Thursday, May 31, 2018

Spiritual Self-Defense - Know What God Requires - Commentary One

I graduated from a small Catholic college that required all undergraduate students to take a single "theology" class during their attendance at the college.  I placed theology in quotes because the college was about respecting students' beliefs so there were a wide range of options from traditional theology classes to philosophy classes to comparative religion classes and even work-study classes that did volunteering in communities. 

I appreciated the plethora of options, but I was a Biology major with a Chemistry minor who was earning a Secondary Education teaching certificate which is essentially a second major while working part-time off-campus.   In other words, I wanted the simplest course I could take so I signed up for "Intro to Christian Spirituality"  and figured 12 years of Catholic schooling would carry me through the course without too much extra work.  I was right - but I did manage to learn some new things along the way. 

One day, the professor introduced the topic of theodicy which is a fancy term for theologians who attempt to explain why God allows evil to happen - or a related topic of why God allows bad things to happen to good people.  Bluntly, this is a loaded topic for anyone who has lost a family member so I was pretty checked out - but I'll never forget the professor's words of warning at the start.

He started by saying that theodicy is a great topic for academic arguments between theologians - but never, ever bring up any of those arguments in the real world when doing pastoral care...or just being a human. 

I wish the Botkin Sisters applied that piece of wisdom to the blog post I'm reviewing tonight. 

I am not a theologian - and no amount of training could convert me into one; my brain doesn't work like that.  With that caveat, I think that Anna Sofia and/or Elizabeth Botkin could get away with an academic, deeply researched treatise about ideal responses to sexual aggression in the Bible.  They'd need to bone up on how to support ideas from the Bible and need to show some basic understanding of the literary forms in the Bible, but the real benefit of academic research is that nearly any topic can be delved into without doing harm to other people.  Read the Bible, play "Concordance Chance", learn some ancient Hebrew, reference a few commentaries, figure out which formatting the journal wants and poof!  The Botkin Sisters can act out their fascination with the actions of women facing sexual aggression in the Bible without doing harm to any of their readers.

The second paragraph in this post shows a major flaw in their argument that the Bible has a neatly defined plan of response for women facing attackers:

As we explained in Part 1, 100% of the guilt of the abuser’s crime rests on the abuser, no matter what the victim does or doesn’t do. There is nothing a victim can do to “deserve” abuse, and if she fails to stop a crime being committed against her, it’s never “her fault.” However, while God promises that the sin of our abusers will not go unpunished (Num. 32:23, Isa. 13:11, Prov. 11:21), He has also given us specific instructions for becoming a type of woman and developing a type of strength that can make us devastating to this kind of man. But that first requires knowing how to draw the lines.

Notice that the Bible states unambiguously multiple times that sins will be punished.  The verses in Numbers, Isaiah and Proverbs - along with lots of other ones - make it clear that people may get away with sin on Earth, but God will punish sin eventually.   That's super clear - so where are the clear, clear verses that sum up God's "specific instructions" to women? 

Interesting fact: those verses don't exist.  The Bible has plenty of cases of sexual harassment and assault in it - and there's no single way that people responded.

I'm glad the Botkin Sisters have moved away from direct victim-blaming (yay!).  Notice, though, that there is still an indirect condemnation of women who don't follow the allegedly Biblical way of resisting sexual harassment and assault.  A woman versed in the Botkin Method is "devastating" to abusers.  First, what the hell does that mean?  I've worked hard over the years to be able to be intimidating as hell when I need to be - but I've never managed to devastate someone due to inappropriate behavior.  Second, women who haven't followed the Botkin Method have managed to devastate  some pretty big names in CP/QF land.  Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips both managed to lose their entire ministry thanks to women who discarded all of the Botkin Method steps - and, man, those women managed to prevent them from hurting others while also taking all of the trappings of power and fame from them.  Lastly, what does it mean for women who come away from a sexual abuse situation and feel devastated themselves?  The world has some seriously messed up people who hurt others while being strangely resistant to punishment themselves. 

Branding a family-level defense strategy as Godly is dodgy enough; don't worsen the insult by promising that the attacker will feel bad - or lose everything they value - if women follow three easy steps....

The next paragraph shows how unprepared CP/QF young women are to think.  (I was going to say "think independently" - but a few of these statements make me wonder if the girls are supposed to get rid of their brains at puberty,)

After all, are we sure what this man did was wrong? What if he’s a mature Christian who has studied his Bible and is assuring us that this is OK? What if he was in a position of authority over us – doesn’t God say we’re supposed to submit to authority? And besides, what are we going to do? Slap him? Call the police? Would telling someone else be gossip? If this gets out, how will it reflect on the church? Is that really what Jesus would do?

I discussed this idea in the last post - but people can stop actions for reasons other than morality.  My given name is Melinda.  A common nickname for Melinda is Mindy - and I shut anyone down who calls me Mindy.   There's nothing immoral about a Melinda being called Mindy - and many, many other Melindas like being called Mindy.  But this Melinda abhors being called Mindy and I have every right to expect that people call me Melinda or Mel. 

Here's another example: I am not a hugger.  I hug close family members.  I hug some friends if I haven't seen them in a long time.  I will hug people who are struggling with grief if they want a hug.  Rarely, someone who is not in one of those three categories hugs me before I have a chance to stiff-arm them.   There's nothing morally wrong with hugging someone and there's nothing wrong with me stating my categorical preference to not be hugged by people I don't want to be hugged by.

A far more important question is "Am I comfortable with what happened between me and so-and-so?"   I get it; CP/QF girls have been socialized to ignore every thought, feeling, drive, talent, ambition, whim, wish or desire that starts within them if it doesn't conform to what their father or husband wants.  I get that - but gut feelings are a quick and surprisingly accurate way to determine when someone is behaving in a potentially problematic way.

As for the rest - yikes.

Mature Christian Authorities can lie.  See Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips for details on how they did that.

The Bible is full of admonitions to obey authorities.  It's equally full of  people who defied authorities and lived in God's Blessings.  See Rebecca, Jacob/Israel, Leah, and most of Jacob's sons for details.  Want New Testament examples?  What percentage of the time does Jesus tell the Apostles to stop arguing about personal ranking and get back to work?  How many times does Paul and a companion return separately from missions?   So...I think it's a wash at best......

I don't recommend slapping as a form of defense..  It makes a lot of noise, but will anger an assailant without incapacitating them.  Think of movements that produce a lot of force like punching, stomping, head-butting or elbowing or actions that cause a lot of pain and damage to the face like scratching, eye-gouging or biting.

Call the police if someone is putting your health (including mental) or life at risk.  If you are not sure, you can always call the non-emergency line and discuss with an officer if the interaction is worth filing a police report.  (For people who are worried about "overreacting" - women are still working on getting fair treatment for sexual crimes so you don't need to worry about accidentally ruining someone's life.  The system is still tipped greatly in favor of protecting attackers over accusers - so if an officer tells you that you can make a report, do it.  That means something bad happened to you.)

Jesus.  Gossipping is the exchange of negative information about another person for the sole purpose of amusing other people.   Neither discussing an event that happened that hurt/scared/or confused you nor reporting a crime is gossip.

I'm Catholic - so let me tell you that crimes will out.  Whatever crime is potentially being covered up to "not reflect badly on the Church" will come out eventually - plus the added scandal and crime of covering a crime up.   Handling a crime that occurs within a church community by reporting the crime to the police and assisting in the investigation is much better PR than ignoring victims, moving perpetrators to different churches and creating new victims....

What would Jesus do?  Well, the Jesus in the Gospel of John is essentially the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels written for John Wayne so I guess he'd get a posse together and ride the offender out of town.    Or shoot them.  Or tip their tables over. 

My last quote for this post makes me wonder about the Botkin Sisters sense of irony or lack thereof:
If our knowledge of the Scriptures primarily consists of some vague or misapplied concepts about forgiving, overlooking offenses, covering sin, obeying authorities, not gossiping, and having a gentle and quiet spirit, we are not ready to fight this battle.

I am drawing a complete and total blank on Scripture verses that recommend covering sin.  Oh, don't get me wrong; people try to cover sin up all_the_time especially in the refreshingly human Old Testament - but it generally ends badly.

As for the rest, well, most of humanity understands the difference between the normal rubs and wrongs of people living together and egregious offenses that threaten health and safety.

Let's look at the differences:

Forgiveness -
  • Good idea: your sister "borrows" your new shirt without asking for the third time, returns it unharmed, but is genuinely contrite when she realizes you were planning on wearing it and couldn't.
  • Bad idea: Bryan in the first post who responded to your distress at a previous sexual activity by telling you that you can't complain because of the way you dressed.  (Remember, run away from the Bryans of the world.)
Overlooking offenses -
  • Good idea: You work with Jack, an attractive single man.  Jack says that he finds you very attractive and asks you out on a date.  You decline because you want to follow the courtship motto.  Jack is disappointed, but goes back to your previous working relationship.
  • Bad idea: Same set up, but Jack asks you out the next day.  And the next.  And twice the day after that.  You start dreading coming to work because avoiding Jack is exhausting.
Obeying authorities
  • Good idea: Your boss tells you that you need to put together 30 copies of the 500 page year-end report for the company - and you hate photocopying.
  • Bad idea:  Your boss tells you that you need to put together 30 copies of the 500 page year-end report for the company - and you hate photocopying - but she'll assign it to someone else if you go on a date with her.
Not gossiping
  • Good idea: You recognize the new youth minister.  He went to prom with your best friend 5 years ago and threw up from nerves. 
  • Bad idea: You recognize the new youth minister.  He took off from your last church in another state when there were some accusations about inappropriate behavior at a weekend camping trip.  
Meek and gentle spirit
  • Good idea: you are goosed at work by a three-year old.  
  • Bad idea: you are goosed at work by a coworker, boss or client.

Oddly enough, the title of the Botkin Sisters' second book applies here: It's NOT That Complicated!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Spiritual Self-Defense: Part One - Commentary Three

When I read a new Botkin Sisters post, I always get the same three thoughts. 

