Ashley McGuire

Ashley McGuire is a Senior Fellow with The Catholic Association and the author of Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female. Praxis Circle interviewed Mrs. McGuire because of her noted success at a young age as a journalist and author, her position as a leader in rethinking feminism, her skillful articulation of the Catholic faith and Christian orthodoxy as a lay person, and her dedication to interpreting Christian morality in harmony with biological truth.

How did you become a successful writer?

Ashley McGuire:

I would say the first thing to becoming a writer is learning to accept no and learning to deal with that. I can’t tell you how many articles I had rejected. I think my first rejection was when I was 16 and I wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times. And of course I got a rejection and I thought, “Why don’t they want to know what I have to say about this?” But it really is. You have to learn to have thick skin and learn to accept that rejection. I mean, probably for the first 10 years that I was writing, nine out of 10 articles got rejected and learning to take rejection and improve and to be able to accept people’s edits, it’s kind of a humbling experience. You get formed and then you learn to improve.

You learn to understand, okay, this is what they’re looking for. And now I’ve kind of learned to self-edit and so I’ll sit down, I’ll write something and there might be a sentence or a phrase that I really love, but I just know the editor’s going to cut that out and learning to kind of cull your own work. So I think that’s a big part of it and also learning to be very careful and double and triple check your work. I think people aren’t really taught good journalism practices anymore. Everything’s so slap dash and hurried, and that’s very much part of the nature of today’s new cycle, where everything’s online and everything’s so quick, but I’ve learned hard from making some mistakes. That’s a very important part of this line of work.

The 10,000 Hours Principle

Doug Monroe:

So it really is a profession you have to get good at. It’s your 10,000 hours kind of theory, whether it’s basketball or writing and you have to be persistent sounds like.

Ashley McGuire:

Exactly. In fact, I was going to say the 10,000 hours example because it probably… Since I graduated from college, I have done some kind of writing every single day. And in fact, I think some of my greatest improvement was when I was writing for this pop culture site called Acculturated, where I would write a couple articles a week. And every day, I was writing maybe 250 to 500 words a day. And that’s very good training for learning to be quick and agile. And so when it came to the point where I was writing a book, I was sort of trained to not be overwhelmed by when you’re younger you might be a writing assignment that takes weeks to do, to just sit down and know, okay, 250 words, 500 words. And in fact, I was talking to somebody who’s written countless theology books, and he said it’s writing 250 to 500 words a day is how you move the ball forward with writing.

Doug Monroe:

That kind of reminds me of Ernest Hemingway a little bit, who would write a page a day and kill the babies. And one of my favorite expressions is, “Professor, it would’ve been shorter, but I didn’t have time.”

Ashley McGuire:

Exactly.

Doug Monroe:

That’s not acceptable.

Ashley McGuire:

Right. No, no, short writing… And I think Abraham Lincoln once said something similar too. He apologized for a long letter because he said, “I didn’t have time to write something shorter.” So, it’s true that shorter writing actually often takes a lot longer.

Childhood Years in the West

Ashley McGuire:

So I was born the great state of Michigan and my family moved to Colorado when I was younger. So I grew up in the west, which is a wonderful place to grow up. And I grew up when the west was really transforming, there were not… The city that I grew up in quadrupled in size since my family moved there. And I was very blessed to grow up in a wonderful home with two loving parents who are still married as the oldest of five kids. So, my childhood was very stable and happy and I’m very blessed. And the older I get, the more I realize that’s the true lottery of life is being born into a home like that because it really gives you more than money or anything else really.

That’s what gives you the kind of foundation to build your own life on. But I was also born as someone who was very opinionated from a very young age and people used to always ask me, “Do you want to be a lawyer when you grow up?” And I almost went to law school and actually it was because I just panicked in the middle of the LSATs that I thought I’m going to just try out something different. And writing was the thing that I was always interested in wanting to do. And I just kept doing that and after getting over countless rejections started getting things published and that’s really what got me on the track that I’m on now.

