Women

12.14.13

Europe's Submissive Wives

A new book coaching women on how to be a meek housewife is a best-seller on the continent—and outraging feminists and politicians alike.

On the cover of a best-selling new “how-to” book for newlywed women that’s all the rage in Europe, readers are greeted with a framed stencil of a groom with his bride in his arms, as though he’s just rapturously swept her off her feet. The groom’s mouth is turned upwards, satisfied and content. But there’s no joy on his bride’s face; her eyes are closed, her head bowed as though in prayer, a tentative hand on her husband’s heart.

It’s not what one might expect to be splashed across a manual for the modern housewife, especially not one that has been perched atop Amazon’s bestseller list in Spain for weeks. Italian author Costanza Miriano’s Cásate y sé sumisa (“Get Married and Be Submissive”) was, she says, inspired by the Gospel of Saint Paul, in which he details the need for female subservience to both men and the Church (“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection”). Indeed, her advice for newlywed women is as straightforward as the book’s title: “If you only do what is right for you, what you think, then you are not married to a man, you are married to yourself. Instead of doing that, you should submit to him.”

Another representative sample of Miriano’s fundamentalism: “It’s true, you’re not yet an experienced cook or a perfect housewife,” she writes. “What’s the problem if he tells you so? Tell him that he is right, that it’s true, that you will learn. On seeing your sweetness and your humility, your effort to change, this will also change him.”

“It’s true, you’re not yet an experienced cook or a perfect housewife,” she writes. “What’s the problem if he tells you so? Tell him that he is right, that it’s true, that you will learn.

Naturally—and justifiably—Miriano’s book has provoked fury among feminists, while attracting praise from more traditionalist supporters of the Catholic Church. That it was published by Francisco Javier Martinez, the Catholic Archbishop of the Spanish city of Granada, has further incensed the country’s expanding population of secularists. Feminist protesters have ripped copies of the book to shreds, claiming it promotes violence against women—in particular, one passage that reads, “We [women] like humiliation because it is for a greater good.”

Even the country’s opposing political parties have found common ground in denouncing the book. Spain’s Socialist Party has slammed Miriano’s promotion of “inequality, chauvinism and discrimination,” while the ruling Partido Popular’s minister of equality has called for the outright banning of the book.

But Archbishop Martinez shrugs off demands to remove Cásate y sé sumisa from bookstores, calling its critics “ridiculous and hypocritical,” and citing abortion as a more extreme ‘act of violence’ against women than the book’s content.

The message Miriano is preaching is an odd throwback in a Europe that is becoming increasingly secular, though it’s unclear if the readers are using the book as a manual for marriage or as a source of outrage. In any case, the government’s censorious instinct seems a throwback to Franco’s draconian state, unbefitting a modern EU member. As antiquated as the book seems to modern, secular Spaniards, to withdraw it based on its controversial content is an idea as outdated as total submission to a husband’s will.