Saturday, February 6, 2010

What does it mean for there to be a Quiverfull Movement?

What does it mean for there to be a Quiverfull Movement?

That's the question that was posted on and the answers that followed were simply rudimentary explanations of what the movement is and that the basic fundamentals of it seem to be patriarchy and a lack of birth control. Okay.

I came across this question seeking a more meaningful answer. I was thinking maybe, "That the feminist movement has caused a backlash," or "That women have been given enough freedoms that a small handful have taken it for granted and then some."

I think this question was deserving of a deeper, more extensive answer than what it was given. What 
does it mean when women decide that their lives will be better and richer if they give up all their rightsand become submissive servants to their husbands? What could one possibly get out of repeated pregnancies and constant breastfeeding (besides excess weight, stretch marks, drooping breasts and aprolapsed uterus) while caring for an endless stream of small children? What does it mean when women freely give up all their spare time and personal pursuits in favor of a martyr's existence? And how is it that some women come to the conclusion that this life is for them independent of a man's influence?

What does it all mean? My best friend recently turned me on to a show called Mad Men, an AMC dramaset in a 1960 New York ad agency. This show has given me so much perspective on (and such a greater appreciation for) the Women's Rights Movement and what it truly means to be a second class citizen just because of your gender. The show is simultaneously amazing and disgusting. I have this creepy, jump-out-of-my-skin feeling the entire time I'm watching it, and I can only interpret that as anger and disbelief at the way these women are so accepting of the poor treatment they are constantly given. Secretaries are essentially sexual playthings and housekeepers, wives are the housekeepers and nannies that they get to have sex with, and in general a woman's only worth is her looks. Her mind, her ideas, hopes, dreams and concerns are of no consequence. No wonder so many women were alcoholics during this time! I have to say, I feel a little more generous in my opinion of my abusive, bipolar, alcoholic grandmother now that I have some context to apply to her life story.

So, why would anyone idealize this time and think for even a moment that this is the lifestyle we should be returning to? What does that mean? I refuse to believe, in this day and age, when women are still paid less on average than men who have equal jobs and when there's still never been a female president, that we simply have had it too good. I can believe that the progress that has been made hasbeen taken for granted. The Quiverfull Movement started in the mid-80's, so even the earliest adherents are too young to have been around for much of the grittiness involved in the Feminist Movement. They must not understand what it took just to get us where we are today. I can't say that even I fully understand, as a 30-year-old who was raised in liberal California, but I can at least appreciate that the rights we have are the bare minimum we should expect.

I also have to believe that this backlash has come about (at least partially) from a generation of womenwho watched their mothers struggle to "have it all." They were told that they could do it all: hold down a full time career, raise a family, have dinner ready on time, have a meaningful relationship with their children and husbands, and still climb the corporate ladder alongside the men. Well, we of the next generation know that's not true. We saw our moms struggle through it. We know you can't have it all. If you dedicate yourself fully to your career, your relationship with your family will suffer. If you choose to have a family at a reasonably young age, you won't be building your career alongside other people your age. If you take a part time job while raising a family, it will be stressful and some of your household responsibilities will suffer. If you decide to have a go at your career full-bore while you're young, by the time you have established yourself and are ready to start your family you'll be an older mom facing greater risks of infertility, birth defects and complications. If you stay home, raising your children and dedicating yourself to their education and development, giving them the most enjoyable and fulfilling childhood possible, be prepared for an identity crisis that will inevitably hit when you see your friends going out and doing the things you used to love doing while you take the kids to swim class. Hobbies and dreams suffer, and while the possibility always exists to pick up where you left off later, when the kids don't demand so much of your time, it's still hard. It's especially difficult when extreme feminists think that you, the stay at home mom who chose this life willingly, are actively reversing the Women's Rights Movement. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Quiverfull and Patriarchy crowd make us feel like we're working for the enemy since we've embraced motherhood in this phase of life, rather than the career world.

It's a choice, people. The point is that we deserve to make a choice in how we're going to live our lives. No, we can't have it all. But we can have every partial shade in between, and still feel like we, as women, are somehow lacking. Is it guilt? Is the Quiverfull Movement propelled forward by the guilt of the women in it? Since they have made this difficult choice to be dedicated (and unnecessarily subservient) wives and mothers, everyone else should have to as well? I find that explanation hard to swallow, but I find the entire idea of it ridiculous, so it's a possibility.

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