They were out in force at the San Francisco Walk for Life, the couple hundred pro-abortion leftists protesting the fifty thousand of us who came to walk for life. The “Stop Patriarchy” group met us at 5th and Market Street, carrying signs saying, “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology.”
You might think a group like this is so radical that they don’t matter. But looking closely at radicals helps us see the root of a set of ideas, ideas held by more mainstream people who appear less threatening. Considering Stop Patriarchy’s rhetorical strategy also reveals how such an irrational set of ideas has advanced so far. They lead with something unobjectionable, and then segue into something far more sinister.
Their website reveals that they attack pornography. So far, so good. (If you do visit their website, be advised: I have edited out some of the more vulgar phrases in my quotations.) Here’s an excerpt:
In recent years, pornography has become increasingly violent, cruel, degrading towards women; . . . Meanwhile, the broader culture has been pornified: pole dancing is taught at gyms, “sexting” is a national phenomenon among teens, and the strip club is the accepted backdrop to “male bonding.” All this is tied in with, and reinforces, the trafficking of millions of women and girls as literal chattel in the international sex industry.
This is NOT society becoming more comfortable with sex. This is society becoming saturated with the sexualized degradation of women. (emphasis in original)
Pornography degrades women. I can go along with that. Every serious Catholic and Christian I know can go along with that. John Paul II would go along with that. In fact, he said, “the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of a human person, but that it shows too little.” I know Mormons and Evangelicals who are working to put a stop to the degradation of women through the pornography industry and sex trafficking.
The Stop Patriarchy people are quite correct to condemn pornography and to work to end it. This is the unobjectionable, even noble, first move. The next move is more questionable.
a Christian fundamentalist-driven assault is imperiling abortion, birth control, real sex education and women’s lives. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people who do not conform to traditional patriarchal gender and sexual norms are demonized and threatened. Abortion doctors are killed. Women who seek abortions—or even birth control—are stigmatized. 2011 saw the largest spate of legal restrictions on abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973.
ALL THIS MUST BE STOPPED!
Fetuses are not babies. Women are not incubators. Abortion is not murder. (emphasis in original)
A world without abortion is in their minds the equivalent of a world saturated with pornography. The people at Stop Patriarchy do not seem to realize that the promise of sex without babies is one of the biggest cultural tailwinds pushing the whole pornography industry along. Where would pornographers be without contraception and legal abortion?
The presence of a new baby or a pregnant woman would certainly mess up the storyline (I use the term loosely) of the typical porn film. Outside the porn industry, contraception with abortion as a backup delivers women to men for their use. Separating sex from conception removes constraints and responsibilities from men, and invites them to use women as objects. This is just as Paul VI predicted in Humanae Vitae, back in 1968.
I cannot recall a single one of the fifty thousand of us at the San Francisco Walk for Life saying or implying that “women are incubators.” No one in the “Patriarchy” of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church refers to women in such degrading terms. Only the members of Stop Patriarchy demean women in this way.
Here is the “money quote,” where Stop Patriarchy pivots from promoting something entirely unobjectionable (the end of pornography) to something entirely destructive.
Women are not objects. Women are not things to be used for the sexual pleasure of men NOR are they breeders of children. WOMEN ARE HUMAN BEINGS CAPABLE OF FULL EQUALITY IN EVERY REALM! (emphasis in original)
These lines give a window into the soul of the Stop Patriarchy movement. Their claim here is that being “breeders of children” is the opposite of “women are human beings capable of full equality in every realm!” The term “breeder” is a term of degradation, a demeaning term, a term that says that mothers are somehow less than fully equal with men, or with other women. Being a mere “breeder” keeps us women from “full equality in every realm.”
Once you actually analyze it, this is an astounding thought.
The simple honest-to-goodness truth is that men and women are different. Giving birth to a child highlights the differences between men and women. Men and women do not become parents in the same way. Men and women feel differently about parenthood, and do parenthood differently. Motherhood has a different impact on women than fatherhood has on men.
These differences, generated by our bodies, in how we experience parenthood are among the most basic facts about our species. But, in the minds of Stop Patriarchy, these very differences between men and women are themselves injustices.
We can see now why this type of leftist is always so angry. It is impossible for them to achieve their objectives. They are always frustrated. We can see now, also, why they are never satisfied, no matter how many benefits they obtain for women, no matter how revolutionary the changes they obtain. In their minds, even a ten-dollar copay for contraception is the residue of the cosmic conspiracy against women’s “humanity” and their “full equality in every realm.”
It is completely bizarre to treat motherhood as the moral equivalent of rape or pornography. Yet that is exactly the parallel that Stop Patriarchy sets up in its rhetoric and its demands. In their minds, being a “breeder of children”–a sneering synonym for women’s natural ability to bring new life into the world—is somehow the same as being a “thing to be used for the pleasure of men.”
Stop Patriarchy's ultimate problem is not really with capitalism or even with violence. Their problem is with the human body. They resent the fact that the human body comes in two different but complementary types, male and female. They are angry that childbearing impacts men and women differently. They resent every social structure and every human feeling that depends on the male-female differentiation. They cannot forgive women like me, who embrace femininity rather than neuter themselves at their urging.
This is why it is correct to identify them as revolutionaries. They are in revolt against the embodied nature of the human person. They hate sexual differentiation, maleness and femaleness.
Male and female are two equally beautiful but different ways of being human. If we lose our ability to fully embrace our manhood or our womanhood, we lose our ability to be human.
Make no mistake about it. An attack on sexual differentiation is an attack on the human body. An attack on the human body is an attack on the human race.
But the people of Stop Patriarchy cannot stop themselves. Once convinced of their opening premise, they have no choice but to try to suppress all the differences between men and women. Everything that has to do with reproduction must be suppressed or neutralized.
The goal is clear: The only good woman is a neutered woman. The only good man is a gay man, who poses no sexual threat to women. The only good child is a chosen child. They do not seem to realize that this commodifies the child, making him or her an object to obtain if we want one, and a problem to solve if we don’t want one. Nor do they seem to realize that today’s young people intuit this, which is why so many of the Walkers for Life carried signs saying, “I am the Pro-Life Generation.”
We may be tempted to “click away” from Stop Patriarchy and ignore them as obviously deluded people who shouldn’t be taken seriously. But that would be a mistake. For this very same thought pattern lies behind the HHS contraceptive mandate and the War on Women rhetoric promoted by the political party now in power. And the party out of power seems either unwilling or unable to confront the ideology for what it is: the ideology of a totalitarian movement, bent on denying and wiping out the most basic facts of our human experience.
We should cut no slack, give no quarter, concede no ground, to these enemies of the human race. Not out of politeness, nor out of courtesy, and certainly, not out of fear. Ignoring people because they are irrational has probably been one of our biggest tactical mistakes. Though Stop Patriarchy’s irrationality makes them hard to argue with, they are deadly serious, and we need to be as well.
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse is the Founder and President of the Ruth Institute, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote lifelong married love to the young by creating an intellectual and social climate favorable to marriage.