[Originally presented by John D. Ferrer at the Bible and Beer Consortium at the Gingerman Pub, Fort Worth, TX 26 April, 2014]
UNWAGING THE WAR ON WOMEN
By: John D. Ferrer
The common language of party politics is slander and slur. Chief among these – especially in election years – is the phrase: “War on Women.” It is catchy, easy to remember, and packs persuasive power into a single sound-byte. But like most every point of pithy politi-speak, the phrase borders on propaganda. In this paper I contend that the “War on Women” is radically misconstrued such that conservatism broadly understood constitutes a crucial defense of womankind while the typically liberal feminist narrative does untold harm to women’s rights.
This subject deals in messy matters of gender, rights, and ethical ideology. So, it may help to observe the context for this poignant phrase, to help get our bearings before venturing forth we should ask what exactly is this “War on Women”?
The lingo can be traced back at least as far as 1996, to libertarian and former republican Tanya Melich in her book, The Republican War on Women.Melich, a former republican turned libertarian, argues that the Republican Party underwent a fundamentalist takeover by when the Christian right overtook the party and swayed it against women’s interests. This lingo has since become common coinage at MSNBC, MoveOn.org, Center for American Progress, People for the American Way, ACLU, Planned Parenthoodand the National Organization of Women (N.O.W.), always as liable against republicans and conservatives. Besides those organizations, a bevy of democratic representatives including Nancy Pelosi, Hilary Rosen, Alan Grayson and Debbie Wasserman Shultz, are known to loosely brandish the phrase—particularly against the GOP. Media socialites can follow the latest republican attacks at the twitter feed, #GOPWarOnWomen and see all sorts of ways republicans and conservatives militate against women. One can also brandish one’s pro-women party lines with a “Stop the Republican War on Women,” banner or bumper sticker printed, of course, by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. House Democrats raised millions for election year marketing, in 2012, on this very theme. Democrats have been known to deny such accusatory language. But even a cursory search shows numerous democrats and liberals lobbing that accusation at political opponents.
Some republicans like Rand Paul and Mitt Romney have struck back accusing democrats of harming women through liberal policies, corruption, or just overplaying the phrase. But the democrat usage has led the conversation so far. Even Wikipedia agrees, the War on Women “is an expression in United States politics used to describe certain Republican Party policies as a wide-scale effort to restrict women’s rights, especially reproductive rights.”
The “War on Women” is a marketable phrase aimed almost entirely against social conservatives. But words are weighty matters. To accuse conservatives of “war,” even in metaphor, is a bold accusation. War means declared opposition, often with a long series of failed negotiations, displays of strength, and then violent deadly aggression till at least one side yields by submission or exhaustion. Warfare can be covert (Seal Team 6), cyber (the Stuxnet virus), guerrilla (Taliban), trench (WWI), blitzkriegs (WWII), sieges (3rd Crusade), ground (Gettysburg), aerial (Pearl Harbor), naval (Spanish Armada), marine (D-Day), and of course nuclear (Hiroshima and Nagasaki).
War is a powerful word. Some current events suit such strong metaphor. There are life-or-death issues like spousal abuse, sex slavery, and honor killings, and for these cases of literal violence and gross injustice, “war” is a penetrating and pertinent term. Those battles deserve whatever indignation and opposition we can muster.
Those issues, however, are not in view when conservatives are accused of waging “war on women.” A March 21, 2014 Google search of “war on women” produced no hits on its front pages explicating spousal/relational abuse, sex slavery, honor killings, female genital mutilation or similar kinds of violence against women. Similarly, a search on the Huffington Post of “GOP war on women” did not produce any hits focusing on literal violence against women. In this light, the language of “war on women,” does not just exaggerate; it fabricates. It expands “war” to include any sort of “violence” and expands “violence” to include most anything disagreeable to one’s ideals. To sympathetic ears, it is motivational language. It moves people to action, but then again, a gust of hot air can do the same thing.
