Critique of Federalist Editorial “There Is One Pro-Women Camp In American Politics, And It’s The Right by Elle Reynolds” – Do Federalist Magazine Members Realize There Are Single, Childless Conservative Women?
Way below, I will link to and discuss yet another unfortunate editorial from conservative site The Federalist which again incorrectly conflates “womanhood” with motherhood, as if there’s an assumption that all conservative women are married with children
(hint: we are not. Some of us conservative women are single and childless. I am no less a woman, or no less a conservative, merely because I am childless and single).
It seems as though The Federalist, like many other conservative sites, pumps out at least one of these
“womanhood = motherhood and wife, and if you disagree with this assumption, you must be an abortion-supporting, man-hating, Democrat feminist”
type editorials about once a month to once every three months. And they are so tiresome.
Just a few months ago, I wrote this post:
And now here I am again, having to address another one of their, “rah rah marriage and motherhood, being conservative as a woman means being a wife and a mother!” type pieces.
Some conservative authors may concede that it’s possible to be a woman and be single and also be childless and also be a conservative, but one would not know it, from their unrelenting association of womanhood with marital or parental status.
I am not a progressive, a liberal, or a feminist.
I don’t agree with all views of feminists, but at times, I’ve found that other conservatives, in attempting to “own the libs,” or in arguing against feminist perspectives (some which conservatives occasionally caricaturize, which results in strawman arguments), go too far in the other, and equally wrong, direction.
I have nothing against the nuclear family, marriage, or motherhood. However, there is nothing wrong with a person being single and childless, whether by choice or by circumstance.
Yes, some conservative (and non-conservative) women are single by circumstance, and somehow such women are never considered in these excessively pro-motherhood, pro-nuclear family, pro-marriage pieces. More about that:
If you’re a Christian – and I think many of the writers at The Federalist are Christian, or at least supportive of Judeo-Christian values – you cannot plausibly defend a hyper-fixation on marriage, the nuclear family, and motherhood (or fatherhood) from the Bible itself.
The Bible actually teaches that spiritual family is of more import than biological family. Jesus of Nazareth taught in the Gospels that if you follow him, you are to place him above your spouse, any children you have, your siblings, your parents, and other biological family.
(See Matthew 12:46-50 and Matthew 10:37,38 for more about how Jesus discouraged his followers from prioritizing biological family or spouse above devotion to God or above spiritual family, as today’s American conservatives tend to do.)
The Bible simply does not teach anyone to “focus on their (biological) family,” nor does the Bible teach that marriage, natalism, parenthood, or the nuclear family will fix a culture or that marriage or parenthood will make a person more godly, ethical, or responsible.
The Bible says that the problem with humanity is sin, that each person is a sinner, and the Bible prescribes belief in Jesus as Savior to be the cure – not marriage or having a baby.
In 1 Corinthians 7, the Apostle Paul wrote it is better to remain single than to marry:
Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do …
(28) …But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.
32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided.
An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.
35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.
That sure doesn’t sounding like a ringing endorsement of marriage, motherhood, and the nuclear family, the kind I regularly hear from secular and Christian conservatives!
However, too many editorials by conservative sites – Federalist is really bad about this, as are BreakPoint and several others – continue to conflate “godly,” “mature,” patriotic, and good with “being a married mother.”
I’m a conservative woman who never did marry. Not because I am “anti marriage,” but because in spite of all the propaganda I was fed by Southern Baptist and evangelical Christians from the time I was a kid and teen (i.e., if I just had faith, attended church, prayed, etc, that God would send me a husband), and although I followed that evangelical and Baptist teaching, I never-the-less was never sent a spouse.
I did not choose to remain single over my entire life; that is just how my life turned out.
By staying single for as long as I have, and I remain right of center politically, I’ve seen that too many other conservatives, in seeking to correct what they see as liberal or feminist mistakes regarding family and marriage, end up going in error by going in the direct, 180 degree opposite direction, by placing an over-emphasis upon marriage and parenthood.
