In the Mommy Wars, every believing woman needs to enlist. That's the point of an excerpt from my book, Radical Womanhood, which is currently featured on Boundless and featured below. UPDATE: Boundless is simultaneously running a podcast interview I recorded last week with host Lisa Anderson, during which we chatted about all things radical.
This article is excerpted from a chapter titled "The Mommy Wars" from the book Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World by Carolyn McCulley. Carolyn describes this book as the one she wishes she had as a new believer — a book that provides the history of the feminist ideology that shaped our culture and then explains the Bible's teaching about women, marriage, sexuality, motherhood, and more. She is especially passionate that young women understand this history, as they are the ones who inherited the seismic fallout of this profound change but often are unaware of what happened.
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"There is something about the phrase, 'Mommy Wars,' that makes me want to gouge out my own eyeballs with a fork, rather than have to read it ever again," wrote one blogger after reading yet another controversial article on the topic.1
Twenty years of media hype would undoubtedly elicit that reaction. The term was coined in the late 1980s by Child magazine to describe the tension that existed between working and stay-at-home mothers.2 Since then, numerous books and articles have been published about the so-called mommy wars, feeding the talk show circuit and fueling blogosphere brushfires.
Why is this such an enduring topic? It's because of our nation's long-standing conflicted attitude toward the importance and function of mothers.
Motherhood has taken a severe blow in terms of respect. But children have actually taken a greater blow, as I will discuss later in this chapter. And neither is a contemporary phenomenon. As we saw in the previous chapter, culturally the roots of the "mommy wars" go back almost two hundred years.
But spiritually, the war goes back to the very first mother, Eve. Her assignment, along with her husband Adam, was to be "fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (Gen. 1:28). So when the Lord God cursed the serpent that deceived her, He showed how the battle would be fought against this command to be fruitful and multiply. "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" (Gen. 3:15 NIV).
Ever since, Satan has labored to destroy the offspring of those who are made in the image of God. The real mommy wars are not against flesh and blood — other mothers and their parenting methods — but against the one who seeks to destroy the next generation of those who would rise up to praise God. We can debate all kinds of parenting philosophies, methods, and practices, but the real conflict is not with the proponents of opposite ideas. Most assuredly, there is a war and the price is high. Mothers (and fathers) are called to be strong warriors in this battle. But, as we've explored before in this book, Ephesians 6:12 tells us that our true opponents are not flesh and blood, but the spiritual forces of evil in this present darkness.
And in this battle, the casualties are numerous.
Let's explore why.
"The Clogs and Destroyers of Civilization"
Margaret Sanger was the founder of the modern birth control movement and a vocal proponent of eugenics — the theory of race improvement that was the cornerstone of Nazi Germany. Sanger believed that all evils stemmed from large families, especially large families of those she deemed as unfit. As she wrote in her 1920 book, Woman and the New Race, "The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it."3
I can't even fathom saying such a thing, but Sanger's personal history undoubtedly influenced her thinking. She was born in 1879 in Corning, New York, the sixth of eleven surviving children. Her father was a stonemason and a supporter of radical socialist causes. Sanger's mother succumbed to tuberculosis at forty-nine. Sanger later said the strain of eighteen pregnancies was what broke her mother's health.14
Sanger went on to study nursing and married in 1902. Her first pregnancy was a difficult one that landed her in a sanitarium for her confinement and recovery. But she regained her health and gave birth to two more children. In 1910, she began to work as a midwife and home nurse on the Lower East Side of New York City. A year later, she joined a radical labor movement and participated in several labor strikes.
By 1912, Sanger began writing a series of articles on female sexuality and contraception in the socialist publication, The Call, in bold defiance of then-current laws against the dissemination of information on sexually transmitted diseases and contraception. Two years later, by then separated from her husband whom she would later divorce, she founded the monthly magazine, Woman Rebel, under the slogan, "No gods; no masters!"5 In 1914, she fled to Europe after she was indicted for violating U.S. postal obscenity laws. But two years later, having avoided imprisonment, she was back in the U.S. to open the nation's first birth control clinic, in Brooklyn, New York. After ten days of operation, she was arrested and jailed. The trial made her a national figure, and it handed doctors the right to prescribe birth control advice.
In 1921, Sanger organized the American Birth Control League, which later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. For Sanger, the birth control movement was founded on two goals: limiting the reproduction of the "unfit" and challenging Christian teaching by creating a "new morality." She campaigned against women "with staggering rapidity" breeding "those numberless, undesired children who become the clogs and the destroyers of civilization."6 Sanger's scorched-earth writing left no one guessing about her views:
While unknowingly laying the foundations of tyrannies and providing the human tinder for racial conflagrations, woman was also unknowingly creating slums, filling asylums with insane, and institutions with other defectives. She was replenishing the ranks of the prostitutes, furnishing grist for the criminal courts and inmates for prisons. Had she planned deliberately to achieve this tragic total of human waste and misery, she could hardly have done it more effectively.7
[T]he most urgent problem to-day is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective. Possibly drastic and Spartan methods may be forced upon American society if it continues complacently to encourage the chance and chaotic breeding that has resulted from our stupid, cruel sentimentalism.8
She was equally as caustic about Christianity and the Bible's teaching on sexuality:
Let it be realized that this creation of new sex ideals is a challenge to the church. Being a challenge to the church, it is also, in less degree, a challenge to the state. The woman who takes a fearless stand for the incoming sex ideals must expect to be assailed by reactionaries of every kind. Imperialists and exploiters will fight hardest in the open, but the ecclesiastic will fight longest in the dark. He understands the situation best of all; he knows what reaction he has to fear from the morals of women who have attained liberty. For, be it repeated, the church has always known and feared the spiritual potentialities of woman's freedom.9
When women have raised the standards of sex ideals and purged the human mind of its unclean conception of sex, the fountain of the race will have been cleansed. Mothers will bring forth, in purity and in joy, a race that is morally and spiritually free.10
I think it's safe to say that with the perspective of nearly a century of hindsight, we have hardly attained a cleansed human race that is morally and spiritually free. To expect this kind of salvation from women is unwise, unbiblical, and downright impossible. As we will see in a following chapter, women did not manage to raise the sex standard — in fact, third-wave feminism gave rise to the feminine "raunch culture" we live in today...
(Read the rest of the excerpt on Boundless.org.)