I wear the pants in my family; my wife picks them out

Folks, if I were smart, I would not touch this touchy subject with a ten foot pole. Not only is it an explosive topic, a verbal landscape littered with buried mines, it touches on the deepest passions and most firmly held beliefs of the human ego. Furthermore, the vocabulary to discuss is filled with ambiguity: one can hardly write a sentence, no matter how carefully hedged about with qualifications and definitions, without being misunderstood, sometimes deliberately misunderstood.
I think men and women are not equal. I think we cannot be made equal, and attempts to equalize us create more savage inequities. I think feminism is the enemy of femininity, of motherhood, of romance, and of everything that makes a woman’s life worth living.
Now, let me immediately qualify that. I think men and women are equal in so far as they are human. Both are equal in the sight of God, and should be equal in the eyes of the law, except, of course, in the case of family law, where special provision must be taken to protect women from exploitation at the hands of men. I think women should own property. I think any woman who owns a gun should be allowed to vote. Inheritance laws should not favor one sex over the other.
But I do not think men and women are equal insofar as they are both equally masculine and feminine. I do not think man and wife are equal in marriage: the man should lead the household, and the woman should rule it. The man should make the decisions and the woman should domesticate the man so that he makes the right decisions. The woman’s task is to civilize the hairy barbarians of bachelorhood into fine upstanding young breadwinners: this is preliminary to her assuming the role of motherhood, and good practice for it.
I wear the pants in my family. It is just that, in my family, my wife picks them out.
But, OK, I am not smart. I got into a lengthy, lengthy discussion with someone named Annafirtree (maybe a woman, maybe a fir tree, maybe a clever dog with a keyboard—on the Internet, one never knows, do one? But I hope it’s a guy, because no woman should listen to a man talk about male leadership without bursting into giggles.)
I want to present the discussion here, first to use an excuse to praise my wife in public; and second, to hurl defiance in the teeth of the feminists, whom, from the very moment NOW (The National Organization of Women) publicly supported the philandering adultery of Bill Clinton betrayed all womankind, and said (in effect) you gals were merely meat for ruthless men of power to exploit, and they set their banners against romance, femininity, monogamy, and motherhood (but see footnote); and third, to find out if anyone can settle the matter between Annafirtree and me: the two of us have some unspoken assumption we don’t share, and I cannot tell what that assumption is. There is something about human nature I am taking for granted, or he is, which the other one of us does not see, so we are arguing in a circle. It’s like a one person with a sense of humor talking to someone humorless: the second guy just doesn’t get the joke, and the first guy’s comments sound like nonsense, and the first guy thinks the second guy is playing along. Any suggestions?
(FOOTNOTE about NOW: please notice that the Dulles chapter of the National Organization of Women condemned the national branch for the cowards they are in terms of splendid ire. “We are unmoved by the display of moral outrage Democrats profess to feel toward a man they otherwise passionately support, someone we concluded uses and abuses women and then seeks to destroy those who attempt to expose the harm they suffered. American women deserved better then the year of unabashed sexism we just endured, relentlessly fueled by a political party we have long supported.” Dulles Chapter, N.O.W., 2-15-99 Source: MSNBC McLaughlin Special Report: /02.18.99/ My comment: Gals from Virginia, you Yankees. Don’t piss off Southern Girls. We have concealed carry.)
I made this comment on another thread:
In my marriage my wife and I are not “equal”, but I would hardly call myself a tyrant over her. When Romeo adores Juliet, she is not a tyrant over him, even though he might be willing to do anything and everything she asks.
Annafirtree writes in and asks:
I’m curious what you meant when you said your wife and you are not equal. Presumably you meant nothing in contradiction of the “no male or female in Christ” way of thinking. Perhaps you meant nothing more than what followed in the next sentence: that your love for each other does not make you into tyrants. But, unless one of you loves the other more than that one loves back, that isn’t much of a basis for saying that you are not equal. Perhaps you meant something else?

As you guessed, I mean what follows in the next sentence: “When Romeo adores Juliet, she is not a tyrant over him, even though he might be willing to do anything and everything she asks.”

My wife and I are not equal for the same reason apples and oranges are not equal, or, to be precise, the way an ogre is not equal to an elf maid or a malodorous ape to a pure angel. When I approach her loveliness, so absolute she seems, and in herself complete, so well to know her own, that what she wills to do or say, seems wisest, virtuousest, discretest, best; all higher knowledge in her presence falls degraded. Wisdom in discourse with her loses, discount’nanc’d, and like folly shows.

Surely you did not think I was hinting ME to be over HER??!!

And yet, despite her obvious superiority to me, she yields to my will in all things, obedient and meek, and calls me the master of the house and lord of the manor (except when I am in the wrong, of course, and then she corrects me while I stand blubbering and dumbfounded).

I cannot explain this to someone who is not in love. There is no place, no place at all, for equality in love. The question never comes up.

Only in the squabbling of politics, which is a type of war by other means, when every faction seeks advantage over each other, and the rich yearn to trample the poor, the poor to loot the rich, or the strong to exploit the weak, only then must we speak of equality. Equality is an armed truce, where each enemy group jealously seeks to secure itself from being ruthlessly used at the hands of others.

Equality is an agreement to keep the Law as an umpire, and keep the mechanisms of the law neutral in our struggles for dominion over each other, so that there are certain minimum spheres of privacy where the law-wars cannot reach, such as freedom of speech or religion. Love is not politics. Love is the opposite.