Here’s a link with excerpts to the editorial from The Federalist, and below, I’ll pick apart where I agree or disagree:
The Editorial by E. Reynolds on The Federalist
by Elle Reynolds
June 15, 2022
… Even at the height of the feminist movement, the lies that women must become like men to be real women were damaging — but now, all pretenses are up.
— end excerpt —
Women Must Become Like Men To Be Real Women?
When Reynolds writes, “… the lies that women must become like men to be real women were damaging,” what does she mean? What does she mean by women “becoming like men?”
I think I know what Reynolds means, and if I am correct, she is most likely referring to gender stereotypes, that women are, or should be, great at relationships, free to show emotion, nurturing, warm, passive, be risk averse, and docile.
(Note that many of these stereotypes for women are the same as hallmarks of codependency.)
Unlike the stereotypes of men in our culture, with some of those being, be relationally aloof, don’t express emotions, be stoic, tough, assertive, and risk-taking. You’ll notice that girls and women don’t receive those same messages in American culture.
I know I (I am a woman) was heavily discouraged while growing up from my parents, religious faith, and American secular culture from having those traits, because they weren’t considered feminine enough or appropriate for girls or women to have.
Gender Stereotypes = Womanhood
If Reynolds is relying on stereotypes to define her understanding of what it means for a woman to “act like a man,” (or for a woman to be a woman without acting like a man!) not all women fit the gender stereotypes in either direction.
Most of us, men and women, have a blend of the two sets of stereotypes, or show one set at one time, and the other set at other times, depending on the situation.
Some hetero-sexual men sometimes possess or display stereotypical “feminine” qualities, while some hetero-sexual women have constantly, or occasionally, stereotypical “masculine” qualities.
Another problem with defining “what a woman is” by relying on behavioral or physical appearance stereotypes (ie., women are sweet, nurturing, and passive, and women wear lipstick, dresses, high heel shoes, and mascara) is that this is exactly how progressives are now defining womanhood as well.
Leftist transactivists are now denying biological reality to say any biological man who identifies as a woman is a woman.
And some of these men who identify as woman wear dresses, skirts, high heel shoes, panty hose, lipstick and mascara.
Some of these women- identifying men, like the drag queens we’re hearing about a lot lately, engage in an exaggerated performance of womanhood, by flopping their breasts around while dancing in their shows and striking “sexy” poses that most of us see biological women striking on magazine covers.
All of that is defining “what womanhood is” by upholding the shallow superficials of what society says or thinks women are.
And both far left liberals AND conservatives engage in this – both the right and the left define “woman” to mean their preferred set of “feminine, womanly stereotypes.”
For the left, this means women’s sexuality (acting sexy), wearing lipstick and eye shadow, having and showing large breasts, and eroticizing the degradation of women
(e.g., women being sexually abused, submissive to men – if this is unfamiliar subject matter to you, maybe do some research on “autogynephilia” or “cissy porn”),
and for the right this means being nurturing, soft spoken, sweet, passive, and being a stay at home wife and mother.
For both the left and the right, women being defined by gender stereotypes means how a woman presents herself (re: physical appearance), and would consist of things like a woman having long hair and wearing lipstick, mascara, eye shadow, and wearing a dress or skimpy ensemble with high heels.
Motherhood and Abortion
Reynolds goes on to say:
Celebrating Women’s Capacity for Motherhood
As the country awaits the Supreme Court’s release of its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, which is expected to overturn the imaginary right to kill a child in the womb, one side is screaming that women’s inherent biological capabilities to bear children are not something to be celebrated but something oppressive to be (literally) ripped out of women’s bodies. Womanhood and its functions are bad, inconvenient, and must be bloodily suppressed for women to achieve their potential, they say.
[She goes on to write of how as of late, progressive pro-choice advocates have been vandalizing pregnancy centers and so on]
— end excerpts —
I am 50-something years old but have never been married or pregnant. By the “capacity for motherhood” argument, am I any less a woman by virtue of being childless? What of married women who are infertile, or their husband is infertile – do they cease being women?
I am pro-life, and I agree that it’s morally wrong and unlawful for (Link): pro-choice adherents to vandalize pregnancy clinics.
