Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Response to comments on my "unfair" assertion that patriarchy does in fact still exist.

Check out the picture I posted last week if you haven't already. Otherwise, the rest of this won't make much sense.

Mike thought the depiction was "unfair." Unfair to whom exactly? Satan? Then he accuses me of coloring a whole group of people. What group is that? Christians? Because I know Christians who don't believe in Satan, so I don't see how this picture can be construed as coloring all Christians. I heartily applaud religions that are moving toward a more egalitarian worldview, but why is the fact that some religions are making positive changes make it not okay to call attention to those who aren't? 

I found this statement interesting: "While I get the medium of picture/caption isn't geared toward nuanced conversation I figured that I would at least get a head nod that infact there are people out there in their respective faiths that would like to work to see this attitude go away. Its a shame we couldn't even agree on that." Well, Mike, it's a shame you couldn't be more clear about what you meant. When you start out saying that it's "dated" and "unfair," it sounds an awful like you're saying that there's no problem and therefore no need to discuss anything.

And I've got a bone to pick with this one too: "So I guess your experience of religion trumps all of the people in the christian church." Well, um, last time I checked, this is my blog and I do an awful lot of talking about my own experience. And thank you, Infidel753, for pointing out: "Funny acoustics in here. It almost sounds like there are people telling you that your actual experience of life doesn't count or is 'unfair' to talk about because it doesn't fit in with their view of the world."

I appreciated Jonathan Blake's comment, that the picture is not so much satirizing a religion as much as an attitude, an attitude that does in fact still exist and needs to be challenged.

As XR4-IT pointed out, "Religion may not be the only anti feminist influence, but it has been a major player."

Patrik, Patrik. (Patrik and I go way back.) I'm developing a love-hate relationship with your comments. ;-)  Mormons definitely hold onto patriarchy and traditional gender roles more than most of Christianity, I'll give you that. (Although Mormons are certainly not the only sect to have a problem with this.) I think it is wonderful that your mother is a nurse and your wife is a teacher, but I hardly see how that proves that neither of them felt constrained by traditional gender roles. Before you get mad, let me finish. If, in fact, these women did have an opportunity to consider any and every possibility for what they could or should be and then decided that they would truly love being a nurse and a teacher respectively, then I'm very happy for them and their accomplishments, and they should be commended, and definitely be paid more. Teachers and nurses are both underpaid and under-appreciated professions, largely because they have been regarded as "women's work," and therefore not important and not deserving of recognition or fair monetary compensation. 

Now about stay-at-home moms. There is nothing wrong with a woman (or a man, for that matter) deciding that she wants to stay home and devote all her time an energy to raising her child. There is everything wrong with a woman being told that that's what she should do, and that she's a bad mother or a bad woman if she chooses otherwise. And again, motherhood should be acknowledged and recognized as a valid profession and I dare say mothers (or whichever parent is the primary caregiver) should be monetarily compensated, as happens in many European countries. Parenting is absolutely real work.

Which brings me to what I thought was an excellent comment from TheOtherOne:"Do they even notice that these people subtly redefine "feminism" as a woman seeking out non-traditional gender roles?" Thank you! Feminism is not just about women having the option to pursue non-traditional paths. It's also about women being validated, affirmed and appreciated when they do traditionally feminine work (mothering, teaching, nursing, etc.).

Finally, Leif, it really has been a long time since we've talked, and I very much appreciate your comment. I think it's fantastic that you're working at the school and trying to give some hope to the kids there. The town where we grew up has a problem with kids not feeling like life has a lot of possibilities more than many other places, I think. Religion is part of that, but there are other factors as well, as you point out.


If you enjoyed this post, I hope you'll check out my new blog.


  1. I am actually in a specialty residence and have met a couple of mormons. I can honestly say that my wife (being a faculty member) has, unfortunately, noticed demeaning looks from "mormon" students that are 26 yrs. old, married with 2 kids. Their wives are "housewives" and they do not work in any profession. They seem to believe that because we have no children yet we are "on the wrong track", so to say. I have encountered here a very large population where women, unfortunately, are still regarded as inferior. The man is the "man" of the house. . . This is sad.

