Friday, August 24, 2007

Cooking, Cleaning, Sewing, and Godliness

Now, I took home ec in junior high school. I learned to boil water, make brownies, set a table correctly, and for three years in a row, I sewed a skirt that was unwearable. By the third year, my mother would only buy the fabric at a 5 and 10 because she knew I wouldn't wear my creation. Boys took "shop" while we learned to trace patterns and use an iron.

Now, both of my children went to that very same junior high school (now reconfigured as a middle school) and they both took woodworking and a cooking class. It seemed like progress to me, and Alyssa's towel rack from 10 years ago is still in use in our kitchen.

It turns out that the Southern Baptist Association has decided to reinvigorate the tradition by offering a homemaking major for women ONLY at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Here's the description taken directly from their web site:

Bachelor of Arts in Humanities with a concentration in homemaking. The College at Southwestern 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. The BA in Humanities with a concentration in homemaking provides a solid foundation for life. The woman who completes this degree and concentration will be:

Prepared spiritually – Through significant study of Scripture and theology, each woman will be prepared to be an evangelist and apologist focused upon reaching women, children and families for Christ.

Challenged intellectually – Intensive instruction in the history of Western ideas will challenge each woman to be familiar with the influential people of our past and to give a response from a biblical worldview.

Equipped practically–With four areas of focus, the homemaking concentration student will be equipped

To nurture and care for the family.

In the area of nutrition and food preparation.

By developing a skill in clothing and textile design.

Through practical experiences for skill development for the most important job a woman may have: the nurture and care of the family.

Unfortunately what she won't be prepared for is EMPLOYMENT outside of the home...nor will her male partner be allowed to take classes so that he learns any of the above. The spokesperson for the seminary on the Today Show this morning said that part of the reason for the program is to reduce the number of divorces among Southern Baptists.

It is true that the Bible belt has the highest percentages of divorces; it's here in the liberal Northeast that it's the lowest. Like the teenage abstinence pledging programs created by the Southern Baptists, I'm guessing that this one isn't going to achieve its goal either. But it is going to leave a lot of women unprepared for the day that their husbands leave them, come out, or die.

Surely Godly women need to be better prepared for the 21st century.


Boy in the Bands (Scott Wells) said...

Very sad on so many levels. My seminary -- Brite Divinity School, grad 1997 -- is about three miles from Southwestern and today has a small but robust Baptist studies program because of the changes at Southwestern.

The funny thing is that they've long had a really good reputation for church music -- don't know if that's true today -- and I would go to their music library to find Unitarian and Universalist hymnals.

Surely, even in the new regime, there is a place for women in church music? children's Christian ed? I'd love to be a fly on the wall in those departments. I bet the "hit" comes from women interested in missions. There is an old Baptist joke -- told me by Brite classmates -- to the effect that if you send a woman far enough away, she can do what she can't do at home.

Christine Robinson said...

I frankly don't see how a graduate of this homemaking major will be any less well prepared for employment than the average undergrad English or Anthropology major. But they will know something about how to cook for themselves (a skill the lack of which is a huge part of our current national health crisis) and their families, mend clothing rather than throw it away, garden, and manage a household and to do so with both an intellectual and a spiritual grounding. It is too bad that young men won't get the hit of nutrition, sewing, and other "taking care of yourself skills" that they will need in life.

Full time working woman that I have been all my life, I value and have honed my homemaking skills. My feminism says that women...and men...should have choices. And the female grads of this program will have at least as many as many female grads of secular universities.

Anonymous said...

My father, seventy years ago, took a home-ec-for-guys class at his college. It didn't make him feminine, any more than my other's drafting class made her masculine.

The Southern Baptists are more interested in turning the clock back to a mythical past than they are in the very real problems we have now.

Tom Richie said...

I learned the basics of cooking from my mother. Those skills came in handy during my marriage, especially after the kids were born. My wife was a fairly "liberated" woman who basically said that she didn't like to cook and she wasn't interested in learning. She was also quite a dynamic personality and provided what may have been some significant leadership for women in the State of California during the 70's and early 80's.

