Some Women Just Don’t Know What’s Good For ‘Em
I’d like to ask the reader to take a moment and join me in a round of applause for women. I did not know this until recently, but they’ve all been fighting a very important battle in the Supreme Court these last few months, and it seems they have, at last, emerged victorious. I do not know how they all managed to cram in the courtroom at once, or even how they managed to do so without the rest of us noticing. Perhaps this is what is meant by the phrase “feminine mystique.”
I jest. It’s probable not all women were at the Supreme Court (although I don’t keep track of my wife when she is “at work” or my daughter when she is “napping,” so I can’t say for sure). So when presidential hopeful former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt verdict, which struck down restrictive Texas abortion laws in its June 27th decision, “a victory for women in Texas and across America,” the Secretary could not have meant that all American women were fighting for this particular decision. She only meant that a very particular organization with a very particular philosophy received a court ruling in their favor and that women should feel pleased by the organization’s victory–regardless of their own personal philosophy.
Rest easy, today’s article is not about abortion. One reason is that I’m disallowed from writing about abortion under the modern rules of logic, in which the validity of an idea is not found within the idea itself but within the identity of a speaker; this logic, which we’d call a fallacy in a more rational setting, renders men’s thoughts on what are deemed “women’s issues” invalid a priori. Another reason is that, for all my joking about progressive activists, I really am impressed with their successes in advancing society and I do want to encourage them to advance even further. They have already progressed all the way to the standards of Canaan, and I believe that with enough encouragement, they may someday catch up to the rest of us in recognizing the depravity of eugenics. If I lecture on the topic now, my masculine words will fall on deaf ears and may even impede the slow-but-steady march of progressives towards enlightenment.
Instead, I’d like to only pose a simple, likely foolish, question: if the right to abortion and the defeat of laws which restrict access to abortion are victories for women, what are we to make of women who are against abortion altogether? There are even some women who work for anti-abortion groups and clinics that provide alternative services to Planned Parenthood. Are they mad? Even if some are, psychopathy can’t account for all of them. What about the rest? It seems that either sweeping statements about what’s good for women (like those of Senator Clinton) do not reflect the female consensus, or that some women just don’t know what’s good for ‘em.
These pro-life women are neither mythical creatures nor hypothetical contrivances. They are, in fact, almost impossible to miss. Just last month, Cosmopolitan (yes, that Cosmopolitan) ran a profile on Brandi Swindell, a pro-life activist and entrepreneur who launched Stanton Healthcare as an alternative women’s health clinic and pregnancy crisis center. Among Christianity Today’s “33 Under 33” profile of millennials leaving an impact on the world was Lila Rose, an activist who launched her pro-life organization at the age of fifteen. Liberty University professor Karen Swallow Prior has written extensively about her pro-life stance and activism. There’s Feminists for Life, an organization built on the principle that being against abortion is the true feminist position. The list goes on. Pro-choice supporters may believe they’re on the side of all women, but it is clear that not all women are on the side of pro-choice.1
So what of it? It’s not unusual for someone to overstate their own case or misrepresent the popularity of their position. These are common rhetorical tricks and can be expected from proponents of really any cause. The point that I wanted to make is this: if the acceptance of an argument in our age is contingent upon not only the strength of that argument but also the identity of the interlocutor, then I believe it is of absolute and vital importance to equip and support individuals of those particular identities in their work.
That is to say, the Church needs women, and it needs them for far more than putting out coffee and corralling children on Sunday mornings. If we want to take part in cultural battles over human dignity, we must equip and support those who are most ideally suited to the task. In our particular moment in history, I believe many of the battles can only be fought with women leading the charge. The president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, recently lamented, “I’m just honestly so sick of men telling us what to do with our bodies.”2 This is a widespread view and a common refrain among pro-choice proponents. Very well. I surrender any right I may have had to participate in the debate. I’ll leave Richards to women like Swindell and Rose, who seem to have more courage and tenacity in their little toe than I have in my whole body.
I was recently introduced to an alternate interpretation of the phrase “suitable helper” in Genesis 2:18 through the writing of Aimee Byrd, a blogger and author who’s covered gender issues in the church. She draws on author John McKinley, who proposes that the Hebrew ezer is better interpreted as “necessary ally.” Ezer is used throughout the Old Testament, primarily in a military context.3 Whereas “suitable helper” is passive and domesticated, “necessary ally” is a strong, dynamic phrasing that distinguishes women from men while granting them agency and ability to serve God–not as lesser copies of men, but as fully-formed beings made in the image of, and by the hands of, our Lord.
It seems to me that if the world wishes to claim the Church is an enemy to women and will not accept the opinion of men on the matter, then the most sensible solution is to leave the matter to the women of the Church. In Christianity, women are not prisoners or domestic servants to men. They are necessary allies, uniquely created and equipped by God to serve alongside men in a distinct capacity. Our moment in history has created unique arenas that demand women serve as champions of Christianity. Men must support them as best they can, as allies are called to do.
1. Similarly, gay rights activists who hope to defeat Christians who hold to traditional views of marriage by demonizing them as bigots struggle to explain away individuals like Wesley Hill, Eve Tushnet, Christopher Yuan, and Rosaria Butterfield, who are gay (or formerly identifying as gay) Christians who still hold to traditional views of marriage.
2. Emma Gray. “Cecile Richards: ‘I’m Sick Of Men Telling Us What To Do With Our Bodies.’” The Huffington Post. April 6, 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cecile-richards-is-sick-of-dudes-legislating-womens-bodies-slay-queen_us_5706ee91e4b0c4e26a224666
3. Aimee Byrd. “Always a Woman.” byFaith. April 11, 2016. http://byfaithonline.com/always-a-woman/
Photo: “Ces dames au réfectoire,” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. 1893-1895.