According to Michael Cuneo in Catholics Against the Church (reviewed in the new Insight supplement), all “Revivalist” Catholics he interviewed were against feminism. “All regardless of age and social standing view the Women’s Movement with undisguised loathing, and link it to the breakdown of family, community, and traditional morality in Western society,” he writes.
So what’s new, you may say and hastily turn to Father Ted’s column. It is hardly a new insight into the pro-life movement and merely confirms the stereotypical, anti-feminist label pinned on us by nearly everyone who writes about us. It is hardly a notion plucked out of thin air either; much space has been devoted in this newspaper over the years to discussing the women’s movement and its participants.
All of this gives the impression that we are against equality for women and yearn for the days when women were like well-brought-up children, seen and not heard. But this anti-feminist image does not fit anyone I know in the pro-life movement (well, perhaps one or two who shall remain nameless), and I think we should spend some time setting the record straight whenever we are falsely labeled.
The majority of us are feminists, whether we realize it or not; our problem is that we cannot use the term because it has come to symbolize something that we completely despise. A commitment to legalized abortion is central to the feminist platform, and any one who disagrees with this cannot join any mainstream feminist organization I know. However, because we dissent on abortion, it is assumed that we also dissent on all the other issues on the feminist agenda. But I don’t know anyone who approves of violence against women, for example, whether it is through rape, wife battering, terrorism or pornography. What divides us from them is that we generally come to different conclusions on what causes such violence and how such wrongs should be righted. The same can be said for many other items on the feminist agenda. It is not so much that we automatically approve of any form of discrimination raised by the feminists; it is more that we disagree with the solutions they propose.
Refuting the anti-feminist label takes time and energy; it is often easier to accept the label and move on to more important things. Amongst pro-lifers the word “feminist” is used as a king of shorthand. Those who have been around for some time know exactly how the word is being used and what it represents. But for the newcomer such dogmatic-sounding disapproval must sometimes seem quite alarming and create a barrier to further involvement. Perhaps it would help if we went back to the basics form time to time.
With that in mind, I went back to the very first column I wrote for The Interim (actually, the very first column I wrote for anyone!) in March 1983. Although I hope nobody kept it, I did make a couple of decent points. True feminism, I said, “concerns our dignity as human beings. It is therefore patently absurd to argue that abortion is permissible. We cannot affirm the dignity of a woman or man and then deny that dignity to an unborn child. A woman cannot ask for respect for herself while destroying the life created within her. The woman who calls herself a pro-abortion feminist is a contradiction in terms, she is not a feminist, she is merely a pro-abortionist.”
I still agree with what I wrote then, I would only change that last sentence. They don’t call themselves pro-abortion feminists and, as we all know, strenuously defend their position by arguing they are for “choice.” But it comes down to the same thing: they believe in abortion, and therefore they are pro-abortion.
The pioneering Canadian feminist Nellie McClung wrote, “Children are not a handicap to any woman.” Today’s leaders in the women’s movement believe precisely the opposite. It is time their feminist credentials were challenged.