beauty, break ups, casual sex, celibacy, co-parenting, courtship, custody, dating, divorce, faith, feminine, feminism, feminist, gender, gender roles, masculine, parenting, post-feminist, red pill, single parenting, traditional
Have you ever wondered what life might look like in a world untouched by feminism and the sexual revolution? As someone born after all that happened, I often wonder, were “the good old days” actually better, or are people remembering them with rose-colored glasses?
About three years ago, I hired a local 16-year-old girl to babysit my girls after school three days a week. S. and her family belong to a religious group similar to Amish (No TV, music, or Internet but electricity and cars and western clothing are ok). There is a fairly large group of folks in my area who are members of this group, but because they rarely mingle with “outsiders” most people know little about the way they live or what they believe. But thanks to my relationship with S., I have been given a glimpse into this closed world, and it’s been fascinating.
The religion has its origins in Scandinavia and came to my area at the turn of the century when believers of this faith moved to the new world. Cut off from the church in Europe, this group is still practicing the faith as it was when they imported it over 150 years ago.
They have allowed some “modern conveniences” such as electricity, cell phones, and automobiles, but shun media like television, music, and the Internet. They do not drink alcohol. Gender roles are very traditional, with men largely employed in the building trades and women taking care of the home and children. They marry young, right out of high school, and have large families, often numbering 10 children or more.
Women do not cut their hair and often wear it swept up in a messy bun. Make up is not allowed, although most of the girls really don’t need it, as they have this unique fresh scrubbed Scandinavian glowing beauty similar to this girl. Most are blue-eyed blondes, although there is a smattering of brunettes and red heads among them.
Prior to meeting S. I, like many “moderns,” had a lot of misconceptions about what life in this faith must be like. I imagined the women were uneducated, oppressed, unhappy, and trapped in a life toiling away in domestic drudgery. After all, how could they possibly be happy, my post-feminist worldviews told me?
But what I saw was something entirely different. S. was very education focused and had attended both public school and been home schooled at her own choice. (Many of the valedictorians at local high schools are girls of this faith.) At the time she started watching my girls, age 16, she was in a program that allowed her to attend community college during her junior and senior years of high school. She graduated with her high school diploma and her associates degree the same week. At 19, she is now one quarter away from completing her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. She plans to operate an in home daycare.
In fact while many of the women in this faith don’t work outside the home, I have discovered that does not mean they aren’t entrepreneurial. Many work at home administrating their husband’s construction-related businesses, taking calls, scheduling estimates, keeping the books. Others are involved in the vintage flea market trade, buying and refinishing furniture sold through local antique shops. Yet others, like S., go into daycare.
Likewise their homes are cozy and well run. They seem to take a “busy hands, happy heart” approach to life, and rather than begrudge household chores, they seem to revel in them — taking joy in cooking, keeping and decorating house, and doing immaculate laundry. The women seem to have ample time to spend the afternoons visiting with each other, and their homes are a busy social setting with other ladies coming and going.
While motherhood and family are celebrated, in cases where a woman is unable to have children, they do not seem to be shunned or looked down upon. For example, one woman I know was diagnosed with leukemia during her first pregnancy and because of the treatments was only able to have the one child. She’s accepted in her community regardless, although many women of this faith do grieve deeply when their childbearing years come to an end, even after having as many as 13 children, because each child is seen as a bonus and a blessing rather than as a burden. I also know another woman of this faith who is less traditional, quietly practices birth control, and only has two children. She does not report anyone questioning her or judging her for not having more children.
Young adults (men and women) can also decide to leave the faith with their family’s blessings. Once married, however, very few divorce or leave the church. Couples are expected to make their marriages work, and even when unhappy, to find meaning or happiness otherwise and to honor their commitment. Divorce usually results in shunning by the entire church community, so the decision to divorce is not just about their spouse, it is a decision to divorce nearly everyone and everything they have ever known. (However, as a divorced single mom I have never felt judged by S. or her family, either. They have always treated me most graciously, with kindness and respect.)
While make up is discouraged, that does not mean the women are drab or without style. In fact they (and their children) are usually immaculately groomed and beautifully dressed in modest but flattering clothing made from high quality natural fiber, topped off with flair from colorful scarves, and stylish leather boots and bags. Despite the fact that these women are nearly continuously pregnant from the age of 19 on, it is rare for them to be overweight and curiously I almost never see them out and about when obviously pregnant.
The community seems to have a “clan” mentality. When S. married last winter, just weeks after turning 19, her new husband was given a job as an apprentice electrician in her Grandfather’s electrical company where chances are he will work for the rest of his life and perhaps someday become a partner. The clans work together to keep everyone working, and most families have all the trades needed in-house to build a home from bare ground to finished product. They help their own, securing work and jobs as a team. If I ever need a craftsman of any type, from drywall to paving to plumbing to electrical, all I have to do is ask S. and she has a reference for me in under 5 minutes. All of the craftsmen I have hired on her recommendation have done exquisite work and they are exceedingly honest, sticking to the original bid to the penny even if the job takes them longer than they thought.