With so much attention being paid by conservative religious leaders to women's "proper" roles; socially, sexually, domestically, economically, etc. I tend to ask myself "what did Jesus think, say, do, about this issue. My search for the answer on that leads me to a different view than the conservative Christians of the Southern Baptist ilk.

Take, for instance, Jesus visit with Martha and Mary at the end of Luke 10. I think that passage cries out for women to pay attention to relationships and dine out if necessary. Respect womens dignity as equal human beings who are totally covered by the phrase "love thy neighbor as thyself." And let any man with the courage for it, into the Homemaking major. How bad would that be???

Miss Kitty said...

Wow. I thought this kind of backwards thinking had been left in the 1980s, when my aunt was still teaching Home Ec at my high school and girls made up 99% of her students. UGH.

I took Aunt C's class...and I still can't cook, change diapers, or entertain. Call it feminist resistance, I dunno.

Love the last lines of your post! So true--what happens when the "man of the house" (as Baptists so like to call him) dies, reveals he's gay, or leaves his wife for a 21-year-old Hooters waitress?

I worked as an exotic dancer for three years in Atlanta, heart of the Bible Belt; 99% of my customers were Republicans. 99% propositioned me, offering me money to come home with them, and then called me a whore when I turned them down (even though I was technically NOT whoring in turning them down). Any comment on that? It still makes me angry all these years later, though I can't put the words together to express WHY it still makes me livid.

Great blog--keep up the fantastic work.

ElhananWinchester said...

20 years ago, I finished my first semester at Southwestern. I was very different then, no doubt, but so was Southwestern. Back then, it was thickly pietistic, conservative evangelical, and not looney (well, not too looney--the library did close on Wed night for 2 hours so that students could attend Wed Prayer Meeting. But, that was really quaint rather than Falwellian). NOW, Oh my God! This is the kind of thing that makes me embarrassed to be an alum. (The old Southwestern, an insular place to be sure, still produced some good graduates--Bill Moyers is one of them. One of the "old" faculty, totally unknown outside Southern Baptist circles, T. B. Maston, earned his doctorate at Yale in the 1930s and started the formal study of Christian Ethics for Southern Baptists--at the Seminary. He was a strong advocate of racial integration before the Brown decision.

So, like boy in the bands, I gotta say this is both sad and quite a departure from the heritage of the school. The place never was progressive or liberal in any classic sense, but it did produce some educated clergy who could influence a Southern Baptist constituency in positive ways. That's not gonna happen anymore.

Debra W. Haffner said...

Thanks for all of your I received off line suggested that a man at the seminary apply to the major and then sue if they turned him down. Ms. Kitty, I understand the continuing sense of violation of your humanity. I think many of us who were victims of sexual harassment, in decades where that had no name, still carry wounds years later. Maybe I need to write about that.

Anonymous said...

Scott Well's closing comment makes me very sad because it is true. As a former Southern Baptist, I've heard that expression many times. For years Southern Baptist seminaries have offered courses for "seminary wives." Even though we are disappointed in a degree in homemaking, at least those taking the classes are now able to receive credit for them.

What concerns me more than Southwestern College's BA in Homemaking is Southwestern Seminary's courses on Biblical Womanhood.
Dorothy Patterson, wife of seminary president Paige Patterson, is one of the professors who teaches Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. A quick glance at the recommended reading list from her website gives insight regarding what her students are offered.
Dorothy Patterson often wears a hat to show her submission to her husband.

Paige Patterson visited my seminary once. He told me personally that, "Women were first to fall, last to be created, and saved in childbearing."

It is important to remember that not all Baptist are Southern Baptist and not all Southern Baptist are bound by the Southern Baptist Convention's "mandates". Southern Baptist churches are autonomous and can call whomever they want as pastors and staff, even women!

This past weekend I was with a group of Southern Baptist women. I asked several of them what they thought about the BA in Homemaking. Each woman I asked thought the degree was silly and was embarrassed by the Today Show’s report.

For the past two years Baptist Women in Ministry has produced the "State of Women in Baptist Life" report. It outlines the number of Baptist women serving as ministers. Most of the statistics are from American, Southern, and Cooperative Baptist Churches. The report can be accessed at

Suzanah Raffield

Anonymous said...

So the divorce rate will plummet if the wife can bake a cake?