The first thought is "On which planet do these women live?"  I generally have this reaction from their revisionist histories (feminism is really a plot by Marxists to subsume the American way!) or when they make a sudden, breathless declaration that they think they've realized something that no one else has ever (paintings from the Romantic period ignore historical realities!).

My second thought is "You've really bought into this, haven't you?" in response to their wishy-washy efforts to justify their beliefs.  My personal favorite is the podcast "What It Means to Honor Our Parents" where each kid at some point attempts to explain that the word "honor" really means "obey"...but the results are atrocious because the two words aren't synonyms in English.  A close second is Anna Sophia and Elizabeth's adoration of comparing and contrasting the stories of Abigail and Bathsheba in the Bible - but they always miss the fact that the woman who bore David's eventual heir Solomon was....Bathsheba.

The third thought is often the most disturbing because "You really believed that?" comes from those glimpses into the culture in which they were raised.  The first quote I'd like to discuss comes in the middle of a paragraph that breathlessly proclaims that people are learning about the extent of abuse for the first time ever!  That's hardly true - but I'm sure it's the first time the Botkin Sisters have been unsheltered enough to hear about it.  The paragraph continues with this gem:

This is not just a threat that lurks far away, in dodgy places where we never go – it’s all around us. And it doesn’t just threaten “bad girls,” “immodest” women, or black sheep who have stepped outside of some sort of “umbrella of protection” – strong Christian women face this evil, even in their own homes and churches.

Seriously?  This is NOT new information in wider US culture.  Women have been working at dismantling victim-blaming during rape by strangers since before the 1970's as well as the fact that sexual abuse occurs in families.  By the mid-1980's when my personal memories started, people were well aware that childhood sexual abuse could occur from outside authority figures (i.e., teachers, priests, coaches) and activists were trying to raise awareness of rape by acquaintances.  The 1990's brought widespread understanding of sexual harassment in the workplace and a huge breakthrough in awareness of consent (thanks in part to media sources).

I'm always a bit boggled when the Botkin Sisters excitedly explain that they've realized something that larger society figured out 40 years ago or more.   But once they've done it once, they decide to double-down by declaring that no-one's been trying to teach women how to prevent sexual harassment and assault either!

The culture of victim-blaming has been a major culprit in keeping the culture of abuse alive, first by taking the responsibility off of the abuser and keeping his crimes from being taken seriously – but also by creating a fear of honest discussion about whether there is anything we potential victims could or should do to fight against abuse.

I completely agree with them prior to the dash in the quote.  One reason that victim-blaming lives on is that it allows attackers to avoid responsibility for their crimes.  The problem is that the Botkin Sisters miss the second reason - and it's the reason they were more than willing to believe that rape or harassment only happened to "bad" women.  Blaming the victim allows other people to feel safer.  After all, if bad things only happen to bad people, then good people will never suffer.

Like victim-blaming, advocates working to empower women to avoid, stop or report abuse, attacks or harassment have been busy since at least the 1980's.     I remember talking about "good" and "bad" touches in elementary school.  We discussed rape and sexual abuse in junior high - along with the immorality of victim blaming - and again several times in high school.  I can't remember a time where adult women weren't teaching teens and young women basic safety techniques.

  • Be aware of your surroundings.  
  • Trust your instincts and don't be afraid of hurting someone's feelings if you are feeling uneasy.
  • If you feel afraid, return to a safe place and seek help.
  • If you think you are being followed, make it clear that you see the person who is following you - it often discourages attackers who are looking for someone who is unaware.   
  • Take advantage of offers to be escorted to cars after dark.  
  • If people are nearby who can help, don't let feelings of embarrassment keep you from screaming for help.   
  • If you have to fight, fight as dirty as you can- bite, scratch, eye-gouge and kick as well as punch. 
  • If you are alone, do whatever you think will keep you alive and as safe as possible.  This might mean not fighting an attacker because survival matters more than avoiding rape. 
  • Keep an eye on friends at parties - doubly so if people are drinking alcohol.  
  • Know the signs of abuse in relationships.  You always have the right to leave a relationship if your partner is abusive.
I won't pretend I know what Geoffrey and Victoria Botkin - or Doug Phillips - were teaching the Botkin Sisters, but my parents were busy teaching us that we had plenty of options if we were ever in a frightening situation - and that they would have our back no matter what happened.

Eventually, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth flounder into the most obvious question about why they are focusing on the victim rather than the attacker:

Absolutely the main problem we’re dealing with is the abuse and the abusers – not the things that victims do or don’t do. So why are we not focusing this series on those evils? Why not just tell abusers to stop abusing? Why “add burdens” to possible victims by talking to them about things they could or should do?

Because even victims have been given authority and power by God for responding to evil, and He wants us to use it. And because we each have the power to do a lot more damage to this abuse stronghold than we realize.

Mmm-kay.  Did that convince anyone?  Show of hands, please.

I feel like I write scads of obvious crap on this blog - and here's we go again:  The most effective way to prevent crime is to stop the criminal from doing the crime.

This is why high school health classes have added discussions about consent to curriculum.  In 2000, I got around 3 hours of training on "No means No!" during freshmen orientation.  The benefits of these discussions is two-fold.  People who are of more aggressive personalities are reminded that consent matters - and that non-consensual sexual activity is a crime.  At the same time, everyone is shown one way of stating their desire to stop a sexual activity from happening.

I won't pretend that this is a cure-all - but man, it's a whole lot better than only training women to a rigid form of self-defense....

Let's be honest about why Anna Sofia and Elizabeth can't tell abusers to stop.  The two of them are in the second least powerful group of people in CP/QF society through no fault of their own.  Near as I can figure, CP/QF has a rigid power structure that places married men at the top followed by single men, married women, single women and children at the bottom. 

The Botkin Sisters are stuck lecturing other single women and children about their responsibilities when being attacked because they don't have any standing over any men...or most women, really.

I need to point out again how creepy and skeevy and wrong it is for the Botkin Sisters to create a series of responsibilities for other people WHILE facing abuse or attack.   I don't understand how they reached adulthood without developing the sense of compassion or common sense that the vast majority of people have - because most people would never write the first post in this series let alone the remaining five.

The next quote is so very strange on a few levels:

Whether we’re still dreading our first bad encounter; we’re in the middle of an uncomfortable relationship; our bodies, hearts, and consciences are wracked over past incidents; or we’re just a bystander agonizing over whether to keep quiet about something we know about… these are spiritual as well as physical battles, and they require spiritual as well as physical strength and preparation.

Um... three of the four examples have no physical strength or preparation required.  Angst about future incidents (which may never happen), negative feelings about past events and decisions about information involving a third-party have no physical component.

I'd like to reiterate that hand-wringing about potential future issues is a waste of time and energy.  I believe there is great benefit to learning about situational awareness and how to defend yourself if you need to - but those are empowering skills just like learning CPR and First Aid makes people feel more confident about helping injured or hurt people.    Anxiety is paralyzing - and normalizing it does not help Anna Sofia and Elizabeth's readers.  A far better choice is to believe that you are capable of handling situations as they come.

What we will be focusing on is one specific sliver of the topic: The spiritual side of the battle the average young adult woman faces as she encounters challenges with male friends, boyfriends, employers, workmates, etc. – challenges in which she does have a degree of agency and control, and where her own preparedness can make all the difference.


Well, I guess my minor issue is that people always have a degree of agency as long as they are conscious and not severely incapacitated by pain or paralysis.   Likewise, people generally have some degree of control over their action albeit sometimes the amount of control can be extremely curtailed.

My larger point is by what standing do Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin have for discussing the spiritual (or physical or economic or socio-governmental or whatever buzzword they like today) battle that women face with friends, lovers, employers and coworkers?  By their own admission, they keep male friends at a distance emotionally through keeping conversations academic, religious and impersonal.  There has never been a publicized courtship for either Anna Sofia or Elizabeth - and based on "So Much More" I feel safe assuming that neither woman would be left alone with their potential spouse until after they were married - and that's hardly a safeguard against domestic abuse including spousal rape.   The work experience of the two of them is so limited that they don't realize that for most teenage or young women the workplace involves three groups of men, not two: supervisors, coworkers and clients/customers.

My last point for Part One is that preparation is wonderful, but it never promises a good outcome.  Learning CPR is admirable and beginning CPR on a non-responsive person is a good deed - but the person may still die.  Asserting the right to have a harassment-free workplace may cause the situation to worsen over the short-term - and may require legal intervention to resolve.  Being mentally (or spiritually) ready to resist an attacker doesn't prevent all attack from happening.

It's never the victim's fault.  It's not her fault if she was completely prepared - and her preparations didn't work..  It was not his fault if he was completely unprepared - because he never thought it would happen to him.  The only person at fault is the attacker. 

Pretending that excellent preparation will completely prevent sexual harassment, assault or abuse is a form of whistling in the dark at best - and is likely to hurt victims.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Spiritual Self-Defense: Part One - Commentary Two

It's rare - but so satisfying for me - when I find a CP/QF quote that encapsulates the major flaws within the mindset.   Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin served one up on a platter for me in their blog series "Spiritual Self-Defense".   The very first paragraph  of the series serves up several in a row:

We’ve all experienced that moment of panic, that sense of paralysis, after a man just said something or did something to us that crossed the line. We’ve all faced the crisis of, “Was what he just did OK?” …followed by the next crisis of “What should I do? Should I be smooth and pretend this didn’t happen, or should I do something that will feel very awkward, hard, rude, and uncomfortable for everyone? Should I roll with this, or fight it? Do I have a responsibility to do something? Didn’t Jesus turn the other cheek? What would God want me to do?” And probably the most terrifying moment of all: When we realize the strength we need and thought we had simply isn’t there.

Notice how the woman in this thought experiment has no volition in this situation.  The two things that matter are what the man did and a list of acceptable actions for men to do to women.  The woman's feelings, thoughts, and beliefs are overlooked entirely.   I suppose this will mark me as a raging out-of-control feminist, but the important question for me would be "Am I comfortable with what just happened?"  The rest of the paragraph is a mess - but most of the mess arises from the woman's failure to decide how she feels about what happened.   The paragraph pairs extremely divergent choices, skips the most common intermediate course of action, ignores any complications and devolves into a theological mess before encouraging self-blame.

