This post is in response to the panel at Women in Secularism 2 titled “How Women’s Concerns Can Best Be Advanced within the Context of a Secular Agenda.” The panel was mostly focused on feminist political concerns, mostly abortion and the many efforts at the state level that are taking place to restrict abortion, with some talk about how political alliances should be formed to better connect atheism and feminism together. There was a bit of talk about the “gender gap” in pay and evolution being removed from school books by the Texas school board and how this affects school text books nationwide but the biggest concern by far seemed to be abortion and to a lesser extent birth control.
I am intrigued by this concept of “women’s concerns.” There is the feminist conception of “women’s concerns” that seems to be totally focused around power mongering, women taking from others to give to themselves. When I think of “women’s concerns” I have something else in mind; namely men’s abandonment of women and the many problems this causes in women’s lives. Women are at the center of the family and feminism directly attacks the family unit and family relationships in general; family relationships that are central to women’s lives. Feminism is opposed to family being at the center of women’s lives; instead career ambition should be at the center of women’s lives. In this way feminism totally ignores the destruction of the family as if it is a non-issue and instead fixates on women’s “empowerment” and “social prestige” particularly as it relates to the career sphere and political sphere. Feminism does focus on women’s place in the family sphere in the form of its fixation on “reproductive rights” but this concern as it relates to family life is not at all about the health of the family or the functioning of relationships between men and women, it is instead only about elevating women’s power in the family at men’s expense; placing women above men and above children in the family hierarchically through law. This elevation of women above men in the family is one of the great victories of the feminist revolution; a victory feminists are loathe to surrender.
I wonder, is divorce a woman’s issue? Are out-of-wedlock births a woman’s issue? Is men no longer financially supporting women they are married to a woman’s issue? Divorce, out-of-wedlock births, and women working in marriage (among whites) have all gone up about 20 fold since the feminist revolution got started. Feminists never seem to refer to these issues as “women’s issues” even though they have all gone up enormously since feminism got started and logically one would think these family related problems affect women’s lives. Instead “women’s issues” are “the pay gap” (women typically making less than men overall), “reproductive rights” (women’s supposed entitlement to get their way in matters of reproduction and family planning), “sexual harassment” (women’s right I suppose to not be made to feel “uncomfortable” by men’s romantic advances towards them with men being threatened with punishment if they make a woman “uncomfortable”), and “gender discrimination” and “gender stereotyping” of various sorts (people thinking and acting according to the typical characteristics and strengths of men and women and in particular favoring male behavior consistent with male strengths and female behavior consistent with female strengths that benefits the family and society overall).
All of these “women’s issues” that feminists focus on are all related to the overall project of taking power away from men and giving it to women at men’s expense and discouraging gender appropriate values and behavior that lead to an empowerment of men that then leads to men being able to create and support and maintain family life. The “women’s issues” that feminists focus on, to the extent that feminists succeeded in their objectives on these issues, directly led to the destruction of the family unit and relationships between men and women that is shown by the 20 fold increase in divorce, out-of-wedlock births, and married women working (among whites in the United States) since the feminist revolution got started (around 1850 accompanying the end of coverture and the principle of male guardianship).
Tackling this issue of how women’s concerns can be best be advanced through secularism; what the feminists would say (paraphrasing here) is that secularism rejects God meaning secularism denies any fundamental intrinsic nature of woman that would make women different from men. After all, if there were any differences between men and women that were important such differences would have to be “created” or “imposed” by a force above man, above mere human choice and will. Only a God could establish such a difference between men and women and so since God doesn’t exist that means there is no basis for or source of potential difference between men and women that would justify treating men and women differently just because of their gender. So secularism abolishes the claim that men and women are inherently and importantly different from each other; this false claim (justified by religion) being the fundamental underlying source of gender discrimination. Once the sameness of men and women has been established by the refutation of the God myth then all systematic differential treatment between men and women can be seen to be discriminatory and unjustified. In this way secularism establishes the fundamental premise that men and women are basically the same. Once the fact that men and women are basically the same has been established then everywhere where women do not succeed as well as men has to be the result of gender discrimination and the oppression and victimization of women. This discrimination against women must be remedied by policies and changes in cultural attitudes that lead to taking away from men what men have unjustly stolen from women and giving it back to women. This is how women’s concerns are advanced through the promotion of secularism according to the atheist feminist paradigm.
