Pro-Choice Feminists and the Phallic Fallacy

Pro-Choice Feminists and the Phallic Fallacy January 19, 2018


Here’s a snippet from an old post about how pro-choice feminists fall into the same patriarchal traps they are looking to tear down. “New” feminist Sydney Callahan argues that their conception of liberation is based on a “phallic fallacy”:

Notions of female liberation that are predicated upon the woman’s right-to-choose to terminate the life of her own child are the brainchildren of Nietzschean conceptions of greatness and fulfillment. The libido dominandi, rather than enslaving the woman and impoverishing her capacity to flourish and attain the “fullness of life,” is her one-way ticket to freedom, is the theory. Only if she is granted the right to dominate the life in her womb can she be emancipated from the enslavement of co-dependency. This assertion falls into what feminist, Sidney Callahan, calls a “phallic fallacy.”

“Many pro-choice feminists adopt the male perspective when they cite the “basic injustice that women have to bear the babies,” instead of seeing the injustice in the fact that men cannot. Women’s biologically unique capacity and privilege has been denied, despised, and suppressed under male domination. Unfortunately, many women have fallen for this phallic fallacy. Childbirth often appears in pro-choice literature as a painful, traumatic, life-threatening experience. Yet, giving birth is accurately seen as an arduous but normal exercise of life-giving power, a violent and ecstatic peak experience, which men can never really know or experience.

Basic human valueslike dependency, receptivity, generativity, and sacrificewhich women are intimately familiar with and inclined to, thanks in part to their psychophysiological structure, are to be trampled upon in the name of personal autonomy. Such a conception of power and freedom are sharply and exclusively masculine in nature. Men, who can never experience the phenomenon of carrying a new life in the womb, and bring it into full existence, can easily make the dangerously distorted claim that the ideal for all human beings is to be free of ties to other external beings, and to assert one’s individual will- to-power. To exhort women to conform to this conception of freedom denies the given reality of her body and psyche. Rather than developing a conception of freedom that values the unique gifts that women have to offer, in particular their power to bear life, mainstream feminists continue conforming to the same patriarchal vision, whose walls they have made their business to tear down.

I closed the article with a text that a friend sent me soon after the first Women’s March in NYC last year. I think she accurately sums up the pro-life feminist argument here:

I am horrified that women go out and buy themselves “pussy caps” to wear to the march, and are so convinced that “thou shalt not take away my reproductive rights. (Fallopians 12:1)” is freedom, and that my right to abortion makes me happy. I am not my vagina. I am not my fallopian tubes. I will not wear a hat that looks like genitalia, because that’s not ME. Also, how is freedom something that tells me that I’m made intrinsically badly? I can have a baby. I can get pregnant. I need to work with a man to make that happen. I’m the one who bears the child. Yet, the whole premise of women’s rights is that I’m intrinsically inferior because of this, and my uterus is a burden, and I am poorly made, so freedom is the power to choose to demolish the life that’s inside me. And we all gobble up this nonsense as truth. Why don’t we focus spending more money on helping pregnant women have a beautiful, clean, affordable place to go when they’re abandoned by their man, that will help them with adoption, if need be, and accompany them, step-by-step, through the nine months of pregnancy? Why don’t we educate men not to abandon women when things get hard? Instead, the answer is that women should choose what to do, alone (or with other like-minded “nasty women” who think the same things as us, and use the same cliches) …because we’re at a disadvantage with our child-bearing bodies that are poorly made. Freedom can’t be a freedom despite my body.
And … I’m wonderfully made!

An aside… the New Wave Feminists are a pretty awesome pro-life feminist group.

And this documentary looks like it’s going to be pretty awesome as well.



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  • Ancalagon

    So are men bad for making childbearing the glory of womanhood, or are men bad for making childbearing a basic injustice of womanhood?

    On a related note, are women “psychophysiologically” predisposed to caregiving or not? Because I thought that was a social construct. If it’s not, someone’s got some ‘splaining to do.

  • M. Solange O’Brien

    Typical fallacious logic.

    Men are biologically inferior I am not entitled to bodily autonomy.

  • CatholicWarrior

    The real reason our society is in chaos.Is The Mark of The Beast has reversed the roles of men and women. The Mark of The Beast are the Novus Ordo Catholic baptisms and Protestant

  • kyuss

    nothing but opinions and assertions – no facts. pathetic.

  • Lisa

    When will you “pro-life” people march for access to medical care? Check out the mortality rate of women giving birth in most of the southern states. Especially for poor, minority women. The rate of death in these Bible belt states is higher than many third world countries, but I have never seen this issue addressed by any “pro-life” group. The same conservative Christians who are so concerned about the unborn seem to have almost no concern for the already born – especially if they are poor. (And Catholic hospitals will take the clothes off your back and leave you homeless if you don’t pay up as quickly as secular hospitals will – at least here in Sacramento, CA.)

    St. Paul affirmed the Old Testament teaching that men were created for God and women were created for men and to breed. The Church fathers taught that it was no big deal if women died in childbirth since that was their reason for existing and a woman could be easily replaced anyway. This article is trying to make centuries of Christian misogyny seem humane, It’s not and never has been.