At some point during my teen years, I was at a homeschool conference and found myself in conversation with a homeschool dad. Out of the blue, he asked me whether I thought women should be able to vote. He was scouting me out as a potential wife for one of his five strapping sons, as he made amply clear when he later asked me, in front of them, what qualities I was interested in in a future husband. We spent probably half an hour discussing whether or not women should vote.
It might seem strange that anyone would ask or discuss this in the twenty-first century, but in the conservative circles in which I was raised, it did come up, just the way whether women should go to college was up for debate. In this post, I’ll offer the three main arguments I’ve heard against women having the right to vote, and then finish with some analysis.
Women are nurturing
The only time I remember my parents themselves specifically touching on the issue of women voting was their insistence that if women couldn’t vote our country wouldn’t be in the trouble it was in today. Why? Because women vote for Democrats. If women had never been able to vote, my parents said, we would not have the inefficient and unconstitutional federal bureaucracy we have today.
And it wasn’t just my parents who made this argument. John Derbyshire of the National Review recently said the following in answer to the question “what is the case against female suffrage?” explaining that women naturally “lean hard to the left” because they are nurturing.
The conservative case against it is that women lean hard to the left. They want someone to nurture, they want someone to help raise their kids, and if men aren’t inclined to do it — and in the present days, they’re not much — then they’d like the state to do it for them.
Ann Coulter has made similar comments:
I think [women] should not vote … women have no capacity to understand how money is earned. They have a lot of ideas on how to spend it … it’s always more money on education, more money on child care, more money on day care.
In other words, women vote Democrat because women are nurturing, and for that same reason they want money spent on thing like education and child care, but they don’t understand how money or the economy really work. They’re well meaning, but not suited to politics. Politics is men’s work.
Women are emotional
While this is obviously related to the first point, some oppose women having the vote because women are “emotionally driven” or “driven about by their whims.” As I was doing research for this article, I came upon the following quote on a homeschool dad’s website:
You know, I’ve always been rather leery of a woman voting. I mean, they’re such emotionally driven creatures that most of them don’t have a logical bone in their body.
Don’t get me wrong – the way that women were created is just right. I’m just saying that there is a reason that they were created as helpers to men.
And some of those reasons become pretty evident when it’s time to vote. The first impact of women voters was really felt after the televised Nixon / Kennedy debates. Nixon, the superior statesman without question, looked “old” and “sweaty”. But Kennedy? He was “cute”! The same thing was true for Clinton.
And, after all, isn’t that the best reason to vote for someone?
In other words, women are weak, easily led astray, ruled by their emotions. They need protecting, guiding, and boundaries. They’re simply not prepared for such an important task as voting. Here’s another quote:
A woman surrenders to a man so easily when he takes charge. That is the danger of having a matriarch with a man in subjection. The woman indeed is the weaker vessel, tossed to and fro, giving in to whims, and judges things according to her motherly instinct. For instance, she would say sodomite couplings are lovely, because love is blind.
Women are given to whims. Women follow their emotions. Men don’t. Men are different. They are strong, unshakable, and principled.
One vote per family
The biggest argument against women voting put forward by the Christian Patriarchy movement, though, is that one vote should be given to each family, not one vote to each individual. Here is a quote from Brian Abshire’s “Biblical Patriarchy and the Doctrine of Federal Representation,” which was on Vision Forum’s website until it was pulled recently.
In regards to a woman’s right to vote; if husband and wife are truly “one flesh” and the husband is doing his duty to represent the family to the wider community, then what PRACTICAL benefit does allowing women to vote provide? If husband and wife agree on an issue, then one has simply doubled the number of votes; but the result is the same. Women voting only makes a difference when the husband and wife disagree; a wife, who does not trust the judgment of her husband, can nullify his vote. Thus, the immediate consequence is to enshrine the will of the individual OVER the good of the family thus creating divisions WITHIN the family.
In other words, allowing women to vote subverts the family and eliminates the original purpose of voting, which was household representation, with the husband representing his family “to the wider community.” Furthermore, allowing women to vote places the will of the individual over the good of the family. This part is key. In Christian Patriarchy, the family always trumps the individual.
These three arguments against women voting are obviously interrelated. After all, it’s part of the man’s role to represent his household, not the woman’s role. The woman, in contrast, is the more emotional being and is naturally more nurturing, all of which enforces the belief that it is the man’s role, and most certainly not the woman’s role, to represent the household politically.
What you have here again is an emphasis on different roles to be played, an emphasis on women’s more emotional and weaker state, and an emphasis on placing the importance of the family over that of the individual.
A lot of the belief in women being emotional and more driven by their whims is self-reinforcing. After all, women in Christian Patriarchy are given this message from day one while men are told they are strong and unbending. In other words, Christian Patriarchy essentially socializes females to be emotional and socializes men to be firm. To be sure, mainstream society today does this as well, but not at all to the same extent.
What I’m going to focus on here, though, is the last point: that the good of the family should be placed over the good of the individual.
One reason Christian Patriarchy deplores the feminist movement is that feminism is largely grounded in individualism. Feminism argues that women should be able to find individual fulfillment, that women shouldn’t always have to differ or ignore their needs, and that women should be seen as individual human beings rather than simply as something to cook supper and make babies.
This is why supporters of Christian Patriarchy decry the sorry state of the family. The way they see it, the family does not serve the individual, the individual serves the family. The individual’s needs are always secondary to the needs of the family. The individual is first and foremost a part of the family with a role to play and a place to inhabit, and an individual second.
And of course, for Christian Patriarchy, the woman’s role is to submit to and obey her husband, just as the children are to submit to and obey their parents. If the woman votes based on her own leanings, she is potentially canceling out her husband’s vote and is putting her own interests before those of her family. The man, in contrast, is supposed to vote according to his own leanings, and when he does so he represents the family.
Again we see the double standard. Men and women are both to play their proper role in the family, and the family is to be held more important than either of them individually, but ultimately it is the man who is the head of the family, the man who charts the family’s direction, and the man who should decide the family’s vote. The woman, in contrast, is just along for the ride. So much for roles that are equal but different!
You might wonder how the conversation I mentioned at the beginning of this post ended. The homeschool dad explained the one vote per family argument to me, which I had not heard before, and I agreed with him that the idea made a lot of sense. And in the context of the Christian Patriarchy milieu in which I was being raised, it truly did.
I was, however, a bit too much of a pragmatist. While the homeschool dad told me that his wife doesn’t vote, I insisted that if conservative women stopped voting today we would lessen our side’s political power. He told me that if we followed God, God would honor our efforts and multiply our votes, making up for this loss. I was skeptical.
In case you’re curious, he never did come around to ask my dad about me courting one of his five strapping sons. I’ll never know for sure, but perhaps it was because I made it clear that I planned to vote. If so, I’ll always be thankful for my pragmatism on this issue!