On Being a Domestic Extremist

Peachy Keenan’s Practical Guide to Winning the Culture War

The feminist wing of orthodox Protestantism has been stalled out for decades in a bizarre, cherry-picked version of the second wave. Its platform is something like this: Abortion is bad. Votes for women! Equal work for equal pay! Only men should be pastors for some reason, but that is absolutely the only thing that women cannot do. Men need to listen to women. Support single moms and rescue victims of domestic violence. No questions asked [of women]! Expecting or telling women to get married and have babies, or to promote or praise marriage and motherhood, is right out.

Time will tell how adherents to this outlook will receive an onslaught that is underway. Dissidents (she/her) are targeting the minority of women who benefit from feminism’s insatiable demand for self-definition. It turns out that defining yourself means un-defining everyone around you, and people are starting to notice what a ratty thing that is to do.

The stale memes that animate the unexamined feminist life are being exposed by subversive critics. Many of these subversives operate under the descriptor of “sex realism.” Their targets necessarily include the all-but-pastors and would-be wise women who watch over the evangelical longhouse. Among the subversives is Peachy Keenan, some anonymous Twitter-based convert to breederism. Her book, Domestic Extremist, is the game plan for everyone who has seen the sorry playbook approved for women and recognized that it can’t win. “It’s a mystery worth contemplating,” Peachy says. “How did a ragtag group of shrill, grating hags get their way? Why is there only one acceptable mainstream cultural blueprint for female life? Why?”

Here’s what’s interesting: none of these critics of feminism argue from a primarily Christian locus. They are not the home front counterpart of historical repristinators, or radicalized prairie muffins. They offer their critique as refugees of the status quo, not because the Bible tells them so. Life itself has demonstrated that the sexual revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. The thesis of Domestic Extremist in particular is one that most Christians have been unwilling to deliver for several generations: If you can, get married, have kids, and care for them yourself.

Domestic Extremist illustrates how women have been robbed of their fertility, role, gender, virtues, men, sole mates, unborn children, maternal instincts, real jobs, parental authority, and happiness. The perps are “petty girlboss tyrants . . . New World Order globalists . . . [and] nasty women (and men) who hold public office.” Since the average victim cannot lock these people up, Peachy’s prescribed course of action is rejecting mainstream culture’s ideal version of being female. By choosing to keep your baby. By having another baby, and maybe a third for good measure. By staying home with your very young children. By rejecting the myth of “toxic masculinity” and celebrating men as heroes and protectors. By getting married young and staying married. And crucially: by avoiding emotional enslavement to destructive contemporary ideas and influences, in all their forms.

It’s common to hear older women respond to a message like this by saying, “I wish someone had told me that when I was 20.” I wonder how often their meaning is, “I wish I had been willing to hear that when I was 20.” How many 20-year-olds are really open to contrarian advice that’s hard to imagine living out? In fact, Peachy’s proposal is well-known to young people. The trouble is that it has been presented to them as a boogeyman that can only be defeated with untold megatons of sclerotic feminism.

In fairness, deciding that early marriage and a lot of kids are the proper thing is not the same for a woman who is 20, and a woman who is 30 and has tried all the bad ideas. That’s probably a difference of three or four babies, and babies are the world’s biggest differential. The procreative long haul necessarily begins early. The young woman who takes up this charge lays little groundwork for a comfortable place in the workforce later on, takes a lot of wear and tear on her body, and answers for the fundamental well-being of numerous human beings. Meanwhile, people her own age are starting to make adult money while using their off hours to continue acting like children.

And yet, there are domestic extremists. They show that this way of life is possible. Peachy keenly points out what domestic extremism need not include: backyard chickens, dresses, aprons, freshly baked bread, essential oils, homesteading, homeschooling, homebirthing. You can be home, she says, without being a home-maniac. This is welcome news, because if you get married, have kids, and stay home with them, it won’t be long before the internet starts sending you reels of women mending torn Memoria Press books with hand-scudded vellum.

The contemporary manifestation of the cult of domesticity is not a patriarchal conspiracy. It is an aesthetic; history repeating itself as farce. Its driver is an accident in search of an ethos: an unintended consequence of staying home with kids is a fair amount of time that is hard to use well. Time that is not spent on the immediate care of little people is still subject to constant interruption, making it difficult to dig into a task. Additionally, the incidental tasks that fall to an at-home mom are the ones that don’t go to the “best and brightest” on the open job market. This creates a morale problem for the triple-digit IQ maternal unit. Cooking and cleaning are necessities that a one-income, middle-class family is not able to outsource. An age-old way to keep Mom happy is to spin these necessities into virtues.