Let's hit the theology first.  The "turn the other cheek" doctrine is generally applied to persecution due to religious beliefs.   Sexual harassment and assault does not fit in that category.  I think that God gave us brains and the power to use them - so we do what God wants when we respond in the way we feel is appropriate.

Let me sketch this out in real life. 

When I was a cashier at a busy grocery store, I was doing my job at a lane when someone goosed me.

The first - nearly instant - decision I made was that I DID NOT LIKE THAT.   I didn't need to think about whether what the person did was right or wrong; I just needed to be clear that I - myself - did not like it at all.

The second decision was knowing my options for response.  Here's a list of possible options:

  1. No response.  This would be most acceptable for me if I felt that any resistant response on my part would place me or someone else in danger.  I rejected this response because I was a well-liked worker in a busy grocery store and was certain that a resistant response on my part would bring more help/support from co-workers and shoppers.
  2. Verbal reprimand.  Lots of options available here ranging from "Knock it off" through a profanity laced dressing-down.    This was going to be my response if I felt physically threatened because a torrent of profanity would bring scads of attention my way.
  3. Physical attack.  I keep this in reserve for times when I am physically at risk and cannot get help otherwise.  On the other hand, this was the end of a long shift; I was hot, tired, hungry and getting goosed shoved me into the enraged category.  When I swung around to confront the person who goosed me, I was mentally ready and had my arm drawn back to deliver a left-handed uppercut to the jaw.
  4. De-escalation.  There was the possibility that I'd turn around and realize that the person who goosed me was holding a weapon - or was very drunk and aggressive - or set off my "dangerous person" alarm in some way.  In that case, I'd do whatever I needed to do to get them the hell away from me.  I'd smile, flirt or seem pleased in someway - because this is NOT a hill for me to die on.
From the options, I whipped around in my lane ready to give the person who goosed me a tongue-lashing they'd never forget and possibly deck them. 

Much to my surprise, there was no one there.  There was a woman unloading her cart too far away to have goosed me and no one else I could see anywhere around. 

I was confused as all get out.  Then, I felt a tug on my pocket and a little voice cried out "birdy!"  I looked down at a little snippet of a kid who was hanging onto my pocket.

I had been goosed by a 3 year old who had tried to grab the stuffed bird I kept on my keyring...and missed.

I busted out laughing and explained to the cashier behind me and the guest in my lane that I had just been goosed by a future bird watcher...maybe even a goose researcher!

The Botkin Sisters make it seem like the two available options are to respond positively to the breech of a boundary or be ready to fight to the death and involve the police.   "Rolling with it" or "being smooth" are not good choices if a person wants the behavior to stop.  On the other hand, there's a far wider range of responses for minor issues - which have been far more common in my life.  Looking back on various moments when I was in situations where something untoward happened, my standard reactions ran a much smaller continuum from a neutral response to glaring at the person to saying firmly "Don't do that!"

Here are some examples:

A boss (who is pretty bad at his job all around) tells a story involving a jargon term for vagina.  My response was to look at him as if he were nuts, then disengage from the conversation.  I add this to my detailed list of "issues with boss" - but it's never repeated again so I don't go any further in terms of seeking union representation or reporting him to HR.

Some co-workers are telling some pretty raunchy stories in the break room when I came in for break.  I change the topic of conversation by asking what they think of the new scheduling system; they hate it and tell me why in great detail.

A older man crashes into me outside of a historical exhibit making contact mostly with my breasts.  I'm about to say something sharp when I realize he's pale and shaking while wearing a "Korean War" hat.  The fort nearby had just fired a cannon - and he's having a fight-or-flight reaction.  I talk to him quietly about what a nice summer day in Mackinac it is and encourage him to have a seat on a nearby bench.  In a few minutes, he's extremely apologetic - and I tell him that he's got nothing to apologize for at all.

I'm waiting for a city bus when a guy I've never seen before starts complimenting me on how pretty I am.  I'm a little skeeved out - but there's no people around for backup and I need to get on this bus to make an appointment.   I say, "Thank you, but I'm engaged" and proceed to create an entire imaginary fiance.  The guy backs off when I explain how much I like ImaginaryBoy and how excited I am about our wedding.

I'm making out with a boyfriend.  He moves a hand to a part of my body where I don't want it.  I gently move his hand to a location I am ok with.  Problem_solved.

What concerns me is that the Botkin sisters don't seem to realize that there's a huge range of boundary violations - and an equally huge range of responses.   I think this happened because they have such limited life experiences.  My experiences involve three separate jobs, one vacation with a female friend, taking public transportation alone and romantic relationships - experiences the Botkin sisters have never, ever had.  The truly toxic issue is that the Botkin Sisters have been taught they should expect boundary violations and that the only way to deal is to never go anywhere without a male chaperone.  That is a terrible message to teach young women!  My parents taught us that we had the right to speak up if we didn't like something someone else did - and that as we got older we would get better and better at responding to the situations.   The advantage of my parents' teachings is that we were prepared for both strangers or acquaintances to transgress boundaries  - but we also knew we could respond if the person was a boss, teacher, relative or religious leader.

Here's one last point/theme.  The Botkin Sisters provide lots of condemnation about evil outsiders by name (like Larry Nassar) - but they stay strangely silent about Doug Phillips.  He was the leader of their cult who was accused of molesting his kids' nanny.  The entire Botkin Family was good buddies with Phillips.  It was a win-win situation.  The Botkin Sisters gave him a set of attractive role models for young women along with profit from their first book; in return, they received income from speaking fees and went on vacations with the Phillips clan. 

Remember that the Botkin Sisters have remained completely silent about Phillips' misdeeds - and the benefits their family has received from association with Phillips as we move through the blog series.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Dominion Orientated Femininity: Part Six

Whoo-hoo!  THIS is the end of the review on the Botkin Sisters' podcast "Dominion Orientated Femininity".

I have received three (3) honest-to-God benefits from this podcast.  Benefit one: I am quite confident with the listen-and-type mode of my transcription software.  Benefit two: the Botkin Sisters have covered a few of the more pernicious idiotic ideas in stay-at-home daughterhood for me to discuss.  Benefit three: I learned how to spell "femininity" which is one of those words that I never use and cannot remember what vowels go where.  Ironically, I have similar problems with the word"amateur" and the prefix "pseudo" and I use both of those frequently.

The Botkin Sisters adore point number 9; it's one of the centerpoints of the stay-at-home daughter movement as well as emotional purity.  In spite of that, they get off the topic as fast as they can.  Presumably because after watching various young women from "Return of the Daughters" get married, the Sisters realized that point nine sounds good - but is confusing as hell in practice:

Number nine is a dominion woman is doing her husband good during these years of her life. In Proverbs 31 it says the Proverbs 31 woman is doing her husband good and not evil all the days of her life and it's interesting to me that it doesn't say she does him good and not evil as soon as she married to him. But it actually says she's doing him good and not evil all the days of her life. That means now. That means today we can be doing our husbands good even if we don't know who they are. And one of the ways we can be doing that is to be diligently amassing the skills and the character and the knowledge that our husbands are going to need to have behind them to help them in the dominion task they have ahead of them.

Alrighty then.  I'm going to take the sisters at the word. 

Anna Sofia, Elizabeth, please give me two specific examples of skills and knowledge that your future husbands need from you - and explain in detail how those skills are different from the general soft skills (like communication or problem-solving) and household management/child rearing skills that all CP/QF daughters are expected to bring to a marriage.

I'm in no hurry; I want this to be done thoughtfully. 

*pulls out current crochet project and gets to work while they hem and haw*

That's the tricky bit, isn't it?  Girls (and their parents) can't read the future to be sure that the "skills" they are picking up at home are the ones that their husbands need.  Anna Sofia and Elizabeth love to boast about their skill set which are heavy on amateur film and written media production along with worldview - but how likely is it that a man needs that from his wife? 

My husband needed a wife who could understand cows, help manage the emotional labor of a family and help him communicate his needs clearly.  That sounds straightforward - but I've chased cows in amazingly undignified ways while wearing horrifyingly clashing outfits.  I delivered a calf in a professional dress and sandals.  I spent a few hours at night in achingly cold, windy conditions midwinter helping rescue steers who had fallen into a manure pit - but really I was there to make sure someone kept an eye on my husband's grandfather who was in his mid-80's.  I was concerned that if he fell somewhere no one would notice he was missing until he was hypothermic - and that's kills elderly people in climates like Michigan.  I can spend hours at a bedside in a hospital with ill or elderly people while bringing lunch or dinner for the immediate family members.  I'm raising a son who came with a whole satchel of unexpected medical needs - and I don't mind saying I did a damn good job managing all of that.   I'm getting better and better at knowing when my husband needs someone to comfort him - and when he needs someone to give him a swift kick in the ass.  I listen avidly to his newfound fascination with refrigeration and air-conditioning units - and I silently thank God that I took enough chemistry and physics to understand what he's talking about just like I thanked God that my biology background made understanding cow biology fairly straightforward.

A lot of us have fairly high standards for our husbands. But how high are our standards for ourselves? If we have a list of requirements that's a mile long for our husbands, we better have a list that's two miles long for ourselves. So I think we need to ask ourselves why would a man like the kind we would like to marry want to marry a woman like us? And the correct answer isn't "Well, because I'm a woman. I'm a young woman and I like children and I can cook and what more would a man want?" The thing is a man who is fighting the important battles is going to need a little more than that. He's going to need a wife who can be a wise counselor to him. He's going to need a wife who can help sharpen him as iron sharpens iron.
Hell, no.

If you are a CP/QF unmarried woman, your list for a future husband should be twice as long as your list for yourself because YOU ARE SIGNING A BLANK CHECK.   You have minimal marketable skills, marginal education, a belief that divorce is impossible regardless of spousal behavior and potentially one child every 1-2 years from the date of your marriage until you are 40.   As a woman in that society, you are in a dependent position - so you better be damn sure that you are marrying someone who is kind, loving and a phenomenal provider.

