Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Patriarchal religion, pornography, and woman-hating at Wake Forest

I just received a postcard today for a Wake Forest Law School symposium titled "Patriarchal Religion, Sexuality, and Gender."  The symposium happened last week and I have no direct knowledge of what transpired, but I have a good guess as to the tone and direction of the conversation that took place.  Just for the record, if we want to have a rollicking discussion of the pitfalls of patriarchy, count me in.  I get the feeling, though (in part from my past encounters with the work of one of the keynotes, David A.J. Richards), that the "patriarchy" label was being invoked early and often at Wake Forest, and that most of the ills of human history were pinned to it.  Just from the blurb on the postcard, I learn that patriarchal religion "has been the chief guarantor of straight male power," and that "fundamentalist religions continue to claim authority over the principal social and legal issues of today."  (Until relatively recently, of course, the fundy Protestants were faulted for dropping out of society and using law as a hedge to keep out the wilderness, not for trying to rule the wilderness!)  I also missed out on the opportunity to hear how "patriarchal religious myth" is responsible for "the proliferation of pornography and woman-hating in Western popular culture."  (I guess Jerry Falwell shouldn't have sued Larry Flynt -- apparently he spawned Larry Flynt!)  It's not unusual to come across specific papers along these lines, but I don't often read of an entire symposium (apparently) devoted to this extreme sort of criticism.  Nothing like a fair-minded and balanced engagement with the issues . . .


Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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I remember the themes of new student week at my university: diversity and tolerance. I soon discovered there was no diversity of thought and precious little tolerance for thoughtcrime. Parents should carefully look at the schools they are sending their children too. Money, especially tax dollars, should not be wasted on such worthless and bigoted events. A law school should be ashamed at holding a seminar to discuss such man-hating tripe.

Posted by: Fr. J | Sep 24, 2010 12:00:02 PM

Our society has become much more matriarchal than patriarchal. Feminism, in case you haven't noticed, rules the roost. It is also a twisted view of reality to blame traditional patriarchal society for pornography. Truly traditional patriarchal societies are characterized by a strict sexual morality. In the 1960s a bomb known as the sexual revolution went off, spewing everywhere contraception, sexually transmitted disease, abortion and pornography. Large segments of feminism bought into it all or large parts of it. The Catholic Church, which is considered by feminists to be the granddaddy of the "patriarchy," did not. How is it then that the "patriarchy" is responsible for pornography when the supposed leader of the "patriarchy," the Catholic Church, is pornography's leading opponent?

Posted by: Dan | Sep 24, 2010 12:16:41 PM

Is it fair to assume that 1.5% to 3% of patriarchs did not exercise "straight male power"?

Posted by: Phil Swain | Sep 24, 2010 12:54:32 PM

Thanks for this, Rob,

Very stimulating. What always cracks me up about tropes of this sort is how easy it is to speak just as plausibly by doing a global find and replace on most any of the key words. Were we to replace all occurrences of 'patriarchy' and its cognates with, say, 'matriarchy' and its cognates, for example, it would be very easy to spin causal 'stories' from the armchair, all of them revealing how the influence of mothers and sisters and women in general generate, via deep-seated Oedipal mechanisms, all of the offending phenomena in question. Of course, in both cases the stories will be plainly wrong. For I can assure you the real cause of all of our problems is just this: cats.

Thanks again,

Posted by: Robert Hockett | Sep 24, 2010 2:24:25 PM

Bob: I totally agree about cats, and if you're able to put together a symposium consisting exclusively of like-minded folks -- those cat-loving wing-nuts can have their own dang symposium! -- we can establish once and for all feline responsibility for human suffering. I would even trek to Ithaca in January in order to participate. (Which may not be saying much, since I'd be coming from Minneapolis in January.)

Posted by: rob vischer | Sep 24, 2010 3:03:57 PM

Rob, I reviewed the new Richards book on this subject a while back on CoOp; you might find the review interesting. I think it's a serious book, although I also think it's seriously wrong.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Sep 24, 2010 3:47:16 PM

The question I have is: Why did Wake Forest send out this symposium invitation? What was it trying to say as an institution? What image was it trying to instill as an institution in the minds of recipients? Given that I did not receive it until more than ten days after the symposium was over (as was also the case with Rob and everyone else here), the purpose of the mailing could not have been to encourage us actually to attend (despite the first line reading "The Wake Forest Journal of Law & Policy invites you to attend our inaugural symposium . . ."). Nor is this a message from an individual entity or interest group within the law school that may be speaking separately from the law school, but rather the mailing comes directly from the Wake Forest University School of Law and uses a general law school return address. So why choose to send out this woefully late invitation? Is Wake Forest as a law school trying to form a particular image of that institution through this mailing? Is it trying to influence voters in the academic reputation survey of the U.S. News ranking, just before the ballots arrive? If so, the rather crude and ideologically-weighted jargon that sweeps aside any nuance, the over-the-top to the point of absurdity slant, and the obviously one-sided nature of the program doesn't send a signal of serious academic discourse (however much that may be true of the individual participants who probably had little role in writing the description), much less convey that this law school seeks to foster a balanced discussion of issues and a true exchange of diverse ideas? Having observed now many, many symposia at faith-based law schools on often controversial topics, the balance and diversity of perspectives that I've generally seen is far greater in that setting than is apparent at this secular institution, if this program is any indication. Now I am inclined to think this particular program is not truly representative of Wake Forest law school. But that brings me back to my question: Why was it sent, what is the message intended, and to whom was it directed?

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