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Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Men, Women, Jobs, and Power
Jan over at A Church for Starving Artists recently had a great post titled Is Todd Palin Aberrant?. As one man (potentially) chooses to follow his wife to the White House, she asks if this is normal behavior for men. Too often she has encountered the opposite - men ignoring their wife and children's situations, jobs, and needs to climb the corporate ladder or pursue a (supposed) call to ministry. Read her post - it's good.

It reminded me of when I studied the history of missions in grad school. One of the great "heroes" of the modern missionary movement, William Carey, was of course prominent in such studies. In typical churchy fashion, he was lauded as a saint for choosing to follow a call to ministry - even against the desires of his family. While I know he did good (from a certain perspective) things like help stop the practice of Sati in India, I'm disturbed by the historical perspective that praises him for ruining his family. Assuming a call from God, he forced his wife, pregnant with their fourth child, to move to India against her wishes. She was miserable there, the child died there from illness and Dorothy suffered a nervous breakdown which some say eventually killed her. Instead of faulting William for not fulfilling the call to love and serve his wife, she is usually portrayed as a hindrance to his ministry. Even the wikipedia entry shows this bias -
Dorothy Carey died in 1807. She had long since ceased to be a useful member of the mission, and in fact was actually a hindrance to its work. John Marshman wrote how Carey worked away on his studies and translations, "...while an insane wife, frequently wrought up to a state of most distressing excitement, was in the next room....". Carey re-married a year later to Charlotte Rhumohr, a Danish member of his church who, unlike Dorothy, was his intellectual equal. They were married for 13 years until her death.

It fails to mention that Carey had become very close to Charlotte while his wife was alive - preferring to spend time with her rather than with his downer of a wife who didn't want to be there to begin with. And he is praised as a great missionary - the founder of modern missions. Interesting.

So is society more okay with men pursuing their dreams and passions at the expense of their family than they are with women doing the same? How often do you see entire families up-rooting themselves for the sake of the woman? is it worse or better within the church?

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posted by Julie at 5:53 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 10/02/2008 07:56:00 AM, OpenID minnowspeaks

    So Julie--Obviously Todd Palin is an exception to the norm for men but what's the connection between your example and the Palins? The missionary you mentioned obviously disregarded his family, especially his wife and the Church turned a blind eye. I dare say there are probably thousands of similar examples but there are probably more examples of men who pursued their "calling" with the blessings of their family. As far as I can tell these examples are a better fit for the Palins. Without knowing them at a personal level (and even then it would be difficult) I certainly am not willing to say otherwise.

  • At 10/02/2008 10:38:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    the point was Jan's question if Todd Palin is different from the average man. The average man, not the Palin's, were the point of the discussion.

  • At 10/03/2008 05:11:00 AM, OpenID minnowspeaks

    And I was wondering what the point of your example was. Are you suggesting that with the roles reversed Sarah Palin is disregarding her family needs and Todd Palin is a reluctant participant? That certainly isn't what he is saying. It is obviously out of the norm for Todd Palin to be the at home parent but does that make it aberrant or simply progressive?

  • At 10/03/2008 07:35:00 AM, Blogger Nancy

    It is my understanding that Todd Palin is a working parent just like his wife. He operates a fishing business and is involved in some sort of oil business as well. He is also a professional snow mobile racer. In this case, they are like most folks these days, both parents employed and creatively working together to manage a home and family.

    Julie, I'd say what is less the norm is that Sarah is the one with the "power career" and potentially requiring Todd's increased flexibility and support should she need to "move" to DC. There are indeed many men who find themselves in Todd's position. I think it is less rare these days than 30 years ago. In my opinion, couples that alternately sacrifice and support one another in pursuit of their dreams is how it "should" be. I don't think it should always be the woman/wife who must forever be putting her own needs and desires to the side for her spouse/partner's career. That make actually work for some couples, those who choose it, knowing the benefits and risks of such choices but there are generations of women who can testify to how not having such choices was destructive to self and marriage.

  • At 10/03/2008 01:11:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    minnow - the point had nothing to do with politics or passing judgment. the Palins are just a contemporary example of an age old issue. The idea is that progressive self-sacrificing husbands are unfortunately still aberrant in our culture.

  • At 10/04/2008 06:25:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    I envision a day when the norm is that families, regardless of component structure, make decisions collaboratively and both meet needs and fulfill callings in a way that is most in harmony with God/universe. That would not only be true freedom to pursue callings but would benefit humankind to the greatest extent.

  • At 10/05/2008 12:55:00 AM, OpenID minnowspeaks

    I wrote yesterday but it didn't get through for some reason. I have a negative conotation of the word aberrant so that perhaps set me in a wrong direction. Julie, your example also has a negative slant toward the missionary who ignored his family's needs. I was just trying to understand why you thought of that example. I was not trying to make a political statement. Perhaps I am a little too sensitive to the criticism that some have made of Gov. Palin's mothering. Rather than assume you were stating the obvious (that men do not usually sacrifice their career options for their wives' career options) I wondered if you were making an additional point. Again I guess my thinking was off and I am sorry.


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