I often feel that while us girls and women who left the movement get a lot of sympathy and have a loud voice, the men are neglected. After all, they don’t suffer as much. Or do they?
A family. The man as the head, the provider. The housewife, raising God’s mighty soldiers, subject to her husband. The kids obey and honor their parents, preparing for their future roles in the kingdom. Or so I thought.
In the months before I left the movement, I struggled with the role the family had designed for me. Being a wife and mother with no other choice, no way out, not even being allowed to follow activities they considered too “boyish” was stifling for me. I could never make my own decisions, I wasn’t “made” for it simply because I was a woman. While I felt I was getting the unfair end of the deal I thought men weren’t nearly as bad as I was. They were free, could do anything they wanted, be anything and never had to listen to anybody else.
Only after I left I realized that this isn’t true. Men too are pressured to fit into a role which might not be what they want for their lives.
Men aren’t only not expected to help with housework, there is somewhat of an unwritten law that men who do too much housework are feminized. Like cooking. Now that I left I know some men who honestly enjoy cooking. One of them, he is not a chef, cooks so well – it’s just as good as any really expensive fancy restaurant. He comes up with his own combinations and menus, knows about herbs, how to make perfect meat and even makes noodles from scratch. And it doesn’T stop there. His cakes are divine to say the least. He does all of that after work, for fun. It’s his hobby, his favourite activity. He doesn’t want to be a chef because he wants to make what he feels like making.
Now, within the movement, a man who cooks and bakes this way for fun… he’d have a hard time. A really hard time. Can you imagine a patriarch in an apron, making the best cupcakes in town? No, men like the one I described are unmanly, feminized, castrated by the feminist world, confused which gender they belong to, what their role in life is.
One of my cousin’s friends is married. When they had a baby 2 years ago, she stayed at home for 6 months. After that, her husband decided to stay at home and raise the child for 2 more years until it was ready for kindergarten. I didn’t know about this when I met them. I met them only once and it was right after I moved here. Still very much in my typical role mentality, I watched this little family in awe. The man fed the baby. The man changed the diapers. The man carried the diaper bag and the baby. The woman had to ask the man if there was another pair of baby socks in the bag and he said yes, and found them immediately. It implied he had packed the bag. And when the baby cried, he was the first one comforting the baby. It was strange. A man acting like a mother? A woman acting like the man? What was that all about?
I didn’t want to be rude, so I refrained from openly addressing it. But I asked my cousin later in private what kind of family that was. She explained that they thought about this decision, that he would stay at home, for a long time. He felt that his wife already had such a strong, intimate bond with the baby, and he wanted something very special too. He had always dreamed of having babies and being REALLY there for them. So he felt like staying at home raising it would be the perfect way to find a special connection.
While this is certainly not the norm, I thought it was a beautiful idea.
A man in the movement doesn’t have the opportunity to do these things. Being too “motherly” is out of the question. Most women are so conditioned not to feminize their men that even if they want to change a diaper once in a while, the women don’t allow it. What would people say if they saw that? Of course, men are supposed to be gentle dads, but they are also the main disciplinarian, the fun part of the parental combination, the one who comes home at night, is comforted by wife and children, plays with them for half an hour till they go to bed. And on occasion, there might be a daddy day. But really getting deep into raising them is usually not an option.
Now while all of the cases I described may be on the extremer end, it still proves that men aren’t free either. They still have to stick to the roles designed by the legalists around them. Since I started blogging I read many thoughts by ex-fundamentalist men. That they feel pressured into a “boss” role within the family which they just don’t feel is right for their relationship and family.
The hurt caused in men is often neglected. Maybe that’s because they are raised to believe it’s a sign of weakness. Boys don’t cry. Boys are boys, strong and brave and the head of the woman. It must be very hard to admit to oneself that this just doesn’t feel right. That they want to be married to a woman who has an opinion and makes decisions. One who doesn’t blame them for wanting to cook on occasion, or take care of the baby on their own for a while, or simply want to pick their own clothes because they have a better sense of style than their wife.