The Democratic War Against Women

March 20th, 2012 Posted by Susan's Musings 4 comments

The past few weeks have seen multiple variation on the theme, “The Republican War against Women” trotted out by Democratic Party aficionados. The attacks would be laughable were the stakes not so high. Let’s leave aside the super-hypocrisy of crying “foul” over Rush Limbaugh’s language which was pristine compared to that which is regularly used against Republican and conservative women. That providing free (i.e. people other than those using it paying for it) contraception should be the critical issue of our day is of course, ludicrous.  Setting up the straw man that any politician wants the government to make contraception illegal is demagoguery, not discourse.

But has the sexual revolution, which was facilitated by the easy availability of contraception, enhanced or damaged more women’s lives? Does even discussing this question make many people uncomfortable? Perhaps Rush Limbaugh would be more of a gentleman now if others hadn’t previously raced to erase the term ‘ladylike’ from our national dialogue.

One of life’s frustrating realities is that trying to solve a problem sometimes causes more harm than good. That doesn’t mean that the problem was trivial; it means that changing the status quo isn’t always beneficial or even benign. Early feminists were upset about a sexual double standard. In large parts of society, men who sexually experimented before marriage were given a pass while women who did the same were maligned. College boys were expected to sow their wild oats while girls who did the same were judged critically. Let’s focus on this for a few minutes.

If the problem here was inequality, then there were two ways to deal with it.  The Democratic Party and liberals could have led the legislative charge to penalize certain behaviors as they as they did to reduce smoking, for example. For those of us less comfortable with legislation being the answer to all problems, society could have unleashed social pressure to disparage the undesired behavior. It is not really that long ago when dorms were all single sex and visitors of the opposite sex were supervised. If the male dorms had less rigid rules and curfews, more stringencies could have been placed on the men rather than loosening the rules on the females. Instead of promulgating the idea that living together before marriage was normative, society could have promoted the idea that men who slept around were irresponsible, untrustworthy and immature.

Instead, the path chosen was to challenge any social standards which suggested that there was a positive value in chastity, and to encourage young women to model their behavior after that of self-centered men. That certainly solved the inequality problem, even if it did so by assuming the superiority of the male paradigm.

Maybe the real problem was not inequality but the damage caused by separating sex and marriage? If the problem was actually the casual acceptance of improper behavior among men, then promoting equally promiscuous behavior among women made the problem worse not better. What if both men and women, but particularly women, are happiest in monogamous, long-term, committed relationships? What if the psychological and emotional health of many women is damaged by treating sex casually, a contention supported by mental health professionals who serve women rather than political ideologies?  Part of today’s social gulf is between those who think that loosening sexual standards has brought greater happiness to all and those who think the cure caused more pain and suffering than it alleviated. Certainly, the utopian vision of joyful womanhood which was supposed to follow the unshackling of religious and moral chains has not materialized. It is easy and common today to mock moral positions which were normative only a few years ago. But there are millions of unhappy, hurt and suffering women, many of whom are on or have been on college campuses, who might well be leading happier lives today had those old-fashioned positions been strengthened rather than weakened.

4 comments

Menorahnorth says:

You’re right, Susan, that “liberated” mores have done damage, but you write as if this decline “was chosen” (your term) by some malign conspiracy. There was no organized plot or group that “chose” the looser sexual trajectory, and so it’s not so easy to return. But it is possible, and we’re already seeing some evidence of the toothpaste sliding back in the tube. The divorce rate is down, highly educated women are unafraid to “throw away” their degrees to give their family priority, and even with marriage redefined (alas!) at least the goal is for more people to be married–ie, marriage is seen as desirable. It’s true that the positive is offset, but taking the long view, we see society’s pendulum of morals swinging one way and then another over time, and I believe there’s reason for optimism with our younger generation. After all, you and the Rabbi have raised exemplary young men and women, even in our rancid culture, and I’m sure you’re connecting daily with families determined to do the same.

Matt says:

The ocean water that is normally on the coast has receded far out into the distance. You are left wondering – where did it go? You come up with this explanation, or that explanation but in totality you are left scratching your head. What happened?
In my little example I am describing the signs of a tsunami. One can see the signs right in front of them, but they don’t get the big picture.
What is the big picture? Society is crumbling around us. What does that mean about our future?

Peter B. says:

Susan, thank you for reminding us that the use of the straw man is one of the left’s favorite tactical maneuvers, the deployment of which usually starts with words such as “Some will say …”.
The current debate, however, is brazenly slandersous in accusing specific persons by name of saying things that they have not said. While I agree that the tactics of the current contraception debate do in fact constitute a war on women, the larger strategic plan might be termed The Democrat War on Truth. This is evidenced by the fact that the president has recently placed a sympathetic phone call to a 30 year old woman student “victim”, and thereby offered his tacit approval to her immoral lifestyle. For the president of the United States to take this action has the effect of removing any remaining sexual morality out-of-bounds markers from the minds of America’s young people.
The most recent previous democrat president moved the out-of-bounds markers when claiming that his adulterous activity with a teenaged intern in the oval office was “not sex”. Save for the existence of as certain as yet to be drycleaned blue dress, the deployment of the standard tactic of character assassination would certainly have relegated that story to minor historical footnote status. The subsequent “not sex” defense strategy, however, was pernicious moral boundary line moving incremementalism. And so it is with today’s moral debate, although like everything else with the current administration, it is being done more stealthfully, more deceitfully and unfortunately, more effectively.

Warren Ward says:

Thanks for your beautifully written remarks. It is tragic that the 60s potheads who mocked and destroyed the moral fiber of this nation are now our “leaders” who continue their attack on all that is good a righteous.
However, we cannot- must not- let them go on unimpeded on their quest to maim this society. The wound is deep, but we can still win if we fight the good fight. Thanks for your campaigns!

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