Helen Alvare – Whose Enemy?

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

First it was Maggie Gallagher.  Today, it’s Helen Alvare.  Salon.com has taken aim at New Feminists.

A sure indicator that New Feminism has arrived in the public forum are recent attack pieces at Salon.com which focus not upon approaches to a specific issue affecting women, but upon a particular woman who is injecting a conservative, religious or politically incorrect point of view into the public discussion.

Today’s piece by Sarah Posner, “Birth Control’s Worst Enemy,” is nasty and disapproving in tone and surprisingly devoid of analysis.  Posner ignores entirely the content of the Alvare’s OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA, SECRETARY SEBELIUS AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS:  DON’T CLAIM TO SPEAK FOR ALL WOMEN, now signed by over 28,000 women.  Rather, Posner assumes her readers find women like Alvare “absurd.” Posner wastes no brain power on Alvare’s – or New Feminism’s – actual arguments against funding “free”  contraception for all fertile females, treating unplanned pregnancy as a female disease, promoting sexual intercourse as a sport activity unrelated to human reproduction and exposing young women to a disturbing range of serious health consequences and STDs which the free meds and devices popular with progressive feminists like Posner often occasion.

While Posner does acknowledge Alvare’s argument that the HHS mandate grossly infringes on the First Amendment protections for free practice of religion, Posner oddly abandons her train of thought when she notes that the Administration’s next most recent effort to restrict what constitutes religious practice lost 9-0 at the Supreme Court.  Posner, at any rate, seems anxious not to distinguish Alvare’s legal arguments against the HHS mandate from Alvare’s social arguments against promoting wider use of contraception among women:  both of which Posner would have her readers believe Alvare argues as a mouthpiece for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (for which Alvare worked over a decade ago before becoming a law professor).

Posner’s attack on Alvare, and her disregard for the substance of Alvare’s arguments, disserves women. 

I am going to assume that Posner, like 99% of the women I know, is a person of goodwill and sincerely interested in the health and happiness of women.  I am going to assume that she wrote the piece, not to engage in dialogue, but to entertain the choir to which Salon.com sings.  I am going to hope that Posner will, in another forum, tackle some of the hard underlying realities that have motivated activists like Alvare and other New Feminists to challenge prevailing cultural norms as detrimental to the long-term health and well-being of females.  While we might not reach agreement, we most certainly can agree that rational discussion and analysis better serve the future of women than mindless compliance with prevailing systems of domination and intimidation – such as Posner’s attack piece represents.

Here are but a few of the “realities” that are motivating New Feminists like Alvare to challenge social policies being foisted upon all women as presumptively in their interests – rather than in the interest of male sexual standards, pharmaceutical profits or Malthusian anti-population theorists.

  • Women’s happiness has fallen both absolutely and relative to men’s in a pervasive way among groups, such that women no longer report being happier than men, and, in many instances, now report happiness that is below that of men.”
  • One in four women is taking medication, including antidepressants, for a mental health condition.
  • STDs affect young women in epidemic proportions and adversely impact their health, leaving our healthiest young women with reproductive damage, infertility and other long term health consequences.
  • Unplanned pregnancy is not necessarily unwanted pregnancy.  Contraception has little impact on the birth rate of impoverished teens.  The majority of women who terminate a pregnancy do so because they perceive lack of support from those around them for having the child.

Progressive feminists, like Posner – who often fail to place their outrage and dismay at opposing points of view in the broader context of women’s daily realities – might say, “What do these realities have to do with contraception? ~we are just talking about meds and devices which will repress normal female fertility so that females can have sex whenever they want just like a guy?”  To which the New Feminists reply, “Exactly.  We are talking about the very same thing.”

And as Posner notes with some distress in her article, we are not going away anytime soon.





2 thoughts on “Helen Alvare – Whose Enemy?

  1. hey thanks Marjorie! I agree that they wouldn’t be dropping bombs unless we looked like a target worth spending ammunition on.
    Go Us!
    thanks for the defense