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Liberated Enough: Feminism, Liberalism, and Conservatism

Conservatism has a “women problem.” Conservative women exist, of course, but as a political movement conservatism is associated with opposition to feminism. And feminism is popularly understood as the movement for women’s liberation. Why would women oppose their own liberation? So, the argument goes, it takes perverse dedication to the interests of the patriarchal enemy to be both female and conservative. Hence millions of women took to the streets in early 2017 to protest the election of Donald Trump, and baffled, angry op-eds sought to make sense of those women who voted for him.1

But if conservatism has a women problem, women increasingly have a liberalism problem. What we understand as “feminism” today is widely treated as a benchmark of human moral improvement in an absolute sense, and as an unambiguous vector for the good. For instance, those reluctant to end the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan cited the propagation of “women’s rights” as part of the moral case for continuing the occupation.2

Yet ongoing gains in terms of absolute equality between the sexes largely benefit an elite minority, for whom the pursuit of 50-50 parity in high-status careers represents a concrete source of opportunity. Meanwhile, the easy conflation of “progress” with male and female humans being absolutely interchangeable obscures a persistent ten­sion between autonomy and equality on the one hand, and human sex dimorphism on the other. This is actively degrading life for women further down the social hierarchy, for example in the campaign for previously sex-seg­regated spaces to be segregated instead by self-declared “gender identity,” without regard to physiology. (This poli­cy has already resulted in the rape and sexual assault of female prisoners by male-bodied individuals on both sides of the Atlantic.3)

The outcome is a kind of liberation for women, available in direct proportion to their position in the social hierarchy: the higher, the freer. At the top sit professional-class women who compete on equal terms with men across the white-collar career spectrum, while outsourcing not just domestic life but even gestation itself to paid proxies. Further down the food chain, women who cannot afford to deploy all available technological resources to obliterating sex differences find themselves incarcerated with male-bodied rapists, returning to work while still bleeding postpartum, or aborting wanted babies they cannot take time off work to raise. Discussion of this tension has in recent years become increasingly taboo, while its ramifications have left a growing body of broadly feminist-inclined women politically homeless.

Arriving at this contradiction has been a long road, one that began long before the campaign for women’s suffrage took off on either side of the Atlantic. What we in the anglophone West think of as “femi­nism” today, at least in its liberal form, can also be read as women’s campaign for the right to enter the market on the same terms as men. Indeed, the mobilization of women’s rights as a U.S. foreign policy priority often cites global economic growth as a desirable macro­political by-product of propagating feminist values.4

Historically, the preindustrial model for relations between the sexes was a poor fit for the material conditions of industrial-era family life, and women’s early campaigns for equality were justified efforts to redress the inequities this created. But these shifts did noth­ing to change the underlying fact of human sex dimorphism. Technology has done a great deal to lessen the salience of physiological differ­ences—for example by reducing the volume of manual labor required in everyday life—but thus far, at least, technology cannot entirely erase these differences.

As a consequence, female market players, especially those women who are mothers, remain structurally disadvantaged within an individualistic, competitive social terrain, in ways that are not reducible to patriarchal animus. Until recently, it seemed plausible that these ten­sions might eventually be resolved under the rubric of industrial progress and never-ending economic growth. But the industrial era is now receding in the rearview mirror, and with it that seemingly endless promise.

We are scraping the barrel of net social gains from the industrial era, and diminishing returns are correspondingly being felt by women in terms of liberation into the market and of technological efforts to mitigate sex differences. For non-elite women, uncoupling the human individual from all biological constraints brings with it the loss of important sex-segregated spaces, and has also opened a political win­dow for reframing exploitative practices such as sex work and commercial surrogacy, which overwhelmingly affect women, as legitimate sources of employment.

Further out on the horizon we see biomedical efforts to open the female reproductive role to both sexes, in the name of equality, for example via experiments in extra-uterine gestation5 or calls for uterus transplants to be available to transgender women.6 It is by no means clear what the implications of such changes could be for women overall.