On summer weekends, these clans can often be seen at local parks enjoying a day off. The women busy themselves with visiting and cooking elaborate spreads while the men relax and talk shop. The children run around in immense packs, and because almost every woman has 5 or more sisters as well as 5 or more sister in-laws, there is a many hands make light work approach. The unmarried young women oversee the young children. My children and I benefit by proxy, in the rare moment when I have a meeting or doctor appointment and S. is not available to watch my kids because of her school schedule or another commitment, she has three younger sisters who always are eager to help.
At her interview S. was a shy girl and it was a joy to watch her blossom into a confident young lady. I would guess she spent most of her babysitting money on clothing, and she was soon sporting a very stylish wardrobe purchased with her earnings. Unlike many 16-year-old girls, S. was not-self absorbed and immature, in fact quite the opposite. She always struck me as very mature and level-headed for her age.
About a year after S. started working for me, her parents started sending her on weekend trips to visit family located in other communities where this religious group has settlements. This is a common practice for young teens, and socials and other functions are held to facilitate the young people finding a mate. S. went but I could tell she was not really keen on these trips. I worried about her and we had several long talks about the importance of choosing a life mate carefully, and that while people were lucky if they met their person young, it was also ok if they didn’t, and that it happens when it happens, and I advised her not to do anything if her heart wasn’t in it.
I did not know it at the time, but her heart belonged to a boy she had wanted to date at 14, but her parents forbid it because they felt she was too young. Last she had heard, he was engaged to someone else. Then one day while driving one of her younger sisters home from babysitting, the sister excitedly told me they had reconnected at a church gathering, S. learned his fiance had broken off the previous engagement, and S.’s parents had now given him permission to court her. The girl who was opposed to courting was suddenly gung ho, and she glowed with happiness as she told me of him and their (very chaste and well supervised) dates.
Within a few months they were engaged and a few months after that they married. My mom remarked she hoped S. would be “more modern” and put off starting a family. I secretly hoped she would not. She looked different the first day she returned to work after marrying, she had gone from being a girl to a woman and she shyly joked her husband was hoping they had conceived on their wedding night. While it didn’t happen that quickly, it wasn’t long before she told me she was expecting and their son will arrive in December, right before their first wedding anniversary. Her husband literally beamed with pride when I congratulated him on the pending arrival.
From what I have observed, S. is a very happily married woman and she is excited about her future. While we have not discussed it yet, I have a feeling her next youngest sister will be taking over as my babysitter and S. will be staying at home with her infant while she finishes her last year of college and starts her in home daycare.
Like the other women of her clan, she will celebrate each stage of her life as a woman as it comes. She’s been a girl, and a young women. Now she is a wife and soon to be a young mother. In time, she will become a matriarch, grandmother to her own children’s children. At a recent clan gathering for a woman from the church in her 80s, an amazing 200+ descendants from this one woman (!) gathered around her to celebrate and honor her life.
I wish S. all the happiness in the world and I feel very fortunate to know her and to have been given a peek into her world. While it might not be for everyone, from where I sit it has a lot of advantages over the very different uncertain and undefined world I have experienced as a woman, and I think for her at least, it’s a perfect fit.
So there it is, a peek inside a world without feminism.
What do you think? How does this world sound to you? Better than life for a typical American young girl? Why or why not?
I think that the majority of it sounds amazing. A close knit community, the ability to know all your relatives, an emphasis on love/communication/honor, educational outlets, travel opportunities, happy and healthy families, husbands and wives who actually care for and about each other…truly, for someone raised in this environment, I don’t see a lot missing.
The only question I’d have is this: If a male member wants to run a daycare, or a female member wants to be an electrician, can they? If so, it sounds like a near perfect way of life!
Indeed Tarn, it is idyllic in many ways. As for if someone within their group could go outside the gender roles and still be accepted as part of their “in group” that I am not sure. It seems pretty conformity based. I will ask Samantha but I suspect the answer is likely,” No.” Stay tuned…
I do know a girl, same faith, who was the oldest of a family of 13 who for some reason was declared, “un-marriageable” and so she was exempt from the “courting” meetings and her family supported her desires to pursue a degree in nursing and life as a paramedic/firefighter. She was single until she was 30, then married another firefighter (not of her faith) and they have two children. Her family seemed to be accepting of her, and her husband, but I did attend their wedding at her parent’s house and there was a sort of unspoken discomfort from her clan when, for example, they played music during the ceremony, and the folks of her family’s faith sat on one side while us “worldy” folks were sat to the other. As she put it, if it was the life you wanted and you had a good husband, it was wonderful. But if it wasn’t who you were or if you did not have a good husband, there was little support for those situations. It was her grandmother who had the 200+ descendants.
