In the world of men one frequently sees competition for power. In sports, for example, one man faces off against another to show greater strength, brawn, stamina, skill, and even intelligence than his opponent. Wrestling is a good example of this competition. In wrestling, combatants are divided into categories based on weight. If a 200 pound man pinned a 300 pound man to the floor, that would be a major victory. In that case, the 200 pound man would be seen as virile and desirable for his strength and cunning. He would be admired, and considered powerful. But if the the 300 pound man pinned a 200 pound man to the floor, it would be small victory for the heavier man. In fact, he may be seen as less than manly, as lacking in strength and prowess for agreeing to such an uneven match.
Strangely, these rules are scrapped in complementarian homes and churches. Not only are husbands considered manly when they triumph over an opponent who is smaller and lighter weight than they, but men are also given much latitude to do what they want to TAKE authority over their wives. In the world of men, the size difference between husband and wife (in most cases) would prohibit the man from attempting to overpower his wife—if she were a man. But somehow, the husband who does not control his tiny wife and dictate to her how things shall be, is seen as lacking in manliness. Complementarians would see it as unmanly—and even cowardly—for him to pick a fight with a man who is the size of the man's wife, but it is manly for him to pick a fight with his wife. If he picked even a verbal fight with a smaller man, he would be seen as a bully. But if he picks a verbal fight with his wife, he is seen as taking his rightful, God-given place and as standing up as a man.
Wait! One way that could be logical is if men feel more threatened by women than they do by smaller men. More specifically, that they feel more threatened by their wives than they do by smaller-sized men. Now this possible conclusion flies in the face of the testimony of many women who are actually doing their best to submit to their husbands, and then their husbands respond by attacking them either verbally, physically, or any other way. In spite of that contradictory reasoning, we'll consider it anyway. Why would a big man feel intimidated by a female half his size, who is submitting to him and serving him?
Someone has suggested that a woman's ability to conceive and bear a child is so far and above what a man is capable of doing, that men feel inferior and inadequate and have been trying to compensate for their own lack through claiming power and authority—and even superiority—over women. Men cannot bring forth life, no matter how hard they try. For much of history, they have claimed that women are more sinful, less intelligent, less valuable than men. Men often glorify the male erection, claim they are “penetrating” the woman and that their seed also penetrates the woman's egg, thus claiming superiority and power-over for themselves. Yet newer research says the egg blocks sperm it does not want, swallows up the sperm it does want, and then blocks all other sperm from entry. In the same way, it could be said that the woman “envelops” the man, for no one claims to “penetrate” a sleeve or a sock. Perhaps many men are afraid that their posturing is a thin veneer that their wives will easily see through, so they work harder by erecting a wall of power and authority to protect their non-existent superiority, hoping if they make the wall appear thick enough their wives will not attempt to knock on the door, since that would cause the wall to fall down.
Another possibility is that men feel intellectually inferior to their wives. Believable or not, a number of men have confessed to feeling such intellectual inferiority, and therefore they throw the first verbal punch to prevent damage to themselves. Other men have claimed to feel so soft and mushy toward their wives, that they are like teddy bears, totally pliable in the hands of their wives. Therefore, they create conflict in order to steel their hearts and be less pliable. Never mind, that the requests of their wives are entirely reasonable. Being men, they believe they should refuse most of their wife's requests in order to show their power and authority. To these men, their wife's request that they pick up a quart of dish soap when they are going to the deli at the grocery store anyway, is a threat to their manhood. Even though the request is reasonable and sensible, these men interpret it as the wife usurping authority over her husband, and that it should not be tolerated—except that it is a financially sound request which is advantageous to the entire family. So these men apparently feel trapped into yielding to the requests of their wives, when they believe they should be asserting their authority by refusing.
Yet, complementarian leaders claim God is the author of this foolishness. In other words, since many men feel inferior to their wives, or think they are too yielding to their wives, God has decreed (so men say) that men should take authority over their wives. So men twist themselves into pretzels to claim superiority, by any means they can dream up—while denying they are doing so. And they claim the right to whatever means necessary to dominate and control their wives—unless it is illegal according to the state—even though if the same were applied to their relationships with other smaller-sized men, they would be seen as bullies.
Frankly, not only have they made God, our true authority, to appear like a fool, they have done all they could to replace Him with themselves to hide their feelings of inferiority, and have brought shame to the name of Christ, and by extension, to the name “Christian.” Even the Gentiles can see through the veneer and know “husband authority” is ridiculous.
Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" See www.wanetadawn.com A Mennonite woman fights to save her family yet keep her faith.