Parrot Wives: A Church-Leader Photo Phenomenon

“Parrot, parrot, parrot wives.  Parrot, parrot, parrot wives” (sung to the tune of Coldplay’s ‘Paradise’.) 

It is a strange and peculiar phenomenon that Nick and I have noted…..’The Parrot Wife’.  Go onto a church website; normally a charismatic, reformed, new stylee congregation – you know the ones with cool fonts (the type-sets rather than the christening kind) , the super-duper programme and the relevant worship; and there you may behold the parrot wife.  She may be found on the ‘who’s who’ or the ‘about us’ page under the ‘leadership’ section.  The spiel will probably outline her husband’s leadership role, his favoured football team and his choice of ‘hot wife’.  She will most likely be named as his ‘better half’ and linked, bound, tethered to their ‘beautiful children’.  She is his and her place is with his children.  The photo of parrot wife shows her perched awkwardly on his shoulder, like a pirate’s parrot.  A mate who repeats what it’s told, flaps at points but remains loyal throughout.

Behold the awkward side hug.  Almost conjoined in a lovely side hug – smiles all round – adoring looks galore!

I guess it’s difficult to take a good photo for a church website – I think maybe I have watched too much America’s Top Model and expect Nigel Barker to conjure up some magic thing of beauty – but these photos strike me as indicative of an underlying issue.  Parrot wife and awkward-side-hug are an extension of their husband.  They are not their own person.  They very often don’t get their own write-up on the website beyond their role at home and with children.  They are an appendage. like another tool on a swiss army knife, at their husbands disposal at any given point; preaching, funny one-liner, wife – tools of the trade.   A ‘hot wife’ is part and package of the role of church leader.  In a recent book written about marriage, aimed at Christians, I noted that wives were told their own calling and gifting as people is sacrificed for the furthering of their husband’s calling.  I struggle with this idea – I thought we are personally accountable as well as community responsible.  I don’t believe that marriage requires me to become a parrot, or an awkward-side-hug, but more fully me and my husband more fully him.

I think I’m tired of all this.  Church, for me, is about encouraging people to grow and become more of who God intended them to be.  The Bible seems brimmed full of talk about freedom and liberation from the constraints and ties of sometimes warped human ideals.  I thought faith was about seeing each other as beautiful and limitless because God is beautiful and limitless.  Instead again and again I feel discouraged by the way women are objectified – whether it be through being plastered on the front of ‘FHM’ or being paraded as the pastor’s wife, an accessory rather than a person.  I will not be a parrot wife.