Saturday, March 03, 2012

The death of feminism

Why is it, do you think, that so many people appear to be more concerned about Rush Limbaugh's comments about Sandra Fluke (and Danica Patrick) than about what Fluke and Patrick themselves said?

Feminism began as a "women's liberation" movement. Women wanted government to remove legislation they considered repressive. They wanted government to get out of their private lives and bedrooms and to allow them to take responsibility for themselves and their bodies.

Now we have Fluke testifying before Big Brother in behalf of an HHS mandate that would coerce Georgetown University and other similar institutions, in violation of their conscience, to pay for medical coverage for abortion, sterilization, and contraception.

Now it's a free country. There is nothing preventing anyone from purchasing contraceptives if they like, many of them quite inexpensively as one can see at any local drugstore. Fluke suggests, however, that her concern is on behalf of those such as herself and other students at Georgetown who find the out-of-pocket costs for contraceptives "untenable burdens" during their tenure as students. She cites a figure of $3000.00 as the cost of birth control over the years a student is enrolled in Georgetown, and appeals to the Jesuit motto of the institution (cura personalis, or "care of the whole person") as a reason why Georgetown should consider contraceptives a health entitlement in order to meet student "medical needs" and not to "impede [their] academic success."

Fluke cites the example of morally uncontroversial non-contraceptive use contraceptives in the treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome. But an allowance for such use hardly calls for a "universal" mandate. But as others have noted, only a fool would deny that the primary purpose of contraceptive drugs and devices is to make sex “worry free” by detaching the procreative act from procreation. Even assuming that Fluke herself were an icon of chastity and virtue, her description of the "crushing demand" for contraceptive and reproductive "services," the "untenable burdens" such expenses impose on students, and her promotion of such services as a health entitlement suggest little more than a thinly-veiled attempt to garner contraceptive coverage for the purpose of facilitating sexual promiscuity and a morally irresponsible lifestyle.

And then what about what President Obama said in his phone call to Fluke? That her parents should feel proud of her? A Georgetown law student who complains that she and other students can't foot the $3000.00 bill that contraceptives would cost over the course of their law-student careers? "Proud"? Nobody finds that a tad odd?

One thinks of Chesterton:
The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered ... it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone...

But what we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.... The truth is that there is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it is practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic. The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.
And so we are offended by tiny words with concrete references, like the inclusive use of "man" in the above paragraph, and substitute hypostatized abstract nouns like "humanity." We are offended by those hard small words with specific denotative definitions, like "heretic," "apostate," and "prostitute" -- because they strike us as harsh and unfeeling -- and we substitute loosey-goosey terms for their benign connotative values, like "liberal-minded," "progressive," and "free-spirited" instead.

It reminds me of my years in the American South where the term "Christian" used to be employed to connote more-or-less the same thing as "decent citizen," regardless of what the person believed or how he (no, I'm not using the damned plural, "they") lived. Modernity has tied people's minds up like pretzels, so that they refer to third person singulars as third person plurals, and a young woman living like a 'ho' can be told that her parents should be "proud" of her.

"Freedom" used to mean, among other things, freedom from sin, vice, and corruption. Today it has come to mean freedom to embrace sin, vice, and corruption. What once was called the "bondage of the will" now is called "free self-expression."

Today we have become so open-minded, it seems, that we have forgotten what it is to think. "Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out," warned Chesterton; "the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid."

[Hat tip to Zachary Mabee for image; and to B.S.O and D.O. for precision in details.]

Related: Fr. John Zuhlsdorff comments:
"I read that Rush Limbaugh apologized for what he called the activist from Georgetown who wants taxpayers to pay for her contraceptives.

"I am sure that Nancy Pelosi will now apologize to other members of the House whom she accused of trying to kill women."




I could agree with much of your witty commentary - except for one thing: you have completely mis-characterized what Ms. Fluke said in her testimony to Congress. As I find the discourse of bilious Limbaugh egregious, what is worse is that he, too, has not actually read what Ms. Fluke had said, and is spreading mis-truths and falsehoods. Which is really too bad; both you and Limbaugh have interesting points of view, but your views are diluted by the mis-quotes you spout. Read the actual testimony, then re-write your post. If you are going to be a blogger, and speak to a broad community, then it is absolutely incumbent on you to have your quotes and references straight.

Pertinacious Papist


Please show what I have mis-characterized in Ms. Fluke's speech.



I am reminded of a quip by Chesterton, something along the lines of "a feminist is a woman who insists no man will tell her what to do, so she pursues a career as a secretary and takes dictation from a man."

Pertinacious Papist


Here is the Sandra Fluke testimony (pdf):

It's very clear that she, and the fellow students to whom she refers at Georgetown, regard contraception not only as a right, but a right the government (tax payer) should in some way subsidize if not foot the bill.

