Leviticus And The Biblical Value of Daughters

In Leviticus, the length of purification time after the birth of a daughter is twice the length of the time for a son.  This is generally cited as proof that the Bible is anti-woman.  Having come to spend much more time in my life around birthing mothers, I see something that was always there if I could have but opened my world-blinded eyes.

The extra time for a daughter is extra bonding time and extra time for the husband as well.  Given the inheritance rules, if the times of “no-touch wifey” were the same, there would be temptation to rush things after the birth of daughters in a pursuit of sons.  But by enforcing a longer time of purification (and correspondingly time to physically recover and bond with the baby and enjoy that old oxytocin song) for daughters, this temptation is subverted and husbands have extra time to value their daughters and give their wives the reassurance of their faithfulness by abstaining for even longer than with a son.  It also, with the extra bonding time, provides a means for the very earliest sort of woman-to-woman support to happen. Thus, what looks like oppression is actually a way to establish that daughters are precious and to be valued despite the fact that their place and future follows a different path than that of sons.  Both different, but both precious and worthy of love.


Young marriage isn’t very traditional

It’s a prosperity artifact that has occurred in a handful of short-lived bursts of prosperity and then things go back to normal.  It is a fine thing to support and encourage as a conservative, but it can’t be advocated in a vacuum that presumes it is a historical norm.  The historical norm is to marry when it’s affordable, which was usually not when the girl was sixteen and the guy eighteen.  It was gasp when the girl was in her mid-20s and the guy a little older.

Funny how it’s now sooooo impossible for guys to wait until their mid-20s to marry for life and girls are dooming themselves to a river of cats and despair if they wait until after age 22 but in reality-land, it was always perfectly traditional and people found ways to deal with the lack of sex until marriage.  This mostly consisted of not having sex.  Shocking, I know.  It’s quite interesting that conservatives and liberals come together as one voice to declare that continence is impossible for humans, simply can’t be done, can’t expect it of anyone, so don’t even try.

The truth is that young marriage, if truly widespread, carries with it a higher risk of dissolution even when divorce isn’t “easy”.  All are not called to marry and conservatives really need to get back to accepting that reality and recognize just how much social pressure is necessary to prop up widespread marriage of young couples who are not necessarily fit for the institution.

Marriage is a social good, but you can have a society where 40-60% of people marry and you can have one where 75-85% of people marry, but the latter will have certain instabilities despite all the marriage that the former will not.  With the current economic and social turmoil and relentless promotion of abnormal things as normal, it’s difficult to understand the push for young marriage with no real social support or financial/economic support by conservatives all along the right-wing spectrum, from mainstream to odd internet subculture.

Marriage is traditional.  Young marriage is a nice to have, not a requirement for a normal society.

Political programs won’t restore normal life

Changes must be social, even if formal and systematized.  The politics may follow, but they won’t matter without the social backing coming first.

Thus, it is silly to focus on votes or overturning laws as long as you keep all the liberal, deracinated aspects of modern life in place.  If you won’t take the steps to live normally, you can’t expect the political changes to ever happen or be taken up by your children and their children.

It is extremely improbable that normal life can be restored in a generation, and certainly it won’t happen by the next election cycle.

The closest I get to political promotion is pushing people to demand civil service from their civil servants in their local jurisdictions.  That is something that one can see huge, major changes in and it’s something people with lots of free time can do right now.  In my region of North Cascadia, people are starting to demand this civil service and are seeing good results.  Less harassment, reduced regulatory pressure, more opportunities to run sustainable, long-lasting family-staffed businesses that enmesh themselves in their local towns and become strong, wonderful pieces of the community fabric.  That’s where political energy would best go, rather than campaigns and candidates.



Real Talk for SAHMs: Be honest about the economic fragility of marriage as a career

This one is going to be a quick list of brief points because each small point could easily be a post of its own (and probably will be a few months down the road).

Simply put, it is wrong for conservatives to encourage young naive Christian women to marry and set up as SAHMs without any understanding of the financial issues involved.  What follows are just a few of the big deals that conservatives ignore when they say things like “avoid college, girls!” and “marry young and stay home and have kids, so long as he has a job!”

