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The Iona Blog

Motherhood presented as an anti-woman institution

Author: Tom O'Gorman
Date: 2nd March 2013

This year is the 50th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan, one of the most influential books of the late 20th century and possibly the key text in modern feminism.

In the latest edition of the Family in America journal, author Charmaine Crouse Yoest argues that the book launched modern feminism's war on motherhood.

In her article, The New Feminism at 50: Women Alone, she quotes Friedan: “We can no longer ignore that voice within women that says: 'I want something more than my husband and my children and my home'.”

Yoest remarks: “And thus began the marginalisation of the essential female role of motherhood.”

Yoest argues that feminism set about defining motherhood as the primary obstacle to female empowerment and achievement.  

She quotes feminist thinker, law professor Robin West, of Georgetown University, who wrote that most women “are indeed forced into motherhood and heterosexuality”.

This led to feminism focusing a politics centring on first legalising abortion and then maintaining “the right to choose”.  

Yoest argues that the abortion issue is central to modern feminism's self image. She cites a judgement by US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in which she wrote that women cannot “enjoy equal citizenship status” without abortion on demand.

The result of this, she says, is that women are increasingly sexually objectified and increasingly living alone: “[T]he life experience-and relational expectations-of many women has changed dramatically.  

“Women today are living alone at an alarming rate: one recent study revealed that one third of adults aged 45-63 are unmarried. This represents a more than 50pc increase since 1980, when just 20pc of middle-aged Americans were unmarried.”

The reason for this, Yoest says, is that while modern feminism claims to be championing the relatively uncontroversial goal of equality, what they have actually been pursuing is sameness.

“True equality means affirming the equal worth and importance to society of each sex, while acknowledging the differences between men and women,” Yoest points out.

She continues: “Rather than a rich equality-by which I mean that one values an intrinsic difference that encompasses men and women as distinct and uniquely created - feminists have looked to that male experience as the model of what a human citizen should be, and sought to make women more like men.”

This determination to be “more like men” seems to be at the core of modern feminism's rejection of motherhood (which can also be seen in books like Linda Hirschmann's Get to Work, which insists that women belong outside the home).

Rather than authentic feminism, such a stance seems more like a denial of authentic femininity.

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