In the court of public opinion the language of “War on Women” can pigeonhole conservatives into the worst category possible. This affiliation is because in war, are found man’s most vile behaviors: rape and riot, plunder and pillage, slavery and exile, genocidal despotism, and totalitarianism. Most everything wicked ever to darken the mind of man has been realized in the name of war. If conservatives are waging a “war on women,” then they affiliate with most everything heinous about humanity. Put bluntly, war is hell.
But no self-respecting conservative is declaring hell on women. Even still, let us suppose for the sake of argument, that there really is a conservative “war on women.” If there were, it would be a sort of “covert ops”–a malicious and deadly attack conducted in the guise of “family values.” The “War on Women” would then be violent conservative opposition to the needs and interests of women. This is not gendercide, but it still might be patriarchal oppression harming women in untold ways.
How is this “war” played out? According to the popular democratic narrative, contraception and abortion are the main battle fronts. Some smaller skirmishes can be found around hiring practices and the wage gap between men and women. Nevertheless, “women’s health” has been the prominent banner over these battles. By “women’s health” is meant, for all women uninterested in motherhood, the treatment and prevention of pregnancy. The language one encounters, unfortunately, tends to treat pregnancy as if it were a disease, the child a parasite, and in some extreme cases, motherhood a death-sentence. To a lesser extent, breast cancer screenings are also included as “women’s health”—as those services are also offered at Planned Parenthood sites. Recently, the issue of equal pay has re-entered the conversation via the Lily Ledbetter Act (2009) and the April 8th (2013) Executive Order from the White house.
While breast cancer screenings and equal pay concerns are indeed feminist issues, these have not been the most prominent parts of the ‘war on women’ rhetoric according to feminist Linda Lowen, in a 2012 op-ed article. She enumerates seven “battle fronts” in the war on women. All of them are matters of abortion access and contraception. The same can be said about Sandra Fluke. In 2012 Fluke was a 30 year old Columbia University student, self-proclaimed feminist, and recent chapter leader in the abortion advocacy group Law Students for Reproductive Justice. Her 2012 congressional testimony became a national controversy when her plea for free contraception was interpreted by Rush Limbaugh as the pay-for-sex behavior one might expect of prostitutes and sluts. Not excusing Limbaugh’s verbage, Fluke’s point remains clear, women are being oppressed and discriminated against if they are not receiving free contraception from their respective employers, schools, or government. To Fluke’s credit, she has since expanded her declared position on women’s rights to include not just contraception but also the recent democrat legislation, the “Paycheck Fairness Act.” Nevertheless, it is clearly her views on contraception that vaulted her into the public spotlight, aligned her clearly with the Democratic party, and entrenched her sense of “feminism” deep within the egalitarian mold of liberal and progressive politics.
Atheist writer Amanda Marcotte follows suit. In her February 27th article, she notes a broadening view for Democrats and Republicans, wherein the “war on women” might expand to include issues of equal pay and other economic fears, going into the 2014 midterm elections. With democrats poised to lose the House and the Senate, a change from the 2012 strategy might help cut some losses. Yet by the end of the article she harkens back to what she calls the “standard” war on women issues. She approvingly notes how “the phrase ‘war on women’ immediately calls to voter minds a bunch of middle-aged men in suits trying to figure out how to take away control of the nation’s vaginas from the women who are currently sitting on them.” A month earlier, Marcotte can be caught chiding Rand Paul for directing a question over the “GOP war on Women” into the individual success of his niece and his sister. Paul said, “If there was a war on women, I think they won.” Instead, Marcotte says, “Paul didn’t mention little things like abortion or contraception,” and so, she continues, “the implication was clear: Women have it pretty good, so there’s no reason to get all bent out of shape about attacks on reproductive rights, ladies.” In this case Marcotte expressly reroutes the conversation from the individual, self-defined success of actual women, to, instead, the Democrat talking points of “abortion” and “contraception.”
