Why Feminists & Prolifers Need Each Other

November 1993By Juli Loesch Wiley

Juli Loesch Wiley, a Contributing Editor of the NOR, is a mother and writer in Johnson City, Tennessee.

The women's movement is composed of a number of strikingly different teams all wearing the same jersey. Some of these teams huddle to­gether as allies; others clash as opponents; still oth­ers aren't even playing the same game.

Molly Yard, former president of the National Organization for Women, said that the two central demands of mainstream feminism are the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion. Yet the 10,000 member Feminists for Life supports the ERA but opposes abortion. And 50 years ago Eleanor Roosevelt, who inspired much of the modern women's movement, saw abortion as irrelevant to women's advancement, and opposed the ERA vigor­ously all her life on the grounds that it would hurt working women. So who's the feminist?

Hugh Hefner's liberated daughter Christy, the president of Playboy Enterprises, claims that sexual entertainment is "progressive" for women, but Andrea Dworkin, founder of Women Against Pornography, insists that it is degrading. So who's the feminist?

In her 1970 book, The Female Eunuch, Germaine Greer promoted contraception. Today the YWCA, the American Home Economics Association, and the Girl Scouts promote contraception. But the flamboyant Greer is now denouncing international contraceptive promoters as "imperialists" and "corporate criminals." So who's the feminist?

The American feminist movement has over the past 25 years supported no-fault divorce and looked with toleration on premarital sex, extramarital sex, and surrogate mother arrangements (a modern form of contract concubinage). But the African women's movement has been in the forefront of the fight to eliminate concubinage, prostitution, and polygamy, and to assert faithful lifelong monogamy as the cultural norm. So who's the feminist?

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Juli's remarks are insightful, witty and memorable -- as usual. I am not disagreeing with a word.

What I want to clarify is the fact that the leaders of 19th century feminism were what Juli describes here as assimilationists. See Elizabeth Cady Stanton's The Women's Bible for all the evidence needed: they wanted women to avoid men and/or marriage in order to achieve equality in the world of commerce.

What troubles me about Feminists for Life and
the USCCB's otherwise sound Respect Life spokeswomen is that again and again they point
to those early feminists as models for contemporary women because they opposed abortion as barbaric. (Yes, they did, and yes, it is.) But they did not in all other ways advocate a Catholic model of womanly morality.

That's because feminism is not and can't be the ideal pattern for relations between the sexes. We can find that pattern only in the complementarity of true Christian marriage.

If it can't be achieved with bumper sticker slogans but will require the re-education of both men and women, then we need to get started on that task.

As one means toward that end, I recommend more essays by Juli Loesch Wiley.

Donna Steichen

Posted by: dmsteichen
July 10, 2007 06:57 PM EDT
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