What Happens to the Daughters?

I grew up in a very conservative Christian home. My parents encouraged me and my sister to wear skirts. I remember some talk about raising your daughters to be “keepers at home,” and I’m pretty sure they read at least one book on courtship. I’m not sure that they went much further than that with trying to make us proper daughters. I did, though. In high school, I read a number of blogs on things like “Beautiful Womanhood” and daughters of Virtue and whatever else you want to call it.

I’m not going to lie: there were some benefits. I got a lot of encouragement on making a good use of my time, and loving my family, and many other very good things. So far so good. Still, I don’t go in for such reading much anymore.

What’s bothering me?

What happens when your expectation is that adult daughters stay at home until they are married? That depends on the family, but it opens up the possibility of some very bad things happening.

Some people enjoy controlling other people, and when you tell them it is their duty to take charge of their adult daughters, bad things may happen. Even worse if the daughters don’t believe they have any other legitimate options.

Parents don’t just take charge of minor decisions: they may feel free to decide where (and if) their daughter can work, whether she can go to school, and, of course, who she can marry. This is done in the name of protecting daughters. It may work out that way sometimes.

Imagine, though, that your parents decide everything about what you can do and where you can go and your only hope of escape is marriage. If that’s not bad enough, your parents get to decide who you marry.

Sure, maybe for a lot of people all that is is veto-power. Maybe they won’t make you marry someone (although, I won’t say I haven’t heard of it happening. Or at least of a lot of parental pressure being applied to convince the young lady to marry the approved suitor. How true these stories are . . . I can’t be the judge.), but they certainly can tell you who not to marry. This means if you want to get out from under Mommy and Daddy’s control, good luck. Maybe you can find a reasonable guy whom they will approve, but he better mind his p’s and q’s during your courtship and engagement, or it all will be for naught, and you’ll have to put up with Mommy and Daddy for a while longer until you can find a suitable replacement.

Okay. So appeal to someone. Surely somebody else can talk reason into them?

Maybe. But if all of your friends run in the same circles, they won’t be eager to do anything. They’re going to agree in principle about parental authority and therefore probably are not inclined to look at the situation to see if maybe something is not kosher. Expectations are such that the issue could easily be framed as the daughter being rebellious, no matter how unreasonable the parents may actually be. Many defenses of keeping daughters at home and the courtship model have been written already. Mom and Dad can retreat behind those and may never have to argue their own case themselves. The daughter now gets to choose whether she will submit or be labeled a rebel by everyone she knows. Things are not looking good.

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7 comments on “What Happens to the Daughters?

  1. alplattner says:

    Wow. I can completely relate to this. You hit the nail on the head on this issue! I was in the same situation, but thankfully have gotten out. I think that conservative Christianity has taken far too much license to read into the Bible in regards to how to treat women. I remember taking a class in college (that I didn’t want to take because I thought it would be legalistic) and listening to our teacher systematically explore some beliefs like that, showing that they were not Biblical at all. It freed me up to give organized religion another chance.

    Anyway, this article was great. Thanks for sharing!

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      I’m also glad that you found people to help you get past this. One of the biggest dangers here is that people are driven away from Christ and the church, because all of the abuse of authority is directly linked to what’s being taught in church. It becomes very hard to separate the Gospel from harmful teaching.

  2. zandarkoad says:

    Sounds like the most important factor isn’t mentioned. The daughter’s relationship with her father. Literally from before conception “Christian” fathers in America do much to abrogate their God-given responsibilities towards their daughters. It should come as no surprise that there are troubles when the sacred, intimate task of finding a husband for his daughter is undertaken (or rather, ignored). Most “Christian” men think they are doing their part if they occasionally threaten his daughter’s boyfriends with a shotgun. It’s a joke. Fathers should be networking with good families, always keeping an eye open for potential suitors. But more importantly, he should always hold the love of his daughter. If you have a young woman who is seriously considering marrying to get away from her family, the father failed a LONG TIME AGO at maintaining the precious love his daughter naturally has for him. I don’t care what his religious affiliation is, or what his external religious practices are. He needs to repent.

    • Sarah says:

      My main concern is that a lot of parents either don’t love their kids or don’t love them in a wise and godly way.

      I know lots of families where this system appears to have done no harm. But there are many families where daughters are being mistreated and no one, certainly not their parents’ friends or pastors will speak up for them. In fact, the young women get castigated for being rebellious. It seems like this setup is ripe for abuse.

      Yes, absolutely, relationships are key. But what do you do when the relationships are broken and no one in authority is willing to deal with it?

      • Misti says:

        The setup is ripe for abuse. I’m not the only person I know who pretty much had to cut ties and leave (from the same circle of parents).

        My mother literally took food off my plate (as an adult) to give to someone else from church (a teen boy), the main time a group of us were at a restaurant—food that she insisted she “couldn’t have known” I was still going to be hungry enough to need even though I’d said outright I was going to eat it (multiple times).

        People commented on how much (and how fast) I would eat when food I wasn’t allergic to was available. And yet, even though more than one person scratched their heads over how my eating patterns matched someone who’d been starved at least once as a child, nobody seemed to realize that many of my illness symptoms actually match how hunger manifests in someone who’s been chronically underfed.

        And that was one of the things I wasn’t entirely aware of when I finally made it out. (The actual straw that broke the camel’s back was a situation that could’ve put me in the hospital. I’ve linked to the blog post that mentions it—which also includes a visit from one relative in the comments. A visit from one of my nicer relatives, which is not hyperbole or sarcasm.

        The Bible has multiple examples of women running their own households. All the focus on the “Biblical womanhood” stuff ignores that and twists Scriptures to apply to things they don’t actually pertain to.

        My father referred to Proverbs 31 as justification for demanding to know everything about my finances and client list; I’m a freelancer with NDAs. My family outright insisted NDAs didn’t apply to them. We had that argument multiple times—though I’m sure they’d insist I’m “making things up” and/or “remembering things that never happened,” if asked. If I dared point out that the Scripture reference didn’t actually support or pertain to what my family said it did, I was being dishonoring, disrespectful, rebellious.

        You try to apply Matthew 18, and it’s ignored on them but applied to you (for daring to bring anything to them and thereby being rebellious/disrespectful).

        I’ve gotten far away and no longer communicate with any of them, but it’s rough, especially because people idolize “reconciliation” and ignore the prerequisites required. I’ve had people tell me the responsibility is on me to reconcile after I’ve been yelled at and the yeller has refused to admit they’re even yelled. Excuse me? That’s not the pattern detailed in Scripture. I gently pointed out their inappropriate words and tone, and they just kept going. That isn’t the actions of a repentant person.

        There comes a point where you have to walk away and leave it all to God, because otherwise, you’re trying to change them by your own power.

      • Sarah says:

        Misti, thanks for your comment! Somehow it got stuck in my spam folder, but I fished it out today!

        I am really sorry for your experiences, thank you for sharing them here. You experienced real abuse: I’m glad you found freedom. It’s very hard to take things into your own hands when taking charge makes you rebellious by definition, but I’m so encouraged to hear stories from brave women like you.

  3. […] TN. Sarah was raised in the Christian homeschooling movement. She plans to be married in January. This article first appeared on her blog and is used with […]

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