Women, Family, and Economy

rosieI’m not sure what it takes for something to qualify as having “gone viral,” but my latest post on feminism and women in combat is hinting in that direction. It isn’t that it got so many hits all at once, but (more interestingly) it is getting very diverse traffic, some friendly and some not so much. And so instead of leaving well enough alone, I figured I should be like the Apostle Paul and not let a small-scale riot be an opportunity wasted. For those who were confused, bothered, or enraged, let me say that while yes, I do believe some very radical and outrageous stuff and wish to persuade you all of it as well, I probably don’t quite mean what you think.

For starters, I don’t condemn or even blame women living in our society who have sought to go be their own persons and do what they believe. I think they are wrong, of course (as are also most of the men), but they’re doing exactly what you would expect, given our culture’s values and the basic framework of our society and economy. Frankly, it wouldn’t make any sense if they weren’t trying to make it to the top. To quote Mrs. Sayers again, women are human.

Additionally, this isn’t even about ability. With the specific case of the military, physical ability is rather obvious, even if no one is quite allowed to say so. On NPR the other day my wife and I both got a chuckle out of the military spokesmen saying, “The standards won’t be lowered, just different.” But no, I’m not talking about personal ability, but rather societal dynamics and personal-relational inevitability. In terms of classical philosophy, I am addressing the concept of nature. In Biblical theology, we refer to this as a creation ordinance. It’s also hugely important for political theory, of which I will say more in just a bit.

Also, while it isn’t necessary to give a biographical snippet, this is a personal blog, and so I’ll mention a few things about myself. I am a full-time pastor, but our church doesn’t have its own property or building. That means my office is my home. I also have a 9-month, which all functionally makes me a “stay-at-home dad.” My wife stays at home too, though she previously worked outside the home. She is now a freelance designer and amazingly talented. She also cooks everything excellently, and not in that old homestyle way, but rather in the sophisticated artsy and cosmopolitan way (we’ve actually got a carton of Almond milk in the fridge right now; so there). There’s no doubt in my mind that she would be better at a corporate lifestyle than I would be. She’s super handy with spreadsheets and powerpoints, whereas I am inefficient and often monkish. My typical day consists of church administration and organization, sermon prep or Sunday School writing (depending on the circumstances), pastoral meetings and counselings, presbytery duties, and a lot of childcare, cooking assistance, dishwashing, and occasional cleaning. I even handle dirty diapers– dirty cloth diapers. And it’s all great.

My thinking on these matters comes from very basic premises. 1) There is an objective natural and moral order which, while deniable, is nonetheless inescapable. Reality is not up for a vote. 2) There is such a thing as sexuality, and it goes all the way to the core. We are, all of us, either male or female, and we are male or female all the time and in all that we do. This doesn’t mean that every particular thought or creative result will necessarily be unique, as Mrs. Sayers well explained. But it does mean that the experience of doing things and the way that we live is experienced and lived as male or female. This can never be removed from any specific social or political setting, and it would actually be an unnatural and unjustly pragmatic thing to try. 3) The sexes naturally come together to create families, and families are the basic elements to any society (because they create and nurture new people). 4) The three hierarchies of state, church, and family should exist harmoniously and in mutual support of one another.

Most people these days don’t actually examine their first principles, but they do instinctively operate with certain assumptions, namely individualist and voluntarist ones. The individual will is the supreme consideration, and when it comes into conflict with other considerations, obligations, and duties, it demands sovereignty. Left-wing thinkers are usually able to see this when critiquing capitalism. They are, however, incapable of seeing that the same thing is occurring in other places all the time. Conservatives, on the other hand, can rarely ever see this philosophical foundation, as they are too deeply committed to it themselves. We’ve got to get at this root issue if we are to make any progress at all.

As I’ve said about other topics, feminism is a fairly predictable product of the larger modernist project. This is a criticism, I suppose, though not all modernism is bad. Much of it was necessary and helpful, and women were actually abused in times past. This isn’t just a “yeah, yeah” concession. The idea that a woman shouldn’t be educated or have equal protection under the law is downright incredible. It needed correction. But of course, the means are as important as the ends, and what we now see is that feminism, along with other minority rights movements, actually played into the hands of the leviathan state, the corporate empire, and even the culture of death. As I said in the previous post, feminism lead to the death of the feminine, and now it means that we cannot have public roles for females. This logically necessitates the full commodification of, and thus the full privatization of, the family. If you can’t have publicly recognized and protected women’s roles, then you can’t rightly have wives’ roles. We will eventually see a sort of generic domestic partnership, with any specifics beyond that being left to private and religious status.

This plays into what Hilaire Belloc called the “servile state,” a large and invasive government that exists to foster giant corporations. In the name of empowering women, it actually achieves a net loss for personal freedoms. Make no mistake, it is still a patriarchy, even if it claims to be a de-gendered one. Prof. Allan Carlson explains:

Recently, feminist analysts in America have abandoned their once fashionable “new left” pretensions and have become brutally blunt in their embrace of the welfare state, as the only possible vehicle for their ideological success. Carole Patemen, for example, argues that women’s dependence on the state is preferable to dependence on individual men, since women do not “live with the state” or sleep with the state as they must with the male creature. Francis Fox Piven is equally frank in her stated preference for public patriarchy over private patriarchy, as offering a better venue for the exercise of female power. She adds: “Women have also developed a large and important relationship to the welfare state as employees of these programs…By 1980, fully 70 percent of the 17.3 million social service jobs on all levels of government were held by women, accounting…for the larger part of female job gains since 1960.” So, while it is true that women living under a system of public patriarchy do not have to sleep with the state, they do have to work for it.

