by Michael J. Hurd Ph.D.
Candace Cameron Bure, a former child star on the ’80s/’90s television series Full House, recently set off a firestorm when she suggested while promoting her book that the secret to her marital happiness was the fact that she let her husband take control.
“I am not a passive person, but I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work,” the actress writes in her book.
During a recent interview with The Huffington Post, Cameron Bure tried to explain herself.
“The definition I’m using with the word ‘submissive’ is the biblical definition of that,” she said. “So, it is meekness, it is not weakness. It is strength under control, it is bridled strength.”
“And, listen, I love that my man is a leader,” she said. “I want him to lead and be the head of our family. And those major decisions do fall on him. … It doesn’t mean I don’t voice my opinion. It doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. I absolutely do, but it is very difficult to have two heads of authority.”
“In my marriage we are equal … in our importance, but we are just different in our performances within our marriage,” she said.
It sounds to me like she’s confused.
On the one hand, she says her husband is the leader. This suggests he has the final say. A leader is someone who knows more than you do, who is (by definition) wiser and more authoritative than you. A leader is not your equal. If we were all absolutely equal in character, development, knowledge and ability we would not need leaders.
Then, in total contradiction, she says that they’re equal. She qualifies it by saying in marriage they are equal. But they’re married. What other context do they exist with each other, aside from in marriage? How can they simultaneously be equal and unequal (as the concept “leader” suggets) at the same time?
She’s trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, she wants to follow the notions of the Bible. On the other hand, she wants the satisfaction of having a spouse who considers her an equal partner.
The solution to this conundrum is neither angry, anti-male feminism nor reversion to Biblical literalism, where women are instructed to submit to their men. The solution is individualism. I don’t mean this politically so much as (primarily) psychologically. Psychologically, if you’re an individualist, you take responsibility for knowing yourself, along with shaping yourself into the person you wish to be.
Each individual woman, like any individual man, has strengths and weaknesses, and also faces choices about which strengths to develop. It’s a challenge and responsibility for every human being to become his — or her — own individual. When one lacks the confidence or certainty required to engage in such a task, the tendency is to revert to social roles. “Well, I’m a woman. This is what others say a woman should do. So I’m going to be that.”
“Others” in this context can refer to one’s family, the Bible, or any people or forces you consider significant — other than yourself. Playing out roles prescribed by others can arise from traditionalism, as it does with this actress, or from neo-feminism, in which you attempt to be some kind of a contradictory mix, such as a “supermom” whereby you run a giant corporation and be a stay-at-home mother at the same time.
The error in all of these scenarios is the same: Sacrificing individualism for the sake of playing out a script you have allowed another (or others) to write for you.
Meekness–not weakness…and Bure claims that’s a good thing? The concept meekness clearly implies underrating yourself, minimizing or ignoring your strengths — as a matter of principle. Religions teach meekness and submission to an all-powerful supernatural being. After all, what is any low human in comparison to an omnipotent and omnipresent God or Allah?
When you apply the concept meekness to your marriage, by definition you’re treating yourself as low and inferior. I find this statement of Bure’s especially revealing: “I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work.” It sounds like she’s saying, “I have to be meek in order to get along with my husband.”
What kind of husband, wife, or any romantic partner wants his or her spouse to be inferior in stature? It’s not exactly something to be proud of, or write about in a book. It’s certainly nothing to parade about as an ideal.
Meek submission for women is simply another example of selfless role-playing, to fill the void where a conscious individualist might — and should — have been.