Comment on First Things Blog

Edit: My comment was too long by about 200 words for First Things. Below is the full text, but I will edit my comment to make it fit.

A writer at First Things weighed in on the Duggar scandal. Finding her approach unhelpful, I offered a response in a comment. The comment was subsequently removed. I have inquired with First Things as to why they chose to remove it. That comment is pasted below.

“Ms. Yost,

I appreciate some of the perspectives you are attempting to offer in this piece. You are correct that there are number of unhelpful or imbalanced responses surfacing at this time, and I understand why you might feel the need to respond. I think we both agree that all involved ought to be treated with compassion, love, respect, and understanding.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe your response is characterized by a fair attempt to understand and interact critically with those with whom you disagree. For instance, your characterization of some of these writers as “roaring blogresses” is both unnecessarily disparaging and, frankly, sexist (you invented a word to carry on your unflattering portrait and unnecessarily and irrelevantly identify their gender). While I do believe that there are correct uses of polemics, your dismissive attitude here reads less like a well-reasoned criticism and more like a lazy dismissal of your opponents. You are an academic; I know you are capable of better.

Furthermore, the way in which you attribute motives to your opponents is both unChristian and unprofessional. The supposition that “some of us seem to want the ghastly percentages to go as high as possible,” and that rape culture is “a handy thing for feminists to talk about,” is not an assertion you support; instead you assume it. Certainly, you can trust many of your readers to agree because of the fear which we conservative Christians often have towards feminism and its supposed assault on the traditional family. You are in this way neglecting your duty to your readers: rather than challenging them to think more deeply and critically, you capitalize on their fears to make your point. While I know how these beliefs about feminism arise, and I believe that some of them are at least partially grounded in reality, I think largely many of these criticisms are caused by misunderstanding and miscommunication as well as attribution of motives on both sides.

Finally, I implore you to reconsider your flippant attitude regarding the Duggars “version” of Patriarchy. I don’t know your personal history, but many women raised in patriarchal environments (whether they are as strict as Bill Gothard’s organization, of which Jim Bob and Michelle are still very much a part, or more lenient in the style of John Piper) do not have the option to pursue higher education like you are doing. This is rarely because they are outright forbidden to do so, but their choices are so constrained that they believe they prefer the “better” choice of homemaking and eschew other areas of personal growth and fulfillment. I experienced this myself. Despite having supportive family and friends, it was still extremely difficult for me to choose to pursue graduate level Biblical Studies, but I’m so glad now that I did. As a woman in academics, I think you should be able to understand how potentially damaging patriarchy can be to women who have more gifts and abilities than homemaking. I realize this may appear tangential, but your casual attitude about the effects and problems of patriarchy in your article suggests that you do not perhaps understand well the dynamics of a patriarchal home like the Duggars’.

As a Christian, as a woman, as an academic, and as a former enthusiastic advocate of Patriarchy, I ask you to reconsider your approach.”

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4 comments on “Comment on First Things Blog

  1. ThatLiberalYouKnewInCollege says:

    I’m so proud of you for the way I’ve seen your brain move in the last few years. If you’d told me, during your freshman year, that I’d have the level of respect that I have for you, I would have laughed in your face. The way you’ve taken on the patriarchy–the gentleness, the understanding, mixed with an unrelenting ferocity, an unwillingness to drop the matter–has genuinely inspired me, and taught me a lot about arguing a point.

    But seriously, Sarah: don’t stop. Don’t let go of that bone. You’re on to something, and you’re the right voice to fight this fight. I wish I’d know how much I had to learn from you when I sat across the table arguing with you for all those years. Ha.

    Keep it up.

    -LD

    I’d post this on Facebook, but hey, I’m a WASP and this is a much cleaner way for me to show emotion and affection. Ha.

  2. Sarah R,
    Everyone has their pet thing. But, having pet things is so boring. At a certain point, beating down “patriarchy,” having fun being the rebel to your past self: it’s going to get boring for you. You’ll run out of energy, because there is only so much to oppose
    This is more in reply to the person above, who told you not to stop. I would stop, not because you’re not “onto” something, but because stirring the pot is one of the most boring things we can do. Less communication happens when you are against things than when you are for things. That is why I am not a huge fan of Doug Wilson’s blog, for example. There is so much misunderstanding, because he stands against things more than he stands for things. I want to see someone be excited about something, not angry about something!
    Take a stand and refresh discussion. We need it, the church needs it, and these encouraging voices are so few and far between. Your encouraging voice is needed–whatever you encourage. Encourage a lifestyle.

    It’s more fun to grow something than to tear something down. It is much harder to do.
    I guess, as a new reader to your blog, I would love to see you start painting a portrait of something you believe in, instead of things you don’t believe in, like patriarchy. It’s just more interesting.
    Besides, from your point of view, you will be unable to kill anything. You can’t kill patriarchy, you can’t open up anyone’s mind, and you can’t be a new voice. These things have been spoken about before, it’s a boring debate, and I am still left wondering:
    So…what do you advocate?

    What do you advocate? I want to know. Don’t put any anti’s in the description. All I’ve gotten, from reading 80% of the blog posts on here, is that you are “for” women as academics. Me too! Anything else?

    • serendipity says:

      I agree. In one sense, it’s terribly dull to me sometimes too. I just wrote a paper on a text critical problem in Joshua. It was fascinating. Academically, Biblical Studies is my true love. My REAL true love, my fiance, is pursuing his love of philosophy, specifically Scholasticism, and we have many fascinating discussions about Scholastic Metaphysics and especially the Doctrine of God. We can talk for hours about it and not notice the time passing.

      But I live in a world where there’s other stuff, harmful stuff. I’ll write, I’ll argue, I’ll plead about this. Not because it’s interesting to me, but because it needs to be heard. And right now, my academic work is my joy, but those aren’t the things that NEED to be said. Maybe they’ve been said before, but they deserve saying again. I’m writing for the sake of maybe the few who will listen, but I have changed some minds and encouraged others, and that’s worth so much.

      Other people can muse about pleasant things if they want . . . unfortunately I have work to do.

      • Okay, I see that. Completely. Although, if I wanted to nit-pick more, work is a fortunate thing! You could smack me at that point.

        My point was less “talk about pleasant things instead of unpleasant things.” It was more “instead of talking about the problems of patriarchy, why not offer a system or lifestyle that is better than patriarchy?” Because we would disagree on what patriarchy is, because there is so many different perspectives on this, I would just love to see what the lifestyle looks like which you prefer over it. Does that make sense? If patriarchy, however you mean it, doesn’t work, what does?

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