BA(Hons) Homemaking – teaching women’s inferiority since 1910
Louise Livesey // 20 August 2007
Before I start, yes it’s at a private university in the US. However, as the radical and/or religious right get more air-time over here, then let’s see what’s on offer.
Southwestern Bapist Theological Seminary in Texas (not to be confused with Southwestern University on whose name it obviously trades) is now offering a 23 hour minor degree in homemaking to it’s female students. Yes that’s right, it’s women only (and crushingly advertised under their “Women’s Programs” banner). Now their straightforward Women’s Studies programme is, as you’d expect for a seminar, dedicated to biblical womanhood and how to explain the bible to people through outreach and missionary work. They also offer a 13 hour concentration in Seminary Studies for Student Wives (yes that’s right, learn how to be a baptist wife) which is usefully organised when hubby will be finished for the day so after cooking and clearing dinner you can head over and get some Higher Ed credits in on how to cook and clear and support hubby better. Lucky for her the core course, “The Wife of the Equipping Minister” is provided free (heavens forfend you might have to spend money educating her) and childcare is free so you don’t even have to leave the kids where they might disturb hubby’s evening.
But the main point for this entry was their new programme on with a concentration in homemaking. Which
endeavors to prepare women to model the characteristics of the godly woman as outlined in Scripture. This is accomplished through instruction in homemaking skills, developing insights into home and family while continuing to equip women to understand and engage the culture of today. Southwestern Baptist
The course has four major foci, nuture and care for the family, nutrition and food (although it doesn’t specify whether this is biblical or not), clothing and textile design and, yes really they do repeat this, nature and care for the family. The Star-Telegram got the scoop on the content of the course, telling us it offers:
“seven hours of nutrition and meal preparation, seven hours of textile design and “clothing construction,” three hours of general homemaking, three hours on “the value of a child,” and three hours on the “biblical model for the home and family.”Star-Telegram
It’s aim is to apparently “establish biblical family and gender roles”. However, and thankfully, there has been criticism from within the evangelical church itself in the form of well-known Baptist Rev. Benjamin Cole who said
“At first it was almost incredible to me,I thought this is not happening. It’s quite superfluous to the mission of theological education in Southern Baptist life. It’s insulting I would say to many young women training in vital ministry roles. It’s yet another example of the ridiculous and silly degree to which some Southern Baptists, Southwestern in particular, are trying to return to what they perceive to be biblical gender roles.” Star-Telegram
The President of the College, Paige Patterson, has issued a statement that women should not be pastors and that wives should “graciously submit” to their husbands. Since taking over he has banned women from teaching in the theological school.
Now don’t get me wrong, in some ways I think this might have been a very good idea. After all children and young people get less teaching on how to feed themselves these days (in the US and the UK) than how to read a graph (for instance). And I’m not even knocking the evangelical christian nature of it, that’s what you’d expect at a Seminary. My concern is that it basically says that women aren’t designed for anything other than home-making and that they even need teaching how to do that. And this from a private institution which charges $20 per hour of tuition plus campus fees plus library fees plus, you get the idea? So women are being asked to pay at minimum around $500 to study dressmaking, cooking and how to love your family in a Christian way. If this isn’t the most absurd and money-grabbing idea in a longtime I’ll be surprised.
So (modern) women are not even equipped for the basics of biblical womanhood. It’s not surprising really, after all missionaries wives are surely more likely to need information on how to support traumatised women than how to soothe hubbie’s fractious brow. They are unlikely to need to make clothes (which can be posted from loving evangelical family and church friends back home) and more likely to need to recognise the signs of malaria and how to speak the relevant local language. My point being that even as evangelical education this undermines women’s confidence and ignores the facts of life as they stand today.
To study for a bachelors degree (and this counts as part of a BA) the institution charges $6480 per year (at least, not counting additional “extras” like music practice and the like). And this in an institution where only around six faculty members are women, almost entirely in the education and music divisions. Just one of the forty-two theology faculty is a woman, the same woman who teaches on the women’s programmes and who happens to be the wife of the institution’s President. None of the senior admin and just one Dean (of twelve) are women. Southwestern is also embroiled in a federal lawsuit by a former female faculty member sacked because of her gender. According to the defence filed by the college Professor Sheri Klouda’s appointment was “a mistake that the trustees needed to fix”.