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Creepy Christian Patriarchy Movement Shackles Daughters to Their Fathers and Homes

The stay-at-home-daughters movement encourages young girls and single women to forgo college and employment in favor of training as "keepers at home."

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The stay-at-home-daughters movement has inevitably inspired controversy and dissent, much of it among dedicated Christians who consider the movement to be a dire misconstruction of their religion. According to Cindy Kunsman, a survivor of what she terms “spiritual abuse” and the author of the blog Under Much Grace, stay-at-home daughters who have exited the lifestyle are -- despite what the rest of us might presume -- usually well prepared academically, but lack certain key skills for success in life. “Those young women who received excellent training have an easier time acquiring job skills when pursuing college and healthcare training, as many of them have done quite successfully,” said Kunsman in an interview. “However, because [these young women] were required to abdicate all significant problem-solving to another agent while in their families of origin, they lack skill and practice in critical thinking and planning... They must work to build integrity, self-reliance, autonomy, and trust in themselves, which they were taught to derive from the identity of the family.”

One of the most outspoken counter-CPM blogs is Quivering Daughters -- the name a play on the phrase “Quiverfull” -- authored by Hillary McFarland. “Increasing numbers of women in their late twenties and thirties remain ‘safely’ at home, patiently waiting for husbands to find them,” writes McFarland in her book Quivering Daughters: Hope and Healing for the Daughters of Patriarchy . “As unmarried adult daughters continue to perfect the art of homemaking, help to mother and school young siblings, and learn to be a godly helpmeet, many through spiritual discipline strain to cauterize wounds made tender with disappointment.”

Despite the assertion of stay-at-home daughters that they are “protected” (albeit in a country where they have every legal right to walk away from their families and churches), it’s difficult not to view them as being extremely vulnerable. After all, men who grow up 
believing that women were created to serve their whims are generally the ones who are just as likely to abuse the women they see as “theirs” as to protect them from others.

Such sexist views of women’s roles are certainly not limited to the Christian Patriarchy Movement. But unlike other extremely conservative religious groups such as the Amish or fundamentalist Mormon polygamists, which are typically closed off from the rest of society, the stay-at-home-daughters movement and the CPM might be capable of seeping into the already-booming populations of evangelical and fundamentalist churches and Christian homeschoolers, which already advocate a less-rigorous version of female 
submission. In this sense, stay-at-home daughters might feel that they are the most pure, and most righteous, of Christians.

In a complex world where women have more choices than ever, perhaps the appeal of this lifestyle for both men and women is perpetual female childhood. Men make all decisions and are never told they are wrong, always getting their way, while women are free of any decision-making: a markedly different, albeit less complicated relationship than one between two equals. Only time will tell how far this new movement will spread. In the meantime, those of us who were lucky enough to have fathers who delighted in our accomplishments and growth as individuals -- rather than believing our existence was to serve their own needs -- should count our blessings.

Gina McGalliard is a San Diego–based freelance writer whose work has appeared in @UCSD, Sport Diver, Conscious Dancer, Dance Studio Life, San Diego City Beat, San Diego Family Magazine, and the San Diego Union Tribune. She would like to give a shout-out to her feisty Italian grandmother, who spent the 1970s and ’80s breaking down barriers for women, for raising her to be a good feminist, and introducing her at a young age to the writings of Gloria Steinem.

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