And it’s not perfect. There have been instances of spousal and child abuse among this group, although I don’t think it is at higher rates than rates from the general population. Children are raised in the old way, they are not the coddled center of their family’s focus, but are expected to help with chores, tow the line, and not speak unless spoken to, etc. Physical punishment (spanking) is the norm. All that said, there are few of their kids in trouble as teens.
I recently commented to another man that if there were a non-feminist country (cultural norms and all – and low-tax), many men would flock there.
Excellent post – thanks!
Outstanding bachelor, my brother, himself a lifelong bachelor (now 45), stayed with me for a few months this summer when he relocated to my area. He developed the biggest (secret) crush on Samantha and it seemed like daily he could be heard muttering, “I wish I could find a girl like Samantha, I’d marry her in a minute!” I suggested to him he let Samantha know he was in the market, I bet she would have put the word out! Except he cusses, drinks, doesn’t attend church, and has some online, ahem, habits he’d have to reform, I suspect, in order to be taken as a serious candidate. The traditional gender role expectations go both ways!
Also Tarn, I forgot to add, since this group is made up of a pretty limited pool, even with the sending young adults to different communities to seek a mate, there are only so many families (imagine the six degree of separation rule applied here, everyone is likely second or third or fourth cousins) and genetic abnormalities are starting to become more of a problem in this community, likely from the limited gene pool.Some teens are now starting to travel back to Europe to seek mates of this faith in an effort to expand the genetic diversity.
Also Outstanding Bachelor, I knew a man of this faith who I interviewed for a newspaper article on the subject of heritage apples. He was really big into heirloom apples and knew where all the old homestead orchards in the area were located. (His family were pioneer homesteaders) Really neat guy. Anyway, he was as he put it, a “late bloomer” and did not marry until he was 50, I believe his wife was 35. They had 8 children, the last two twins, now 20. He unfortunately passed away from a very aggressive brain cancer a few years back. I still regret not taking him up on his offer to show me those old orchards forgotten by time!
Great article. As a self identified feminist you didnt sound condescending or preachy at all whereas many would.
Thanks Wilson! I am actually a semi-reformed feminist. I was raised feminist and followed that path most of my life, but have in the past year really been questioning if it’s all been so good (for me anyway) after all, which is something I examine often in this blog. Thanks for reading and commenting. And I am glad I don’t sound preachy or condescending, I hope I would never think so highly of myself as to know it all or have all the answers or know what’s best for anyone besides myself. I do have a lot of questions and am always curious how others see the world…
Well its sad that in “mainstream” america women have to be “feminists”, but unfortunately we arent where we need to be in society as far as equality across gender lines.
That’s interesting Wilson, as I am starting to believe the quest for equality is part of the problem, or maybe more accurately that the quest for equality has created other, unforeseen and unintended, problems. It’s hard to explain in a few sentences, but from what I have experienced and witnessed personally relationships between men and women seem more confused and unstable than ever. For example, people may know 150 ways to have sex, but yet the concepts of love and commitment seem to elude them. Lots of marriages/families seem only as stable as never ending happiness, if sickness or a job loss or other hard times strike, too many these days choose to pull the rip cord rather than seeing the downs as part of life, too, and to hang in and see it through. I see good guys who are so afraid of being called a creep or a harasser they don’t approach, leaving the players and cads (who won’t commit because the world is their oyster) the only ones who will. Women seem to be unable to tell the good guys from the bad. I am not saying all advances of feminism are bad, but I do see lots of issues as well, and I am trying to get my head around that. Thanks for reading along, and I am curious what’s your take on feminism and do you think it’s all good, both good and bad, all bad? All points of view are welcome here, let’s explore it together!
It was inevitable that traditional sex roles would change to a certain extent, given technology and the availability of reliable contraception. It was not inevitable that the changes would be accompanied by so much unhinged rage, lack of empathy and fairness, and outright bizarre behavior/thinking. And for these “features,” we largely have academics, “activists,” and journalists to thank.
It’s not just the feminism. This is what can happen when men and women choose to live cooperatively.
I think your brother would gladly give up all that silliness. How is he doing?
Indeed Fuzzie, I think it is also perhaps this other American trend toward perpetual adolescence or something? In Samantha’s world there are distinct life stages (girl, teen, young lady, married woman, mother, grandmother, etc) that seem to be blurred lines in the culture at large. Maybe that’s a whole other blog post. Brings this to mind: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a (wo)man, I put away childish things.”