Education and Professional Background

Ashley McGuire:

Sure. So, I’ll go all the way back to high school because I went to this wonderful high school that, it’s kind of an experiential learning high school called Fountain Valley School. And it turns out half the Grateful Dead went there and kind of an artistic school, a little bit of a different place. But I actually think I got a better education in high school than I did in college. I mean, they taught the classics. They taught the foundations of writing. I got a very good kind of classic education in a sort of unclassical environment and went on from there to Tufts University. And it was really at Tufts that I started developing an interest in the things that I write about because I could for the first time really see the way the sort of sexual revolution was playing out in a not so great way. Went on from Tufts to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, where I worked for many years.

And then I was fortunate enough to get a Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship. And that gave me the chance to sort of off ramp from an office job into full-time writing. And actually it was the project that I proposed for that fellowship that ended up becoming what later was my book. And so now I do a lot of writing, my sort of main work though is with an organization called the Catholic Association. And that came about in the wake of the Obama administration’s health and human services mandate, which led to a really big religious Liberty lawsuit. And so I was brought on to basically be a woman making the argument, a young woman sort of making the arguments opposite of someone like Sandra Fluke for religious Liberty. And it’s a work that I’ve continued doing and really enjoy.

About the Catholic Association

Ashley McGuire:

So, we started as a lay religious liberty organization. So, we’re not officially affiliated with the Catholic church. We’re all women and we started out focusing entirely on religious liberty back when that mandate was really sort of front and center of the political discourse. And that work was still ongoing when I woke up one morning and news that Pope Benedict had stepped down and that led to me flying to Rome where I did around the clock interviews, basically to these puzzled journalists who couldn’t understand how a Catholic woman would not just be Catholic but loved the church, despite the fact that there were no women in the conclave, women can’t be priests.

And so that sort of expanded our scope of work. And then we started talking about the many other areas where the issues that the church teaches about sort of come into conflict with the mainstream press. And so our mission is to defend the church and its teachings in the public square and we are all faithful Catholic women who love the church. And really, even more so than that, want people to see the beauty of the church’s teaching in a culture that just doesn’t appreciate them.

Who are some supportive women in your life?

Ashley McGuire:

You know, I wouldn’t be anywhere remotely near where I am if it weren’t for the help and support of so many women. In the book or in the acknowledgements, I start off by thinking women who are mentors to me, women who… I think it’s such a DC thing, this idea like a stereotype that everybody’s cutting each other out and stepping on each other’s toes and it is true, but certainly in the world of women writers, I’ve been so blessed to have women like Mary Eberstadt and Kristina Arriaga, who are these incredible forces of nature who have taken time when they didn’t have the time.

They had their own families and their own careers to go through my work, to help me edit things, to help me get things placed. And then just that amazing network of women who are a combination of professional women, moms who just inspire me with the way they live out their lives. And so I just feel so blessed to have so many incredible females in my life who’ve helped me personally and professionally. And I think the acknowledgement section of a book is really important because as any writer knows, you are nothing without the people who helped you get where you are.

Who are some supportive men in your life?

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah. You know, I’ll start with my husband. He’s just a wonderful… He’s a wonderful man. He’s such a good man. He’s been so supportive of everything that I do. And if I told him I wanted to work full time, he would support that. If I told him I want to just focus on our family, he would support that. But he’s a writer too and so he’s also kind of my closest professional confidant.

Sometimes I’m scared to show him things because he’s kind of a tough editor, but he’s a better writer than me. He always says the opposite, but he himself is a great writer. And so he’s kind of a great partner to me and was very supportive of me writing this book. And also my dad, my dad is kind of an interesting guy in that he’s a very kind of traditional Christian conservative, but has also always been very sort of progressive if you will, in the sense that he has three daughters and encourage them to pursue their passions and do whatever it is that they found fulfilling. And so having his support and his example was an essential piece of my life’s foundation.

Do you have a worldview? What is it?

Ashley McGuire:

I definitely have a worldview. In terms of putting it in a pithy way, maybe not there yet, but I think living in this culture has really sharpened my worldview and helped me… I mean, this really started for me in college where I came from a pretty Christian home and I know the media loves stories like that, where they go and then they just go completely crazy and they’re liberated from the shackles of their upbringing. And I had sort of the opposite reaction. I got to college and said, “Whoa, whatever you all are teaching about sex is so wrong.” And I didn’t need any coursework or any classes to tell me that. I knew it from talking to girls, young women and hearing how broken and shattered they were and seeing firsthand how poorly they were treated in that kind of environment.

