On the abolition of women…and men
Fiorella Nash, a bioethicist in the United Kingdom, has a new book out entitled The Abolition of Woman. It’s a valid thesis. But I want to take it further, because even though more women than men are being physically destroyed, it is not just women who are being abolished, but men as well.
It is important to recognize that feminism as we know it today is not rooted primarily in lack of opportunity for women. As the personal histories of leading feminists demonstrate in an eye-blink, feminism is far more deeply rooted in the betrayal of daughters by fathers, and of wives by husbands. Abuse, broken homes and the emotional dysfunctionality they too often create play a huge role in the feminist movement, and these realities too often leave feminists in denial about what has really led to their disaffection from marriage and family and men.
This means that the West had to first forget what it means to be a man before it could create the climate in which any sort of radical feminism could flourish. I suggest that if the familial relationships between men and women in, say, the nineteenth century had been based on chapter five of St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians—in which marriage is modelled on Christ’s relationship with His Church—then we would not have the callous moral, psychological and sexual combat between the sexes that we experience today.
Women no more
Nash’s new book (from Ignatius, 234pp) focuses on the casualties suffered by women at the hands of radical feminism. With unsparing ferocity she documents the fundamental misogyny at work in this movement: The bodily invasion of abortion, which is forced on countless women around the world to the applause of Western feminists; the demeaning practice of surrogacy; the commodification of the female body; widespread “gendercide” against women; maternal mortality; and the loss of bodily integrity.
The underlying point Nash is making is that Western radical feminism has become part of the world establishment. As such it plays a huge role in the continuation of such constant, deep and deadly assaults on women. Or as I would put it, what we are faced with is psychologically and spiritually fractured women, caught up in modern feminism, who are working overtime to stamp out the authentic nature of all their sisters as a kind of self-justification for their own brokenness. Many readers will already be convinced of the points made by The Abolition of Woman, but those who are just awakening to this reality, and those who need the most potent ammunition to combat it, should definitely read Fiorella Nash.
Men no more
And what of men? It should come as no surprise that a gay culture is on the rise throughout the West, a culture, then, of emasculated or “demanified” men. In a recent bit of Scriptural exegesis, I identified potent warnings against this emasculation process in the text of the Book of Sirach (see “Did the Book of Sirach pinpoint the Church’s abuse crisis?), in which I called homosexuality “the elephant in the room.” But a friend suggested that, in an even deeper sense, contraception is the elephant in the room. She noted that St. Peter Damian, who had written forcefully against homosexuality, regarded contraception as just another form of sodomy.
That may not capture what is in the minds and hearts of those who contracept—because the moral nature of the act is seldom grasped even in theory—but it is a shrewd insight nonetheless. It is certainly fair to observe that contraception “liberates” women precisely by emasculating men (in the same way as sterilization emasculates them, though not as permanently). Contraception makes masculinity fruitless in two ways: First, by eliminating the fundamental potency of the male to generate life; second, by undermining that special masculine protective responsibility which ought always to characterize men, both in their most intimate conjugal relationships and in their larger set of relationships throughout the family and society.
Back to Humanae Vitae
This brings us back to Pope Blessed Paul VI’s landmark encyclical Humane Vitae (On Human Life) in which, while declaring contraception within marriage to be intrinsically evil, he also urged everyone to recognize the probable increase of other moral scourges as a result of its widespread acceptance and practice:
Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection. 
Last year, a commission emerged in Rome to give fresh consideration to Humanae Vitae. Some have wondered whether the Pope is hoping for a fresh application of the vague discernment principle he had already introduced for marriage cases in Amoris Laetitia. But this year marks the 50th anniversary of the encyclical, and there has been a remarkable outpouring of comments and studies from bishops and scholars around the world indicating that it should be understood in the deepest possible way as a truly prophetic Magisterial act. Clearly, the world episcopate’s support of Humanae Vitae is far stronger today than it was in the 1960s.
This brings me to another new book from Ignatius Press (384pp), edited by moral philosopher Janet Smith, entitled Why Humanae Vitae Is Still Right. It includes the work of fifteen scholars covering the consequences of contraception, the Scriptural roots of the encyclical and its relationship to the Theology of the Body, the Krakow Report issued by the future Saint John Paul II, philosophical defenses of the encyclical, the sensus fidelium and conscience, and new initiatives stimulated by the encyclical. Once again, many readers will be already fully on board, but if you are new to the Catholic position or need to have critical information and ideas at your fingertips, then this book also is must-reading.
All of these writers are treating different aspects of the fundamental problem at the heart of this essay. Again, what I mean is the personally and socially devastating abolition of both women and men, along with the fruitful relationships that ought to bind them together so that, as their crowning personal glory, they can more fully image God.
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