June 11, 2012 (HLIAmerica.org) - One of President’s Obama’s latest re-election commercials entitled “Dreams of our Daughters” offers both misleading information and a demeaning characterization of women. The spot shows actors portraying a mother and two daughters with soothing music in the background. The mother’s soft voice narrates the ad and speaks of the ambitious goals of her six-year-old and ten-year-old daughters. One wants to be a “dolphin doctor” and one wants to be a military fighter pilot. She then laments how some want to take away the rights of women to obtain birth control. That is why she is going to vote for President Obama. Unless her daughters have access to birth control, they will never reach their dreams.
First of all, no one is trying to take away access to birth control. There is absolutely no effort to restrict the manufacturing, marketing or sales of contraceptives. There is, however, a strong push by both Catholics and Protestants to protect Catholic schools, hospitals, charities and other ministries from being forced to compromise their Catholic identity and principles and pay for contraception. The First Amendment guarantees that no government has the right to define what religious principles can be expressed by religious entities. To suggest that protecting religious liberty is a threat to American women is mendacious and shows a poor understanding of the Constitution.
More offensive, however, is the suggestion that women are somehow inherently defective and cannot succeed unless their feminine nature is “corrected” with contraception. This commercial claims that two young girls with lofty career aspirations cannot reach their goals with their fertility intact. It presumes that they will choose to be sexually active at a time when becoming pregnant would derail their professional lives. It paints motherhood as an inferior vocation. And just like President Obama’s other fictional woman, “Julia”, this commercial implies that women must be dependent on the federal government in order to control their fertility.
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Contrary to this insulting portrait of womanhood by President Obama is the Catholic view that femininity is not a defect. Fertility is not a disorder. A successful woman does not have to mask her maternal nature and behave more like a man. Women are not slaves to their own carnal desires or to those of men. They are fully capable of self-control and living virtuous lives of chastity. To suggest otherwise belittles the dignity of both men and women and paints a picture of human sexuality that is more akin to animals in the wild than men and women in loving relationships.
The authentic natures of men and women reveal the inherent complementarity created by God. One is not greater than the other. From the beginning, they have been joined in a partnership, not a competition.
God created mankind in his image;
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
In his commencement address to the graduates of Benedictine College, George Weigel asserted:
For the defense of religious freedom in full which you must mount must be both cultural — in the sense of arguments winsomely and persuasively made — and political, in that you must drive the sharp edge of truth into the sometimes hard soil of public policy.
President Obama may dream that his daughters will live in a world that reduces their femininity to the need to have sex without having children, and that pressures them to be more like men, but that is not my dream for my daughter, or her daughters or her daughters’ daughters. My dream is for a culture of life that respects authentic femininity, supports motherhood, values the family and is based on the truth of natural law.
Therefore, we must proclaim the equal dignity of men and women. We must counter those who repeatedly declare womanhood is a defect. We must correct the lie that the Church is waging a war on women. We must defend the right of the Church to publicly proclaim and live the tenets of the faith. And we must back up our high ideals with action at the ballot box. There can be no support for candidates who reject the complementarity of men and women, the intrinsic dignity of all human persons from conception to natural death or the singular importance of the family in shaping our culture.
Denise Hunnell, MD, is a Fellow of HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International. She writes for HLI America’s Truth and Charity Forum, where this article first appeared.