Women's rights, women's virtue: the co-option of feminist antipornography rhetoric by the Christian Right in the United States

Haylett, F 2016, Women's rights, women's virtue: the co-option of feminist antipornography rhetoric by the Christian Right in the United States, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global, Urban and Social Sciences, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Women's rights, women's virtue: the co-option of feminist antipornography rhetoric by the Christian Right in the United States
Author(s) Haylett, F
Year 2016
Abstract By undertaking a case study of three of the most prominent groups on the religious right in the United States – Concerned Women for America (CWA), Focus on the Family (FOF), and Eagle Forum (EF), and an historical comparison with the temperance movement – this study reveals that rather than focusing solely on the sinful, immoral nature of pornography, these groups are broadening their antipornography narrative to also include consideration of the misogynistic themes of pornography, and the harm it causes to women. These Christian Right groups are pursuing a rhetorical approach marked by the co-option, manipulation, and reconceptualisation of the arguments of antiporn feminists. This strategic shift has been facilitated by the lull in antiporn feminist activity following the deep intra-movement rifts of the 1980s between feminists who were opposed to pornography and others who saw it as merely an expression of free speech. On the other end of the political spectrum, within conservative movement politics, an identity shift in the 1990s away from inflammatory, militaristic rhetoric towards a softer, somewhat secularised tone reflected a desire by movement leaders to appeal to adherents outside the movement’s usual constituency, including women for whom feminist ideas have resonated. In order to reconcile this prowoman construct with the image of the subservient woman central to fundamentalist Christian interpretations of scripture, these groups use antiporn feminist rhetoric in the service of preserving the patriarchal nuclear family. Meaningful parallels can be drawn between the rhetoric of today’s Christian Right in response to pornography and the way in which key figures in the temperance movement dealt with the crisis of male drunkenness in nineteenth-century America, which resulted in a push for the enhancement of women’s rights coalescing with deeply held beliefs about family values. As the temperance precedent makes clear, movements for moral reform are not always ideologically pure, and can involve tradeoffs and a negotiation of values to ensure their political survival.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global, Urban and Social Sciences
Subjects North American History
Sociology not elsewhere classified
Keyword(s) Christian Right
Antipornography feminism
American politics
Temperance movement
Focus on the Family
Concerned Women for America
Eagle Forum
Family values
Appropriation
Phyllis Schlafly
Beverly LaHaye
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Created: Fri, 17 Feb 2017, 09:03:40 EST by Adam Rivett
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