Saturday, August 5, 2006

Where Seething Is Believing

When left-wing blogs such as Pandagon and Feministe take on issues of sexual morality, what's immediately apparent is their outright anger for those who argue on behalf of marriage and premarital chastity. (I say "premarital chastity" because there is also marital chastity, which entails fidelity and openness to children — and no, such blogs aren't necessarily fond of those either.)

In a typical complaint, Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte threw around words like "sexist" and "anti-feminist" the other day as she tore into an item in the Independent Women's Forum InkWell about the Edith Stein Project, which the InkWell says seeks to "establish a forum for education and dialogue about the dignity of women and the problems facing women in contemporary culture, such as rape, pornography and abortion."

Noting that "one of the common complaints" of the Independent Women's Forum is the objectification of women, Marcotte writes:

Objectification is reducing someone to an object, end of story. Allowing that women are full human beings with desires and bodily functions that they have the agency to control — which is what reproductive rights advocates do — is not objectification.

However, slapping a purity ring on a girl’s finger and telling her that she should only “give herself” to her husband is in fact sexual objectification. Having sex with someone is not the same as “giving yourself”. The concept of giving is that one person transfers ownership of their property to someone else, who is free to do with it as they see fit. So the phrasing then means that the woman who gives herself is transferring ownership of her entire being over to her husband’s use as if she were nothing but an object, and the sexual contact is just the ceremony of his taking use and enjoying his brand new warm sex toy/breeding machine.

Having sex with someone and being able to do so without him gaining control over you as if you were a piece of property is anti-objectification.
[Read the full post for context.]
It's easy to spot the various straw men in Marcotte's arguments — from the popular left-wing claim that the chastity movement is centered upon "purity rings" foisted upon unwitting victims, to the assertion that "anti-feminists" view sex as "transferring ownership." Strip away the hyperbole and what's left is fear and animosity. Anti-feminists hate you, and they hate all women. They will turn you into property and destroy your way of life. One pictures Marcotte timidly hunting-and-pecking her entries on a Royal typewriter from a sealed bunker 150 feet beneath the streets of Seattle as an airborne Pat Robertson and Phyllis Schlafly drop smart-bombs containing Bibles, chastity belts, and lifetime subscriptions to Parenting.

Likewise, Feministe's Jill Filipovic has spent many hours of her blogging life bemoaning the value that some segments of the population attach to chastity, marriage, and parenting. In one such post, "Scorn for Parenthood," she writes,
The fetishization of motherhood is bad for those who have children and for those who don’t. It puts impossible expectations on mothers — that they should always be perfect parents, that they’re failures if their children don’t bring them eternal happiness, that any mistake will indelibly scare their offspring and turn them into axe murderers. And it requires that motherhood be an essential component of womanhood, placing any woman who is old enough to be a mother but isn’t in a category of other-ness. It leaves her open to questions, criticisms, and assumptions; it allows people ... to assume that they have the right to “suggest” that she reconsider her decisions.

People who choose not to have children are regularly referred to as “childless” — as if they’re missing something. They’re depicted as lonely spinsters, not people whose lives are entirely full and happy — if they’re depicted at all. Usually, anyone over the age of 35 is portrayed as married and a proud parent. So save me the cries of, “But they called me a breeder!
Amid Filipovic's many sweeping generalizations, it's possible to find some truth. There have been times when I myself, upon meeting fellow Christians — particularly Catholics — have felt an unspoken tension, as though they don't quite know how to relate to a woman over 35 who is neither a wife and mother nor a nun.

But even granted that there are some people who harbor such prejudices against older single women or place unreasonable expectations upon mothers, I find it impossible to read Filipovic's writings on this topic without perceiving that she has a much larger axe to grind. Her true beef is not with popular depictions of women over 35, nor is it with those who would treat a "child-free" older woman as an "other." It is with the notion that requires, in her words, "that motherhood be an essential component of womanhood."

I can't speak for the vague masses that Filipovic's broadside appears to describe; there may indeed be some individuals who believe that a woman not called to motherhood should crawl into a ball and die. My faith teaches that, while married couples should be open to children, not all women are called to motherhood.

It's when a woman becomes a mother — a process that starts when the new life first begins within her — that her motherhood becomes an essential component of her womanhood. That's why the desire to separate the womanhood from the motherhood is at the core of the abortion-advocating philosophy of Filipovic and her ideological compatriots. Any suggestion of a spiritual, let alone physical, bond between a mother and her unborn child denies them their belief that the two may be painlessly separated. It's for this reason that many pro-lifers, myself included, see a hatred of babies behind the rhetoric of the fierciest abortion advocates. The very existence of a mother's bond with her born child calls into question abortion advocates' claims that no such bond existed between the two when the child was still in the mother's womb.

At the core of the left-wing bloggers' animosity towards chastity is, I believe, an uneasy awareness of what a culture that values marriage — by which I mean so-called traditional marriage — does to their lifestyle. I'm not talking about a return to the 1950s, but the culture that exists right now among those Americans who believe in marriage and premarital chastity.

In places where the overall culture has traditional values, those who refuse to be chaste can still live their lifestyle. What they miss — and Filipovic hits upon this — is validation from Hollywood and from others that they are in the moral right. (One can also see this in the gay "marriage" initiative, which is, at its heart, a demand for moral acceptance, since efforts to win such nuptials persist even when all the rights of marriage are available.)

But in places where the Marcottes and Filipovics prevail — which include where I live, in the New York City area, and much of the country — chastity and marriage are under constant attack.

Unlike the antagonists, it is not moral acceptance that chastity and marriage advocates seek. At the heart of the institution of marriage is children's well-being. A culture where children are exposed to sex at a young age, and where children see people use sex as a means to "child-free," commitment-free pleasure — even if that means is rationalized as "anti-objectification" — cannot produce emotionally healthy children.

Think about that the next time you hear people raise their voices against chastity and marriage advocates. They know in their hearts that their opponents, even if traditional values were victorious, would be unable to crush them. But to get what they want — socially sanctioned, legally enforced rectitude — they have to set their verbal phasers to "kill."