May 3, 2015
For Palin, It’s a (Christian) Man’s World
Posted on Sep 14, 2008
By Chris Hedges
Sarah Palin may be a governor and a vice presidential candidate, but in the hyper-masculine world of the Christian right, she is subservient to a male hierarchy that claims to speak for God.
A cult of masculinity defines the Wasilla Assembly of God church and the Juneau Christian Centre where she worshipped. This cult propagates a vision of the world where believers are warriors. They are taught to ready themselves to engage in a final cataclysmic clash with the forces of Satan. This cosmic struggle, infused with the language of war, death and violence, leads inevitably to the slaughter by the righteous of all non-Christians. The photos of Palin hunched over dead animals she has shot are not simply images of a woman who is a member of the National Rifle Association. They are images of a woman who believes violence against nonbelievers is ultimately part of her religious life.
The cult of masculinity is used to banish ambiguity, especially sexual ambiguity. It fosters a world of binary opposites: God and man, the saved and the unsaved, the church and the world, Christianity and secular humanism, and male and female. All in life is rigidly defined. Disorder and chaos are banished. Reality, when it is defined in these absolutes, is predictable and understandable, something deeply comforting to believers who have often had trouble coping with the messiness of human existence.
All configurations of human life that do not conform to the rigid Christian model, such as homosexuality, are forms of disorder, tools of Satan, and must be abolished. This is why Palin opposes gay marriage and calls for gays to be cured. A world that can be predicted and understood, a world that has clear markers, can be made rational. It can be managed and controlled. The petrified, binary world of fixed, immutable and established roles is a world where people, many of them damaged by bouts with failure and despair, can bury their chaotic and fragmented personalities. They can live with the illusion that they are strong, whole and protected. Those who do not fit into these narrow definitions must be proselytized and converted.
The decline of America is ascribed to the decline of male prowess. This decline has led to weakness and moral decay. It has resulted in a bewildering human and social complexity that, often seen as feminine, is the work of Satan. This is why Palin consistently celebrates "male" values.
Square, Site wide
James Dobson, one of Palin's most ardent supporters, has built his career on perpetuating these rigid male stereotypes. On his Family.org Web site he discusses "the countless physiological and emotional differences between the sexes." The article "Gender Gap?" on the Web site lists the physical distinctions between man and woman, including strength, size, red blood cell count and metabolism. For a woman, Dobson writes, love is her most important experience: Love gives woman her "zest," it makes up her "life-blood," it is her primary "psychological need." Love holds less meaning in a man's life than a woman's -- though a man can appreciate love, he does not "need" it.
"Genesis tells us that the Creator made two sexes, not one, and that He designed each gender for a specific purpose," Dobson goes on. And these differences mean different roles: They mean the man is the master and the woman must obey.
"One masculine need comes to mind that wives should not fail to heed. It reflects what men want most in their homes. A survey was taken a few years ago to determine what men care about most and what they hope their wives will understand. The results were surprising. ... What [men] wanted most was tranquility at home. Competition is so fierce in the workplace today, and the stresses of pleasing a boss and surviving professionally are so severe, that the home needs to be a haven to which a man can return. It is a smart woman who tries to make her home what her husband needs it to be."
Dobson says that to achieve this tranquility wives have to be submissive. He instructs the husband in how he "should handle his wife's submission" and goes on in Family.org to insist that " ... submission is a choice we make. It's something each one of us must decide to do. And this decision happens first in the heart. If we don't decide in our hearts that we are going to willingly submit to whomever it is we need to be submitting to, then we are not truly submitting." The choice not to submit to the male head of the household, Dobson makes clear, is a violation of God's law.
By disempowering women, by returning them to their "proper" place as a subservient partner in the male-dominated home, the movement creates the larger paradigm of the Christian state. The men's movement Promise Keepers, which at its height a decade ago drew tens of thousands of men into football stadiums, called on men to "take back" their role as the head of the household. The movement used the verse from Ephesians that calls on wives to "be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord" (5:22). Women were not allowed to attend the events, although some could volunteer at concession stands outside. The founder of the group, former Colorado football coach Bill McCartney, called the movement's battle against abortion the "Second Civil War" and lambasted gays and lesbians as "stark raving mad." He dismissed gays and lesbians as "a group of people who don't reproduce, yet want to be compared to people who do reproduce, and that lifestyle doesn't entitle anyone to special rights." The organization mounted campaigns such as "Real Men Matter," in which men were instructed to recover their maleness in a "morally-bankrupt, godless society." The goal of the movement, strongly supported by Dobson, was to help men regain their place in society. And while Promise Keepers is on the wane, its agenda is embedded in the Christian right.
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