Category Archives: patriarchy

when you never have enough

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I grew up in a home where we ALWAYS had enough. And more than enough. My dad had an amazing job which both allowed him lots of flexibility and garnered a more than ample income. We never lacked for clothes, shoes, food, a roof over our heads–or the optional things like gifts, vacations, tuition for tutorials, musical instruments. Despite all of this, I have grown up with a scarcity mentality, and it bothers me greatly. I mean, after all of that, I shouldn’t have a pervasive scarcity mentality. But I do.

Lately I have had some troubles at one of my jobs. The management and staffing are deplorable, we don’t have enough supplies, and several of my male coworkers have made sexually disparaging comments about and toward me. Additionally, I found out that we have several registered sex offenders in our facility, and one night I had my first experience (after a year in healthcare) with a coding patient. Needless to say, it has been stressful. I recently reentered the world of long-term care after taking a year long hiatus in which I nannied and worked in childcare. I’ve had my misgivings. As a result, I decided to apply at a home health care agency and see what happened. Which was a perfectly reasonable and logical move.

Except. I am currently working three regular jobs, and while none of them are full time I still end up with 45-50 hours a week on top of being a full time student. I’m on a full ride academic scholarship at my university, so I have only a few incidental expenses to cover since my scholarship covers room and board as well as books, fees and tuition. I don’t NEED three jobs to make ends meet. Some of my coworkers do, and I have the utmost admiration for them and the amazingly hard amount of work they do. But for me, I don’t need to do it, and it’s almost a little insane that I keep doing it. I didn’t need to apply for a new job, or if I did I needed to look at the very real decision to quit at least one of the jobs I currently have and focus more on one job.

I quickly got three call backs from the agencies I applied to. I went in for an interview at one, and they seemed likely to offer me the job. However, they weren’t open to working with my schedule because of school, and that was a no go. I had to withdraw my application, and I started freaking out because that likely meant they would never hire me. Reality was, it’s not in my field, it isn’t a job I will likely ever apply to again, they weren’t willing to work with my schedule, they didn’t pay great, I would have to drive and would not get gas compensation, and if I wanted to work in that field the demand is so high and supply so low that I would not have a problem getting a job with another agency down the road. But I was still freaking out.

After talking to a friend, I realized that I live my life like this. I stockpile food and snacks. I often have food go bad because I don’t eat it in time. I have enough soap and shampoo to last for the rest of my life, I think. At least several years. I collect books and paper, notebooks and pencils, pens, gloves from work, magazines and newspapers. I’m so afraid of not having enough that I always get more than I need.

I thought back to my childhood, and even though we always had enough, I remember my mom constantly holding the possibility of my dad losing his job over our heads. Then what would we do? she’d say. In reality, there wasn’t much of a chance of this, but we didn’t know better. We constantly heard stories of people not having enough to eat and how we should be grateful. My parents didn’t shy away from telling us stories of people who lost their homes or didn’t have food in the cupboards. They believed in exposing us to the more grisly side of life unnecessarily, for reasons I don’t know if I’ll ever quite understand (we also heard in depth accounts of torture and death of Christians for their faith, but that deserves its own post).

I grew up trying to reconcile the cognitive dissonance that comes from being told on one hand that if you work hard and are responsible, you will be ahead of every other non-Christian in the world who doesn’t (yeah, bs) and on the other worrying that your extremely hardworking father will lose his job at any moment. And that has left me with an insane fear that I can never work enough, never be busy enough, never be make enough money, to feel secure. I always feel like I could be/should be doing more.

Each day I am working to undo this dangerous and problematic mindset, although it’s been a hard road. I have to remind myself that people and mental health are more important than a padded bank account. I have to set aside time to take care of myself and tell myself that taking time out to read, walk, go out to eat or watch a movie (heaven forbid I spend money on myself) is not a crime or a sin. And for today, I think I need to quit a job.

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I’m not a weapon

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As a homeschooled child/adult/person, I’m really tired of being called a weapon. Last week I read an article that compared homeschooled students to “firearms in private hands.” I grew up hearing that I was an “arrow” in a “quiver” (Psalm 127:4), that I was a culture warrior being “equipped to positively influence the politics of tomorrow.” Look, people! I’m not a rifle or a pistol or an AK-47 or anything like that. The difference pertinent to this article is that I have a brain. All the programming in the world is not going to turn me into one, either.

Unfortunately, the idea of your children being culture-changers is inbred in Christian fundamentalism homeschooling circles. It’s everywhere. Libby Anne at Love, Joy, Feminism writes about it frequently. It’s considered good practice, and often the reason that parents keep kids home. My parents kept us at home partly because they wanted to give us a firm foundation (read teach us to think exactly what they thought and be able to reason and argue and defend that mindset). They thought that this was their duty, encouraged by the likes of Michael Farris and others. Raise your children in a Christian home, teach them Biblical principles, have them memorize entire books of scripture, homeschool them, shelter them from any outside influence possible, and teach them that their role in life (secondary to their complementarian gender roles) is to propagate those beliefs in the world. If you do this, your kids will become perfect little clones of you, and they will “withstand the devil’s fiery darts.” It’s like a math equation.

There are so. many. problems. with this. It harms everyone. It hurts parents–they feel like they have not done something right. The gurus of their community promised perfect little clones, but now their kids are rejecting the values that they tried so hard to instill. They are thinking for themselves and choosing their own political standpoints. They may not go to church all the time, they may not be gender binary, they may associate with people from all areas of life and value their beliefs, and they may not homeschool their kids. Parents (like mine) end up feeling like they have failed at raising their kids. Unfortunately, this often morphs into anger directed at said children. I was extremely lucky that my parents did not cut me out of my family, even though they think I am probably not saved. Others, like Cynthia Jeub and her sisters, are not so lucky. Expecting your human children to actually be robots hurts parents.