    All I can say is, I can't wait to get back.

  2. Just a quick question. Who exactly should be paying for SAHPs to be financially compensated for staying home to raise children? Who is compensating SAHPs in Europe and are you talking about more than just a period of paid maternity/paternity leave?

    Sorry about the deleted messages. Had some technical difficulties when I was trying to correct something I didn't word correctly.

  3. @Amy, I don’t know exactly what systems Leah is referring to, but because I’m adopted my parents were paid subsidies from the state to help cover the cost of child care. This not only relaxed the financial burden of raising children for my parents, but it also provided me with better opportunities than if my family had not received the subsidies.

    While I don’t know if directly subsidizing parents for child care is the best way to benefit children, it is defiantly within the interests of the democracy to invest in giving children better opportunities to become more productive educated adults, and hopefully a more critically thinking electorate.

  4. Paid to be a parent to your own child? I'm with Amy. Who exactly is paying parents to raise their children in Europe? Who do you propose pay parents on America? The government?

  5. "but why is the fact that some religions are making positive changes make it not okay to call attention to those who aren't?

    Bravo ! Agreed !

  6. In response to questions on income for parents in europe, all families in the UK can get government support in the form of Child Benefit and Tax Credits.
    See links here:


    Also in the UK, we have substantial maternity and paternity rights. Statutory leave, flexible working etc...
    see here:


    this link covers everything - including links to Child Benefit and Tax Credits.


    Now I post this because someone asked, not because I am going to argue that the UK system is better for families and society than the US system. I'll let you be the judge of that.

    As for this thread - I fully appreciate what Leah is saying here. I think in every western society there is a, thankfully slowly dissapearing, culture of sexism - women should bring up the kids, women can only do certain jobs etc... but generally our society IN GENERAL (uk and us) is very open to whatever people want to do with themselves regardless of sex, skin colour, height or anything else.

    One problem a society faces is, with more openness comes more acceptance, and sometimes immigrants with a contradicting (sexist) culture do not integrate well. Thats not a slight against immigrants, just an observation.
    I did hear of one case where the police had to visit one UK household and could only speak to the 10 year old son as head of the household, the mother would not speak to them. This is mainly a cultural thing rather than religious, but as culture is often so closely entwined with religion, it is sometimes hard to tell the difference. Of course, this is an extreme example, even an American coming to live in London would experience a big change in culture, but integration there is so much easier, American and British society having followed a very similar path for a long time, especially as regards sex (religion perhaps not so much).

    There will always be some extreme views in any society, but society in general does move forward and increasingly attempt to allow people to live the way they want to, as long as it doesn't adversly affect that right for others. Biological differences aside, I can see no reason why women and men can't be equal in society. Can you?

    I must admit I am a real advocate for equality, and particularly dislike the "positive discrimination" that exists in the UK sometimes. i.e. occasionally a will complain that they are underrepresented by females and actively look for female employees! That helps no one, if women do not feel they can enter an arena, then as a society, make sure they have equal opportunity to do so and know it. For any job, the person hired should be the best person for it - if that means 80% of the workforce are female, then so what? There are plenty of jobs where the vast majority are one sex or the other, but its 'amusing' that it is a predefined list.

  7. oops. previous post - my line at the end missed a bit due to using less than/greater than symbols - it should read : " i.e. occasionally a "insert group here" will complain that..."

  8. Dreadful, thanks for the info. However, under initial review it looks like the Childbenefit equals £80 a month (or about $55 a month) for the first child and slighly less for each child after that. You also have tax credits and maternal leave for children. We, in the US, also get significant tax breaks when we have children and are also granted both maternal and paternal leave for child birth. We are legally allowed to take up to 12 weeks off from work within the first 12 months of the child's birth. Although we don't have a Childbenefit, so to speak or that I know of, but there are programs here to help struggling families like food stamps, etc.

