The Handmaid’s Tale may be fiction, but the world of Gilead is closer than you think.
Meet the “stay-at-home daughters,” a.k.a. “Daughters of the Patriarchy”: a modern generation of women who are raised without any education other than limited homeschooling, or any expectation in life except to marry young, manage a household, and have lots of babies.
Sarah Stankorb, writing for Marie Claire, explains:
For the uninitiated, it can be hard to believe such faith-based oppression still exists in 21st-century America. Stay-at-home daughterhood is one practice among a set of beliefs often referred to as “Christian patriarchy” (and in its less rigid forms, “complementarianism”), which places men’s authority over women and fathers’ authority over children. It’s seen as the way to protect a family from a life of sin in the modern world. “Christian patriarchy” is not a church in itself but a movement aimed at popularizing certain gender norms within a range of evangelical fundamentalist churches and families. It’s impossible to quantify how many believers are out there, but for those in the movement, the conviction that God wants women to submit to male authority is reinforced at church, in Bible studies, in children’s lessons, and in the media they consume. By selling life manuals and school curricula, as well as promoting conferences to strengthen families, a number of Christian patriarchy–preaching ministries have profited in the millions, even as the most well-known leaders have been sued for sexual harassment and assault.
While some of the terms may be unfamiliar, you’re likely familiar with a few names from the movement. The most famous “Quiverfull” family may be the Duggars, made famous for their TLC show 19 Kids and Counting (and, later, for all the awful things Josh Duggar did). In addition, many of the materials used by these homeschooling families, such as Abeka, whitewash America’s racist history and deny evolution. Don’t think it’s an insulated problem, though. These textbooks are widely distributed among families, both Christian and not, who aren’t part of this movement.
Arguably, the installation of Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence — and many others in their administration — accelerated this movement:
In 2016, with the election of President Donald Trump, Christian patriarchy gained influence as those familiar with its beliefs assumed national roles. Vice President Mike Pence attended a church in Indianapolis whose lead minister has preached that women should submit to men’s spiritual authority. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue counts prominent patriarchy-preaching pastor Bill Gothard’s teachings as one of “his life’s greatest influences.” Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has attended Gothard-led conferences, as has 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee and ex–Alaska governor Sarah Palin…
“The rhetorical impact of this ideology is far more pervasive than most people understand,” says Christy Mesaros-Winckles, communications chair at Adrian College in Michigan, who studies evangelical culture. “We have individuals who espouse Christian-patriarchy ideas who have access to the most powerful public officials in America.”
Thankfully, more of these daughters are speaking out about their experiences. Profiled within this piece are bloggers and speakers Eleanor Skelton, Ashley Easter, and Samantha Field. Patheos blogs Love Joy Feminism and No Longer Quivering also get a mention.
(Image via Shutterstock)