The Botkin Sisters' privilege as middle children in a relatively small, well-spaced quiverfull family is showing again.  Women who space their babies at least 2-3 years apart with a family size of under 9 may have some time to be a wise counselor to their husbands.  That spacing allows a decent chunk of time for a woman to recover from pregnancy, childbirth, lactation and the sheer work of keeping a newborn alive before starting the cycle over again.  Less than two years apart - and especially under 18 months apart - and women are under extreme metabolic stress.  For me, pregnancy was a mix of mood swings, moderate nausea, exhaustion and hip pain.  Lactating got rid of the hip pain and exhaustion, had fewer mood swings and less nausea - but kept an equally sensitive sense of smell with feeling like I was planning my life around pumping sessions.  Having my son as a newborn was harder because he was medically complicated - but I was so exhausted that I spent most of the time in a vaguely upbeat mental fog. Life had compacted down to two goals: keep son alive and sleep.   I started to feel like pre-pregnancy self around 9 months after my son was born; the thought of being pregnant before that is daunting.

Anna Sofia/Elizabeth jumps into a rare real life example:

My favorite example of this is my mother. I love watching my mother's relationship with my father. In addition to being a loving mother and a wonderful cook and a wonderful housekeeper, she is a wise counselor. She's a delightful companion. She's a very stimulating conversationalist. She's constantly reading and always has fascinating things to tell my father that he can put into his speeches and into his teaching that he does. She models all of the things that Dad has always wanted his family to be known for: dominion focus, ingenuity, creativity, courage, a pioneer spirit, entrepreneurialism, love of learning. This is why my father's heart can safely trust in her. She delights him with her company and her conversation. She sustains him with her strength. She stimulates him and sharpens him with her wisdom. She emboldens him with her praise. She boisters him with her constant cheerfulness in spite of whatever's going on. She comforts him with her love and she heartens him with her courage. Wives like this are a source of constant good to their husbands so we need to be working today - diligently - to become this kind of woman.


Hi, Victoria Botkin!  I'm glad you had some say or influence in raising your daughters.  Honestly, your husband and daughters talk a lot about how much Geoffrey Botkin has taught the girls - but so little about what you did.

Let's see.  Victoria Botkin according to her daughter is the mother, cook, and housekeeper desired by all CP/QF men (ignore the fact that the speaker or her sister were deriding young women who thought cooking, cleaning and rearing children were the main goals of marriage ten seconds ago) - plus her husband finds her amusing.  A "pioneer spirit" feels like a coded way of saying that Victoria can do a lot of things that Geoffrey can't be bothered to do for the family.  "Entrepreneurialism"  strikes me as a nice way of saying that Victoria parlayed her homeschooling experience into a small amount of income for the family.  Since Geoffrey has always been more interested in playing at being a kingmaker and prophet than earning income, the words "ingenuity" and "creativity" make me think that she's had to beg, borrow, scrimp, save and go without to get enough room, board and clothing for herself and her family.

Notice the conspicuous absence of examples of how Victoria acts as iron to sharpen Geoffrey by opposing him in any way.   Nope - Geoffrey doesn't need any of that kind of thing.  Now, the girls' future husbands will  probably need some sharp iron times until they get with the Botkin program....

Another thing we can do to be doing our husbands good is to be developing a selfless instead of selfish view of marriage. It's not about making us happy. It's about serving God. It's about helping our husbands to take dominion. And so instead of filling our minds with these rosy romantic ideas of how our husbands are going to meet our needs, we need to be thinking about how we can meet their needs so we're not going to be needy discontent complaining wives.

That sounds like a miserable marriage in the making.  Nothing is about making anyone happy!  Families exist to take dominion for GOD! 

Being married takes a lot of work from time to time - but a couple should have fun times, too.  A healthy couple does things for each other that makes their partner happy just because they can.

Don't get into a marriage that is miserable.

Last up: a rousing finish that somehow manages to combine a reminder of the soon-to-be-coming collapse of society with a quick reminder that Jesus told his disciples to stick close to home and care exclusively for their families:

Ok. Now here's our final point here. Number ten: a dominion woman understands the times. I explained some of the problems we're facing in our generation at the beginning of the speech. And a lot of you young ladies are probably thinking, "Well, what am I gonna do about it? Well, what can I do?" And part of the reason girls do escape through the different avenues - romance novels, films, images, or just our own sinful imaginations - is because they have no idea what they can be doing. And one of the principles that our father taught us when we were younger is that we needed to be looking for the needs of the moment actively looking for the needs of the moment there are so many things that young women can do if they have their eyes open. And the first place to be looking is in your own family. Be looking around your families for the needs. How can you be helping your mother? How can you be helping your father? Have you gone to him and asked him. "Daddy, how can I help you?" Have you done this with your mother? Have you looked at your siblings? Have you looked at ways that you can be supporting them and ways that you can be helping them? And then beyond your family, your church communities are there young ladies in the church that need encouragement that need someone to talk to? Are there mothers in the church that need help because they have so many children. There are so many needs. We just need to open our eyes and see them.

Wait.  What do you mean Jesus didn't tell his disciples to stay at home and help our nuclear families exclusively?   How did I miss that in my hours of daily Bible reading?

I can't count preaching to my friends at church as following Jesus either? Even if I explain in great detail how their choices in dress and interactions with young men are sinful?

*wails in anguish*
  Oh, God!  Why do you make this so hard?

I will give them props for helping out young mothers in a church because society tells women that they are supposed to care for their homes and children effortlessly.  Jesus, though, wouldn't want them to work exclusively with church members.  He was really big on reaching out to the margins of society - which in CP/QF land means unwed mothers and divorced parents.

Ooh.  What if they took a really big step and helped out elderly women who were not members of their church too?   Man, that could be life-changing - and their lives need changing badly!

I want to leave you with hope. Please do not underestimate the importance of what you're doing in your home. It really is making a difference. The world really is a different place because of stay-at-home daughters. And I want to get you excited about this. You may not know it but there's a battle raging around you and you are in the thick of it right where you are. It's tempting for us to think that the interesting and important things are happening somewhere else but actually they're happening on the home front. They're happening in homes and in families. I can't think of another battleground that's thicker than the one that you have in your home right now. Because the state of a nation is always determined by the state of the home.

Normally, I'd write this off as overwrought frippery - but then the Duggar family's casual statement about how they know a lot of families where sexual abuse is happening haunts me.   I'm afraid that some or many of the young women listening in the audience of that podcast do live in a battleground where they are under siege by abusive family members.

This is exciting, too. You... you may think that the stay-at-home daughter movement is a little hole in the wall movement that nobody knows about, but actually that's not true anymore. Elizabeth and I got into a feminist forum one time, a very well known feminist forum, and guess what they were talking about? They were talking about us. They were talking about you. And you know why? Because they are afraid. Because they see you as a threat. And they understand that the stay-at-home mommy movement while it's important women can stay at home for selfish reasons and for reasons of convenience but the daughters who are choosing to stay at home and serve the families are up to something. And they're scared. So you can be excited about that. We're not a invisible movement any more. People know about us. This is an exciting time to be alive. The future is changing and there are great opportunities that come with that. And I wanna leave you all with a quote by Abigail Adams. Abigail Adams was writing to her son John which was during the Revolutionary War which were very turbulent difficult times kind of like the ones that we're facing now and she said, "`These are the times in which a genius would wish to live. It's not in the still, calm of life or in the repose of a pacific station that great characters are formed. The habits of a vigorous mind are formed in contending with difficulties.

I think this is a reference to the time the Botkin Sisters got smacked down on Rachel Held Evans website - but I'm not sure.

Either way, the Botkin Sisters have badly misread larger society's feelings about stay-at-home daughters.  We're not afraid of you; we are terrified for you.   Look, it is no loss to me if a tiny fractional subset of young women choose to forgo all educational or vocational training past high school to play at being an unpaid maid, sous chef, and teacher's assistant until a guy shows up to marry you.  With a bit of luck - or conscientious planning by your parents - most SAHDs will transition to wives and mothers who will have access to a man's income and be in charge of their homes.  Sure, the former SAHDs are at higher risk of poverty simply due to their lack of ability to raise any income for their families, but at least they have some control over their lives.  The women I worry most about are "volunteering" as family maids, chefs, and parapros as well as underpaid family business workers while waiting to get married in their thirties or beyond.  The implicit promise is that in exchange for giving up education, career and romance, a SAHD will receive a glorious marriage and abundant children - not be the lowest authority person in her family of origin forever.

And leave Abigail Adams out of this.  She was a full-on feminist in her time; she'd find the idea of  women abdicating education, career and romance abhorrent.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Spiritual Self-Defense: Part One - Commentary One

My life has become unexpectedly busy recently.  I don't remember what I've shared so I'm just going to do a fast overview.  Due to some family issues, my husband decided to end his partnership on his family farm.  Since April, he's been wrapping up his work on the farm and finding a new job.  After a few false starts, my husband starting training on installing refrigeration/cooling units for agricultural, industrial and commercial uses as an employee for a local company.  He's really enjoying the new work - but that lead to his burnt arm. 

A month before that, his maternal grandmother was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer that's metastasized to the lymph nodes and chest wall.  She's survived several bouts of cancer previously and she was very clear that she was not interested in doing radiation or chemo ever again.  She's doing very well so far - good spirits, still able to do most basic care for herself - but her appetite is gone, she can't eat solids, and she's needing oxygen 24/7.  I'm taking Jack over to see her several times a week because she enjoys seeing her great-grandchildren who live close by.  I'm choosing to enjoy the time that we have together while she's able to fully participate with minimal pain medications.   I do expect that some time soon she will move into a more physically compromised state and when that happens I will be providing more direct care.

My son is doing great - but he has quarterly cycles of "All the specialists wanna see Jack.  Now.  On different days.  Preferably in a way that disrupts his nap cycle and leaves him cranky until the day before his next appointment."   We are entering that cycle again.

Because of that, I need to make two changes to my blog.  First, I will probably be posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays instead of the MWF cycle I was trying to hit.  Secondly, I am going to be focusing more on the web writings of the Botkins, Maxwells, etc.,  simply because it save a heap of time to not have to transcribe their books. 