I mean, I’m talking about a school where they have an annual naked quad run where thousands of students run completely naked through the quad as if it’s an event… And the school sponsors the event at which they say they do for safety reasons, because then they can have the police and chaperone it. But they do this during the study period before finals and every year there would be sexual assaults. And it’s like, “People, you can’t both be surprised by this and be endorsing this at the same time.” The event that really sort of crystallized things for me was this event that the school had called the Sex Fair and they had it on Valentine’s Day. And I just walked into the campus center and it was like a pornographic event. I mean, actually pornographic, I won’t say what was there, but that you need a trigger warning before you go in.

And at the same time, the school was having this rampant issue of sexual assaults so much so that they had to create a special website for people to anonymously report their sexual different kinds of assaults. And it just became so clear to me that what the culture teaches about liberation is anything but, and actually creates an environment where assault is sort of… What’s the word I’m looking for? Creates an environment that destigmatizes behavior that is harmful to women and to men, and that the culture has things completely reversed opposite wrong when to sex.

And so if I were to say that I have a very strong worldview on something, it would be that just about everything the culture teaches about love and sex is completely wrong. And that started in college, the older I’ve got and the more that I’ve seen the way that harm and those scars that people carry from engaging in sort of the post sexual revolution world, the way those really continue to hurt people well into their adult life and even now are starting to be transferred to children. So in terms of one facet of my worldview and the thing that I probably do the most writing about, it would be that.

Why did you go to Tufts University?

Ashley McGuire:

Um, so, the high school that I went to was a college prep school and there’s a big emphasis on college placement and placement into elite schools. And I don’t know why I got into my head that I had to go the northeast. That was my one rebellious thing was I’m going to go to the northeast. I don’t know why I would leave the west. I just ruled out at the coasts really. I was looking at California and the northeast and of all the schools that I applied to, that’s sort of where the chips fell. And it’s funny because I’ve written it multiple times about the school in a not good way. And now I would never let my kids go to Tufts. And I think if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that the emphasis on elite education is another example where we have everything flipped.

The parents are getting robbed or the students, if they’re taking loans, they’re getting highway robbed to basically have everything that you’ve taught their kids undone for the price tag of hundreds of thousands of dollars, either paid by the parents or paid by the students and student loans and then you’re not getting a real education. I mean, I talked about this earlier, but the education that I got in high school, I think was substantially better than the education I got in college because you’re reading secondhand texts. You’re not reading the original sources and you’re not being taught critical thinking. And those are the things that are truly what are going to help you later on in life are critical thinking skills, being able to write a coherent sentence from finish to end, not learning ideology.

And when I went into college, it was just kind of at the beginning of this wave of ideology that’s just washed over these schools. And I don’t think I would’ve been able to write for the student paper. In fact, I know the things that I wrote today. They were just comfortable enough with kind of that provocative edge. I mean, for example, I went to a debate at Tufts between Ann Coulter and Peter Beinart and everybody sat there and listened. There was no cuddle rooms with the stuffed animals and no police escorts necessary. People were able to sit there and listen to a debate between two people who believe completely different things. But I think all of that has changed now.

Do the Catholic encyclicals express your worldview?

Ashley McGuire:

I mean, I certainly haven’t read all the in encyclicals myself, but it was actually, so I’m a convert to Catholicism and it was reading Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body that… Well, actually, it was a couple things. I would start with actually being at Tufts and hearing about the Regensburg address that Pope Benedict gave. And I was intrigued by the reaction just sitting there in the cafeteria, reading in The New York Times thinking, “What did this guy say that has people fire torching convents?” And so went and read it, and I just didn’t understand sort of what intellectual giants popes are or even Catholic theologians. And I was just sort of stunned by the articulation of truth that he gives in this address. So that got me more interested and then I began reading the Theology of the Body, which was such an antidote to what I was seeing at Tufts.

And it was just so clear so night and day to me, I mean truly night and day what the church was teaching about human identity as it relates to our sexuality and our dignity and what I was seeing play out on the college campus that I just took a hard turn and started moving in the direction of the Catholic church. And there was things that I didn’t understand, there still are things about… I’m no theologian, but what’s clear to me is that the Catholic church has been a vanguard of the truth about the human person and that is needed more than ever in today’s culture in terms of defending the truth about who we are about basic… I mean, fundamental basic moral questions, like is it acceptable to kill an innocent unborn child for any reason? Things like that, the meaning of marriage.