As we enter the foothills of this technological revolution, this essay explores how changing material conditions contributed to the re­negotiation of sex roles in the past. For these changes were the crucible in which feminism as we understand it today was originally forged. I will first show how the preindustrial social model for relations between the sexes was renegotiated for the industrial era. Then, I will outline the ways in which the legacy of this initial renegotiation is now driving a mismatch between settled social norms concerning human sex relations and emerging material conditions. This mismatch in turn calls for a reevaluation of the industrial-era privileging of freedom and progress, which has now turned conclusively against the interests of women.

In what follows, I will focus on social and material conditions experienced principally by bourgeois white women in the Anglosphere. I note this without, as is fashionable today, treating this con­straint as a moral failing. The history of anglophone feminism inescapably conflates bourgeois white women’s class interests and those of “women” in a universal sense, a conflation that continues even today within the liberal feminist doctrines now proclaimed as mainstream moral orthodoxy. As such, this feminism merits examination on its own terms, though this should not be taken to imply that no other lenses on this subject are available or valuable.

Furthermore, the contours of this story vary throughout the Anglo­sphere, not least because industrialization occurred earlier in England than in America. But these streams converge in the present day in an increasingly homogenized “feminist” discourse mediated via the internet, and within increasingly postindustrial working con­ditions that present similar challenges throughout the West. I will argue that this terrain calls on us to reexamine the weakness of “equality” as a metric for women’s interests under the material condi­tions emerging today and, further, that a coherent feminism must set aside its commitment to sameness in favor of an explicit ordering of state power to shield women, children, and the relational space of family life from the market.

The Personal Is Political

“Feminism is about giving women choice,” declared Harry Potter actor and UN goodwill ambassador for women Emma Watson in 2017. “It’s about freedom. It’s about liberation. It’s about equality.”7 Watson here articulates a canonical, mainstream understanding of the politics and purpose of the women’s movement: freedom, liberation, and equality. It’s premised on a core argument about the sameness of men and women, and the resulting right to equal participation in pub­lic life and the structures of power.

This demand for equality has long coexisted uneasily with the commonsense recognition that men and women are not, in fact, the same. Humans are a sexually dimorphic species, which is to say there are clear, normative physiological differences between male and female humans. Many such differences—such as the average 75 per­cent greater muscle mass and 90 percent greater upper body strength of males8—are of relatively low relevance in developed-world, white-collar occupations, where the stock-in-trade is knowledge and soft skills. Others—such as the fact that only females gestate and breastfeed babies, and are able to do so during a relatively short window of adult fertility—remain salient at both individual and political levels.

Moreover, unlike other sexually dimorphic animal species, human sex differences and reproductive roles are complicated by the cultural elaboration of those sex differences into normative patterns and social roles, which are in turn entrenched within greater civilizational systems. As such it is often difficult to disaggregate those features of human men and women that are “naturally” different from those that are culturally constructed.

This has not stopped people from trying—for consensus on what is or is not “natural” about the realm of human culture is inescapably political—and not just in the realm of sex roles. A widely used slogan for the second-wave women’s movement in the mid-twentieth centu­ry was “the personal is political”; but the inverse is also true. That is, shifts that play out at the macropolitical and macroeconomic level find their way into the intimate domain of family life, and into feed­back loops that shape the social norms which order that domain.

The history of feminism is thus a history of the transformation in what is deemed “natural” about sex relations. It is also the story of a macroeconomic transformation: the industrial revolution.

The Natural Course of Things

The social structure that the agrarian world deemed “natural” had taproots deep into a medieval Christian conception of order, carried to the New World by the Puritans. It embraced a set of nested hierarchies that drew an explicit parallel between social relations in the home and social relations in the polity. This can be seen in John Winthrop’s famous 1645 speech on civil liberty, in which he characterizes the relation of submission between a citizen and the state as analogous to that of a woman to her husband:

[Civil or federal] liberty is maintained and exercised in a way of subjection to authority; it is of the same kind of liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free. The woman’s own choice makes such a man her husband; yet being so chosen, he is her lord, and she is to be subject to him, yet in a way of liberty, not of bondage; and a true wife accounts her subjection her honor and freedom, and would not think her condition . . . free, but in her subjection to her husband’s authority. Such is the liberty of the Church under the authority of Christ. . . . Even so, brethren, it will be between you and your magistrates.9