    So it is not to say that our government does not help families that have children. But what Leah seems to be advocating is that parenthood be recognized as a "valid profession" with monetary compensation, which as a profession would require much greater compensation than $55 a month.

    Who is supposed to pay parents to be parents? And dare I ask if one needs to be monetarily compensated in order to feel respected as a parent?

  9. Hi, I just read both posts, and I wish to point out I grew up in a liberal Christian family, and still everyone hinted that I should get married, have children, and be a housewife because that is what is right. Oh, and I'm twenty-three, s to say that this is in the past means you aren't looking at real life. I'm still getting gentle hints about getting married and doing all that.

  10. 80 GBP = 120.2 USD. Not that it's a whole lot, but it's quite different from $55.

    The US has a child tax credit of $1,000 per child. If you add the W-4 deductions for claiming them as dependents the total amount of tax deducted is $3,650 per child ($304.16/mo). Only the $1,000 is a credit, so if you didn't have enough tax for the deductions to kick in anyway the deductions don't really count (though that's a different discussion).

    As an example, Norway pays 970 NOK (163 USD) per month per child. Additionally they pay 3,303 NOK (556 USD) per month for children ages 1-3 that are not in a government subsidized child care facility and are not in school.

    Sweden pays 1,050 SEK (145 USD) per month per child. The details of the rules were in Swedish, so it was tough to decipher much other information.

    France has a bit more convoluted rules, but it seems that benefits are paid as a percent of the defined monthly family benefit base, and it only kicks in for the second (or subsequent children). That ends up being 124 EUR (169 USD) per month for two children and 159.5 EUR (217 USD) per month for each additional child. France also pays the family if one of the parents decides to give up their current work to look after the children. If they give up full time work, then the government pays the family 554 EUR (754 USD) per month. That benefit is paid up to the third birthday of the youngest child. Source

    Other source for many countries (but verified most of it through the respective national web sites):

    For all these countries, that money is not taxable. Not all the countries have tax deductions for dependents, but quite a few do have deductions for child care expenses.

    This information also does not include other benefits the countries provide, such as subsidized pre-schools and other services designed to help women stay in the workforce.

    Also, the US parental leave does not require the time off be paid. Most other countries actively require that time off to be paid, usually by the government (upwards of a full year, but that's mostly the Nordic countries).

    We could continue debating international political policies and their effects on society, but I think that's getting a bit off-topic and detracting from the intended message of this post. I hope that your persistence for the answer to your questions, Patrik, was one of intellectual curiosity, and not for the goal of distraction itself.

  11. Patrik - You have the dollars to pounds conversion backwards. £80 a month is closer to $150

  12. i thought the cartoon was funny.

    and (in an attempt at an intelligent point) monotheism is, and always will be, inextricably linked to misogyny.

    there's a fairly strong argument to suggest that the idea of a single omnipotent god, to who's authority you have to submit, was largely thought up to keep reproduction(+ women in general) under male control(he's watching you!).

    & that's why they all so very hung up on the sex thing apparently.

  13. Patrik : ** However, under initial review it looks like the Childbenefit equals £80 a month (or about $55 a month) for the first child and slighly less for each child after that. **

    You don't travel over here much do you? As US tourists well know, pounds are worth much more than dollars. According to the currency conversion specialists : http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert.cgi?Amount=80.00&From=GBP&To=USD : £80 is exactly $120.41.

    ** We, in the US, also get significant tax breaks when we have children and are also granted both maternal and paternal leave for child birth. We are legally allowed to take up to 12 weeks off from work within the first 12 months of the child's birth. **

    Here I think mothers get 6 paid months off and another 6 months unpaid , for fathers it is only 2 weeks paid leave. However either parent can take up to 13 weeks off unpaid in the first 5 years of your childs life. But its not all black and white of course - we would need to compare local services, other tax breaks, cost of living, schooling, housing, hospitals etc... to compare properly. And also agree what it is we are comparing - quality of life ? Probably very similar overall I would think.

