Defending the Family: A Feminist Perspective on the Traditional Family, Fatherhood and Motherhood in the Christian Right
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Conservative Christian organizations are gradually gaining more political influence in democratic societies, such as the United States. Conservative Christian values are not always in tune with contemporary western values towards equality and gendered hierarchies. These conflicting values, of conservative Christian movements and feminists are the subject of this thesis. In preparation for this paper I researched the construction of gender sensitive concepts, namely the traditional family, fatherhood and motherhood within the context of the Christian Coalition of America. The Christian Coalition is a Christian Right Movement and is widely viewed as a conservative organization. Thus, with the foregoing in mind, the research question of this thesis is: How does the discourse of the Christian Coalition construct the ‘ideal’ traditional family and what does this mean for the construction of fatherhood and motherhood? Motherhood is an established and powerful concept within feminist discourse, however fatherhood is comparatively speaking discursively less prominent. This does not mean that fatherhood has not an important place in the construction of the traditional family. Therefore, I have chosen to research both concepts within the context of ‘traditional’ family structures. The Christian Coalition has fixed ideas regarding how the family, fatherhood and motherhood are defined and this is reflected in their promotional material, in blogs that support their ideas and in articles that appear on their own website. Analysis of this literature forms the basis of my research, looking specifically at ways in which the Christian Coalition and its own agendas create specific concepts of the family, motherhood and fatherhood. The feminist discourse that is researched is not compatible with the discourse of the Christian Coalition. Feminists view the same concepts in a different light. For them marriage, fatherhood and motherhood are not about hierarchy, but about equality. A pivotal aim is to make clear precisely how these concepts are both defined and created and then subsequently used to present members of the organization with powerful, stereotypical views both of what the family, fatherhood and motherhood are, and more importantly, are not. The aim of this thesis is to contribute to the discussion between feminists and conservative Christian movements. It is important that feminists have a more educated and nuanced understanding of these movements, in order to engage in discussions about gender equality with, rather than against, the members of conservative organizations.