Submission is a loaded word especially within relationships. Personally I don’t like it. I suppose that I should have waited to the conclusion to drop that bombshell but I thought it best to lay my cards on the table. Submission is about control and more importantly it’s about female control. It’s an ideology which seeks to determine what women think and do. I have debated this topic with various people who all try to convince me that the word just has a bad press and that there is more to submission than meets my cynical eye. Yet I am resolute, I just do not understand why any man would want a submissive woman. Surely a life partner who supports and challenges you does more for your personal growth than a mute ‘Stepford wife’?
To truly understand what submission means, let’s look at the word itself.
Noun: 1. The action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.
2. An act of surrendering to a hold by one’s opponent.
Synonyms: obedience – subjection – subordination
(Source: Oxford Dictionary)
I just can’t see where submission has a place in a loving relationship. When I think of the word ‘yield’ I imagine my partner lurking in the shadows ready to pounce and wrestle me to the ground. I also cannot get on board with the idea of yielding to a ‘superior force’ or ‘the will or authority of another’. Women are expected to submit to men, therefore is a male a superior force just because of his gender? All because I was exposed to more X chromosome than Y chromosome in the womb am I now relegated to taking a passive position in life or regarded as a second class citizen devoid of any authority in the world or in my own relationship? I believe that love empowers people; it makes them the best that they can be. How can I be empowered and submissive at the same time?
I am a woman of faith and I am always brought back to the same part of scripture by those defending female submission:
‘Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Saviour. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing[a]her by the washing with water through the word,and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’
Ephesians 5:22-33 NIV
The Bible is a spiritual and historical book. The world at the start of the millennia was very different place from the one we have now. Women were not educated and their upkeep was wholly dependent on their husbands. Women could not vote or have any say about any aspect of public life. A woman’s role was to care for children and the home. These women were completely at the mercy of their husbands as they had no means to generate an income. In that era it would have been unfathomable to think that a mere two thousand years later that women would become heads of state, breadwinners or just self sufficient individuals. Modern women cannot be expected to behave or condone behaviour that was accepted two thousand years ago. I also struggle with the idea of submitting myself to a man in the same way that I would show deference to God. Human beings are fallible; I don’t see how any mortal man has the spiritual authority to be my saviour.
I have been to several weddings were this quotation has been read out. In almost every instance the main emphasis has been about the wife’s submission and very little focus is placed upon the husband’s responsibilities to the marriage. I find it ironic that the little submissive wife is held accountable for the success of the relationship. I have sat through a few homilies (by men and women) which have gone on at great length to state how men need to be respected, how nagging erodes a man sense of self worth, how women must be patient with their men and follow through with their decisions even if they are wrong. It is not the place of a mere wife to point out her husband’s shortcomings. He will arrive at a level of higher understanding by himself. Yet I have rarely heard a pastor or priest informing a groom that he should be prepared to sacrifice his life for his wife or that all of his actions should place her happiness at the forefront. The quotation asks for a woman’s submission in exchange for her husband’s continued sacrifice. It seems like a bum deal if Christian women are being asked to be submissive in the first instance and remain silent even if their husbands do not live up to their end of the bargain.
Very fixed gender roles are a disservice to both men and women. They portray women as whiny harridans who need to know their place. No two women will be the same type of wife. Different women are just that, different. It also suggests that all a woman can bring to a marriage is a womb, clean laundry, cooked meals and a warm bed. This completely disregards the various skills that each woman has. What if I am better at handling finances than my husband, am I correct in letting him lose the household money for fear of denting his manly pride? There is also an inference that men have a fragile sense of their masculinity. Would they suddenly morph into emasculated eunuchs if not treated like deities in their homes? A real man does not have to beat his chest in order to know what his gender is. I am always very suspicious of anyone who needs others to be weak in order to have a full sense of self. These types of people do not need a subservient partner; they probably need some form of counselling.
This type of thinking is not just prevalent in certain churches, mosques or temples. I have met many men who are atheists or do not believe in a formalised religion but hold the ideal of the submissive wife close to their hearts. Apparently, feminism has ruined everything with women behaving like men and undermining the role of men in society. Men of this ilk need to stop focusing on what women are doing and look at what they are bringing to the table. They cannot complain when single mothers and absentee fathers are on the rise. For the record, I am totally against pitting the sexes against each other. The fact is we need one another. However, I celebrate the fact that women have more options than ever before. Women have greater choices and have higher expectation of potential partners. They don’t just need a breadwinner to keep a roof over their head; they need a life partner to love, cherish and grow old with.
Love is a choice and keeping that love depends on a series of choices made everyday. I choose to do things to make my partner happy because making him happy makes me happy. Likewise, I am sure that he would prefer to watch the football instead of proof reading my posts but he does it to show his support for my work. We are not mutually considerate because we are yielding to one another; we choose to make the other happy. There are many women who are happy being housewives and expect their husbands to make the final decisions about their lives. However, it is still a choice made by those couples. Everyone should be free to forge the type of relationship which works for them, with each person having the space to develop and grow in that union. Submission is about control not consideration. Why would anyone want to be controlled by the person they choose to be with? Real love is something that cannot be forced; it develops of its own accord. If I have free will to believe in God, surely I am free to demonstrate how I love the man in my life.
Please let me know your thoughts.