How Can You Be Pro-Life And…?

I recently wrote about my belief that the pro-life movement could benefit greatly from a more pragmatic approach. Even though the article wasn’t a broader pro-life argument, it attracted a lot of common questions that pro-lifers, especially those who don’t fall into the stereotypical religious-based camp, face. How can a libertarian support government regulation of abortion? How can a self-professed feminist support restrictions on “a woman’s body”? Do you care about life after birth? First of all, I reject the assertion that being opposed to abortion puts any kind of requirement on a person to hold any other view. To suggest otherwise is simply an attempt to defeat an opponent by falsely implying hypocrisy – which, I should point out, doesn’t do anything to refute the underlying argument.

That being said, the liberty movement is always going to be at odds over the issue of abortion, and I think that pro-life libertarians need to be able to defend their position. Personally, I don’t care in the slightest if other feminists think that I’m not “feminist enough” for being opposed to abortion, but I do care about women’s issues, and would like young women afraid to identify as feminists to know that you don’t have to fit a certain leftist ideal to be one. And, of course, assertions by the left that “pro-life” is a misnomer if we don’t support universal healthcare or any other leftist cause célèbre are always going to be prevalent and must be addressed.

With all of that in mind, I would like to address the question at hand in relation to the above issues. So, how can you be pro-life and be…

A feminist

Those man-hating feminists! How dare they want to vote! Wait…

On this point, it’s important to put the disclaimer that I’m by no means an expert in feminist thought. At college, I studied political science, not women’s studies, but I’m familiar with a lot of the core of feminist thought as it relates to politics, and to a lesser extent, to society. I believe that historically, women have been disenfranchised by a male-dominated power structure. Women still face a higher risk of being victims of sexual crimes. Rape culture shames and discourages victims from reporting sexual crimes. Women are less likely to run for political office, and more likely to be treated badly by the media if they do run. Women are judged more harshly than men for engaging in similar behaviors. It is within recent memory that women were able to open credit cards without their husband’s approval. Some of our grandparents can remember when women couldn’t vote.

She would like you to know that she’s an autonomous citizen and doesn’t like you oppressing her by feeding her and making her stay in her crib.

However, none of these conclusions suggest or require that support for abortion, which pro-lifers such as myself view as the taking of a human life, be a feminist litmus test. And while pro-life feminists are rare, we do exist. As I discussed in my previous column, I think that it is anti-woman to try to restrict access to contraception or assume that all women have to be, or should be, mothers.

Abortion is a separate issue. Just because the unborn baby is dependent on the life of its mother doesn’t mean that it’s not a life. All children and many adults are dependent on someone else to live. That doesn’t mean that we get to kill them. I was born premature. In many states, I could have been aborted at the time I was born, and in fact, my mom’s doctors suggested aborting me to give the larger twin (my sister) a better chance of living (for the record, we both survived, as you may know if you’ve checked out our contributors page).

Baby Mary Ann after being told the doctors wanted to abort her… er, me.

I do recognize that abortion is complex, and often an emotionally-charged decision. I have a hard time supporting a ban on abortion in the cases of rape, but I would prefer that rape survivors are routinely provided access to emergency contraception. Taking away the perceived need for abortion would certainly eliminate a lot of the complex moral dilemmas involved.

A libertarian

As most of you probably know, I’m a “small-l” libertarian. I don’t claim allegiance to the Libertarian Party, nor do I agree with them on everything. However, as a liberty-minded individual, the question of how I can support government “regulation” of abortion is often brought up. It is true that I do favor less government regulation in nearly all cases.

I have no idea what’s going on in this picture. Please take my libertarian card now.

However, it is disingenuous to suggest that pro-life libertarians are examples of only supporting bans on things we don’t like. I don’t oppose abortion because I don’t like it; I oppose it because I believe it to be the taking of a life. I don’t like prostitution or drugs, but I don’t think people should sit in prison for engaging in those behaviors.

