Friday, August 2, 2013

Not a War on Women, but a War on Mothers

By Joy Pullmann

An extremely well-spoken coalition of women descended on the U.S. Capitol Thursday to make some incisive statements. The contraceptive mandate that forces businesses and health insurers to pay for every woman's contraception and sterilization choices was the reason they showed up, but their comments touched on other things that matter to women, as well. For one (from World Magazine's coverage of the event):
“There’s no war on women, there’s a war on mothers,” said Washington attorney Cynthia Wood in fiery remarks that sparked cheers from the crowd.
“I’m tired of our government making it very difficult to stand up for the things that are good and true,” said Mary Ellen Barringer, a consultant for non-profit groups from Maryland. “I can’t send my son on a field trip without filling out all kinds of paperwork, yet teens have access to products and services that lead to all kinds of risky behavior—with no parental consent.”

Grazie Pozo Christie, another doctor, made the trip from Miami for the event and delivered her comments in both Spanish and English. She told me she wanted to make sure the Hispanic voice was represented, because “the Latino community has an absence of voices speaking out for our side of the story—the side of religious liberty and authentic femininity.”
I never hear anything like this from mainstream groups and politicians. But I'd like to hear a whole lot more.

As for that title, I am not particularly keen on wars on catch-all nouns. The war on drugs. War on terror. War on women. War on poverty. War on mothers. No one is literally launching a war on mothers, or women, and even in a figurative sense I think the metaphor is stupid. But what it intends to convey, despite its hyperboly, is that some of the way our society is structured erodes women, or motherhood. With both of those, I generally agree, and think the comment about a war on mothers is particularly insightful.

It is more socially frowned upon for a woman to stay at home to raise her children than to rise high in the world of business or politics. Our society pushes us into college whether we like it or not, which in turn delays marriage and childbearing for many women until their bodies will have much more pain bearing children and those children will have many more birth and health defects. Chemical contraception may medically benefit many women, but it also is medically harmful to others, causing wide variations in menstrual cycles and infertility. The hookup plus contraception culture deprives women of the far more meaningful and satisfying marriages and families we could have, while allowing young men to use and discard our bodies with no need to respect us as human beings.

Our society pushes women to act like men, and seek mannish behavior, rather than celebrate our unique biology, physiology, and psychology. I mean, one of the most miraculous and exclusively female things we women can do is bring new life into this world and nurture it to maturity, yet our society treats children and anything related to them as an accident and burden, implicating we women by extension. Eradicating femininity and its manifestations—or, worse, caricaturing women as sex kitties or overly emotional dunderheads—sure sounds like a war on women to me.

Image by Ian BC North.

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