My wife is my heart: I would die for her, because her life means more than mine. She is my superior, for I exalt her above me. Yet she looks up to me, and she would say I was in charge, not her, if the matter ever came up at all, which it does not. We live our lives revolving around our children, and make all our schedules and sacrifices for their sake. And yet I am the master of my children, and much train and teach them.

How can any of this symbiotic life even be expressed in terms of equality? No one who is in love, true love and not infatuation, talks about whether one partner loves the other “more” or “less” than the other. Is infinity bigger than eternity? Love blinds oneself to selfishness: and without looking at oneself, how can one hold up a measuring stick to judge who is greater or smaller?



When I think of equality, particularly equality of people, I think always first of equality evaluated in terms of our humanity. Christianity answers the question “are some more human than others” with the answer “no, we are all in the image of God”, although in a completely different sense it answers that we can expand or diminish our humanity, our being-hood (for lack of a proper term), by moving closer or farther from the source of all Being. In the first case, the claim of inequality between a husband and a wife seems anti-Christian, because women are imago Dei as are men. In the second case, the evaluation of the relative saintliness of the couple seems… risky at best. If an objective evaluation determines that the other is more saintly than the self, perhaps there will be no conflict; perhaps more love will be inspired; perhaps the self will decide to abandon the love so that the loved can be with someone better. If, on the other hand, an objective evaluation determines that the self is more saintly than the other, then how can they be sure they are loving fully enough? Will they be tempted to abandon their reason, their objective evaluation, in favor of always considering the other as better? Better not to make the comparison in the first place. Yet surely God knows that he is better than us, and this does not diminish his love for us. How does he do that? The Bible says to consider others as more important than ourselves (Phil 2:3). How do we do this without abdicating reason? Is there some reason why God is capable of considering himself objectively greater than us, and not loving us less for it, but we are not capable of considering another objectively less than us without also loving them the less for it? Or is there a way to distinguish between two sorts of self-other comparison, one that we may make without loving less and one that we may not?

Most of this was not what was on my mind in the original question, though. If all are equally imago Dei in their personhood, there is the lesser issues of equality in particular aspects of our lives. Equality before the law might be considered one of them. I thought it possible, but not terribly likely, that you might refer to an inequality of authority within the home. Christians for centuries have maintained the duty of a wife to submit to her husband, not necessarily because he is greater than she, but because God meant him to be in charge. This is usually either disagreed with or at least played down in Christianity in Western cultures; depending on one’s view, this can be viewed either as an abandonment of scriptural principles or as enlightened progress. It sounds like you think that for a husband to insist on his wife’s submission would be a violation of his love for her, although a woman might voluntarily choose to submit of her own love.



Ah–Forgive me, I thought you were talking about legal equality. Usually equality refers to quantities, not qualities. A cup can be more or less full of water; you can add water or subtract it; but a man cannot be more or less stamped with the image of God; it cannot be added or subtracted.

To answer your question, I am the opposite of a feminist. A masculinist, I suppose, you could call me: I do not think the sexes are the same, and I think attempts to treat women by the male rules of the mating dance have led to disaster, and destroyed the romance and mystery of love in our modern world. You cannot waltz with both partners leading.

I have heard that most divorces these days are petitions by women who are dissatisfied: that women leave their men more often than men leave their women. I have also heard that couples who hang on through the first three to five years, even when on the brink of divorce, find themselves after that in loving, satisfactory relationships. These two facts taken together would seem to indicate that a little bit of submissiveness and meekness on the part of wives will tend to reward them with long-term happiness.

However, the Christian idea of women submitting to their husbands expressed by St. Paul (if I have understood this concept) is that the husband is the head of the household as Christ is the head of the church: in other words, that the husband’s love is such that he would gladly sacrifice himself for her good as Christ sacrificed himself for us. Far from a call for men to be domineering, it sounds like a call for men to be loving to the point of self-abnegation.

My own amateur observation of human psychology has led me to the conclusion that girls (unselfish ones) often have a sort of maternal instinct that makes them want to serve their lovers and husbands, and that boys have a learned habit of chivalry that makes them want to protect and adore their women.

Even in this age of equality between the sexes and despite it, most women naturally fall into submissive and nurturing roles. Whether this is good or bad, there is no arguing with the fact that it happens. But the men do not naturally fall into the role of being chivalrous, gentle, protective, devoted: so all the sexual revolution has done is ameliorated the protective learned habit which once restrained the young male barbarians among us, and eroded their devotional attitude into a selfish and domineering attitude.

Naturally, this is not true of all women nor of all men: but enough women have low self esteem issues, or a natural saintly meekness of character, that they can be happy with the man “in charge” provided the man in charge is devoted to being in charge of making her happy.

A gentle, submissive woman with a gentle, chivalrous man can make a happy couple: neither one will notice or care who is actually in charge.

A gentle, submissive woman with a selfish, sexually aggressive predator type man will be used and exploited and abused, and the cruel rules of psychology will send her from one domineering cruel partner to another. She will find herself attracted to and trapped by a series of one-way dead-end relationships.

The sexual revolution, promising freedom and equality to these women has not changed human nature or female psychology: all that has happened is that chivalry, the sense of honor and gentlemanliness which once checked the ruthless male predation has been removed: and so was have Marylin Monroe, on the one hand, a mostly helpless sexual object exploited and neglected by powerful men, so that she died alone; and on the other hand we have the miserable wretched satyr known as Hugh Hefner. The new rules of equality allow men and women both to be exposed to date-rape and unwanted pregnancy, but, of course, only one sex of the two can perform a rape, and only one sex of the two can get pregnant.



