Behind Great Men

I suddenly realized that a story I was writing this week both stood alone in its breathtaking wonderfulness, and stood out in the context of recent headlines in an unexpected way.

I’ll start with the story.


Dr. Richard Scolyer is a medical researcher, specializing in tissue pathology and diagnostic oncology, especially as it relates to melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer which can quickly develop life-threatening metastases. In 2021 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for “distinguished service to medicine, particularly in the field of melanoma and skin cancer.” So who better to apply those studies to combat the aggressive and deadly brain cancer, glioblastoma? Especially considering that in June 2023, he was diagnosed with it himself. He worked with colleagues to develop a new treatment regimen, went through it himself, and recently celebrated the milestone of being cancer-free for one year, by which point most diagnosed with glioblastoma are dead. Scolyer, 57, was just named Australian of the Year, alongside one of those colleagues, Georgina Long, Co-Medical Director (with Scolyer) of the Melanoma Institute Australia, and Chair of Melanoma Medical Oncology and Translational Research at the University of Sydney. (RC/ABC Australia) …Personal incentive and a tight deadline can sometimes lead to wonderful things.

Connection with Current Events

As none of the source articles I found mentioned Dr. Long, none had a photo of her either. Yet the University of Sydney, in announcing the Citizen of the Year honors, issued one photo featuring them both. Oh, and Dr. Long was also previously honored with the Order of Australia.

The source news articles I reviewed for the story didn’t even mention Georgina Long, who was co-named Australia’s Person of the Year with Dr. Scolyer. When I looked that up and discovered that fact, I knew it was a big part of the story.

So the thing that came to mind was the well-known saying “Behind every great man is a great woman.” What I get from this saying might be different from what the average person gets: that what we think of “great” men really need a great woman backing them up. Notice how it’s never “Behind every great woman is a great man”?

When it comes to great teams, it’s not really one behind the other: they’re side by side, very often as equals. When not clearly equal, my bet is on the woman. My advice: get out of women’s way and watch what progress can be made.

Sadly, it may be that the U.S. will not turn around in time thanks to the resurgence of the far-Christian-right, and we will lag other countries on that score for generations. “Throwing away” the contributions of women will cost us, just as “throwing away” Black, Chinese, Indigenous, and other citizens have already cost us.

We are moving toward the wrong side of history.

Harrison Butker?

Or… the “context of recent headlines.”

I’m guessing many of you have seen the endless memes on social media regarding Butker, the 28-year-old kicker of the Kansas City Chiefs. He recently gave the commencement address at Benedictine College in Kansas (Benedictine is a Roman Catholic sect), and we can’t start without hearing the controversial part (which you can skip if you have):

I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolical lies told to you. How many of you are sitting here now about to cross this stage and are thinking about all the promotions and titles you are going to get in your career? Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world…. I’m on the stage today and able to be the man I am because I have a wife who leans into her vocation…and embrace one of the most important titles of all: homemaker.

Butker, during his address (Benedictine College)

Telling just-graduated college students they should concentrate on being wives and having children sounds pretty stupid, but he is merely 28. (Really: who brings in a guy in his 20s to give newly minted graduates life advice?!) Yet that’s not the only stupid thing he said during the address. Try this: “We fear speaking truth, because now, unfortunately, truth is in the minority. Congress just passed a bill where stating something as basic as the biblical teaching of who killed Jesus could land you in jail.” To which I say, bullshit.

“The church long has held that Jews could not be held collectively accountable, since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed this…and wrote there is no basis in Scripture for blaming Jews,” the Kansas City Star editorialized (penned by the leader of the newspaper’s Editorial Board, Yvette Walker — gasp! a woman), in a piece titled, “Chiefs’ Butker is welcome to his conservative beliefs — but he’s wrong on women, Bible”.

Want everything, and in context? The National Catholic Register has published Full Text: Harrison Butker of Kansas City Chiefs Graduation Speech.

