I need to give a little background before I write this post.
1. I am a young woman.
2. I am (happily, blissfully, sickeningly ecstatically) married.
3. I am not sure I could be more of a feminist.
4. I follow Christ
Usually, these four things don’t work together in one person. Most young women, and especially young feminist women, are not married, most feminists are not Christ followers, et cetera.
But I am all four of these things. Without question or conflict.
My husband’s family is, for the most part, complementarian. This means that they believe that, while men and women are equal in the eyes of God in terms of justification, they have different (read: patriarchal) roles in ministry and marriage. (My blood relatives do not really figure into this equation, as they are not Christ followers, in the least. They’re not in my picture anymore, and I’m completely fine with that, but I’ll address that later, if at all.) His family tried to emphasize the complementarian viewpoint and some of his family members were actually quite surprised to find out that, not only did I believe something different, but that I supported it with the Bible. Surprisingly, this was not taken all that well.
The same is true of churches I’ve worked at and the school I go to. Many do not address this issue and continue to blindly perpetuate a way of structuring communities and households that denies the gifts women have from God, including the ability to lead. Others, like my school, officially claim an egalitarian (men and women are entirely equal and serving/leadership is based on gifting, not gender) view, but they don’t do anything to advance this. An official statement is put in a handbook or website, but men still see women as less, and women just take the role they’re given because they’re so used to it that it just seems natural.
All of this is to say that, when my husband and I announced our engagement, we were bombarded with “marriage advice”–from overwhelmingly complementarian points of view.
I assume you understand how well we accepted that.
I’m tired of ranting about how destructive complementarianism is (I’ve learned that no one listens anyway), so instead, I’ll provide a different paradigm, starting with an anecdote about my husband and I.
My husband is skinny. Really, really, REALLY skinny. He eats like a horse, but never gains any weight. We’re about the same size (aside from the fact that he’s four inches taller than me). One time last winter, after a playful romp in the snow, he came back to my apartment with me. Our clothes were soaking wet. I changed, but he didn’t have anything to change in to. I, somewhat pathetically, offered him a pair of my pants that were warm and dry. He accepted and found that they were rather comfortable. Shortly thereafter, we got him his own pair. I have three pairs of these pants (I’m tall with no rear end, thus it’s hard to find pants that fit, and when I do, I buy multiples), and, once we got married, it became difficult to tell them apart. A few days ago, we had to leave unexpectedly and got dressed very quickly. I grabbed a pair of jeans, as did he. Only when we got home did we realize that I was wearing his pants (a size bigger, to accommodate his height) and he, mine. We laughed about it, but I’ve since realized it’s a pretty good metaphor for our marriage.
We’re different from each other. Like the pants, he has his gifts and I have mine. They work together very well, but they’re different. And sometimes, we swap positions. Sometimes he leads, sometimes I do. It depends on which pair of pants fits which person better. But most of the time, we can’t really tell the difference. We share the leadership, submit to one another, and make decisions together. There isn’t one designated leader who “wears the pants” in our marriage–we share the pants, and we don’t bother to look at the size tag unless we notice later on.
This isn’t a theological argument. If you want that, I’ll most likely address it later (in multiple posts), but I encourage you to check out Christians for Biblical Equality (www.cbeinternational.org); they have a plethora of support for the egalitarian view, theological and otherwise. This is a practical argument.
If you’re married, or soon will be, don’t try to dominate your partner. Don’t automatically be submissive, either. Both men and women are equally called to leadership AND submission. Look to build your family and home based on following Christ and building one another up in the Lord.
Share the pants, please.