Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

Women in 19th Century America: A Frenchman’s Perspective

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Excerpted from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Vol. II, Part 3, Ch. 12.

[Emphasis mine]

…In no country has such constant care been taken as in America to trace two clearly distinct lines of action for the two sexes, and to make them keep pace one with the other, but in two pathways which are always different. American women never manage the outward concerns of the family, or conduct a business, or take a part in political life; nor are they, on the other hand, ever compelled to perform the rough labor of the fields, or to make any of those laborious exertions which demand the exertion of physical strength. No families are so poor as to form an exception to this rule. If on the one hand an American woman cannot escape from the quiet circle of domestic employments, on the other hand she is never forced to go beyond it. Hence it is that the women of America, who often exhibit a masculine strength of understanding and a manly energy, generally preserve great delicacy of personal appearance and always retain the manners of women, although they sometimes show that they have the hearts and minds of men.

Nor have the Americans ever supposed that one consequence of democratic principles is the subversion of marital power, of the confusion of the natural authorities in families. They hold that every association must have a head in order to accomplish its object, and that the natural head of the conjugal association is man. They do not therefore deny him the right of directing his partner; and they maintain, that in the smaller association of husband and wife, as well as in the great social community, the object of democracy is to regulate and legalize the powers which are necessary, not to subvert all power. This opinion is not peculiar to one sex, and contested by the other: I never observed that the women of America consider conjugal authority as a fortunate usurpation of their rights, nor that they thought themselves degraded by submitting to it. It appeared to me, on the contrary, that they attach a sort of pride to the voluntary surrender of their own will, and make it their boast to bend themselves to the yoke, not to shake it off. Such at least is the feeling expressed by the most virtuous of their sex; the others are silent; and in the United States it is not the practice for a guilty wife to clamor for the rights of women, whilst she is trampling on her holiest duties…

…It is true that the Americans rarely lavish upon women those eager attentions which are commonly paid them in Europe; but their conduct to women always implies that they suppose them to be virtuous and refined; and such is the respect entertained for the moral freedom of the sex, that in the presence of a woman the most guarded language is used, lest her ear should be offended by an expression. In America a young unmarried woman may, alone and without fear, undertake a long journey.

The legislators of the United States, who have mitigated almost all the penalties of criminal law, still make rape a capital offence, and no crime is visited with more inexorable severity by public opinion. This may be accounted for; as the Americans can conceive nothing more precious than a woman’s honor, and nothing which ought so much to be respected as her independence, they hold that no punishment is too severe for the man who deprives her of them against her will. In France, where the same offence is visited with far milder penalties, it is frequently difficult to get a verdict from a jury against the prisoner. Is this a consequence of contempt of decency or contempt of women? I cannot but believe that it is a contempt of one and of the other.

Thus the Americans do not think that man and woman have either the duty or the right to perform the same offices, but they show an equal regard for both their respective parts; and though their lot is different, they consider both of them as beings of equal value. They do not give to the courage of woman the same form or the same direction as to that of man; but they never doubt her courage: and if they hold that man and his partner ought not always to exercise their intellect and understanding in the same manner, they at least believe the understanding of the one to be as sound as that of the other, and her intellect to be as clear. Thus, then, whilst they have allowed the social inferiority of woman to subsist, they have done all they could to raise her morally and intellectually to the level of man; and in this respect they appear to me to have excellently understood the true principle of democratic improvement. As for myself, I do not hesitate to avow that, although the women of the United States are confined within the narrow circle of domestic life, and their situation is in some respects one of extreme dependence, I have nowhere seen woman occupying a loftier position; and if I were asked, now that I am drawing to the close of this work, in which I have spoken of so many important things done by the Americans, to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of that people ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply-to the superiority of their women.

Kristin’s Notes: May our society one day regain an understanding of the God-ordained roles of men and women, and demonstrate a similar respect for women, that we may build upon the successes of 19th century American society, and learn from its shortcomings.

Wives: You are not his conscience!

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

by Kristin

In the past year, I have read a few good books on marriage and being a godly wife. One thing I came across which I thought was particularly applicable to the wives of today was the truth that we are not our husband’s conscience. God did not give wives to men for the purpose of convicting them of their sin and ridding them of all their bad habits. If He did, then you would expect a wife’s nagging and criticism would instantly transform a man because God would be working through it. But He isn’t, because that is the opposite of what He intended for husbands and wives.