I’m not an anarcho-capitalist. I’m a small-government libertarian conservative, and I’m more likely to support a return to state and local control than an attempt to “get government out” altogether. I absolutely support state legislation against violent crimes that harm individuals, and property crimes that deprive individuals of their property. Even if I don’t like said individuals, I don’t support crimes being done against them. I don’t support legislation of victimless crimes, for the most part, and I don’t support federal legislation of most all crimes. But abortion doesn’t fall under those categories. The rebuttal of “if you don’t support abortion, don’t get one,” really doesn’t apply. Lots of people might think that it’s a husband’s right to punish his wife by striking her, but I certainly don’t want to leave that interpretation up to their choice.

I do recognize, as I’ve said in comments on my previous article, that abortion is something that is always going to be debated. I believe that, at the absolute least, abortion should be restricted past what is, admittedly, a difficult concept of “viability.” I believe life begins when the fetus begins developing. I recognize, however, that proving when life begins is always going to be somewhat a matter for philosophy, not science. Like nearly all issues, I think that complex questions about abortion should be left to the states.

Finally, this takes me to the ubiquitous final question.

How can you be pro-life and not support other “life” issues?

Issues commonly brought up include lack of support for alternatives to abortion (which I covered in my previous article,) and support for war. War is not the same thing, unless you believe that killing foreign combatants is the same thing as murder. I don’t. I think that war is sometimes a necessary evil. It does show a lack of respect for the idea of life if people don’t care if innocent people are killed in war. But that, surely, is a rarity among people who support wars.

The only point I will concede to this argument is that it may be a misnomer to call anti-abortion supporters “pro-life.” However, pro-abortion supporters typically prefer the term “pro-choice,” even if they don’t always support choice in cases of school choice, or personal health choices like drinking large sodas, or the choice to carry weapons. I don’t think that’s necessarily hypocritical of them. It’s understood that “pro-choice” typically refers to abortion, and it’s understood that “pro-life” typically refers to abortion. Let’s not get caught up on trying to trip up our opponents based on their wording.

Of course, the big argument that seems to come up on this point is about healthcare. Is it hypocritical to support legislation restricting abortion and not support government intervention to improve the quality of life for people who have been born?

First of all, there is a fundamental distinction between supporting the government punishing crime and requesting that the government subsidize, well, anything. I don’t support government-funded healthcare, certainly not federal-government funded healthcare, because that’s not the role of the government. Our founding documents talk about the pursuit of happiness, not its guarantee. The government has the ability to provide for the protection of its citizens, in fact, that’s the very idea of government. However, it has neither the responsibility nor the right to feed, clothe, and hold their hands from cradle to grave.

In Defense of Pro-Life Pragmatism

This week, the internet has been abuzz with talk of a Texas state senator’s filibuster. State Senator Wendy Davis stood on the floor of the Texas for over twelve hours and delivered an impassioned defense of the necessity of abortion in the face of a bill that would have banned all abortions past twenty weeks of pregnancy. “#StandwithWendy” began trending on Twitter (copying the much more catchy “Stand with Rand“). Commentators nationwide have praised Sen. Davis for “standing up for women’s rights.”

Senator Davis during her filibuster.

Conservative (and conservative libertarian) women like myself greatly resent being told that our rights are ultimately about whether we want an abortion. We’re often very annoyed with such condescension on the issue of abortion. However, quite frankly, conservatives have done a very poor job of defending their pro-life stance in the face of arguments about women’s rights.

So how can we fix this?

First, for the purpose of this article, I am assuming that the gender gap exists. However, I do not believe it is natural for women to align themselves more often with liberal causes.  I am also assuming that readers are in general agreement with me that abortion is wrong. I’m not going to attempt to change anyone’s mind on the broader issue of abortion because I don’t have the time or the desire to do so. Rather, what I want to accomplish is for conservatives to take a good, hard look in the mirror and see what we’re doing very wrong and how we’re allowing ourselves to be put into a stereotype of not caring about women.

Recognize and point out that calling abortion an issue of “a woman’s body” is intellectually dishonest.

