Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Can a person be a feminist and still believe in marriage?

Here’s a research paper written in 2003 from the Heritage Foundation.

Excerpt:

Marriage is good for men, women, children–and society. Because of this simple fact, President George W. Bush has proposed a new pilot program to promote healthy marriage. Despite demonstrated evidence in every major social policy area of the need to rebuild a strong and healthy culture of marriage, President Bush’s new marriage initiative is still opposed by the extreme wing of feminism that sees no good in marriage or in unity between men and women, and between mothers and fathers.

Moderate, mainstream feminists have long rejected this animus against marriage; the vast majority of such feminists either are married or intend to marry. Mainstream feminists are focused on a worthy concern: removing obstacles to the advancement of women in all walks of life.

Radical feminists, however, while embracing this mainstream goal–even hiding behind it–go much further: They seek to undermine the nuclear family of married father, mother, and children, which they label the “patriarchal family.” As feminist leader Betty Friedan has warned, this anti-marriage agenda places radical feminists profoundly at odds with the family aspirations of mainstream feminists and most other American women.

The next part of the paper quotes from leading third-wave feminists who oppose marriage.

Here are some of the recent ones:

In her 1996 book In the Name of the Family: Rethinking Family Values in the Postmodern Age, Judith Stacey, Professor of Gender Studies and Sociology at the University of Southern California, consigned traditional marriage to the dustbin of history.36 Stacey contended that “Inequity and coercion…always lay at the vortex of that supposedly voluntary `compassionate marriage’ of the traditional nuclear family.”37 She welcomed the fact that traditional married-couple families (which she terms “The Family”) are being replaced by single-mother families (which she terms the postmodern “family of woman”):

Perhaps the postmodern “family of woman” will take the lead in burying The Family at long last. The [married nuclear] Family is a concept derived from faulty theoretical premises and an imperialistic logic, which even at its height never served the best interests of women, their children, or even many men…. The [nuclear married] family is dead. Long live our families!38

Stacey urged policymakers to abandon their concern with restoring marital commitment between mothers and fathers and instead “move forward toward the postmodern family regime,” characterized by single parenthood and transitory relationships.39

In 1996, Claudia Card, professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, continued the attack:

The legal rights of access that married partners have to each other’s persons, property, and lives makes it all but impossible for a spouse to defend herself (or himself), or to be protected against torture, rape, battery, stalking, mayhem, or murder by the other spouse…. Legal marriage thus enlists state support for conditions conducive to murder and mayhem.40

Other radical feminists suggested that a culture of self-sufficiency and high turnover in intimate relationships is the key to independence and protection from hostile home life. Activist Fran Peavey, in a 1997 Harvard article ironically titled “A Celebration of Love and Commitment,” suggested that “Instead of getting married for life, men and women (in whatever combination suits their sexual orientation) should sign up for a seven-year hitch. If they want to reenlist for another seven, they may, but after that, the marriage is over.”41 Also in 1997, radical feminist author Ashton Applewhite, in her book Cutting Loose–Why Women Who End Their Marriages Do So Well proclaimed: “Women who end their marriages are far better off afterward.”42

Another feminist widely read during the 1990s was Barbara Ehrenreich, a former columnist with Time magazine who now writes for The Nation.43 Throughout her work, Ehrenreich extols single parenthood and disparages marriage. Divorce, she argues, produces “no lasting psychological damage” for children. What America needs is not fewer divorces but more “good divorces.”44 Rather than seeking to strengthen marriage, policymakers “should concentrate on improving the quality of divorce.”45 In general, Ehrenreich concludes that single parenthood presents no problems that cannot be solved by much larger government subsidies to single parents.46

Ehrenreich writes enthusiastically about efforts to move beyond the narrow limits of the nuclear married family toward more rational forms of human relationship:

There is a long and honorable tradition of “anti-family” thought. The French philosopher Charles Fourier taught that the family was a barrier to human progress; early feminists saw a degrading parallel between marriage and prostitution. More recently, the renowned British anthropologist Edmund Leach stated, “far from being the basis of the good society, the family with its narrow privacy and tawdry secrets, is the source of all discontents.”47

While Ehrenreich recognizes that men and women are inevitably drawn to one another, she believes male-female relationships should be ad hoc, provisional, and transitory. She particularly disparages the idea of long-term marital commitment between fathers and mothers. In the future, children will be raised increasingly by communal groups of adults.48 These children apparently will fare far better than those raised within the tight constraints of the nuclear married family “with its deep impacted tensions.”49

The paper goes on to explain how these messages have entered into college textbooks. College textbooks used in classes where young women are expected to agree with the textbooks in order to get their good grades. This is what your children will learn. It’s not what you think feminism is that matters – it’s what they think feminism is. And what they think is what the textbooks tell them to think – or else they get drummed out of the university. This is where the 42% out-of-wedlock birth rate came from. And why our children are growing up without fathers, and growing further and further away from God. Marriage is bad (apparently) because husbands and their traditional roles are bad. So what men for? Sperm-donors and wallets. Men understand this and so we don’t marry.

Do you ever wonder why we have things like no-fault divorce, abortion, co-habitation, hooking-up, in vitro fertilization, socialism, welfare, and so on? It’s because of feminism. Feminism is anti-marriage. Should women now complain about men not being willing to marry and commit? Of course not. So long as women support feminism, by voting for feminists like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, then marriage will decline. If women don’t like men and don’t care about what men want and think men are evil then they should not expect men to accept their traditional roles as protectors and providers and moral/spiritual leaders. Don’t complain that there are no men around who will marry you. Of course there aren’t – because ideas have consequences. Feminism has consequences.

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8 Responses

  1. Retha says:

    Your question was: Can a person be a feminist and still believe in marriage? The answer that your source gives is “yes.” I’ll give some quotes as evidence:
    “President Bush’s new marriage initiative is still opposed by the extreme wing of feminism that sees no good in marriage or in unity between men and women, and between mothers and fathers.
    Moderate, mainstream feminists have long rejected this animus against marriage; the vast majority of such feminists either are married or intend to marry. …Radical feminists… seek to undermine the nuclear family of married father, mother, and children, ”
    “Other radical feminists suggested that a culture of self-sufficiency and high turnover in intimate relationships is the key to independence and protection from hostile home life. ”

    It is clear that the article say that mainstream feminists (in other words, the majority of feminists) are not anti-marriage. Radical feminism is anti-marriage.

  2. Opportunity feminists exist in the same number as classical liberals — they are isolated cases that by themselves, are regarded are curios by the seas of thought around them.

    • Mara says:

      Huh?

      (That’s not a ‘huh’ that doesn’t understand your words. It’s a ‘huh’ that wonders were the heck you came up with that. Your words sounds more like a personal opinion that you either comfort yourself with or convince yourself of than with anything factual.)

    • Mara says:

      btw Wintery.
      I appreciate you distinquishing between third wave/radical/secular feminists from the more mainstream, less vocal feminists.

  3. […] Iowa House passes constitutional amendment to define marriage; Can a person be a feminist and still believe in marriage?; Obama’s weak foreign policy may lead to WAR in the Middle East …. […]

  4. […] Baby Boom feminists (and their intellectual progeny) argue that the traditional family is outdated and sexist.  The nuclear familial arrangement, with it’s coercion and fundamental […]

  5. Mary Dean says:

    What about life regrets for never having married or had kids. This is something that can’t be undone.

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