Tuesday, September 18, 2007

father, may i?

it's no secret that i have an 'issue' with authority: dads, pastors, cops, bosses, presidents, boyfriends, bus drivers. it's all one thing: Authority. seeing the world divided into sheep and masters, i guess i'd rather not be a willing sheep.
some people think differently. some people think being a sheep is really great.

amanda marcotte has a link to a post by some waay fundamentalist sisters about the dangers of sending your christian daughters to college. her fisking is sharp and funny.

then i read from those two sisters about maturity and the role of an adult daughter still living with her parents and i had to fight down bile:

The sign of maturity isn’t that we simply “obey” our parents’ commands, but that we understand deeply what our parents’ hearts and goals are, and can anticipate and even exceed what they expect of us. A mature, adult daughter who deserves her parents’ trust most certainly isn’t the one who says, “I’m not a child anymore, Dad! I’m an adult! I’m old enough to decide for myself when to get up, and it’s not something you have authority over anymore!” (Literally, “I’m mature enough to demand my own way, and throw a tantrum and threaten to run away if I don’t get it!”) But she also isn’t the one who says, “Ok, ok, Dad, I’ll get up when you tell me to.” The mature daughter is the one that takes the initiative and says, “Dad, what time would you like me to get up? I know that spending time with your family before you leave for work is important to you, and I love that about you… so how can I help make it happen?” This is one thing that makes us different from mindless automatons with no wills of our own (which some girls seem mortally afraid of becoming.)

why does this make me spew?

because this is exactly what makes a great executive assistant (which i was for a while before i came to my senses and got the hell out.) to be the ideal assistant you have to completely evacuate your own identity; your ways, needs, sensibilities and wants are completely replaced by the routines, habits, desires and enmities of your Executive. the line separating the two of you, if the relationship works out to the Executive's advantage, begins to disappear.

your day begins by asking yourself, 'what will upset Executive this morning and what can i do to make sure that it doesn't? what will make Executive happy and what can i do to facilitate more of that happiness? who is Executive going to fire today and how can i make sure that person isn't me?'

your day is filled with wondering what Executive will want for lunch, if Executive knows how to get to the airport, if Executive can find his/her way to baggage claim without step by step directions and whether Executive will have to stand in line longer than necessary once Executive gets to the hotel. you even ponder the possibility of traveling with Executive just to make sure everything gets done the way Executive wants it.

you will be consumed with wondering if Executive noticed how long your lunch break was, if Executive will buy you a birthday gift and if Executive will notice that you supported the whole team and made that presentation happen at 10 pm while the rest of the team went home and Executive went home to Executive's spouse. the idea of taking a day off scares you; what will happen to Executive if you're home or on vacation? how will Executive accomplish anything?

you will know details of the Executive's life only a partner or family member would know and you would order the world of the Executive to cater to those details: favorite foods, allergies, likes/dislikes, anniversary dates, birthdays, number of children, second home location, social security number, credit cards, taxes, personal finances. as ideal Assistant it's your job to care for these things just like they're your own.

while the Executive is proud of the fact that 'his Susan' or 'his Ali' or 'her Cathy' runs the Executive's life for them, they are also unaware of the seething resentment and anger that will slowly build in their assistant until it's bribed away. at least, if Susan, Ali or Cathy had any sense of self-preservation, they'd be filled with resentment and anger. if they know no better they will acquiesce and sink into a gray little nothing who doesn't exist unless they have an Executive to serve.

those of us who quit being an assistant did so because we hated every single frakking minute of it; being subservient was foreign to our sense of identity and purpose. whenever we interviewed with other firms we were forced to say, honestly, 'i don't do deference very well.'

the sisters have an odd way of defining 'independence.' though they say that the virtuous daughter asks her Executive - uh, Father - what his wishes would be for her, the end result is that she obeys. the virtuous daughter's will is entirely subject to that of her patriarch. in history, we'd call that kind of social organization a fiefdom.

and that's what these two sisters are advocating: deference. service. servility. servant.

who would groom another human being to glory in that kind of personal abnegation?
and why would you say that it's what God wants?


jp 吉平 said...

Hmm, that's similar to why I don't want to be an interpreter. I didn't invest my life in learning languages, only to be a channel for someone else's boring words. The thought of it actually grosses me out.

liza said...

Why *would* you say that's what God wants? I suppose the easy answer is that patriarchy makes the divine in its own image. Ah, cultures of domination.

ding said...

prepare for a rambling pseudo-comment: have you read the rest of the sisters' site about Visionary Daughters?

their ideas are really echoes of 19th century (or earlier) comportment books and i can't understand why i'm totally fine with mennonites and amish but fundamentalist sects like the ones these women represent rub me in a really weird way.

and then, what separates these Visionary Daughters from the girls who are trapped in sects like the one operating out of Utah?

there are fine lines of distinction between these groups and how they see women's roles.

ding said...

i'm also PO-ed how 'feminism' gets blamed for all the worldly 'filth' these people are fleeing. to me, it's not feminism to blame but 'modernity.'

i think what they're reacting to is modernity itself, not any ideological indoctrination called feminism. and i guess that's what's so puzzling to me. what's so bad about living in the 21st century?

family structures sucked in the 19th century!

Lee said...

I was thinking about your piece today when I read this article in the NY Times:

Here's the relevant passage - do you know this pastor? She sounds great.

The Rev. Dr. Sharon Ellis Davis, a pastor in Chicago who teaches seminary classes on domestic violence, said some mega-churches support female leaders but still perpetuate a conservative message that can lead to abuse. “I don’t personally view her as a liberation preacher; I don’t view her as an empowerment preacher,” Dr. Davis said of Ms. Bynum.

Her audience is “interested in self growth, how good they can be and how God loves them, but not in how to do the kinds of things that stop abuse, that fight oppression, that fight hunger and incarceration and ask the reason why,” Dr. Davis said.

Sorry I've been a stranger. Hope to talk with you soon.


bitchphd said...

So presumably the fully mature father would say, "Daughter, would you like me to quietly prepare your coffee and breakfast for you before I leave? I know how important it is to you to get enough rest, and I love that about you . . . can I help make that happen by ensuring that you have fewer tasks to do in the morning?"

ding said...


but with all of this full maturity and mutuality going on the family would soon devolve into an inactive mass. so it would behoove the daughter to throw herself on the familial wheel to get things moving again.

it's a fixed system. the daughter loses.