Repost: Patriocentricity is not Patriarchy

Some things just have to be endlessly repeated over and over, clearly.  Patriocentricity is father-worship, with an emphasis on individual family units being subservient to unrestrained false “patriarchs” who themselves have no higher authority to be subject to (not even other father-leaders).

Unfortunately, patriocentricity is what a lot of conservatives think of as patriarchy.  It is worst in abusive fundamentalist Christian subcultures like Quiverfull or the now-former Vision Forum and Gothard/ATI subcultures, but it certainly appears over and over among other kinds of conservative or traditionalist Christians.

One reason these subcultures are relatively small is because there is no coherent authority or hierarchy.  At best they are cults of personality, which cannot be lasting sources of invested authority.  At worst it’s a bunch of isolated families being ill used by a man who answers to no-one and does as he pleases, which was not really the case in any historical patriarchy, not even the pagan ones where a patriarch had life or death authority over his familias/clan.

Patriarchy means men have responsibilities and have to answer to other people outside their immediate family.  They also, in addition, have headship in their own individual households, but it doesn’t supersede their hierarchical status within their local community.  I find it quite telling that a lot of self-proclaimed patriarchs on and off the internet fight the hardest against actual patriarchy being implemented.  An unfortunate and recent example is Doug Philips of Vision Forum.  He failed to accede to the authority or intervention of his (supposed) co-elders, which again is rebellion and not patriarchy.  More prosaic examples are the guys who can never attend a church because the leadership just isn’t Godly enough for them and “pastor” their families at home.

For the purposes of those interested in Western traditions and restoring them to the extent possible given time and technology, polygamy is practical patriocentricity rather than patriarchy.  So anyone supporting or encouraging polygamy is not advocating a pro-Christian patriarchy or pro-Western patriarchy position.  Patriocentric systems work against patriarchy, and polygamy tends to degenerate into patriocentricity fairly readily.  While not a common conservative theme, there are nevertheless a noticeable minority who promote polygamy either implicitly or explicitly and this promotion should be discouraged among those who are pro-Christian patriarchy.

H/T to Hester at Scarlet Letters, who is slogging through old Vision Forum stuff and brought the term patriocentricity into play.  It’s a very useful term.

ETA: From the comments, it appears the term was coined several years ago by Karen Campbell over at the blog That Mom.

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A Tale of Two Patriarchs, a Manosphere Patriarch and a Practical Patriarch

Once upon a time in Alaska, there lived two men who felt called by God to go live out in a cabin in the woods with their huge families.  One was a patriarch in the manosphere mold, one was very much not.

The manospherian patriarch called himself Papa Pilgrim.

He married a teenager who was about 20 years younger than he was.

He had 15 children with her.

He required that wife and children all refer to him as “Lord”.

He used “dread”, both metaphorical and literal.  This is, apparently, deemed perfectly Christian and proper for husbands to do by manospherians.

He did not submit to any male authority, religious or otherwise, assuring his family that his authority was ultimate and needed no constraint.

They lived in the woods on hundreds of acres, the children recording music and touring, the entire family developing impressive homesteading and survival skills as well.

As time went on, despite those skills, the family could not make it through the harsh Alaskan winters reliably, so the manospherian patriarch had his family go spend a particularly harsh winter with another very large family (nine children).  I may have left a couple of things out.  Nothing that would be considered bad in the manosphere of course.

As it turns out, the manospherian patriarch ended up in jail because the practical patriarch heading the family of nine felt it was his duty to subject the manosphere patriarch to the rule of law for the manosphere patriarch’s mistreatment of his family.

The practical patriarch also raised self-sufficient children, was openly and clearly the buck-stopping head of his household and lived a simple, back to the land kind of life with his wife and nine children.  Some of those children even married the children of the manosphere patriarch.  But the practical patriarch regularly sought his close to his own age wife’s input and her advice and counsel were a big part of his ultimate decision to bring external authority into the situation.  The manosphere patriarch’s children were astonished that a husband and wife would have private time with each other to reconnect and be close as a couple, they were used to such private time being a sign of their father’s displeasure with their mother.

Their mother did not stand by her man, she stood by her children, who came to forgive her slowly and painfully over time.  The manospherian patriarch died alone in jail, unrepentant.

 

 

Mormon men are not patriocentric

This is one of the reasons Mormon culture retains many aspects of normal life.  Being a father is high-status in Mormon culture, but father-rule in an individual family is not.  This is a crucial difference between Mormon elevation of fatherhood and the acceptable fringe fundamentalist and conservative Christian elevation of fatherhood as godhood.

