Over the past week, we’ve started to dig into the views of the World Congress of Families, using their communication director Don Feder as a springboard. I decided that the next thing I wanted to examine is their views on the place of women in society. The WCF recently announced that their 2015 conference, to be held in Salt Lake City, will be focused on the religious right’s skewed idea of “religious freedom,” which essentially means that anyone should have the right to worship or not as they please, as long as society is built on the structures and strictures of an extreme right “Judeo-Christian” supremacist worldview. It’s especially timely to examine their views on women, as the Supreme Court recently ruled that corporations led by right-wingers actually have more religious freedom than the over fifty percent of American society in possession of XX chromosomes. Scalia means it when he says he’s an originalist, y’all.
So what do they think of women and of the decades of work it’s taken — and is still taking — to give women an equal shot in society? We’ll look at the words of Don Feder and other WCF characters tomorrow, but this afternoon, let’s consider the beliefs of Stephen Baskerville, a WCF contributor and “men’s rights activist” who teaches at Patrick Henry College:
Feminism has now positioned itself as the vanguard of the Left, shifting the political discourse from the economic and racial to the social and increasingly the sexual. What was once a socialistic assault on property and enterprise has become a social and sexual attack on the family, marriage, and masculinity.
But feminists are not defending motherhood; they are politicizing it. “The feminists…want to thoroughly politicize the last bastion of personal life in our society: families,” writes Wendy McElroy. “They want to wrest motherhood from its traditional right-wing associations and make it a left/liberal issue, with ‘Mothers Are Victims’ writ-large on its banner.” The deception is subtle but profound. Motherhood is no longer a private relationship but a claim to political power and to marshal the coercive state apparatus against those depicted as the oppressors of mothers. The feminization of a wide range of issues having no obvious connection with sexuality is now culminating in what one newspaper calls “the radicalization of America’s mothers”: “Some commentators argue that the whole agenda in the US is shifting towards ‘the politics of maternity’.” Not only Code Pink, mobilized in opposition to the Iraq war, but more subtle are the Million Mom March (criminalizing gun ownership), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (criminalizing private, nonviolent acts), and more recently the militant Moms Rising, are variations on the theme. “These ‘pro-family’ women wish to ‘harness’ what [Naomi] Wolf calls the ‘pissed-offedness’ of mothers in order to play ‘hardball politics,’” says McElroy. Many are deceived into believing that feminists have become the champions of traditional motherhood and families, when their actual agenda is to make them dependants [sic] of the state. “[Author Ann] Crittenden indicts not feminism, but capitalism, and argues for government to ‘economically recognize’ motherhood so that women will not be dependent upon husbands.”
Interjecting: drunk driving is a “private, nonviolent act?” Moving on:
The older battle cries of liberal feminism, opposing traditional gender roles or promoting equal pay, have given way to “victim feminism” which insists that women are by definition victims. The shift was almost imperceptible but profound, for the victim posture exploits, rather than renounces, women’s traditional weaknesses, which are also and always have been claims to privilege: motherhood, children, domesticity, sex. Feminists have turned these into claims to state intervention by posing as victims of not just an impersonal “society” but newly invented or redefined “crimes” of which only women can be victims and that only men can commit: rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, child abuse, nonpayment of child support (plus lesser, more vague offenses like “aggressive driving”).
Feel free to click over and read the rest of that report — there are many more gems to be found within. But is it just feminism — as Baskerville imagines it, a sinister ideology hellbent on destroying society, the family, and the frail egos of conservative men — that gets under Baskerville’s skin, or is it women in general? Well, let’s look at what Baskerville had to say in a mandatory lecture delivered last year at Patrick Henry College:
In his lecture, Baskerville argued that the current “war” being waged against Christianity in the United States is an outgrowth of the sexual revolution, and that evangelical Christians are not properly aware of the full extent of this problem. He argued that the “militants” heading up the sexual revolution have created new “gender crimes” designed solely to discriminate against and falsely imprison white males (presumably white male Christians, but to be honest Baskerville seems a whole lot more concerned about white males in general than Christians in particular).
Lovely. Go on, Mr. Baskerville!
Since the inception of their Revolution—and well beneath the media radar screen—militants have been creating a panoply of new crimes and expanded redefinitions of existing crimes—all involving sexual relations. While it is very likely that the Sexual Revolution has also increased incidences of real sex crimes, the new gender crimes are very different: They play on the fear of sex crimes, but they redefine these politically to include not simply acts but heterodox political beliefs. The reality of the witch hunts thus bears no necessary relation to what is suggested by the inflammatory language and jargon:
- “rape” that includes consensual relations and in most instances is no more than that;
- domestic “violence” that involves no violence or any physical contact or threat of it;
- sexual “harassment” that can mean anything from simple flirtation to unauthorized opinions about morality or politics;
- “child abuse” that is routine parental discipline, or homeschooling, or concocted altogether to win advantage in divorce court;
- “bullying” that involves criticism of the homosexual agenda or other differences of belief and opinion;
- “stalking” that is forcibly divorced fathers trying to see their own children;
And much more.
