The Feminized Male: Chapters 1-2

The first post in this series can be read here.

Sifting thought the ideas offered in The Feminized Male, one finds both insightful bits and cognitively dissonant bits, which is often the case when feminists hit on a truism without following it through to its logical conclusion due to their cognitive dissonance. There is also a sense in which the scholastic work involved here seems to be launched from a faulty premise, but it’s still early.

Chapter 1: Male Misfits

The quote I cited in the introductory post was from this chapter. The opening salvo is that boys are being vastly underserved by modern institutions, thus creating vast numbers of men who don’t fit in anywhere. The author makes a point of noting that increasing numbers of young men were protesting against the educational establishment, and rightly so. Those that weren’t protesting vocally, she asserts, were rebelling in more destructive ways. She pointed out the lopsided imbalance of behavioral issues between males and females using every available statistical metric (social and school problems, accidents, prison rates, etc.), and ended with my original quote [here expanded through the end of the chapter]:

More troubled by social roles and sex norms as well as genetics, modern men lead a rougher life than women. More is expected of them and their emotional outlets are more limited. They must fight – not cry, tremble, cream, or run. They must stay cool, take care of themselves, keep their own counsel. They are under more pressure and have fewer escape valves. Often institutions that rear them -especially home and school- do not help them become men, but on the contrary feminize them, keeping them dependents and minors.Thus many males are stunted in normal masculine growth and, rebelling against the conspiracy, become outsiders and misfits. For rebel and conformist alike, the stress finally shows itself in the male’s shorter lifespan- sixty-seven years against the female’s average of seventy-four.

Chapter 2: Masculinity and Its Adversaries

This chapter began with a very interesting quote, which piqued my curiosity immediately.

Look for a woman at the bottom of our troubles, the French say- cherchez la femme. Look even deeper, I say, and you will find a man. What my husband claims I am doing in this book is blaming men for putting women in a position where they can feminize young boys. He seems to think it’s a little funny that I should end an inquiry (as I shall) into the emasculation of men with a strongly feminist theme.

The Feminized Male, Sexton, p. 12

It’s not only funny, it’s predictable. Thankfully, I bought this little book used and not new. I’m sharing with you as I read, so there is still opportunity to be pleasantly surprised with gems of value. However, I approached this book with certain assumptions which are showing themselves erroneous. One expectation was that evidence of where we were headed was laid bare long before red pills, honey badgers,Warren Farrell’s Myth of Male Power, and even before Herb Goldberg. I fear we may another case of “right diagnosis, toxic prescription”.

To be fair, as is often the case with books such as these, there are several insightful turns and opportunities to think more deeply and nuanced thoughts about complex issues such as navigating a world with increasingly eroding sex distinctions. The very notion of “increasingly eroding sex distinctions” sounds quaint given the state of the post modern West, but we’re looking backward from the ashes, so the errors in logic are much easier for us to spot.

Despite my unease with the ending of this chapter, which basically lays out the same old tired feminist argument that men and women would both be better served if there were more women in traditionally male dominated fields, this bit of wisdom stood out:

A boy who follows female norms can confidently be termed less masculine than one who follows female norms. From evidence to be found in this volume and elsewhere, it appears that male norms stress values such as courage, inner direction, certain forms of aggression, autonomy, mastery, technological skill, group solidarity, adventure, and a considerable amount of toughness in mind and body.

The Feminized Male, Sexton, p. 15

After taking a short detour to offer requisite caveats (the author’s own father, for instance, was both a professional boxer and a man who enjoyed embroidery and poetry during his leisure), she notes:

As it is, I believe, the maleness in boys is being too constrained by schools and other restricting forces in the society.


In the most politically incorrect yet insightful portion I have read so far, Sexton also takes time in chapter 2 to contrast feminized males versus “sissies” and both against homosexuals. The feminized male may or may not be a “sissy”, although many are, and the feminized male may or may not be homosexual. In her rubric, the entire concept of the feminized male is rooted in personality, assertiveness, and communication traits.

