If you’ve read the news at all lately, you have heard of the trials and tribulations of Bishop Eddie Long. The Atlanta mega-church pastor is accused of sexual coercion of young men within his flock. Four men filed lawsuits last week claiming Long, a televangelist, forced them to have sex. Through a spokesman, the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church pastor has categorically denied the charges against him. We will leave the sexual assault allegations to the lawyers. But even if he is found not guilty of sexual assault, Eddie Long has a well-established history of abusing power of another kind: his “relationship advice” book, What A Man Wants, What A Woman Needs, is chock full of swill that preaches keeping your trap shut, also known as “wifely submission.” “Wifely submission” is a sexist marriage model, which purports to draw inspiration from the Bible, in which man submits to God, women submits to man, and children submit to them all. Submission means allowing someone else to lead and to trust that person will not err in their guidance; its adherents like to call it “traditional.” You can read more about “wifely submission” — supported by such political figures as ex-presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell — here and here.
Eddie Long’s “relationship advice” book, What A Man Wants, What A Woman Needs, is like a playbook for wifely submission. He praises a woman’s “quiet and submissive spirit” and literally advises women to “get out of the way.” What shouldn’t a woman do? “Argue, nag, and battle against [men] for supremacy in every area.”
The feminist movement, of course, ruins Eddie Long’s nagging-free male supremacy utopia. “Regardless of what women do and how much the feminist movement demonstrates and infiltrates the culture,” Long wrote, “wives and women in general can never rule over men.” And why is that? “It is a man’s original nature to rule, give battle, dominate and conquer. These are the tools God gave man to dominate and conquer the Earth.” And the kicker: “Smart women become unwise women when they acquire knowledge for the sole purpose of competing with men.”
Translation: don’t get too uppity, ladies. Expressing your opinions and “nagging” is not a godly thing to do.
Let me be clear about something: I personally don’t care what how individual couples choose to set up their relationships. In 2007, I wrote an article for Bitch Magazine: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture about women who call themselves feminists who are in submissive relationships. (The article is called “Slap Happy” and you can supposedly find it online, because my cousin did.) It is a sexist set-up, but they make the relationship work for them so that everyone’s needs are met. People can make their own choices about what kind of relationship suits them best; I certainly do.
But I strongly object to prescribing a model for sexist relationships as a good fit for everyone across the board. Whether Eddie Long had been accused of sexually assaulting four men or not, his teachings would still be problematic. What’s a shame is he and his sexist What A Man Wants, What A Woman Needs teachings on “wifely submission” are only now being scrutinized because he is being accused.