Well, that is certainly jaw-dropping information. Rape is imaginary, violence against women is trumped up fakery, and those horrible women have criminalized the flirtatious wiles of men’s rights activists like Stephen Baskerville. What is the world coming to? As Libby Anne at Patheos points out, Baskerville is creating many strawmen to knock down, as absolutely no one defines any of those things the way he claims they do. But indeed, Baskerville has such a low view of women that he believes that “most instances” of rape are nothing more than consensual sex that the crazy woman suddenly regrets in the morning. Indeed, as Libby further curates his speech, she points out that Baskerville seems to believe that women are to blame for false accusations of all kinds, but that the sexual revolution was ultimately meant to create new crimes meant to subjugate men:
Baskerville is a rape denialist, a domestic violence denialist, and a child abuse denialist (among others). Baskerville could simply argue that rape, domestic violence, and child abuse are results of the sexual revolution (or of feminism), a common argument in Baskerville’s camp, and to some extent he does. However, he is also arguing that as commonly reported and prosecuted, rape, domestic violence, and child abuse are nearly universally trumped up, false, and mere pretexts for divorcing, prosecuting, and imprisoning innocent men. And the enemy here, of course, are those evil, deductive, temptresses—women.
For the exposition of this, she again quotes directly from his speech:
The crime usually begins as some new sexual freedom demanded in strident terms as necessary to liberate women from some form of “oppression”—though crucially, the new freedom is also enticing to men, especially young men with strong libidos and few responsibilities. This then degenerates into a corollary criminal accusation against (usually) the man who takes the bait by indulging in the newly permitted pleasure.
Those poor, pitiful, helpless souls. Reading Baskerville’s words, it’s obvious that he and others like him care so much about protecting the patriarchy because their leadership truly is an “Emperor Has No Clothes” situation. Consider these examples he gives, of women subjugating men (in an earlier era, he would simply use the words “not knowing their place,” but as a purported educator in the twenty-first century, he has to use euphemisms and dogwhistles):
- Recreational sex in the evening turns into accusations of “rape” in the morning, even when it was entirely consensual. (This is especially rampant on college campuses.)
- Demands for access to workplaces, universities, the military, and other previously male venues (accompanied with equally strident demands to engage there in female-only activities, such as pregnancy or breastfeeding) invite accusations of sexual “harassment” against the men when relations inevitably develop (and often turn sour), regardless of who initiates them.
- Cohabitation and “no-fault” divorce are demanded to liberate women from “patriarchal” marriage but quickly generate accusations of male abandonment (even when the woman ends the marriage), as well as domestic “violence” and “child abuse,” in order to procure custody of children and the financial awards they bring.
- The proclaimed right to raise children outside wedlock and without fathers to protect and discipline them soon turns into demands to prosecute adolescents and even children for “bullying” one another and eventually for more serious matters.
- Defiant declarations that women do not need men for financial support quickly give way to demands to arrest and incarcerate without trial men who do not provide women with adequate income in the form of alimony or child support.
- Assertions that women do not need men for protection soon produce hysterical outcries for intrusive police powers, innovative punishments, and expanded penal institutions to punish ever-proliferating and loosely-defined forms of “violence against women,” even when no physical contact or threat of it is involved. (Homosexuals are now mimicking this strategy.)
- The demanded right to engage in homosexual acts and public displays translates almost automatically into the power to arrest or otherwise stop the mouths of preachers, “bullies,” and anyone else who objects or ridicules or offends the “feelings” or “pride” of homosexuals.
- Demands to legalize prostitution feed hysteria to find and prosecute unnamed “sex traffickers.”
- (My favorite, given our setting in higher education:) Demands for unisex bathing facilities in university residences lead to . . . —well, any young man lacking the intelligence to detect the trap awaiting him there may not belong in a university in the first place.
Libby Anne and several others have extensively rebutted each of these claims, so at the risk of being redundant, I encourage you to read her post in full and follow her links. As I said above, Baskerville is a WCF-endorsed speaker, writer and thinker, and has served as a Howard Center Fellow, the Howard Center of course being the WCF’s parent organization. His work appears on their website, and he addressed the 2009 WCF summit in Amsterdam.
What’s important to note is that the World Congress of Families is a large conglomeration of organizations, with each member bringing its own special brand of wingnuttery to the table. We don’t know if all their umbrella organizations would agree with Baskerville’s beliefs that rape is often imaginary, and that’s why we’ll be digging into more of these organizations’ and people’s beliefs, to paint an overall mosaic of this group that wishes to change the course of society in the United States and (especially) abroad. But the fact is that these beliefs of Baskerville’s aren’t some fringe thing he rarely mentions. Rather, they seem to be the hallmark of his entire career. Every article I found, every speech I watched, is about how women no longer “know their place,” and how that’s to blame for the destruction of society.
And there he is, on stage at the World Congress Of Families summit. He must be selling something they like.