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Hello! I'm Ashley.

I’m a Christian feminist, writer, speaker, TV producer, news pundit, ordained reverend, and abuse-victim advocate who educates churches and secular communities on abuse. I’m the founder of The Courage Conference, for survivors of abuse—and those who love them.

Is There A Line Between Complementarianism And The Patriarchy Movement?

Is There A Line Between Complementarianism And The Patriarchy Movement?

Yesterday Tim Challies posted a blog post about why he is not Egalitarian. There were several things that I obviously look at differently but one thing really stuck out to me. He distinguished Complementarianism from the “patriarchy movement” which he said “dangerously disempowers women”.

This reminded me of a blog post Complementarian Jason Meyer wrote few months back, published at The Gospel Coalition. Meyer stated, “Egalitarians sometimes fail to distinguish between genuine Complementarianism and extreme distortions…”. He goes on to call this distortion “hyper-headship”. He says, “As Complementarians we play a major role in maintaining the integrity of that middle position. So don’t give Egalitarians reason to confuse hyper-headship and Complementarianism.”

From these articles two questions formed for me: Is Complementarianism in fact the “middle position” for men and women’s roles?  And, is Complementarianism clearly distinguished from “hyper-headship” or the “Patriarchy Movement”?

Let’s look at the first question. 

Both Challies and Meyer only mention the Patriarchy Movement/hyper-headship, Complementarianism and Egalitarianism as the three options in the discussion of roles between men and women. If it were charted out it might look something like this with the Patriarchy Movement/"hyper-headship" on the far right and Egalitarianism on the far left, leaving Complementarianism in the middle.

However, both Challies and Meyer leave out a whole other way of men and women relating to each other: Matriarchy or female rule. 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines matriarchy as, “a family, group, or government controlled by a woman or a group of women” and patriarchy as, “a family, group, or government controlled by a man or a group of men”. In this context Egalitarianism is a family, group or government controlled equally by both men and women.

Matriarchy would then be the opposite to Patriarchy whereas Egalitarianism is actually a type of middle ground position between the two.  This gives us a clearer understanding of the balance of Egalitarianism which offers equality for both sexes. It also clearly defines Complementarianism as a type of patriarchy because the very nature of this theology is defined by male rule or leadership. 

Now on to the second question: Can Complementarianism, being a form of Patriarchy, be clearly distinguished between the Patriarchy Movement or “hyper-headship”?

To distinguish between the two, Complementarians would have to be arguing that there is a type of good patriarchy (Complementarianism) and bad patriarchy (the Patriarchy Movement/hyper-headship). But how do we clearly distinguish between these two when they are both on the patriarchal spectrum? 

Challies says the Patriarchy Movement “dangerously disempowers women”. In his article, Meyer, states that Complementarianism asks women to “take the most vulnerable position” (that’s code for less powerful or, you know... disempowered). He says that Complementarianism can “quickly become a dangerous position when [these] views get distorted”. 

Where is the line between patriarchy that “dangerously disempowers women” and patriarchy that simply disempowers women? Is not disempowering women as a whole dangerous?

Is it possible that both Complementarianism and the Patriarchy Movement are based off of the same theological framework, Patriarchy? Could it be that there is an overlapping and no clear line between the two? Is it possible that they only distinction is how thoroughly one follows through this theology? 

I am inclined to think this is true. And, I think it’s high time for Complementarian theologians to stop attempting to create a false separation between themselves and the Patriarchy Movement, actually look in the mirror, and see some of the dark and dangerous features their belief system has lead to.

-Ashley Easter

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