Sunday I reviewed some books dealing with the idea that cleanliness, purity and order are subjective concepts, and that this also affects our modern society: it has to be tightly ordered, with everyone knowing their place and staying there. And the places are not even: “One category of persons is assigned to privilege, power, and dominance, and the other category is designated for a life of subordination. This prescribed order has been ‘ordered’ for you, not by you. If you’re in the subordinate category, you’re taught you have no choice but to submit and stay in your place.” Robert Altemeyer makes the same point in The Authoritarians: people who believe in a fixed, authoritarian hierarchy are terrified of change, fearful any disturbance to the way things are will topple society like a house of cards.
For some people, the terror reaches levels that would be laughable if they didn’t d0 real-world harm. Misogynist complementarian preacher John Piper, for instance, thinks a man having to ask a woman for directions is a terrifying spiritual crisis: in that instant the woman is taking the lead, the man following her instructions. Only handling the moment carefully can avert upending them both spiritually.
As Fred Clark sums it up, complementarianism — men dividing the world between women and men without consulting the women — “sounds like a sweet deal for men. It means you’re in charge by virtue of having been born in charge, and hierarchy brings all manner of privileges. You get paid more. Your legal rights are better protected. Society is literally designed to meet your desires and appetites and emotional needs. Plus someone else is going to make you food, clean up after you, launder your clothes, and tend to your children. Being “above” and being deferred to by default is, all things considered, a pretty terrific arrangement for you. It’s good to be the king.”
But unearned, unjustified power is an unstable thing, Particularly in the modern U.S., where women have the right to walk out of their marriage if it’s not working, something men such as Piper, Matt Walsh or James Dobson frown on (at the link, Dobson explains abused wives trick their husband into hitting them so they can justify a divorce). For instance right-winger Stephen Crowder, caught on video verbally abusing his wife, is furious she has the right to divorce him (she is). Maybe this explains why Michigan Republican Tudor Dixon thinks school libraries should ban books with divorced characters. Equality anywhere is a threat to inequality everywhere. And for those who benefit from inequality, that’s terrifying.
For more critiques of misogynist bullshit, check out Undead Sexist Cliches, available as a Amazon paperback, an ebook and from several other retailers. Cover by Kemp Ward, all rights remain with current holders.