It’s no surprise that articles from Focus on the Family make me upset. One of my friends sent us one about “Rethinking the Gift of Singleness.” In her defense, she was reading it for a discussion group and thought we might like to join the discussion. So I assume she wasn’t all the way on board with the author either.
This article has so many things wrong with it, it is hard to know where to begin. And one problem is that the author says a few things that make sense. Let me come out of the box right here and say I am in favor of the following things: Love, marriage, commitment, sex, babies, parenthood, family. Some women who I know and respect choose to get married at a young age, and choose to stay home with their children, and I have no judgment for them, although I don’t think that I need to be like them. Debbie Makon makes some interesting points about our unique historic time and what that does to the institution of marriage, dating, and gender, and I appreciate the reminder about chronological snobbery. However, I also think that any story of history makes choices about what to include in the narrative. When Makon talks about historic marriage practices, she conveniently leaves out the monastic tradition of celibacy. She also fails to mention that women were not allowed to be educated, or to do really anything to contribute to society other than get married (unless they became nuns). So of COURSE “old maids” and “spinsters” were persons to be pitied. They didn’t have anything worthwhile to do! She also conveniently leaves out the many unhappy and abusive marriages that result from marriages of obligation.
I also have some problems with her quick and flawed detour into biblical backing. As far as I can tell, she is referencing biblical culture more than biblical mandates. They practiced polygamy then too, you know.
The root problem here, though, is essentializing women. Makon’s underlying view seems to be that women were created to be, and are only happy and fulfilled when they are, wives and mothers. Men, on the other hand, can do whatever they want. They need to be in a marriage because it is their obligation. Women, though, are mothers to the core. In a life of singleness, they are necessarily unhappy and outside the will of God. What can they do for God’s Kingdom if they can’t gestate and then raise the next generation of faithful?
I’m sure Makon would feel sorry for me. I have fallen victim to the system. (or perhaps my feminism has lead me to a well-deserved spinsterhood). I am far too involved in the “protracted education system that doesn’t really educate” for my own good. And I know my life is not perfect, and sure, I’d like to be married sometime. But I’d like for Debbie Makon to step into my life for a few weeks and tell me that I would honestly be serving God’s will better if I was home with a newborn instead of in graduate school. I’d like her to show me how my gifts would be better served taking care of my own children instead of learning things, meeting people, and teaching students. I know that homemaking is a gift and a good thing, but my papers are far better organized than my kitchen, and I am way better at explaining how to make a thesis statement than I am at dealing with toddlers. So is it so crazy to think that perhaps God has called me, in this time and in this place, to do exactly what I am doing? And that's not to say that I won't start being a mom and wife later and love it and value it. I'm just saying that Makon shouldn't devalue all the worthwhile things I'm doing now.