I’ll end this portion of my analysis with what I thought was another great point. Namely, that the push towards white collar desk jobs and away from physically demanding jobs for men has exacerbated this trend of men behaving in more feminized ways. She notes that the work men do has an affect on their overall personalities, and that this begins at younger and younger ages:

Office jobs and organizational life also frequently demand unmanly amounts of submission and inactivity; in this respect too, society feminizes men. Schools prepare these boys for these emasculating white collar jobs [she notes this most heavily a middle class phenomenon] by confining them to deodorized hothouses, rewarding the best desk-sitters, and, when not antagonizing them, converting the more restless males to the clerical way of life.

The Feminized Male, Sexton, page 18-19

This chapter had potential, but was ultimately ruined by Sexton’s irresistible urge to interject the necessary feminist dogma about how much better it would be for men and women alike if technological career spaces were more “humanized” by a greater presence of female workers. Perhaps she will address it as we continue to read, but it was not lost on me that she never considers that a certain amount of masculinizing women would be necessary to dramatically increase the numbers of women in particular career fields.

Until next time…

Introductory Post: The Feminized Male by Patricia Sexton

The Feminized Male: Classrooms, White Collars, and the Decline of Manliness, by Patricia Sexton. Originally published in 1969.

I recently, as I do often, contemplated the way my father -silent generation- reasoned and communicated. My husband reasons similarly, despite being in the latter half of our GenX cohort. I wonder at the trajectory of communication in general, but about the stark change in masculine communication in particular.

It’s not a perpetual item of thought, but every now and again I have a conversation, an experience or run across a piece of writing that reminds me that I am witnessing a real phenomena with real implications for the world we’re leaving to the generations coming behind us. That’s what happened when I picked up this little book last Friday at our local used bookstore and began reading. I also immediately realized that like Modern Romance, Mating in Captivity, and The Feminine Mystique, this is the sort of book that I’ll best digest if I take notes as I read, so I’ll go a step further and blog through it.

We’ll begin our jaunt through this modern academic classic later this week, but let’s begin with a quote which sets the tone for what I expect to find as we explore it together. I chose this one because it flies in the face of modern conventional wisdom, yet was penned back in 1969, when our social structure was one in which men wielded significantly more influence than women, although that is clearly changing:

More troubled by social roles and sex norms as well as genetics, modern men lead a rougher life than women. More is expected of them and their emotional outlets are more limited. They must fight – not cry, tremble, cream, or run. They must stay cool, take care of themselves, keep their own counsel. They are under more pressure and have fewer escape valves. Often institutions that rear them -especially home and school- o not help them become men, but on the contrary feminize them, keeping them dependents and minors.

Feminized Men, Sexton, page 10

It is my earnest desire to judge Mrs. Sexton’s work on its merits rather than slather my opinions all over it. However, from the moment I read the first chapter -and that is as far as I’ve read at this point- I knew immediately that the above sentiments could never be uttered in polite post modern company. She’d be run out of the party!

As a visionary whose largely anonymously blazed trail is now being settled by new thinkers and commentators, Patricia Sexton was both ahead of her time, and a woman of her time. You’ll see what I mean as we delve deeper.

I hope you’re willing to join me on this deep dive into Feminized Men: Classrooms, White Collars, and the Decline of Manliness.

The Co-opting of “Homeschooling”

Several months ago, The Practical Conservative wrote this:

Homeschooling is acceptable fringe. Homeschooling is an interesting case because it’s being successfully co-opted and drained of its fringeyness and, well, that’s another post for another day.

At the time, I was hoping she would elaborate further, but I have decided that there is truly no need for more commentary. I already knew what she was intimating but am now convinced. The homeschool “community” our family enlisted into back in the very early 2010s is no more. The vanguards of home education, families -mostly Christian but also irreligious- who stepped into uncharted waters in the 1980s and early 1990s, often with great opposition, were a very different breed than the families beginning to homeschool today.

