I have been reflecting a lot lately on what my “theology” of marriage is, and that has led me to thinking in general on equality between the genders. I feel like I am stuck in between two camps. The dominant views I’ve heard seem to depict men as the ultimate authority in everything or try to make it appear as though women are the only people capable of accomplishing anything.
I grew up in the south, where “chivalry” rules all relationships. I don’t simply mean that men act as gentlemen—the Southern Chivalry teaches men act as gentlemen because women are incapable of taking care of themselves, let alone contributing anything to a relationship. I found that women were seen as the submissive member of the relationship. The men make all of the decisions. The men decide when a relationship starts, what happens in the relationship, and seem to dictate where the relationship is going. Women who make any kind of move are seen as loose and inappropriate. I have watched women give up their hopes and dreams for their husbands. They give up everything to be married.
I’m not talking about the marriages with “traditional” gender roles. Many healthy relationships have the man as the breadwinner and the woman sitting at home, contributing to the relationship by keeping the house her husband provides. I don’t have a problem with homemakers at all. If that is what you want to do, then go ahead and do it. There isn’t a problem with that. I am talking about women in my life who have repeatedly given up their dreams for their husbands until not only do they see themselves as a little less than human—their husbands come to adopt the same view.
On the other hand, I have known women who value themselves entirely over their husbands. They treat their husbands like they are little kids incapable of accomplishing anything. Men are seen as children and women are seen as the responsible ones. This seems to be the view growing in popularity in our culture. Almost all relationship on TV work this way—the women have an extra child in their home and call him “husband.” If someone makes a stupid mistake, it’s the man, and it’s up to the woman to find time between her two jobs, taking care of her kids, and doing all the housework to fix the problem.
I think both sides are wrong. We are called to submit to one another in love. That means both submit to each other. It is a relationship of equality. We should value one another’s dreams as much as the other person. While I don’t mind having a door held for me, why can’t I in love hold the door for another? If we as a church truly believe in equality, then we need to have that in our relationships.