Life is not life only when we want it. Conservatives need to step away from responding with talking points and slogans (“I’m pro-life”) and actually take some time to articulate the reasoning behind them. Some states can charge people with double murder for killing a pregnant woman. Many women experience lasting depression after miscarriages. Not wanting to carry a fetus to term doesn’t make it more or less of a life. As conservatives, we have to challenge the idea that abortion is as simple as someone making decisions that only affect them.

Stop acting like rape is no big deal.

Some conservatives think that abortion should not be allowed in cases of rape. Some think there should be an exception. Either way, this is always going to be the rebuttal of the left (“what about rape?”), and we have to realize that this is a very sensitive topic. Unlike in cases where abortion is an issue of convenience, there is no choice involved in this. Pregnancy by rape is something that, by its very nature, is thrust upon a woman against her will. Flippantly dismissing these cases is wrong and offensive to rape survivors. It also doesn’t look great for our “we really don’t hate women” cause. And while we’re on that subject…

Think before you speak!

Let’s summarize some of the things that Republican politicians have said about rape and abortion. Rape victims shouldn’t need abortions because rape kits are abortion tools. Pregnancy rarely comes from “legitimate” rape. Pregnancies resulting from rape are a blessing from God. Going through a rape is “something similar” to a man’s daughter getting pregnant out of wedlock.

Disregarding the fact that these are all blatantly false (some laughably so), just look at how much the left has taken these comments and repeated them ad nauseum. I don’t think that these patently false and rather heartless comments are representative of any mainstream conservative view. But by speaking without thinking about what they’re saying or knowing what they’re talking about, these politicians have made it even easier for the left to tell women “conservatives don’t care about you.”

And while we’re on the subject of knowing what you’re talking about…

Being blatantly anti-science doesn’t help anything.

I strongly believe that conservatism which seeks to impose ideas about how individuals should live their lives is not true conservatism. Conservatives traditionally want smaller government. Liberals may say that they don’t want to run your life, but that promise ends when you want to drink a big soda or homeschool your children. Conservatives may be hypocritical about our small government stance sometimes, but at the very least, it is at the core of our philosophy.

With that in mind, the pro-life movement must separate itself from efforts to ban or discourage birth control, punish premarital sex, or promote motherhood as the ideal for all women. I realize this is controversial for a lot of pro-lifers. But abortion is not wrong because it’s taking away from women’s “natural inclination to be mothers,” it’s not wrong because it’s stopping the “natural process of pregnancy,” and it doesn’t happen because people have sex before marriage. Abortion is wrong because it’s the taking of a life. If we stray from that fundamental argument, we get ourselves caught up in actually telling women what to do with their bodies.

On a related note, if we are ever going to provide alternatives for abortion, we simply can’t argue that birth control also shouldn’t be an option. I am not opposed to birth control. But for the conservatives who are, can we at least agree that birth control would be the lesser evil? The same goes for emergency contraception. While we’re on the subject, emergency contraction doesn’t actually cause abortions. Neither does regular hormonal birth control (not that oral birth control pills are the only form of contraception).

So stop saying these things! We’re fighting a losing, anti-science, anti-reason battle, if we try to convince people not to even use contraceptives. And guess what? Abortions still happen when abortion is illegal. Since Roe v. Wade and subsequent court decisions, abortion has been legal nationwide. Regardless of who we put on the Supreme Court, there is quite a bit of jurisprudence to overthrow in order to change that. If we really want to be pro-life, we can’t just focus on the legal status of abortion (which may not change, soon, or ever!), but also on reducing it overall. As much as we may not like it, that’s going to include not trying to block women’s access to birth control.

Rhetoric matters.

We should be able to accept that having an abortion is a complex, highly emotional decision, and not something that women do because they’re horrible monsters. Stop calling women who feel they need an abortion “baby killers.” Stop saying that rape victims need to accept their “blessing from God.” Yelling at women, telling them they’re murderers, and trying to physically block them from going inside abortion clinics doesn’t help.