You analyze only the cases where the woman is gentle and submissive. Many women may naturally fall into submissive and nurturing roles, but not all of them do, and the feminist movement encourages them to do otherwise.

What happens in the scenario where a nonsubmissive woman is with a selfish, unchivalrous man? Does her lack of submissiveness protect her from his abuses? What happens when a nonsubmissive woman is with a gentle, chivalrous man? Ought he to gently encourage her to be submissive? Will he be unhappy with her? Or ought he, as modern culture tells us, accept her as she is and allow her to be as “in charge” as she wants to be?

Is the only truly happy possibility for a couple that of a submissive woman and a chivalrous man, or are other combinations equally workable, equally likely to result in happiness and objective growth towards God?

And I will say that, on the whole, women are just as likely to be selfish as men, so that if submissiveness is the natural state for women, and chivalry for men, then women are just as likely to be unsubmissive as men are to be unchivalrous. Or so I would expect, at least. (If this weren’t true, I would think that the injunction in the Bible and elsewhere for women to be submissive would not have been necessary; and I can’t, off the top of my head, think of any married woman I know who wouldn’t bristle in anger if her husband tried to give her an order, even an otherwise kind and sensible one).


I analyze this case because it is the only one I have seen. Your experience must be different.
These are good questions. Let me manfully try answer:
Q: What happens in the scenario where a nonsubmissive woman is with a selfish, unchivalrous man?
A: If it turns into a contest of wills, the man will tend to be more ruthless and more selfish, and he will win. This is not true in all cases, but it is the majority case.
I have often heard of cases where after a one night stand the guy never wants to see the girl again: one friend of mine said he wanted to push the girl out of bed the moment his lusts were sated. I have never heard of a girl express this level of contempt even for a casual lover. There is a Bible story (in Samuel, I think) about the rape of Tamar by Amnon, and this story, written in the Bronze Age, mentions that Amnon hates her once he has deflowered her, just as much as he lusted for her before.
Q: Does her lack of submissiveness protect her from his abuses?
A: No. I am not suggesting that women be trained to be submissive for the sake of protecting themselves from predatory males. I am suggesting the rules of society be set up to protect women from predatory males. I am suggesting a certain degree of submissiveness will allow the woman to ride out the storms of marriage until it turns into smooth sailing.
Q: What happens when a nonsubmissive woman is with a gentle, chivalrous man?
A: She is exposed to a powerful temptation to be selfish and domineering: if she does not resist, it ruins the relationship. If he becomes hen-pecked then she becomes a shrew. This is common enough for it to be a stereotype.
Q: Ought he to gently encourage her to be submissive?
A: Him? No. That would tempt him to be selfish. Nothing could kill love quicker. His best bet is to be totally devoted, totally loving.
Q: Will he be unhappy with her?
A: It depends on whether she resists the temptation toward selfishness. It depends on how much they love each other. It depends on whether he is chivalrous or merely fawning.
Q: Or ought he, as modern culture tells us, accept her as she is and allow her to be as “in charge” as she wants to be?
A: No one should accept anyone “as is” because “as is” means selfish, stubborn and cruel. That is human nature.
But let me not glance aside from the point: odd as this sounds, submissiveness and “being in charge” are not mutually exclusive. My wife is gentle and meek, and I defer every decision in our lives to her, because she is wiser and more well organized than I am.
Does the woman in question have children? A woman who is not capable of devotion will have a tough time being a mother. Mothers do not have themselves at the center of their own lives, although they are certainly in charge of the house. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
Q: Is the only truly happy possibility for a couple that of a submissive woman and a chivalrous man, or are other combinations equally workable, equally likely to result in happiness and objective growth towards God?
A: I went to dinner with my wife the other night, and she ordered for me and paid, and we both thought the experiment was quaint and odd–“against the order of nature” as she jokingly put it.
My wife feels small and pretty when I hold the door for her, or do other small gestures of affection: I would not feel small and pretty no matter what she did (I am a bloated 290 pound ape). Furthermore I cannot imagine that a man possessing normal and healthy male passions and tastes wants to be the princess rather than be the White Knight, badass enough to kill a dragon, courtly enough to compose a sonnet.
I have never heard of any man who wanted to be swept off his feet and carried over the threshold to his petal-strewn bridal bed: but some women, even most women, like men who are bold, confident, and masterful. Look at the lurid cover of any romance novel. The pirate prince or Red Indian with his shirt off is always dipping the swooning beauty over his well-thewed arm, never the other way around.
Men do not daydream about sweet surrender to the pillaging kisses of their strong lovers. Men daydream in images of conquest and possession: a Solomon with a thousand concubines; a Superman rescuing a grateful, hitherto-unapproachable Big City Gal Lois Lane; or an Odysseus slaying the suitors bothering his beautiful, faithful Penelope. Look at how many covers of trashy pulp magazines have pictures of Doc Savage or someone carrying the frail out of danger, or Tarzan with his mate over his shoulder. We men want to sweep the woman off her feet, not to be swept.
As far as I know, every boy has reason to daydream about Linda Carter, but no boy wants to be Steve Trevor, the weaker partner rescued by the Wonder Woman.
As for “other options” my imagination fails me. I suppose that if the man were feminine and the woman were masculine they could get along just fine, merely with the roles reversed. This might prove an odd role model for the children, though. But, no matter: love is alchemy. If a submissive man and a chivalrous woman can find happiness together, godspeed and good luck to them.
God is wise and I am not: who knows in what strange and splendid ways He might not find fit partners for men and woman who break the mold?
Really, questions about who is in charge simply don’t come up when the relationship is healthy: you both are devoted to the household as a whole, not to yourself.
Q: I can’t, off the top of my head, think of any married woman I know who wouldn’t bristle in anger if her husband tried to give her an order, even an otherwise kind and sensible one.
A: And I cannot off the top of my head think of a single time when I have given my wife an order. Nonetheless, I am the master of my household and the head of the family. Leadership is not domination; leading is not overawing. St. Paul says we husbands are to be the head our houses as Christ is the head of the Church.
Think of how Jesus gave orders to his Disciples: did He say a single thing that would make them bristle with anger? Did He order the woman with the jar of perfume to anoint Him, or the harlot to clean His feet with her tears and dry them with her hair? Only an oriental potentate of Xerxes-like pusillanimity would give an order like that. And yet my wife was waiting on me hand and foot last night, doing every little thing I asked, because I had sprained my back and could not get up.
And in return, all I have to do is give her every penny I make, be on call to entertain and amuse her 24/7, worship her in thought and deed with all my heart, and praise her in public whenever the least opportunity presents itself, slay her enemies, father her children, and hold doors for her. A bargain!
How can one woman be, at once, as servile as a little French maid or harem girl, and at the same time as adorable as a queen, as worshipful as a pagan goddess? If you are not in love, no one can explain it. Like all the normal, ordinary things of everyday life, it is a mystery and a paradox.
Equality is drab compared to the extravagant extremes of romance: away with it! I have no use for women merely equal to a goblin like me: I deserve better. Give me a Queen!