At the beginning, when God was looking over His creation, He said: “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18). Wives, God made us as a helper. Not a coach, not a prosecuting attorney, not a judge, but a helper. God’s created purpose for us was to lend our wholehearted support to our husband’s vision, his goals, his dreams (within the bounds of God’s law). This is how we ‘build up our house’ like a wise woman (Proverbs 14:1) and bring glory to God (Titus 2:4-5).

You may be tempted to think: “But if I don’t say anything or show him that he’s doing wrong, he’ll make pagans out of the kids with the stuff he’s letting them watch on TV,” or “he’ll keep getting us lost every time he drives us somewhere,” or “our house will look like a dump because he is too lazy to fix the screen door,” or “he’ll never do anything good, and he won’t grow as a spiritual leader.”

Consider this: No man has ever crawled out from under his wife’s criticism to achieve greatness.

Consider this: Your disrespect for your husband will ultimately be a greater destroyer of your children than his bad habits.

Consider this: You are interfering with God’s work in his life with your critical spirit. You are failing to be obedient to God yourself, and you are failing to trust God for the outcome.

If you want to change your husband, you must do it God’s way: “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear” (I Peter 3:1-2).

Be submissive. Be respectful. Trust God and obey Him.

Be encouraging. Encouragement is by far a better motivator of men than criticism is.

Be loving. Be supportive. Make your home a haven for your man, not a battle zone or a courtroom.

A Married Philosopher

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

While Ryan and I continue to disagree with Nietzsche regarding philosophers shunning marriage (see earlier post), it should be noted that a comment has already been made as to how our interaction as a married couple sometimes resembles a sitcom or comedy… 😉

Unleash Love

Friday, April 4th, 2008

“Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness” – Bertrand Russell

The Dark Side of Romance Novels

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

I encountered this short article by Steve Watters in the June 2007 edition of the Focus on the Family magazine. A man wrote to Focus with a concern over his wife’s fascination with romance novels. Like most women, his wife saw no harm in reading these books.

But consider Steve’s response to the man’s question:

“Romance novels for women are often ‘just stories’ in the same way that men might say adult magazines are ‘just magazines.’ Both romance novels and adult magazines manipulate men’s and women’s God-given desires with worldly and unhealthy fantasies.

While pornography presents images of women with perfect bodies who are always ready for sex, romance novels present men who have been emotionally re-engineered to spend all their time fulfilling a woman’s romantic fantasies. Both pornography viewers and romance novel readers end up disappointed by spouses who live in the real world.

As imperfect people living in an imperfect world, we already face enough challenges nurturing marital intimacy. Seeking to meet our emotional and physical needs with fantasies makes it that much harder to love our spouses and find contentment.”

While some may think Steve’s comparison of romance novels to pornography is extreme, he nevertheless reveals the danger that romance novels can be. Women can be prone to fantasize about meeting and marrying the perfect man, and feeding these fantasies with fictional love stories further distorts reality.

The truth is, almost all men are imperfect. Husbands will make mistakes and fall short of loving, serving, sacrificing, and leading in a perfect way. As wives, we are called to love and respect our husbands regardless of their faults and shortcomings, and to be content.

However, sisters, if this news discourages you, take heart: there is one perfect man I know. He loved His bride sacrificially, with a most perfect love. His Book is one you have got to read. 🙂

Nietzsche on Marriage

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Thus, the philosopher dislikes marriage as well as what might persuade him into it—marriage is a barrier and a disaster along his route to the optimal. What great philosopher up to now has been married? Heraclitus, Plato, Descartes, Spinoza, Leitniz, Kant, Schopenhauer—none of these got married. What’s more, we cannot even imagine them married. A married philosopher belongs in a comedy, that’s my principle. And Socrates, the exception, the malicious Socrates, it appears, got married ironically to demonstrate this very principle. -Nietzsche

We think he’s wrong. Only rebellious, anti-Christian philosophers shun marriage on principle. We embrace marriage, the pursuit of true wisdom (philosophy), and all other blessings from our good Creator.