Friday, November 10, 2006

Antifeminism & Irresponsible Breeding

I came across this incredibly scary article in The Nation . It covers the ill-thought out "Quiverfull" movement among right-wing evangelicals, which follows a return to patriarchy, 6+ children families, and terribly cliched comparisons of the nuclear family to the army. Oh, and a belief in *The Rapture* that means destroying the earth via overpopulation is hunky-dory, because God will just give us a new one! It's hard to explain the dangers of global warming and the destruction of open spaces and ecosystems and rainforests to people that insist upon believing that whatever crazy irresponsible sh*t they do, God will be there to fix it up.

These are the problems of a large segment of society following blind faith over science and, oh, REALITY.

Here's my take on some excerpts from the article. Pandagon also has a write up which deals more explicitly with the racism involved in trying to "outgrow" Muslim countries, and how this movement links up with anti-choice perspectives in general.

Though there are no exact figures for the size of the movement, the number of families that identify as Quiverfull is likely in the thousands to low tens of thousands. Its word-of-mouth growth can be traced back to conservative Protestant critiques of contraception--adherents consider all birth control, even natural family planning (the rhythm method), to be the province of prostitutes--and the growing belief among evangelicals that the decision of mainstream Protestant churches in the 1950s to approve contraception for married couples led directly to the sexual revolution and then Roe v. Wade.

Wait: contraception = an inheritance from prostitutes?! Do these people know anything about the history of contraception? Which would also be the history of civilization? As long as we've known what caused pregnancy, we've been trying to control our reproductive capacities. It's part of having the ability to think and reason. Because reasoning people have long understood that despite your belief in one or another god (or set thereof), sometimes nature just doesn't cooperate (like when one has too many kids to take care of already).

"Our bodies are meant to be a living sacrifice," write the Hesses. Or, as Mary Pride, in another of the movement's founding texts, The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality, puts it, "My body is not my own." This rebuttal of the feminist health text Our Bodies, Ourselves is deliberate. Quiverfull women are more than mothers. They're domestic warriors in the battle against what they see as forty years of destruction wrought by women's liberation: contraception, women's careers, abortion, divorce, homosexuality and child abuse, in that order…

Um, what? And why is the writer not calling them out on this blatant misinformation? That whole female martyrdom thing? Been there, done that, and it wasn't so hot. "Quiverfull" martyrs may not remember this, but women wanted contraception. And they were relieved to have it. They really ought to read some of the letters to Sanger in the early 20th century. And that whole having a career thing? Also makes many women very happy. Don't change women having careers, change the society that makes it so difficult for a woman to both have a career and a family. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

As to abortion: I think South America has already provided us with plenty of examples of how criminalizing abortion hurts women. Compare Brazil's abortion rate with that of the Netherlands, for example. And divorce? Means that people aren't suffering in marriages that didn't work out. Despite popular right wing ideology, forced marriage does not a happy marriage make. Staying with something that makes you miserable, or with someone that beats you, doesn't make you a better person.

OK, homosexuality? Come on. Look at most other animal species. Read some of the ancient Greeks & Romans. Homosexuality is both natural and human. The reasoning here is very simply an intentional misreading of causality. Feminism doesn't cause homosexuality. But feminist and civil rights movements do create an atmosphere in which one is willing to claim one's humanity and own up to one's sexuality.

Child abuse? Do we even need to dignify that with an answer? A passing knowledge of human nature and child labor laws in the past 200 years would be a good place to start.

"Family planning," Pride argues, "is the mother of abortion. A generation had to be indoctrinated in the ideal of planning children around personal convenience before abortion could be popular."…

Whoa there. What indoctrination? Women wanted contraception long before it was legal to even talk about it with your nurse or doctor. And what exactly is better than "personal convenience" for deciding when to embark on a pregnancy? Should we strive to have children when we're broke, single, and too young or immature to take care of them?

Pastor Heneghan of Gospel Community Church sees the issue of population growth in more biblical terms, specifically those taken from Genesis and Revelation. "Some people think that what I'm doing--having eleven children--is wrong. I don't really get into that much. The Bible says 'be fruitful and multiply.' That's my belief system. They don't believe in God, so they think we have to conserve what we have. But in my belief system, He's going to give us a new earth." Overpopulation isn't a problem in a universe where God promises a clean global slate…

More evidence for how easy it is to pick a verse from the Bible and use it to support whatever crazy scheme you've thought up. If you're going to literally interpret "be fruitful and mutliply," then why not all those old Hebrew laws in Leviticus? Oh yeah, that's right: because those are outdated. Suppose it's ever dawned on these guys that we've already been "fruitful and multiplied" since Adam and Eve got that advice? That maybe it's time to stop taking that so literally?

And I'm sorry, you can also believe that God will pick up your dirty socks and put them in the hamper, but even the strongest faith does not change reality. Over here in the reality-based world, the human population has skyrocketed, while the environment has taken a beating. The vast majority of scientists are *very worried* about global warming and our belated and ineffectual responses to it thus far. Forests are being cut down to satisify first world markets. Our water, air, and land are so polluted with industrial chemicals and waste products that scientists (and the rest of us who are paying attention) are very worried about the impact on human health. Here's one of the latest studies, I'll just give the lead-in: "MILLIONS of children worldwide may have suffered brain damage as a direct result of industrial pollution, scientists said yesterday."

Yeah. So, about your belief system: It doesn't correlate with reality. So unless you remove yourself from the reality of the The Earth, November 2006, please start acting like a responsible citizen who has to think about his/her impact on the environment and human society. Seriously, it's what Jesus would do.