But anyway, I’m aware of the backlash primarily since a friend/Premium subscriber has “shared” several items on Facebook that are not only cutting-yet-entertaining commentary, but it shows how female Chief’s fans (with a male or two mixed in) feel about “their” team’s player (click to see larger, you may need to click “back” to get back here):

Ya think maybe the franchise is losing a lot of their fans? The NFL did release a written statement: “His views are not those of the NFL as an organization,” they said. “The NFL is steadfast in our commitment to inclusion, which only makes our league stronger.” It was written by NFL Senior Vice President Jonathan Beane, who also serves as the league’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. My take: that’s a very careful way of saying Butker is making the NFL look weak, as is well reflected in the above comments from (mostly) women who are football fans.

Just a few of the comments on the collection of those various posts, on Facebook:

Mommy Issues

One of the memes I saw (shown here), suggesting Butker has “mommy issues,” made me curious, so I went to see if I could find out what his mother did: was she a homemaker who did nothing but bring up her children to succeed in the world (her son) or be homemaker-mothers (her daughter)?


Elizabeth Keller Butker received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Chemistry from Smith College in 1985. In 1987 she went back to school, the very next year earning her Masters of Science degree in Medical Physics from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Her father was a medical doctor who worked at Emory University in the Winship Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology for 13 years, and the Winship Department of Radiation Oncology for 15 years. Ms Butker followed in his footsteps, going to work at the Winship Cancer Institute herself, where she has worked since June of 1988 — 36 years, so far, including all of Harrison’s life.

I’m sure her family is her number-one point of pride, and why not? But her work in helping to save lives sure sounds like society’s number-one point of pride in her.

The question is, what does she do at Emory’s cancer center? Well, I’m not up enough on the terminology to explain it, and don’t have the energy to research it (though I’m sure someone will inform us all in the comments), but Emory itself explains it this way: “she specializes in brachytherapy and Gamma Knife medical physics care.” It’s not a wild guess to say that certainly takes both brains and education.

Her father, by the way, retired from Winship, but still serves Emory as Emeritus Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology.


Yes, I know Butker has his supporters, but let’s be clear: I’ve long supported the freedom of religion, but that doesn’t mean ignoring that responsibility is the other side of freedom. I want women to be able to choose a career that offers their gifts to the rest of us just like men have that choice. I want female brains behind art, science, technology, education, politics, service and more in roughly equal proportion as men’s. That’s how we get the “breakthroughs” like the one discussed in the story above.

And I also have the freedom of speech to say I don’t want some self-righteous fringe-religionist demanding that one segment of humanity deny us their gifts because they’re somehow inferior. They’re not.

The U.S. is being pushed by a small minority of ultra-religious whackjobs who used to scream we absolutely must reject Sharia (extremist Islamic religious law) …only to now demand we absolutely must embrace the extremist Christian equivalent. In a free society both must be rejected, for the same reasons.

A few other Butker memes I found entertainingly cutting:

Bottom Line: if you think Colin Kaepernick needed to go, then you should agree Butker needs to go too. Or at least admit you’re grossly hypocritical …and then look up what the biblical thoughts are on that topic!

Comments are open for thoughtful posts.

May 21 Update

I’m fascinated that so far there have been no comments, here or privately, backing Butker. Lest anyone think that the conservative Catholic nuns who look over Benedictine College have nothing to say on the matter, here is their statement, as published on their web site:

Statement in Response to the 2024
Benedictine College
Commencement Address

The sisters of Mount St. Scholastica do not believe that Harrison Butker’s comments in his 2024 Benedictine College commencement address represent the Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts college that our founders envisioned and in which we have been so invested.

Instead of promoting unity in our church, our nation, and the world, his comments seem to have fostered division. One of our concerns was the assertion that being a homemaker is the highest calling for a woman. We sisters have dedicated our lives to God and God’s people, including the many women whom we have taught and influenced during the past 160 years. These women have made a tremendous difference in the world in their roles as wives and mothers and through their God-given gifts in leadership, scholarship, and their careers.