Feminists like Amanda Marcotte, Sandra Fluke, and Linda Lowen are entirely unexceptional in their views. The 2012 Democrat campaign slogan of “Stop the GOP War on Women” and the incessant refrain of abortion and contraception with it have kept the subject focused on sex and pregnancy. The theaters of this war are not in the straits of female psychology, in the lands of beauty and cosmetics, or in the murky waters of gender studies, but in the nether regions of sex and reproduction. There are no bills criminalizing bras or mascara, nor bans on purses or romance novels. There are no court cases denying property rights, conscripting women into sex slavery, forcing marriage, or exiling them on poker night. The “war on women” is fought below the belt, inside the ring of “1st world” problems. Legalized abortion and inexpensive contraception is not enough, those are still republican violence against women. These must be free or very nearly so, with ever widening access. The “war on women,” identifies women primarily by their lady parts, autonomous vaginas and uteri more than as minds or persons, and especially not as people who might vote Republican.
What motivates this war? In flourishing liberal terms the motivation is oppression. Conservatives apparently want to subjugate women in archaic molds: property, baby-makers, or punching bags. The “war” presses women to become barefoot pregnant homemakers, kitchen slaves and thoughtless decorations for wayward males. In the famous feminist text, The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan describes such women as “walking corpses,” and domesticity is a “comfortable concentration camp,” where women suffer the “slow death of mind and spirit.” While men fornicate and adulterize, enjoying more freedom and better pay, women are kept in domestic prison, bearing children against their will, carrying the brunt of the family. There is no public conservative ear for their fainting cries for justice. By this thought, conservatives worship the way things were, idolizing antiquity at the expense of modernity. Modern women know better, they do not fit those molds, they are every bit equal to or better than men with no relevant difference between them.
That “war on women” narrative does not describe conservatism; it is propaganda. As such, it errs on several levels. On one level it is the “boy who cried wolf.” Marisa DeFranco, a Massachusetts congressional candidate recently accused her own Democratic party of blatant sexism and waging a “war on women.” Why was she so upset? They left her off a recent polling ballot. Such usage trivializes a powerful expression. One cannot help but think of deeply needed feminist action in North Africa where there is female genital mutilation, or Central American sex trafficking, or honor killings in the Middle East. DeFranco’s polling omission is not an act of war, it is not violent, it does no harm to women generally, it might not even be sexist. More likely, if there was any deliberate exclusion at work, it is because she would weaken a democrat incumbent’s seat, and she vocally opposes the Affordable Care Act.
On another level this “war on women” narrative errs for its narrow view of femininity, typically ascribing to a liberal sense of womanhood which Christina Hoff Summers calls “Egalitarian Feminism.” This narrowed view describes what is popularly understood as “feminism.” This conception does not simply advocate for women, but for a certain kind of liberal woman. The egalitarian feminist, and its more extreme form, “gynocentric” feminism is pro-choice, skeptical of gender differences, distrusting towards traditional marriage, and unconvinced by conservative family values; moreover, the egalitarian feminist exhorts aggressive legislative and judicial activism. This sort of feminist is the hero in Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique. This sort of feminist even had a place in the Republican Party before the influence of the “Moral Majority” around 1980. Tanya Melich’s book The Republican War on Women describes her struggles within the Republican Party as she has real but limited support for her pro-choice views and legislative activism. Historically, egalitarians have never been a majority, even in liberal affluent societies where women and men have great freedom to express novel and dissenting views. Yet, egalitarianism and its more radical sister-theories are readily embraced in university level women’s studies programs. In Freedom Feminism Summers treats this category graciously, but is careful to point out another feminism which she terms “Maternal Feminism,” wherein a great many women see their unique and innate maternal abilities as a distinguishing dignity for women, and for those women, they have no great objection to being known as “Billy’s mother” or “Dan’s wife.” These maternal feminists may opt for part-time employment or stay-at-home status, may participate in the school board and local politics, all while serving selflessly in a traditional marriage and family. In this view a full egalitarian overhaul of sex, gender, family, and society would effectively disenfranchise countless women. These women lean towards conservative politics, conservative family values, and conservative mainline religions. While the egalitarians have the notoriety, the maternalists have the numbers.
