Despite its many falterings and regressions, the Judeo-Hellenic-Christian West over the long and tortuous course of its evolution has produced the most advanced civilization known to history. Characterized by the rule of law, scientific discovery, technological invention, educational opportunity for the masses, economic prosperity, individual autonomy and relative freedom from the harsh exactions of nature, it is now collapsing under the attack of forces rising from within its own existential frontiers.
Its internal assailants are myriad: domestic Marxism, “social justice,” global warming, Islam in its various avatars, anti-Semitism and hatred of Christianity, anti-white bigotry, educational decline, media malfeasance, and economic illiteracy leading to the willful accumulation of unpayable debt. But perhaps the most sinister and destructive of its homegrown adversaries is radical feminism, which seeks the ruin of motherhood and the breakdown of the relation between the sexes. It is a plague the Pharaoh was fortunately spared.
“Almost overnight,” writes Carrie Gress in The Anti-Mary Exposed: Rescuing the Culture from Toxic Femininity, “our once pro-life culture became pro-lifestyle, returning to an epicurean paganism that embraces everything that feels good.” How is it, she asks, that the women’s liberation movement “has demolished so decisively the moral and social structures of American society?” “There must be something more,” she answers, “than simple human vice behind the fact that millions of women have betrayed the most sacred and fundamental of relationships, that of mother and child,” leaving “husbands wondering what happened to their wives, fathers wondering what happened to their daughters, and children wondering what happened to their mothers.”
Never in history, she continues, “have mothers been so willing to kill their children”—3000 per day in the U.S. in an abortion frenzy of more than Herodian proportions. The biblical template of Mother and Son, subsumed in the sacred nexus of Mary and Jesus, has been shattered. Gress concludes that a demonic force—the anti-Mary—is at work, sundering women from their God-given roles as mothers and caregivers. Evil is neither a construct nor a concept; it is real, according to Gress, and the Prince of Darkness is among us.
Her central focus is Marian, the Catholic emphasis on hyperdulia (veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and the sacrament of motherhood. Gress sees the moral and social chasm between life and lifestyle in the feminist West as precisely an aspect of the conflict between good and evil. On the one side, there are the “marks of anti-Mary—rage, indignation, vulgarity, and pride”; on the other, the true female gifts of “wisdom, prudence [and the] ability to weave together the fabric of society,” associated with the Virgin.
We recall in this connection that the poetic kenning for “woman” in the Anglo-Saxon literature was “peace weaver” and the word “lady” derives from the Old English hläefdige, or “loaf, bread”—a metaphor for nourishment. The cognate word for the opposite gender is hläford, or “lord.” One provides sustenance, the other prepares it; one is, so to speak, the breadwinner, the other the bread baker. Men kill for the larder and women cook for the family. Custom and culture from time immemorial, with few exceptions, establish the distinction between distaff and spear—a distinction that is now being erased and overthrown. Feminism represents the very antithesis of both history and reality. Coventry Patmore’s famous, albeit somewhat treacly, poem about wifely devotion The Angel in the House was savaged by Virginia Woolf, a feminist and lesbian, who wrote in The Death of the Moth that “Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer.” This is, in effect, feminism’s default position.
Gress’ Catholic conviction about womanly nature may not persuade all readers. How is it, after all, that millions of women in the civilized West were so dramatically susceptible to the feminist message if they belonged to the caring and nurturing half of mankind? Not all women make good mothers—indeed, many do not. The Medea complex in its various forms is by no means anomalous—a bitter woman who has been wronged can kill her father, poison her lover’s wife and slaughter her children. In today’s feminist world, however, a woman need not be wronged to create havoc; she has merely to nurse not a child but a grievance, whether legitimate or not, and act as she chooses to rectify what she conceives as a collective right. She can cut off her husband’s penis, with little punishment and full legal and societal support, can justify the killing of allegedly abusive male partners, can put out a contract on her husband, and can bankrupt her spouse and deprive him of child custody—all within the purview of the law.