As our homeschool journey has unfolded, we have developed a philosophy of education and parenting that aligns more closely with those pioneers than with the evolution and present philosophy of most contemporary home educating families. The ability to retain final authority over what and how our children learn, the importance of a Biblical worldview in every subject they are taught, and a firm resolve to keep the state, whether it’s material or its money, out of our homeschool has bound us to many families who were in the old guard.

Fairly frequently, we have our brains picked by parents of younger children who cannot afford full-time private school tuition, but are looking for a way out of the government schools. Most are not particularly interested in the grind of being the primary drivers of their kids’ education. To be fair I started out, and remained for many years, a reluctant home educator. I strongly relate to these parents. When you’ve never done it, there is an unshakable fear that you’re going to do it all wrong and ruin your kids’ education, so you search for ways to delegate as much as possible.

The one thing that stopped me from relying heavily on external support during our early homeschool years was the fact that there were simply not many options our my area when we started out. Additionally, I didn’t know anyone else who was homeschooling at the time. My community of moms were all utilizing the public schools, just as we did with our older kids. There were a few cooperative groups which provided enrichment and social opportunities, but the heavy lifting of what to teach, and how to teach it to our children, was left mainly to us.

Five years into it, a world of options opened up. As we learned about the assortment of affordable programs, we quickly began to avail ourselves of those opportunities. At that time, however, there was still a very large commitment required on our part.This included volunteering as teachers, playground supervisors, field trip chaperones, etc. It was simply not possible to disengage from the dailyness of homeschooling simply because we had a small support network.

Things have changed rapidly over the past few years, as there are now many options for homeschool families which look a lot like school. Many still require quite a lot of heavy lifting on the part of parents, but a few do not; or at least it seems that way on the surface. There is no such thing as a free lunch. No one is going to properly educate your kids for $1.50. Unfortunately, many parents aren’t invested enough in the homeschool effort to appreciate what this means.

This unfortunate development in the trajectory of home education is only set to become worse as red states begin to enact “the funds follow the child” legislation. These laws make it easier for parents desperately searching for options outside the government system to afford alternative educational options for their children. The upsides of this are readily apparent. Anything that breaks the stranglehold of the government education monopoly is a positive good. Local schools have ceased to reflect public sentiment, and as such are no longer “public” institutions. As they transform into workshops for churning out loyal leftist soldiers in the culture war, undermining these schools, and depleting them of recruits, is a necessary and welcome strategy.

The downside to this is that many parents who are unfamiliar with the true aims of homeschooling (the aims of the OG secular as well as religious homeschoolers), are engaging in a practice that is wholly unmoored from any of the original three rails of educational choice. Before, there was public education (now more properly identified as government indoctrination), private education, and home education. There are now new, uncharted terrains which don’t fit neatly into any of these categories. The first is virtual education using the government curriculum and staff for dissemination. Despite the presence of a full time virtual teacher employed through the government system, many people label this option “homeschooling” based solely upon the premise that the education is being received primarily in the home.

The second is hybrid education, which is most easily defined as a more complicated and academically targeted version of the old fashioned homeschool co-op. In the old fashioned co-op, families met once a week, moms did all of the teaching, and the courses/activities were often viewed as enrichment rather than meeting state education requirements, which was still mostly handled through the families at home.

The new, hybrid school version often consists of paid teachers and students meeting at least twice a week. It’s much more expensive than the old fashioned co-op, but much less expensive than a full time private school. The courses can and do check off the required state boxes. However, there is one big exception in this model when compared to the others. Despite the regular classroom environment, families who utilize this option are still technically considered homeschooling families because we have the responsibility of educating our children the other three days of the week.

The problem with this new paradigm is that every family whose children are at home most days of the week is being lumped into the category of a “homeschool family”. This means that, since 2020, millions more homeschool families have been added to the ranks of homeschoolers even though they possess none of the passion, purpose, and understanding of the fact that homeschooling is defined largely by the omission of government influence on the children’s educations.