I also see it as a strange hypocritical, anti-feminist stance for feminists to be fine with women aborting female fetuses – killing a little girl in the womb. That is perhaps one of the most anti-feminist, anti-women things a person can do, but many pro-choice feminists embrace it, never the less.
The same feminists would be deeply troubled or infuriated about, say, a male incel who thinks it’s his right to demand sex from adult women but then murder the women when they refuse him sex or dates – but some of these same women are fine with an adult woman aborting (killing) her unborn daughter. It’s a very unsustainable position to hold.
I completely agree that progressives and some forms of (third wave) feminism get some things very very wrong and actually end up creating new types of sexism against women (such as but not limited to intersectional feminism and progressive queer theory; both have played a role in allowing men who identify as women being allowed into women’s prisons, where women inmates are raped by these men, etc.)
However, some feminists are fighting against this brand of ideology that (Link): some men actually helped to usher in (feminist women are not fully responsible for today’s trans activism).
Conservatives Don’t Always Help Adult Women – But Harm Them
The author goes on to say that conservatives don’t support the murder of baby girls in the womb but want these female fetuses to grow up to become women.
That’s all fine and dandy, but when those girls grow up, and if they remain single and childless, whether by choice or by circumstance (like me!), these same conservative sites write these singles- and- childless- shaming essays which inadvertently tell adult women (or either intentionally or un-intentionally imply) they are not “fully women” unless they marry and have children!
Conservatives and Domestic Abuse
If the little girl in this hypothetical scenario grows up to marry (i.e., her feminist mother does not abort her), and she later marries in adulthood, and her spouse is abusive, many of these same conservatives, especially if they are complementarian Christians, will more often than not instruct her that, according to their interpretation of the Bible, she may not divorce her spouse but must stay and endure abuse for years or decades.
How loving is it of pro-life conservatives to encourage a pregnant woman to give birth to a girl, only for that girl to grow up, marry an abusive husband, and then be told that she, the now-adult in the abusive marriage, is somehow to blame for the abuse, or that she cannot or should not leave the abusive marriage for her own physical and mental well-being?
That’s not loving or being supportive of women, and yet this occurs commonly in conservative Christian marriages and conservative Christian material on marriage and teachings about roles for women.
Some of the fiercest advocates for abortion are men who don’t want to shoulder the emotional and financial responsibilities of providing for their children and their children’s mothers. The leftist abortion narrative invites men to impregnate women and then pressure those women to kill the resulting children, saddling women with the trauma and guilt of abortion.
— end excerpts —
I am in agreement with Reynolds here. Yes, it’s true – a lot of men support abortion because it enables them to have as much of consequence-free sex as they like without having to father a child or pay child support.
Marriage Is Not Always Protective of Women
Unlike abortion, marriage protects women. It demands that men offer provision and loyalty in return for a woman’s love, and gives women stability. In advocating for committed, healthy marriages and families — and the rejection of self-indulgence they require — conservatives promote a culture that makes both men and women better people and makes them happier too.
— end excerpts —
As noted above, this is not true for women who never marry, or women in abusive marriages, and most of the time, conservative Christians wrongly counsel such women to stay in abusive marriages, rather than to divorce.
Is it really true that marriage makes people happier, healthier, or less selfish? No. See:
Being married does not make a person less self indulgent. See:
Some studies reveal that single and childless women are actually happier than married people:
Where Are All Those Good Men? The Single Women Who Want to Marry Want to Know
Continuing with Reynolds’ essay:
In contrast, third-wave feminism fed women the lie that marriage was oppressive and limiting, not rewarding. Combine that with radical individualism’s message to commitment-phobic men, and you’re left with a lonely culture of single women wondering where all the good men have gone.
— end excerpt —
If a woman is married to a self-absorbed or abusive man, marriage will very likely be oppressive and limiting – and not fulfilling or rewarding.
Please do not depict marriage like Hollywood used to do in years past: as a fairy tale that can bring someone ultimate fulfillment.