It was only when these two sorts of feminism worked together that they were able to pass the 19th amendment (for Women’s Suffrage). Egalitarians Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton would not get the traction they needed for that amendment to pass until they allied with maternalist Frances Willard and her Women’s Christian Temperance Union (Summers, 28). Willard routinely commanded three and four times as many supporters as all the Egalitarians combined. History remembers her as a figurehead of the temperance movement, and she is routinely white-washed from many feminist texts but she was perhaps the most famous women in the early 19th century, far better known than Stanton and Anthony. She led campaigns for a host of human rights issues including prison reform, child welfare, handicap assistance, and of course, women’s suffrage. Even the temperance movement, was in its time a feminist cause because of rampant alcohol related harms against women like spousal abuse, rape, assault, and abandonment. Anthony, Stanton, and Willard all aligned on the temperance movement. Their alliance flexed some serious political muscle in the now-defunct Prohibition era.
And it was an alliance of maternalists and egalitarians which managed to get sexual equality included in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For the record, the votes favoring the Civil Rights act in the house were 61% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans. In the senate it was 73% of Democrats and 94% of Republicans. Likewise, the spread for the 1965 Voting Rights Act was even more disproportionately Republican. Both maternal feminism and egalitarian feminism, no matter the terminology, are actual perspectives, of actual females, proposing actual theories of how women are best empowered, and best served, and about how their equality should operate. It is unfortunate that the notions of “feminism” and “women’s liberation” have come to be identified, in the public eye, as strictly radical and politically liberal. In this way, countless women who are genuine advocates for women’s interests, gender equality, and female empowerment refuse to use the term “feminist.” In this way, the history of feminism bears out a richer and more complex history than is seen in much of the modern womanist and feminist discourse. It may turn out that egalitarian anthropology only address a narrow segment of women, while castigating countless more women who revel in maternal glory.
Besides a tendency to “narrow” the view of femininity, another error in the “war on women” lingo is that of special pleading, or “cherry picking.” This is the error of selectively employing only the evidence in one’s favor. Democrats and liberals overwhelmingly aim the phrase “war on women” at conservative roles for women. Rarely does one hear a pro-choice advocate campaigning for greater respect for pre-born females under threat of abortion, nor is there strong argument for the uniquely important role of fathers and husbands in addressing the troubled circumstances of young or endangered mothers. Instead, the laser-focused aim is to shoot out the heart of conservative conceptions of womanhood, and attack traditional conceptions of manhood. Feminist textbooks lambast conventional feminine roles as restrictive, oppressive, and cruel, and accuse most every institutional and societal setting of sexist oppression yet, one can hardly “find one [feminist textbook] that warns of the dangers of radical social engineering;” the “’Feminist revolution’ is celebrated without any indication that utopian ventures—from the American communes of the nineteenth century to the catastrophic Marxist governments of the twentieth century—have often produced immense human misery” (Summers, 71). Conservatives and liberals alike should confess their sins, admit their faults, and not explain away the latent misogyny that can creep into political locker rooms, or any other setting for that matter. Moreover, it is fair and responsible to admit the positive contributions of feminists regardless of their politics, and regardless of what brand of feminism they represent.
At another level, the “war on women” language errs for being overly divisive. Tanya Melich despite her heavy handed criticism of republicanism admits that “some of the issues—equal pay, federal help for locally controlled child care, elimination of discrimination towards women in the Social Security system, displaced homemaker’s aid, flexible work schedules, and rewriting of the widow’s tax—didn’t seem to raise the hackles of the [Republican party from about 1970 onward], and the convention included them in the platform” (Melich 61). Melich stops there, though, and chides Republicans for not supporting abortion rights and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Melich does not point out however that abortion and the ERA did not divide Feminists from Misogynists so much as it divided Egalitarians from Maternalists—all parties broadly supporting women’s interests but disagreeing on the means and the extent to which those interests can ethically go. The disagreements are over what rights do any human beings have, male or female, and over how real, innate, and important are their respective gender roles. If it is unethical to kill human beings for the sake of convenience, or entertainment, or for profit, it is unethical for men and women alike. No inequality there. Women are no more permitted to abandon, neglect, or kill their children than are men. If men are not allowed to kill a tiny human beings, neither should women be allowed to abort them. The maternalist view does not promote inequality, but rather a differently framed equality than egalitarians. They can have a different view on particular ethical issues without suggesting men are excused from ethical duties which women are not. The details of these competing theories of feminism can be discussed and debated respectfully. There will be women on all sides of the abortion debate. But accusing the other side of hating women, or wanting hell for all women, i.e., “war on women,” that is wildly off the mark.
