Wednesday, January 22, 2014

And More Wifely Voluntary Submission. Representative Steve Pearce Speaks.

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) (an American politician of one conservative flavor) tells in his memoir that wives should voluntarily submit to their husbands.  Wives are not inferior, nosir!  They are just supposed to behave as they are.

The reasons have to do with Mr. Pearce's religion, though he puts a fun tilt on that:

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) believes that although a wife is supposed to "voluntarily submit" to her husband, she is not inferior to him, according to the Washington Post.
"The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice," Pearce wrote in a December memoir "Just Fly The Plane, Stupid!" that cites the Bible. "The husband's part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else."
Pearce also writes that while the wife is not inferior, she must nevertheless be obedient to her husband.
The tilt is that "showing up during the times of deep stress."  Where is he hiding at other times and how do we define times of deep stress?

This begins to sound a bit like the story I was once told by an anti-feminist guy on the net that the deal about wifely submission is this:  It's not much to ask that wives submit when husbands are ready to give their lives for their wives!

Sounds like a very one-sided bargain for most people because such extreme events where a husband should be willing to give his life while protecting his wife are pretty uncommon (luckily) for most of us, and because if they happen and the husband fails to die for the wife, well, how do you then undo the contract that has been running for years?

Duh.  I'm stupid to address any of that with sophism.  It's about power, not about logic, in any case.  But do note that if we followed Mr. Pearce's rule of wifely submission no married woman with a living husband could ever truly take a leadership role in the society.  Because the real power would be in the hands of her husband.  How could we vote for a female married politician if it's really her husband we are voting for?  And going backwards in history, how could married women have credit cards and bank accounts in their own names if it's really their husbands who control everything they do?

To his credit, Mr. Pearce also argues that husbands shouldn't exploit all this power they are given over their wives.  But it's hard to see what actual restraints his religious beliefs would put on husbands who do just that.  After all, the wives are supposed to be obedient.  If the husband becomes a bully or an abuser, what is the obedient wife to do?  Relinquish her obedience?  Who decides when she can do that, because clearly she cannot make the decision.

The model Mr. Pearce advocates is a popular religious model, both in right-wing Christianity and in much of Islam.  It crops up in other religions, too. It's also a very dangerous model because power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Not to mention the fact that such hierarchical marriages sound extremely suffocating and confining, even for the supposed leaders if they take their responsibilities seriously.

But the real reason I write about these opinions (not terribly common among the general population in the US or in the legal systems of any country today) is that the requirement of absolute and permanent voluntary submission by the wives at home is incompatible with general gender equality.

As a complete aside, isn't Mr. Pearce's argument interesting when set in the wider conservative talk topic of the day which is the importance of marriage in combating poverty?  We should ask more often what conservatives mean by traditional marriage, turn some stones over to see what might be crawling under them.