my marriage are all centered on growing in unity and oneness. Yes, complementarians seek unity, but it’s different and falls along more defined, distinct roles that do not vary as much from person to person and do not always reflect the actual unique different personalities and gifts each person has. I embrace egalitarianism because it acknowledges that while there is man and woman and both are different than the other, within each there are a whole host of variations (personality, gifts, strengths, weaknesses) from man to man or woman to woman and neither can be put in a box that says “this is the (only) role of woman” and “this is the (only) role of man” in the marriage. In my marriage, we make decisions and divvy up roles in a way that respects who we each are individually as a person but also in a way that will bring us to more oneness and unity. This does not always fall along set lines of gender-specific roles. (Boy this was a rambley comment – sorry)

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  3. Ruxee

    Hey there, Bailey!
    Another post I love (btw, I actually used a little bit of it into an encouragement card for my hubby!! The “we both slay dragons” part – it’s so cool that he does not feel intimidated/ dominated that I say that, but so encouraged! even though we were both brought up super-complementarian).

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  4. Allison Caylor

    As a wife who stays at home and thinks Paul’s instructions on husbands’ headship was meant for the church all the way to the end, I usually don’t comment here, because I know this blog isn’t at all meant for a complementarianism vs. egalitarianism debate. (It’s just that I still love your thought-provoking writing, even though we’ve both changed so much over the past decade or so!) But I do have a perspective that I think might be helpful here.

    Let me gently point out that you have never had children. I hadn’t either until about a month ago. I grew up in a close family with many siblings, and I thought I had a good grasp on all that was involved with raising them. Then I got pregnant. And gave birth. And took care of a baby through his first six weeks of life. Not only has it all been the. hardest. thing. I’ve ever gone through, it’s been harder than I even imagined anything could be. And that’s with a healthy baby and wonderful, loving husband who does everything he can to make it easier for me! Even people try to communicate it, I simply couldn’t conceive of the massive, ceaseless sacrifice that motherhood is, physically and emotionally — and this is with only one child, too small to throw fits, break bones, get his heart broken, or struggle with life’s big questions.

    Just being a young wife was awesome. I worked hard, but I was taken care of and made happy by my husband while he led and protected me. And he still does — but though he adores our little boy and does everything he can for him, he can’t be this child’s mother. He couldn’t throw up constantly for me during pregnancy, he couldn’t take the naps I desperately needed, and even if I worked, I would still be the one to nurse our little one, think of everything bad that could happen to him, notice all the little details of his well-being, cry when he’s in pain, and already dread his moving away someday. And all that would be on top of helping provide financially and being ultimately responsible for our family.

    This observation hasn’t come from my theology, but from my practical experience. The woman can bear the man’s traditional burdens with him — she can make money and decisions and do dirty work and fix cars. And yes, the man can give bottles, jiggle fussy babies, and take the kids away for a while. But try as they might, they simply can’t share the work of bearing and rearing young children in the intimate, ceaseless way that a mother does.

    There are two cents from an acknowledge complementarian. (Although I’d prefer to say that I take Ephesians 5 in a straightforward, face-value way.) I so admire your deep thinking and devotion to Christ and enjoy reading this blog.

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    • Bailey Steger

      I actually don’t disagree with you, Allison! As an egalitarian, I don’t believe that men and women are *the same* but rather that they are equal and have more in common than they do not in common. Motherhood and fatherhood are not at all interchangeable (even though it’s completely possible for a single parent to raise their children well). If I’m ever blessed with children, I plan on staying home and focusing on the babies through the most crucial bonding years where the baby is more dependent on me as the mother. Erich and I would then love to both work part-time to be home with the children as much as possible after that. We’ll see how things shake out after that — we’re planning on me staying home and homeschooling the kids through at least their elementary years while he works, but we’ll see! Both of us are nurturing individuals who want to play big roles in raising and teaching our children. :)

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      • Allison Caylor

        So sorry to reply so late — it’s that new mom thing I was talking about. :)

        Thank you for sharing about y’all’s plans. It helps me better understand where you’re coming from. I would like to clarify what I meant by going on about how difficult a mother’s work is. It isn’t unfair for women to let men shoulder the rough burdens of life — protection, moving furniture, whatever you want to put in that category. When a man changes a woman’s oil, carries her bags, or even opens the door for her, though he may not know it, what he’s really doing is acknowledging the tremendous, painful, irreplaceable work that is motherhood. Even if this particular woman isn’t a mother, she may have been or may yet be, and the toil of her sex is so great and so honorable that all he can do for her isn’t too much.

        Of course a woman shouldn’t be a wimp. When not pregnant or chasing after young children in the moment, it is indeed lazy and selfish to expect your husband (or brother, or father) to do everything you dislike, simply because you’re female. Jump in and lift that couch, mow that grass, change that oil, navigate that freeway, if the occasion calls for it — consider that man of more importance than yourself (according to Paul’s instructions to all believers in Philippians 2). But if he lets you into the lifeboat first, realize that it’s an honor and protection of your incredible work, not a fault of your selfish weakness, that’s at work.

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      • Bailey Steger

        That’s interesting! I see more of where you’re coming from now; thank you for clarifying! Personally, I would rather be honored on account of being me, not on account of my procreative ability. I would rather a man let me into the lifeboat first or hold open a door on account of Philippians 2, like you mentioned, than on account of having ovaries and a uterus. :) I can certainly see the appeal and depth of that symbolism, however!

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