Our community has taught young women and men not just how to be “homemakers” in a limited sense, but rather how to make a Gospel-centered, compassionate home within themselves where they can welcome others as Christ, empowering them to be the best versions of themselves. We reject a narrow definition of what it means to be Catholic. We are faithful members of the Catholic Church who embrace and promote the values of the Gospel, St. Benedict, and Vatican II and the teachings of Pope Francis.

We want to be known as an inclusive, welcoming community, embracing Benedictine values that have endured for more than 1500 years and have spread through every continent and nation. We believe those values are the core of Benedictine College.

We thank all who are supportive of our Mount community and the values we hold. With St. Benedict, we pray, “Let us prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and may he lead us all together to life everlasting.”

– – –

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14 Comments on “Behind Great Men

  1. I grew up in South Africa during apartheid. I’ve spent the last 30 years trying to undo what that did to my mental model of the world (I finished high school the year Nelson Mandela became president).

    There are so many similarities between that racial oppression and this gender oppression. Some group of people consider themselves better than others without evidence. The comment in this post about Shariah law and conservative “Christianity” really struck home for me. I’m going to steal it.

    I saw someone else say something this week, to the effect of “when you require women to give up their lives to support yours, it shows just how weak you are”.

    It would be a lot easier if we all treated each other as equal. I know that’s a radical idea, but starting with half the world’s population might be a good start.

    • This speaks so clearly to Randy’s comment that “We are moving toward the wrong side of history.” Maybe this is why the same radical contingent is working so hard to ban the more unpleasant aspects of American history.

      Bingo. No country has ever been perfect; we can learn from those imperfections, or we can do the wrong thing and repeat them because we didn’t know. Ignorance is a poor excuse. -rc

  2. I sometimes wonder why, even though I know the answer: power.

    Even though that kind of “power” is impotent: it makes the controller look weak. -rc

    • Have you seen the reply from the Benedictine sisters of St. Scholastica (the Order that helped establish this university)? I’m too lazy to find the link.

      All I have to say — don’t mess with the Sisters. Their response is splendid.

      Thanks for alerting me: I went and got it, and added it above as an update. -rc

    • Agree 100% with you, Fredrik, but to Randy’s reply: yes, it makes the controller look weak in your and my eyes, but we are gifted with a modicum of self-awareness. The type of person who supports hard right fundamentalism has none of that whatever, and feels that having control over other people’s lives is the same thing as power. We know it’s not, but… ‍♂️

  3. Well said Randy. As a Catholic, father, son, husband, friend, and human, I cannot understand those who would twist the teachings they’ve learned (especially with his mom as an example at home) to such detrimental ends.

    I’d love to see that next Thanksgiving discussion.

    I appreciate hearing from a Catholic on the matter! Not only does Butker not represent all of Roman Catholicism, I suspect he speaks only for a tiny sliver of that faith. Thanks. -rc

  4. I’m not a “poem” person, but I do have one memorized that I’ve used all my life, and I tell my kids when they think they can’t accomplish something:

    Listen To The Mustn’ts by Shel Silverstein

    Listen to Mustn’ts, child, listen to the Don’ts.
    Listen to the Shouldn’ts, the Impossibles, the Won’ts.
    Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.
    Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.

  5. A bit of a stretch in your comments about what Butker said (and didn’t say). His point was that motherhood is a very satisfying career for some and yet some elitist snobs in society havs made “homemaker” a slur, or a societal put down. He was validating the choice many of these graduates are considering.

    Nowhere did he say:
    – That women cannot have a career outside the home if that is their life goal.
    – That marriages should always produce offspring.
    – That married couples cannot decide to remain childless and focus on a DINK (dual incomes, no kids) lifestyle.
    – That sometimes circumstances are outside of your control, such as early death of a spouse, or divorce.
    – That your alternate lifestyle choices may preclude it.
    – That some people may decide on purpose to remain single.