I’m not sure how this movement into the mainstream from the “acceptable fringe” is going to affect future generations of homeschoolers. Since our youngest child only has 3 years of high school remaining, I am tempted to put my head down, finish it out, and not care. However, I actually care a great deal, and I want future generations of American families to enjoy the educational liberty and parental authority that my husband and I have been able to exercise in the lives of our kids.

Something tells me that they will not, because it’s a thing they will have never known.

LGB Without The TQ

Over the past few months, I have noticed a number of conservative groups embrace the saying “LGB without the TQ,”1 but this is not a consistent conservative position, and its certainly not a biblical position. With this has come the acceptance of groups like Gays Against Groomers and the Log Cabin Republicans, but these organizations […]

LGB Without The TQ

Living Books vs Textbooks

I am already, believe it or not, preparing for the 2023-2024 academic year. It’s quite an adventure as I will be teaching a type of history that I have never before taught in a classroom setting. The deeper I delve into the merits and drawbacks of a classical education, the more I find myself drawn to the idea of living books over garden variety textbooks. The above graphic offers a fairly succinct and cogent explanation of what distinguishes a living book from other types of academic texts. There are also other, more pragmatic differences that come into view when considering which book to use for teaching 32 weeks of material without spending every waking moment building curricula and activities to present in a classroom.

Having taught a class where my ideals compelled me to build a year-long curriculum from the ground up, I can testify that this is daunting and the hours are a massive mismatch from the remuneration involved. As a result I have with heavy heart, and am about to do so again, chosen a text book over a living book. Additionally, parents actually seem to prefer text books and prepared curriculum, particularly well known names such as Abeka and BJU Press. Additionally, I have found that the vast majority of living texts, especially in the domain of history, are secular books which to do not present material from a Christian perspective. To be fair, great living books are usually fair to favorable to the Christian faith, and that is because living books tend to be older books, written before the current ideological madness of the past 20 years.

My recent journey into this dilemma is related to teaching world history at the middle school level. After some back and forth with our school’s administrator, I’ve decided to teach from Abeka books’ History of the World in Christian Perspective. It’s okay, and it will get the job done. It will save me hours and hours of prep work, and it will also free up time for me to research interesting and engaging activities for the students so that we all have a enriching learning experience. It’ll do.

I won’t have to prepare quizzes and tests, as I had to do this year, and I won’t have to do as much leg work as I have done in previous years, such as when I built my Florida history curriculum, activities and all, from scratch using a plethora of sources. I suspect when all is said and done, I will ultimately be glad this was the direction I was strongly urged to go it. And yet…

I cannot stop thinking about E.H. Gombrich’s 1935 book, A Little History of the World, published by Yale Academic Press (broken clocks twice a day and all that). This, my reading friends, is a living book! There are not an abundance of resources on which to draw to build out 32 weeks of class time and assignments, but I enjoyed it so much that I was more than willing to do the work. It is all of the things our graphic describes: One author, passionate about the subject and his audience. It is very secular in scope, but it treats Christianity fairly. It treats other religions equally fair, but that’s the beauty of a Christian education. It gives us the opportunity to parse these different ideas in light of Truth, and come to conclusions based on relevant comparisons. This is imperative however, and takes time as noted by the linked articles brief description of the potential drawbacks of using living books. There are a few:

There are a few downsides to using living books in your homeschool. Here are a few of them:

  • Living books are somewhat limited because they focus on one specific topic, which takes time to explore.
  • Living books often must be read as a whole to learn the material.
  • With living books, some students get bogged down in the story and lose sight of what they are learning.

Obviously, I believe the benefits far override any downsides, and using these types of narrative expertise books in a classroom setting offers the instructor the perfect opportunity to work through the most important aspects of the material.

Of course, the idea of living books as the be-all, end-all of learning can have limited application. While such books can, with well prepared lessons, breather life into the learning of certain subjects, there are other subjects where traditional textbooks will work just as well, or often better. This is easily identifiable with regard to math, and specific sciences. Interestingly, the articles on living books which are linked above are primarily focused on science curriculum.

Just a few thoughts I am developing on the importance of infusing life and enthusiasm into learning in an educational paradigm that is increasingly lifeless and void of real learning.