I of course do not agree with this vision of how secularism can best advance “women’s concerns.” First of all no supernatural God being around in no way invalidates the idea that men and women are fundamentally and importantly different from each other. Atheists see evolution as being the plausible explanation behind why humans are the way they are. So evolution explains the differences between men and women. Men evolved to serve the male role, women evolved to serve the female role. This co-evolution between men and women lead men and women to specialize in different functions and to evolve different strengths and attributes consistent with their inherited gender defined function. This division of labor meant to maximize the amount of support men and women as a team could provide to their children is then the established evolved inherited masculine and feminine gender role that defined society up until very recent times; until the feminist experiment got started messing everything up.
This is how I would say women’s concerns can best be advanced through secularism. Women’s concerns are first and foremost rooted in the health of the family, the family being the starting point of women’s sense of psychological well being and the core of women’s higher purpose in life. Of course, truth be told, family is the origin of everyone’s sense of psychological well being and is the ultimate foundation for everyone’s higher purpose in life, both men and women. Back to women however, in trying to address women’s concerns I would first focus on putting the family back together; reducing the astronomically high divorce rate, out-of-wedlock birth ratio, and proportion of married women working would be my first priorities.
Going back to basics; what is the family? The family is where men invest in women. Family is first and foremost based on male investment in women; only where male investment in women is established and guaranteed can the follow-on purposes of family such as the raising of children be done well. Male investment in women is in turn based on male authority and male prestige and respect as the man has to protect his investment in the woman so that his resource provision will be used for the purpose the man intends and not be wasted. Male authority in turn must be based on obedience to God so that the man’s authority will be used to serve the family overall, not just himself.
So what does secularism have to offer the overall project of rebuilding the family and in that way rebuilding the structures of life that support and serve the needs of women? First of all secularism is about reason and science. Secularism can rebuild the family through rational explanations of how the family works, how men and women can cooperate together in mutual support and in the support of their shared children, in setting up cultural values and establishing social rules that serve the purpose of men being motivated and rewarded in their roles as men and women being motivated and rewarded in their roles as women. Secularism is good at the task of explaining things and creating rules meant to achieve specific results or serve specific purposes and showing the relationship between cause and effect. These strengths of secularism can be used towards the purpose of rebuilding an explanation and working model of how relationships between men and women should be.
Secularism is also strong on statistics and empirical evidence. There is a mountain of statistical evidence showing that feminism doesn’t work; showing how numerous family indicators have gotten relentlessly worse and worse as the feminism agenda progressed and more and more achieved its goals (up until 1995 when an apparent revulsion against feminism coalesced leading to a sudden slowing in the rate of deterioration of many family indicators).
Secularism is particularly powerful in the mainstream culture and in what “most people” believe. Secular arguments for why traditional gender roles are a good thing and make sense and are fair and just and are what children need in their home environments will go a long way towards rebuilding the family for the society overall, for the majority.
Lastly secularism is the language of democracy and the law in the Western World. In order for society to work the law has to support the traditional gender roles of men and women; the law has to support patriarchy. To incorporate functional family values into law secular arguments on behalf of traditional family values must be put together and advocated for in the public square and in political advocacy.
These are the ways secularism can be used to serve women’s concerns. Of course meeting women’s needs in this way, through the rebuilding of the family, will also serve to benefit men and children at the same time. This is much better than the feminist “me, me, me” approach that is geared towards taking away from men to give to women while children are simply ignored.
Women in Secularism 2
May 17 – 19, 2013 in Washington, D.C.