    Those and other ideas are personal choices. At the same time, those like Butker who advocate for the role of women as full time mothers are offering a choice that is just as valid. But for some reason, our societal corruption attacks it as did all the enlightened respondents did, as did you.

    Also, you overlooked that he soundly slammed the Catholic hiearchy and came down on the feckless Bishops and Priests whose focus is not on the scriptures and more on the public trappings. I am not Catholic, and in no way am defending their orthodoxy (which I have some serious problems with), but that does not mean that the Word of God that speaks tons about the family is an invalid way for society to operate. There are much worse ways to do it, as history demonstrates.

    And I find the left’s (and in this case it IS the left) response usually includes reductio ad absurdum statements as found in those FB quotes from Chief’s fans, as if it disproves Butker’s position (it isn’t even good humor, but then the left isn’t usually known for that. Oh, I don’t know, maybe the left does think it funny). “Hope I can watch from the laundry room”, and “my lobotomy” demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of a co-equal marriage.

    And all through those posts and the comments below it, there is a thread of ad hominem against Butker, as if demeaning him “taking advice from a person who kicks a ball. . .” wins the argument. And you did a bit of that yourself. Reminder, attack the position, not the person, if you are trying to make valid points.

    The family is one of the legs of the stool that supports the continuation of our society AND the lessening of crime from fatherless homes. As more and more women (or men, as I’m OK with ‘house husbands’ as a career) work outside the home, a larger percentage of a child’s day is in the hands of non-family members — teachers, day care, etc and there is less available quantity time with one’s kids to rear and nurture them YOURSELF.

    The ‘homemaker’ topic that is being attacked is a smokescreen to discredit what Butker REALLY said. He called out our self-identified Catholic President for not living his faith (if you claim it, you need to live it. Or don’t claim it). He called out the dangers of young boys being raised in single mother households that produce a exceedingly high probabilities of ending up in prison — because it exposed the failure of certain policies the left supports. He called out the DEI movement and properly called it ‘tyranny’. OOhhh, that’ll get you in hot water, for sure!

    Butker was making his statements to a crowd who shared his beliefs, yet the usual DEI suspects believe that the only proper response is to get him fired from his job. The usual doxxing (which also happened to him by the local X site, now under investigation). So the same crowd that calls for diversity and inclusion have no room to extend that same courtesy back to him, because he holds a different position. Sad

    And finally — comparing Kapernick to Butker and what each did (especially since Kapernick does it publicly on the field in front of paying crowds who don’t pay to see that) is a false analogy — something as a writer you certainly know.

    Here’s the full text. I suggest you review it and especially the paragraphs starting with “To the gentlemen here today” where he calls out the failure of men/fathers and exposes the disaster from absentee fathers.

    First, apologies that this didn’t get approved right away since the spam filter removed it for unknown reasons. At least I was able to recover it. Second, there’s no link to the full text …but that’s not needed since I already linked to it.

    So what DID Kapernick actually do? He knelt in silence as suggested by Retired U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer. “I mean, people kneel when they get knighted,” Boyer told NPR, regarding Kapernick. “You kneel to propose to your wife, and you take a knee to pray. And soldiers often take a knee in front of a fallen brother’s grave to pay respects. So I thought, if anything, besides standing, that was the most respectful.”

    And for that he was reviled and dumped out of the NFL (who had to pay him a settlement). And you call for “the same courtesy” to be shown to Butker. Wow. -rc

    • Thank you for your reply. I will also comment that although you and I see the same things from different perspectives (the generic ‘left’ and ‘right’ — terms I dislike as inaccurate, but use for framing — that you and I have bumped heads in the past about) that unlike 95% of respondents on the left that I engage with, you do two admirable things. 1) print my position in full without shading parts that may be uncomfortable to a position you may hold, and 2) never block or delete such responses. That is the way to hold civil discourse. Blocking and deleting proves the weakness of the debater’s ability and possibly their position.