It’s not that the father isn’t the head of the household, he very much is, but he isn’t supposed to run unchecked in the broader community.  He’s supposed to demonstrate his paternal quality by contributing as a peer in the community.  The Mormons have a very practical view of servant leadership, let’s just say.

This isn’t entirely Mormon, it’s kind of Nordic, a sort of egalitarian gloss on Christian patriarchy, fellowship of equals and all that.  Some of the specifics of how it plays out among Mormons are related to their religion, but the broad practical fact that men aren’t individual lords of the manor running unchecked is not specifically Mormon at all.

A quick example: It’s currently a mark of lower status *from other men* to have 10+ kids.  Mormons converged on 3-6 kids as the normal family size range over time, even though they started with the idea that it was fine for the women to pop them out as fast as possible.  But this was not producing “productive” wives and children, so they scaled back what was an acceptable number of kids for a guy to expect from his wife.  It also means women aren’t under pressure to prove their “openness to life” by having babies near-constantly (a real issue in both Catholic and Protestant superfecundity subcultures, of which Quiverfull is merely the most well-known, but not the only one).

So Mormon women like the housewife life quite a bit more than a lot of other conservative women because they aren’t as likely to be under hyperfertility pressures that hit in a lot of conservative Christian and Christian-like groups.

Basically, since Mormons are expected to have the leisure and energy to provide free community services to each other, they converged on a standard of household formation that is traditional-enough, that can leave married households with that time available even during some of the time the children are little.  Mormon men also take provision very very seriously and just aggressively try to earn good wages early on, and they prove it’s still quite doable if you really want to do it.  This pursuit of what is now “early maturity” in the wider culture means Mormon men are much more open to hierarchy and authority being implemented in mostly traditional fashions and don’t tend to be full of “I’m too holy for discipline/attending church/participating in my local community” like the worst of the patriocentric conservative Christians.

 

Lindsay’s unhistorical logic, or fisking some typical conservative dismissals of the domestic sphere

Fisking is a fine old internet tradition and this is a pretty good example of the kind of conservative polemic that actually dismisses the domestic sphere it claims to promote. So the post (most of it) follows below, with my interpolations to the post and a few remarks on the comments.

The Vital Importance of a Wife and Mother at Home

 *snipped intro*
We live in a culture that sees us primarily as individuals who simply make associations with each other. Marriage is generally seen as just a partnership between two separate people. The Christian view of marriage, however, is radically different. The Bible says that the two become one. Not two that have a connection, but one. God doesn’t give separate overall missions to each individual person. There is only one overall calling for that one marriage entity. A husband and wife are a family and have a calling together, but the husband bears the primary responsibility for fulfilling that mission while the wife bears the primary responsibility for supporting her husband’s work toward the family’s calling.
This is not really where the danger lies.  Wives supporting husbands is fine.
That is what it means, for example, that the husband is the spiritual head or leader of the family. A husband will answer to God for the spiritual health of his family in a way that the wife will not because it is the man’s primary responsibility. His calling, above all, is to lead his family to know and serve God. Other parts of his mission may involve outreach beyond his family such as missions work, serving in the church, witnessing to coworkers, etc., but his primary responsibility before God is to lead his own family and ensure their spiritual health. A wife’s primary responsibility in this area is to support her husband’s leadership to ensure that chaos does not derail their family’s spiritual journey and that her husband has the time and energy to devote to spiritual leadership because he isn’t distracted by other minor concerns.
This is getting a little patriocentric, but we haven’t quite gotten to the core derailing tactic yet. Lindsay sounds like she’s starting to talk about delegation of properly ordered authority.  Let’s see if that’s the case.
The story comes to mind of Acts 6 and the choosing of deacons to take care of details like feeding the needy so that the apostles could concentrate on preaching and teaching. This kind of hierarchy is found throughout life, not just in marriage. It’s not about inferiority, it’s about efficiency in fulfilling a purpose. It was the deacons’ role to handle logistics so that the apostles could spend their time pursuing the main mission of preaching the word and saving souls. In the same way, it is a wife’s role to handle logistics of the home so that her husband can concentrate his energy on pursuing the family’s main mission for God.
This sounds like properly ordered delegation…. BUT!
The other thing to consider is that the responsibility for providing for the family is given primarily to the man. It simply isn’t the wife’s responsibility in the same way it is for the husband. Not only are men given the responsibility of spiritual leadership, but they also must provide for their family’s economic needs. In both cases, men will answer to God for how they do so. Providing is a heavy burden given to a man. It requires much time and effort. It is a great support to the husband when the wife takes care of the logistical details of the household so that the husband can devote his efforts to providing and the spiritual training of the children and then, if energy is left, to outside endeavors to further the Kingdom of God.