It also hurts kids. Obviously. Now, while I totally believe that parents cannot turn their kids into robots, they can permanently scar them by treating them like cloned automatons or putting too much responsibility on them. Expecting children to be able to parrot arguments for pro-life and pro-traditional-marriage and other pet views of the parents only hurts kids. It only leads to cognitive dissonance when said children grow up and start to want to think on their own. While you can’t totally control your kids’ brains, you can screw them up pretty royally and give them what amounts to a diminished version of Stockholm syndrome by trying to control them.

I was trained to be a perfect evangelical Christian fundamental quiverfull culture warrior. I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes my parents did. I was going to change the world because I knew what was right (the Christian far right, of course) and I was prepare to defend it.

Only I’m not. And even as I have broken free from my parents domineering control, I struggle with the PTSD-like brain memories whenever I try to do something differently. I struggle with guilt because I’m not in church every Sunday, even though going to church is pure torture to me and not something that I am convinced is necessary or good for me. I have frequent crises of doubt when I realize that my more and more left-leaning views are only going farther and farther. What if I’m going to be eternally damned because I don’t believe abortion is sin? Or that all LGBTQI individuals are going to hell? I’m weighed down with guilt and shame, constantly reminding myself that I don’t believe that stuff anymore, but not yet able to freely move from under it.

I am not a weapon. While I know this, and am learning to live with more freedom from those expectations, it still haunts me. I hurt for the many still being raised this way, who don’t know that they have every right to an opinion and their own beliefs. For the sake of our children, quit treating them like robots.

when good men do nothing

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[Recently Homeschoolers Anonymous published an article about a sexual/physical abuse cover up that involved “big” names in the homeschooling community: HSLDA, Heidi St. John, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Great Homeschool Conventions, and more.  (To read the entire article, which I’ll just summarize, click here).

Basically, a son of the family that owns The Old Schoolhouse Magazine molested his younger cousin seven years ago. This family also physically abused a niece that they took in to live with them. The family of the child who was abused has been trying for seven years to reconcile with the family of the abuser while at the same time protecting their children and others that the abuser has access to through church, traveling, and other means. This process involved one-on-one confrontation, asking others to come and support them in their confrontation (Matthew 18), reaching out to mutual friends, and contacting the Home School Legal Defense Association and individually reaching out to people high in the HSLDA system such as Mike Smith and people high in the GHC such as Heidi St. John. Recently, Eric Nouvak contacted Ryan Stollar of Homeschooler’s Anonymous and Hannah Ettinger with some of the details in this story. They did a very thorough and well-researched report on the situation, which as of yet has not been addressed.]

The whole situation makes me sick to my stomach. It is hard to write about, just like it’s hard to hear about.

Homeschooling can be an amazing educational choice. Unfortunately for those who want to continue to teach their children at home, the actions of HSLDA, Heidi St. John and others who are supposed to be “protecting” homeschoolers are jeopardizing that. If these well-respected organizations and individuals whose primary mission is to protect homeschoolers are “too busy” to deal with the “distraction” of insidious and widespread child abuse and child sexual abuse, children will continue to be victimized and eventually more and more regulation and supervision will be forced on homeschoolers. It is not ok to hear about something like this and ignore it! It is not ok to discriminate against victims. It is not ok to cover up abuse.
And I cannot emphasize this enough: when child abuse is strongly suspected or certainly known about, it is NOT enough to use Matthew 18 or self-policing. In these cases, the situation MUST BE REPORTED to the pertinent authorities. Children and families who have been victimized this way need professional help, not just a Biblical/nouthetic counselor or a pastor. They may need this support, yes, but that is for people who are trained in how to deal with things like this to decide. Ironically, HSLDA wrote about this on their website in response to an earlier outrage over abuse that they ignored. They added a page that talked about how to report abuse and neglect which stated, “Although HSLDA has expressed reservations about methods of abuse reporting and investigation in the current child welfare system, we strongly believe that when there is reliable evidence that a child is being abused or neglected, the government has a duty to intervene.”
Excuse me, folks! What did HSLDA, through its leaders WHO PUT OUT THIS STATEMENT ON ABUSE AND NEGLECT, do? They ignored child abuse, blatantly. Abuse that had multiple victims who spoke up. They refused to involve the government–or even try a more “Biblical” method of intervention. HSLDA abandoned the defenseless, the helpless, the children.
But does this really surprise me? No. Sadly, no. It infuriates me, but it is what I would expect from an organization from HSLDA that pushes for the rights of parents to the exclusion of the rights of children. Children’s rights are a bad word for them. They promote the parental rights amendment, which would effectively give parents unquestionable authority over their children with no regard to what might be best for their children. If a parent does not believe in something (vaccinations, socialization, evolution, women getting higher education), they are not obligated to give it to their children (or to give them the opportunity). HSLDA has long fear-mongered among homeschoolers regarding social services, public schools, and anything to do with the government in regards to accountability for homeschoolers. Whether or not they intended to do so, they are creating a haven for patriarchy, abuse, and neglect in every area. This cover up is basically the only logical outworking of the system that they have created.
I want to live in a country where I have the freedom to homeschool my hypothetical children if I ever wanted to. I want to live in a country that protects and respects children and guarantees them basic rights of personhood. I don’t think these two desires are exclusive. However, if leaders in the homeschooling community continue to refuse to protect children, someone else will step in. Like it or not, they are the reason that “outsiders” need to keep better tabs on homeschoolers. Apparently, self-policing isn’t going to be enough (surprise). For our children and for ourselves, we must speak up, or evil will triumph.