    ** So it is not to say that our government does not help families that have children. But what Leah seems to be advocating is that parenthood be recognized as a "valid profession" with monetary compensation **

    I didn't get the opinion that Leah meant that parenting should become a "paid job" if thats what you are implying. We can however recognise that bringing up children is hard work. We have 3 children and my job means that only I need to work for us to be comfortable, but I know who works the hardest - and its not me.

    ** Who is supposed to pay parents to be parents? And dare I ask if one needs to be monetarily compensated in order to feel respected as a parent? **

    In the case of tax breaks and the like, it would only be "compensation" if the parents gave no money to the state. You'll find that we give plenty of money to the state in all sorts of ways, so getting refunded some of it when you have "mini citizens" who will in turn give lots of money to the state in their own time, is fair enough. What we are talking here is simple finance, it is not a big deal - your "feel respected as a parent" line, is a silly add on comment that seems to serve no purpose other than petulance, so I am rather confused by it.

  14. Yes yes, I seem to have gotten my conversion backwards. I have a conversion matrix on my webpage for various currencies and I looked at it backwards. Oops. Thanks to all of those that brought it to my attention (thanks Dreadful for the added emphasis on the sarcasm).

    Ray, I'm not trying to derail the conversation (Leah brought it up so I commented on it) and Dreadful, I am not petulant. I guess I just don't understand why parents feel that they need to be payed to be parents.

  15. Patrick: I honestly wasn't being sarcastic, just observing that if you visited the UK you would have been aware the exchange rate is not good. It stopped one American friend visiting me last year :(

    I wasn't suggesting you were petulant, just that the line I mentioned seemed to be, but I can see you said it more at exasperation that this may be true. I would agree with you - i don't understand why parents would feel they need to be paid to be parents - but I don't personally know of any parents where this is the case. Probably they are not the sort of parents I would want to know. Government financially helping out its immature citizens does seem like a reasonable investment to me though.

  16. can i just point out that having "The Whore" being the only page title words visible in a firefox tab at work is probably likely to get me a comment at some point :)

  17. Just discovered your blog! Not going to try to wrap up this discussion with a tidy bit of wisdom - but it is good to see other women who have been deep inside fundamentalist beliefs be able to challenge the assumption that implicit sexism is an dangerous as explicit.

  18. My grandmother was a nurse because the money went to the boys to go to college, to become engineers and businessmen (the other sister became a teacher). Gram wanted to be an architect. Her son became one. Her daughter (my mother) became a teacher. Mom wanted to be an engineer, but didn't think it was "proper" for women then. The other daughter became a nurse.

    All of these very smart women enjoyed their careers, but I wonder how much more fulfilled they might have been had they felt they had a choice...

    At my half-sister's (I'm adopted) wedding, she vowed to love her groom as the church loves Jesus, and he vowed to love her like Jesus loves the church. I had to force myself not to stomp away in my bridemaid's dress. Also, I am a nontheist, so it rankled even more.

  19. Leah -- Rest assured, patriarchy exists, and you are absolutely within your rights to point this out. While things are improving in many sectors of society, there are still plenty of fundamentalist Christians who believe that a woman's place is in the kitchen. :o

    To hell with them. Be the person YOU want to be. Follow your dreams and ambitions. You must make your life meaningful for yourself, no one else.

  20. Ahab, thanks. It's taken me a long time to rewrite the messages I heard growing up, and now I'm struggling with untangling myself from situations I fell into rather accidentally because of decisions I didn't feel I had a choice about in the past. I'll get there. It's just harder this way.

  21. Leah, Jen McCreight of BlagHag has a t-shirt that says, "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people." I hope you enjoy that as my two cents :-)

    Take care.


Religion, skepticism, and carving out a spiritual life post-Mormonism