Thanks for adding that. Interesting to think what started off as equality perhaps morphed into a larger agenda?
When Paul said that, in the first century, he only had to address men. The women already knew.
A lot has happened in the meanwhile.
Yes, thwre’s a whole post there.
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Good day to you, ma’am!
As a young Christian woman who is about to graduate, I would really love to find a community like this. 😀 I have been thinking to myself that I’m almost nineteen, and I really need to settle down. The only issue is that most young people do not have the resources to do so, unless they live in communities where such matters are given a proper amount of care. Most of us can only afford to pay a fourth of a rent amongst three other roommates…that, or we lament over the future student loans that student housing will spout at us.
Jokes aside, I have to admit that I have familiarized myself with your blog a while back, even commenting (but I don’t know what nickname I chose). I was not sure of whether to comment or not, but I would like to contribute, for I am pleased with what I have seen–not because it’s what I want to hear, but because it is honest. I do not mean to puff you up or grovel, but I feel like I need to learn from the older women. They are wiser and know more than us. Thank you.
@samedispringtime welcome! Yes, the community I describe has the same struggles marrying young. Often the newlyweds live either with her or his family their first year or two of marriage, saving all they can to then buy a home or rent. The men mostly work in construction of some type (plumbing, electrical, concrete, carpentry, masonry etc.) and often apprentice from a young age in a family biz, or one of a member of their church, and then in time start their own biz once they master the trade. So the men often don’t attend college or if they do it is a trade program and the wages are typically high because of the skills involved. The women work from home often, supplementing the family income that way. As you read my sitter attended community college with a program that allows students to attend college in place of the final two years of high school (free! What a great way to go!) from there she finished her final two years at a commuter four year college, living at home still, to save the expense of a dorm or living off campus. So it can be done, and since a strong work ethic and frugal self sufficient living are also pillars of their faith, possible because they do not live the typical “I want it all, now” lifestyle. I wish you much luck in your search for a life mate! 🙂 keep us posted. Does your family approve? Would they support your marrying young, perhaps help in these ways?
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“The only question I’d have is this: If a male member wants to run a daycare, or a female member wants to be an electrician, can they? If so, it sounds like a near perfect way of life!”
I found this comment depressing. The entire post is about the celebration of men being masculine and women being feminine and here is a question saying that only if men can be feminine and women can be masculine can the life described in the post be “perfect”. This is exactly the type of toxicity feminism brings: acceptance only if people recognize men and women, the masculine and feminine, are just social constructs to be shrugged aside to “follow one’s passion”. The galling selfishness and solipsism of the above makes my skin crawl.
It is selfish and solipistic to want people everywhere to be content and find fulfillment in their lives, even if that is found through slightly atypical means?
It is selfish and solipistic to want people everywhere to be content and find fulfillment in their lives, even if that is found through slightly atypical means?
It is selfish and solipsistic because you would never date a man who ran a day care center (except to status signal; who you would used strictly as ornamentation to your life in your “love of singlehood” you’d simply throw to the curb once you’ve satisfied your signalling) and you would never become an electrician. You’re mouthing the “right” words you think you should say and rationalizing it with pretty words, claiming only that you “want people everywhere to be content”, while the results of your words are discontent and discord. This is what’s so toxic about feminism. It’s the preaching of the rejection of the masculine by men and the feminine by women. You encourage confusion between the sexes all while using honey and silk in your words.
Next you’ll be telling me I’m using microaggressions against you and demanding Patriarchy!! ™ by claiming men should be masculine and women should be feminine. We should discourage feminine men (e.g., men running a daycare center) and masculine women (e.g., women electrician). You claim you want them to be content, but your recommendation is exactly why there is so little of that.
Or is that sewing of discontent and discord the purpose of what you’re saying in an effort to rationalize your own singlehood you desperately wish to say you love?
I just want people to be happy with themselves, regardless of the form that takes. This includes rejecting both idiotic Feminist crap that teaches the sexes are “exactly the same” as well as acknowledging that neither men nor women should be forced or shamed into roles that truly don’t suit them.
Hence why I’m very pro-MGTOW, because I think it is healthier for men to create their own paths in life rather than deal with those who would seek to disgrace them for not desiring fatherhood or marriage. I only seek similar treatment.
And no, I am not going to be an electrician because I already have a job I enjoy as a salesman/warehouse worker. You are also correct that my SO is not a daycare worker (though one of our mutual male friends is), but he is an elementary school teacher. They both greatly enjoy their careers too, which is something not everyone can honestly say.
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Albert McKay said:
I’d be really interested in learning more about this community, and faith. Are there any articles / websites / links to more information about them? Would it be possible for someone to visit them?
I wonder what their musical culture is like.
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