Now, up until last week, I thought moving to a web-based discussion would free me from the Botkin Sisters because they never, ever update their website.   Except... they did update their website with a six-part digression on #Metoo that makes me deeply sad because they've grown so little since their teenage years.  It's pretty much a re-hash of "Good Girls and Problem Guys" - which was a re-hash of "It's Not That Complicated" - with a rare few changes in thinking.

There's a whole ton of bad ideas to unpack interspaced with an occasional neutral or even good idea.

To jump off, I'll run through the Botkin Sisters' idea of how a normal relationship ends up in a date-rape by coercion situation.

For example: Bryan is pushing his girlfriend Emily’s physical boundaries. Emily says no, I don’t want to do this. Bryan pushes harder. Emily finally gives in, but reluctantly. Afterwards, she’s furious and devastated and blames him for forcing her. Bryan says, What are you talking about? You were going along with it the whole time, and besides, look how you were dressed. Don’t try to tell me you weren’t asking for this. It was half your fault; don’t you go trying to get me in trouble like you’re some victim here.

There is no point in this scenario that looks like  a healthy relationship.   

This is a relationship that is dysfunctional far beyond a normal dating relationship.  In a healthy relationship, when Emily says, "I don't want to do this" Brian's response would be "ok" or "If you want to in the future, let me know" or "Well, what if we do _____ instead?"

Bryan's response afterwards is pathological.  The first part of his response expressing confusion since he thought she consented makes sense if he was a normal human being.  Jumping into how she was dressed and stating that her clothing choices equal consent for sex is literally a pathological reaction.  The "women's clothing" as a defence for rapists has been socially frowned on since the late 1990's thanks to activism like "Take Back The Night" and awareness through shows like "Law and Order" and "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit".   Even in the 1980's, that defence was shaky-as-hell within relationships.

Why do the Botkin Sisters assume that men will react like that?  I've never had a man I was in a relationship with act like a petulant child when I didn't want to participate in a given sexual activity.  If a guy did act that way, I would be seriously turned off - both in terms of not wanting to do anything sexual with him right then AND in terms of continuing a relationship forward.  My assumption is that they are mostly reacting to the fact they were raised in a cult.  Their father has told them - over and over and over - that men are generally untrustworthy, that young women like Anna Sofia and Elizabeth cannot determine which men are trustworthy, and that Geoffrey Botkin's protection is the only thing that stands between the girls and being raped by a boyfriend.  In "It's (Not) That Complicated" one of the girls talks about how her father was great at protecting her emotional purity because she'd tell him who she had a crush on and he'd spell out how dating that guy would lead to being abandoned after an unwed pregnancy and grinding poverty.

I suspect Bryan follows the lead that Geoffrey Botkin has used in his family their whole lives.  Men tell women what to do.  If women object, emotionally abuse them until they concede they follow the plan.  If the plan fails - or the women bring up more objections afterward, point at the previous consent as giving the women equal blame in the failure of the plan.

The Botkin Sisters never say this in any of the six parts, but I will.  If you are in a relationship with someone who acts like Bryan, get the hell out now.  Find someone to stay with for a few days. Let your job know you are breaking up with an unstable partner who might try something at the workplace; even shitty managers will generally side with a worker over a crazy stranger.   Break up with Bryan in the safest way possible - text, phone call, in a public place with huge male bodyguards at a nearby table.  Remove him from all your social media.  Route his email or text messages to a separate file.  Let friends and family know that Bryan is bat-shit crazy and that you do not want them to communicate about you with him.  (If anyone objects, you can state that you are the bat-shit crazy party, then, but that doesn't change the fact that no one tells Bryan anything about where you are or what your are doing.)

Bryan is crazy and abusive.  I agree that Emily made some choices that complicate the situation - but she made the choices because Bryan is crazy and abusive.

The fact that the Botkin Sisters can't see that he's not safe to be around scares the snot out of me.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Dominion Orientated Femininity: Part Five

I apologize for the late post. My husband was injured in a workplace accident and burned his arm. He's doing fine, but the burn got infected so he's had a lot more doctor's appointments than usual so I've had much less free time than usual. Thank God for antibiotics!

This post covers the seventh and eighth points on the topic of dominion-orientated women.  When I was in junior high, I was really into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  In DS9, a massive interstellar federation that could be contacted by traveling through the wormhole was called the Dominion.  Bluntly, I'd prefer to listen to a podcast of fanfic surrounding women from the Dominion than having to listen to the Botkin Sisters blather on about womanhood.

Number seven is a dominion woman thinks like a shepherd. Jesus said, "Do you love me? Feed my sheep." And this is a basic Christian duty that we have to make disciples of all the nations. And this for many of us young homeschooled girls this is going to involve overcoming obstacles like shyness and timidity. This can be very hard for us. I used to be extremely shy. I used to be so shy I had a hard time talking to a person one-on-one let alone even thinking about standing up on stage and speaking to over 500 people like I'm doing right now.

I have a mental block when thinking about how CP/QF adherents are going to make disciples of all the nations.  So many of their beliefs are interwoven with white middle-class values from the 1950's US that they struggle to convert new members and lose a good number of children born into CP/QF homes to other belief systems.   When they struggle this badly in their homeland, I can't imagine how this could spread to other nations.   Derick and Jill Dillard's abortive attempts at missionary work in El Salvador demonstrates many of the issues.  The Dillards had energy, youth and enthusiasm on their side.  Unfortunately, their lack of fluency in Spanish, minimal cultural appreciation, and absence of previous training or experience in launching a mission doomed their venture. 

The Gothardite/Vision Forum/ IBLP/IFB belief system has two separate issues that doom missionary work.  First, cults work best when members are highly indoctrinated in cult materials and marginally educated in other ideas.  The Wisdom Booklets are constructed to indoctrinate by exposing adherents to the same ideas repeatedly while selectively demonstrating outside facts that "support" the cult ideas.   The problem is that these ideas won't hold up well when adherents are exposed to a wider education which happens when people are immersed in a foreign language and culture.

The second issue is the idolization of large families of closely spaced children.  In my church, missionaries are primarily single adult men and women - generally priests or sisters.  Simply, single adults are easiest to embed in a new culture.  They are able and willing to focus intensely on determining the needs of the community, searching out culturally and economically sustainable solutions, and are able to bring specialized skills in medicine, education, engineering or agriculture.  They strive to be a benefit to their new home.  The issue with missionaries who have huge families is that supporting that many kids is a drain on the new church mission.  Additionally, the medical needs of actively reproducing women and young children are much different than a celibate men and women.   Jill Dillard faced an unenviable choice of traveling repeatedly between the US and El Salvador for prenatal care and delivery or utilizing a scarce resource in a developing country that was facing difficult times.  As her sons grew and became more mobile, they would need a series of expensive vaccines for typhoid and rabies.

Changing subjects abruptly, a lot of kids are shy especially around new adults in groups.  Being so shy that you remember struggling to talk one-on-one to other person sounds agonizing.  I can't help but wonder how much kept away from other people through homeschooling along with exclusion from community activities worsened the issue.  Thinking back over my campers when I was a counselor, I always had a few shy or introverted campers who needed a bit of help breaking the ice with the other girls - but that wore off pretty quickly both in the cabin and in workshop groups.

And I realized after a while that my shyness was a result of two things: excessive focus on self and fear of man. That's what shyness always is. And my father helped me understand that this was something that I needed to get over. And so he told me, "You need to focus on other people and when you do that, your shyness will go away. And he was right. It did. But if we're going to be shepherds, we have to learn to stop thinking about ourselves and we have to learn to love the other people we are supposed to be ministering to. We can't retreat into ourselves. We have to ignore our comfort zone and reach out to others.

My method for helping shy teenagers is to pair them up with friendly teenagers.  I'm going to stick with that method over telling the teenagers that they are being self-centered and need to get over themselves.   The Botkin girl who is speaking in this section clearly believes her father's method is great - but the story is creepy as hell to me.

The exhortation to reach out to others and avoid retreating into a personal comfort zone is surreal coming from a pair of sisters who have disappeared for months, if not years, from their website and social media.  They've withdrawn from all sorts of potentially discomforting arenas like advanced education, starting a career or forming their own family.  If they cannot branch out in the first steps to becoming independent adults when they are in their early 30's, how do they hope to convert everyone on the planet?

And the good thing is when we're thinking like that it gives us boldness in how we interact with people. Some girls have told us that they panic or they break out in a cold sweat when someone asks them, "So what do you do?" I'm sure you've all gotten that question and I'm sure you know it's an interesting question to be asked and I'm not sure why it's frightening for some girls. I guess because they're afraid of disapproval or confrontation. But instead I think we should look at this question as an opportunity to talk to people about the beauties of God's design. Why should we be ashamed? We have nothing to be ashamed of. God's ways are wiser than the heathen's ways and we should be happy whenever someone gives us the opportunity to explain that. Here's a verse I love in Deuteronomy 4. Moses has just given the Israelites several of God's Commands and says "Keep them and do them for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely, this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' For what nation is there that has a God so near to it as the Lord Our God whenever we call on him? Or what nation is there that has statutes and judgements as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?" Honestly, what nation is there that has statues and judgement as righteous as the law which we have?


Hi!  I'm one of those people who cannot entirely hide my disapproval of young women who leave education and career in order to "train" to be a wife and mother before they are married or pregnant.

I understand that sometimes people need to take time off for health or family reasons; that's part of life and NOT what I'm talking about here.  After all, I took time off from college to receive treatment for depression and anxiety and suspended my graduate school program to care for my premature son.  Sometimes life throws a curve ball and we just have to do the best we can to get through the tough times.

No, I'm thinking of the 17-year old woman who I met at a young adult Catholic event when I was 19 or so.  She had just graduated high school after being homeschooled and we were excited to hear about what she was planning to do next.  She replied that she was going to live at home until she got married and started a family.  Someone asked when she was getting married because we assumed that she was engaged.  She was not engaged.  In fact, she wasn't dating anyone.