“No. I am not suggesting that women be trained to be submissive for the sake of protecting themselves from predatory males.”

Indeed, I’ve never heard anyone suggest that women be submissive to protect themselves from predatory males. I *have* heard people suggest that women ought to be unsubmissive to protect themselves from predatory males – that within a relationship, women need to stand up for themselves, defend their rights, however you want to say it, so that they do not get trampled over. I’m not sure if there’s a clear line between “not being trampled on” and “having it all my way”. Either way, that way of thinking seems to me to be at odds with the injunction to be submissive; I’m not sure if there’s a way to reconcile it or not. IF the man is being selfish (in the wife’s view), does that null her obligation to submit? If so, what’s the point of the obligation in the first place (after all, won’t a woman always think that the man is being selfish, if he wants her to do something that she is contemplating submission for?) If she still has an obligation to submit when she thinks he is being selfish, then doesn’t that put her at risk for abuse?

In the case of the nonsubmissive woman and the chivalrous man, you seem to contradict yourself. On the one hand, you say that he ought not to try to encourage her to be submissive (i.e. to change her), yet you say that he ought not to accept her “as is” (being an imperfect human). How do you reconcile those two? In general when dealing with someone else’ imperfections, what options are there besides doing something about it (encouraging them to improve) and not doing anything about it (accepting them “as is”)?

Also, why would it have to be selfish of him to encourage her to be submissive, if her lack of submission is causing her to be a domineering shrew? Granted, it would be a temptation for him to insist too much on his own way; but isn’t it (at least theoretically) possible that he could gently encourage her to be less domineering without actually crossing the line into selfishness?

Really, questions about who is in charge simply don’t come up when the relationship is healthy: you both are devoted to the household as a whole, not to yourself”.
If this were all there was to it, then an unhealthy relationship would only have to focus on decreasing each person’s selfishness, yes? The Biblical command for a wife to submit would then be… wrong? superfluous?



“On the one hand, you say that he ought not to try to encourage her to be submissive (i.e. to change her), yet you say that he ought not to accept her “as is” (being an imperfect human). How do you reconcile those two?”

Perhaps I misunderstood the question. It is not the husband’s place to try to teach his wife to be submissive, for the reason I gave. Likewise, I do not think the husband cannot, with love, or by example, urge the woman to be a better person than she is–that is one of the prime benefits of marriage. The distinction is between urging her in general to be virtuous, and urging her specifically to be meek toward his authority.

Remember again, the injunction in St. Paul is for the man to be the head of the household like Christ is the head of the Church. There is not a word in the Gospel where Christ orders his disciples to straighten up and toe the line. He tells them the last shall be first and the servant shall be the leader; he tells them his yoke is mild; he says he is meek.

When talking about the whole mystery of the war between the sexes, nothing is ever going to be “all there is to it.”

Like anything else, the injunction on women to submit to their husbands is limited to the context in which it is spoken: I don’t think the Christians who want women to put up with wifebeaters have read the passage correctly.

Would you understand me if I said unselfishness in women is submission, and unselfishness in men is chivalry? A man is not being selfish when he leads in a waltz, or when he doffs his hat, or when he holds the door for a woman, but these are all signs of masculine dominance. They are specific gestures of manliness in our culture, little outward symbols of a difference between male and female nature.



Can a woman whose husband is prone to laziness verbally encourage him to be industrious? Can a man whose wife is prone to greediness explicitly encourage her to be more generous? If so, and if domineeringness is a fault in a woman, then why may a man not explicitly encourage her to be more submissive? If not, if he may only urge her to virtue in general and not to specific virtues, why not?

Christ has a gentle side, but he has an unyielding side, too. He upsets the tables at the Temple, he chastises the woman at the well for her relationships with men, he corrects Simon for not understanding when the sinful woman annointed his feet, he warns people against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees, he warns people that the consequences for wickedness is eternal hellfire. He seeks, not to force, but to draw people away from sin. Theoretically, I don’t see why a Christlike man might not also try to draw his wife away from any any sin that he thought she was committing (so long as he is not trying to force her, but only encourage or persuade her).

