While hysteria swirls around Sarah Palin, wife and mother of five, everyone would benefit by taking a large step back from the pandemonium in order to better perceive what is really happening. Her supporters rightly point to her affirmation of life and her ability to juggle family with wider commitments as the cause of a nearly unhinged backlash from liberals, but this is wide of the true mark. The actual cause of international outrage is not her motherhood, but the fact that she does not reject fatherhood. There has been a deliberate blurring of these two facts in recent decades, and it is essential that we restore our critical focus. We have been tricked by a clever charade.
For forty years, we have witnessed incalculable energy being spent on the questions surrounding human reproduction, and most of the capital has been used to promote the separation of stable conjugal relations from nurturing subsequent generations. The terrain in these battles encompasses the right to contraception and no-fault divorce, the glorification of sodomy and same-sex marriage, an unprecedented assault on the purity of children, the degradation of traditional family values in the entertainment industry, and the insidious establishment of the mass media as primary communicant with the young which undermines parental authority. The result is moral anarchy and sexual chaos, which have confused so many impressionable souls about the very meaning of family life and sexual intimacy.
Most pro-family advocates over the decades have pointed to the attack on motherhood as an integral weapon in this war. When a mother turns on the child of her womb as a competitor or even enemy, many rightly presume that civilization is in great peril. It is true that Satan approached Eve in order to bring about our fall from grace — and that diabolical strategy has had its successes ever since — but we cannot lose sight of the subsequent means of restoration. Motherhood was key to salvation and always will be, not only because of the life it fosters but because of the bridge it creates.
The motherhood of Mary is instructive for all mothers, in that she received the seed of God and that she restored our relationship with the Creator, thus placing motherhood within a constellation of family of relationships. The enemies of motherhood strategically attack it — not primarily because of its capacity for life but because of the truth it contains: motherhood is the bridge to fatherhood, and fatherhood is the icon of God Himself. The war on motherhood is of a transitive nature: fatherhood is the true enemy.
Many have asked whether Sarah Palin is a feminist. This brings to the forefront the lively debate among women of faith about whether secular feminism, in its ideal sense, can be a vehicle for the beautiful truths about authentic femininity. Sincere and admirable women have taken both sides of the issue, whose primary component seems to be semantics. Some find the word “feminism” so burdened with misunderstandings that it takes too much time to unburden it; others demand the right to use the word in its purest sense out of principle.
The National Organisation for Women (NOW) has tipped its hand in this debate since the success of Sarah Palin in the national arena. Truly, she seems to have embodied their long-standing mission statement, “Our purpose is to take action to bring women into full participation in society-sharing equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities with men, while living free from discrimination” This ripe claim worked as long as Hillary Clinton was in her ascendancy, but the reality of applying it to the Republican vice presidential nominee rankled NOW to its core, and their keyboards must have overheated.
The result was a hot new mission statement, parading down the feminist runway: “NOW works to end discrimination and harassment in the workplace, schools, the justice system, and all other sectors of society, secure abortion, birth control and reproductive rights for all women.” This new creation — wobbling on shaky syntax and wrapped in a hasty cobbling of goals — nevertheless reveals the feminist view of men, who discriminate, impregnate and otherwise harass women as a matter of course. The veil is dropped, revealing more clearly their Marxist dialectic: the new oppressors are men (who make motherhood possible); therefore women must control the means of reproduction as a weapon to free themselves.
Feminists don’t hate motherhood — as long as it’s on their own terms and disengaged from fatherhood. Sperm banks, in vitro fertilization and lesbian adoptions are touted as hip and brave choices, and cloning is the Promised Land on the horizon. Their true hatred is reserved for fatherhood — for the Todd Palin’s of the world — who love and support the women in their lives and collaborate for the good of their shared offspring.
Sarah Palin has forced their hand for two reasons: she allows her children to live and she collaborates with men. While neither is conducive to the NOW worldview, the first is an irritant, the second is the real outrage. As the nation struggles to understand how feminists could possibly not appreciate this example of hard work, courage, balance and brains, we are invited to look beyond feminism into the back rooms of strange bedfellows.
Why are feminists silent about radical Islam, which habitually oppresses and demeans women around the world? Why do homosexuals collaborate with environmentalists, whose appreciation for pristine beauty would seem to exclude bathhouse orgies laced with unnatural substances? Why do Wiccans and New Agers turn a blind eye to fascistic atheists whose material world view would crush their spiritual longings in a heartbeat? Why does every radical parade host this hodge-podge of elements of the most unlikely diaspora?
The answer is found in their shared hatred of all manifestations of fatherhood. The widespread contempt for legitimate authority thus devolves into a collective tantrum ultimately pointed at the Father-God of all. Behind every raging feminist is a wounded heart that blames the patriarchy. Hence the giddy embrace of queer-eyed metrosexuals; the love affair with Gaia and perverted theology; the scornful interpretation of patriotic gestures as shallow jingoism, the drive to castrate the military through social experiments that distract the soldiers from their mission; and the ramped-up government programs that undermine the principle of subsidiarity which is the very source of fatherly strength and oversight within the family.
The goal of feminism is to destroy fatherhood by destroying the links inherent in traditional family life. This scheme allows only two options for men: either excessive brutality to remind the world of the dangers of too much testosterone or the abdication of responsibility through feckless self-interest. Any deviation from these models is discouraged or ridiculed.
Women wield an extraordinary influence in this realm because fathers can only know their children when the mothers cooperate, and male authority finds its legitimate voice only when women bring themselves and their children to submit to it. Given the widespread contempt for masculine strength and legitimate authority among the youth of the West, we would have to conclude that the diaspora has had tremendous success thus far.
Pope Benedict has alluded to this state of affairs in his recent address at Lourdes: “My greatest concern is for young people. Some of them are struggling to find the right direction or are suffering from a loss of connection to family life.” The disintegration of the family, he notes, is alarming. “Sometimes on the margins and often left to themselves, they are vulnerable and must come to terms on their own with a reality that often overwhelms them.”
How is it that reality itself is incomprehensible to these young people? It is because the enemies of God have collaborated to make motherhood and fatherhood themselves alien notions. While this is the end of feminism, it is most assuredly not the end of the family, and women are key to the resurgence of truth. The family is not subject to redefinition, nor a playground for innovation. Strong, well-grounded women are critical because they are the essential bridge to fatherhood, they are the guiding lights for these children struggling to know reality.
Any environmentalist can explain the dynamic interactions among living creatures, and the family is the most important eco-system of all. When the Vatican organized a congress earlier this year to honour the Church’s finest document about women, Mulieris Dignitatem, it called the event: “Man and Women: Humanity in its Entirety,” highlighting the need for collaboration between the sexes. Even the survivors of Lost know that we “live together or die alone.” The problem with feminists is their zero-sum game, in which “grrl power” must be achieved at the expense of boys and men — and babies.
While we fight to defend motherhood, let us always remember that it is the link to something greater — the Father from Whom all fathers take their name. The strategic deconstruction of fatherhood makes it increasingly difficult for children to understand the natural order and to find God — indeed, to find their way to their ultimate home. Motherhood is not an abstract but the solution. Just as Mary’s fiat “magnified the Lord,” authentic femininity is a pole star pointing to the One who makes all life possible, primarily by loving and supporting masculinity in all its richness. Defend motherhood — for the sake of fatherhood. That’s the ultimate target in these turbulent times.