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Thoughts on "Back in the Day" Fundies and Patriarchy


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This is my first time starting a topic on the new board. I hope I'm doing it right.

 

I was thinking about fundies and patriarchal marriages and how they are always claiming that's how it was done "back in the day" and I started wondering if that was really true. I don't know a ton about the history of marriage, but from what I do know, I don't think most marriages would have fit fundie ideals. I especially doubt that there was a whole lot of teaching boys to be good manly men or whatever. I'm sure boys were taught to be strong and provide for their families while girls were taught to be good wives and mothers. But I think the emphasis was probably more on working hard and doing what you needed to do to survive and I think this would be more likely to create partnership type marriages than a lot of people think.

 

Sort of rambling post. Why does what I want to say always sound so much better in my head than it does when I try to get it down on paper (or screen, as it were)?

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I think they've carefully crafted an image of a past they've never experienced in order to better sell their worldview and enable others to think that it can actually be lived. They take certain policies, common notions, mix it in with their own ideals and make it out to be that most everyone lived in this way and quite happily, too.

The problem is is that they don't see humans today and throughout time as individuals within different contexts, but very much in blocks. "All men think this" and "all women think that", for example. To them, the dynamic between a couple and situation in which they may find themselves comes off as strangely uniform. They also don't account for what one could get away with if done discretely, what was unsaid and what went unrecorded (or made apparent in-between the lines), etc. If something is in opposition to their particular view of history, they ignore it or discredit it. Very selective.

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I wish I could remember this book, but I took the class in like 1992 and Google isn't helping me - in one of my intro American history classes, we read a book about everyday life in colonial New England, where the primary sources were mostly diaries with a few substantiating public documents (property titles, stuff like that.)

Anyway, the research showed that at least in New England, young people had a lot of freedom, controlled at least a little bit of their own money (both wage workers and "keepers at home" who managed their own segment of the family business - animal husbandry usually, producing eggs or cheese), and generally handled their own courtships and let the adults know when they'd made a decision.

small towns & villages, people had the whole wilderness around them for privacy purposes, and you'd leave home to visit a neighbor and, with no phones or mechanized transport, it meant a walk of whatever distance and then being pretty incommunicado til you happened to go home.

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We've got some family letters between ancestors in the 1850's, they talk about marriage almost as a business deal, so that they can take care of each other. They decided between them to get married, not any other family involved.

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I wish I could remember this book, but I took the class in like 1992 and Google isn't helping me - in one of my intro American history classes, we read a book about everyday life in colonial New England, where the primary sources were mostly diaries with a few substantiating public documents (property titles, stuff like that.)

Anyway, the research showed that at least in New England, young people had a lot of freedom, controlled at least a little bit of their own money (both wage workers and "keepers at home" who managed their own segment of the family business - animal husbandry usually, producing eggs or cheese), and generally handled their own courtships and let the adults know when they'd made a decision.

small towns & villages, people had the whole wilderness around them for privacy purposes, and you'd leave home to visit a neighbor and, with no phones or mechanized transport, it meant a walk of whatever distance and then being pretty incommunicado til you happened to go home.

For quite a while I've been trying to remember the source of similar reading, done in college, of course. About Colonial women who owned property, ran businesses, etc. The book was by, or included diary entries, a midwife who supported her family, owned their home and land and was the most respected person in their community. I think I remember this being in Maine. Although I can't remember the book itself, I clearly remember a 'reading' of it where the word daughter was pronounced 'daf-ter' - and it confused the hell out of us. But, it was explained that at that time, daughter and laughter carried the same sound.

I can remember that, but not the name of the book. Weird. But, I've wanted to find it again because I think it goes a very, very long way in refuting the idea that 'traditionally' women have only had specific roles.

**Edited because I finally made Google my friend and used a search string that worked. The Midwife's Tale, based on the diaries of Martha Ballard - that's the book I've been trying to remember!

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All those manly Frontier men that they idolize, the kind you see in campy Westerns, would have all known how to knit, sew, and cook. In a society where your wife could easily die in childbirth and your nearest neighbor was miles away, you couldn't rely on church ladies bringing you casseroles every day. You learned to cook or you starved to death. You learned to knit or you froze to death.