At another level, the “war on women” language errs for being a caricature of the common sense suggestion that women and men are very different in valuable and honorable ways. They are equal but not identical. People on both sides of the aisle can agree that women should be treated as equals in dignity and worth, and agree that women are entitled to the same basic human rights as men, and with all that agreement still disagree over how to best ensure those rights at every level of society. Conservatives will tend to favor small government means. Liberals will tend to favor big government means. Conservatives will tend to be skeptical of European styled legislation. Liberals will tend to doubt slow inconsistent free-market answers. Conservatives might emphasize individual responsibility and economic issues while Liberals emphasize compassion initiatives and social issues. A person cannot safely claim that conservatives, in bulk, are waging a war on women if that means, simply that they disagree with him. Some of these age-old problems have a root system running through all layers of human history. It is not enough to nip at a few branches of contemporary Republican (or Democrat) policy and think that summarizes the complex history of femininity and women’s interests.
Another level in which the war on women falters is in regard to actual violence. As alluded to earlier, the language of “war on women,” when used overwhelmingly to describe non-violent liberal-agenda items, cheapens the phrase demeaning descriptions of actual violence and oppression. Instead of highlighting nefarious subtleties of the Republican agenda, the language of “war on women,” can run in reverse, dissolving a good phrase into so much sophistry. That phrasing could describe honor killings in Iran or rape-culture in Egypt but, unfortunately, it has already been commandeered by folks like Sandra Fluke as artillery against anyone who thinks she should pay for her own morning-after pills. If we identify all of the above as “war on women,” it affiliates obvious violence in 2nd and 3rd world settings with contemporary Democrat agenda items that fail to speak for almost half of female voters in the U.S. (i.e., about 45% of women voters). It is not necessarily a “war on women” to oppose liberal democrat politics.
Moreover, the “war on women” is liable to cut the other way. While I do not dismiss the great advances that Western civilization has brought, including both egalitarian and maternal feminists. And I do commend egalitarians and maternalists alike for their achievement in terms of broad equality between men and women, giving women tremendous economic, educational, political, and social access. Yet there remains to be made a case against the pro-choice and democrat assumptions in the “war on women” debate. For example, an abortion-friendly society threatens to do great harm to women. Some egalitarians might be liberated with greater social permission for casual sex, and less maternal responsibility. But countless more maternal-minded women are liable to find that the egalitarian values pressed upon them militate against their own aspirations for romance, security, affection, love, and traditional family. Such women are liable to feel betrayed by boyfriends who refuse to marry them, husbands who will not protect them, and the overbearing expectations of modern women, also known as dual-employed-working-mother-wife-cowgirl-domestic-goddesses.
It might also be mentioned that real live females are harmed when roughly 23 million girls are killed in utero via abortion-on-demand since 1973. A significant number of these mothers regret their abortions, or suffer physical side-effects following their abortion. Some women experience psychological side-effects like PTSD or Depression after enduring procedures like suction and curettage which literally slice and tear the child-in-utero limb from limb and suck it through a medical vacuum. Women are harmed when they are taught that they need abortion access to be “equal” with man, as if they are naturally unequal without the technological help afforded them by Democrats. Women are harmed when their dignified differences are treated like obstacles to conquer instead of distinctions to honor. Women are harmed when their customarily “feminine” approach to sexuality is replaced in society with a veneration of (stereotypically) “masculine” libido. Regarding that typically “masculine” libido, women are harmed when they are objectified and dehumanized in pornography and prostitution, industries still swelling to fit our sex-crazed society. Women are harmed when the “feminine” norms of society shift into such radical autonomy that hardly any women can keep up. It harms women to denigrate interdependence, exalting individualism at the expense of community. It harms women to exalt stay-away-from-home moms at the expense of homemakers, or to celebrate sex-without-commitment while compromising the marriage bed. Women are harmed when lax divorce laws leave otherwise reparable marriages dissolved. Ask a large sample of ex-wives and daughters from divorce and the pattern is clear: divorce is to families what civil war is to nations.
