Posts Tagged ‘locking the fire escape’

Locking the fire escape

I’d like to start with some apologies for being MIA for the last few months–I’ve been rather distracted and said distraction still only naps irregularly. But it’s long past time I got back to my own irregular schedule of blog posts, and I’ve decided to do so by sharing an idea I first shared on Love Joy Feminism. That idea is one I call “locking the fire escape”.

I spend a good amount of time reading both LJF and No Longer Quivering, both of which frequently critique facets of conservative Christian culture in the USA, and regardless of the particular issue there’s a recurring pattern to the materials they talk about–one where a person will acknowledge a problem, maybe even say that something needs to be done about it, but everything else ze says renders that acknowledgement completely worthless. One great example in Michael Pearl’s Book To Train Up A Child*. Michael is very quick to say that parents should not be abusive, that they need to show love to their children, but his directions for raising them is very absolutist. Spank early, spank for any sign of ‘rebellion’ (which can be as simple as not being sufficiently happy), and don’t let up until the child has truly submitted to your authority. There’s no room for individual judgement about when to stop, and the methods he promotes are themselves abusive–even occasionally fatal–which makes his admonishments to not abuse your children ring very hollow.

Michael’s wife, Debi, has her own book about being a wife called Created To Be His Helpmeet, which can be summarized as always submit to your husband and never, ever speak even the slightest utterance against his character or authority. Since even she can’t deny that some men are abusive partners, there is of course the disclaimer that a women may leave (though not divorce) her husband if he is truly abusive. Of course, you can only really be sure that he’s abusive if you’re being a perfectly submissive wife–otherwise he may just not be treating you well because you’re not being good enough. The problems of victim-blaming aside, there will always be room to think that you could be more submissive, so you can never really get past the point of trying to be a better wife to decide that yeah, the problem actually is him.

To move away from the Pearls, Karen Campbell at That Mom is ready to admit that there are problems with abuse among homeschoolers. But like many homeschooling parents, she is even readier to dismiss the notion that this should be addressed by any sort of government oversight. Instead she advocates for the homeschool community to self-police, which is absolutely useless to children who are completely isolated from the outside world, who belong to communities that endorse the treatment they’re receiving (such as those that follow the methods outlined by Michael Pearl), or whose communities lack any way to effectively police their members–that last group would probably cover the vast majority of homeschoolers, since parents rarely have any real authority over other parents.

This is a pattern that repeats very frequently in these circles. They note genuine problems that are leveled at them, and pay lip service to fixing them, but the rest of what they have to say pretty much cuts off that attempt at dealing with the issues at hand. Which is why I refer to it as “locking the fire escape”. The door has to be there, and they will point it out to make sure you know it’s there, but they’re never really going to let you use it.

*If anyone has a copy they’d like to get rid of, my niece’s birthday is coming up and I bet she’d enjoy a pinata.