And I think the best way I would describe it is that the church has always been the vanguard of truth, but has sort of built out its explanation and understanding of these sort of fundamental human questions, not in a way that ever has changed fundamental church teaching, but certainly has made it more accessible to people. But I think it’s very frustrating to people that the church won’t change. That is why so many… Why it attracts so much animosity in the culture, why there’s been so many attempts to try and undermine the church’s religious liberty, and I’m talking about here because on the fundamental questions of truth and morals, the church has not and will not change.

Is marriage essential to society?

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah. So marriage, I think even setting aside the debate about that we’re kind of still currently having in society about, is marriage even between one man and one woman? I think we have to go back even farther. And this again is where I appreciate what the consistency of Catholic church teaching on this is that it’s permanent, that it is a sacrament, covenantal sacrament, that two people willingly enter with each other, freely, with the understanding that it’s permanent and with the understanding that it’s open to life and just even those three pillars are sort of not understood by the culture and I’ve written about no-fault divorce, and the fact that it’s, in many cases, harder to get out of a cell phone contract than it is a marriage. The need to rethink marriage in the family too, in terms of the rights of children, I think that is essential work that needs to be done. And there’s just such a huge body of evidence that shows how important marriage and the family are to children and, well to society, but we just have to rethink all of this in terms of the family, not just the two people who enter it and this idea that it’s like a contract that you can just walk away from. Especially unilateral, no-fault divorce. I just think in what society is it right that somebody can just walk away and abandon a family that they help to create against their will.

So, I have sort of strong opinions about that because I think it’s a matter of justice. It’s a matter of justice for the other person in the marriage, but also for children. So I guess that’s a long winded way of saying that I think marriage, the family is the essential cell of society or the little platoon as Edminberg called it. And that strong marriages and strong families are what build up a strong culture. And if we want to understand what’s happening with our culture and Mary Eberstadt, I think has written about this in a more sort of coherent way than anybody I know of, then we have to go back and look at what’s happened to marriage in the family. And it started long before people started talking about marriage being between something other than a man and a woman.

Thoughts on Abortion

Ashley McGuire:

It started when people started arguing that you should be able to walk away for any reason at whatever time. And there’s a similar parallel to abortion because people argue you should be able to abort a child in this country at any time, for whatever reason. And now they’re arguing it should be done on taxpayer dime. And the reality is, the majority of American people don’t agree with that, but at a certain point, it’s not about what people think about it. It’s about what’s right and what’s wrong. And I’m great to see that thanks to advances in science and especially ultrasound technology, it’s becoming harder and harder for people to make the case that the unborn child is anything but that. But this is a little, both marriage and abortion, I think are examples of sort of the hyper individualistic culture we live in.

And that comes from both political spectrums. It comes from unfettered liberalism on the one hand and libertarianism on the other hand, this idea that the self is the paragon of importance. But I think that abortion is at the heart of what is dividing this country and we cannot heal the fundamental cultural rift that we’re in until we resolve the question in the law, because in terms of the moral law, the question of whether or not the unborn child has a human right to exist, that question is answers itself. But our laws do not reflect and protect the rights of an entire category of the most defenseless humans, who by the nature of the stage of existence that they’re in, don’t even have a voice to make the case for their own rights.

But one last point I would make about that is I think that the rights of women have been so set back by abortion. I think that when feminism and abortion became entangled, it destroyed the Women’s Civil Rights Movement. And I think we’re sort of in the twilight hours of seeing that destruction play out between abortion and gender ideology. The true rights of women are not going to move forward until we’ve wiped the scourge of abortion from our case, because the rights of one group of people cannot be premised on the destruction of the rights or the eradication of the rights of another group of people. We’ve been down that path in this country. We learned the extremely hard way that it’s just not true. And we have to articulate a new feminism that does not rely on abortion.

How has Christianity influenced the Western history?

Ashley McGuire:

Well, I think we’re so entrenched. I mean, the Western tradition is so fundamentally Christian that we can hardly conceptualize something different. Although, I do think we’re kind of teetering on like neo-paganism. I mean, the funny thing is that to the whole… What?

Doug Monroe:

We’re there.