Now, can a woman handle the logistics of the home, ensure her family is cared for, and still work outside the home? Perhaps, in some cases – especially if they do not yet have children. But no woman is Superwoman. We all have limitations. It’s just not possible for any woman to adequately care for children and home while holding down a full time job. The care of children and the home is primarily a woman’s responsibility in a way it isn’t for her husband. If there are no children, it may be possible for her to care for the home and her husband and still keep a job outside the home, but she must keep the home and her husband as her priority.

Once children arrive, it becomes pretty much impossible for her to work outside the home and still fulfill her duties at home. The funny thing about children is that they need constant care. One cannot care for children and work outside the home too. The choice once children come along is whether to outsource the care of the children to someone else or to do it yourself. I firmly believe that God entrusts children to a husband and wife because he wants them to be the primary influences in their children’s lives. That doesn’t happen if the children spend a majority of their waking hours in the care of someone else.

Children don’t just need food and shelter provided to them, they need love, teaching, discipline, a sense of security, and examples of how they are to live. All of those things are best done when the child spends time primarily with his or her parents. Daycare workers, school teachers, and even grandparents simply cannot provide them in the same way parents can. No one loves a child like his own parents do. No one has such a vested interest in ensuring that he grows up with the proper spiritual and moral training. Even if others care about the child, the responsibility for the training of a child belongs to his parents. Daycare workers and teachers and grandparents won’t answer to God for the soul of that child. His parents will.

There it is.  Three paragraphs of false dichotomy in which the only economic activity possible must occur outside the home in a full time capacity.  Further, Lindsay also ignores the extensive history of the domestic sphere not being carried on the backs of individual housewives at all, but upon mistresses and delegation to their servants or shared labor among the women of the village/town/neighborhood.  She’s also presenting a fundamentally anti-patriarchal view of the housewife by dismissing the loving community relationships that children gain access to in traditional Christian patriarchal societies. In this following paragraph, she continues with the straw-housewife portrayal.
So, given the needs of children, I am convinced that women are called to be with their children, training and caring for them as their primary caregiver. Does that mean a mother can’t have any job outside the home? In theory, no. In practice, yes. A woman’s priority must be her own family. If she can have her children with her or leave them for only a short time each day, she may still be able to provide the necessary training and care they need from their mother and earn some income. But in doing that, she needs to be sure she is not neglecting her husband’s needs either. Theoretically, a woman can have it all – keeping a job and caring for her family too. The problem is that it is a very rare woman who has the energy to keep up with the constant needs of her children for care, training, discipline, and love and those of her husband for companionship, sex, and a partner in life as well as the logistics of running a household and still have something left for even a part-time job.

What usually happens when a woman has an outside job is that her family simply suffers the lack. Either her children spend a lot of time with other caregivers or teachers or her husband does without the companionship and marital intimacy he needs or some of the household chores descend on the husband, taking away some of his time and energy to train his children spiritually and impact the world for Christ. Often it’s a combination of these. A woman simply cannot meet all the needs of her family when she is spread that thin and, as a result, something important gets left undone.

A tired, worn down woman doing all the childcare and (somehow) all the household chores like cooking and cleaning also cannot meet all the needs of her family when she’s spread so thin.  The idea that just being home all day with no breaks from the needs of the children while still being expected to produce a Better Homes and Gardens style domestic haven is even possible for a solitary housewife with no paid or unpaid help should reveal itself to be obviously impossible.  Yet here Lindsay is, dutifully pushing this classic conservative trope of housewiving.  And she follows it up with more doubling down on the false choice of “work full time outside the home and GOD WILL HATE YOU AND YOUR BABIES” or “work yourself into exhaustion and early physical breakdown FOR THE KINGDOM GURLFREND”.
Of course, there are circumstances where it is necessary for a family’s survival for the wife to work outside the home. That is not the ideal, but it sometimes happens. In that case, the goal should be to do whatever is necessary to make it a temporary situation so that the wife can return to the home and children and be available to meet her husband’s need as well. If that means downgrading the house, foregoing vacations, having the husband take a second job or a better paying job, having the wife work from home, or whatever, the goal should be to work towards having the wife available to fulfill her responsibilities at home. It is vital to the health of her family – both physically and spiritually. There is no replacement for a wife and mother. The family will never be as effective for the Kingdom of God as it could be if the wife is not at home, taking care of her family.

