1) I am not actually accusing feminist ideology as being akin to patriarchy, at least not “feminism” in its proper sense. Wanting women to be equal to men is hardly patriarchal; what we make them equal in, however, is another matter.
2) The article I’m drawing from is, in all fairness, from the Daily Mail, who is one bad day away from declaring the Loch Ness Monster real (and subsequently declaring that they hate the Loch Ness Monster as it is an illegal immigrant). I would not be surprised if the article is a fake or just written to sound controversial in order to drive viewership, so perhaps I’m a sucker.
That being said…
It seems that we have lost both the picture and purpose of marriage in our so-called modern society. Apparently, Kate Thompson has decided that in her own life, she comes first while everyone else comes second. Now, certainly this article is pure hyperbole – possibly parody – as there are many contradictions within the article (after all, how does one have two children of different ages who are but a few years apart, yet claim to only have sex once a decade). Regardless, Thompson’s essay does point to a problem within our modern society, namely that the family has disappeared.
While it is in vogue within some Christian circles to blame homosexuality, rampant sexual perversion, and liberals as the reason the family has slowly disintegrated within our society, these things would serve more as symptoms of a broken family, not the cause. Were I to put the blame anywhere, if I were forced to point to just one cause of why the family unit is broken down today, I would point my finger to the Industrial Revolution. In this revolution, society revolted against its very foundation thinking it would gain prosperity, and it did, at least for a while. It required men to leave their homes and work long hours in factories and later in office buildings. Though patriarchy has always reigned supreme in almost all civilizations, in the West there was still a partnership between the husband and the wife. The husband and sons worked the field while the wife managed the household and sold the goods. Both were involved with the family.
Under modernism, men were removed from the home. The idea of a “housewife” is relatively new, though the term is not new. In the 11th and 12th centuries the ancestral English referred to married men as wer and married women as wif. Such terms worked under feudalistic societies. In England, from about the 8th to 14th century, feudalism reigned. However, around the mid-12th century to 13th century, the middle-class began to rise up. Men owned their homes and worked from them while their wives would manage the household. One way to think of it is that men were the owners of the business and their wives were the general managers. The English began to use the word husbonda for “husband” and husewif for “housewife.” The husbonda refers to someone who is a freeholder – property owner – of a house or real property. Thus, husewif refers to someone in charge of the house.
Such terms adequately describe the middle-class living arrangements in England (and most of the west) up until the Industrial Revolution. Men were taken from the home and put into a factory, forced to work long hours. Capitalism, ironically enough, removed freedom and placed man back into a privatized feudalism. Men, removed from the home, were allowed to skirt around certain moral requirements. Men could take mistresses, could stay away from the family, could ignore their fatherly duties, and not worry about public ridicule. Women, however, were expected to maintain the close moral grounds. Feminism arose to correct this ethical inequality, but I would argue failed.
This brief history lesson brings us to the point: What we see in Thompson’s article is nothing more than patriarchy wrapped in the guise of feminism. Again, while much of it is hyperbole, it does point to a trend that is on the rise in the West. That trend is where rather than correcting men’s bad behavior, women feel obligated to cry out to act equally as bad. It would seem that feminism is not so much about correcting social norms so long as those social norms allow both sexes to be equal in their depravity. Why is it fair that men can go have sex without consequences? Rather than say that men should tame their desires, our supposedly progressive society says, “Let women have sex without consequences as well!” A man puts his career in front of his family and he’s considered a distant father. A mother does it and she’s considered a trailblazer for women’s rights.
The point isn’t to speak against feminism, but to speak against the modern system that has eradicated the family and turned us into individuals. Though each of us is an individual and unique, we are nothing apart from those closest to us. Contrary to the Randian spirit popular in today’s libertarians, no one is truly autonomous. We all exist within nations. Those nations exist because there were societies that preceded them. Those societies exist because there were cities, those cities because there were towns, and those towns because there were families. Thus, society and government exist for the family and because of the family. Lose the family and you lose the society. Yet, our modern system has begun to focus on individuals outside of the context of the family; in short, in the name of progress we are destroying ourselves.
Contrary to Thompson and what others might say, marriage is not about being happy. In fact, I would go so far as to say that marriage is not a partnership of equals (certainly men and women are equal ontologically, but in our day where metaphysics is taboo the word “equal” hardly refers to ontological situations). Marriage is when two individuals look at each other and say, “I want to remain in constant servanthood to you.” To say that marriage is about being happy means that marriage is based on an emotional status, but emotions change. To say it is about a partnership of equals is to say that marriage is no more than a merger of two companies. In both cases, self-centeredness is very much present. Self-centeredness is to a marriage what a cavity is to a tooth; something that will only invite pain, misery, and decay until addressed. Marriage is the ultimate challenge, a “duel to the death that no man of honor should decline” (as G.K. Chesterton put it), it is the putting aside of the self to acknowledge the needs of another. It is not the total abandonment of the self, but it is putting another in front of yourself, which is why marriage is sometimes not fun or “happy.”
I think of a picture I came across on the “Jacksons’ Orthodox Mission to Guatemala.” On their Facebook page. Their son and his wife’s wedding picture was up there. In Orthodox marriage services, it is customary for the bride and groom to walk around the table three times as a “celebratory dance” from Isaiah. Likewise, the three revolutions also represent the Trinity and how the married couple is to be unified just as the Trinity is unified. Sadly, their daughter-in-law fractured her ankle prior to the wedding. The priest instructed the son to walk around the table as a representative for him and his new bride. The son, instead, picked up his new wife and carried her around the table.
Such an act is beautiful in and of itself, but it also serves as an icon of what a marriage should be. Rather than a “partnership of equals” or a constant struggle to find happiness, marriage is a slow and difficult climb up a mountain. At times, one person must carry the other. Sometimes the clouds will clear and the view will be beautiful, while at other times the storms will threaten to toss them off the mountain. The most faithful, however, will weather the storms and, God-willing, live to reach the top. This young man, by picking up his wife, represented the reality of marriage; at times he will have to pick her up emotionally, other times she will have to pick him up.
If only we could be more honest in what marriage really is. Marriage, in its most basic and ideal form, is servanthood. Marriage is the act of willingly becoming a servant to someone else. It is not about finding happiness, it is not about “balancing” career goals with family goals. In such a contest, there is no balance because the family must come first. Perhaps I am speaking idealistically, but in a world of cynical pragmatist someone needs to be an idealist, if for no other reason that we might attempt the ideal.
The problem in our society, aside from the fact that our society exists now to bolster an anti-family economic system, is that some people don’t realize that marriage requires strength and bravery. Though many are obsessed with the idea of being married, few possess the virtue to be married. Were I to ever write a story about a couple in love, the climax would not be the moment they finally kiss, nor would it be their wedding; if I truly wished to show a love story then I would show them in the twilight of their years, having endured the struggle.
Marriage is about self-sacrifice, not self-fulfillment. Marriage is about giving and not taking. Marriage is about “you” and not “me.” It is the abandonment of the self in the pursuit of the whole. In short, marriage is about love, and love is a dangerous thing, but worthy of pursuit.