(I just saw this headline tonight: (Link): Chilling new details emerge of gruesome ‘axe killing’ on Aussie engineer [by her father in law] in Pakistan in front of her ‘traumatised’ children and dad who was helpless to stop the attack: ‘I feared for our lives and did not move’)
Another person will not “complete” you. Only you can complete you.
If you’re unhappy with yourself as a single adult, guess what? Having a spouse won’t magically erase that unhappiness, self doubt, depression, low self esteem or any insecurity you deal with. For that, you need to see a therapist or read some self-help books and work on yourself.
I was in a long term serious relationship and was engaged for a few years and no, being in a serious, committed relationship didn’t bring me unwavering joy, meaning, purpose, fulfillment, nor did it “complete” me or remove the depression I used to have at that time.
If you’re a Christian, you should probably believe that only Jesus of Nazareth can complete you and give you identity and purpose – not a husband.
Churches Lack Eligible, Single Men For Women Who’d Like to Marry
Regarding this portion by Reynolds:
…you’re left with a lonely culture of single women wondering where all the good men have gone.
— end excerpts —
Such an attitude overlooks the great gender imbalance in conservative religious milieus.
In the last ten or so years, conservative Muslim, Jewish, and Christian American women who believe only in marrying a man from their respective faith are not finding age-appropriate, single men to marry.
There is a great gender imbalance in religious circles, making it impossible for any Christian woman who believes that she should only marry a Christian man to ever get married (a belief which is taught in many churches, ie, the “equally yoked” rule). See:
(Link): What Two Religions Tell Us About the Modern Dating Crisis (from TIME) (ie, Why Are Conservative Religious Women Not Marrying Even Though They Want to Be Married. Hint: It’s a Demographics Issue)
For secular women:
It’s rather inaccurate for conservative authors to blame every thing marriage or dating related on liberal feminists.
Conservatives, both Christian and secular, come with their own set of problems and assumptions vis a vis sexism, dating, and marriage.
You can be a conservative Christian woman, earnestly follow all the conservative Christian dating advice on whom to date and how to get married and still remain single into your 30s, 40s, and older. I know, I found myself in that very situation.
And here’s what happens when you mention that issue to other Christians:
Where have all the good men gone?
Well, if you’re a single, marriage-desiring Christian woman who was taught to find a good man in church, you can pretty much forget that, because other than the aforementioned gender imbalance, out of the men who do attend church, many of them end up being pedophiles, spouse abusers, arsonists, or drug dealers (even ones who work as preachers and claim to be Christians).
See these threads for examples:
Here’s a specific headline or two about self-professing Christians who murdered, abused, or tried to, murder their spouses or did other distasteful things:
Sometimes pedophiles attend churches to find “wife material” (some pedophiles, even self professing Christian ones, use marriage to an adult to throw off suspicion from their interest in children):
A Few Areas of Agreement
Reynolds then spends a portion of her page arguing in favor of women owning hand guns to protect themselves, since most male attackers will be physically larger and stronger than most female targets. I don’t have any dispute with that portion of that page, so I will move along.
In the first part of the section entitled, “Acknowledging the Reality of Womanhood,” which gets into how far left liberals refuse to define “woman,” so they can try to usher in the destruction of the recognition of biological reality under queer theory (with their ultimate goal being not to get biological men into women’s only spaces – that is only a first step – but to normalize pedophilia), I am in agreement with the author.
I also agree with the author that the progressive habit of referring to women as anything but women, with terms such as “uterus owner,” “birthing person,” or “person who menstruates” and so forth, is demeaning and insulting.
Where I may disagree with Reynolds is in this section:
It should go without saying that a political movement that denies women’s very nature is not pro-woman, while the side that recognizes women are beautifully and uniquely designed — with biological and emotional strengths no man can replicate — is.
— end excerpts —
There are some biological differences between men and women, true enough, but what on earth does Reynolds mean by “emotional strengths?”
I fear we’re back into unfounded gender stereotype assumptions, which assumes things like women are softer, more empathetic, caring, sweet, and nurturing than men are – which studies have disproven.
That women may be considered as more empathetic or loving in our culture would be a result of societal conditioning and (Link): gender role expectations, not innate differences between the biological sexes.