After independence, the backbone of the U.S. economy was still small landowners holding, on average, between fifty and two hundred acres. One NBER research paper estimates that, in 1774, across the colonies, close to 50 percent of all households were headed by farm operators, with a further 14 percent headed by laborers. Only 19 percent of all households were headed by individuals employed in professional, commercial, or craft activities.10

By contrast, Britain’s industrial revolution began in the eighteenth century, and British statesmen believed the “natural” state of affairs to be one in which America’s agrarian society depended on British industry for its manufactured goods—with the help of aggressive dumping practices if necessary. “It is well worth while,” declared Lord Henry Brougham to the British Parliament in 1816, “to incur a loss upon the first exportation, in order by the glut, to stifle in the cradle, those rising manufactures, in the US, which the war had forced into existence, contrary to the natural course of things.”11

In Brougham’s view, the “natural course of things” at the macropolitical scale was for America to remain a largely agrarian nation, dependent on Britain’s more advanced industrial capacity for imported goods. But this relationship was on course to be denatured, with seismic consequences for both Britain and America. And U.S. industrialization, like British industrialization before it, would have similarly seismic consequences for the agrarian-era understanding of the proper, patriarchal relations between men and women, individual and state, as described by Winthrop.

After independence, economic might was understood as key to America flourishing as a nation, which meant stimulating the development of the domestic economy and reducing dependence on for­eign imports. The Napoleonic Wars interrupted the export of British goods to America, which in turn created an opportunity to thwart Sir Henry Brougham’s efforts to stifle American industry in the cradle. Henry Clay’s American System built on “American School” ideas developed by Alexander Hamilton in the 1790s, including infant-industry protection.12 Implemented from 1812 onwards, it drove America’s first industrial revolution.13

This in turn destabilized the “natural course of things” at the level of family life. In a farming household both men and women worked, with men focused on the production of raw materials such as grain, wool, or timber, and women dividing their time between the supervision of children and the transformation of those raw materials into goods needed for everyday life: spinning, weaving, baking, brewing, the preparation of daily meals, and so on.14 In such a setting everyone worked, including all children old enough to do so.

In this setting, the patriarchal ordering described by John Winthrop was softened by a clear, shared purpose—subsistence—and working roles that were complementary and equally active. But over the period from 1800 to 1860, the percentage of the American workforce in agriculture fell from 83 percent to 53 percent, and a newly wealthy, urbanized commercial class began to emerge.

The political economist Karl Polanyi characterizes the emergence of industrial modernity and its market society as a process of “dis­embedding.” Polanyi argues that in this process, eco­nomic activities are gradually (and sometimes violently) uprooted from networks of reciprocity and local contexts, and treated instead as “rational,” decontextualized transactions.15 As industry shifted from the “outwork” system (in which parts of a production process were carried out in individual homes) toward a factory system, “work” was increasingly something that happened not within households but away from home. In turn, more goods became available to purchase, reducing the domestic workload.

The result was a profound shift in sex roles, away from the agrarian model of a working adult couple engaged in gendered but similarly active forms of work. In Britain, the transition from agrarian to mercantile and industrial society was well under way by the mid-eighteenth century. The practical, multiskilled women of the agrarian world were, by then, already giving way to a new kind of wife, whose principal role was social and consumerist and for whom it was beneath her dignity to work. Already in 1726, Daniel Defoe wrote in The Complete English Tradesman that middle-class women in­creasingly acted “as if they were ashamed of being tradesmen’s wives.”

In the emerging industrial-era America, as in England, white bourgeois women lost their productive role and took responsibility instead for a household’s domestic and social arrangements, and an economic role oriented more toward consumption than production. Stated another way, men were “disembedded” more rapidly and more completely than women, who retained responsibility for children and lost the previous economic element of their normative social role.

That these debates were already raging in Britain in the eighteenth century is evidence less of a British genius for feminism than of Britain’s rapid industrialization over that period. Perhaps the earliest proto-feminist of the modern era is Mary Astell (1666–1731), daughter of a Newcastle coal merchant who argued for female education on the basis of women’s possessing equal rationality with men.16 The first canonical feminist writer, Mary Wollstonecraft, published A Vin­dication of the Rights of Woman around a century later in 1792, by which point English authors as diverse as Jane Austen and writers of guides for the management of servants were wrangling in different ways with the transformed situation of women in the industrial age.