A lot of fundie women treat "homemaking" skills like just fun little hobbies, and we certainly have the luxury to do so. I'm not even fundie and I knit for fun but couldn't knit for survival. But in the past, both men and women did all these skills just to eke out survival for another year. Making pickles and fruit preserves weren't just money-saving hobbies that pampered housewives did for thoughtful gift ideas. They had to make their food last throughout the winter, and if they didn't do it they couldn't necessarily just buy food from somewhere else no matter how much money they had.

On the same token, women have learned to do "manly" tasks just for survival. If you're a housewife on a big farm and your husband becomes crippled from polio, then somebody has to harvest those crops. Sure, people did have a stronger sense of community, but all the other people had their own farms to worry about and could only offer so much help. Even on a farm with a healthy strapping husband and several healthy strapping sons, there was always too much work to go around. Women collected eggs, milked cows, churned butter, and helped with harvesting. It wasn't optional to just sit it out and wait for prince charming to sweep you off your feet. They did it or they risked dying.

Until just a few decades ago (and still in plenty of parts of the world), mere survival was a daily struggle for most people, and fundies forget that. People did work that needed to be done, and even though there were certainly gender roles, if there was no one of the "right" gender to do something, then someone of the "wrong" gender would step up and do it.

Fundies fantasize about fictional lives of upper-class people. They forget about the serfs and the peasants, and they also forget that even the lives of the nobles weren't as nice as they are portrayed in fictional works.

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There are several mass-audience books of this sort that are quite interesting. One I liked is "The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap" by Stephanie Koontz. For a more technological perspective, there is "The Good Old Days - They Were Terrible!" by Otto Bettmann.

A recurring theme is how the idealized "traditional values" family in most cases is a combination of values that existed in SEPARATE times among SEPARATE classes of people. So for instance, the perfect wife and mother is supposed to be completely devoted to her husband and romantic, while at the same time being an unfailing martyr mother always there to do literally everything for her kids. While there have been times and places where either of those ideals were the current "way it was," they did not occur together. Etc.

Similarly you have the certain segment of fundiedom that is very enamored of all things Victorian, and particularly the ideal of schooling as it's presented in the writings of Charlotte Mason. She actually ran a school, but as applied to homeschooling it's all about genteel talks and reading heroic "living book" narratives in the drawing room with Mother, long nature walks among greenery, etc. Okay, but the only reason a certain tiny sliver of the (well-off!!) public could possibly live that way is that they had hordes of people working for them, either directly (as servants) or indirectly (working women of all sorts). The people in "The 1900 House" discover this as well - coming from the land of technology (modern day) they were surprised to find out that yes, back in 1900 to have the sort of material life even approaching "normal" of today, you had human servants to do all that labor by hand.

And yes, there was a lot of labor. So you did have people getting married for economic reasons, to be an economic unit, someone is there to do the hard work of keeping a house with little or no modern conveniences while someone is bringing in outside money. You had single people living in boarding houses or hotels in the city for the same reason, someone has to cook all that food and do the laundry because you don't have a freezer and Kenmore in the basement, y'know? You had people taking in extra work at home (and giving it to the kids, no genteel drawing room lessons for them) just to make ends meet, etc. In the modern world where we DO have essentially robots to do most of that labor, there is no practical need to insist that one person stay home and keep the floors spotless with their PhD in homemaking. And so yeah, you can afford to have your "from scratch!" Prairie Muffin womenfolk making cutesy little lace-packed preserves as gifts only.

Bottom line is, that large segment of fundiedom fetishes some cherry-picked parts of what was a quite rare (by percentage) upper class lifestyle and combines it with hobby farming. But I might just be cynical about the whole thing! ;)

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I can't recommend The Way We Never Were highly enough. It is truly an eye-opening book for all those who think life was mom at home and dad at work for most of history.

