Friday, June 21, 2013

Preserving Traditional Marriage is a Feminist Issue

I can’t decide if it’s retro or radical but traditional marriage is a feminist issue.
It seems crazy or somehow reversed and certainly politically incorrect, but allowing women to be feminine in the traditional sense is true feminism--liberating, not confining, restricting or unenlightened. Too bad it’s become gauche to point out that the two sexes are vastly, fundamentally opposite—and that each has a set of hard-wired characteristics that despite insistence to the contrary, can’t be compromised.

   This refutation of the value of femininity is most evident with the growing acceptance of—or resignation to—gay marriage.

     Defining marriage as any two people, male, female or what-have-you denies real and intrinsic gender differences. Differences that are honorable. That are honest.

    Differences that generations for thousands of years acknowledged and accommodated and elevated, but that we super-progressive geniuses now denigrate and negate.

How can anyone miss that physiologically, emotionally, mentally and behaviorally, men and women are different, not interchangeable? A raft of books explain clearly-identifiable characteristics of male versus female brains, and their indisputable manifestations. (A few on my shelf: Taking Sex Differences Seriously by Rhoads; The Female Brain by Brizendine; Same Difference by Barnett and Rivers; Sex on the Brain by Blum; Brain Sex by Moir and Jessel; Brain Gender by Hines…) Women’s innate desire to nurture children is no less powerful and important than men’s innate inclination to compete in the marketplace. Both are laudable, both are necessary, and together, both bring complementary wholeness.

    Our culture is crazy to insist that women adopt the traditional male definition of success—which means success in career; success via competition, where the winner gets to be the leader.

Success in traditionally feminine realms requiring cooperation, problem-solving and nurturing in less financially-oriented settings (like home, school, community) deserves to regain the same prestige, praise and worth as the male standard that now supersedes them.
Are we talking about stereotypes of women's "nature" that early feminists eschewed? Yes, but we are way beyond  thirty years ago when women were limited by and to those stereotypes. Women earn significantly more college degrees at all levels than men do. Just under half of all medical and law students are female. Opportunities are open--except that work in traditionally feminine fields ("helping professions") still offers lower status and remuneration than jobs that are overwhelmingly performed by men.

Sheryl Sandberg has done women a disservice. “Leaning in” should not mean pushing into business leadership with your shoulder ramming any obstacles in your path. Most women prefer “leaning in,” toward nuclear and extended families, friends and communities (though in the current climate they can’t admit it). Proving one’s competence now requires some nod to higher education and work experience. Forty percent of births are to unmarried mothers, most of whom must work to support themselves and their children. What percentage of these moms would rather stay home with their children if money were no concern? A recent Forbes poll found 84% of working women would opt out of their jobs if they could.

 Even Ms. Sandberg acknowledges her own pining to care for her two youngsters, and notes that working women do twice the housework and three times the childcare of their husbands.  Is that really because women just don’t demand enough of their spouses—or is it because women prefer control of their home domains, while their men do not? When marriage was a partnership that joined two very different genders in a way that split roles for maximum efficiency as well as maximum respect for natural inclinations, women were more highly honored. Now, women are told they’re victims because they hold fewer leadership roles in business. Now, women who don’t want to excel professionally because they prefer raising their children have to apologize for their “lack of accomplishment.”

When marriage becomes only a declaration of love and intention between any two people, masculine and feminine attributes lose respect. Everyone’s blurred. Mushed together into a unisex, meaningless glob without note of the very basis of human kind—the joining of male and female capabilities and desires to create new human life and an effective combination of opposites--called a family.

Celebrating women as distinct and inherently valuable is a feminist issue. Subjugating femininity in favor of a male standard is an issue for feminists to fight.


  1. Oh, Diane... this doesn't address the reality that most of the women who don't have the money you have, deal with every day. It also ignores the human dignity of individuals who are not sexually mainstream - which is not their choice. Gay rights is human rights and this article reminds me of those written by wise and wealthy women in the south to support segregation - it sounds rational until held up to scrutiny.

    1. I salute women working and excelling, and I respect individuals no matter their sexual preferences. Both those facts take nothing away from acknowledging and honoring biologically-based gender differences and retaining traditional man-woman marriage.
      By the way, I have been financially poor in my life. (It never occurred to me to take government assistance because I viewed my lack of money as only temporary.)
      Women who work out of necessity as well as for fulfillment gain when they have support (a husband but also societal policy) for their family-centered preferences. Gay marriage advocacy should not be equated with the 60's Civil Rights cause; gays in my state (WA) before gay marriage was legalized had exactly the same rights they do with marriage. The difference is in the undermining of the importance of man-woman commitment, which research universally shows provides children with their best chances for health and success. That's the stake our culture has in elevating man-woman marriage. Gay marriage removes from society that ideal.
      Making marriage gender-neutral denigrates and erases the preferences and unique contributions hardwired into each sex. People "not sexually mainstream" remain such no matter what, definitionally. Each person is worthy of respect--but you can't make "not mainstream sexuality" mainstream just by declaring it such.
      Respecting the abilities and inclinations of women, as most women prefer to express them, remains an important feminist issue.

    2. But who, in this day and age, denies gender differences between men and women? I think those differences are appreciated even by gay people.

  2. Thank you SO much for this article - it articulates what I have had running through my mind the past few years. I am a stay-at-home mom to 3 young boys, and I often feel like there is a negative perception of my choice - that I am lazy, unambitious... especially because I have a college degree. My former boss, who says she's a feminist, said, "You're too bright to do nothing." Well, I do something - and to me, it is WAY more important than anything I ever have done at a "job." It is a sacrifice for our family with one income - but I believe it is WORTH it. My mother taught me and my five sisters her version of feminism, to embrace all the wonderful qualities that God gave us as women and know they are as important as - and very distinct from - men's. I do "lean in" to my family, church, and community, and I believe I thrive in this role, even if I am considered "unsuccessful" by today's standards. It would be awesome to see the matriarch given honor as I, as a feminist, believe she deserves.

  3. Really enjoyed this article and would like to "huzzah" you further, but for now here is something that you might enjoy, even though its a little off topic:

    Sincerely, Susan in Pasadena, Texas

  4. Nobody is against marriage between opposite sexes.