I don’t think the Christians who want women to put up with wifebeaters have read the passage correctly”.

I agree, but the follow-up question to that is where, then, do you draw the line? Ought a woman to submit to verbal abuse? Simple inconsiderateness? I think it was Flannery O’Connor that wrote a story of a woman who was mostly submissive to her husband. He had promised when they married to build a better house than the one they had, up on the hill. For 20 or so years, he neglected that promise, then, when their daughter was soon to be married and still living with them, he started building a barn in that place. While he was away on a trip, when the barn was almost but not quite done, the wife took the initiative to move all the household belongings into the barn, thus making it their new house. Was she overstepping her bounds? If, on the one hand, there are some things which a woman ought to submit in, and other things (like wifebeating) that she ought not to submit to, is there a qualitative difference to tell the two apart, or only a quantitative difference, with every instance being a judgment call?

Would you understand me if I said unselfishness in women is submission, and unselfishness in men is chivalry?”

Sure. It amounts to a restatement, or endorsement, of the Biblical view that submission in a woman is virtue, something I was not previously sure you agreed with. Most Christians I know view the whole idea as an anachronism, to be ignored or interpreted away, rather than a part of the Bible to be taken seriously.

I wonder if there is any word besides chivalry that would capture manly virtue. “Chivalry” carries connotations in my mind (and probably others) of specific cultural-dependent expressions of manly virtue, so that a wifebeater might be called chivalrous if he also opens the door for his wife. (It also carries images in my mind of men riding horses and jousting, for some reason). But that is neither here nor there, as the saying goes.



Whoever told you that chivalry permitted or allowed raising a hand against a woman is a damn liar.

As evidence, let me quote the dictionary: “CHIVALRY: The qualities idealized by knighthood, such as bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women.” No one can possibly twist the meaning of the word “gallantry toward women” to include striking a woman. No one can call that brave, courteous, or honorable.

As more evidence let me direct your attention to ORLANDO FURIOSO, written centuries ago, and set in the days of Charlemagne: about as good a source for what constitutes true chivalry is you will find. This book is all about brave knights doing brave deeds and pitting their life and sacred honor on the line during jousts and wars.

There is also a famous passage where the poet says that a man who beats his wife is more of a savage beast than a wolf or a lion. Even these so called savage beasts are kind to their mates: in mankind alone is this horrid sin found, that a man would raise his fist against she whom he should most love in all the world.

Whoever told you this damned slander should not be trusted in other things. I call him a liar and a slanderer, whoever he is: and I will be happy to meet that fellow on the field of honor if he disputes that he earned the name I hang on him. If he does not understand the meaning of my challenge, if he does not understand what it means to be a man who is willing to stand by his words, I doubt he has the first glimmer of understanding of chivalry.

On the other hand, I am a Virginian, and we have always been a gallant race.



My other questions were serious; the comment on chivalry less so. It was mere curiousity about whether or not there are any other words around to describe the concept, a question inspired by the vaguest of correlations in my head between “chivalry” and external, culturally-dependent signs. No one has told me that a wifebeater can be chivalrous; I was merely taking a distinction to its extreme. If the dictionary defines chivalry as the internal qualities rather than the external actions, I’ll accept that.

Did you have any thoughts on the other questions I posed?