In defense of maternal feminism, it may be said that motherhood is a dignity, not a disease. Femininity is a privilege and duty. Childbearing is a sacred right and awesome responsibility. Children are a heavy blessing. They are evidence of prestige, not punishment. Strong womanly women are vital in love and marriage to bring out the controlled strength of service that is the heart of wholesome husbands. When males can fool-around all they want without social sanction, get paid to not work, stay dependent on parents long after college, playing video games and sex-surf the Net all day, they have little incentive to grow into responsible husbands and fathers. This leaves many women with no one worth marrying, one income, emotionally spent, romantically starved, having to quench their maternal instincts since pregnancy is not, for them, a dignity but a liability. There is nothing wrong with a woman wanting to marry a strong, mature, provider of a man. And when a grown woman stays single, even for good reasons, it is okay to mourn that fact since it is a real sacrifice and there is a normal sense of loss involved. It harms women to obscure their gender with revisionist images of macho super-women.
Returning to the phrase “war on women,” what is left at the bottom of the pool if we drain the whole debate of propaganda? It seems the wide world of feminine interests and values are pitifully represented here by the meager themes of abortion, contraception, and the sexual exploration they afford. Never mind how countless women consider that exploration fool-hearty selfishness. Political liberals seem to think it a war on women to believe mothers should stay mothers till child-birth, but it is not a war on women to kill millions of girls in utero for the convenience of the maternal enemies. It is a war on women to think women should save sex for marriage, but it is not a war to shamelessly support teen sexual exploration where countless girls are emotionally scarred for life. It is a war to think that if anyone deserves to be killed after a rape, it is not the child but the rapist. It is a war to think that birth-control is too invasive and personal for public funding, but it is not a war to force millions of women against their will to help subsidize other women’s sexual exploits, no matter if they agree or not.
The accusation of “war on women” is a misnomer. The most that can be said of it, fairly, is that conservatives aggressively oppose radical feminism, but do not oppose women per se. Conservatives see certain conceptions of womanhood as being obsessed with privilege but derelict of duty. Conservatives support fair and equal treatment of women and recognizing women’s rights. Conservatives support equal pay for equal work. Conservatives support maternal rights and responsibilities. Conservatives support wholesome work environments for gainful employment, and healthy homes for raising young women to be smart, healthy, responsible, liberated individuals. In that sense, conservatives advocate for women’s liberation and feminism. Yet it seems the concepts of “feminism” and “women’s lib” were lost somewhere in the 1960’s and 70’s, having been refashioned into “Feminist Liberalism,” that is, a pre-packaged set of interests that women are allowed to aim for—notably abortion and contraception—together with a left-wing plan for how to achieve those interests.
In some ways, it seems that women’s liberation saddled women with impossibly high standards, both in and out of the home, while reducing societal reinforcements for family. In short, it was men who were most liberated, since they could add to their societal privilege the luxury of casual sex with little need to settle down as traditional husbands and fathers. The culture shift since the 1960’s has been a tectonic spread. The pill separated sex from pregnancy; Roe v. Wade separated pregnancy from child-birth; and no-fault-divorce separated spouses from each other. Each of these put more responsibility on women while giving males greater access to sex and less use for marriage. Meanwhile various perks and investments found only in family and community have been reallocated to other sources in a gradually growing welfare state including food stamps, college loans (and loan forgiveness), unemployment benefits, welfare benefits, social security, bankruptcy absolution, healthcare, etc.