Ashley McGuire:

Oh, right. Right. Teetering on slash swan diving into… But, there’s nothing new under the sun and we’re just sort of recycling through old heresies like Gnosticism. Even the way I see my sort of millennial peers, celebrating things like the Equinox and it’s like, even these sort of very old traditions, or traditions is the wrong word, old customs that Christianity sort of Christianized. And I think it’s sort of avant-garde and edgy to kind of be into these sort of neo-pagan things. But the reality is, do we really want to live in a pagan world? And frankly, I guess really we are, because we live in a world where child sacrifice is part of our moral and legal landscape and where, as I argue in my book, increasingly it’s like the Leviathan.

It’s like, every man and woman for themselves, and in a world where we don’t acknowledge that men and women are different, which is a very sort of Christian… I mean, it’s a biological reality and it’s the truth. But Christianity, I think, was essential in terms of elevating that understanding, giving it a certain dignity that this isn’t just biology. This is actually something that’s infused with the divine, which is why Adam and Eve is our first story. It’s sort of our first Bible story, is this idea that man was incomplete as himself. And so God gave him woman and then fast forward to Jesus.

He came into the world through a woman, it had sort of a mysterious component to it that we’re invited to contemplate, but we certainly don’t want to live in a world that denies the difference between men and women, because that’s a world where women get utterly trampled. And I do think we are basically there because since I wrote my book, I’ve lost track of exactly where it stands, but they’re going to require women to register for the draft.

And as I was told when I testified before the subcommittee that was debating this, you know, don’t tell me that we’re not going to have another draft, that’s everybody’s excuse or they’re like, “Oh, but we haven’t had a draft since the Vietnam War.” That’s not a comfort. When you’ve got a nine year old daughter, and it’s not so much that it’s the, what kind of world are we creating where we think it’s acceptable to send young women, mothers to war? And I’m not saying that women who serve in the military aren’t extraordinarily heroic and capable, but when we’re sending them against their own will or even talking about that, it’s a scary world.

What worldview or ideology opposes the way you think?

Ashley McGuire:

I would say what we politely call gender ideology. And I might add feminism in there. I’ve struggled my whole life with, can you be a pro-life feminist or even is, do I even call myself a feminist? And I’m not alone. Something like only 20% of Americans self-identify as feminists. And I think it’s a) because the movement’s sort of lost its meaning, but I’ve genuinely come to believe that feminism is a political lie that what the first wave of so-called feminism, that was a civil rights movement. They were women who were advocating to expand the scope of civil rights when it came to suffrage to include women. And they certainly argued for other rights for women like property rights outside the home. But when it reached what we call the second wave, I just think it’s so fundamentally ruptured from even what the first wave of, I just don’t think you can even put them in the same category.

And that was where we really see the argument that our sex is a construct. Some people call gender sex is a construct that, and this is what I argued in my book, is they basically made the argument that for men and women to be equal, women had to be more like men. And that included shutting down our fertility or abortion as just another way of rendering the female body sterile then like a man’s.

And I think that that set our culture on a track that has been so profoundly destructive to women, that now, if you are a successful woman and you don’t agree part and parcel with everything that comes out of gender ideology or what they call feminism, you’re a threat. And so I look at someone like Amy Coney Barrett, and here is a woman who is the most successful woman in her field, basically. She has reached the pinnacle of the legal profession, and she did it with seven children, one of whom had special needs, two who were adopted. And she was nothing but a threat and the way that the culture, and when I say the culture, I guess I mean like the elites who drive the conversation in the media, in the universities, the way they couldn’t even find one thing to praise her for just shows you what a lie it is.

The reception to your book “Sex Scandal”? Origins of the title?

Ashley McGuire:

So actually positive. And I got an interestingly not large amount of blow back, which I was told is sometimes a purposeful tactic to sort of ignore… I mean, I wouldn’t say the book was ignored. I certainly had a lot of publicity for it, but I was sort of braced to be just torn to shreds because that’s what happens to people who take on these sorts of issues and it didn’t. And I do wonder if it’s because I really focused on the fundamentals, not all the way down at the end of the road where we are culturally, but back to the very sort of basics. And I tried to keep sort of a positive tone, focusing more on what makes women good and different from men and vice versa. And so I didn’t get as much negative feedback as I expected.