Does Science Validate the Bible, or Vice Versa?

Our school is on Easter break, which has given me a little time to finish drafts and write a couple of posts between now and Good Friday. I wish I could announce this as the beginning of a return to regular posting here, but it’s not, so don’t get used to it. The best course of action is to subscribe to me via email (click the little blue box at the top over there —->) or through your WordPress app. That way, when I post, you’ll see it. Now that I’ve finished with the shameless plug…

It’s very gratifying to read that once again, “the science” is catching up to the Bible. Before I dig into all the whys, wherefores, and folks who claim that this proves nothing, let’s look at the article. From Not the Bee:

One of the core arguments against the historicity of the Bible and the flood account in Genesis by scientists has been that a global flood is impossible because there simply is not enough water on earth to flood the entire thing.

This despite the fact that there is evidence accepted from secular scientists that there was clearly a global cataclysm at some point in earth’s recent history.

But where did the water come from?

In Genesis chapter 7, this is what the Bible says:

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.

All the fountains of the great deep burst forth.

The general consensus was that this is nonsense. Except in 2014, this was discovered:

Scientists discovered that we essentially have a reservoir of water hidden beneath our feet – though it might not look that way at first.

This huge supply of water is buried a whopping 400 miles underground, so it’s not exactly accessible.

Plus, it’s contained inside a blue rock known as ‘ringwoodite’ in the Earth’s mantel, which acts as a sort of sponge for that huge body of H2O.

So it’s not a liquid, solid, or gas, but a fourth molecular structure of water contained inside the mantle rock.

“The ringwoodite is like a sponge, soaking up water, there is something very special about the crystal structure of ringwoodite that allows it to attract hydrogen and trap water,” said geophysicist Steve Jacobsen, who was part of the monumental discovery.

“This mineral can contain a lot of water under conditions of the deep mantle.”

It’s entirely possible, given the quality of readers of this blog, that you all caught this bit of information when the story broke nearly a decade ago. I however, did not. As the uninformed, late to the party rube that I often am, this is very exciting stuff!

As is my custom when I come across bits of news and information that I find heartening, I began looking for any counter evidence offered by detractors. Astonishingly, I couldn’t find anything other than histrionics about how none of this proves that the story of Noah is true and it was all basically, “Christians be crazy and that’s why their religion is fading away.”

Given that all the scientific articles I skimmed seemed to validate the original geological findings, I’m gonna mark this one on the God side of the score card.

Fired For Showing Michelangelo’s David In Class? I’m Not Shocked. — Re-Blog

Is this better than the original? See the original sculpture here.

I am re-blogging this one because its prescience will become apparent as the Christian classical education movement continues to grow in scope and prominence. There is lots that I could say here, but I think Mr. Gibbs does a fantastic job of parsing out the relevant conclusions we could draw from the Florida teacher who was fired for showing the David in class, even though this is purportedly a classical school.

Over the last several weeks, the news cycle has chewed through a story about a principal at a classical school in Florida who was forced to resign after showing sixth grade students a picture of Michelangelo’s David. If you read a half dozen articles about the matter, you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than […]

Fired For Showing Michelangelo’s David In Class? I’m Not Shocked. — There are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity.

What say you? Is the David appropriate for 6th graders in a classical school? In any school?

Reel Talk: Jesus Revolution

This film, Jesus Revolution, has generated a lot of buzz over the past several weeks. As is always the case, when a Christian movie does well at the box office, the media apparatus feigns shock and awe that a faith based movie did well at the box office. Until the next time a faith based movie does well at the box office, at which time they will feign shock and awe that a faith based movie did well at the box office.

To be clear, this isn’t a Christian movie in the sense that we typically categorize Christian movies. It was released by a major Hollywood studio, and was a dramatization of the Jesus Movement, an actual historical event and movement which began in California from the late 1960s through the early 1970s.