The response of the rest of us was that being a wife and a mother was a great life goal - and one that she was very likely to achieve.  In the meantime, though, she should probably do something or learn something.  Most of us were concerned that a very young woman who was on the sheltered side who was focused entirely on marriage and motherhood would be far too likely to marry the first man who displayed any interest in her - regardless of if he was a good match.  We also worried about how boring living at home without any stimulation from a job or education might be for a young woman.

And we need to not assume that the other nations are going to be hostile or look down on us. Because they don't sometimes. A lot of people have responded very interestingly when Anna and I tell them what we're doing and why. A lot of girls actually.have responded very wistfully and said, "You know what? I wish I could do that. I would love nothing more than to be able to do that." A lot of people can see the wisdom in what we're doing but we have to be bold in our witness.

Let's discuss for a few minutes why those wistful girls can't stay home.

 If I had bounced that idea off my parents, they would have rejected it immediately.   There was no one in my home who needed me to give in-home care to and I was healthy enough to restart college within a few months after I was diagnosed with depression.  All of us kids had the option of working after high school or receiving advanced training.  Sitting at home for years while waiting for someone to marry sounds irresponsible from a parenting point of view.

The other issue I see is that the stay-at-home daughter movement expects parents to financially support unmarried daughters forever.  Most of the CP/QF families in my area are working-class families that won't be able to provide much more than room and possibly board for their adult daughters.  Paying for clothing, computers, travel, and all of the incidentals for a middle-class lifestyle is beyond these families unless the daughters are working.   I've never heard a coherent plan for how a stay-at-home daughter will be supported once their father has died.  Sarah Mally and Sarah Maxwell are in their mid-to late 30's.  Both women have income streams from self-published books and Sarah Maxwell does some work for her brothers' businesses - but I doubt the income for either woman is enough to support themselves independently let alone at the socioeconomic standard that they are used to.  Steven Maxwell seems to be withdrawing from at least one of the Maxwell Family businesses as he approaches retirement age while Anna is now prominently displayed as a call-service representative for Nathan's business.  The darkest outcome I can imagine for the Maxwell family is that Sarah, Anna and Mary's incomes are used to support the Maxwell parents during their retirement - and then the women are left without career skills or a nest egg when they are suddenly without a male income source when they are in their 40's, 50's or 60's.

Moving on to number eight. A dominion woman strengthens her arms and trains her mind. Now, one of the things that our family has been accused of is that we don't believe that women should be educated. I don't know how many times we can say this but we said it as many times as we possibly can. We believe that Christian women... Christian young women need to be the best educated women in the world in the right ways and for the right reasons. And a useful woman a dominion woman the kind we've been describing here today is one who has been equipped for the battle is ready for all the duties of life is ready for anything that life might bring her. She's ready to live in a 400 sq ft. almost finished house or she's ready to be the president's daughter or she's ready to live in a mud hut in Africa. She's ready for anything and everything.

The Botkin Sisters believe women should be highly educated - then immediately demonstrate their ignorance.   First, they highly qualify the standard of education to "the right ways" and "the right reasons".  They might as well just say, "We should be highly educated in cult materials." 

No one in their right mind should try and have two people living in one "almost finished" 400 square foot house.  That's a tiny space for two adults with all 400 feet being usable.  There's no room left for areas under construction.  Since people who are not using birth control have a 50% chance of getting pregnant within 3 months and 90% within a year, the family had better have have a plan for expanding that house rapidly.....

Let's not fall back on primitive stereotypes about Africa, ok?    Go read about 5 different African countries on Wikipedia.  Write a comparative essay on your findings. 

If the Maxwells and Mallys are looking down the barrel at future poverty, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth should be extremely worried.  Near as I can tell, the Botkin family has most of their income coming from the younger brother's T. Rex Arms.  That's not a lot of money to support six adults on let alone save up money for the Botkin parents' retirement or a nest egg for the girls.  I hope they are ready for that.

One thing that we need to be asking ourselves is "What is the goal of our education? What are we really preparing to do?" And here's a quote by William B. Sprague in a letter to his daughter that I really like and he says, "The object of education is two-fold: to develop the faculties and to direct them, to bring out the energies of the soul and to bring them to operate to the glories of the creator. In other words, it is to render yourself useful to the extent of your ability." So the purpose of our education is to equip us for the great assignment as women: to be helpers suitable to brave dominion men who have the task of discipling the nations and to be the mothers and teachers of the future generations of Christian warriors. And if we want to raise our sons to be the next presidents, preachers, filmmakers, writers, culture-changers, we're going to need to have an excellent education.

I agree with Sprague that education is about training people to be useful to society at large.  I don't think Victoria Botkin managed to do that with her daughters.    I was thinking about Anna Sofia and Elizabeth's lives while I was mowing the lawn.  They are in their thirties and have achieved none of the milestones that mark adulthood in CP/QF or wider society.  They've never held a job let alone a career.  They've never lived outside of their immediate family.  They've never had a long term romantic relationships.  They've never married.  They have no children.   I suppose they remain busy cleaning up after their two brothers who still live at home and I'm sure their sisters-in-law are grateful for the help they give in childcare - but is that really the fullest extent of their innate skills?  They update their website on a yearly basis.  They've written two books in 15-odd years.  They produced a thoroughly odd movie about stay-at-home daughters.   I'm not impressed.

Now, the question is, " Well, how do do we go about that? How do we educate ourselves in these ways?" And I have another quote here that I really like by John Taylor Gatto who's a former New York Time Teacher of the Year . He says, "Close reading of tough minded writing is still the best, cheapest and quickest method known for learning to think for yourself. Reading and rigorous discussion of that reading is a way that obliges you to formulate a position and support it against objections. It is an operational definition of education in its most fundamental civilized sense." And I might say even better than reading books is writing books [laughs].

*cringes*  The self-referencial praise of people who write books grates on my nerves every time.

I find Gatto to be a bit iconoclastic - but I completely agree with his quote.  My high school English courses along with a phenomenally good Morality course my senior year were based around reading difficult material and discussing it at length with other students and the teacher.  This followed through into my (unfortunately few) college level Humanities and Arts classes.  Based on my memories of  "It's (Not) That Complicated", I doubt either of the sisters was reading at the depth or breadth expected in a college preparatory education.  I know I've forgotten a few novels we read, but I remember reading "Red Badge of Courage", "Lord of the Flies",and "The Odyssey" along with a large research project on a composer, sculptor, painter and in 9th grade.  The next year we read "The Crucible", "The Great Gatsby", "Grapes of Wrath",  "The Education of Little Tree", and "To Kill A Mockingbird" along with a research project on any topic relating to TKAM in American Literature.  Junior year we read "Beowulf", "Macbeth", and "Jane Eyre" for British Literature.  My senior year we read "Utopia", "Hamlet", "Beloved", "Jazz" before diving into cinema classics like "Citizen Kane", "Amadeus", and "Casablanca".    On top of that, we were reading scads of short stories and poems between each of the novels.   Heck, two of my friends and I made a rather horrible, but accurate film version of Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" for extra credit.   

I don't believe that the Botkin sisters have been exposed to close readings of works that would be critical of American exceptionalism or patriarchy in general.    I'm sure they've been kept carefully away from any feminist literature (well, except maybe "Jane Eyre" or "Little Women").  Have they read anything written by a person of color?   Have they really participated in an intense discussion where the outcome is not necessarily in line with their family's beliefs?

The self-serving reference to writing a book as a sign of education screams that the Botkin family doesn't really educate their children.  My project related to TKAM was on the Nazi Olympics of 1936 which was an extravaganza of highly organized propaganda for the Nazis.  The Nazis produced plenty of books and articles on why genocide was not only needed, but beneficial to humankind at large.   IOW, writing a book does not prove that the author is thinking critically at all. 

Let's be honest.  The Botkin Sisters two books are awful on so many levels.....

One thing that I think that I mentioned in the last part was novels and fiction and how young ladies can read too many of those and they can escape through them and they can become enraptured by them and that's not the only reason I would caution girls not to read them. The other reason is that there are so many other books that need to be read right now. Elizabeth and I have a reading list that's about a mile long and I don't know if we're ever going to get through it. Some of the subjects that we're studying right now are theology and worldview, writing and communication, history and understanding the times. There's so much to study. There's so much to learn. And I do believe that reading books is the best way to do that.


"Worldview" and "Understanding the Times" are not exactly tricky academic subjects - and I really doubt either of the Botkin Sisters are digging deeply into authors who have any opinions that diverge from the party line. 

Theology, writing, communication and history are genuine areas of study - but it's rare that someone would be able to combine all four of those topics and study them deeply enough to be a real expert.  Perhaps if they were studying a specific theological doctrine and how it changed over time....that would lead to a paper of some sort....and I guess that the presentations on the final topic would be a form of communication...but I'm never going to see that from the Botkin Sisters. 

I feel sad reviewing this section because I know how much the Botkin Sisters have missed.  Imagine if they had attended a college or a seminary.  Imagine if they joined Toastmasters.  Imagine if they took a few community college classes on public speaking.  Imagine if they acted in a community theater or started a book club that read works by women, LGBT+ or people of color.  Imagine if they flipped burgers at the local greasy spoon or joined a literacy outreach to their local community. 

Imagine if they lived fully.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Preparing Sons: Chapter 11 - Part 2

The first post on this chapter covered Maxwell's wild and crazy views on how to control a son even after he's graduated high school.  I'm not sure how effective those ideas are especially if the son has been prepared enough that he's ready to enter the workforce even at a minimum wage job.  Either way, I saved a subsection of the chapter for a separate post.  This section shares Maxwell's obsession with purchasing a house debt-free along with his exceptionally optimistic views on the amount of earned income for first-time business owners.