Doug Monroe:

Hmm. I’m really surprised that… I am as you are. Okay. Here’s the loaded question. Why did sex become a scandal by the time you wrote the book? The word scandal.

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah. So I mean, my husband actually came up with the title.

Doug Monroe:

I love the title.

Ashley McGuire:

It’s a good little play on words, but the scandal comes from the idea that it has become a scandal to the point of being like an anathema that’ll get you canceled if you argue the basic biological truth that men and women are quite literally not the same. And since I wrote the book, that sort of scandal aspect has gotten way crazier than I would’ve expected. You know, there was these tricklings in from the UK where it was advised to use the phrase pregnant people instead of pregnant women. And I just never expected that we’d reach the point where now I have people who are in the obstetrics profession who tell me, “I could never say this publicly, but we’re advised that we have to say birthing individual.” In fact, I just had my fourth kid nine months ago and I couldn’t believe I was actually shocked that on the hospital wall, it said boy or girl. Like check which one.

And you know, they put like a little sticker on which one. And I thought, “How has this not been eradicated?” But we’re at the point where you have the state department saying that people can just go in and change their sex on their passports, which is a national security issue. People saying they can just select on their identification. So, that’s where the scandal comes from. That you can’t even talk about it without being afraid of being canceled.

How did we get to eliminating genders?

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah. I would say exponential acceleration. I cannot believe how quickly the landscape has changed. I mean, when I started writing this book, there was like maybe one story of a male competing against some high school girls in a track meet. The Olympics, I mean, they didn’t know what to do and they kind of didn’t really do anything in the last Olympics. Now it’s moving at lightning speed. As to why, I’m not sure I know why. I just think that the nature of progressivism is such that it’s about a movement in a direction unguided by any morals or purpose. It’s just whatever the direction we’re going in is, that’s where we’re going. And it’s just like a ball that gathers momentum and accelerates. And I mean, I frankly think it’s like a car that someone’s foot stuck on the accelerate and it’s just going faster and faster, but it’s going to crash at some point.

I mean, this cannot continue because it’s so violently in contradiction with reality. I just genuinely believe that there is only so far away from reality you can get. It’s like gravity without coming, crashing back down earth. And the thing that makes me sort of sad and afraid, especially as a mom of four kids, is when that comes crashing down, then what? You know, I mean, again, going back to second wave feminism, that’s where I really think the train left the station on all of this because, and it started in the universities, and it always does. I always tell people, if you want to know where we’re going to be in 10 years, look at the universities because they were the ones who started ejecting grammar and saying, “Yep, actually now you can use ‘they’ to refer to an individual in the first person, instead of he or she.” That was like a decade ago. But it started in the universities and started seeping into the culture in the sixties.

And the last five to 10 years have really, but I would really say the last two years even, has been where the acceleration has just been crazy out of control that it makes me think we’re at the point where we’re about to start heading back down, and where we end up and what that’s going to mean, I don’t know. I mean, but I think in terms of the thinking about sexual equality, we’ll be back to where we were half a century ago because it will have all been a wash because I think women have gained almost nothing from what second wave feminism has contributed. Really, it’s been at a great cost to women. This is not to say like professional educational gains, you know? Yes, those are good. But when they’re sort of like untethered from… At what cost too? When you see that women are the most depressed and anxious that they’ve ever been in recorded history. I mean, clearly there’s a disconnect and a lot of healing that will have to happen.

When did we go wrong with sexuality and gender?

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah, well, sure. So I think what we call gender ideology was born in the universities in the sixties. And I mean, you can look back a little bit further to like Simone de Beauvoir, some really radical, like late stage one feminists, but basically that’s where it sort of took root, and it was this idea that this is all a construct, that male, female is a construct and that construct has been used to oppress women. And we must obliterate that construct in order to liberate women. And obliterating that construct means things like hormonal birth control, and then when that fails, abortion, whatever it takes to liberate women from the sort of practical realities of sex, which is that sex makes babies. And so if we’re going to have unfettered sex like men do, they argued, then we’re going to have to make sure that we can do so the way men do, which is without any implications or any responsibilities, which isn’t true because actually then men had a lot more responsibilities than they do now.