Moreover, it is not only strident and embittered women responsible for the calamity we are witnessing, but the vast sodality of compliant men, aka beta males and “white knights,” who have surrendered their manhood and paved the way for the feminist takeover in government, in the media, in schools and universities, in the military, in corporate culture and in the legal system, at the expense of both their well-being and the nation’s political and economic vigor. Relying on both masculine chivalry and culturally induced guilt, feminists have conscripted their enemies into an army that would destroy them, attesting to the infusorial virulence of the feminist campaign. The spear has been duly blunted.
Further, one need not adopt a Catholic or Marian perspective to acknowledge the multifarious ways in which feminism is devastating the civic culture of the West. From a traditionally conservative point of view, the abandonment of the feminine for the feminist with its visceral hatred of the male, its penchant for aberrant sexuality, and its passionate advocacy for abortion carries out the Marxist agenda for the destruction of the family, the linchpin of civil society. It leads inexorably to social upheaval and cultural decay. It is no accident that many feminists are Marxists, whether professedly or as “social justice warriors.” Very few seem even remotely familiar with the virtues of kindness and charity, and very few seem capable, obviously, of celebrating the love between a man and a woman. They are, in the words of novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans, “Against Nature.” They are also, in the estimation of most people of traditional faith, against God.
And yet, despite countervailing instances and skeptical arguments, the traditional relation between mother and child, wife and husband, holds for the most part in the human imagination and the historical register and remains firmly in place as a biological imperative. Biology determines that men inseminate and women give birth, that in the normal course of events men hunt and women breast-feed, and that men remain potent far longer than women remain fertile. It is foolish to resist the hegemony of genetics. But there is more to it than that. There is something called love, a spiritual reality that cannot be refuted—except perhaps by those who have not experienced it.
The belief in the sacrificial divinity of love between the sexes is accepted literally by votaries like Gress, for whom the anti-Marian spirit unleashed by the Father of Lies has corrupted the human spirit as well as the culture of the West, with feminism clearly a demonic force eviscerating the vitals of romantic and sexual reciprocity—the modern expression of expulsion from the garden. The Devil is indefatigably at work and Moloch is back in business. The “woman clothed with the sun” whom we read of in the Book of Revelation is now quailing before the “great red dragon” that would devour her child. For my part, I recognize a powerful metaphor, and while I do not consider myself a believing member of any faith or communion, I cannot deny the human truth of love as an amalgam of caritas and eros between a man and a woman, the obligations it entails, and its bedrock necessity for human flourishing and social continuity.
I acknowledge Gress’ concern not merely with the social and economic aspects of marriage and the intact family, but with the mysterious and sacramental nature of love itself. One thinks of the ancient Jewish saying that from the loving union of a man and a woman an angel is born in heaven. There are no prenups in the genuine marriage bond; the man trusts his wife, the woman honors her husband. It is a vow between a man and a woman that survives in the face of all the odds, threats, disruptions, frustrations and political forces ranged against it. Admittedly, such commitment is at a premium in today’s feminist climate of suspicion, cynicism and outright hate, but that does not alter the nature of love, only the difficulty of finding it.
The love of a man and a woman, blessed in the marital union, despite the rigors of life, the distractions of the commonplace and the tragic circumstances of existence, can be said to have something of the divine in it. In the words of poet William Blake, love “builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.” Anyone who has experienced true love can attest to both its power and its necessity. Of course, love can take many different forms, but it is the bond between a man and a woman solemnized in a viable marriage that is productive, ensuring posterity, preserving the social order, and in Augustinian terms rendering the City of Man, however imperfect, a simulacrum of the City of God. Harmony between the sexes is what guarantees a measure of happiness in a troubled world and fosters a sense of fulfillment that keeps life livable and culture vibrant.
In this respect, feminism is, as Gress writes, the promoter of “confusion, twisted thinking, decadence, sacrilege and viciousness descend[ing] ever deeper with every passing day.” An agent of anti-love, social disorder and, ultimately, of human misery, it will most likely run its course until the inevitable social and cultural collapse. Meanwhile, hope against hope, it must be fought with every resource at our disposal.