If you checked into social media yesterday, you probably came across this article by Raylan Alleman of the idealistically-named apostolate Fix the Family, in which Alleman gives eight reasons why you do wrong to send your daughter to college. Last I checked, the article had 69k “Likes” on Facebook, most of which I’m dearly, dearly hoping are ironic.
As you may guess, Alleman relies on false assumptions, fallacious reasoning, overgeneralizations, and bad science to buttress his case. He asserts that “girls” go to college to get a degree, not an education, that a woman’s proper place is in the home as a wife and a homeschooling mother, that the grind of work is below her dignity, that “not having a degree frees her to enter into a marriage with proper roles in which her husband will provide for her and their children,” and that affordable insurance can provide for her in the event of her husband’s demise. His concerns: your daughter at college will attract a lazy man who will supplement her income instead of providing for her, she will be a near occasion of sin, she won’t learn to be a wife and mother, she may be swayed from a religious vocation, and a few other horrors you can go and read if you’re so inclined. That a husband might be a shitty individual who deserves to be served divorce papers doesn’t seem to occur to Alleman, but then, in his knightly quest to fix the family, he doesn’t seem to be thinking about real people.
My “favorite” part is where Alleman cites an OB/GYN so he can say this:
[A] woman is naturally very observant of a man’s faults as long as she is in a platonic relationship with him. Once she becomes sexually active with him, she releases hormones that mask his faults, and she remains in a dreamy state about him. We can see why God would arrange things in such a way so that when in a proper state of holy matrimony, she would be less sensitive to his faults and thereby less tempted to be critical of him. But before marriage she should be very sensitive to the complete reality of the man she will enter into a lifetime commitment with.
Wait! There’s a criticism-suppressing hormone, and we working men haven’t manufactured it? I asked my wife if she knew anything about it, but in her dreamy state, she couldn’t say, replying instead that her absence of any criticism of me had everything to do with my being practically perfect in every way. “It’s not me, dear. It’s you!”
Jests aside, like me, Alleman is Catholic. I would hope that outsiders would know that the norms and roles he peddles here are not in keeping with contemporary Catholic thought about sex and gender roles, but that’s probably not a safe assumption, in part because the foundation of his whole outlook–an idea of sexual complementarity–is, in another form, an aspect Catholic ethics and ontology. In a nutshell, sexual complementarity is the idea that men and women, by virtue of being men and women, each bring something unique to social arrangements. If you believe that men and women have some differences and that these differences can complement one another at a social level, then you hold to some notion of sexual complementarity.
Alleman derives, based on his understanding of this complementarity, near absolute norms that he believes should almost always restrict the roles and behavior of each sex. From his reading of Scripture and take on his religious tradition, he concludes that men and women generally should marry, men should be providers and women should be homemakers. Husbands should be dominant and wives submissive. These social roles do not give men and women equal power and freedom within society, but this inequality is as it should be for it is the proper consequence of how God intended men and women to relate to one another. They have equal dignity, you see, an equality that makes every inequality and oppression Alleman champions just fine and dandy.
As a sometimes relatively decent Catholic, I’m not going to advise the good people at Fix the Family to jettison their religion, but I will say they ought to fix their hermeneutic approach to Scripture and tradition. These can be sources of sound practical wisdom, but they can also be the basis for some morally ugly precepts. Much depends on how you set out to interpret them. Personally, I would counsel again a rule of “sacred author said X, therefore X.” As a rule. And especially if a literalistic reading has you advocating for oppressive social structures. They don’t become any less oppressive just because you believe God has decreed their existence.
If Raylan Alleman wants to fix the family, whatever that means, then he’s going to have to put aside his fantasy about the ideal family and work to address the real problems that real families face. Of course, he’d first have to acknowledge these problems, which would be mean acknowledging his contribution to them.
(Photo via Facebook)