One of the few pro-life protest images available that doesn’t include gruesome images of aborted fetuses.

Recently, anti-abortion activists in my hometown were proudly passing around a personal story from a woman seeking an abortion who had been so disturbed by the protesters outside of the abortion clinic that she left… and went to a clinic a couple of counties away. That is not a win! You know what might actually help? Providing women with options so they don’t feel like abortion is their only choice. Screaming, shouting, and condemning is not going to win people over. Nor is it going to do anything to convince women who are drawn to the left that the right doesn’t really hate them.

I do not like being told that it is my right (and the only thing I should care about) to take the life of a child (at the very least, one I chose to conceive). I also don’t like listening to conservative politicians try to argue against abortion by using wrong, unscientific, or sexist arguments, lumped in with dismissal of other women’s health issues like birth control. I’m not calling for a compromise. I’m just calling for using methods that actually work.

In Defense of Social Constructs

This is Part 2 in a series on gender roles and feminism. See Part 1 Feminists for the Patriarchy, Part 3 Christian Hedonism, Part 4 Christian Gender Rolesand Part 5 Proof of the Existence of God(s).

In Part 1, Feminists for the Patriarchy, I argued that Feminists and Complementarians don’t disagree on method but merely on goals; they agree on using the methods of Patriarchy and Chivalry (as defined in part 1) to achieve their goals of attaining rights for women, but they disagree on what those rights should be. In this essay I will start by arguing that there is a third aspect of method which Feminists and Complementarians must agree on; I will argue that if women’s rights are to be established peacefully, they must be socially constructed. By “socially constructed”, I mean that culture and society will need to work to peacefully promote certain behaviors and attitudes which will create a certain set of rights for women. I will then address the issue of how to decide which rights Patriarchy, Chivalry, and social construction should establish for women.

By “social construct” I do not mean that something is not real, or that it is inherently undesirable. As Feminist Philosopher Sally Haslanger has pointed out, although she thinks modern notions of race and gender are social constructs, she also says,

on my view, gender and race are real. However, their reality in the contemporary context is the product of unjust social structures, and so should be resisted.”[1]

It is only these specific social constructs that she is opposed to, not the idea of social construction itself. This seems to be the only reasonable way to talk about social constructs. I think anyone who argues that something is inherently bad just because it is “socially constructed” instead of “natural” is deeply confused; socially constructing norms and roles is one of the most natural human activities there is. If you truly dislike social construction itself, then your only option is to live in complete isolation. On the other hand, if it is merely the social constructs our society has at the moment that you don’t approve of, then you should stay and promote the social constructs that you think would be best.

Many libertarians, often influenced by John Stuart Mill, believe that they have an obligation to oppose societal norms and customs, such as gender roles, in the name of freedom. Part of the argument is often that we should oppose them because they are “nothing but social constructs”[2]. However, what Mill argued for was not that we should oppose social construction altogether (he was smarter than that), but rather that we should socially construct new norms which he thought would be preferable to what existed at the time.

Take the example of seeking to increase the opportunity for women to become doctors (a goal I believe Mill would have supported): If we have this goal, then we must socially construct a society in which patients assume female doctors to be equally competent with male doctors, where medical schools assume female applicants to be equally competent with male applicants, where young girls are encouraged to aspire to go to medical school, where men are equally attracted to women who work full-time as doctors etc. All of these things must be socially constructed by the society. Women will then have the right to an equal (or at least improved) opportunity to become doctors, because society has constructed such a right[3] for them. Social construction, along with Chivalry and Patriarchy, is a necessary part of the method for reaching any goal of peacefully creating rights for women.[4]

Before discussing which women’s rights we should have as goals, I will outline some assumptions that I will make about how to go about deciding these goals.

1.) I will assume that we are only talking about peaceful methods of promoting/discouraging behaviors. (With the exception of discouraging violent assault – in which case violent defense could be used)

2.) I will restrict my analysis to people who use the method outlined in Part 1 Feminists for the Patriarchy. This means that they do not think it is methodologically necessary to equalize the Raw Power or Economic Power dynamic. Unless feminists want to equalize those power dynamics, they will need to use Patriarchy, Chivalry, and social construction to accomplish their goals.