The Cult of True Womanhood

Against this backdrop, a public discourse emerged that sought to legitimate this emerging female sex role on its own terms. Even as men embraced the market order, women now rationalized their role as a higher moral one, which provided both respite from the punishing competitiveness of the market society and a crucible for the formation of new workers in the industrial economy. For in the emerging market-driven society, children were no longer an agrarian economic asset but putative members of the bourgeoisie, requiring careful and time-intensive education and investment to stand a chance of succeeding.

As American industrialization roared into life in the nineteenth century, so too did an American version of the British debates about the proper role of women. As one female writer on women’s education put it in 1838, the father’s role was to brave the cruel and amoral outside world to earn a living, for all that it left him “weary with the heat and burden of life’s summer day, or trampling with unwilling foot the decaying leaves of life’s autumn.” For the “acquisition of wealth, the advancement of his children in worldly honor—these are his self-imposed tasks.” To the wife, on the other hand, fell the solemn task of shaping “the infant mind as yet untainted by contact with evil . . . like wax beneath the plastic hand of the mother.”17 This key activity was, of course, as time-consuming in its way as the many skilled activities of the premodern subsistence housewife, and called for far greater investment in each child. Whereas the typical American mother had seven children in 1800, by 1900 the average was 3.5.18

Thus, as the “natural order of things” was destabilized at both macro and micro levels, a frenzy of thought and debate on the proper relations between the sexes sought to renegotiate a functioning order for the common life of men and women. Many of those who sought to propagate this ideology, which twentieth-century liberal feminists disparagingly dubbed the “Cult of True Womanhood,”19 were them­selves women. Far from acting as malignant agents of internalized patriarchy, these women sought to defend a preindustrial domain of relational human activity that was difficult to valorize in market terms but still intuitively understood as being of great importance.

This discourse also explicitly acknowledged a macropolitical dimension. In a 1787 address to the Philadelphia Young Ladies’ Aca­demy, of which he was a trustee, Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, makes clear the extent to which contemporary thinkers viewed American family life as inextricable from American national life and wider economic and political flourishing. This echoed an earlier English moral panic, concerning the education of young women for the new, purely ornamental bourgeois life, as expressed by a 1711 letter to the Spectator, that fretted about the extent to which “in our daughters we take care of their persons, and neglect their mind.”20 Wollstonecraft echoed this theme in 1792, condemning the upbringing that turned a young woman into a “coquette” and emphasizing that educated women would make better wives and mothers.21 For his part, Rush too rejected the “ornamental” accomplishments suited (as he thought) to women’s life in the Old World—and framed his exhortations in nation-building terms. Amer­ican women, he thought, needed to manage their husbands’ property and teach their sons to be American citizens. For the “equal share that every citizen has in the liberty and the possible share he may have in the government of our country” require women be educated “to con­cur in instructing their sons in the principles of liberty and government.”22

Entering the Marketplace

But this effort to divide traditionally embedded and marketized socio­economic roles according to sex fit uncomfortably with the older, patriarchal model for social order as characterized by Winthrop. As the historian Linda Kerber notes, the precapitalist system of property relations both imposed restrictions on women but also served to keep women’s property out of the marketplace, for example when dower property was shielded from debt seizure.23 After the industrial revolution, women found nonmarket social activity increasingly marginalized, even as their scope for participation in public life drained away, and they remained subject to a legal framework shaped by the preindustrial, embedded order.

Here, divorce was difficult to obtain and heavily stigmatized, women could not own property independent from a husband or father, and the wage-earning occupations deemed suitable for women were severely limited. Those in unhappy marriages could suffer a great deal. As Mary Gove Nichols put it in in 1854,

When she is owned by a man who can maintain her, though he is loathsome almost as death to her; when her health is utterly lost in bearing his children, and in being the legal victim of his lust; when her children are not hers, but his, according to inexorable law; when she has no power to work, and no means of sustenance but from this owner; when public opinion will brand her with shame, most probably, if she leaves her husband . . . what is such a woman to do but lead a false and unholy life?24

Benjamin Rush did not pause to consider how the young ladies in question might respond to his encouragements to inculcate their male offspring in citizenship, while themselves having no access to the state. But women did. The logic of a wider culture that prized freedom and viewed personhood increasingly in market terms created inexorable pressure toward the inclusion of women in that matrix. The stage was thus set for a cascade of social and political changes oriented toward correcting this imbalance by extending market-society autonomy to women as well as men.

Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women called for an end to the education of women simply as adjuncts to men. Rather, she called for the principles of liberty and equality (in other words, of market-society participation) to apply to both sexes. By 1851, Harriet Taylor Mill critiqued the way women were forbidden to access “nearly everything which those to whom it is permitted most prize,” including political and personal freedom.25

First came the married women’s property acts, which effectively reconstituted women as market agents; these in turn created pressure toward enfranchisement and all the other elements of political agency. Mill argued from utilitarian principles that, like men, women’s individual happiness derived from self-determination and developing one’s capacities. Thus women, like men, should be free to choose their activities:

We deny the right of any portion of the species to decide for another portion . . . what is and what is not their “proper sphere.” The proper sphere for all human beings is the largest and highest which they are able to attain to. What this is, cannot be ascertained, without complete liberty of choice.26

Over the course of the nineteenth century, then, the effort by women to retain a space outside the market society gradually dissolved into a call for equal female participation in the new, ascendant social order on the same terms as men and under the rubric of personal freedom. Seen thus, the “Cult of True Womanhood” was less patriarchal propaganda than a defense of retaining older, “embedded” social roles as women’s particular preserve, grounded in human sex difference and particularly in the need to defend the non-transactional domain of care and nurture from the individualistic, competitive logic of market society.

This tension between the liberal-industrial embrace of sameness and the evident difference of the sexes’ reproductive roles has persisted throughout the subsequent evolution of the women’s movement. It can be seen, for example, in the maternal feminists of the mid-twentieth century, such as Britain’s Wages for Housework movement. Such voices do not map straightforwardly onto “liberal” and “conservative” political positions. But inasmuch as these voices have sought to reground the discourse on sex relations in the material, the pragmatic, and the acceptance of limits, they have tended to lean in a conservative direction. For the same reason, though, they have found themselves always fatally wounded by complicity in what they oppose—full integration into transactional, market-based society.

Conservatism’s “Women Problem”

Hannah More, a contemporary and vocal opponent of the egalitarian Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote that “there is no animal so much indebted to subordination for its good behaviour as woman” and women “already have more liberty than is good for them.”27 But even as More advocated for a subordinate role for women in domestic duties, the wider cultural tides in which she swam were drawing her in the opposite direction. More achieved the prominence necessary to argue this case via a prolific literary career as a “bluestocking,” and herself evaded the practical difficulties of balancing intellectual life with the duties of motherhood by never marrying.

More’s life and work in turn provide a clue to the deep structure of modern conservatism’s “women problem.” Its arguments premise a defense of family life against the market purely on sex difference, within a polity collectively committed to freedom, equality, and capi­talism. In doing so, conservatism inevitably frames “embedded” social life as a matter solely of individual choice, or at best of religious faith scrupulously ringfenced against a too-close association with the state. Yet what can be defended only individually is always vulnerable to the desires of the wider consensus.

This voluntaristic position forms the backdrop to that uniquely callous form of family politics that lionizes motherhood and family but which, in the name of individual liberty, rejects the use of state power to protect that domain. Recently, for example, the American Enterprise Institute’s Angela Rachidi criticized Senator Mitt Romney’s proposed child allowance on the grounds that, were it implemented, “more than one third of unmarried women would reduce their employment by at least one hour per week.”28 Perish the thought that single mothers might be able to afford a single hour a week more with their children thanks to a small state subsidy. This is the same politics that fiercely defends the right to life of unborn babies but resists, just as fiercely, any effort to mandate maternity leave entitlement for mothers of the newly born, disregarding the well‑documented importance of early infant attachment.29

The only way out of this impasse is to separate the concerns of motherhood and children from the narrative of providential liberalism, which necessarily frames all solutions as either increasing freedom (good) or hindering it (bad). There are many net positives that women may wish to retain from liberal feminism: I have no desire to relinquish legal personhood, for example, or to be the ward of my father or husband. But if we can reframe the wider narrative away from the increasingly anti-woman fixation on individualistic self-realization and absolute equality, even disregarding irreducible physiological differences, it becomes clear that the campaign for sameness and choice across both sexes is not evidence of human moral improvement, in an absolute sense. Seen in its wider material context, it is one iteration, under specific conditions, of a negotiation as old as human culture: that of how men and women may best reconcile their sometimes competing interests. Understood thus, it is once again possible to reopen the question of what, in the emerging social and material conditions, constitutes the interests of women and children now.

