Promise Keepers: supporting or oppressing women?
October 4, 1997
Web posted at: 1:17 p.m. EDT (1717 GMT)
From Correspondent Jeanne Meserve
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Some feminists are alarmed by the Promise
Keepers' statements on gender relations within the family.
The organization essentially promotes the idea of "husband
leads, wife follows" -- a stance critics say severely
restricts women's freedom.
In the midst of the debate, the traditional role models seem
to be working for some couples.
Karen Paparelli of Patchogue, Washington, told CNN that,
while Promise Keepers is exclusively for men, it had improved
She said her husband Tony has changed.
"He has been more involved in raising the children. He has
taken a more active role, and he has been more involved in
Tony admitted that his views and priorities were changed by
the tenets of Promise Keepers: "In the past I was a little
more career-oriented and really thinking that being the
breadwinner was enough to be a husband. But there really is a
lot more to it than that."
It would seem that a man's increased devotion to his family
would meet one of the main goals of the women's movement. But
some feminists are skeptical, saying that Promise Keepers not
only want to change the role of men, but also that of women.
"When they say men should take responsibility, they really
mean men should take control ... that men should be heads and
masters of their families, and women should take a back seat.
That is a very bad message as far as I am concerned," said
Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for
NOW has been waging a campaign against Promise Keepers in an
attempt to unmask what it sees as the true nature of the
group: a feel-good form of male supremacy.
But Promise Keepers reject such allegations, and maintain
they urge men to take responsibility for their families, as
spelled out in the Bible.
"We believe in a biblical model of leadership in the home ...
which is the man is a spiritual leader of his home and ought
to lead by example spiritually in the home," Promise Keepers
spokesman Mark DeMoss told CNN.
That echoes the philosophy of Women of Faith, the largest of
several ministries for women that have sprung up in response
to Promise Keepers.
"A man should serve his wife, a man should be willing to die
for his wife. And if you have a man that is willing to do
that for you, it would probably be a really good idea to
subordinate yourself to that man," said Stephen Arterburn,
founder of Women of Faith.
Karen Paparelli attended a Women of Faith rally, and applies
their beliefs in her marriage to Tony.
"He actually is the head of the household, more or less the
way my father was when I was growing up ... where he stands
up and takes the authority. And it doesn't mean he rules with
a rod. But when the last decision needs to be made, I will
look to him to make that decision, and I won't overstep
that," she said.
That may sound paternalistic to some ears, but for Karen and
Tony it seems to have worked. After coming close to divorce a
few months after their marriage, it was the formula that
allowed them to keep the promises of their wedding day.