Some people may argue that the only way to reduce rape is to make it so that women are all as physically strong[5] as men, but anyone who doesn’t think this is going to need to either use some men to protect women from rapists (Patriarchy),[6] or change the intention of men who would otherwise commit rape (Chivalry). Changing the culture in this way would be a form of social construction.

Another example would be a feminist who wants there to be more opportunities for women to become CEOs, but doesn’t think this should necessarily require equalizing the Economic Power dynamic. Such a feminist would instead support socially constructing a society where men would change their intentions and stop discriminating against women, stop harassing women, and stop doing business in a “traditional male way” that makes it difficult for women to be included.

3.) I will assume that there is no such thing as a neutral culture. Every culture socially constructs gender roles of some kind. Every culture promotes some behaviors and discourages others. As long as Raw Power or Economic Power aren’t being used, any method of cultural or social persuasion will be considered peaceful social construction. The fact that nobody wants to date you because you don’t shower is peaceful pressure to stay clean. It is not equivalent to people beating you or imprisoning you for not staying clean. The former is peaceful and acceptable, the latter is violent and unacceptable.[7] As stated earlier, social construction is inevitable and there is nothing inherently immoral about it.

4.) I will assume that every proposed goal for women’s rights must be argued for on its own terms. There is no set package of objective women’s rights that must be accepted as one unit without argument. I will not assume that prescriptive egalitarianism is a “given”. The virtue of equality of roles must be argued for just like any other moral or political theory.

We must address goals for women’s rights separately. For example, someone might want to reduce the number of rapes that occur and also want to encourage more women to be CEOs. However, reducing the number of rapes and increasing the representation of women in corporate leadership positions should not necessarily be assumed to be connected, unless a causal arrow can be established between the two. Correlation is not enough; it has often been noted that when people eat more ice cream, the murder rate goes up, but we shouldn’t think it follows that increased ice cream consumption causes an increased murder rate.[8] Unless causal arrows are established, we must treat these as separate goals. One goal is reducing rape and another, separate, goal is increasing the number of female CEOs.

In some cases establishing causal arrows might break up the usual grouping of feminist positions. Let us continue with the goal of reducing rape. Now someone might think they can prove that reducing the number of women in the Military would reduce the rape rate because those women would no longer be put in dangerous conditions. If this causal arrow was proven, then it would make sense to advocate discouraging women from joining the Military in order to reach the goal of reducing rape. Many people would say this would be unfair because the women are being punished for something that isn’t their fault. But that is begging the question by assuming that having more women in the Military is a goal in itself and that to be discouraged from joining is a “punishment”. If our only stated goal so far was to reduce rape and if lowering the number of women in the Military causes the number of rapes to go down, then it follows that we should discourage women from joining the Military. The goal of having women in the Military, if it is going to be a goal at all, needs to be argued for on its own terms.


The question that needs to be answered moving forward for anyone interested in this issue is: “Which rights should we socially construct for women?”

In Part 3  Christian Hedonism and Part 4 Christian Gender Roles I begin to answer this question for Feminist Egalitarianism and Christian Complementarianism. In Part 5 Proof of the Existence of God(s) I prove the existence of god(s).

[1] Haslanger, Sally. 2012. Resisting Reality.

[2] This wasn’t the language that Mill used but some people take Mill’s arguments against the social norms and gender roles of his day and add on the “just social constructs” language.

[3] I am talking about rights being created by society in the sense of their recognition and enforcement being created by society. I am not taking a position on the question of whether there are objective rights that come from God or nature or some other source.

[4] Or any other group, of course, but I’m only focusing on women’s rights in these essays.

[5] Or equally armed or equally aggressive or equally trained or whatever it might take to equalize Raw Power.

