Israel Wayne on the (Patriarchal) Father’s Role

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HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on August 4, 2014.

Israel Wayne is supposed to be a voice of reason in the Christian homeschooling community. A homeschool graduate himself, and now a homeschool father, he travels the convention circuit and has written blog posts criticizing various patriarchal homeschool leaders. It’s a pity he’s unaware that he is himself one of those patriarchal homeschool leaders.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ve heard the smash pop hit, “Rude” by the group Magic!. It speaks about a young man, seeking permission to marry a traditional man’s daughter.

He is turned down by the young lady’s father, but rather than being rebuffed, he retorts with the line, “I’m gonna marry her anyway!”

This is obviously a disturbing thought for any man who has spent a couple of decades nurturing what he considers to be one of his most valuable relationships on the planet. How might a father respond to such a scenario?

Hi Israel! Guess what? I was one of those daughters!

My now-husband Sean asked my father permission to marry me, and was denied that permission. We got married anyway, and we’ve never—ever—regretted that. Believe it or not, I was actually in the best position to decided who I should marry, because I know my strengths, weaknesses, interests, and desires better than anyone else—including my father. I also knew Sean a whole lot better than my father did, or cared to, which meant I was also a better judge of his character, and I knew what I was getting into.

Had my father spent a couple of decades nurturing his relationship with me? Sure! But I had also spent a couple of decades growing, maturing, and transitioning to life as an independent individual. I was—and am—more than my father’s relationship with me. And it’s a good thing too, because my father let my decision to marry against his wishes ruin our relationship, when he didn’t have to. He’s the one who chose to let our relationship die. If he had wanted to keep that “valuable” relationship he could have, but chose not to.

This really isn’t all that complicated. It is completely reasonable for a young couple to choose to marry without parental permission. If that decision destroys a father’s relationship with his daughter, that is generally his doing, not hers.

As I read Wayne’s post, I became curious about the music video he was referring to. So I looked it up. Allow me to share it with you!

I don’t know about you, but I really appreciated this music video. The woman was clearly an adult, as I was when my father denied his permission. Furthermore, while the young man tried three times to get the young woman’s father’s permission, the father made absolutely no attempt to get to know him. It’s very clear that the father was judging based on outward appearances and prejudices rather than any actual specific concerns for his daughter’s happiness or safety.

Indeed, his daughter appeared just as sure and happy in her choice as is her fiancé.

But of course, Wayne has more to say:

I think the popularity of Magic’s hit, “Rude” emphasizes the shift that has occurred culturally in America over the past 60 years, where fathers are no longer considered to be important entities in family life. They are regularly portrayed on television and movies as weak, bumbling idiots, who are constantly rescued from their folly by their wives and children.

I don’t actually think this is the case. I mean yes, it is true that fathers are too often portrayed as “bumbling idiots” when it comes to things like childcare. This is a problem, and is a feminist issue—men are just as capable of being nurturing and devoted to their children as are women, and it is a disservice to so many fathers to suggest otherwise. And you know what else? Diaper changing isn’t done with ladybits. But I’m not so sure that this is what we see reflected in this music video. This father isn’t portrayed as a “bumbling idiot” but rather as a judgmental control freak who doesn’t want to let his adult daughter make her own life decisions. And the reason this portrayal hits home is that it happens. I’ve been there. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

There has always been a tension that has existed between fathers and prospective young men hoping to whisk away their daughters. I believe it was G.K. Chesterton who said that fathers in every generation feel that they taking a priceless vase and handing it to an ape when they give their daughters in marriage. There certainly are scenarios of over-bearing fathers who act in a domineering and abuse manner, but sometimes proper protection can be seen as over-protection.

You know something? I am not happy with being compared to a “priceless vase” to be put on a trophy shelf or handed over to a new owner. Can Wayne not see that this completely robs women of their autonomy?

How exactly can Wayne call out patriarchy in the homeschooling movement and then so clearly endorse it?

He apparently thinks that fathers should exercise some sort of veto power over their adult daughters’ marriage decisions—but this is the very problem we anti-patriarchy bloggers have been talking about!

And another thing—Wayne apparently thinks it’s easy to tell between “over-bearing fathers who act in a domineering and abusive manner” and “proper protection.” What is the distinction, exactly? Where is the line? My father certainly never saw himself as “over-bearing,” “domineering,” or “abusive.” From his perspective, he was simply trying to protect his daughter. Wayne throws in this bit about over-bearing and domineering fathers to try to assert that he is against “that kind of thing”—even as he advocates for it.

I’m not saying that fathers shouldn’t express any concerns they may have about their daughters’ prospective marriage partners. They absolutely should, especially if there are abusive relationship patterns or warning signs. But that doesn’t tend to be what Wayne or others like him are talking about. My own father refused to give his permission in large part because Sean was not “100% pro-life,” for example (yes, my father had a checklist). What Wayne and men like my father are concerned about is not healthy relationship patterns or abuse but rather ideological purity.

Even in cases where there are actual concerns about abuse, all a father (or mother) can do is express their concerns and then be there for their child. Adult women do not in fact need their parents’ permission to marry. Shutting the door in your daughter’s fiancé’s face is more likely to drive your daughter away than it is to make her leave her fiancé.

Wayne also includes (and appears to endorse) this homemade video. In it, the father threatens prospective suiters with assault and proclaims that he’s not afraid to go to jail for it. I had to stop before finishing it.

Look, daughters aren’t property to be bought and sold.

If you’re worried about your daughter’s safety, whatever happened with equipping them to protect themselves rather than trying to “protect” them by controlling their life choices? Because I’ll tell you this right now: controlling their life choices is not going to end well.

Actually, let me amend that—that’s not going to end well for you. Your daughter will probably make it through, with some therapy, and have a wonderful life with her chosen partner. You’re the one who will be left alone in the cold, written out of your daughter’s life—just like the father in the music video.

P.S. A number of people have that the young man in the music video comes across as too possessive, and as having little interest in what the young woman in question wants. I understand those critiques. However, it’s worth noting that the father appears to reject the young man based not on these concerns but on prejudice, and that in reacting as he does the father himself is too possessive of his daughter and shows little interest in what she wants. The result is that, regardless of the quality of her suitor, he drives his daughter away. I also do appreciate that in the music video the young woman appears to have her own agency and be just as into the relationship as the young man, for what it’s worth.

Critics may find the following interpretations interesting. Both are sung by women; the first is a lesbian interpretation and the second is sung from the perspective of the young woman rather than the suitor.

8 comments

  • Can anyone tell me what bible verses are used to back up the position of power over adult daughters? This ideology is completely new to me, but I’m starting to encounter it in homeschooling circles.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    How exactly can Wayne call out patriarchy in the homeschooling movement and then so clearly endorse it?

    doublethink, comrade, doublethink.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    If Israel Wayne is the guy on the left, there is something creepy and DISTURBING about his facial expression. THAT is the intense expression of a starry-eyed True Believer who would commit any atrocity for The Cause.

  • This post really makes my blood boil. I’ve been on the other side of that “no” and it nearly ruined me. Two awful courtships and one broken engagement later I vowed never to court / date / betroth a homeschool girl again. In a reply window I can’t even begin to communicate the pain and betrayal I felt from the people I trusted. That was the point the homeschool bubble popped for me.

    I was actually in the process of writing a long reply but felt that perhaps I ought wait and submit it as a post sometime. HA team, perhaps its time to do a series on courtship / homeschool dating or whatever other odd iteration the movement has come up with. We all heard the glowing courtship stories growing up, perhaps it’s time we get to see the other side of the coin.

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