I have only touched on this issue and there are a million more things I can say about how patriarchy leads to isolation. Feel free to leave a comment sharing your thoughts on the issue!
What Patriarchy Teaches: In the patriarchal home and church, a woman is told that her role is to stay at home and raise children. She should not pursue higher education and she cannot have a career. Her primary reason for existence is to stay at home, be a silent helper and make sure she obeys her husband in all things.
“The primary reason that a woman was created, is to be a helper to her husband” ~Christ Our Hope Bible Church
“God’s primary calling is for her to manage the home. That is the most exalted place for a wife.” ~John MacArthur
“God wants young women to be keepers at home – baking, cooking, sewing, doing laundry, teachers of her children, taking care of family business, and being a helpmeet to her husband anyway she can. That’s why God created the woman – to help her husband.” ~Lori Alexander
In a complementarian home/church, there are specific verses that are used to reinforce this ‘stay at home’ thinking. Women are told that the Bible instructs them to stay home, keep a clean house, raise children and be an obedient servant to their husbands. Titus 2:5 and 1 Timothy 5:14-15 are two of the most often used verses that are used to teach this principle. The idea that women should stay at home, raise children and always be available to her husband is extracted from these verses without consideration of context, who it was written to or why. (I will leave it to you to research this further for lack of space.)
Gender roles are specific and unaltering in the patriarchal view. Men are the leaders, the pastors, of their home, and women are commanded to obey him or submit to him in all things. She is taught that her primary reason for being created is to help her husband. She is a daughter of Eve, and all sorts of verses are manipulated to support the idea that women, therefore, are too emotional, too sensitive, too weak, and too womanly to hold a position of leadership. Some go so far as to teach that she isn’t made in the image of God at all! She is the helper, encourager, cheerleader, servant and keeper of their house. She is the husband’s helpmeet, requiring her to cook, clean and raise kids, as well as being silent, meek, modest and happy about it all. She is led, bossed, coerced and manipulated into becoming a ‘godly’ and ‘biblical’ wife as is defined by scores of publications and by the men in her life.
Her sphere of influence is largely that of her home and husband. She may associate with approved women who live under the same convictions that she lives under. To be a Godly woman she must bear children, homeschool them, keep her house up to standard, know how to cook and do it well, remain silent toward her husband, remain loyal and obedient to him, be available to him for sex at any time and never give heed to her emotions. She should not endeavor for anything other than wife and motherhood, as there is no way God could have created her for anything else. If she desires anything else, then her desires are evil and not of God.
Why Teach It: Most adherents to patriarchy would say they teach and believe it because the Bible says it. However, when they are confronted with alternative translations and more concise understandings of the text, they choose to ignore the new information and refuse to acknowledge that their long-held golden calf might just be a tin can.
Here is a list of some Patriarchal teachings:
1) Patriarchy strongly discourages women from obtaining advanced education since their calling is to be at home and to have children. She is taught to marry early (in her teens), thus to pursue an education would put off a woman’s marriage; making the process of education a waste of her time and a huge waste of finances since she will never use her education in the workforce. Having an education would encourage her to work outside the home and neglect her family. She is considered unable to stand against the ‘worldly’ teachings and influence that she might come across in college. She might end up with a higher level of education than her husband which would make it harder for her to submit/obey him. An education would teach her how to think for herself and expose her to ideas beyond what her father/husband/church teaches. They will sometimes use Gen. 3:16 and tell her that her desire should be for her husband, not for worldly pursuits. Furthermore, if a woman feels called to anything except wife and motherhood, then that calling is absolutely not from God, but of the devil, because God would never, ever call a woman to do anything but domestic duties.
Refusing education to women is abusive. Women all over the world are born and raised in systems that prevent them from learning. When they grow up and get married, often young, they are told that their husband will look after all their needs. Over time they have children. She becomes dependent on him financially. She has no way of supporting herself if needed. She hasn’t learned how to think for herself. She is told that he is more educated and knows more than she does, making her feel stupid. This also reinforces the idea that she can’t speak up with an opinion or thought. She isn’t allowed to use higher levels of thinking or become skillfully critical, leaving her vulnerable to accepting abuse, wrong spiritual teachings, and blame. She is denied to ability to cultivate the mind and the giftings God gave her. In fact, she’s told over and over again that He would not gift her with anything other than domestic abilities. She is not able to reach her full potential as a human made in the image of God. She is in a cycle that she cannot get out of physically or spiritually, therefore, this patriarchal teaching goes far in keeping women isolated.
Men are also taught that women are intended to be less intelligent. They are raised to put less value on the opinions and abilities of women because it is only men who matter outside of the home. They, too, are set up with a system that teaches them falsely about the value of women. They benefit from the system more than women do, but they are cheated out of a smart, capable partner who can enrich their lives. Instead, they are shackled with a Stepford wife who is completely dependent on him. All of this is put on him regardless of his individual gifts and abilities.