      As to the comparison of the treatment of Kapernick and Butker being the one thing you responded about, and not the key thing about Butker’s private position on motherhood/homemaker (the reason for the over the top reactions of the sphere to the speech). Funny that is THE exact comment I’m reading and hearing on nearly every comparision of those opposed to what Butker did. I guess it was on that day’s talking points memo. Because one can’t call Butker out for what he said, so we switch the laser beam to the subject of how Kapernick was treated.

      And I reply that it is ‘whataboutism’ (something the left accuses the right of) and a ‘false framing of fact’ from several angles, when the only connection is NFL as employer. The main one was Butker was speaking to a private group who shared his values, was not representing the NFL, and did not stand on the 50 yard line with a microphone.

      Kapernick stood on the 50 yard line with a microphone? First I’ve heard that. Please provide a URL to a news story about that so I can learn.

      I’m not a Democrat, and reject the label “left”; my positions are a lot more nuanced than that. The only political party I have ever belonged to, in fact, is the Republican Party. As “they” say, I didn’t leave the GOP, it left me, and I also reject the label “right”. Someone from the “left” doesn’t write editorials like this. (And someone from “the right” isn’t likely to write editorials like this, for that matter.)

      I believe the comparisons are apt, except for one thing: Kapernick was quietly campaigning for equal rights for minorities; Butker is less quietly campaigning against Jews (everyone seems to overlook that part) and equality for women. As I said above, I believe Butker will be remembered as being on the wrong side of history.

      Last, in the “It Figures Dept.”, this comment was also spam filtered, but I found it more quickly since I came here looking for such, since there haven’t been any comment notifications for 24 hours…. I don’t know what the filters have against you! -rc

    • A long (w-a-a-a-y too long) response and although you claim not to be defending anyone the overall tone is somewhat defensive — but more to the point, it ignores the overall tone of _Buttker’s_ speech which may not have _explicitly_ called on women to give up careers in favour of homemaking, but did definitely lean very hard in that direction. It reminded me of the kind of people whose thinly veiled references to “your people”, “inner city”, and KFC to mean “Black people” but who then put on their bland innocent faces and say “me? Racist? No I’m not racist.”

  6. Maybe I’m missing something. A Cathoic man, making a commencement speech to a Catholic university, to a primarily Catholic audience, reaffirms students that deciding to become homemakers and raise children while the husband works to provide — is STILL a valid choice in life.

    Nowhere did he say that was the only possible choice for women, nor did he demean women who seek a professional career. Yet the woke crowd is calling for his head? Especially when his remarks were not intended for THEM. After all, he wasn’t endorsing prostitution or drug dealing as good career choices, but the actual nurturing of children. Interesting. Must be a sin I wasn’t aware of.

    So tell me why the left — and commenters here — are so up in arms about a life choice that 20 or 30 years ago would not have raised a single eyebrow. Because that is how families have operated for the past 1,500 years or more of ‘modern’ history.

    Now, he did ding the DEI movement as ‘terrorism’, called out absentee fathers, even dinged the Catholic church itself. Could that be the leftist nerve that was touched, but they can’t defend those positions because they created the first 2 listed by their policies and adoption of Marxist thought? I’m just going by the thing they did attack — a woman’s right to choose, which I thought the left is for. (in this case, the choice is her career, not abortion, but hey, her choice is HER choice, right?).

    “Woke, Marxism” — yawn. You aren’t a This is True reader, and you have a lot of trouble actually reading, such as the statement from the Benedictine Sisters quoted on this page in its entirety. You want answers to your questions? START THERE. You can’t even follow the basic instructions of “First Name and Location”. Color me unsurprised that you’re in the deep south. -rc

    Note: Lewis came back, whining that I “didn’t answer his question” (you know, the stuff already on this page?) and complaining of my “ad hominem” attack (name-calling, which is what sputtering “Woke” and “Marxist” is). As a non-reader he’s not welcome to continuing commenting. -rc

  7. Thank you, Randy, for writing this. I left the Catholic church decades ago because of their general treatment of women. Now, I find myself living in a country that is passing laws that, once again, limit women’s rights.