  • No paying into Social Security.  Housewives are protected if the marriage lasts, for as long as it lasts.  But if it does not, well, now that SAHM is out of luck and at best dependent on her adult children and church/local community.  And that is also not nearly as common as it ought to be, just as divorce/abandonment of conservative Christian SAHMs is not as rare as one would like.
  • Risk of outliving husband (all states).  This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but having no ability to earn a living and a husband who doesn’t have a pension means big problems when his steady paycheck or his own Social Security check disappears because he’s dead.  This is further compounded by the pressure of some conservative subcultures to have men be self-employed without bothering to explain the financial ramifications of that choice.
  • General risk of divorce/abandonment at all (varies by state).  This varies not least by whether a state is community property or not (and the difference is really, really, really important from a risk management perspective).  It also varies by what I note last, what kind of husband a woman ended up with.
  • Discouraging real vetting of husbands, which is what makes the divorce/abandonment problem an especially major one in the modern era.  By this I mean that women are encouraged to simply marry a man with a job who attends church regularly, regardless of whether he is disordered in important ways that can affect his ability to provide for and maintain a wife and children.  Mostly what is embedded here is a sort of residual expectation of paternalism/tolerance of flaws towards a “hardworking family man” that simply does not exist anymore as some sort of widespread norm in workplaces.  Women can’t afford to SAHM with a guy who is constantly getting fired for anger problems just because maybe thirty years ago he would have been shunted off to a back office because “he’s got a family to support, man”.  They also are really in for it if they marry a “self-employed” man who bounces around from scam to scam, never really able to put together a real earnings path for his family.  And there is very little mention of this issue when conservatives promote early marriage and no college for young Christian women.

It is not easy street and financial security if you just marry at 19 and start having kids.  A lot of young and middle aged SAHMs are finding out the painful way that there are financial risks nobody warned them about and which nobody will help them with when they hit.

Some conservative family values, eh.

Cooking as a middle class SAHM task is recent

What follows below is excerpted from a now-private post discussing food in the context of (mostly) UK society between the wars and shortly after World War 2.  It doesn’t really get into the significance of rationing and it misses some key details of social structure and its changes, but there are some broad points that are correct.  I’ve bolded a specific passage about middle class cooking.

“A couple of years ago, I did a marathon read of fiction from the 1920s to the 1950s…. What drew me in were the experiences of women characters who, like the women they were modelled on, were determining their own lives – pretty much for the first time in history. They bicycled through war time London doing useful things, or sat writing fiction, or lived in squalid bed sits in houses crammed with other young women.

And, of course, they ate. There’s a lot of food in middle class entertainments, and that’s a fact.

What struck me about the pre- and post-war literature I read, was how limited the food was. Heroines drink a lot of tea, toast a lot of bread, and occasionally augment the toast with sardines. Crumpets turn up occasionally, as does afternoon tea (involving cakes) at hotels. The diet was a paelo-low-carber’s nightmare. Sunday usually involve roast meat with roasted vegetables and gravy and breakfast could involve rashers of bacon. Boiled eggs appear and butter was crucial.

Even with all the afternoon cakes and sugared teas, the average calorie per day intake of a modern girl enjoying her bed squat was less than 1200 (by my dodgy, back-of-the-envelope calculations). And on top of that she was walking (striding, usually) everywhere, when she wasn’t biking.

But two other things struck me – how incredibly narrow the diet was. The same few dishes are mentioned repeatedly. Dietary variation doesn’t seem to obsess anyone and cooking is such a low priority, that people are pleased if they have a gas ring to boil eggs on.

I also learned that if you’re starving, what your body prioritises first is fat. There’s a fantastic book called A Woman in Berlin, about a woman who is stuck in Berlin when the Russians invade. The citizens of Berlin are starving, and all she can think about is fat. It’s an obsession. Butter or grease isn’t an addition to other things, it’s the Ground Zero of food, the thing your body wants the most.

The other thing, which I learned from reading E.M. Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady (a very funny read), is that cooking wasn’t a middle class virtue, much less an upper class one. ‘Cooking’ meant leaving a note for Cook about what you wanted to eat the next day. When WWII broke out, households all over England went into spasms because the cooks and maids went off to join the land army or whatever, leaving their mistresses with homes to run and absolutely no idea how to do it. It’s only after the war that it becomes accepted that cooking and cleaning is part of a middle class woman’s set of duties.

We also romanticise a past where women stayed in the kitchen, turning out fabulous, organic, home prepared meals for their families, when that time never existed.

I guess my point is that when it comes to food and food mores – it’s all being made up as we go along, and then varnished over with this patina of fake history.”

This is fairly true, even in an American context.  Although in America, due to the influence of the pioneer mythos, women were simultaneously expected to do a huge amount of household work mostly alone and this resulted in a view of food-as-fuel, best encapsulated by the Midwestern “hotdish”, which is just a bunch of whatever is handy heated up and served with little attention to flavor or taste.

Americans ate a lot of quick foods from 1920-1950, and the mom-at-home-making-dinner was already more of a marketing thing than a lived reality for substantial percentages of the population even if the wife was staying home.  Conservatives who spin stories about the halcyon home cooking of yore seem to forget about the Automat, which was around in the incredibly recent year of…1902.  Mom’s home cooking has, at least in America, always been more of an idea (or advertising slogan) than a necessary component of daily life.  Traditional society is replete with the home cooking being grandma’s, or auntie’s, or the hired girl’s, or the eldest daughter(s).

