June 29th 2019


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COVER STORY John Setka, for all his faults, is the perfect scapegoat

FIGHTING FUND NCC president Patrick J. Byrne outlines the goals for 2019

SPECIAL FEATURE Author Rod Dreher brings St Benedict to bear on our decline and fall

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS One million protest China's attack on Hong Kong's freedom

GENDER POLITICS Vatican issues document on gender ideology

POLITICS AND SOCIETY New secularist strategies to bury Christianity

HISTORY OF SCIENCE Faith and reason and Father Stanley Jaki, Part 4: Ancient Jewish view of the cosmos

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell's appeal: An account from the live streaming

BANKING FEATURE Greed works ... at least for a while and for a few

IDEOLOGY Feminist claims for equality, Part 2: What feminism should be

IDEOLOGY WARS Roger Scruton and the Tories: a sorry tale

MUSIC Melodic abundance: John, Paul, Duke and Antonio

CINEMA The End: Staging the apocalypse

BOOK REVIEW Scenes from Dante's Inferno

BOOK REVIEW Mrs Gould: she who drew the pictures

LETTERS

POETRY

NATIONAL AFFAIRS A Q&A to clarify issues in Cardinal Pell's appeal

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IDEOLOGY
Feminist claims for equality, Part 2: What feminism should be


by Michael Ord

News Weekly, June 29, 2019

In the second part of this two-part series examining feminist claims for gender equality, Michael Ord considers family structural relations, including the special needs of women and the distinctions of men and women, and warns that feminist activism is taking society to a critical crossroad. Finally, he reflects on what feminism should be.

Does society acknowledge that women have special needs that society is obliged in distributive justice to satisfy? Traditionally, it was believed that women, because of their differences from men and liability to pregnancy, had need of various protections not supplied to men, and the Christian Church and early feminists worked for these protections.

Family structural relations

In the recent past, many features of other cultures and of our own were viewed as evidence of patriarchal oppression. However, in violent societies, these features originated to protect women. Today, feminists assert that women have special needs in relation to redressing inequality, especially economic, and for protection against sexual harassment and abuse. Some feminists resist the idea that women will always need to be protected by men. They believe that this protection can come from organised efforts by women to enact anti-discrimination laws, to re-educate current and future generations, and by implementing policies and programs such as those of the Office of Women.

Many agree that the feminist campaign to defend the equal basic rights of men and women is commendable. However, feminists have too often confused the issue by the indiscriminate use of the term “patriarchy”, which they define as “oppressive male domination”. This seems to imply that the terms “husband” and “father” mean “tyrant”, when in fact they signify a man in a positive role model as one who tenderly loves his wife and cares for his children.

According to natural law, the family is the natural institution designed by God as the source of new life and of human society. The child cannot come into exis­tence without a mother and requires her as its nurse and the first person to whom it is bonded. Thus, in the family the woman has a vital role that requires that at least during the childhood of her children she be first occupied physically and psychologically with pregnancy and child care.

However, childbearing, which God gave woman as a great gift, can become a heavy burden. Consequently, mothers and their children require the care of a husband, who beyond his biological role as impregnator is also equipped by his greater physical size and strength and psychological aggressiveness to protect his family and to seek food and other material needs for it.

In the social unit of two adults and minor children, decisions must be made by agreement of the adults. However, this agreement is not always possible, and a final decision must be assigned to one or the other partner. Hence, this headship ought ordinarily to be decided by the male’s physical strength and aggressiveness, and by his role of dealing with the wider world outside the domestic circle during the child-bearing years of his wife.

The wife, on the other hand, ought to be consulted in all important decisions, especially if they directly concern her own interests. Since sometimes she is in fact more intelligent and virtuous than her husband, he often ought to follow her lead, although she continues to res­pect his proper role. Thus, the biblical position that the man is by nature the head of the family is consistent with the natural law and with the complementarity of the sexes and the mutuality of their dignity and love.

Gender reality

This analysis of family structural relations highlights the differences between men and women. Clearly, these differences support an understanding of “natural gender rules” rather than a feminist’s assertion of “society constructed gender rules”. That feminists are targeting children in attempts to change the so-called gender rules, might confuse their boy and girl natures, which should be recognised as a form of child abuse.

The differences between men and women also explain the different gender balances in distinct industry sectors. The male due to his greater physical size and strength and psychological aggressiveness might tend to predominate in sectors and professions involving forcefulness, such as politics and the engineering and construction sector. The female, with the greater capacity for empathy, caring and relationships, might predominate in the health-care, allied-health and family-support sectors. This assessment is self-evident, and yet sectors in which men dominate are being targeted for gender equality and gender balance. But are women-dominated sectors subject to gender equality and gender balance programs? Apparently not. Which raises questions about the veracity of the feminists’ campaigns in sectors in which men dominate.

