It’s not exactly a secret that the Republican Party has struggled with women voters in recent election cycles. Party officials are well aware of the gender gap; they’re eager to reverse the trend; and they’ve even coached Republican lawmakers – more than once – about how not to say offensive things that push women towards Democrats.
And yet, some GOP officials might need some additional tutoring. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake reports that Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) has a new book in which the congressman argues a wife is to “voluntarily submit.”
In the book, the Vietnam War veteran says that both the military chain of command and the family unit need a structure in which everyone plays his or her role.He said that, in his family’s experience, this meant that his wife, Cynthia, would submit to him and he would lead.“The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice,” he writes, citing the Bible. “The husband’s part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else.”
It’s worth emphasizing that from Pearce’s perspective, the notion that wives should be submissive doesn’t necessarily mean wives are subordinate. “The wife’s submission is not a matter of superior versus inferior; rather, it is self-imposed as a matter of obedience to the Lord and of love for her husband,” he writes.
So, according to the Republican congressman, married women should be obedient and submissive, but not necessarily unequal. How does that make sense? I haven’t the foggiest idea.
Note, many of the more notable controversies involving GOP candidates and rhetoric about women were the result of off-the-cuff comments. Todd Akin’s notorious 2012 comments came during a television interview, for example, while Richard Mourdock’s rape comments were made during a debate. They were sincere, to be sure, but they weren’t scripted.
Pearce, on the other hand, shared his views on women voluntarily submitting in a book. The Republican lawmaker had an opportunity to take his time, choose his words carefully, and even clarify his thoughts later, and the congressman still wanted to make the case that married women should be submissive to their husbands.
It is, of course, true that Pearce’s religious beliefs are his own and he’s free to interpret his holy text however he pleases. It’s also true that there will be plenty of Americans who share his views about gender roles and traditional family structure.
But in a political context, Republicans are eager to tell women voters that the GOP is a modern party capable of appealing to a broad and diverse electorate. Republicans, who’ve lost countless races because of the gender gap, desperately wants to present the party as one that respects women and believes in equality.
Pearce’s book helps do the exact opposite.