OK, I thought I was done talking about other patriarchal societies, but then I ran across this little gem from Malaysia:  The Obedient Wives club.  This club was formed by a Muslim fringe group called Global Ikhwan on June 4th (earlier this year they also set up a Polygamy Club for women), so it is very much a contemporary story of patriarchal culture alive and well in southeast Asia.  A similar club was formed in Jordan last month, and branches of this club are also springing up in Indonesia.  The Malaysian group already has over 800 members.  The club’s aims are:

  1. To fight divorce
  2. To halt domestic violence
  3. To reduce infidelity
  4. End human trafficking

To accomplish these worthwhile goals, the plan is simple:  make wives more obedient to their husbands, especially in the bedroom.  Are the men off the hook?  No!  It is also partly their responsibility to teach their wives to be obedient.

Bear in mind that Malaysia is one of the most progressive Muslim nations, one in which women hold high political office, more women than men have higher education, and women are definitely not discouraged from working.  In fact, a 2010 survey showed that many Malaysian polygamous families struggle because the man has difficulty supporting the up to 4 wives to which he is entitled, so women often have to handle a career as well to keep their husband in extra wives (ahem, so to speak).

According to the group’s vice president:  “A good wife is a good sex worker to her husband. What is wrong with being a whore … to your husband?”  The club issued a proclamation, although I must say it differs a great deal from our own Proclamation on the Family.  Tidbits from the OWC proclamation:

  • OWC stresses that in Islam, there are 4 things a woman must do to enter Heaven:  pray, fast during Ramadan, protect her chastity, and be an obedient wife.  Mormons are not the only ones who love a list!
  • OWC hastened to clarify that they will not be offering practical sex lessons because that would be haramIn case you were wondering what went on in a harem, now you know.  It’s apparently what men fantasize happens in a pajama party vs. what women know from experience happens in a pajama party.
  • “A hungry man is an angry man.”  To clarify, this means that if there is a lack of sex in the marriage, the husbands will seek sex elsewhere, including from prostitutes, and even rape and incest.  So women are responsible for prostitution, rape, pedophilia and incestNice.
  • Wives should serve their husbands “better than a first-class prostitute.”  The OWC hastened to clarify that this was taken out of context (but putting it back in context didn’t – see explanation – really do it any favors!):

“When we said that husbands should treat wives like first-class prostitutes, we were not putting wives on the same level with prostitutes.  We are talking about first-class elite types, not street hooker types.  (I swear I am not making this up!) Our wives provide men with top-level service.  (WTH?!) However, ordinary prostitutes can only provide good sex, but not love and affection which only a wife can provide.  (Apparently they have never heard of GFEs, the Girl Friend Experience, a service some hookers provide).  Hence as wives we must treat our husbands better.  It’s not just in bed, but everything that a wife can offer.  Optimize your role.  If we provide our husbands more than a prostitute can give, then our husbands will not go out looking for it.”  (So women are responsible for male infidelity.)

Aside from the hairy-legged militant lesbians at Jezebel (that was sarcasm, BTW) who all did a collective morally-outraged spit-take, there are apparently many others who think this OWC is a bunch of crap (myself included).  According to an OWC spokesperson:  “Our noble intention has been unfairly misinterpreted.”  A counter-group on Facebook called “We do not want sexist nonsense from Global Ikhwan” was formed within days and immediately garnered over 2200 supporters.

Johor, a city in southern Malaysia, has rejected an Obedient Wives Club, stating that it is unfair to blame women entirely for divorce when their husbands have extra-marital affairs.  Gee, thanks.

A Muslim women’s group, Sisters in Islam (how easy would it be to rewrite that song Sister in Zion for them?), said Islam advocates marriages based on mutual cooperation and respect. It said domestic violence happens regardless of women’s behavior.  (in other news, water is wet)

Abusive men often use women’s behavior as a sick justification, but in the end, their actions are their responsibility,” said Ratna Osman, acting executive director at rights group Sisters-in-Islam. “To hinge fidelity, domestic violence and the fulfillment of a husband’s responsibilities purely on a wife’s capacity to be obedient, stimulate sexual arousal … is not only demeaning to wives, but to husbands as well.  Communication, not submission, is vital to sustain any healthy relationship.

One Muslim man, Amirul Aftar, wrote: “I do not want a wife to submit to my every beck and call. I want a wife who understands me … we are not your masters, we are your equal.”  And some are not even our equal!

To sum it up:  Women shouldn’t be women’s worst enemy.  Husbands have to take responsibility for their own behaviour.

So, are Mormons hardcore patriarchal or do we barely warrant the term?  We are certainly patriarchal lightweights compared to this, and yet . . .

  • Women are (more or less) put under oath to obey their husbands, but husbands are not required to do the same.
  • YW manuals could certainly use an overhaul in how they address issues like female modesty and chastity to ensure that we are not implying (as frankly I think the manuals sometimes are) that girls are responsible for male sexual responses.  Many of these manuals are not written from a girl’s perspective (based on her own feelings, spiritual and social needs, and intentions) but from that of a man or boy who has been tempted by girls.  But seriously – nothing even close to on par with this OWC.
  • Women do like to keep women in line from time to time, not a very enlightened trend.  Reminds me of The Color Purple when Whoopi is advocating her son beating up his wife Oprah.
  • Brigham Young certainly said some awful things that sound a lot like these statements when talking about the evils of monogamy.  Obviously not contemporary, but still.  His comments to women to suck it up and quit whining about polygamy are certainly a classic.  I wonder how many had the guts to take him up on his invitation to walk out.  What would you have done?
  • The contemporary church is very anti-prostitution, porn, and infidelity, and not only doesn’t blame women for male transgression, but kicks the crap out of the men for it.  Ideally, we should all be treated equally (no special treatment for women), but sometimes the pendulum swings too much the other way in reaction to a former stance.  And Brigham Young’s statements are quite a former stance!

What do you think?  Is the church patriarchal or not?  Do we teach equality or subservience?  Should wives have to obey husbands and not the other way around?  Discuss.