If men received the same un-relenting conditioning from boyhood that women do from girlhood to be very attentive to other people’s emotional states and to cater to them, men would appear to be just as empathetic and perceptive about emotion as women.
By Mimi Nicklin
A common misconception is that we [humans, male and female] are born with differing levels of natural empathic ‘ability’ but research has now shown that empathy is a skill that we can hone and refine. Neurologically we are all born with a very similar ability to empathize, male and female, but our choice to use this ability varies greatly.
While research results vary and are still in their infancy across the board, observed gender differences are more likely to be largely due to cultural expectations of gender roles and the fact that women are more likely to have been ‘taught’ empathy by female role models as they grew up.
— end excerpts —
In the next portion of her essay, Reynolds covers how transwomen (biological men) (Link): use being trans as an excuse to enter women’s only spaces, where the transwomen rape and abuse women.
I am completely opposed to transwomen being permitted into women’s only spaces, particularly if they have not had “bottom surgery.”
Allowing any and every transwoman access into women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, prisons, and so forth, is unnecessarily putting girls and women at risk, but far left liberals do not care about the well-being of females: they care more about their political agenda.
Reynolds and I are on the same page as that topic.
I did find myself in agreement with a lot of what Reynolds had to say, but not quite all of it.
Some Conservative Women Are Single and Childless. Marriage and Motherhood Do Not Equate to “Womanhood” In and Of Themselves
To the people who work at The Federalist or to those who own it, I say this:
Please stop conflating womanhood with being a wife and a mother.
Please stop suggesting or implying that women who are single or childless are some how “less than” or that they must be feminists, Democrats, progressives, or liberals.
Please stop and realize that some of your readership are conservative women over the age of 30, 40, or older who never married (and may never marry!) and who do not have children.
Being a wife and/or a mother is only one small aspect of what it can mean to be a woman.
I am no less a woman merely because I am un-married and childless.
I did not magically morph into a biological man all because I hit age 50+ yet remain single! A woman does not have to marry a man or be pregnant to be a woman.
Again, I say: there are CONSERVATIVE women who are single and childless. Would those at The Federalist please keep this in mind going foward?
I do not want to see any more of these editorials from The Federalist – or other conservative sites -that assume that since some liberals, some feminists, or all progressives hate motherhood, babies, men, and the nuclear family, this therefore makes it accurate or acceptable to write essays that do the following:
- besmirch single women for being single (or for being childless);
- to assume that singleness lacks any positive qualities, that it is a less happy or healthy state than is being married;
- to presume that marriage ends up being a fairy tale with no problems for all women who marry;
- or to presume that “being a woman” means adhering to secular, generally 1950s- based gendered stereotypes of, “women are more caring, softer, docile, passive, and more emotional than men, and that’s the way it should be”
You do not need to defend or promote marriage or womanhood by intentionally or unintentionally denigrating singleness or being childless or childfree, nor do you need to promote womanhood or marriage or motherhood by perpetuating 1950s-era, American, gender stereotypes.
To repeat: some of your readership consists of conservative, pro-life women who are never-married, childless, and/or I am sure divorced, childfree, and widowed.
Not all of your women readers are married with children, for whatever reasons, with those reasons having nothing to do with feminism, or hating men, or hating marriage!
(Link): The Federalist Writers Continue to Disregard That Some of Their Readers Are Conservative, Single, and Childless – Re: “Childless Chris Evans’ Inspiring Condemnation Of Anti-LGBT Bigots: ‘Those People Die Off Like Dinosaurs’”
(Link): Federalist Magazine Staff Annoyed that Other Outlets Publish the Down Side of Motherhood and Are Requesting Sunny Motherhood Propaganda Pieces – As If Conservatives Haven’t Pushed for Motherhood Enough? The Mind Boggles
(Link): “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” – one of the most excellent Christian rebuttals I have seen against the Christian idolatry of marriage and natalism, and in support of adult singleness and celibacy – from CBE’s site
(Link): Singles Advocate DePaulo Responds to Right Wing, Conservative Critics of Singlehood, Who Blame Singles For Breakdown of The Family (reminder: I myself am right wing)