I and a few others responded in the comments, one brave lady named “Mrs. Lamp” attempted to confront the silliness and was met (as was I in my own comment along those lines) with doubling down or a redefinition of history to fit the narrative that mom as primary caregiver is the One Way to Love Jesus if you have kids.  I am so, so tired of this craziness.  It is craziness, you see.

No, mamma is not always going to be the sole caregiver, or even primary one, and that’s not unholy or unBiblical or even untraditional or unpatriarchal.  A good case could be made that the real problem is pressuring women to forego the fellowship and support of other women to carry a heavy burden alone and tying that to Heavenly salvation.

It’s also possible for housewives to be economically productive in the home or on a part-time basis outside the home.  There is a whole range of possibilities, even post-industrially.

The token mansplaining from “Conan the Cimmerian” in the comments is only worth mentioning for how ridiculous and silly it is, effectively nonsensical but so, so usual and standard among a certain kind of conservative man.

The reason I fisked this at all is not because it’s unique or unusual, but because it’s pretty standard-issue.  Way too many conservatives love this black and white view of the wife’s role in marriage.  They love this unhistorical, unreal, unhealthy, not doctrinally sound idea of a housewife as a sort of Platonic being of pure love with no real physical, spiritual or emotional needs or reality.  They love her being a consumption good in herself rather than a potential economic contributor to the household coffers (unless, in a post I really will someday finish, she does Amway or some other similar scam/exploitation).

It’s so poisonous and terrible, especially the Christian variation Lindsay used, where not being on board with this false ideal means you’re a bad Christian wife.  That little bonus should be far less common but is all too sadly quite easy to find among Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant housewives all.  Ultimately it subverts the ability to maintain a properly ordered domestic sphere and thus is an own-goal.

Patriocentricity is not Patriarchy

Some things just have to be endlessly repeated over and over, clearly.  Patriocentricity is father-worship, with an emphasis on individual family units being subservient to unrestrained false “patriarchs” who themselves have no higher authority to be subject to (not even other father-leaders).

Unfortunately, patriocentricity is what a lot of conservatives think of as patriarchy.  It is worst in abusive fundamentalist Christian subcultures like Quiverfull or the now-former Vision Forum and Gothard/ATI subcultures, but it certainly appears over and over among other kinds of conservative or traditionalist Christians.

One reason these subcultures are relatively small is because there is no coherent authority or hierarchy.  At best they are cults of personality, which cannot be lasting sources of invested authority.  At worst it’s a bunch of isolated families being ill used by a man who answers to no-one and does as he pleases, which was not really the case in any historical patriarchy, not even the pagan ones where a patriarch had life or death authority over his familias/clan.

Patriarchy means men have responsibilities and have to answer to other people outside their immediate family.  They also, in addition, have headship in their own individual households, but it doesn’t supersede their hierarchical status within their local community.  I find it quite telling that a lot of self-proclaimed patriarchs on and off the internet fight the hardest against actual patriarchy being implemented.  An unfortunate and recent example is Doug Philips of Vision Forum.  He failed to accede to the authority or intervention of his (supposed) co-elders, which again is rebellion and not patriarchy.  More prosaic examples are the guys who can never attend a church because the leadership just isn’t Godly enough for them and “pastor” their families at home.

For the purposes of those interested in Western traditions and restoring them to the extent possible given time and technology, polygamy is practical patriocentricity rather than patriarchy.  So anyone supporting or encouraging polygamy is not advocating a pro-Christian patriarchy or pro-Western patriarchy position.  Patriocentric systems work against patriarchy, and polygamy tends to degenerate into patriocentricity fairly readily.  While not a common conservative theme, there are nevertheless a noticeable minority who promote polygamy either implicitly or explicitly and this promotion should be discouraged among those who are pro-Christian patriarchy.

H/T to Hester at Scarlet Letters, who is slogging through old Vision Forum stuff and brought the term patriocentricity into play.  It’s a very useful term.

ETA: From the comments, it appears the term was coined several years ago by Karen Campbell over at the blog That Mom.