The stark lesson here resembles the title of Steven Goldberg’s infamous book: the inevitability of patriarchy. Steely-eyed feminist analysis makes the only choice plain and clear: will that patriarchy be private? Or public?

Along with the welfare state is feminism’s absolute dependence upon technology. And this isn’t a benign technology, though that can exist. No, feminism must have a specific sort of technology, a technology that counteracts nature. As we learned amid the cacophony of last year’s presidential election, female equality is dependent upon contraception and abortion. And the debate over abortion really isn’t over a theoretical security net for major health risks. No, pro-choice advocates will usually tell you that abortion is about the right to personal privacy, freedom, and the ability to realize one’s full social and economic potential. To put it quite simply, abortion is the defense and promotion of individual liberty and equality by means of violence against a weaker entity. It is exploitation. It is domination.

Now you might reply that this is all quite rich coming from me, a man! Men have been exploiting and dominating since Cain. And you would be correct. This is the libido dominandi that Augustine wrote about. But I really don’t see how inviting women to join in the building of Babel is supposed to solve the problem.

Violence is essential to the feminist program. It cannot exist without it. This is as much an observation as anything. Isn’t it interesting that this discussion was occasioned by the move to have women in combat? And I ask you, perceptive readers, do you really think that the admission of women to the military is anything other than an expansion of the military-industrial complex?

The pertinent question to those of us who oppose all of this (assuming we really do, of course) is what we can ever hope to do about it. And the most obvious response should be that we can’t do much of anything about it if we still want to hang on to all of its historical causes. If the “traditional” vision is basically that of Mad Men, where the men go out (and hardly ever come back) to conquer the world and one another, the women exist as either objects of lust or alienation stuck at an empty home, and the children are basically ornaments handed around to managers and employees, then we’re better off not solving the problem. The good old days were often quite bad, and we cannot return to a mythical little home on a non-existent prairie.

We can’t go backwards at all. We have to go through. As I said in the earlier post, women need to be praised as women. The home needs to also be supported, promoted, and protected, and it needs to live in a friendly relationship with the rest of society rather than the hostile one it has been in for the past few decades. And that hostility is most definitely a two-way street. Too many conservatives view their home as a defense-only citadel. But this can’t work, and as we’ve said, the home has already been long emptied. The home instead needs to be a thriving part of the community.

Typically we’ve had individuals as members of the community, thus leading to the loss of the home, and then this was combated by homes that withdrew from the community and made themselves inaccessible and unsustainable. This comes from certain libertarian-style assumptions on the part of many family-minded people. We have to get over this if we ever want a workable solution for a diverse modern society. What we need are communities. We need home-school and private school partnerships and various other hybrids, even charter schools and localized public schools (though those have their own philosophical problems connected to contemporary American politics). We need entrepreneurial enterprises and cooperatives. We need friendly societies and guilds. We need churches.

Well at this point I’m falling into manifesto-writing, and so I’ll have to bring things to a temporary halt. Someone was asking me privately about particulars, and I had to confess that I actually don’t have them all. I can only be one voice calling for a much bigger project. The biggest need of the hour is for people to ask themselves these basic questions. Why do you want what you want, and what does it take to achieve it? If the answers are at any point immoral or unjust, then we’ve got to find another way.

And none of this is possible without that more basic pursuit of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, which is One. But as some other fellow said, let us hope.


9 thoughts on “Women, Family, and Economy

  1. Great stuff, but I still don’t get how your vision plays out on a positively. I think you concede as much at the end.

  2. I meant to say, “I still don’t get how your vision plays out positively.” Can you describe what it looks like in some details in future posts?

  3. AJ,

    Thanks. Yes, I’d like to continue this train of thought. Obviously I am attacking the structure of our current society, so it won’t be so simply as telling individuals to go do X, though I do think our churches ought to be emphasizing marriage, even young marriage by today’s standards, and a generous fertility within marriage. I also like many features of what goes by the name “crunchy conservativism.” But we will also have to address government policy.

    Here are a few helpful links that explore such ideas:


  4. Its “gone Viral” when it hits a million views or something like that. I doubt a million people would take the time to read the first paragraph. HA. Thanks for both posts!

  5. “But it does mean that the experience of doing things and the way that we live is experienced and lived as male or female. This can never be removed from any specific social or political setting, and it would actually be an unnatural and unjustly pragmatic thing to try.”

    Any thoughts on the distinction between this an Judith Butlers notion of gender performance? It sounds somewhat similar.

  6. Love these! Thanks! It really isn’t only women embracing feminism – there are a LOT of effeminate men who have had no or poor role models. Absent a strong nurturing of the masculine traits of protecting the powerless and administering justice and mercy, the whole society devolves into single moms and a world of people who believe that money is the only source of security and happiness… To live as you suggest takes a strong couple, to be countercultural and happy about it :), willing to live on less than half of the double income families, willing to treasure children as the luxuries and adornments of life rather than Hawaiian vacations and new cars. And living this way produces the men and women who are suited to it – so often we step out in obedience and God equips us as we go with everything that we need ….

  7. Our current American culture wages war against women, children, families, conscience, and faith. If I had my rathers, I would rather be a stay at home homemaker, home schooler, home-centered wife and mother. Unfortunately, that is not an option at this time. I have to work to make ends meet, because my husband’s social security check is insufficient to meet our needs. As soon as all our debts are paid off, I will be coming back home and much happier. Why doesn’t anybody in the American mainstream media talk about the working women who are working because of dire necessity instead of a supposed desire to have a glorious career? Most all of my women coworkers would rather be at home, but the mainstream media acts as if we simply do not exist. Thank you for acknowledging that there are still women who want to be women at home.

  8. Pingback: An Intro to the Calvinist International | Calvinist International

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s