What The Feminist Breeder and the Quiverfull movement have in common


Yesterday I joked about Gina Crosly-Corcoran, The Feminist Breeder, and her sancti-question (The Feminist Breeder is so not judging you for failing to breastfeed).

What’s a sancti-question? It’s sanctimoniousness disguised as puzzlement, e.g. I simply can’t understand why other women can’t be bothered to be as awesome as me.

Gina offered a classic of the genre:

I … don’t really “get” it when a woman chooses, without any medical or social barrier, not to breastfeed. To me it’s sorta like deciding not to take prenatal vitamins because you just don’t wanna, without recognizing that they do help build a healthier baby. I will NOT be all sanctimonious about it, I’m just saying I’m human and that one’s a head scratcher for me. We have lactating boobs for a reason: to feed the babies we make.

(Here’s a pro tip, Gina: Announcing you are not sanctimonious does not inoculate you from accusations of sanctimony.)

Today, though, I’m utterly serious. The Feminist Breeder’s comments are abhorrent, not merely because they are sanctimonious, but because they are deeply and profoundly sexist. Gina’s comment echoes the Quiverfull movement of fundamentalist Christianity that she probably deplores. How? She, like the Quiverfull, invoke biological essentialism, as justification for her beliefs. The idea that women should use their reproductive organs “as Nature intended” is a bedrock principle of sexist fundamentalist movements everywhere.

Here’s how it works:

Quiverfull claim that women should be subservient to their husbands because that’s what Nature intended.

They don’t use artificial birth control because women have monthly ovulation for a reason: to get pregnant as often as possible.

They don’t countenance abortion because women have a uterus for a reason: to reproduce constantly.

Many use lay midwives for childbirth because women have a vagina for a reason: to birth the babies they grow.

Women shouldn’t work outside the home because women have bodies that grow babies and produce milk: so they can stay home and take care of them.

See the problem?

Invoking women’s reproductive organs is a way to justify restricting women’s choices. Instead of giving women the opportunity to control their fertility, end unwanted pregnancies, and raise children in the way that each individual woman thinks is best, invoking women’s reproductive organs is a way to keep them in the kitchen, barefoot, pregnant and subservient. Invoking women’s reproductive organs in a discussion of women’s choices is sexism pure and simple. It’s meant to short-circuit any discussion of women’s rights, intellectual achievements, and character by implying that those things ought to be subservient to women’s biology.

No doubt it’s a head scratcher for fundamentalists that Gina’s husband had a vasectomy to make sure that she couldn’t get pregnant after only 3 children and even though she still has ovaries and a uterus for a reason.

It is deeply misogynist for Gina to justify her sanctimoniousness with appeals to women’s reproductive organs. This is not a public health issue, it’s a reproductive rights issue.

Let’s be very clear:

A women’s decision on whether or not to breastfeed is a reproductive rights issue, no different than the right to control fertility or to terminate a pregnancy.

It is profoundly anti-feminist to tell a woman how she should use her ovaries and how she should use her uterus. It is equally sexist and retrograde to tell a woman how she should use her breasts, or criticize women, implicitly or explicitly, for not using their breasts “as nature intended.”