[6] This could also be Chivalry in many cases. I am thinking of the use of the Military and Police to enforce anti-rape laws which would fall more under Patriarchy than Chivalry.

[7] By “acceptable” I mean “among those methods of social persuasion which I will be considering” and by “unacceptable” I mean “not among those methods of social persuasion which I will be considering”. I am not going to argue against violent social persuasion. That is outside the scope of this essay.

[8] They probably both have a common cause such as warmer weather.

Feminists for the Patriarchy

This is Part 1 in a series on gender roles and feminism. For more see Part 2 Social Constructs, Part 3 Christian Hedonism, Part 4 Christian Gender Rolesand Part 5 Proof of the Existence of God(s).

A good way to carefully address disagreements is to be precise about three things: system, goal, and method[1]. A system is the context in which you are working- the facts that you are assuming to be the case for the sake of addressing a specific goal. I hope that goal and method are self-explanatory[2] . It is generally better to first start with goal and system, and then figure out the best method for attaining said goal given the system.[3]

I am going to compare two ideologies- Feminist Egalitarianism and Christian Complementarianism- and I am going to argue that, contrary to popular belief, they largely agree on method and only disagree on goals. I believe this is important because realizing this will help us avoid wasteful arguments about method.

Many Feminist Egalitarians criticize the Complementarian ideal of giving women rights and privileges through the methods of Patriarchy and Chivalry, however, I will argue that the methods advocated by Feminist Egalitarianism are nothing but disguised Patriarchy and Chivalry. Then we can move on to the real issue, which is the disagreement about which goals we should be pursuing with the already agreed upon methods of Patriarchy and Chivalry.

The System

I am going to start by outlining a system that most[4] people can agree on in which to address these issues of Feminist Egalitarianism and Complementarianism. The system includes the fact that there exists a power disparity between men and women. The simplest way to frame this issue is to divide power into two types: Raw Power and Economic Power. By Raw Power I mean that men are somehow physically stronger, better fighters, better armed, or anything else that gives them the brute power[5] to murder, beat, or rape women. By Economic Power I mean the power men have that comes from controlling industries and social structures minus their Raw Power.  This is an important point because some people will argue that Economic Power is fully reducible to Raw Power, and that economic and social power structures would not hold any sway if it wasn’t for them being backed up by the threat of violence or Raw Power. The rest of this essay’s argument should still work regardless of your views on the question of to what extent Economic Power is reducible to Raw Power, as long as the conceptual difference between the two is clear.

I don’t think the goal or the system I’ve outlined should be too controversial for either Complementarians or Feminists to accept. Let’s start by analyzing the Raw Power disparity. The rate of male on female rape, assault, and murder is, and always has been, much higher than the reverse.[6] The extent to which men commit violent crimes against women is the most obvious problem that most people think of when it comes to the Raw Power disparity. Men generally have power over women at the most primitive level of conflict; if men and women fought to the death for control, men would win. Of course, Raw Power disparity is only a problem if the people with the power have the intent to use it for malicious purposes. For example, consider a small child whose parents sacrifice their immediate best interests for the child. Clearly, the parents have the Raw Power in that they could easily overpower and kill their child if they wanted to and their child wouldn’t stand a chance of defending itself against two adults. However, most parents choose to sacrifice for their children instead of abuse them, so we must also consider intent.

A similar analysis applies to the issue of the Economic Power disparity between men and women; whether or not the disparity hinders women from accomplishing their goals depends on the intent of the men with the Economic Power. Once again we can use the example of a small child whose parents clearly hold the Economic Power and yet use their Economic Power primarily to help their child succeed.

The Method
Both the Complementarians and the Feminists share the general goal of seeking to create certain rights and privileges for women in the context of the system outlined earlier. Although they differ in their goals of which specific rights and privileges to create for women, I will show that their method of pursuing these goals is essentially the same. In order to see this we first understand that there are three possible methods of dealing with a system where men hold the upper hand in Raw Power and Economic Power.