Sorry, I meant to answer, but ran out of time. Let us see:
Q: Where, then, do you draw the line (between being meek in the Christian sense and being the victim of a wifebeater)? Ought a woman to submit to verbal abuse? Simple inconsiderateness?
A: I cannot understand the question. It would be as if you were asking when a child should honor his father and mother, and when the children of Medea should submit to infanticide at her bloody hands. One is a normal and natural behavior to which our ordinary passions incline us: the other is a monstrous crime. You are talking as if there is some sort of sliding scale leading from being unselfish to being a battered wife. I can only assume we are talking about two different topics without noticing it.
Women are naturally maternal and feminine, so much so that the whole apparatus of modern feminism is attempting to get them out of the one-way relationships that are endemic among modern women.
I have sympathy for the feminists in this one respect: I think they are attempting something noble. They want women to receive the simple justice women do not get in this life. Life treats women badly, and men are the Number One perpetrators of a woman’s woes. A bad boyfriend or selfish husband usually causes a woman more hell than a bad relation with her mother or a sour relation with her father or in-laws or children or friends.
My observation is that these rescuers dismantled the very thing that protected women the most: the institution and customs surrounding marriage.
Nowadays, live-in boyfriends treat women like dirt just as callously as Oriental potentates ever treated their harem-slaves, and the rate of child-murder is increasing, as is the rate of violence against women: in both cases the likely cause is the lack of social or legal restraint on cohabitation. A man who moves in with his girlfriend is making no commitment, and he has no natural biological urge to care for her children by a previous boyfriend. If anything, Mother Nature whispers to him to kill these rivals for his genetic heritage. A man with no commitment is making a deal for the satisfaction of his personal passions: a live-in girlfriend is there to serve him: he has made no oath, and he is not obligated by custom or in the eyes of the law to be faithful to her. He did not swear eternal love. What makes her think he means to give her eternal love? So, in a live-in relationship, everything pressures the male toward selfishness. Why not slap her, if she gets uppity? If there was a serious love between them, he would have avowed it. If he does not avow it, she knows he takes his freedom more seriously than he takes her. And if she has not avowed her love, he knows he is here merely as a convenience for her, or because of her infatuation, or her loneliness. But she has left herself an escape hatch, and so, deep down, he knows she is not loyal to the marriage—because, obviously, there is no marriage.
My second observation is that those feminists who want to dismantle and re-engineer the passions of love and marriage and romance, have selected exactly the wrong grounds on which to make their stand. To crusade for the vote, for the right to own property in her own name, and for other legal equalities in the eyes of the law is a laudable aim for a crusade; equal pay for equal work, while based on a simple economic error, is an understandable aim for a crusade; to expect women will be happier if they are self-centered in their love affairs betrays a misunderstanding of human psychology that is risible, of it were not so appalling. It is like unto the naivety of Communists expecting all men to prosper under a system where all economic incentives encourage sloth and waste while discouraging inventiveness and energy.
Women are naturally nobler and more self-sacrificing than men. They give more than the get in a relationship. I suspect this is Mother Natures way of preparing them for motherhood, which is an endless series of giving without anything, not even thanks, in return. I can think of only one exception to this among the women I know, and this was a woman who, by no coincidence, wanted never to have children. This one girl was quite aggressive, manly and forthright in her demeanor: but even so, she was girlish and sweet and concerned with harmless womanish vanities.
Let me just say I am a very happily married man. My wife, in theory at least, is under my authority as head of the household: albeit the question never comes us, because I cannot recall a single time she and I were not of one mind on all the major issues in our house. My authority consists of an obligation to sacrifice my personal desires for the good of the group: I make the money and turn it over to her. She handles all the house finances. She never spends money on herself: I have to crowbar any funds out of the house coffers to buy her a present.
In case an argument ever did come up, she would urge me to do things my way, out of her native meekness, and I would urge her to do things her way, out of my native chivalry.
I have never had occasion to slay a dragon for her, but I protect her from overeager fans as SF conventions, or pushy salesmen, or rude dungeon masters at RPG games, or arrogant sales agents or publishers. I am her man. It is my part to play the part of a man.
Honestly, I am not even sure what this equality is that we are talking about. If anything, my beloved wife, whom I love more than life itself, is my superior. She is certainly a kinder and more joyful person than I am.
You are asking what a woman should stomach from a man in a marriage, but you are asking all the wrong questions. Here is what my wife puts up with: not verbal abuse, but absent-mindedness. Not wifebeating, but sloth. Not cruelty, but lack of discipline and order.
Does that make sense? The sins you are asking about are not ones I manifest. My wife does not put up with them because she does not need to. The sins she puts up with in me are of a very different kind. And, honestly, I don’t see what any of it has to do with equality or inequality.
What a woman would have to be like to put up with the sins of cruelty and abusiveness in her husband, I cannot imagine: and yet I have seen it, and the woman involved was saintly in her forbearance. If anything, she is too meek, and has erred by taking the virtue so far that it is a vice.
Q: If, on the one hand, there are some things which a woman ought to submit in, and other things (like wifebeating) that she ought not to submit to, is there a qualitative difference to tell the two apart, or only a quantitative difference, with every instance being a judgment call?
A: Are we talking about a couple in love, or a couple who hates each other? If they hate each other, they should regard the marriage as an armed truce, and jealously guard against every possible trespass or inroad against their defenses, and seek at every moment to humiliate, discourage and wound and weaken their spouse, for the same reason and in the same way that armed nations sharing a militarized border dare not suspend their suspicions and war-readiness for an instant. If they love each other, each should make the utmost provisions for the good of the other without given himself a moment’s thought.
In a healthy relationship undistorted by modern utopian biases, women will naturally gravitate to the supportive role, and the man to the leadership and protective role. It is what women seem to want, it is what men seem to want; it is what in general makes them comfortable.
If there are exceptions, if there is a couple where a manly and assertive woman is mated with a feminine and delicate man possessed of a self-sacrificing maternal instinct, I suppose the roles could be reversed with no great harm: but it would be like playing the violin by holding the bow still and moving the instrument back and forth beneath it. It might be odd, but there is nothing so wrong with it.
The modern feminist does not want this: as best I can tell, she wants femininity altogether to be eliminated, so that every marriage is as if between two men, both equally shallow, proud, and macho, but one has a dick and the other does not. Of the two “men” one is a real man and the other is fighting against her nature in order to act, at best, like a sissified or effete man.
I was just listening the other day to a soccer mom. The soccer mom is a sweet-faced and shapely petite figure of a woman, gentle and kindly in demeanor, cheery and bright: she is like a flower on a spring day. Any man who calls himself a man would fall on a grenade to save her, or, if some Clinton-like filth tried to molest her, any man who calls himself a man would cane the bounder. That is the kind of women she is. So this sweet feminine female was lamenting that her daughter could not hold her own in the coed soccer team where she has to compete with the little boys. Now, if these little boys are anything like my little boys, they are probably selfish monsters. The pretty soccer mom said with a confused smile that her little girl would have to be “toughened up”. This, from the lips of the least tough of all the girls in the office.
I thought this was exactly the wrong solution to her problem. The solution was to put her on a team with other little girls so she did not end up with a wrong attitude toward little boys—the attitude being that she should compete with them at their own game, and that she was a failure if she could not prevail in the areas where the boys have natural advantages.

Feminism argues that equality is the basis for a woman’s rejection of an abusive husband. If Christianity argues instead that real love does not even consider self, but gives anything for what is best for the other, then there must be an objective basis for saying that what is best for an abusive man is for his wife to leave him – or else she shouldn’t do it. But we don’t encourage women to stop and consider that when we tell her to get out of an abusive marriage.