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This is going back further than our fundies usually do but since the Victorian era was enamored of rewriting the values of the 'romantic medieval' era I thought it might apply. Terry Jones of Monty Python fame has great history documentaries. In one he examines women and marriage in the middle ages. Women could divorce their husbands for failing to sexual satisfy them. The hubbie was brought to court where experienced women would try to ''hmm' encourage the man to perform. If he failed the woman would be granted her divorcement. They were often fairly independent and marriages were more about property rights and economy than love. Women owned businesses, went on independent pilgrimages and did a whole host of other cool stuff.

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Guest Anonymous
This is going back further than our fundies usually do but since the Victorian era was enamored of rewriting the values of the 'romantic medieval' era I thought it might apply. Terry Jones of Monty Python fame has great history documentaries. In one he examines women and marriage in the middle ages. Women could divorce their husbands for failing to sexual satisfy them. The hubbie was brought to court where experienced women would try to ''hmm' encourage the man to perform. If he failed the woman would be granted her divorcement. They were often fairly independent and marriages were more about property rights and economy than love. Women owned businesses, went on independent pilgrimages and did a whole host of other cool stuff.

In medieval times, if a craftsman or tradesman died, his widow didn't necessarily sell the business to a competitor or to his journeymen and apprentices. Many widows, if they had heads for business and didn't have sons old enough to run the business, operated their late husbands' businesses on their own. In England, women who had inherited a trade from their husbands could even join the trade guilds in their own right.

And life for upperclass women wasn't all unicorns and rainbows. On many manors, the wives and daughters of the noblemen functioned as herbal doctors. If someone dropped an anvil on his foot, or a knight was injured during sword practice, it was the lady who would patch him up. They were also responsible for hiring/firing house servants and seeing to it that the children of the house were educated. In the case of daughters, the wives themselves often did the teaching.

Many medieval women also operated stalls at the markets, selling fresh produce and hand-crafted items.

Oh and in Elizabethan times, by tradition a wife or daughter in charge of a dairy had the right to keep any money she made by selling milk, butter, buttermilk, or cream.

it wasn't just medieval women who could divorce husbands who failed to perform sexually. Puritan women in New England could, and did, also do so.

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I always thought it was very telling that many frontier states had extremely liberal laws in regards to a woman's voting, property ownership, and divorce rights in order to attract women to settle in the state.

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The fundies' vision of America is closer to what we see in today's Saudi Arabia than to anything in America or Europe's past.

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SRSLY. And yet we have all these "oh the terrible Muslim strictures, WE noble Christians would NEVER be like that" ridiculousness in modern times...

I've long thought, it's not the specific flavor of religion but rather where a given person/sermon is on the fundie/literal scale that really determines the cringe factor. Certainly at least within the "religions of the book" it seems that fundamentalist Jews/Christians/Muslims have far more in common, lifestyle/practice-wise anyway, than any of them do with the more "worldly" or "modern" streams of their own religions.

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My favorite fundie omission is polygamy. It's an extremely biblical concept that never gets mentioned at all, even when talking about marriage in biblical times, when a man could marry as many women as he could afford to purchase from their fathers. Sure, you get a few sects that are into it, but I don't think the VF is going to publish books about it any time soon.

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I wish I could remember this book, but I took the class in like 1992 and Google isn't helping me - in one of my intro American history classes, we read a book about everyday life in colonial New England, where the primary sources were mostly diaries with a few substantiating public documents (property titles, stuff like that.)

Anyway, the research showed that at least in New England, young people had a lot of freedom, controlled at least a little bit of their own money (both wage workers and "keepers at home" who managed their own segment of the family business - animal husbandry usually, producing eggs or cheese), and generally handled their own courtships and let the adults know when they'd made a decision.

small towns & villages, people had the whole wilderness around them for privacy purposes, and you'd leave home to visit a neighbor and, with no phones or mechanized transport, it meant a walk of whatever distance and then being pretty incommunicado til you happened to go home.

I may own that book, if I find it and tell you the author do you think it would ring a bell? I have quite a few books like that so I will look and see if I can help you out there... but the books are scattered all over the house so it may take me a little while.

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