The Hobby Lobby case pass set off an unabating, shrill firestorm. Late last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued this warning about the Supreme Court: “We should be afraid about this court … five men can decide if a woman can use a diaphragm.” Somehow, poor Nancy misread the case.
Among the publishable screeds – many others are too crass to even quote – there is an odd, recurring pattern: like Pelosi, very few actually address the real issues of the case. Hillary Clinton, a lawyer whom one would hope had actually read and understood the Supreme Court ruling, contributed this dire warning to the debate: “It’s very troubling that a salesclerk at Hobby Lobby who needs contraception, which is pretty expensive, is not going to get that service through her employer’s health-care plan because her employer doesn’t think she should be using contraception.” Even the Washington Post, recognizing the unbelievable misfire on the topic, gave Clinton “two pinocchios” for this comment, stating that “Clinton was leaping to an assumption about the impact on employees.”
A Slate article, adding to the sensational rhetoric, resorted to an ominous tone: “The Supreme Court term wrapped up nice and neat last week. Unless you are a woman.” The decision, the author claimed, still has women reeling over its implications. Reeling? Really? Because a few very select bosses in the country aren’t required to pay for your abortifacients?
One often hears about the “fog of war” that comes about in battles, in which the truth is difficult to discern, only clarified later by time and distance. Somehow, however, the fog around the so-called “war on women” seems to be self-imposed and self-perpetuating.
Ours is an age of tyrannical feminists. Using shrill voices, dialed up to the highest pitch possible, these women warn of impending catastrophe from anything that might not align with their current allegiances, while actively drowning out dissent. Think Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood. Even issues that may actually be harmful to women—such as the links between cancer, heart disease and strokes and the pill, or the connection between breast cancer and abortion—are tactfully hidden as non-issues. Wendy Davis’ rise to fame in Texas came on the heels of filibustering a law that would put the most basic restrictions upon abortion clinics required by every other sort of medical facility in the state of Texas. Why should abortion clinics have lower medical standards than even most nail salons?
The concocted “war on women” is sheer marketing genius, epitomizing these feminist tyrants. It offers the perfect blend of baseless outrage, lies, and bullying. And it is vague enough that it can be molded, with some fancy fabrications, to almost anything. Which means that every woman can become a victim. Think of poor Sandra Fluke who might have to pay the $9 a month for her own birth control while studying at Georgetown Law.
Meanwhile, those who dare to object to this war must really either be sexist—think of those five evil males on the Supreme Court Bench—or stupid, or a religious fanatic, or—in most cases of dissent—all of the above.
Nowhere is there actually room for authentic discussion or debate. If one foolishly tries to engage in the like, the feminine tyrants’ playbook dictates that they simply turn up the shrill comments, boycotts, scary threats, lawsuits, whatever. Who can be bothered with truth? Ironically, this form of feminism, which is supposed to showcase women’s mental alacrity, engages very little of it.
The feminine tyrants’ rhetoric, while exemplified in the reactions to the Hobby Lobby suit, is masterfully used on a regular basis. Like the little girl who has learned the power of her tears and tantrums to get what she wants, these big girls are getting their way with more sophisticated and meaner tools. And it is not just limited to Washington. Gloria Allred and most of the hosts on “The View” might have advanced degrees in the subject.
Beyond the piercing rhetoric, bigger questions remain. What has happened to women? Is this the kind of women we want to be? The kind of women we want our daughters to become? Or that we want our sons to marry? Angry, irrational, confrontational, dishonest, and, when necessary, self-made victims?
Feminine tyrants are nothing new, but having a gag upon the media, Hollywood, and politics leaves those of us who want to live a more authentic form of femininity with little room. True femininity has been brushed aside in the power struggle, depriving us of even a few cultural role models. Most of us can only point to examples we encounter in our daily lives: mothers, sisters, friends, nuns, teachers, doctors, grandmothers, and so forth, to articulate what it means to truly be a beautiful woman.
Gratefully, as Catholics, we aren’t simply left to this loud crowd to shape our own understanding of what it means to be a woman. Two thousand years of Church history, the examples of the saints, and the wealth of the Old and New Testaments, offer countless examples of true femininity. Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Women”, discussing what he called “the Feminine Genius,” can also guide our thoughts.
Scripture makes clear right from the start that if we get to the women, we get to everyone around them(thanks, Eve). But this cuts both ways, for ill or for good. Throughout the New Testament, most of the major events of Christ’s life start with women: Mary’s fiat, Elizabeth speaking for Zachariah, Mary at the Wedding Feast of Cana, Mary Magdalene being the first to see the resurrected Christ. It is almost humorous to imagine any of these three women engaging in feminist warfare about anything (and certainly, if anyone was entitled, it was Mary, the Mother of God), but their quiet examples offer hope to those of us who don’t want to buy power with our pitch, prevarications, or legal punches.
Today, the feminine tyrants’ whine is about abortifacients purchased by employers (or whatever else one wants to spin out of the case). Who knows what it will be tomorrow, but whatever it is, expect more shrillness, lies, bullying, and self-made victims. The best way to disarm these big girls is to identify and expose their tactics and then simply ignore their tired old tricks.
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