Method #1 Equalize the power dynamic: This could mean equalizing the Raw Power dynamic by somehow making men physically weaker ( preventing them from training to fight, giving them growth stunting drugs, disarming them, and so forth) and/or by making women physically stronger (making them weightlifters, training them to fight, giving them more weapons, and so forth). Most Feminists argue that this is not their goal, and that to say that Feminism is about turning women into aggressive bodybuilders is nothing but a ridiculous strawman of their position.

Another way of taking this approach would be equalizing the Economic Power dynamic by having an equal number of women as men in positions of economic, social, and political power. This position requires believing that Economic Power is largely not reducible to Raw Power: otherwise getting Economic Power for women wouldn’t change the real power structure. This position would also require making stay-at-home mothers the enemy, as they would be preventing women from equalizing the Economic Power dynamic. Once again most Feminists are clear that all they want is for women to have the option of becoming CEOs or Senators or doctors but that there is nothing wrong with women choosing to stay at home with their children. So we have shown that the method of equalizing the Raw or Economic Power dynamic between men and women is not going to fit with the stated goals of most Feminists.

Method #2 Chivalry: Neutralize the Power Dynamic. Teach men not to rape, murder, or attack women in order to neutralize the Raw Power disparity and/or teach men to use their economic power to help women so as to neutralize the Economic Power disparity. I will call this method Chivalry[7] because it fits with the general idea of teaching men not to act on their power for their own gain but to use it to help others.

Method #3 Patriarchy[8]: Use some men to protect women from the other men. This might require a change in intent but it deserves a separate category because it doesn’t necessarily require that men have good intentions overall, only that some men have good intentions and use their power to protect women from the men with bad intentions.

The approach of the vast majority of human societies throughout history has been to employ some combination of Chivalry and Patriarchy; men were generally taught to protect a certain group of women such as those in their family, tribe, race, social class, or religion and they were taught to change[9] their intent towards those women so as to repress any violent inclinations towards them[10]. The general Christian Complementarian method is one of using Chivalry and Patriarchy by teaching men not to lust after, rape, seduce, insult, or hurt women and by teaching men to protect, love and serve women and to honor and sanctify the idea of women as nurturing mothers. Feminists often complain that this is oppressive because it isn’t about “real rights” and is nothing more than the oppression of Chivalry and Patriarchy , because men still hold the Raw and Economic Power. Through this they presumably insult women by acting like women need to be protected and cared for. But what exactly are Feminists doing differently? Don’t Feminists advocate teaching men not to rape, insult, or hurt women? Don’t Feminists advocate teaching men not to talk over, pass over, ignore, or degrade women in the workplace? So they are using Chivalry just as the Complementarians are. Don’t they also advocate passing strict anti-rape laws, anti-domestic abuse laws, anti-discrimination laws, anti-“deadbeat dad” laws, etc.? And who enforces these laws? Why men with Raw Power and Economic Power of course. Who gives the state its authority and its Raw Power and Economic Power to enforce Feminist legislation (or any other legislation) on the people? Men in the military, men in the police force, men in the arms industry, men in all weapons technologies industries- essentially all armed and/or physically strong men who will use violence to protect the women that the Feminist legislators want protected and of course the men who hold the Economic Power that is used to support the state.

So the feminist movement must use Patriarchy and Chivalry as much, if not more, than the Complementarians. That being said, it is important to acknowledge that there are feminists who make roughly the same point that I’m making, and who argue that, if there is ever going to be “true equality”, feminists must equalize the Raw Power or Economic Power dynamics. Some of these voices, although not all, also argue that in order to truly free themselves from the patriarchy feminists must all become lesbians.[11] However, if you told the average feminist today that feminism was all about turning women into aggressive lesbian bodybuilders they would rightly criticize you for strawmanning feminism; most feminists today want to allow women to be feminine, but want them to be treated as equals and not be harassed, abused, and discriminated against. They might not realize it, but as long as they aren’t trying to overturn the Raw Power or Economic Power dynamic, their method is the same as the method used by Complementarians. 