Maxwell's views on debt-free homes is that owning a home debt-free prevents white-collar crime:

Is the ability to purchase a home debt-free a good goal for sons? Think about what a burden rent or mortgage payments are. They pressure men to work in places where Christians should not be employed. I have known men, under tremendous financial pressure due to their mortgage, who participated in unethical and illegal business dealings. Concern over loss of income should never hold a Christian to a job with which his Lord would not be pleased. (pg. 166)

As a counter-example, the only person I know who was tried for defrauding the state multiple millions of dollars was a man who earned seven figures who married a woman who had a healthy savings account from years of working in science industry.  They owned a lovely home outright.  I won't pretend I understand exactly why the man decided to inflate the number of students that attended our school (which took a good deal of work including creating records for imaginary students and populating classes of imaginary students), but I've always chalked it up to a combination of greed and hubris.  He received some hefty bonuses based on the growth of our school and he had massive narcissistic tendencies.  If I used Maxwell's line of logic, I should argue that buying a house outright leads inexorably to fraud instead of putting the blame on the illegal choices my boss made.

Maxwell discusses slightly the weight that a mortgage or rent payments put on a worker while ignoring the burden that owning a house places on that same worker.   People lose jobs.  Companies fold, downsize and relocate.  Entire industries do the same thing.  I've lived in Michigan my whole life; when a manufacturing sector declines, there's a massive migration of people out of the state and lots of people moving around in the state.  The industry workers leave first, followed by human service providers and businesses that were supported by the workers' incomes.  It happened in the late 1970's, the early 2000's and the early 2010's.   Owning a home narrows the area where a worker can easily access a job without selling their home and potentially makes the worker less attractive to businesses where the worker will have a long commute.   

If a worker cannot get a job within commuting distance, they have to move.  This adds an another layer of stress and financial demands on a family already in hardship.  Trying to sell a house in an economically depressed area is hard; there are plenty of other houses up for sale of similar quality which depresses prices.  In really bad times, the market values are depressed further by the presence of homes which have been foreclosed on.  The location that the family is moving to is generally in a more competitive real estate market so it's quite possible for the family to have to lose half of their investment on their original home and need to take out a mortgage on their new home.

Teri and I would have loved to provide our children with homes according to Proverbs 19: 14, "House and riches are the inheritance of fathers; and a prudent wife is of the Lord." Unfortunately, we are nowhere near being able to do that. However, we can provide them with room and board for as long as it takes them to save up for their house. Even then it is our desire that they will continue living with us until God provides them a spouse. (pg. 166)

I cannot figure out why Steven Maxwell interprets that verse to mean that fathers should give houses to their sons; if that was the proverb, it would state "Houses and riches are the inheritance of sons..." My understanding of that proverb is that married men who have living children and a prudent wife are economically farther ahead in subsistence agrarian societies.  My interpretation is a no-brainer...but most proverbs are simply pithy statements of general societal trends anyways.

More problematically is the fact that Maxwell blithely assumes that parents can afford to house and feed all of their offspring prior to marriage.   I really doubt that most CP/QF families can do that to the point that the Maxwells do. The Maxwells have eight kids spaced across 20 years supported by a father who had a Bachelor's degree in Engineering.  The oldest three kids were working in external or family businesses by the time the youngest girl started preschool.  Compare that with the 19 children born in the same time frame to the Duggar or the Bates family to self-employed parents.  Additionally, the Maxwells have five sons and only three daughters.  Since CP/QF boys are allowed to work outside the home, the Maxwells have had more children who could support themselves (at least partially) by their late teens.  The Coghlan family of the defunct blog "In A Shoe" has eight daughters and three sons; the seven oldest children are daughters. Trying to support 7 adult daughters until they got married is much more challenging than supporting three adult daughters as the Maxwells do now.

If a young man has been prepared well during high school, he should fairly easily be able to earn $35,000 or more a year when he graduates. Start with a yearly income and then subtract tithes, offerings, and taxes. Then money must be put aside for transportation, insurance - medical and auto, and other incidental expenses. If your son is frugal, he should be able to save 50% or slightly more of its income while living at home. (pg. 166)

I had to stop for a minute or two to stop laughing so hard I was crying.  After I could see again, I hit the internet to double-check my instinct.  In 2001, the median income for men who completed high school without college experience was $34,723.   That figure includes men at the beginning, middle and end of their careers; using it as an estimate for what a recent high school graduate could expect is unrealistically high.    For comparison, I began teaching in 2006 for ~$27,000 a year (plus benefits).

This is where Maxwell begins using magic math.  Through the rest of the topic, he behaves as if $35,000 in sales from a personal business is the same thing as $35,000 in personal income.  It's not because Maxwell forgets about removing business expenses from the total in sales.  I'm extremely skeptical that all taxes, health insurance, auto insurance for a late teenage or early 20's man, and all of the incidental expenses that come with a job/career like clothing, haircuts, networking experiences etc, take less than 50% of a man's income.     

Within six years from high school graduation, your 24 year old son will have saved $100,000, not counting any appreciable interest. I find that very exciting. If he earned less than 35,000 a year, it just means he must save a little longer.(pg. 166)

Here's a more realistic scenario.  I worked at Meijers as a cashier for between $8-12 dollars an hour during that time period.  I worked full-time (or close to it) during the summer months and during Thanksgiving through New Years.  The remainder of the year, I worked between 6-20 hours a week depending on the amount of available shifts.  I made roughly $16,000 per year before taxes and "saved" around $7,500 which I used in real time to pay for college.. 

Now, I passed up some shifts due to attending college - but I also cross-trained in the Men's/Shoes, Cosmetics, Pharmacy and Garden Center so I could pick up more shifts during slow periods.  If I hadn't been in college, I think I could have increased my number of hours across the year by about 30% at most because there's a seasonal dead time in January through April followed by a shorter one in late September through October where shifts were hard to find for love or money.  Assuming that I could save at the same rate, I'd make $20,080 before tax saving $9,750 per year.   My expenses were a little different because my parents covered my health insurance and I didn't have a car so I didn't need automotive insurance outside of a rider on my parents' policy but I did pay room and board to college so I think it about evens out in the end.

Saving $100,000 would have taken me 10.25 years at that rate.  There's no way my parents would have wanted me living at home from when I was 18 until I was 28 in hopes of buying my own home immediately. 

In case the math scared any of the readers, Maxwell immediately moves the goal posts for a home purchase:

Depending on the location, size, and age of the house your son will purchase, he might not even need $100,000. There's so many possibilities and intriguing options, but nothing happens unless a son has a vision, and you help him prepare. (pgs. 166-167)

Yes and no.  Michigan, like most of the Midwest, has low housing prices compared to either coast.  I grew up in an area of mostly starter homes and live in a fairly depressed area of rural home prices.   I have a hard time finding a home now that was under $100,000.   My first apartment was 600 square feet with one bedroom.  I can find homes for sale right now that are 700-800 square feet with two bedrooms and one bathroom in both areas - but they are selling for $110,00-$130,000.

I'm sure I could find cheaper homes if I was willing to purchase a foreclosed home at an auction - but those homes often need a lot of work.  In the best case scenario, the home was well-maintained upto the point that the home was surrendered to the bank and had minimal damage during the period it was uninhabited.  Here's a worst case scenario. A family down the block from us had a house foreclosed on when I was a kid.  We met the poor souls who bought the house sight unseen.  They purchased a home that had been occupied by animal hoarders who apparently decided to destroy everything they could on their way out.    The house had to be stripped down to the studs and built back up again - including new electrical to replace the parts ripped out and new plumbing.    I don't know what they purchased the house for - but they spent a ton more than that making the house habitable again.

I want to encourage you with the possibilities for your own son. If a father says, "My son isn't involved with computers and can't make that much money," my question for him is, "Do you think your son could learn to handle commercial lawn mower?" I think you will agree that most sons are capable of running a lawn mower.

Mark, a recent high school graduate, has his own lawn mowing business. It is nothing fancy, just one man with a commercial, walk behind mower. I spoke with him on his mobile phone and he was about to start on another lawn. I asked him if he thought a young man could clear 35,000 a year by mowing lawns. He chuckled and said,"Yes, pretty easily in fact!" Then he pointed out that income came from mowing lawns for only 5 months, during the growing season. (pg. 167)


I agree that most adult humans can learn to run a lawn mower.  We're not setting the bar real high here, are we?

I agree that random guy named Mark that Steven Maxwell knows believes that someone could theoretically earn $35,000 a year.  I'd like to point out that Mark never says that he earns that much - just that he thinks it is possible. 

Right now, the internet tells me that people who hire a lawn service expect to pay $80-100 per mowing for a suburban size lawn.  My lawn is a bit over an acre and would be closer to $150 per mowing.  We have a 5 month mowing season and let's assume people want their lawn mowed 8 times during that period.  That's around $800 per suburban yard and $1,200 per rural yard.  To clear $35,000 in sales, that means a teenage CP/QF home school graduate (who may not know anyone in his neighborhood) would need to have 44 suburban clients or 30 rural clients. 

Let's discuss the pitfalls that spring to mind:
  • No one in the area I grew up used a lawn service.  It was too expensive for a chore that young working families could do on their own.  CP/QF kids in blue-collar suburban areas are out of luck.
  • No one in the area I live in now uses a lawn service.  Everyone owns a self-propelled lawn mower except me.  (I'm the oddball who uses a reel mower on an acre lawn.  I enjoy the exercise and the look of horror on people's faces...)  CP/QF kids in rural areas are out of luck.
  • A lot of that income is going to be eaten up by business costs:
    • A used walk-behind commercial mower is between $600-$2500.  The cheaper end require local pick-up and have an unknown number of clock hours on them which means availability is spotty and the mower might die midseason.  
    • Finishing around the home and walkways requires a commercial weed whip for around $150.  
    • The mower and weed whip needs to be transported from site to site.  This requires either a pickup truck or a flatbed attached to a pickup truck.   A used light truck with over 100,000 miles on it runs between $7,000-10,000.  
    • Both the mower and the truck require gasoline or diesel to run.  Time spent moving the equipment and truck for refueling is wasted so the business would probably benefit from having an in-bed fuel tank in the pickup truck - but small trucks have small beds so the mower might not fit with an extra fuel tank.  
    • I feel like having a late teenage boy driving around in a light truck with an in-bed fuel tank and a heavy commercial mower is a disaster waiting to happen.  I'm thinking this will lead to a higher automotive insurance rate - but I could be wrong on that one.
    • I hope Nathan, Christopher and Mark sprung for business insurance when they were running mowing businesses.  That's around $500 per year.
  • Adding it up and assuming a 4-year loan on the truck gives a low-end of $3,000 to a high end of $5,650 not including fuel costs and automotive insurance.    I'm also assuming they have minimal advertising costs.   That means the business needs 4-7 suburban clients or 3-5 rural clients to clear costs..  (Rural clients have larger yards, but the cost of transporting equipment to rural clients becomes expensive quickly.  44 suburban clients might live in a 10 mile radius; 30 rural clients may be a 30 mile radius.)  
  • Who is funding this?  Most families - ignoring CP/QF status - don't have $3,000 to drop on a family member's start-up.
This means our hypothetical new small business owner just out of high school needs to find 48 suburban clients or 33 rural clients to met easy-peasy goal set by Steven Maxwell after getting $3,000-$5,650 to cover start-up costs. 