There is a whole variety of sins a man might commit that affect a relationship; admitting that a woman ought to leave an abusive husband means that there is at least one sin he can commit that she ought to leave him for. The next obvious question is what, if any, other sins can he commit that would justify or even make it her duty to leave.


If feminism argues that equality is the basis for a woman’s rejection of an abusive husband, then feminism is an ass. This is an argument entirely without merit, because it supposes it is right when a grown-up abuses child; a king abuses a commoner; or a sane man abuses a madman.
Obviously these things cruel injustices: and the injustice is made worse because it is a case of the strong abusing the weak.
Even without no-fault divorce, cruelty and abuse are grounds for divorce.
This whole conversation confuses me: I keep talking about love, and you keep talking about wifebeating, as if love lead to wifebeating.
Wifebeating is a black crime, perhaps the worst crime in the world, and nothing in Christianity, or in any civilized philosophy, justifies it. The pagan Romans had the right to beat and kill their wives, and Christianity took that right away from them.
Recognizing that women are proper objects of chivalrous devotion is not the same as saying men should beat them; it is the opposite. I am not sure how to continue a conversation were you react to every thought as if I am saying the opposite of what I said.
Your assumption seems to be that obedience means abuse, whereas in reality the two concepts are unrelated. A man can take a baseball bat his grayhaired father (whom he by rights should obey) as easily as he take a baseball bat to his son in shortpants (who by rights should obey him). Obedience has nothing to do with it, one way or the other. One does not stop son-beating by pretending that sons should not obey their fathers. Indeed, if we all pretended that sons were equal to fathers, all that would happen is that yobs would rough up their sons and be held blameless: a little scrum between friends is no big deal. Most schoolyard friendships start with schoolyard fights.
One of the side effects of modern feminism is a loss of the protective feeling that prevents men from roughing up women. If you notice, the modern military, where women are deployed into danger zones because they are equal with soldier-boys, the women have to go escorted wherever they go on post, to save them from being molested by their own brothers-in-arms. The ideal of equality in this case exposes women to more abuse.
Modern television shows and movies have begun to show warrior-women just as tough and machismo as men: and on these shows men hit them in the face. You show these images to impressionable kids, and they get the impression that this behavior is normal.
Christianity preaches forgiveness, not masochism. If a woman wants to forgive an abusive husband, that is above and beyond the call of duty: she can forgive him from the visitor’s room of the hoosegow, because wifebeaters should be behind bars. Better yet, she can forgive him when he is on the gallows.
Someone seems to have convinced you that if a woman vows to love honor and obey her husband, he has license to no longer act like a man; but like a brute beast. But he makes a vow equally as deep: to love, honor, and cherish. St. Paul talks about leadership in the fashion as Christ leads the Church, which means, being ready to be tortured to death for the sake of your loved ones, and submitting to such a fate without protest, in perfect love; being willing to take punishments meant for her, forgiving her, praying for her continually.
Here is the passage we are talking about:
Eph 5:21: For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies.

Perhaps a better way to say that is this. Our culture right now, steeped in feminism, claims that equality is the *reason* a woman ought to leave a husband if he abuses her, and extends that line of thinking to much milder trespasses on his part. Christianity (and you) wipe out concern for equality as a consideration in a relationship. If you still maintain that a woman ought not to stay in an abusive relationship (especially in an abusive marriage), then there has to be some other *basis* for that claim: a line of reasoning that could then be applied to other situations.

Still wondering about this part, too:
Can a woman whose husband is prone to laziness verbally encourage him to be industrious? Can a man whose wife is prone to greediness explicitly encourage her to be more generous? If so, and if domineeringness is a fault in a woman, then why may a man not explicitly encourage her to be more submissive? If not, if he may only urge her to virtue in general and not to specific virtues, why not?