What I want to do here is examine the quality of the film and its message on the merits, and not simply because it was a Christian movie that did well at the box office. I am intrigued by the quality of the movie itself, its message and impact of the Jesus Movement as portrayed by the film, and the legacy of the Jesus Movement on the American church in its aftermath. Before delving further, we should show the trailer:

While many friends my age were familiar with the names of the major players in the Jesus Movement as portrayed in the film, I was not. I was wholly unfamiliar with hippie culture, or the extent of the Jesus Movement. Born in the early 70s, my life -both socially and religiously- was far removed from anything that was going on in the popular culture. I’d heard of Greg Laurie in passing, but knew little about him. I knew even less about Pastor Chuck Smith (founder of the first Calvary Chapel church), and had never heard of hippie evangelist Lonnie Frisbee before this film was released. This detachment offers the opportunity, I hope, for an unbiased review on all three fronts.

The film itself, released by Lion’s Gate Studios, is a big budget Hollywood film. It features well-known actors in the key roles. Kelsey Grammer, a recently confessed believer, stars as Pastor Chuck Smith. Jonathan Roumie, star of the highly popular series The Chosen, stars as Lonnie Frisbee. Both men, as expected, turn in excellent performances. It is well-acted and slickly produced. There is very little about the quality of the film to take exception to. It stands head and shoulders above anything that has been released as a Christian film since Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, which is nearly 20 years old.

The Jesus Movement, as covered with breathless excitement in this 1971 Time Magazine article, was a time of unprecedented religious awakening among the young people of America. Beginning in California, where the movie is set, one could credibly argue that the Jesus Movement set the stage for some of the most foundational facets of modern Christian culture. This would include everything from the tens of English Bible translations, to the rise of international campus ministries such as Campus Crusade and Intervarsity Fellowship, to contemporary Christian music. This excerpt from the Time article offers a glimpse of what that period was like:

As the words of this Wanted poster from a Christian underground newspaper demonstrate, Jesus is alive and well and living in the radical spiritual fervor of a growing number of young Americans who have proclaimed an extraordinary religious revolution in his name. Their message: the Bible is true, miracles happen, God really did so love the world that he gave it his only begotten son. In 1966 Beatle John Lennon casually remarked that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ; now the Beatles are shattered, and George Harrison is singing My Sweet Lord. The new young followers of Jesus listen to Harrison, but they turn on only to the words of their Master: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

It is a startling development for a generation that has been constantly accused of tripping out or copping out with sex, drugs and violence. Now, embracing the most persistent symbol of purity, selflessness and brotherly love in the history of Western man, they are afire with a Pentecostal passion for sharing their new vision with others. Fresh-faced, wide-eyed young girls and earnest young men badger businessmen and shoppers on Hollywood Boulevard, near the Lincoln Memorial, in Dallas, in Detroit and in Wichita, “witnessing” for Christ with breathless exhortations.

Christian coffeehouses have opened in many cities, signaling their faith even in their names: The Way Word in Greenwich Village, the Catacombs in Seattle, I Am in Spokane. A strip joint has been converted to a “Christian nightclub” in San Antonio. Communal “Christian houses” are multiplying like loaves and fishes for youngsters hungry for homes, many reaching out to the troubled with round-the-clock telephone hot lines. Bibles abound: whether the cherished, fur-covered King James Version or scruffy, back-pocket paperbacks, they are invariably well-thumbed and often memorized. “It’s like a glacier,” says “Jesus-Rock” Singer Larry Norman, 24. “It’s growing and there’s no stopping it.”

There is an uncommon morning freshness to this movement, a buoyant atmosphere of hope and love along with the usual rebel zeal.

Time Magazine, June 1971

Looking back 50 years, there is more than enough to be offered under the “hindsight is 20/20” umbrella about the Jesus Movement, its affect on the American church, and the trajectory of evangelicalism in America. In fact, a lot can and has been said. One thing is undeniable, this movement, well, revolutionized the church in America, and these film makers do a pretty decent job of translating how and why.