This strikes me as a social attitude that has settled into a conviction among some since the legalization of widespread contraception by Griswold vs. Connecticut (1965), making possible a culture of recreational sex without responsibility or consequences. Neither offspring nor marital bonding are any longer seen by this set as the purpose of sexual intercourse. Instead of pleasure being the by-product ("accident" in Aristotelian parlance) of the act, it is now seen as the proper end and purpose of the act. This, in turn makes pregnancy an unintended by-product ("accident") of the act, such that preventing it should be, it is thought, the responsibility of the government via contraceptives through its health coverage mandate.

This is insane.

Pertinacious Papist


If you don't want to get fat, eat less. If you don't want to get pregnant, abstain from sex.

It's what the majority of people have always done through history: abstain from sex until marriage. (And the exception proves the rule.)

Ours is the only generation, apparently, where people think they have a right to sex without consequences, just as millions madly pursue strategies for eating whatever they want and as much as they want without getting fat.


Ralph Roister-Doister


I have read Sandra Fluke’s opening statement, and it was a first rate anecdotal tear jerker, based entirely on erroneous assumptions and ridiculous demands. As she admits to being “a past president of Georgetown Law Students for Reproductive Justice,” there is no doubt that her motivations are at least as much political as charitable, nor that her understanding of “charity” varies considerably from that of any educated and faithful Catholic. She was picked by Nanci Pelosi because she was vetted and determined to be a reliable liberal democrat apparatchik, with no loyalty to the school that provided her with access to a superior education at someone else’s expense, and a full-throated sense of entitlement.

It is true that birth control pills are used for purposes that can be reasonably described as health related. But only a fool would deny that the primary purpose of these drugs and devices is to make sex “worry free” by detaching the procreative act from procreation. This aspect of birth control – which is, after all, its defining aspect – gets no notice from Fluke. Her opening statement is entirely anecdotal, based on the experiences of one or two of her “friends.”

I understand Fluke’s monetary problems, because I went to graduate school at a behemoth state university for a few years on a graduate assistantship, later called a teaching fellowship, which involved a grant of free tuition and 5-6 thousand (1970s ) dollars, in return for teaching a number of undergraduate English courses per semester. I lived on this money, paying for all of my textbook expenses and living expenses out of it. I rented a room in a boarding house with cooking privileges. I drove an old Plymouth that was a gift from my parents. Needless to say, I did not do much dating. It was not possible for a number of reasons, lack of funds being only one. How Fluke, being a student in a very demanding graduate program, could find the time for prolific sexual or political activity is beyond me. She doesn’t say what was required of her for her “public assistance scholarship” – perhaps it is money for nothing. But even so, grad students tend to have little time on their hands. I certainly did not. CTD

Ralph Roister-Doister


Lest anyone wonder, let me add that during my time at behemoth university I was not a practicing Catholic. I was the typical spoiled boho fool of the 70’s. Not a hippie, exactly, but certainly not a tool of the Establishment. I did some drinking, some socializing with other students in the program. Sex was a rarity. But that was expected – it was part of the price. The prize was a tenured, light work position at a comfortable university, decent wages, unmerited prestige, the slavish devotion of callow students – an entirely selfish and anaesthetized plan for life. It is not surprising that Fluke does not want to give up her scholarship and try to make an honest living in a job with a health plan that promises to rain birth control pills down on her like Skittles. She seeks that anaesthetized life, just like I did, and in her case she has to slither her way through a Catholic institution to get it. And it is consistent that one who lusts for that sort of life should expect to have free birth control provided, not only for her, but for all of God’s randy daughters.

Universality would not be required if the goal were only to assist people like her “friend.”

You know, if anyone in the political game was serious about controlling health care expenses, he or she might start with a more realistic definition of what constitutes “health.” In Buffalo, where I live, public sector unions such as teachers, police, and firemen enjoy coverage for cosmetic surgery – everything from nose jobs to boob enhancements. Hair loss passes as a health concern in many plans, as does the heartbreak of erectile dysfunction. How can anyone claim to be serious about solving the problem of health care when such frivolities are covered under the same umbrella as cancer and multiple sclerosis? Fluke is tearfully claiming such status for birth control, raising recreational sex to the status of an health entitlement. One may cavil with Rush Limbaugh’s terminology, but his analysis of the logical implications of Fluke’s disingenuous testimony is dead on.



"Hair loss passes as a health concern in many plans, as does the heartbreak of erectile dysfunction."


Don't you think that's a bit harsh? To my mind, it spoils an otherwise perfect rant. Sure, ED is nowhere near as deleterious as cancer or MS, but it's nonetheless a health problem. The Catechism itself states that "(Conjugal love) is a source of joy and pleasure ... (achieving) the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life." Now maybe you think that the government should not be required to subsidize these goods- fine. But I would ask you to think just a little bit harder about what ED medication might mean to a loving married couple before you again trivialize the matter.

Ralph Roister-Doister


"Now maybe you think that the government should not be required to subsidize these goods"

Yes, that was my major point. Beyond it, I can only add that humility consists in acceptance of one's faults and limitations (physical and otherwise). Denial of same strikes me as rather the opposite of humility. At some point this becomes problematic.