There are some things I do not understand so profoundly that it is not a question of disagreement, but of bewilderment. Pretend I am from the antimatter universe: everything from your universe is backward to me. There is some basic unspoken assumption behind your comments I cannot address: I don’t know what it is.
Equality is not a *reason* to do anything but to maintain an armed truce with parties you mistrust. Marriage is a situation of love and trust where the concept of equality has no meaning. An abusive husband is someone who betrays that trust and blasphemes that love. You keep talking as if abuse is a gradual step on the spectrum of love and trust, but it is the opposite, the enemy, the antithesis. It is as if I were talking about children honoring their mother and father, and you keep talking about parents burning their children alive on the altar of Moloch. I not only do not understand you, I am bewildered.
I say a woman ought not to stay with a man who beats her out of a charitable and Christian concern for the man’s well-being: because, in a normal society, the woman’s father and brothers will come by the house and kill the man, either with shotguns, or by kicking him slowly to death with hobnail boots. But I am a Christian, if he begs for mercy, he should be spared: he can divorce her and join a monastery, and never touch or see a woman again.
If you ask a woman to leave an abusive husband out of her own high self-regard, this will backfire. Her natural loving instinct will be thwarted: she will walk into the marriage expecting it to be a partnership of mutual benefit rather than a sacrament of mutual service, and she will walk out when she is no longer infatuated with her Romeo. You will end up with the opposite of your desired result: unselfish women will stay with their tormentors because a high self-regard is an insufficient motive to break a house. Meanwhile, selfish women will seek divorce merely out of lack of grit.
All this talk of trying to talk women out of masochism is slightly creepy to me. Some of this is caused by the woman being trapped by circumstance: she cannot leave her children and cannot support them if she flees with them. Some of this is caused by low self esteem: the woman actually thinks she does not deserve better. But surely some of it is that we are trying to reign in an natural self-sacrificing nobility of character: asking a saint not to be a martyr, asking a hero not to be reckless. The feminists seem to think the cure for masculine aggression is feminine selfishness: her own high opinion of herself will not allow her to stay and be beaten. This seems not a very insightful observation about human psychology.
The solution (to the degree that there is a solution in this life to radical evil) is to tell men to act like gentlemen, and humiliate, or maim or kill the men who don’t.
The way human psychology works is humans are inspired by being asked to live up to a high standard: they are not made safe by being asked to lower their standards to the lowest common denominator. Notice the utter failure of sex education programs that pass out condoms in schools, on the theory that kids mate like satyrs, and so all we can do is urge them for reasons of self-interest to hinder the spread of venereal disease. Compare that to the relative success of programs in schools preaching abstinence, where the young men are called on to act like men, self-sacrificing rather than self-interested.
Meant to answer your questions:
Q: Can a woman whose husband is prone to laziness verbally encourage him to be industrious?
A: Verbally? Sure. Why not hit him on the head with frying pan or shove a rolling pin up his trouser seat to get him moving. A woman’s job is to motivate her husband to make money to support the children. Any man who cannot take a little scolding shouldn’t get married.
Q: Can a man whose wife is prone to greediness explicitly encourage her to be more generous?
A: He can certainly pray for her. I think a husband should be forgiving of his wife’s foibles, because if he turns into a nag or a critic, his homelife and hers can become a living hell. There are married couples who have arguments that last for YEARS, until every word is a weapon calculated to wound, and every raw spot is a boil swelled to bursting with the pus of accumulated resentment. A husband who tries to set himself up to be his wife’s conscience runs a terrific risk.
The reverse is not the case: Nature clearly intended wives to nag husbands. Husbands, your job is to straighten up.
There is a natural balance of forces here. Nature also clearly intended the man to be in charge of the relationship. If he controls the money, he can check her overspending habits with a firm but gentle hand.
But, far be it from me to say how others should run their lives! I have an absurdly happy marriage: I have no idea of the dangers or the benefits of husbands and wives meddling in each other’s lives. All I can say is that in theory, their lives should be one. When instead they organism of marriage competes with itself, and the house is divided, the same things that might be wise in a healthy marriage will shatter a marriage whose health is more delicate.
And the answer will differ from person to person. If you ask me whether a man should eat a hearty meal, I will say yes, but not to excess. A thin man who hears me will take my word to mean he should eat less, and he starves himself: a fat man who hears me will take my word to mean he should eat more, and he swells in gluttony.
Don’t ask a healthy man how to care for his health. He never thinks a moment about his health, because health is natural. Don’t ask a happily married man how to run a marriage: happiness is natural to him as water to a fish, a part of his environment. Fish do not know they are wet.
Q: If so, and if domineeringness is a fault in a woman, then why may a man not explicitly encourage her to be more submissive?
A: I thought I answered this. The man cannot urge the woman to submission because it is directly in his self-interest. A parent should be generous to his child, but if a child asks a parent to be generous to his child, the child is not instructing the parent in virtue, the child is trying to rook the parent out of cash.
One cannot ask other people to be self-sacrificing when one is oneself the beneficiary of their sacrifice: the idea is grotesque.
Q: If not, if he may only urge her to virtue in general and not to specific virtues, why not?
A: Again, you and I approach the question from very different contexts. There is some unspoken assumption you are making I don’t see.
A husband is neither a teacher nor a priest nor the keeper of his wife’s conscience. His mission in life is to love her, not to improve her. Her mission is to improve him, perhaps; but only if she is not his equal. If she is an equal partner, she loses the right to be his domesticator.
Love will improve her where attempts to improve her will make her worse. This is not true in all cases, but it is true often enough to be a commonplace idea.


Finally, here is my wife’s stance on the issue:

Lest any of you girls be misled by the illustrious Mr. Wright’s masculine bluster, (cute as it is,) the Wright household runs like this:

John: Dear, where’s my (name of any object here)? Dear, what are we doing
this weekend? Dear, can I buy a movie this week? Dear, how many children
do we have?

Jagi: Answers question, provides object, information on plans — all made
by her — answers finacial questions, and keeps track of the number of
children (very difficult.)

John: But, I am in charge of the family, right?

Jagi, nodding: Yes, of course, dear.

Woman, I have thrown salesmen out of the house for you, and I made 470 pounds Sterling writing a NIGHT LANDS tale just yesterday! Show some respect. I am sure we can get along with our five children…
Robin (interrupting): Three, sir…

… three children just fine. I remember one of them was born on Groundhog Day (Imbolc for you pagans, Candlemas for us Christians), one was born sixteen days before Michaelmas (on St. John Chrysostom’s Day, the patron of orators), one born of the feast of St. Justyn the Martyr, patron saint of philosophers.


In any case, the little woman does all the brain-work in the house, and I just show up to eat meals and cough up cash. So everything is run in the Wright household as it should be, and all is right with the world.

If St. Paul was talking about ME making the plans for the weekend as the husband’s duty, well, by the rump of Baphomet, that’s too difficult a yoke for me: if that’s what St. Paul demands, unroll for me a prayer-rug and throw away my whisky jug, I’m converting to Mohammedanism!