by Max Brantley
Well, I've been back in Little Rock for one full day. Here's my home-again open line, including:
* SPANKING WIVES FOR JESUS: I ignored the report from a satire website that the wacky Pat Robertson had endorsed spanking disobedient wives. This satirical item cited the familiar evangelical view on wifely submission to their husbands and, as the website notes, its satire sometimes comes awfully close to reflecting reality. But it seemed worth mentioning when along came the real thing on the role of women from a similar corner of the religious universe. It was this Daily Beast report about a purported movement in which wives willingly submit to corporal punishment from husbands, many out of religious belief. The anecdotal example on one wife beater:
First, he shapes his hands for “warm-up” slaps. Then comes a combination of tools based on the specific infraction. The wooden spoon is the least severe; for the worst ruple-breaking—like texting while driving (“It could kill me,” Chelsea admits) or moving money between accounts without his permission—she’ll be hit with something else: a hairbrush, a paddle, or a leather strap.
But this isn’t domestic abuse, Chelsea says. This is for Jesus.
Chelsea and her husband Clint, who asked that I use only their first names, belong to a small subculture of religious couples who practice “Christian Domestic Discipline,” a lifestyle that calls for a wife to be completely submissive to her husband. Referred to as CDD by its followers, the practice often includes spanking and other types corporal punishments administered by husbands—and ostensibly ordained by God. While the private nature of the discipline makes it difficult to estimate the number of adherents, activity in several online forums suggests a figure in the low thousands. Devotees call CDD an alternative lifestyle and enthusiastically sing its praises; for critics, it’s nothing but domestic abuse by another name.
When a wife breaks her husband’s rules—rolling her eyes, maybe, or just feeling “meh,” as one blogger put it—that can equal punishments which are often corporal but can also be “corner time”; writing lines (think “I will not disobey my master” 1,000 times); losing a privilege like internet access; or being “humbled” by some sort of nude humiliation. Some practice “maintenance spanking,” wherein good girls are slapped on a schedule to remind them who’s boss; some don’t.
In this vein of proper gender roles we have still more nuttiness from Republican U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia, a medical doctor of a sort. In a House speech, according to Talking Points Memo, he suggested that young boys and girls should be enrolled in classes to educate them on gender roles so that they can learn "what's important."
"Maybe part of the problem is we need to go back into the schools at a very early age, maybe at the grade school level, and have a class for the young girls and have a class for the young boys and say, you know, this is what's important," Gingrey said on the House floor, while defending the Defense of Marriage Act.