These forces are not altogether bad. But they do make for a perfect storm of cultural forces that have “liberated” countless women from their stable homes and family. Women are left holding the checkbook, the spatula, the baby, and the car keys. Such women are running out of hands. Meanwhile males are left holding their joysticks (pun intended). There are harmful trends in U.S. culture weighing heavily against women including divorce, abortion, and single/teen motherhood—all of which have gone up in the course of the liberal feminist experiment since the ‘60’s. And to the extent that these constitute violence or lead to violence against women war cries should ring out. But, it should not be forgotten that women and men are different, and that is a good thing. A war, rightly waged, would appreciate that terrain and seek the best way to the most noble goals, in this case, honoring and empower women accordingly.
It is not Conservatives or Christians or Republicans militating against femininity. Instead they are enlisting men and women to serve in a larger culture war to fortify the better parts of our culture like faith, family, free-trade, and femininity. The world needs chivalrous manly men, together with the gentle strength of womanly women, sacrificially serving society as men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. The better parts of our culture hang in the balance, and they won’t defend themselves.
NY: Bantam, 1996, upd. 2009.
This claim regards the first two pages of listings only. In the Huffington Post search, there was some mention of actual violence but as a sub-topic, secondary to the focus of the article. For example, writer Laura Bassetttries to justify the language of “War on Women” despite Senator John McCain’s protests when he calls that language “outlandish rhetoric by partisan operatives” citing his support of feminist legislation called the Violence Against Women Act. Bassett contests this claim and returns the conversation to the focus points of abortion access and tax-payer funded contraception.
For example, Fluke speaks of opposition to the Paycheck Fairness Act among women’s groups saying, “It’s important to understand that those are quote-unquote women’s groups with a particular conservative agenda and that’s why we’re hearing some of that messaging from them,” quoted in Kurt Gonska, “Interview with Sandra Fluke,” [on-line] (N.P., Standwithsandra.com, 23 April 2014), accessed 25 April 2014 at: http://www.standwithsandra.org/huffington_post live_ sandra_fluke_and_what_s_at_stake_with_equal_pay
Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (1963, NY: W.W., Norton, 2001 reprint), 423-5
Christian Hoff Summers, Freedom Feminism: Its Surprising History and Why It Matters Today (Washington DC: AEI Press, 2013), 10ff.
David P. Schmitt, et al., “Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman? Sex Differences in Big Five Personality Traits across 55 Cultures,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 94 (2008), 168-82.
In some cases, the aim is more simply to attack men. For example, former Democratic congresswoman Jane Harman famously quipped, “There is no glass ceiling keeping women down, just a thick layer of men,” see Summers, 87.
Such fallacies might include, but are not limited to, hasty generalization, loaded word, propaganda, straw man, ad hominem, and poisoning the well. And, not to mention, it is false.
Equal pay efforts might make a mark on the 2014 and 2016 elections, perhaps to win some female votes, see Juliet Eilperin, “Obama to Sign to Executive Orders aimed at Narrowing Gender Gap In Wages,” (Washington Post, 7 April 2014), para. 2. But Conservatives can call such efforts redundant in light of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and the Civil Rights Acts of 1964. And any added laws or rules are liable to invite unforeseen consequences in vague wording, loopholes, and legislative conflicts with older laws, such as those foreseen in the Equal Rights Amendment debate which raged for almost 50 years without passage. Maternal feminist Phylis Shlafly campaigned aggressively against this bill, and found tremendous conservative support even though the bill sounds fairly innocuous. Its relevant language was section 1: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Schlafly argued that that equality was already legally guaranteed and judicially defensible under prior laws, and that this particular amendment was so broad and so vague that it would be a field-day for agenda-driven opportunist lawyers. It would subject women to identical maternal-leave standards with men, reduced privileges in child-custody cases, equal vulnerability to the draft, unisex toilets, and a host of other absurd potential outcomes. Melich does not treat Schlafly as a kind of feminist, but instead as anti-feminist calling her anti-ERA campaign the “misogynist strategy” (Melich, 49ff).
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