I’ve always assumed Sheila Gregoire was a naive, sheltered housewife who didn’t really understand that our society and the church is in the final throes of a massive culture war. Almost all of her writings are from the frame that Christian women haven’t been tainted by feminism. For example, commenter Jack wrote on her WACF blog post:
And let’s face it. Feminism has trained women to treat men like dirt, or like expendable appliances created only to please them.
Men respect the humanity of women.
Women duhumanize men far more often than the reverse. Feminism has made women childish and selfish, and many Christian women have fallen into this attitude as well.
Evidently this is something Sheila has never encountered, because she responded with (emphasis mine):
Jack, this was the point that I was making in the column, so I’m glad you agree. Feminism started the trend.
What I really don’t appreciate, though, is all of the comments today saying “many Christian women have fallen into this attitude as well.” How? What are we doing? What am I doing wrong? I write this blog specifically to help Christian women understand men, validate, support, and respect the men they are married to, and to think of those men’s needs and to try to meet them. I write a lot about understanding that men are different than we are, and that we are to respect and honour that difference. And what I write is really no different from what is preached in the pulpit and what is written in the women’s blogosphere that I am part of.
I just don’t want people slandering “Christian women”. If you want to say explicitly what you are upset about, then we can talk, but please do not slander those who come to this blog.
She makes a careful distinction between Christian women like herself and the women in her audience, and those awful nasty feminist women. How dare Jack insinuate that Christian women are childish and feminist? How dare he suggest that the Church and Christians in general give women a pass? She had a similar exchange with Deti on the same thread, who wrote:
There is much talk of how men are to act honorably and respectfully. But there is no reciprocal expectation that women act similarly, with grace, humility and submission. At least that was not mentioned.
It pains me to say this as a Christian man, but the Christian church no longer dominates western culture. It’s been discarded in favor of secular feminism.
Sheila responded (emphasis mine):
Deti, I understand your point, but here’s the trouble I have with the way that it is often phrased: I often hear people in the “manosphere”, or whatever you want to call it, criticizing the church for not teaching women to be submissive or graceful or whatever. But they say “the church” does it. How? There’s a very large female Christian blogosphere, for instance, and Darlene Schacht from Time Warp Wife came out with an ebook this week doing exactly that. All of the women’s Bible studies that I’ve read focus on developing godly character. In my church, godly character development and humility are taught. At the marriage conferences where I teach, run by FamilyLife, one of the largest family ministries in North America, all of these things are taught explicitly.
So I guess I have to ask: who, exactly, are you criticizing? I think it’s an easy criticism to make, but I personally do not see it. I don’t see it in the women’s Bible studies that happen at churches all over the continent on Wednesday mornings, or Thursday mornings. I don’t see it in Christian books written for women. I don’t see it in the Christian blogosphere. But I do see the criticism often.
In another response to Deti, Sheila also wrote:
Of course feminism has eradicated that; no one is questioning that. But I fail to see why we should permit that to happen, or not stand up for honour, that’s all.
Poor sheltered Sheila has never seen the kinds of attitudes Deti and Jack describe in Christian women. Perhaps it is because such attitudes are so foreign to her that she simply can’t imagine other Christian women holding them. You know, her being a sheltered non feminist Traditional Christian woman and all.
Except I know for a fact that Shiela runs into the exact attitudes in Christian women and easy treatment of women by the church that Deti and Jack were describing. How do I know? Here is what Sheila tells us in her video log Should You Change to Improve Your Marriage? (emphasis mine):
I did one of these vlogs where I was talking about how it is important if you are upset in your marriage not to think about all of the stuff that he is doing wrong, but to look at what you can do to make the marriage better. And I had a lot of emails after that from women saying:
“Thats telling women that they can’t be true to themselves. If you say that you need to change in order to be happy in a marriage then you’re not being true to yourself and that is wrong.”
One of my readers pointed out this vlog and I wrote a post about it. At the time I assumed that Sheila was treating this kind of attitude amongst Christian women so gently because she understood that anything but kid gloves would result in rebellion (emphasis added):
One thing which strikes me about Sheila’s work is how incredibly gentle she is in her pro marriage message to Christian women. At first I thought she was only lukewarm on the topic of marriage, but after further consideration I am convinced that she is accurately assessing the nature of her audience. What she considers “harsh” I would consider walking on eggshells. But as I said I think she has accurately gaged her target audience. Christian women as a group are not used to being told they have any obligations. Ever. Even obligations resulting from a sacred promise they made in the church in front of God and everyone they know. This simply isn’t the way of the modern Christian church*.
