Enslaved By Freedom and Equality

In a long, circuitous, and characteristically haughty column for the Wall Street Journal, James Taranto makes the interesting claim that Rick Santorum is “ahead of his time” in warning that feminism and contraception are destroying the traditional family, and thus America itself.

I do not have the time or patience to unpack Taranto’s rant–full of psychobabble, pseudo-social-science, and sheer venom–in detail, and only mention it because he makes one assertion, in the context of an extended ad hominem attack on Paul Krugman and Jonathan Alter, which is so mind-bogglingly patriarchal that it represents something of a gold standard of the entire genre:

[W]hile feminism and the sexual revolution have been great for high-status men like Krugman and Alter (full disclosure: and this columnist), and for those women who place a high value on professional careers, things have not worked out so well for those who are less privileged.

That is a truth so undeniable that it can even slip past the editorial filters at the New York Times. Over the weekend the paper published a news story with the shocking statistic that “more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.” The article cites “the pill” as one of “the forces rearranging the family.” When Rick Santorum makes the same common-sense observation, the cultural left (which includes some on the center-right, as we noted Thursday) falsely denounces him as a religious nut looking to snatch your prophylactics.

So “the pill” is responsible for an explosion of out-of-wedlock pregnancies–that’s the “undeniable truth” that is supposed to make “the cultural left” cringe in shame!

To reach this conclusion, you pretty much have to assume that contraception has somehow robbed women of the power to coerce men into marriage by denying them sex–you know, the “milk” that makes them want to “buy the cow.” That women might be interested in the horrific idea of sex-without-consequences doesn’t enter into the equation–after all, that’s treating women as just like men, as equals. No, women need the leverage of not being able to control when they might become pregnant in order secure the protection of men.

So the only “freedom” that really matters is the freedom from responsibility that contraception provides men–and perhaps also those “privileged” women who unaccountably place a “high value on professional careers,” at the expense of their poor sisters whose protection from men has been sacrificed. Actually, given his smug satisfaction over the alleged unhappiness of feminists, Taranto doesn’t even seem willing to grant that any women might benefit from freedom or equality.

Low-income women are beset by a host of problems in our society–some of them arguably caused or exacerbated by the economic and social policies favored by James Taranto and his friends, including, as a matter of fact, inadequate access to reproductive services. As anyone with genuine “common sense” knows, access to contraception is not one of those problems, and nor is “feminism.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.