When Patriarchy Pressures Men
A few weeks ago a question was posted online: “Wives, how do you lovingly encourage your husband to lead?”
The question was well-meaning I’m sure, and undoubtedly came from someone who sincerely believed that such was God’s design for marriage. But the question struck me as problematic, and maybe not for the reasons you would expect. I have written in length about women being excluded from leadership, but this time it made me think of the men in patriarchal systems who are not gifted or don’t desire to visibly lead.
I’ve written on husbands wrongly enforcing their leadership, but I’ve also witnessed men who are not naturally outgoing leaders being pushed or pressured into a position of leadership by the men (and even women) or spiritual communities in their lives.
I believe patriarchy (including complementarianism) is an abusive system, and that doesn’t mean women are the only casualties.
I have witnessed men who are introverted, not inclined towards visible leadership roles, or not keen to give spiritual direction being pressured to lead, initiate, and provide to the point of being noticeably overwhelmed.
I’ve seen several intelligent, sensitive, hard working men come of age and be emotionally and sometimes functionally frozen because of the high amount of pressure placed on them to perform as a leader and provider. They are expected to carry a burden of responsibility for a wife and family, and although they don’t want to handle it alone, they feel obligated to because they are male.
I have seen women be frustrated with the men in their lives because they are not taking the leadership role that is supposedly God’s design for the man. Women are then put in a place where they either pick up some of the leadership responsibilities and feel guilty doing so, or they feel they must use manipulation to get their husband to lead. The man then feels the growing weight of not being good enough, or recognizes the manipulations of his wife and feels resentful for the pressure.
If you are a couple struggling with this, I want to let you know that there is another way!
God has given each of you unique spiritual gifts, talents, personalities, and skills. These are not at all based on your gender, but are given as the Spirit determines. (1)
My husband and I are not very far down the path of marriage, so I am certainly not an expert, but we have found that things go much more smoothly when we leverage our personal giftings. We don’t fight for a leadership spot or pressure each other to lead unnecessarily. We take responsibility and communicate about what we are comfortable with or skilled at, and what makes sense for the individual situation.
Egalitarianism, a system in which couples operate with mutual submission and shared leadership, has freed us from trying to get each other to play a particular role and instead allows us to be our best self for each other and for our marriage.
Patriarchy undoubtedly hurts women (often more so than men), but it hurts men too. Equality allows men to flourish with the unique personality and giftings they have been given.
More Articles On Egalitarianism:
Notes And Sources
Recommended Reading: Malestrom : Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Changing World
(1) 1 Corinthians 12:11