Some feminists might object that their method is different because they are fighting for “true equality” and “real rights”, whereas Complementarian women just want to be “pampered princesses”. But this is missing the point because that would be an argument about which rights or privileges women should be seeking and that is an argument over goals not over method. The method is the same. The real disagreement that must be addressed is about which rights and privileges women should have, given the agreed upon methods of Patriarchy and Chivalry.

To be clear, there are two other options Feminists can take in order to avoid this conclusion.

One: They could deny that there is a difference in Raw Power or Economic Power between men and women. Of course, this flies in the face of all empirical data and leaves them in the awkward position of trying to explain what exactly the problem is if they believe that there is already true equality between the sexes at the most basic level of power.

Two: They could endorse the equalization of Raw Power and/or Economic Power as the goal of their movement. This would vindicate the common criticism of feminism that it is really just movement to make all women into men and to demonize stay-at-home mothers. An open admission of this by feminists would drastically lower their support among most people.

For more see Part 2 Social Constructs, Part 3 Christian Hedonism, Part 4 Christian Gender Rolesand Part 5 Proof of the Existence of God(s).

[1] Goal, system, method. First figure out your goal, then figure out what system you are working in, and then figure out which method will be most effective given your goal and your system.  A great deal of time and energy can be wasted on a pointless argument about method when the participants’ true disagreement was about what the goals should be or about what system we are operating in. The most practical way to proceed is normally to start with either goals or system and then to work on a method.

[2] In case they aren’t: Your goal is simply what you are trying to achieve. Your method is the means which you are using in the context of your system in order to achieve your goal.

[3] If you want to start with a method then the correct way to think about it would be to make your method your goal. For example, if the most important value to me is using methodological naturalism then I would make the use of methodological naturalism my goal, then decide which system I’m in, and then decide which method would best allow me to achieve my goal of using methodological naturalism. In this case a good method of attaining my goal might be to become a scientist or simply to become an atheist (although a theist can use methodological naturalism as well).

[4] There are going to be some feminists, as well as some Men’s Rights Activists, who are going to disagree with the system I’m outlining. I don’t have space here to address their dissent, but since they are such a minority and their position is so empirically and philosophically weak I am going to ignore it here and move forward.

[5] I don’t want to use the term “hard power” because it is generally associated with states and not with individuals. By “raw power” I mean the most primitive basic brute level of power at the level of person to person violence.

[6] “Male offender/female victim 21.0” & “Female offender/male victim 9.0”.
“Overall, an estimated 91% of the victims of rape and sexual assault were female. Nearly 99% of the offenders they described in single-victim incidents were male.”

[7] Although this word once had a precise historical meaning and referred to certain European warrior codes, today the word is thrown around quite loosely and its exact meaning is no longer clear in our society. I think the general idea both historically and in modern times is captured by talking about changing the intent of men so that they will help and not harm women.

[8] As with Chivalry, Patriarchy is a word with many different meanings in the modern context. This lack of a clear agreed upon meaning is also why I am seeking to give it a more useful and precise definition. The general idea is that men hold the raw power in the society and decide which privileges or rights to give women.

[9] Men’s Rights Activist types might protest that I’m suggesting that men are all violent soulless rapists by nature. That is not the case. Intent is hard to measure. Men can have admirable innate tendencies towards compassion but they also have innate tendencies towards violence and sexual dominance. I’m not making any claim about the exact ratio here. The important point is that if they had no violent tendencies at all we wouldn’t have a problem with rape or murder so there is obviously some tendency there.

[10] Some may protest that I’m ignoring domestic abuse here. The point I’m making is that men in the tribe were not permitted to take advantage of the fact that they were generally physically stronger than the women in the tribe by beating, murdering, raping any women they saw walking around the village, just as adults are taught not to do this to children even though they are physically stronger.

[11] I think might be a good point because as long as women are trying to attract men they aren’t going to want to become aggressive bodybuilders and as long as they are attracted to men they aren’t going to want to promote men becoming weak and submissive.