2) Patriarchy discourages women from working, especially outside of the home. They teach and believe that women were made by God solely as homemakers and mothers. Women are living outside of His will if they choose to do work outside of the home. Once their children are grown, then older women are allowed to work in the children’s ministry or women’s ministry departments at church — with permission of their husband, and only if it doesn’t cut into their time at home. By working, women are not trusting in their husband to provide and protect, so they are not trusting in God either. God made men to work a job that pays and He made women work for their husbands and children. To want to do anything other than keep house and raise children is a sinful desire that must be repented of. The reason so many families are falling apart, children are hooligans, and divorces are happening is because women are choosing to do that which God did not ordain them for. By working or being educated, a woman has doomed her family to divorce and God hates divorce. In order to save her family, she must return to her domestic duties. Conversely, choosing to submit herself to her husband reinforces his role as leader, protector, and provider, thereby honoring him and saving her marriage.
She isn’t allowed to work and therefore isn’t encouraged to leave the house for reasons other than for church or shopping. When she does leave the house, she has her children with her. This extremely limits her social life! She likely doesn’t have friends outside of her church and those she does have are only those who are deemed ‘safe’ by her husband. She is not trusted and she learns not to trust herself.
She isn’t educated and she has no work experience. If he dies or leaves her, how will she support herself and her children? She has no marketable skills that will allow her to work. She most likely doesn’t know how to write a resume or even how to do an interview. She certainly doesn’t have clothing that is workplace acceptable and can’t afford it either. On top of that, she is riddled with shame and guilt about her situation. She is struggling with breaking God’s law because she has to work or take welfare. She has been told and believes that her divorce is her fault and she’s just reaping what she has sown.
The pressure to stay financially and spiritually keep her where she is at regardless of abuse in her home.
3) Patriarchy keeps women from seeking support from anyone except her husband and church. Her education, occupational success and ability to help provide will threaten the male ego and usurp his leadership. Patriarchy says women are emotional messes and, of course, emotions are irrational. Women are apt to get themselves into ‘trouble’ if not looked after by someone wiser than they. They are incapable of making logical choices. They are weak and not only need but desire, the protection of their husbands. Eve was a woman and doomed the whole earth to death by her choice to sin! A husband has the authority, the intelligence and the wisdom to help her make good choices in friendships, entertainment, theology and any other area in which she needs help deciding what God says, therefore she must submit herself to his leadership.
Being told that, as a daughter of Eve, she is too sensitive, too emotional, too weak and too womanly to successfully hold a leadership position is abusive. Patriarchy keeps her from finding her own friends. It keeps her from making her own lifestyle choices like what to wear or what to do with her life. She is isolated by the choices that are made for her. She is isolated with the inability to break out of her confines and discover how to think and do for herself. She is told that the curse has her wanting to usurp her husband’s leadership and therefore any desire she has for her own life, other than wife and motherhood, is evil. Furthermore, she is taught that her husband is accountable to God for the choices he makes on her behalf and she is responsible to her husband, therefore She must obey him first to be a Godly wife. He becomes her ‘god’ and her relationship with the Lord is found through her husband.
4) Patriarchy teaches silence as mandatory for a wife and a way to save the ‘disobedient husband’ (one who is unsaved or is abusive). Women who live under the patriarchal system are taught they must remain silent in church and at home. They learn that to question their husband’s authority is sinfully rebellious. They are taught to swallow their emotions and opinions, sacrifice themselves, and allow all kinds of abuses to happen to them in the name of God. They encouraged to do this by being told to ‘shoulder their burden’ and ‘die to self’ which is of course not what the Bible was teaching about sacrifice and dying to self. They are required to keep a ‘meek and gentle’ spirit by being agreeable, kind, obedient and have an unquestioning spirit.
What a great way to keep someone isolated! Keep a person from talking and you have the majority of control in a relationship. Patriarchy does this very effectively by teaching men and women that females must remain quiet and even silent. She is wrong to call out her husband on any matter. She is encouraged to just ‘go along’ with his desires because she is accountable to him and he is accountable to God. In other words, Die now to live later. Abusers do this too. If she can’t say anything then she won’t back talk, disagree, insist on change, teach, have an opinion or call your actions to account. Requiring a woman to be quiet, meek and humble in the extreme ensures that the men can go about doing exactly what they want to do without being held accountable.
5) Patriarchy teaches women submission theology so that it can be recycled generationally. A woman who stays home and teaches her children the headship theology will raise kids who believe in the patriarchal system and they will, in turn, perpetuate it. This ensures the continuation of male power and leadership. Women and children learn early that women who do not follow this teaching are the reasons for so many divorces. Divorce happens because women are not at home where they belong, “barefoot and pregnant” as they say. Divorce is viewed as the worst of evils. It is eviler then gambling, cursing or violence. Divorce is because she failed not because he did.
Isolation prevents women from leaving abusive relationships. When women stay in an abusive relationship, her children will learn the ways of an abuser and they will internalize those behaviors as normal. She is required to teach them the patriarchy theology and therefore the cycle continues generation upon generation.
