Do conservatives regard women as inferior?

I sat in church on Mother’s Day and listened to the pastor build his sermon around the book of Proverbs. Sadly, one point of emphasis was that “it is better for a man to live in the corner of a roof than share a house with a complaining wife.” The pastor predictably joked that “his point was scriptural and not personal.” But then went on in poor taste to make other jokes concerning his wife’s shopping habits and the number of shoes in her closet.

On Father’s Day, another pastor spoke, again from Proverbs. This time it was a wholly uplifting message on the role, impact and leadership of men. This message was driven home further on the Fourth of July, in which men, particularly those serving in our armed forces, were heralded as heroes for their self-sacrifice and commitment to God, family and country.

A rear admiral also spoke from the pulpit on “honor, courage and commitment.” He said the best displays of these traits were illustrated by his wife as she supported him in his career, primarily raised the children, maintained the home and remained loyal to their relationship.

As these familiar examples illustrate, conservatives frequently extol and focus on a very limited view of women. Despite this tendency, I don’t think conservatives regard women as inferior. Rather, it is a liberal spin that has over-capitalized on a rather obvious (although not exclusive) area of appreciation conservatives have for women.

In response to the liberal spin, conservatives appear either too arrogant or too lazy to correct the perception that women are viewed inferior or valued only in the limited capacity of wife and mother. What’s worse, it appears widely acceptable to take the position that any flawed perception is the problem of the consumer.

So what of those too young or naive to wade through the rhetoric? What of those abused by similar views taken to an extreme? What of those who don’t yet understand or grasp their value? What of single, infertile and widowed women? And what of women, dare I say it, who actually want to work outside the home?

Uncorrected, the number of women lost to the left will grow exponentially. This is simply no way for conservatives to broaden their base or embrace the next generation of women. And let’s not overlook the men who will marry them.

The worst part of the conservative’s failure to correct this perception is that liberals have usurped and distorted the very meaning of feminism. Today, it has been successfully spun so far left that it is epitomized by women willing to kill their own children in the womb.

The good news is that all of this is fixable. First, it would be good for conservatives to give a few more kudos to women called outside the traditional roles and – dare I suggest it – support them along the way. Second, it might help in some cases for the more traditional leaders to take a class on sensitivity training … OK, OK, at least a class in 21st century communication skills. Third, and I have to say it, it would help if the old codgers among us who do hold rather blatantly chauvinistic views stepped into the 21st century and recognized that women can think outside the cake box.

Finally, the hardest part may begin with conservative women recognizing our true value and then holding each other up when our sisters choose a path different from our own. From there we must take the lead in redefining true feminism in America. One very close friend wrote me about the importance of holding onto our true femininity even when ignored, overlooked, undervalued and frustrated. She also wrote the following poem about transitioning from the world’s distorted perception of feminine to its true meaning.

There was a time when I was a rebel on the mount. My hair was wild; my attitude harsh and proud. I stood on that mountain alone and fierce and invited those I wished to live at my feet. The numbers were few.

Storms came strong and mighty. At first, when the lightening and thunder came you could see my form contrasted by the light: fist raised, hand on hip and proud! But the storms became too strong and though I fought and fought and fought, I finally lay beside my mountain to see it was only a hill.

I looked at my scarred hands, bent back and harsh spirit, and said, “Is this all that I’m fighting for?” I turned and looked at those who yet stood beside me. They were war torn. Then with a crackling voice I said, “I give up. I can’t make this work. Look at what I’ve done to you so that I could remain on this peak of desolation.”

So I took off the rude helmet that I had made for myself. Laid down my armor of irritation; my weapon of anger; took off my breastplate of haughtiness and went to wash in God’s river.

The water revealed a woman, soft hair, soft eyes, gentle hands and quiet voice. I stepped out and put on the garments that He quietly laid out for me – a gentle and kind disposition, a tender and obedient spirit, quietness and confidence for strength and I was stunned … the garments fit me perfectly.

The point of the article and poem is to delineate a “New Choice” for women in America. That is to overcome the knee-jerk reaction to be offended by the often narrowly focused view of women by conservatives, overcome the liberal spin and reject the distorted interpretation of feminism that has become so prevalent. Assuming conservatives do not view women as inferior, they could help in the process by improving their efforts to uphold the inherent value of every woman not just those filling traditional roles.

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