Yeah.  Good luck.  They'll need it.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Maidens of Virtue - Appendix on Modesty

Stacy McDonald faced a dilemma at the end of the twentieth chapter of "Raising Maidens of Virtue".  Her enthusiasm for writing was winding down; the chapters became shorter and shorter as the book went on while the quality of writing dropped to perilous lows.   In reading the proof, however, she realized that she still had a few stories from her life that she wanted to include in the book.  She writes up the three stories, slips in a few Bible verses and thus the appendix titled "Modesty Promotes Friendship" was born.

Honestly, I have no idea what Stacy McDonald's writing process is - but my imagined scenario explains this appendix as well as any other scenario.

I think the title for the chapter should be "Dress Modestly so Judgmental Women Don't Bitch about You Behind Your Back", but I suspect that's going to be unacceptable for the book's audience.  I'd accept "I get one standard; everyone else gets another standard" for a working title - but really, we could title 90% of CP/QF books that.  I wish it had been named "Here's How to Bragging About Having A Smoking Hot Bikini Body at Age 22 While Still Judging Other Women in Church."

This paragraph jumped out at me for needing a proofreader desperately:

Even though the Apostle Paul makes the principle clear in 1 Timothy 2:8 that women are to "adorn themselves in modest apparel," and even though older women are instructed to teach the young women in their lives to be "discreet and chaste" (Titus 2:4-5), too often, the subject of modesty is either treated as a legalistic, optional teaching for the week, or it's handled by creating a very distinct and detailed set of rules. (pg, 185)

Yup.  The paragraph is a single sentence of ~70 words.  I can only imagine what my high school English teachers would have said if I turned in a paper including a sentence that uses the phrase "even though" twice.     I concede that this would be a fascinating sentence to diagram.....

I'm curious what Stacy McDonald thinks the definition of "legalistic" in a religion means.  My understanding is that the definition of legalistic IS any list of distinct and detailed set of rules that a given person thinks is too long.   The sentence-paragraph would make more sense if "legalistic" was moved to after the word "or" .  The other option is for her to define what she means by legalistic, I suppose.

The appendix is filled with eye watering paragraphs like that so I'm going to skip the others ones in favor of the stories from Mrs. McDonald's life.  This first story is great.  Mrs. McDonald manages to brag about her immodest dressing while shaming the woman who called her out on it.
I was 22 years old and a brand new Christian when something happened to me that forever impacted my opinion of how to approach a modesty in new Christians. An older woman, the precious lady who had led me to the Lord, became very frustrated with me after she and her family invited me to their beach cabin.

I have been walking around in front of my friend's husband and teen sons all weekend long in a bikini, with just a light, open, button-down shirt thrown over the top of it. Finally, and obvious frustration, she told me I needed to " go put some clothes on!"

I was horrified and so embarrassed! I still remember standing there on the beach wondering if I could run to the cabin or bury myself in the sand. Maybe a wave would swallow me. I felt like the " Emperor who had no clothes!" All of a sudden I realized I was practically naked - and have been, all weekend!

I recall wishing that she would have been frank with me about modesty at the beginning of the weekend ( privately and gently). Her hesitancy caused her own unnecessary frustration, and it cost me immense humiliation. I've noticed her coolness towards me that weekend, I hadn't realized what was causing it. (pg. 186)

Half of this story is humble-bragging on her beach body at age 22.  I've gotta admit that I enjoy that part of the story because she seems so normal. During Michigan summers, a lightweight cover-up and a swimsuit/bikini/tankini/whatever is the official dress code within a mile of the Great Lakes.  I imagine wherever this story happened that the husband and sons of the older lady have seen plenty of women enjoying the beach in similar clothing.  In the real world, the male members of the family might have looked at her appreciatively for a moment or two when she first appeared in a bikini but gaping at her or ogling her would be viewed as crude.  Plus, most guys at a beach display the acclimation over time.  She caught their attention when she first appeared - but the novelty of seeing this woman in this bikini wears off quickly assuming that the bikini is similar to what other women are wearing. 

I agree a bit with Mrs. McDonald; her older friend really should have discussed clothing guidelines at the cabin prior to the trip or as soon as the friend had a problem rather than letting it fester most of the weekend.    On the other hand, Mrs. McDonald is ragingly hypocritical because she's never addressed anything gently in this book.  Remember this is the woman who couldn't be bothered to ask a friend why his hygiene was horrible and decided that when her teenager expressed compassion for people who committed suicide that the best response was to remind the teenager that everyone is a flawed, worthless sinner. 

"But, Mel", I hear you thinking, "maybe she can't remember what she wrote before."  That's fair criticism - but she launches into two other stories that show other women behaving horribly towards immodestly dressed women and clearly sides with the rude women.  Here's a great example:

Years ago, I was sitting with a friend at church when a young woman (with solid Christian parents) who was showcasing her assets in skin tight jeans and a low-cut blouse walked by. My friend glanced over at her husband and sons who were standing nearby and said, " I realize she is very proud of her breasts and all; but, it would be nice if she kept them to herself."
I was a bit taken aback by her bluntness, but it struck me that day that she was onto something. Although, I think a more accurate observation would be that this young woman should have been glorifying God by " keeping them" ( as well as other things) for her own husband, instead of " sharing them" with everyone else's... because, well, because that would be the loving thing to do. (pg. 187)

See, Stacy McDonald needed gentle hand-holding because she was a new baby Christian; even a frustrated aside comment from a friend was enough to wound her.  Cradle Christians, on the other hand, learn best from bitchy, passive-aggressive comments lobbed in their general direction by co-dependent older women.   

The amount of codependency in these stories boggles my mind.  Older woman from story one is poorly policing a young woman in a bikini to protect her fragile husband and sons.  Older woman from story two is policing women at church to protect....her fragile husband..and..sons.   In the third story, a young woman is policing women at church to protect her fragile husband.   Monitoring other women's dress as useless as policing the universe for alcohol when living with someone addicted to alcohol.  Either the men will develop the skills to deal with the presence of an attractive woman or they won't.  Having another woman pointing out all of the immodestly dressed women she sees is not helping the men learn the skill - but it does allow the woman to remain in control of her husband's and sons' lives. 

The last story shows what happens when codependency reigns unchecked:

I remember one friend whose husband struggled with pornography. In tears one day, she shared with me how she didn't even want to go to church anymore ( at least with her husband) unless they were able to sit in the front row. She said she was tired of catching her husband staring at the backsides of the girls in skin tight jeans in front of them (this particular megachurch had a huge problem with sensuality - almost as big as her husband's lust problem).

Sadly, even when they sat in the front row, they had to look up the skirts of the choir members on stage when they sat down. For a woman struggling in this type of marriage, it was torture. But, no one seems concerned about her. If she complain to leadership she would have likely been called the judgmental or legalistic.

Of course, this husband was totally responsible for his own sin. In fact, my friend ended up divorced; but, that isn't the point. In fact, the point isn't my friend's husband at all. The point is that my friend was hurt, not only by the wandering eye of her own husband, but by her many sisters in Christ who gave him such ample opportunity, and who should have known better. (pg. 188)

This is what codependency looks like when the addict is less invested in recovery than the codependent spouse.   Rather than setting reasonable limits with her spouse, the young woman is alternating between attempting to control his behavior and attempting to control the behavior of every woman her husband looks at.    The woman had plenty of options.  She could inform her husband that she would not attend church with him if he's going to stare at other women's asses.  If he continues, refuse to attend church with him.  If he's really dedicated to stopping, he could ask the minister to reserve seats for him and his wife smack dab in front of the altar/pulpit after explaining his problem with staring at the crotches of women at church.   He could find a different church; there's always a conservative church where the average age of the female congregant is over 70 within driving distance.  He needs to man up and do the work - and she needs to stop working harder at overcoming his addiction than he is.

My dream is that if the woman did talk to the leadership of the church they would introduce her to one of the Al-Anon mottos.  She didn't cause his addiction to porn; she can't control his addiction to porn and she can't cure his addiction to porn.   Imagine how much time, energy and freedom she would gain eventually if she let go of his burden.

The last paragraph shows that Stacy McDonald can be codependent by proxy.   She's blaming other women for the bad behavior her friend reports about her friend's husband.   That's absolutely freaking insane - especially when she deflects the vast majority of the blame from her friend's creepy husband onto the women he's ogling in church.  Ew.  Ew.  Ew.

Oh, and she gets a bitchy slam in at her friend by casually mentioning her divorce which is a Big Personal Failing in conservative Christian land.    Because, you know, her friend didn't really do it all right, ya know.   Ew.  Ew.  Ew.

I'm so glad to nearly be done with this book.

*I think conservative Christians often misuse the idea of people being addicted to porn.  There is a world of difference between struggling to not watch porn for religious/philosophical/moral reasons and being addicted to porn.  There's a clear parallel to alcohol.  Most people can consume alcohol without becoming addicted.  For people who choose to abstain from alcohol for religious reasons, there is a struggle in overcoming the sporadic desire to have a drink or two.  That struggle is quantitatively and qualitatively different from an addiction that leads to spending needed money on the drug of choice or having career setbacks because of the addiction or ruining a family because of the addiction.   The man in story #3 might have a porn addiction - but he's a skeevy creep too if he's leering at teenager's rear ends and sneaking peeks up women's dresses at church.