Part 3 of
Allan C. Carlson's
"The Natural Family
Where It Belongs"
(a book review)

15 February 2014

I am reviewing Allan C. Carlson’s new book, The Natural Family Where It Belongs: New Agrarian Essays (Click Here if you would like to begin with Part 1 of this series). 

Chapter 2 of the book is titled The Curious Case of Gender Equality. It is not an agrarian essay. It is about “the ideology known as liberal or equity feminism.” 

Carlson and an informal gathering of fellow historians (including two Pulitzer Prize winners) once identified equity feminism as a possible top contender for the most influential world-view ideology of the 20th century. That’s kind of a surprise, but when you think about it, they might be right. Equity feminism certainly has reshaped “ideas, attitudes and institutions.”

This chapter was kind of fun to read because feminism is not something that very many people disagree with, at least not publicly. To do so invites all sorts of misunderstandings and vehement straw-man arguments. Challenging feminism is, as they say, politically incorrect (and it’s probably more politically incorrect than challenging the notion of “gay” marriage) So I appreciate that Mr. Carlson, a learned man (especially when it comes to such things), is brave enough to state the obvious... men and women are created differently.

For example, the fact that women are equipped with breasts, with which to feed their babies (and men aren’t), is but one obvious difference. Carlson launches into an interesting few paragraphs about how breast feeding has been proven to be incredibly good for the child and the mother, not to mention society as a whole. And yet, he notes that “feminist theorists retain at best a stony silence and at worst an outright hostility toward breastfeeding.”  

Carlson then points out that...

“The core equity feminist dilemma, of course, is that this movement—like all modern ideological movements—is at war with human nature.”

Then he has the unmitigated gall (that’s sarcasm on my part) to state that...

“In the fields of human biology and biochemistry, for example, dramatic findings highlight the important effects of hormonal and psychological differences between women and men: in everything from the functioning of the nervous system and the brain to emotional drives. These lessons, of course, do not teach that one sex is “better” than or “superior” to the other; such claims are at once wrong and irrelevant. The true lesson is the remarkable complimentarity of woman and man; in the creation of families and in the rearing of children, men and women are designed to work together, each bringing special gifts and aptitudes which make the union greater or stronger than the sum of its parts.”

I dare say that most agrarian-minded folks, especially those who have raised a family of their own, would agree with that statement.

Allan Carlson takes a few pages to explain the truly curious political goings-on that led to an event, 50 years ago, when the “American social-political order underwent a seismic shift, and equity-feminism won arguably it’s most important policy victory.”  

You’ll have to read the book yourself to get the story. The lesson I took away from it is that actions have consequences and when government policy and law is involved, the actions often bring powerful culture-changing consequences. Worse than that, the future consequences are often not what those who pushed through the changes would have ever expected.

What is the opposite of feminism?   Allan Carlson says it is maternalism. I never knew that. I like the sound of the word. Maternalism. Yes, I like that. 

I sure am thankful that my mother was a maternalist instead of a feminist. And my grandmothers too. There isn't a doubt in my mind that I am the recipient of the blessings that come into families and lives because of maternalism.


Click Here to go to Part 4 of this book review

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