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On the Status of Women -- An Analysis

By       Message Lawrence Davidson     Permalink
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Part III -- Women's Progress in the U.S.?

That is there and not here in the U.S. Really? Consider the following:

--- Conservative Christians make up more than 20% of the voting public in the United States. Their influence runs deep in the Republican party, as can be seen by the statements of many of the recent contenders for the Republican presidential nomination. And, among the lines pushed by this conservative Christian element is an exceedingly patriarchal view of the role of women.

--- The American Christian Fundamentalist Pat Robertson runs a TV program called the 700 Club. It has a daily average audience of one million viewers. Here is what Robertson is telling his audience about the role of women: "I know this is painful for the ladies to hear, but if you get married you have accepted the headship of a man, your husband...the husband is the head of the wife and that is the way it is, period."

--- In an Alternet interview with author Kathryn Joyce, who has researched and written on the subject of conservative Christian views of women, she makes the following points:

1. There is a growing movement among conservative Christians who preach that women should be married homemakers, and that each must have "as many children as God will give you." They see the God-given structure of human society as patriarchy.

2. This point of view has been endorsed by Christian leaders whose long-range goal is to so powerfully influence the U.S. government that they will be able to frame patriarchal precepts into law.

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3. For these Christian conservatives the major enemy, the "root of the problem," is feminism and all those who assert a woman's right to control her own fertility.

Some of these sentiments can be found in the present Republican Party national platform. According to Jill Filipovic writing in the Guardian UK, "The entire Republican social platform is structured around the idea of the traditional family where men are in the public sphere as breadwinners and heads of households, and women stay in private, taking care of children and serving as helpmates to their husbands."

If this Christian conservative sentiment has captured the outlook of one of the nation's two major political parties, you know it must not stop there. A New York Times report recently asserted that there is widespread social anxiety among American men caused by the confusion of gender roles that has allegedly come with growing gender equality in the U.S. This has brought about a backlash. "The masculine mystique is institutionalized in work structures" and both men and women who try to challenge this are "often penalized."

Part IV -- Conclusion

You might have noticed how the attitudes toward women of Muslim, Christian and Jewish fundamentalists are quite similar. Each has fixated on the feminist drive for greater gender equality as a threat to their patriarchal concept of social life. But, as the New York Times piece suggests, the problem is by no means restricted to those who describe themselves as religious conservatives. It is a society wide, worldwide happening.

In the end, it is much harder to realize social progress rather than technical progress. For the latter, all you have to do is the research necessary to master elements of nature. These elements might take a lot of work to get at, but they do not consciously fight back. To achieve the former, however, you must go up against vested interests that do fight back. That is why progress in society is hardly ever continuous and never inevitable.

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http://www.tothepointanalyses.com
Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign
Policy Inc.: Privatizing America's National Interest
; America's
Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli
Statehood
; and Islamic Fundamentalism. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history.

His blog To The Point Analyses now has its own Facebook page. Along with the analyses, the Facebook page will also have reviews, pictures, and other analogous material.


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