More simply, middle class status for women has not always revolved around their skillet-slinging capabilities.  In fact, one can see that it is very much not middle class at all in the fiction of Damon Runyon, who was hardly writing about the domestic sphere himself.  And he was also writing in the first half of the 20th century.

Having the opportunity to specialize has been closer to the middle class SAHM reality than what passes for it now in America.  Now SAHMs are excoriated for daring to specialize, if they find the energy to think about it at all.

Of course, I suppose the punchline is that our household eats about 80% of our meals at home, prepared from local, organic, minimally processed or unprocessed ingredients.  But we sure don’t cook every day, and I sure don’t cook all the meals.  And that’s totally traditional.

If your wife can’t stay home without generating income, she needs real work, not a blog or pyramid scheme

The title says it all.  Blame pregnancy brain for this placeholder of a post.  I shall return this one day when I’m a little less gum-brained, but I wanted to post a little at least about what I mean in the title.

To be blunt, if your wife has to make money while she’s at home or else you all have big financial problems and she can’t get a job outside the home for whatever reasons, then she needs to do something real for money.

Too many housewives who have to be economically viable beyond canning and couponing get caught up in the pursuit of professionalism in their work-at-home endeavors.  So they turn to monetized blogs and pyramid schemes because you “join networks” and “build inventory” and sometimes get to wear a business suit or go to a conference.  Such things are just traps, sucking money out of families that really need every dollar and further devaluing the actual work at home they could be doing for money.

Seamstress, egg lady, taking in other children, cooking for working parents, taking in hand washing: these are just a few of the real, normal, historical things housewives have done for money that can still be done even in isolated exurbs.  Mostly they don’t have corrosive and ongoing costs that are difficult to break out of and they scale up or down to individual families and the strengths of individual women.

There are other options beyond these, but the common theme is slightly more than what is done for one’s family, just enough excess to sell for a moderate profit.  Maybe not a “real job” where you sit at a desk and have meetings about synergy all day, but real work that is useful to one’s local community and one’s real bottom line.

Guest Post: Advice is not Assistance

By “Anonymousewife”

People’s situations are so radically different that the idea that household organization advice for mothers from strangers on the internet can help is part of the problem.

Every mother reading mommyblogs on the internet has the following things in common: we can read English, we have internet access. That’s it. You’ve got a group of women with very, very different situations and needs. Any single piece of advice you can write is either going to be to be obvious – make you sure you feed your kids and dress them appropriately for the weather! – or be inapplicable and even dangerous to some people, even while it’s very helpful to others.

Take “get kids outside every day.” That seems like a great piece of scheduling advice that everyone can use, right? Unless… you live in Plano during one half of the year or Fargo during the other half and have one car, which your husband uses to get to work. There are quite a lot of conservative SAHMs who are literally stuck at home with small children and cannot go outside for months out of the year because the weather is unsafe for very tiny children. The tenor of “get your kids outside” advice flattens the distinction between “uncomfortable” and “unsafe” and it’s being read by young women who didn’t grow up in the region they’ve found themselves in and don’t necessarily know the difference themselves.*

But maybe our imaginary advice reader lives in a walkable neighborhood in a city, and maybe what she’s reading is “seek out likeminded company.” So she ignores the library and community center available to her in preference to taking long busrides to a suburban megachurch (yes people actually do this).

Sibling dynamics, chronotypes, husband likes and dislikes, the floorplan of your house – all of these things make general advice aimed at a woman in a situation where she is the only one responsible for all the childcare, all the housework, and very often the education of the older children impossible. In the decade of mommy-internetting, and in the decades of dead tree mommy-advice that preceded it, the response to people pointing this out has frequently been “well obviously women should use their common sense.”

But young mothers don’t have any common sense! They’re scared and alone and vulnerable, sleep deprived and desperately looking for older women to tell them that they’re doing it right. Advising this group is not like advising other people. Simply sounding confident and being older means that young mothers are likely to believe what you say and that they should apply it.

*I can’t emphasize this point enough – if you didn’t grow up with inclement weather, you don’t know how to handle it. Someone whose husband’s job takes her from California to Minnesota can really use direct handson supervision in getting kids ready for the snow. Someone who grew up in Oregon and now lives in Arizona can really use an older woman reminding her that it really is worth insisting the 5yo keep that hat on. And someone who grew up in a place where it never gets colder than 45 or hotter than 80 can REALLY USE someone telling them the difference between “uncomfortable” and “unsafe,” because it all feels the same to us.