If there is one legacy that I think was hinted in the movie, and is glaringly obvious today, it was the startling lack of talk about repentance as a step on the road to faith in Christ. There were moments when the word was uttered, but the overwhelming message of the film was a highly shallow clarion call to receive the love of God with very little emphasis on accountability before God. The Bible was always esteemed highly in the meetings as portrayed in the film, and to this day Calvary Chapel is still regarded as a network of churches which steadfastly teaches sound doctrine.

My verdict: Jesus Revolution is worth a look. There are a lot of sub-textural stories surrounding the key players that the film makers avoided due to the messiness, and the fact that these struggles would detract from the overall message: that these lost kids were captured by the love of God, through the work of men who embraced them when no one else would.

Short Story: Babette’s Feast

Although I had never read Babette’s Feast, I was familiar with the fact that a movie of the same name was released several years ago. As with the story, I have also never watched the film, so first my exposure to this story is unsullied by memories of a feature film. I’ll begin with my conclusion of the matter:

I thoroughly enjoyed this story for several reason which I will try to present in manageable bits. The narrative includes spiritual depth, poignant yet pure romance, and a healthy respect for the role food plays in our lives as a source of health, sustenance and fellowship.

Nestled in the picturesque Norwegian town of Berlevaag, Norway is a strict religious community. Two aging sisters, known throughout the town for their beauty, charity and piety, devote their lives to the sect in memory of their deceased father, who began the sect many years ago, when they were little girls:

“Sixty‐five years ago two elderly ladies lived in one of the yellow houses. Other ladies at that
time wore a bustle, and the two sisters might have worn it as gracefully as any of them, for
they were tall and willowy. But they had never possessed any article of fashion; they had
dressed demurely in gray or black all their lives. They were christened Martine and Philippa,
after Martin Luther and his friend Philip Melanchton. Their father had been a Dean and a
prophet, the founder of a pious ecclesiastic party or sect, which was known and looked up to
in all the country of Norway. Its members renounced the pleasures of [2] this world, for the
earth and all that it held to them was but a kind of illusion, and the true reality was the New
Jerusalem toward which they were longing. They swore not at all, but their communication
was yea yea and nay nay, and they called one another Brother and Sister.”

Babette’s Feast

As the story unfolds, we are given glimpses into the trajectory of the lives of Martine and Phillipa, who have lived pure and quiet lives. They dress simply, they eat simply, they tend to the affairs of the needy in their community, and most of all, they keep the spirit of their father alive even as many of the people they have known all their lives are graying and increasingly making their journeys to the grave.

Because of the hospitable and healing nature of their home, the women have had glancing moments of romance. In the lives of each, there had been men who sought refuge in their town, were captivated with the beautiful young women, and were left heart broken as their father could never see his way to part with them by giving them in marriage.

And so it was, that Martine and Phillipa lied out their days in service; to their Lord and to their father, and upon his death, in service to their community.

One day a woman in deep distress appeared at their door, bearing a letter from a man, a French opera singer who had loved Phillipa – her visage and her voice- when she was a young woman. Despite the passage of many years, he never forgot her and knew that his friend would find safe haven in the home of Martine and Phillipa. He implored the women to take her in as a servant, adding the tiniest bit of information at the end: Babette can cook.

Babette was never afforded the opportunity to share with the women and their frequent guests the extent of her culinary artistry, because among these people, sumptuous fare was regarded as extravagant, and therefore sinful. However, even the simplest food that Babette prepared took on a higher level of nutrition and savor.

Congruent to an upcoming celebration in honor of the 100th anniversary of their father’s birth, Martine and Phillipa learn that Babette has come into a large sum of money; 10,000 francs. They anticipate that Babette will soon leave their employ, but rather than announce her departure, Babette asks the sisters for the first favor she has requested since she arrived at their door twelve years ago. She asks that they allow her to cook the celebratory meal without restrictions on what she may or may not cook. Despite their reservations, the sisters grant Babette her request.

Despite my personal thoughts on the political backstory of chef Babette, the denouement of Babette’s Feast is every bit as satisfying as the meal she presents to these kindly, pious people.

I suggest you give it a read.