When I visited Janet and Ted Wolfson at their paintball farm in Canton, Georgia, for a planned Quiverfull picnic (one cut short by bad weather and Rachel Scott's cardinal rule that "with eight children, plans are always subject to change"), the Wolfsons and their guests were discussing the reasons for sticking with Quiverfull through the hard times. An anonymous mother had written in to the Quiverfull Digest full of despair, saying she felt she was "going to die." Her husband was older and unhelpful around the house, and she feared he would die and leave her to raise their six children alone and destitute. She wanted someone on the forum to give her a reason--besides the Bible--why one should be Quiverfull. The answers were quickand pointed: Apart from Scripture, there's no reason why one should be Quiverfull.

"If you don't invoke God's word, then there's really no reason," the Wolfsons explained. "Kids are great and all that, but in reality, it's all about the Bible."

Come again?!
These are the people trying to teach us about the proper mentality of the parent? That's frankly quite scary. "Kids are great and all"? That's it? Maybe when you're having a baby a year due to your misinterpretation of the Bible, reality starts to set in and you realize that's a helluva lot of diapers? And you realize that there's really no reason for the way you're living your life, except for this little sentence in the Bible that you've cherry picked as being the only one you're going to interpret literally?

And even sadder: can you imagine being the 13th child? Who's here because it's "all about the Bible"?

But if the Quiverfull mission is rooted in faith, the unseen, its mandate to be fruitful and multiply has tangible results as well. Namely, in Rick and Jan Hess's words, to provide "arrows for the war."

Oh oops, spoke too soon. I mean, can you imagine being the 13th child who's here because his/her parents want to provide plenty of Christian soldiers for the anticipated war with the Muslim world?
After arguing Scripture, the Hesses point to a number of more worldly effects that a Christian embrace of Quiverfull could bring. "When at the height of the Reagan Revolution," they write, "the conservative faction in Washington was enforced [sic] with squads of new conservative congressmen, legislators often found themselves handcuffed by lack of like-minded staff. There simply weren't enough conservatives trained to serve in Washington in the lower and middle capacities." But if just 8 million American Christian couples began supplying more "arrows for the war" by having six children or more, they propose, the Christian-right ranks could rise to 550 million within a century ("assuming Christ does not return before then"). They like to ponder the spiritual victory that such numbers could bring: both houses of Congress and the majority of state governor's mansions filled by Christians; universities that embrace creationism; sinful cities reclaimed for the faithful; and the swift blows dealt to companies that offend Christian sensibilities…

Someone should really tell these people that just because you take your child to church, doesn't mean your child is going to grow up believing everything that you believe in. There are many, many liberals who were raised by religious right wingers.

Oh, and by the by: We've already seen what happens when the head of Evangelicals, Ted Haggerd, visits the White House on a weekly basis. Things fall apart, and the Dems take both houses of Congress.

In both Carlson's writings and in the work of Mary Pride and the Hesses, this is reflected in their description of patriarchal families as the basic "cellular units of society" that form a bulwark against Communism, as well as in the military-industrial terminology they assign to biblical gender roles within such "cells": the husband described as company CEO, the wife as plant manager and the children as workers. Or, in alternate form, the titles revised to reflect the Christian church's "constant state of war" with the world: "Commander in Chief" Jesus, the husband a "commanding officer" and his wife a "private" below him. And the kids? Presumably ammunition, arrows, weapons for the war.

Someone should also tell these people that if Jesus were alive today, he'd be a hippy. (Even David Kuo admits that.) Who, exactly, would Jesus bomb?

I thought so.

And you couldn't make those analogies more hilariously ridiculous if you tried. Sometimes I wonder when I'm reading The Nation, if I'm actually reading The Onion.

Thus patriarchy, and its requirement that wives submit to their husbands, becomes a mission in itself, the inversion of a reactionary movement into a seeming revolution against modern society. As Pride writes, "Submission has a military air.... When the private is committed to winning the war, and is willing to subject his personal desires to the goal of winning, and is willing to follow the leader his Commander has put over him, that army stands a good chance of winning."…

Yuck. Nothing like blatant misogyny to make me want to vomit. Having a penis does not equal having either brains or a good plan. I think our current president perfectly illustrates this. Nor does having a Y chromosome mean you're a good leader, compassionate, or even sane. Hmmm...

Taking a long view as unsettling in its way as Pastor Bartly Heneghan's rapture talk, Longman says that no society can survive to reproduce itself without following patriarchy…

Uhh -- wait a sec. First, I assume they're talking about industrialized, capitalist societies, because there are examples of more matriarchal human groups. Secondly, do we really have enough evidence to make this statement? Call me crazy, but wouldn't we need a modern, industralized nation that: 1) is not patriarchal or 2) is not still very much shaped by patriarchy? And where, pray tell, is this society?

Oh yes, there isn't one. So I want to know why we need to follow patriarchy in order to reproduce society. Are we supposed to seriously give up on the idea of women being equally human just because some countries in Europe have low birth rates? It is quite possible and likely that birth rates simply change according to local and global conditions. Maybe women are having fewer children because the world is overpopulated, because they know that in first world countries all their children are likely to surive, and because they can. Maybe women are right to have fewer children in the modern world. Maybe all women would make this choice if they were free of religious and cultural messages to the contrary.

If that's true, then I've just solved the right-wing Evangelicals' worse fears about a coming Christian-Muslim world war. Just give Muslim women rights over their bodies and reproductive capacities.

But for the sake of argument, let's consider the other side. That the only way to reproduce modern society, and our U.S. society in particular, is through patriarchy. Then I see no way out but to seriously confront the question: If we need to coerce women into reproducing society through patriarchal control, then is it a society really worth reproducing?

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