    I lived in Alabama during my formative years and was expected to get married young but work until then. I joined the military and married a serviceman within 2 years. His view of marriage reflected Butker’s, and as I disagreed, he became increasingly controlling and violent. Fortunately, I had the support of my unit and was able to get out and divorced safely less than 2 years later.

    I chose more carefully the second time and have been with a better man for 35+ years. Butker may be in the minority, but damn, they are awfully loud and repetitive, and that gives permission to other idiots to be controlling, demanding, and bigoted misogynists up to and including abusers, rapists, and murderers. This is why women are choosing the bear.

    Which (bear allusion) the Butkers of the world don’t understand whatsoever. It’s been amusing to watch the memes of that, too. Very glad you found a man to partner with, not serve. -rc

  8. While I am a big supporter of Colin Kaepernick’s mission and do not agree with how he was treated by the NFL, he did choose to protest at ‘work’ during ‘work time’. I have engaged in protest at work and was prepared to be fired for it. At the same time, I disagree strongly with the sentiments expressed by Harrison Butker and with the christian nationalism that is behind them. However, he was invited to share his thoughts and while I do not know the details in this instance, commencement speakers are not usually asked to vet their speeches beforehand.

    Indeed they’re not. I’ll use this opportunity to state that I absolutely agree that Butker (and Kaepernick) absolutely have Freedom of Speech. We must never forget that responsibility is the other side of the freedom coin, and remember that there can and will be repercussion to exercising one’s freedom, as we’re seeing. My issue is when some try to apply that responsibility and/or repercussion to only one side of the equation — the side they don’t like. -rc

  9. After some reflection, I decided that I needed to respond to some of the earlier comments in support of Butker. First of all, as someone who spent part of my childhood and then remained into early adulthood in a conservative Christian milieu (one part of my family) while also being partly in a feminist milieu (another part of my family), I can tell you that Butker is tapping into a longstanding conservative Christian belief that women should *only* be homemakers, and that our purpose is just making babies and doing housework. I know there are some feminists who belittle stay-at-home moms (SAHMs), but in the years I’ve spent around feminists (which included, to be clear, a women’s studies degree at college, so not minimal exposure) I have almost never heard feminist denigration of such work. Just about every feminist that I’ve read, spoken to, or heard of, merely wants this to be a choice rather than a necessity forced on us against our wills. This is again opposed to the conservative Christian idea that this is all we can do, and we must be forced into this mold no matter what our gifts, talents, or interests may be. The fact that Butker calls women longing for “promotions… titles… [and a] career” a result of being told “diabolical lies”, and that he assumes that the women he is speaking to are most excited about being homemakers instead, is really tipping his hand.

    It was argued at one point in this thread that women staying at home to take care of children and do housework has been tradition for 1,500 years. While that comment has been discredited, I would still like to respond to this part because that’s what conservatives have tried to make everyone believe, but they are flat-out wrong. I can’t speak for the entire world (although there are such stories everywhere), but I will look at biblical and then European history blending into European American history.

    First of all, a number of women in the Bible have professions. The point of the Bible is not to provide a list of professions for everyone within, so we don’t always know what people did (men OR women), but here’s a small list: Rachel was a shepherdess; Shiphrah and Puah were midwives; Athaliah was a ruling queen (i.e., sole ruler of the kingdom; there are several queens mentioned but she’s the only one we know this about for sure); Ruth worked in the harvest (and if you want to argue that she gave that up after getting married -– the text gives no indication one way or another -– there were also various other female servants in the field who were working); Lydia was a seller of purple cloth (which means she was selling expensive luxury goods); Priscilla was a tentmaker; multiple women were sex workers; Rahab was possibly a sex worker, possibly an innkeeper, possibly both; multiple women were prophetesses; Deborah was a judge (at the time, the judges were the rulers of Israel). Again, keeping in mind that the Bible frequently does not mention people’s professions, this is a WIDE range of careers and types of work. On biblical grounds alone, this idea that women just did housework and childcare is provably false.