Sheila referenced my blog post in a post of her own back in September. Commenters Joy and Lori on Sheila’s blog both stated that the bolded part of my comments above were unfortunately all too accurate. Sheila agreed:
Joy and Lori–I know. That is an OUCH comment, isn’t it? But I do think it’s true. In general, the church is very hard on men and very easy on women, and yet it is women who instigate most divorces. We need to get back to the message that we have a responsibility and an obligation to make our marriages work, even if those marriages do not make us happy. But that goes against conventional wisdom, and seems mean. We really are fighting upstream!
I know this is some heavy quoting to read through, but I wanted to show beyond question that Sheila absolutely has run into the kinds of things Deti and Jack were describing. When she claims on the WACF post that she doesn’t run into childish entitled Christian women and that she doesn’t see the church giving women a pass, she is directly at odds with what she wrote and said previously.
But it gets worse. Sheila isn’t the sheltered Traditional Christian woman I took her for. Readers CL and Anonymous Reader brought to my attention that Sheila has a masters degree in women’s studies (emphasis mine):
I’ve had a ton of visitors from sites lately that have been mocking the Christian view of marriage, and that’s one of the primary lines of attack: I’m telling women it’s okay if their husbands rape them. Give. Me. A. Break. Now, I know where they’re coming from, since I’ve done a Masters in Sociology with an emphasis on Women’s Studies, too. I’ve read all that feminist literature that calls all sex rape, and while it totally messed up my sex life in the early part of my marriage, I’ve thankfully been able to leave it behind and realize how great sex in marriage is.
Unless she was a child prodigy, Sheila spent her mid twenties as a raving feminist. Not only that, she only tepidly rejects the label feminist today. We learn this from an exchange she had with commenter Rachel back in December. Rachel wrote (emphasis mine):
One thing I don’t agree with you on is YOUR generalization of “feminists”. I am a feminist, meaning I believe I have equal rights to a man, I should have equal pay for equal work, I should have a choice about whether I want to have children or what religion I practice, I should be allowed to vote, I should be allowed to choose whether or not to work and in what field. That doesn’t mean I hate all men, think women’s “rights” trump men’s rights and it most certainly does not mean I think all sex is rape…
I don’t know how to determine if this Rachel is the same Rachel on Shiela’s WACF post who argued that women’s lives are worth more than men’s, but it doesn’t seem unlikely. It would be more than a little ironic if this is the same Rachel on the WACF post Sheila was scolding commenters for implying that she might be a feminist and not a Traditional Christian woman. At any rate, Sheila replied and clarified why she no longer calls herself a feminist (emphasis mine):
As for the feminist critique, I see your point. I have stopped calling myself a feminist, although I do believe in equality, because the term has become so tainted politically. I believe women should have opportunities and choices, but I do not believe that we are superior. And I was so poisoned in my postgraduate work that I have come to really hate the term. But perhaps I should have qualified that better.
She doesn’t call herself a feminist anymore because the word carries too much political baggage.
Hawaiian Libertarian had Sheila pegged for a feminist back in November with his post To Love, Honor & Vacuum…unless he looks at teh Pr0n!:
Sheila is a feminist….the worst kind. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Note: Don’t be surprised if one or more of the pages on Sheila’s blog I link to above are scrubbed after I post this. In my Warn Men post I quoted an exchange Sheila had with a woman on youtube who claimed she was emotionally abused. Sheila responded to the woman on youtube as if emotional abuse was real abuse. Some time after I wrote that post the comments were deleted from Sheila’s youtube page. See for yourself. Now see this google cache page of what the comments for that video looked like on November 10th, 2011, two days after I quoted them. If you are interested in keeping a record for posterity, you can take a screenshot of the comments in the google cache page or print it to a pdf file. At some point google is likely to update the cached version to the one with the comments deleted.
Edit 3-15-12: Shortly after I posted this Google updated the cache of the page. Here is a PDF copy I made of the previous cached version.