Amanda Marcotte takes on the much-recycled nonsense about “radical feminism” – which as used by people who hate feminism means everything beyond the right to vote, and certainly any wild talk about stereotypes or the image of women in popular culture.

For anyone who wants proof that the conservative Republican tendency to accuse liberals and feminists of being “radical” or “militant” is pure projection, Wednesday’s confirmation hearings for Nina Pillard, Obama’s pick to sit on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, served nicely. Pillard is a Georgetown law professor and yes, openly feminist (though not as aggressively feminist as, say, Justice Samuel Alito is anti-feminist), which was enough to put the Republican Senators who showed up at the hearing into a full-blown paranoid lather. Sen. Ted Cruz, for instance, accused Pillard of arguing that abstinence-only programs were inherently unconstitutional.

You know what she was really arguing?

[N]ot that it’s unconstitutional to scold kids to keep it in their pants to your heart’s content, but that the specific gender roles taught in many abstinence-only courses violate the students’ right to equal protection. Her actual argument:

Double standards about sex drive and chastity in abstinence-only curricula are embedded in a larger picture of women and men playing traditional roles in the family and the public sphere. A decision to practice abstinence until marriage assumes early, heterosexual marriage and early childbearing. The expectation is not that marriage will be delayed until a person’s late twenties or early thirties so that both parents can complete higher education and establish themselves at work, but that couples will marry young and the woman will become a family caretaker, principally supported by her husband, who remains relatively free of care-giving duties to pursue his career. Women, one abstinence-only curriculum teaches, need “financial support,” whereas men need “domestic support” and “admiration.  Another maintains that “[ w ]omen gauge their happiness and judge their success on their relationships. Men’s happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments. Young women, according to a leading abstinence-only curriculum, “care less about achievement and their futures” than do their male peers.  These curricula suggest that there are two tracks in sex and two tracks in life, one male, and one female.

Terrifyingly radical, isn’t it.


  1. Anthony K says

    Well, she’s kind of implying “Guys, don’t do that”, so that’s some Stalinist radfemmery castration right there.

  2. Stevarious, Public Health Problem says

    She might as well be casually reclining on a throne of severed penises, dressed in nothing but garish necklaces made of scrotums.

  3. mark4nier says

    I’ve been thinking about the term “militant atheists”, and I realized that the only time you hear about militant Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, etc, is when they are carrying guns or bombs and using them to kill some one. So it seems that to be an atheist and say that you are, and why you are, is considered the equivalent to committing murder. If these atheists were religious, they would simply be called ‘devout’. Rather a peculiar misuse of language–but it occurred to me that feminists must encounter this kind of bullshit all the time, only worse. So you are shrill, radical, and militant–oh, and let’s not forget, bitches–for being just like them, but for demanding something contrary to them.

  4. says

    The whole idea of “abstinence only” sex education strikes me as inherently barmy, and seems to reflect St. Paul’s attitude to sex and marriage.[1] It only seems to make sense in a society that has an institution of marriage and would perhaps be better referred to as “get married before” sex education. Since marriage is clearly plays an essential part in such a teaching program, some view of the institution must be either taught or assumed. If that view of marriage is sexist then so is the program itself. Living in the UK, I haven’t seen any of the teaching material, but wouldn’t be overly surprised if Ms. Pillard’s characterisation of it were correct. Indeed it’s exactly what I would expect.

    [1] He didn’t much approve of either but thought that if you really couldn’t do without sex you ought to get married first.

  5. says

    I’ve been thinking about the term “militant atheists”, and I realized that the only time you hear about militant Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, etc, is when they are carrying guns or bombs and using them to kill some one.[1]

    Actually the official position of the Roman Catholic Church is that it is a militant organisation:

    The Church, the Mystical Body, exists on this earth, and is called the Church militant, because its members struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil. The Church suffering means the souls in Purgatory. The Church triumphant is the Church in heaven.[2]

    Historically this doctrine has been taken very seriously indeed and has been used to justify papal involvement in military action. The most recent pope to have reiterated the doctrine seems to be Pius XII.

    [1] mark4nier.

    [2] Taken from The Basic Catholic Catechism
    PART FIVE: The Apostles’ Creed IX-XII
    Ninth Article: “The Holy Catholic Church; the Communion of Saints”

    By William G. Most. (c) Copyright 1990 by William G. Most

  6. says

    I really like how Ms. Pillard lays bare the underlying assumptions of abstinence education. It is a program designed to force women and men into conservatively approved societal straightjackets. My life as a stay at home Dad and husband would be unimaginable to these people. Let alone the idea that I was somehow supposed to remain abstinent until marraiage when I got married at 33. I’ve said it before, but Republicans don’t support strong enough gun control laws to handle an large population of 40 year old virgins. I know that there is a significant number of perfectly happy asexual people out there but trust me I’m not one of them.

    And they completely ignore the evidence that a lot of people end up together because they are sexually compatible, which is a damn good thing to find out before you put the fate of your record collection within range of the power of a divorce lawyer.

    What abstinence proponents are essentially fighting is the modern, thoughtful, trending towards egalitarian middle class American Marriage. And their biggest problem is that this model is amazingly successful when allowed to flourish. Modern Marriages produce more stable relationships, smaller families and parents with more resources to put into childrearing and better plans on how to do so. The Modern Marriage (for simplicities sake I’m referring to cis, middle class couples who would otherwise be forced into Sen, Cruz’s ideas of traditional gender roles and outdated family planning) puts it’s tools where they perform the best. In my case that means a wife with a really good job that supports the family and a husband who cooks cleans and tortures the children as needed. In all seriousness, our family would starve to death if I was in charge of bringing home the bacon and my wife was in charge of frying it up in a pan.

    It’s also important to note that many of the strongest advocates for abstinence only education and forcing these traditional gender roles on society openly KNOW all of this. Phyllis Schafly is hardly a stay at home mom. The halls of Congress are littered with power couples. You don’t usually see powerful CEO’s who married young and pumped out a litter of BB’s. Traditional gender roles are something these people very paternalistically wish to impose on the rest of us from above.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *