Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Robertson clan made famous by the A&E show, Duck Dynasty, has gotten himself into a bit of boiling water recently over a comment he made about marrying a girl when she was 15 or 16 because she would be more “moldable”. Those weren’t his exact words, but that was his meaning. I feel like I might be jumping into the pot with him, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about traditional female roles and the girl power craze of the last few decades, of which I feel has swung to the opposite extreme recently. More about that in a minute.
You can watch the video here. Phil Robertson actually says “There’s an old saying in the South. Marry a girl when she’s fifteen or sixteen and she’ll pick your ducks. Marry her when she’s twenty and she’ll pick your pockets.”
I don’t mean to condone or support what Mr.Robertson has said, but I feel as if he is speaking from his own experience, as he married Ms.Kay when she was about that age, and when you are young, you tend to grow together in a marriage instead of trying to blend two people set in their own ways into one path. I know this isn’t a social norm that is practiced much today, but Mr.Robertson’s belief isn’t too many generations off from the norm. My own grandmother, born and raised in Missouri during the Depression Era, was married to my grandfather at the age of 13 (my grandfather was 23) and my first aunt was born a year later. They were married until my grandfather’s death in September of 1994.
For countless generations it has been the traditional role of the male to go out into the world and become accomplished before marriage was even thought of, and then it was marriage to a young bride—one that was taught from a young age that her family was her world and her husband the center of it.
Women were the caretakers of the children, not because men couldn’t nurture them, but because we were naturally equipped for the job. We had the womb, the birthing canal, the mammary glands.
Then a social shift began. The role of women began to change and expand and the role of men was expected to change with it. Men could feed our infants with manufactured breasts and manufactured food, limiting the need for mom. And mom’s told their daughters that they could be anything, do anything they wanted to do. That our “fair” gender wasn’t enough to hold us back anymore. I totally agree with this statement. If a woman can do the job as well as a man, there is no reason that they shouldn’t be able to. Likewise for a man. But what happens when mom or dad is no longer the primary care giver for a child? We no longer live in extended families where grandma and grandpa or aunts and uncles help raise the children of the family either. Where does that leave the child? But that’s a conversation for another time.
Somehow through all my musing on this subject, I’ve come to the conclusion that girl power has grown into a monster. You can hardly find a contemporary book where the main female character works within a traditional female role—they are always fighting against the societal norms, stretching for that almost unattainable, and certainly hard to hold on to, status in life—and their lover admires them for it. I have nothing against strong female characters—but I feel there is also power in the traditional female role that is often ignored.
“Girl Power” is now so strongly inbred in our society that most young women today feel that it isn’t enough to take care of a husband, children and home, but that they must also be something else. But what about those young girls who yearn for nothing more than this traditional role? Where are their role models?
It has been said that raising our children is the most important job we do, and yet, it is no longer (dare I say it?) socially acceptable to just be a mom and wife. There is always that question on people’s tongues—what else do you do?
I’m the perfect example of this. I was married young(19) and had four children by the time I was 26. For the first 10 years of my married life I raised my boys and took care of my husband and home. Art and writing were hobbies I enjoyed, and dreamed that one day, perhaps I could help financially support my family with the skills I’d honed during precious nap times or while the kids played without need of me or that rare two nights a month I escaped to meet with other writers with the same dream. Now my oldest is 19 and my youngest almost 12, and I have six jobs: My family/home, my sewing pattern business, my library job, my own writing, editing for Spencer Hill Press and helping people publish themselves through Prince and Pauper. I often feel overwhlemed, stressed out for time and depressed that my home does not feel the way I want it to, and much of the time I feel as if I would give a lot to be just a mom and homemaker again. The little monetary gain rarely makes all the stress worthwhile. And so I guess I am quickly coming to the point of another life changing decision—what do I give up to make room for just being wife and mom again?