The burden of child bearing justifies why government programs and initiatives are overwhelmingly given to women. Women are most vulnerable during the child-bearing and parenting years. This vulnerability – physically, emotionally and economically – is magnified when women are a single parent during the parenting years, a period when they are least likely to work full-time. As a single parent the woman does not have the protection of a husband. Incidentally, in most cases of family breakdown this is due to her rejecting the husband. In a 2015 News Weekly article (October 24), I analysed the child-support industry, highlighting the extensive support provided to women and that family separation is good for government business.

There is irony in the feminists’ gender claims. The growth of the support industry for women corresponds with the family breakdown that is attributable to feminist activism against the family. The sectors dominated by women, including the family law system, child-support collection and the welfare state bureaucracy, have a bias towards women. Yet feminism decries men and society about the economic plight of women. This irony prompts the question: are the feminist gender claims credible or are they more about extending privileges for a select few women with downside outcomes for most women?

Critical crossroad

The feminists criticise the dominance of men in wider social roles. Yet women have always had the dominant role in shaping the culture. We have now arrived at the critical crossroads of feminist activism.

In the article, “Women and the power to change the world” (The Witherspoon Institute’s Public Discourse on March 21, 2016), Mary Rice Hasson highlighted what Pope John Paul II wrote 30 years ago in the Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles Laici (“On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and the World”). He wrote as one who profoundly understood the human person and the culture of our time. John Paul reflected that women are called to “assure the moral dimension of culture … a culture worthy of the person”.

Hasson asks, if women are to shape the moral dimension of culture, then how is it that women – who will march for peace and campaign against violence, who are all about relationships – now champion, as an expression of their personal autonomy, the right violently to end through abortion the most intimate relationship there is, that of a mother and her unborn child?

How is it that the same women who have been empowered for decades by the mantra of “equality now”, can rant against male privilege and domination and abuse – and yet it is women who drove the novel Fifty Shades of Grey to the top of the bestseller list? It is women who flocked to the theatres by the millions to see a tale romanticising a woman’s abuse and degradation.

Hasson concludes that John Paul II was right: Women do have the power to shape the moral dimension of culture. But it looks like the wrong women have been doing the job. The powers in society that want to bring down the morals of the West based on Christian-Judeo foundations realise the power of women. They know that women shape the moral dimension of culture. And governments, foundations, and local and international activist organisations know this too. Hence the campaigns promoting “sexual rights”, abortion, fluid gender marriage, and gender ideology target women and adolescent girls. The goal: change the culture; the vehicle: empower women.

Reflection

Male dominance in the family has been the situation, although in various deg­rees and forms and in some cases abusively, in all known human cultures. This supports the biblical position that the man is by nature the head of the family, which is consistent with the natural law and with the complementarity of the sexes and the mutuality of their dignity and love. The feminist idea that somehow in the future some other arrangement will be achieved by legislation and education is utopian and stands in the way of realistic efforts to work against the constant danger of the exploitation of the vulnerability of women.

Although the structural relations in the family are determined by the very nature of human sexuality, it does not follow that the domestic roles of either woman or man ought to determine their roles in the wider social order, whose structures are a matter not of nature but of human invention.

It is wrong to pass over women for promotion in business, the professions, the academy, the church and so on simply on the grounds of sexual stereotypes: that is, preconceived views of the different talents or performance of women and men. The qualifications of individuals for tasks must be judged on individual merit. However, adjoining the qualifications and merit of individuals will be that some roles will be of more interest and suited to men and conversely some roles for women.

In the first article of this series, I highlighted Elizabeth Fox-Genovese’s assessment that the improvement in women’s access to public life has been revolutionary in recent decades. That feminists continue to pursue the gender-equality agenda is probably more about personal interest and privilege for a select few.

Also, the focus on a select few means most women are forgotten. The women that gain from gender-equality traction will tend to work full time and enjoy higher rates of pay. And if they choose to have children, they will be supported by workplace programs for mothers, and receive government support for child care. And together with their spouse they will enjoy two household incomes, including two tax-free thresholds.

In contrast, the women who choose to focus on their children (at least in the young child-rearing years) do not receive such benefits as two household incomes and two tax-free thresholds. Yet it will be these women who carry the greater burden of bearing the children necessary to maintain humanity (that is, replacement birth rates or higher).

The feminist gender-equality activism needs to be challenged. Women are entitled to support and encouragement in wider social roles – and they have had this support for some time. However, what is needed is a support balance that values the variety of choices women make. Any feminism that refuses this is not feminism at all, but another form of oppression.

Feminism must begin understanding that each woman’s family and workplace is unique. It must centre on respecting the choices each woman makes – whether that choice is about when she gets married, the number of children she has, how she fits work around the child-bearing years, or how many years she wants to work.

We need women who embrace complementarity. When men and women work together, something of real value is created. We need women that value – and count on – the collaboration of men and women. Not the women of gender equality activism, which involves demonising men and creating divisions between men and women.




























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