6) Patriarchy chooses to teach this theology in order to maintain control over half the church (women) and keep men (and patriarchal agenda) in power. Losing power scares the men who tout this theology. They realize, I think, that if qualified women were to rise up, they’d be out of their positions primarily because they aren’t leading well. The only option left is to suppress who they see as the competition. It terrifies them that women might have equal access and therefore they will lose the control over the churches, the workplace, and the home. When the gospel is introduced freedom takes place! Slaves are set free, chains are broken and women are given the same respect in the home and church as men!
The result of these teachings on women is that many are ill-prepared for life outside of their parents or their husband’s homes. If her husband dies or chooses to divorce them, she has very few options to support themselves or their children. Often divorce is further twisted and they are spiritually abused by being faulted for the divorce, told that living on welfare is wrong, counseled that they can’t remarry and forced to either live in poverty or reconcile with their husband.
Emotionally, these women are often a wreck. She has been consistently belittled, shamed, oppressed, diminished, discredited and undervalued. She has experienced guilt, blame, hopelessness and emotional trauma. She is viewed as a troublemaker, an instigator, and a harlot. She has been micromanaged, silenced, marginalized and isolated. She is oppressed, suppressed, powerless and stressed. She is then told that all these things are her fault.
Patriarchy isolates women by emotionally preventing her from reporting to the church or civil authorities when she should. She is often blamed for the abuse and told to fix herself instead of encouraged to hold her husband accountable. In fact, many patriarchal theologians will tell women that they are to be silent and not speak up against abuses but rather win him over by their quiet and meek character! These people are not wise to what abuse looks like in a marriage. They do not educate themselves regarding the dynamics of power and control because they’d rather ignore it and blame the victim than deal with it Biblically.
Patriarchy puts blinders on the faces of its followers. It requires that people, men, and women, disregard the reality of abuse in their homes and churches. It refuses to teach its adherents what abuse is, and instead makes abusive relationships into a spiritual model of marriage. Patriarchy makes excuses about facts regarding violence in our churches and community by blaming feminism instead of its own non-biblical requirements. Patriarchy encourages its adherents to believe a lie; that patriarchy doesn’t encourage abuse and that abuse doesn’t happen in their churches and homes.
Women who do not report abuse are in danger of physical harm and even death. This isn’t a pretend ‘worse case’ fear mongering stance. Statistically, 1 in 3 women who are members of a religious congregation is abused. In the USA, 4 women die because of abuse daily. (National Criminal Justice Reference Service.) By isolating women from education, social support and religious abuses these patriarchal teaching are setting women up for a lifetime of abuse and even death. (Read more about violence in the church here New Study: Domestic Violence and the Church )
Requiring women to have little to no control over their choices, and teaching them that they must hand themselves over to their husband is abusive. Telling a woman she has no value outside of home and motherhood is abuse. Defining a person based upon their gender with no regard to their personality, character, education, experience, and God-given gifting is abuse. Categorically isolating women to the home is abuse. Disregarding the free agency of women as a whole is abuse. Blaming divorce on women who are abused instead of the abuser, is abuse!
Religious women who are educated and supported regarding what the Bible says about abuse are more likely to understand and expect to be treated with biblical mutual respect. They are more likely to identify themselves as created in the image of God with free agency. They are able to connect the truth of God’s word, which condemns violence and abuse more often than it condemns divorce. (Prov. 6:16-19, Dan 4:37, Jer 50:31) The only thing the patriarchy has right is that divorce does happen more often when women are educated and not isolated! It happens because they realize that God doesn’t condone domination and abuse!
It is God’s will that each person is respected with individuality and with spiritual authority, not based on the shape of their skin but on the gifts God has endowed each person (Psalm 139). It is not honoring to God that any person is forced, cajoled or guilted into submission and isolation. It is not honoring to God for a man to decide that women should be treated as less than themselves. It is not honoring to God when any person’s voice is silenced. Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy, not God (John 10:10). God would not make a woman with thoughts, ideas, goals, dreams, talents, abilities or giftings if He did not intend for women to use those abilities (1 Cor 12). He comes to ‘give life and joy abundantly (John 10:10-11). If He did make women with all that potential and then refused to allow her to use it for His glory and for the advancement of His Kingdom, He would be abusive. God calls all believers the community, not to isolation (Gal 6:2, Heb 13:1-3, 1 Thes 5:14, Rom 12:5). His intent is that ALL believers will share the gospel by using their individual gifts to advance the kingdom (Rom. 12:6-8, 1Cor 12:7-12, Eph 4:11-13, 1 Cor 7:7, 1 Peter 4:10).
God does not require women to be isolated. Jesus came to be the Savior of all humanity, including women. The Holy Spirit was sent to all believers, including women. Gifts are distributed to all Christians, including women. Believers are called to preach, teach, prophesy and spread the gospel, including women.