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Joseph Pearce

Joseph Pearce is Senior Editor at the Augustine Institute, editor of the St. Austin Review and the author of books on Shakespeare, Tolkien, Chesterton and other Christian literary figures.


Writing for Faith & Culture

We welcome the submission of articles of between 600 and 1,500 words on topics related to Catholic faith and culture. Articles should be emailed as Word attachments to Joseph Pearce.

Do Well-Behaved Women Make History?

Do Well-Behaved Women Make History?

“Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
- Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

The inanity of many bumper stickers continues to astonish me. Take, for instance, one which proclaims that “well behaved women don’t make history”. As a sound-bite it is not sound, nor does it give us much to bite into. It does, however, provide food for thought on the topic of fools and thoughtlessness. It assumes that making history is good and that being good isn’t good. This is indeed both foolish and thoughtless.

Adolf Hitler made history. So did Attila the Hun. If making history is good and being good is not important, I presume that we can consider Hitler and Attila to have been successful. The same can be said of Islamist terrorists, serial killers and mentally ill airline pilots who crash their planes into mountains. On a purely Machiavellian level, this makes sense, even if it only makes sense if we are insensitive to the plight of the countless victims of such history-making men.

It is evidently true, therefore, that badly behaved men make history. But what about women? The bumper sticker seems to be saying that history-making women need to behave as badly as history-making men. Women need to fight the Macho-Nazis by becoming Femi-Nazis. They need to fight the chauvinism of Attila the Hun with the shevinism of Attila the Hen!

Faced with such facile fascism we might be tempted to say that making history can go to hell with those who make it! Such a reaction is, however, too hasty because it is too reactionary. The point is that the bumper sticker is wrong in its claim that “well-behaved women do not make history”. On the contrary, well-behaved women are always making history but not in the way that Hitler made history, nor in the way that female tyrants such as Bloody Bess (Elizabeth I) made history. They make history by means of maternity, teaching their children and their husbands how to be well-behaved. They make history in accordance with an aphorism that is much older than any bumper sticker and much wiser than anything dreamt up by feminists. They make history because the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

The powerful silence in all of history is the silence of the hand rocking the cradle.

The truth is that the healthiest societies are always in one important sense matriarchies. They are societies in which strong and virtuous women raise strong and virtuous children and in which well-behaved wives rein in the unruly passions of their poorly behaved husbands. The unhealthiest societies are patriarchies in which the power of men runs riot because the power of well-behaved women to restrain them has been weakened. The most unhealthy society of all is one in which the women want to run riot with the men.

In short, we do not need a society in which women behave as badly as men, which seems to be the logic of the feminazism that inspired the inanity and insanity of the bumper sticker.

We need a society in which the silence of the lambs is more powerful than the violence of the rams. We need the hand that rocks the baby in the cradle, not the hand that throws the baby out with the bathwater or the hand that kills the baby in the womb. We need a society that knows that the hand that rocks the cradle is the very rock on which society stands secure. In other words, we need a society that knows that patriarchy can only exist if it nestles in the bosom of matriarchy.

And let’s take a moment to ponder the connection between patriarchy and matriarchy a little more carefully. According to the ghastly gospel of feminism the problem is that society is patriarchal and that patriarchy is patronizing towards women. The root of the feminist error is that feminists do not distinguish between men and fatherhood, conflating the two terms so that they are employed synonymously. In reality, however, patriarchy is not possible in a civilized culture if it is patronizing towards women because patriarchy (the rule of the father) is impossible without matriarchy (the rule of the mother). For a man to become a father he needs the consent and cooperation of a woman who wants to become a mother. It is only in uncivilized societies, the sort of societies advocated by feminists, that men become predators, seeking to use and abuse women without the desire or responsibility of fatherhood. In their fanatical advocacy of contraception and infanticide, feminists have indeed declared war on patriarchy (the power of fatherhood) but only at the expense of matriarchy (the power of motherhood). To put the matter bluntly they have declared war on parenthood, despising the parent and killing the child.

It is little wonder that St. John Paul II dubbed our deplorable epoch the culture of death. It is deadly not only because it kills babies and denigrates parenthood but because it kills itself in a senseless and suicidal debauch.

The antithesis of such horrible nonsense and the antidote to its poison is to be found in the person of the Blessed Virgin, the woman who is Motherhood Personified. It is no wonder that she is honoured in the Litany of Loreto as being the seat of wisdom, the mirror of justice and the cause of our joy. She is the wisest of women who undid the wickedness of Eve. She is not only a well-behaved woman who made history but the best behaved woman on whom all history turns. Sancte Maria, sedes sapientia, ora pro nobis!

The Transcendent Dean Koontz

The Transcendent Dean Koontz

Good Ale

Good Ale