Feminism beyond Liberalism

I suspect the solution does not look like the quixotic pursuit of ever more freedom. A century and a half after Mill’s call for “complete liberty of choice” in what constitutes each individual’s “proper sphere,” material conditions no longer enable this pursuit of liberty to deliver benefits across the board. And much as the patriarchal social attitudes articulated by Winthrop were incompatible with the liquefying social structures of the emerging industrial era, so too the individualist social attitudes naturalized in that era are proving a poor fit for today’s social realities.

We increasingly find ourselves on a postindustrial footing characterized by the dematerialization of work, the concentration of wealth, and the drive to dissolve biological limits and all distinction between public and private. This time, what is being asked of families is not a progressive liquefaction of patriarchal sex roles, and a contest over female economic agency, but a biomedical assault on the idea of human norms as such, with the ontology of human sex dimorphism as a key battleground. Attendant on that assault is a demand, grounded in the industrial-era privileging of liberty, that we relinquish any sense that humans need, or are entitled to, interdependence or relatedness. Commercial surrogacy, for example, is framed as a “right” with no regard to the biological bond between mother and baby that must necessarily be severed in order for someone to enjoy that “right.”

In exchange for accepting this foundational state of atomization, we are afforded membership in an economy organized exclusively around market competition and individual selfhood. That this membership is framed in terms shaped by the legacy of a feminism oriented toward easing women’s entry into the market in no way demonstrates that it is advantageous to women as a whole today. A small minority of elite women may succeed in avoiding the downsides of this trade, by buying services to replace the domain of care and relationality now largely sacrificed to the market. But for the majority of both sexes, a feminism willing to sacrifice even the biological category “female” to its pursuit of absolute individuation has little to offer. The logical endpoint of the egalitarian and libertarian disavowal of human sex dimorphism, and of the relational domain of care and nurture, is a world in which family life is a luxury item for elites. In that context, we should not be surprised that birth rates are collapsing.30

A politics oriented toward the interests of the wider population must aim to shore up an infrastructure within which not greater freedom, but greater and healthier obligations may take shape for both sexes. In policy terms, lines of inquiry might include tax breaks to encourage family formation and child-rearing,31 use of legal and tax incentives to support marriage, reform of no-fault divorce, better mandated in-work maternity provision, and measures to defend employees against the kind of gig-working practices inimical to settled and cooperative family life. To this we might add a critical interrogation of political activism and medical practices that treat identity as something that can be “disembed­ded” from the human body, with both spheres then opened up as new terrain for the market. This terrain includes the commodification of human reproduction, medical interventions to remodel human bodies in line with chosen gender identities, and the drive to normalize the commodification of human sexual intimacy via pornography and prostitution. A foundational element of countering this trend must be the explicit recognition that human sex dimorphism both exists objectively and is of vital political salience.

More broadly, a constructive politics of human sex relations calls for us to recognize, as Benjamin Rush did, that the economic sphere shapes what is possible both politically as well as in family life, and that the reverse is also true. That in turn means—both for conservatives, but also for those liberals who continue to treat pre-1960s sex roles as a bogeyman—accepting that there will be no large-scale return to early industrial-era sex roles. This is due not to the efforts of feminism but to the simple fact that those divisions make little sense in today’s conditions.

Feminists, in particular, must grasp that pursuing choice and sameness much further is radically counter to the embodied and rela­tional interests of women as a sex class, and of human society overall. Today’s challenges require instead a politics of relatedness unafraid to order state power toward the flourishing of family life, and of those relationships that give our life meaning. And this means abandoning the mindset of zero-sum conflict with men characteristic of market-feminist individualism, in favor of a cooperative pursuit by both sexes of a settlement for life in common adapted to the material conditions of the digital era.

This article originally appeared in American Affairs Volume V, Number 3 (Fall 2021): 185–99.

Notes
1 Moira Donegan, “Half of White Women Continue to Vote Republican. What’s Wrong with Them?,” Guardian, November 9, 2018.

