Last month, on his book tour promoting The Age of Revolutions, Fareed Zakaria told Stephen Colbert that the “principal” impetus for the rise of reactionary movements has been their opposition to women’s rights, that, “for tens of thousands of years, women were second-class citizens.”

          Advances over the past 30 years, he said, upended the basic family structure. Conservatives began fighting back.

          The potential and promise of women’s personal progress 50 years ago shines forth in “The Expression of Myth in Dance Images,” a 1978 essay by America’s great myth guru Joseph Campbell – now available in the collection The Ecstasy of Being.

          “The actual varieties of women today, however,” Campbell said, “are not those (or only those) that have been traditionally represented in myth and art as typical. She is not adequately typified either as a wife, courtesan, Amazon or witch. And one of the resultant great problems, consequently, is that women now find themselves in roles for which no models are provided, developing in these their personalities, not in terms of the archetypology of any of our inherited mythic ideals, but each in terms of her own self-realization, discovering and realizing her own especial talents and possibilities.”

          But such possibilities scare patriarchalists. They might have to share power.

          “Look at the right-wing reactionary movements all over the world,” Zakaria said, “whether it’s Islamic fundamentalism, whether it’s Christian nationalism, whether it’s the ultra-orthodox in Israel,…the principal concern is often women have gotten too uppity.”

          He cited China’s Xi Jinping’s recent speech “in which he said women, basically, need to go back to the kitchen and they need to start having babies again.”

           The Chinese communist’s sentiment was echoed recently by Kansas City Chiefs punter Harrison Butker, a conservative Catholic, during a May commencement speech at Benedictine College in Kansas. Amidst a diatribe against President Joe Biden, “dangerous gender ideologies”  and a reference to all Jews as responsible for the death of Jesus, Butker turned his attention to the coeds in the crowd.

          “I think it is you, the women, who have had the most diabolic lies told to you,” Butker said, according to the Associated Press. “Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world. I can tell you that my beautiful wife Isabelle would be the first to say her life truly started when she started living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.”

          Butker’s remarks generated many reactions. He was condemned by some, supported by others and granted his free speech right to his own opinion by still others.

          Among those defending him was Tavia Hunt, wife of Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, who also posted on Instagram that the country could use more dialogue and less hate in the country.

          “I’ve always encouraged my daughters to be highly educated and chase their dreams,” Hunt said. “I want them to know that they can do whatever they want (that honors God). But I also want them to know that I believe finding a spouse who loves and honors you as or before himself and raising a family together is one of the greatest blessings this world has to offer.”

          Hunt cites the capable woman in Proverbs 31, and her reward: “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

          She does not quote the earlier sections in the chapter where we see that capable woman working, working, working, “and never puts out her lamp at night” while “Her husband is well known in the city gate when he takes his seat with the elders of the land.”

          She does the work, he gets the glory.

          Still, there are a lot of proud misogynists in the country – regardless of how they justify themselves. By the end of the week Butker’s jersey was the biggest seller among Chiefs players at the NFL’s online shop – ahead of those of Super Bowl hero Patrick Mahomes.    

          In his essay, written when new rights for women were emerging and valued, Campbell pointed that, “For centuries the male has had a great range of roles through which to find his way, and the female now has become eligible as well, and is ready, wanting to explore – not, however, as a pseudo-male, nor as an archetypal female, but as an individual.”

          Not so fast, Joe. What once promised benefits to all of society with twice the population fully participating in its decision-making now faces opposition from those anxious to deny women equal membership in the community. Heck, many are treated as incapable of making basic medical decisions.

            (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)

The fight against women’s rights

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