Erik Wesner posed a question on his latest post on the blog Amish America that asked, “Are Amish women happy?” I responded with these comments:
The answer to this first question posed is probably as varied as the question of “Are American women happy?” It is impossible to make a generalization.
Yes, Amish women have a vote in church, but at least in the community in which I grew up, a woman was expected to voice her disagreements to her husband, who was then the designated spokesman. It was never clear to me who I was supposed to go to when I disagreed. I had to stay silent about my disagreement and vote “yes” with every other woman in the congregation, even though every fiber in my being sometimes protested.
As for me, I was not a happy Amish woman. My independent nature was a problem. The “why” questions that boiled up from within were a problem in a culture where one doesn’t ask questions. And above all the domination that the men in the community lorded over me was a problem, whether it was the bishop admonishing me in public for jogging, my father getting violent with me for a perceived slight, or my older brother bullying me into doing exactly what he wanted me to — making a meal for him, washing his buggy, getting his bath water ready, cleaning the floor after his haircut… it didn’t matter how small the demand… it had more to do with whether or not I did it submissively.
I was not the only unhappy Amish woman. There are those who feel stuck, perhaps by their family circumstances (many children, for instance) making it nearly impossible for them to leave, or else they don’t have the courage to leave the only culture they know. I feel for these women.
I would agree there are also happy Amish women. In fact, I knew some of them. Theirs was a submissive, quiet nature, and I often envied them that. It is also why they are still there and I am not.