    Lest we think that things stopped after Jesus, let’s talk about the history of women and work. I highly recommend Eleanor Janega’s book The Once and Future Sex, which has a lot of the information I’m about to share (you can also check out her website for a more condensed list). She talks primarily about women in the European Middle Ages, but begins by going back to Ancient Greece and Rome and then works her way forward. Long story short, women have always been working in ways that are, ironically, considered nontraditional to current conservative Christians. Women could be apprenticed, and learned trades. They worked in “housework” types of jobs such as cook, cleaner, and launderer, but they also learned other professions such as brewer (essential when water wasn’t generally safe to drink), artisan, textile worker (which is a big deal when making clothes means either planting the flax or buying the cotton, or else raising a lamb into a sheep and shearing it, then dyeing, making thread or yarn, and weaving/knitting/sewing), grocers, chandlers (people who make or sell candles), and so on. There were women who were guards or soldiers. There were women who were blacksmiths. Plenty of women ran market stalls or stores; others were involved in politics and helped run countries. And of course there’s always midwifery, which has mostly been considered “women’s work” throughout history.

    One thing I found particularly interesting was that young women and men would become to engaged to each other based in part on their family trades, because it was assumed that a couple where both were trained up in the same area would be able to work together and have a business together. What I’m saying is, there were a LOT of professions that women were involved in.

    And lest someone argue about medieval women running households –- they did. Running a household was a completely different job back then. A middle or upper class woman running a household would be responsible for hiring a household of servants (and firing when needed), being their supervisor/boss and making sure they did everything they needed to. She was responsible for the budget and how money was used. She was also responsible for overseeing the daily run of the place, which included making sure everyone had food, drink, clothing, bedding, and other necessities; again, this was at a time when you were raising your own food, brewing your own beer, and making your own clothing and bedding, all from scratch. For those who are paying attention, many of the servants she would oversee were also women, who were by the very fact of their position not a housewife. (I point this out because allegations that women “never worked outside the house” are ignoring girls and women who worked in support positions like servants so that the richer women didn’t have to take care of those jobs.)

    So did this change when Europeans came to the US? Did women stop working “outside the house”? This question doesn’t even 100% make sense for part of our history; if you’re living on a tiny farm as a settler out in the middle of nowhere with just you, your spouse, and kids, what does “outside the house” mean? But to get some context on this I recommend the book A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary…. This book is focused on midwifery, but it also touches on many other jobs women did. Once again, we find a wide range of work, both inside and outside the house. And as we should all know, women went on to work in factories, textiles, as nurses, as teachers, as artists, as many other things. They ran businesses, and created goods and services to sell. They worked in the homes of other people as well as their own.

    So the idea that the conservative Christian theories on what women have done throughout history are accurate is laughable. And the ideal life for women that they paint is a terrible one; being utterly meek and subservient to your husband, spending most of your time in your own house alone with your children, doing housework and cooking. This is not the way things have been done throughout most of history. And honestly, compared to the medieval idea (discussed above) of what “running a household” meant, this is a pale, impoverished imitation of what it used to look like. Now, most women who are SAHMs or housewives don’t follow the conservative Christian ideal. They get out of the house, they join Moms Clubs, they volunteer, they work part-time, they do all sorts of other things with their lives. But growing up the conservative Christians tried to sell me on homemaker as vocation, and I’m here to tell you that the idea the way they try to sell it is a pile of crap, and has nothing to do with history going back any further than the 1900s (and specifically ignoring poorer women and women who are not white).

    Apologies to you, too, that this was delayed due to being sequestered as spam. You argue this well, which is not to say that folks who firmly believe what they’ve been told is in the Bible (because they haven’t studied it for themselves) will hardly believe any of this, even though it’s all so very well documented…. -rc


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