Keeping house well is commendable, but bundling tradwife LARPing with domestic extremism is a mistake Peachy refuses to make. No serious person can believe that sewing is a cost-saving skill when a child’s dress costs $8 at Walmart, nor that cooking from scratch is essential to health while the world’s top-performing soldiers are fueled on MREs. Tradwife lifestyling runs on a monoculture of taste, which is plain weird. Personal taste should be a failsafe against the hazards of monoculture. The point of keeping your own house is that, within your means, you get to do it your own way. A woman does not make her house her own by making it look like every other house, whether that’s a replica of a  Dwell photo spread, or a homestead swarming with caprine and human kids. Peachy’s recognition of this shows that domestic extremism is not the political branch of the cult of domesticity. It’s the true doctrine, and therefore the antidote.

Fake tradwifing also assumes that SAHMs’ hard-to-access free time can be given over to hobbies, rather than trying to scrape together some pin money. There’s a reason domestic extremists get tangled up in schemes to sell their neighbors ghastly leggings. I’ll leave this critical point to Mary Harrington (actually, read her whole book too). The sort of good news is that the same technology that has wrecked so much human joy can enable some domestic extremism. Knowledge workers are those most able to lean out of the formal workforce. Women who sit in front of computers can flip their workday. They can take that infamous second shift while the sun is up, and pound the keyboard while the kids are in bed. There will be fewer hours and no benefits, but also no daycare.

But most women are not knowledge workers. They are, broadly speaking, real-time caregivers. Their work has to do with the support and needs of the body, and cannot be accomplished through a screen. This is the reason for the uprising against women whose jobs require hand washing only as hygiene theater, and not actual hygiene. They have built their lives by laying burdens they don’t want to carry on the backs of other women. Running the longhouse is a tough job. You’ve got to keep cracking the whip to make sure the trash gets taken out, the diapers get changed, and the pastors don’t say anything remotely critical about women. My shoulder gets sore just thinking about it!

Peachy is evidence of the Parthian shieldmaiden. If phrases were pancakes, she’d turn more than an IHOP manager with an all-millennial staff. That is to say, tone is a big problem with this book, and we know how women feel about tone. Then again, winsomeness on the topic of female vocation has been beautifully, timelessly executed, and only seems to persuade those who are already converted. Domestic Extremist might be nothing more than a prickly way of Peaching to the choir.

But questions of rhetorical style remind me of a birth story I heard from a friend. She finally dislodged her child when her caring, supportive midwife got in her face and barked at her to get this over with. This sounds terrible, but it was just what the agonized mother needed to hear to become the master of her ordeal and gain the joy of her baby. Women have fought hard for the chance to get bawled out by drill sergeants. Maybe traditionalists have misunderstood that they should have been yelling at their daughters the whole time. Get married, you oxygen thief! Have kids!

Furthermore, Peachy calls to mind a characteristically tossed-off insight from Anthony Trollope:  “[A]n ounce of ridicule is often more potent than a hundredweight of argument.” If there’s anything a narcissist can’t stand, it’s being laughed at. Golly, here’s Mr. Trollope again: “No priestly pride has ever exceeded that of sacerdotal females.” Pointing out the arrogance of feminism’s Brahmins is merely honest.  It’s charitable to let them know that they’re silly and help them toward a suitable, flattering look. I don’t know what’s more ridiculous, a dude in a corset or a dame in a cassock. But when other remedies have failed, laughter might be a medicine worth trying. (I am only sort of joking here. The height of human actualization is the hard-won humility required to laugh at oneself.)

Peachy and I have our differences. I am on the record for a pro-natal policy that begins with state-subsidized night nannies for postpartum mothers. I have heard the “don’t fold laundry” thing before, and count it madness. I am even that gal whose heart cries AKSHUALLY . . . upon reading  “We can all agree that voting and equal rights for all people, including women, are good.” And, of course, I wish that Peachy’s crowning act of repentance had been to become a Lutheran rather than a papist. But a prophet is without honor in his hometown. If an outsider turns out to be the older woman who is able to teach the younger, ‘twould be peachy keen.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Rebekah Curtis

Rebekah Curtis is coauthor of LadyLike (Concordia 2015). Her writing can be found online at The American Conservative, Public Discourse, and First Things, and in print for Chronicles, Touchstone, Modern Reformation, and a variety of Lutheran publications. Her day job is housewife, church lady, and school mom.