2 Jennifer Hansler and Alex Marquardt, “US Intelligence Report Warns Afghan Women’s Rights at Risk after Troop Withdrawal,” CNN, May 5, 2021.

3 See for example the cases of Karen White and Janiah Monroe: Nazia Parveen, “Karen White: How Manipulative Transgender Inmate Attacked Again,” Guardian, October 11, 2018; Bruce Rushton, “Transgender Inmate Accused of Rape,” Illinois Times, February 27, 2020.

4 Isobel Coleman, “The Payoff from Women’s Rights,” Foreign Affairs 83, no. 3 (2004): 80–95.

5 Emily A. Partridge et al., “An Extra-Uterine System to Physiologically Support the Extreme Premature Lamb,” Nature Communications, April 25, 2017.

6 David McFadden, “Fertility Frontier: Can Transgender Women Get Uterus Transplants?,” McGill, March 19, 2021.

7 Emma Watson Addresses Vanity Fair Photo Controversy,” Reuters, March 4, 2017.

8 University of Utah, “Why Males Pack a Powerful Punch: Upper Arm Strength, Different from Females’, May Have Specialized for Forceful Blows,” ScienceDaily, February 5, 2020.

9 John Winthrop, “Speech to the General Court, 1645.”

10 Peter H. Lindert and Jeffery G. Williamson, “American Colonial Incomes, 1650–1774,” NBER Working Paper 19861, National Bureau of Economic Research,  January 2014.

11 The Merchants’ Magazine and Commercial Review 5 (1841), 129.

12 Michael Lind, “Free Trade Fallacy,” Prospect, January 20, 2003.

13 Henry Clay, “In Defense of the American System” (speech, U.S. Senate, February 2, 3, and 6, 1832).

14 Carole Shammas, “How Self-Sufficient Was Early America?,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 13, no. 2 (1982): 247–72.

15 Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (1944; Boston: Beacon Press, 2001).

16 Mary Astell, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies for the Advancement of Their True and Greatest Interest (London: Richard Wilkin, 1697).

17 Emma C. Embury, “Female Education,” Ladies’ Companion 8 (January 1838), 18.

18 Michael Haines, “Fertility and Mortality in the United States,” EH.Net Encyclopedia, March 19, 2008.

19 Barbara Welter, “The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820–1860,” American Quarterly 18, no. 2 (1966): 151–74.

20 Quoted in Christopher Lasch, Women and the Common Life: Love, Marriage, and Feminism (New York: Norton, 1997).

21 Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792; repr. Gutenberg Archive).

22 Benjamin Rush, “Thoughts upon Female Education, Accommodated to the Present State of Society, Manners, and Government in the United States of America” (1787), in Essays on Education in the Early Republic, ed. Frederick Rudolph (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965), 27–40.

23 Linda K. Kerber, “Separate Spheres, Female Worlds, Woman’s Place: The Rhetoric of Women’s History,”  Journal of American History 75, no. 1 (1988): 9–39.

24 Mary S. Gove Nichols and T. L. Nichols, Marriage: Its History, Character, and Results; Its Sanctities, and Its Profanities; Its Science and Its Facts. Demonstrating Its Influence, as a Civilized Institution, on the Happiness of the Individual and the Progress of the Race (Cincinnati: Valentine Nicholson & Co., 1854).

25 Harriet Taylor Mill, “Enfranchisement of Women,” in Sexual Equality: Writings by John Stuart Mill, Harriet Taylor Mill, and Harriet Taylor, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994), 178–203.

26 Mill, “Enfranchisement of Women,” 186.

27 Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Mrs. Hannah More, vol. 2, ed. William Roberts (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1835), 372.

28 Angela Rachidi, “How Would a Child Allowance Affect Employment,” American Enterprise Institute, February 8, 2021.

29 Corinne Rees, “Childhood Attachment,” British Journal of General Practice: Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners 57, no. 544 (2007): 920–22.

30 Sabrina Tavernise, “The U.S. Birthrate Has Dropped Again. The Pandemic May Be Accelerating the Decline,” New York Times, May 5, 2021.

31 Gladden Pappin and Maria Molla, “Affirming the American Family,” American Affairs 3, no. 3 (Fall 2019): 67–81.


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