Note: This is the story of a cisgendered, straight male who grew up in a complementarian environment moving towards egalitarianism; the impact of comp teaching is harder for women.
Now for the part of my story involving gender roles. Though the term wasn’t used, my church adhered to complementarianism, which teaches that men and women are equal on status but have different roles, the leading roles going to men and the supporting ones to women. Our church wasn’t opposed to women preaching, for we were pastored by a husband and wife team(and the wife became the senior pastor after her husband died) and Joyce Meyers was played in church. However there were many sermons on husbands’ being the head of the house and the wives’ need to submit, something that was strongly pushed and lack of submission by wives was strongly preached against. Husbands were to be providers and 1950’s gender roles were upheld as ideal, but there was some leeway for wives to work. I heard sermons that it’s best that young women work close to the church and/or family, rather than in the world, as a means of protection. This existed for the young men as well, but seemed to be stressed more for the young women.
I was a teenager when I began to move away from comp teaching. At that time I felt treated like I had no brains, and was told that submission meant I had to accept that treatment. As you could guess, I hated that treatment. I vowed to never treat anyone like that, and after I got married, that I wouldn’t go along with the throw-my-weight-around approach.(Yes, I had expressed misogynistic views before this.)
When at 18 I started questioning my upbringing. The only way I was able to explain it was using Plato’s Cave Allegory(which is my profile pic). I decided I wanted more than the four walls of my insular church. Thus, I decided I wanted a wife from outside my bubble, which meant there would be no male headship and no submission. I decided I just wanted to be able to have my life and not be forced into a cookie-cutter mold; thus I wanted someone who would agree that we would let each other have their lives. But I also wanted someone for whom these interests overlapped.
The next stop was my reading Richard Foster’s book In Celebration of Discipline. Due to the subordinate status of women in Greco-Roman society by even addressing women in the first place, Foster explained, Paul was empowering women, giving them agency. He also pointed out that the command to husbands to “love their wives” isn’t that much different from the command to submission, for obedience to that command required a lot of submission on the husband’s part. Foster pointed out the sting of the teaching fell on the husbands.
Years later I read an excerpt from Liza Mindy’s The Richer Sex(later the whole book). In this book Mundy mentions women becoming the primary breadwinners and even outearning their significant others. (Overall there is still a pay gap, with women behind.) I and my friends had been made by our church to work at a job long hours making next to nothing. There were times I requested from church leadership to find another job, but was denied. We were told that women were into it for the money, that they wouldn’t want poor guys. However we were also told men were supposed to be the providers, because “if any provide not for his own, and specifically for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8). Actually that verse means people shouldn’t dump their elderly relatives onto the church, but is commonly used to promote traditional gender roles.
Anyway, when I realized there are women willing to accept as significant others men with less education and/or who make less money, I welcomed it. I was in my late-20’s at the time, and this meant I actually had a chance of not being an old bachelor. I came to see traditional roles as favoring the rich over the poor. This plus other things caused me to question the stereotype of feminists as man-haters. I came to see women’s lib as necessary for the liberation of all humanity; the view that I can’t be all I can be until you can be all you can be. It was at this time I became pro-feminist.
Later I found Sarah Bessey’s book Jesus Feminist in Barnes and Noble, which I bought. I read a few other books and followed feminists on Twitter after I got an account (and some followed me back). I found articles on egalitarianism(the view that men and women are equal both in status and role) and came to embrace this label. While I do have questions about certain issues, there is no question that women deserve basic respect that comes from being human, the right to not be restricted by their role but to pursue their dreams,security; in short, human rights!
This is the story of how I became egalitarian and came to identify as pro-feminist; in a later podcast, I’m going to present a case for egalitarianism/feminism.