I mean, the great irony is that, I think it was actually Janet Yellen who was the one who said, “Nothing has done more to liberate men from the responsibilities of sex than abortion.” Because it allows them to completely walk away and worse, I mean, look at the case of R. Kelly and some of these horrible Harvey Weinstein figures, it’s enabled them to coerce women, after they’ve used them sexually, to coerce them into something that’s extremely psychologically damaging. So I think, and there certainly was a point, some of the earliest second wave feminists, they weren’t always on board with abortion. It came later and there was some kind of backdoor deals where they were kind of reluctantly agreed to make it a part of their platform for women’s rights. But that’s how the two got fused. And not much later, we started seeing legal abortion, legalization of no-fault divorce, things which some of these second wave, no-fault divorce, second wave feminists have come out and said that this has been bad for women because women get the raw end of the deal.

Consequence of Sex as Construct: Women the Losers!

Ashley McGuire:

But it’s the argument, because I will say people ask me a lot, they’re like, “How did we actually get to this point where people take seriously this argument that men and women are not different and that it’s all a construct?” But what we’re seeing is the lived out sort of extreme ends, logical ends of those arguments where, okay, if men and women really aren’t different, you can self-identify as whatever you want, because it’s a construct. They started making those arguments decades ago. So here we are with people actually doing that. And then, people actually experiencing the realities of it, which is that they can be in your bathrooms or they can demand to be in your rape safe houses, or they can compete on your sports teams.

And, for example, Title IX, Title IX was created to help rectify inequities in sports. The understanding was that… Ironically, it was created because of an understanding that men and women are different and that women sports should be given attention because women are different from men and we should carve out a space for them to compete athletically. And that these are actually great ways for young girls to get scholarships and to get into colleges. And the idea was that you couldn’t, like a school, couldn’t take a pool of money and divert 90% of it to men’s sports at the cost of the women’s sports. So certainly was not a sex blind approach. It was the opposite of a sex blind approach, but then things got flipped around maybe 10, 15 years ago, where increasingly the court said, “No, when we say you can’t discriminate on the basis of sex, it’s not that, oh, you can’t treat the women’s teams like junk and the men’s teams well, it’s that you actually cannot discriminate, like distinguish or differentiate between men and women.”

What happens after abandoning biology as reality?

Ashley McGuire:

Sure. Well, I’d say that if you were to look in a medical textbook or go to medical school, this would be one of the most fundamental things that you’re taught. And in fact, when I set out to write the book, there was actually a lot of talk in the medical community about how for better care, medical care for women, there needs to be a better understanding of what makes women different. And I’ll give a concrete example, which is that for the longest time, pharmaceutical trials were not done with men and women. It was just sort of whoever they can get in a room. They would look at other factors, but not the sex difference. And then they started having a problem where they would put a drug out on the market that hadn’t been adequately tested on women and women would have all these side effects. And they finally realized, for good medical care for women, we have to make sure that pharmaceutical trials are done appropriately on women because their bodies are different. So the thing that I find scary is the way that just really, even in the last year, you’re seeing even the medical community sort of abandon that. And I don’t know where that goes because I’ve been told by doctors in closed doors that they feel like they can’t do their jobs. And do we want to live in a world where even the field of medicine starts slipping away from fundamental biological truth in reality?

Doug Monroe:

Well, I know the head of Phillips Exeter Academies, this won’t be on the video, biology department and he’s been told he has to make the biology woke relevant. You know, same thing. You’ve got to twist science to say some predetermined justice thing.

Ashley McGuire:

Well, it’s like George Orwell, two plus two equals five. I mean, that’s what they’re trying to do with science and you can never make two plus two equal five, but do you want to live in the world where you’re forced to salute to that, to the expression that two plus two equals five?

What are some fault lines in LGBTQ?

Ashley McGuire:

Right. Well, it’s interesting because I’ve heard that there is a rift within that alphabet because for the Ts, they want there to be an understanding that sex is a real defined thing, that there is no spectrum because they’re seeking validation of the fact that… In their minds is that they were born with and assigned the wrong one. I think even more interesting is the way it’s revealing a real fault line in feminism about this. A good example was the Women’s March. There was a huge food fight with the leadership of the Women’s March over whether or not to include men who self-identified as women and that it had to do with the particular hat that they chose to use, because that wasn’t inclusive. So it’s exposing some fault lines.

And I’m seeing this too in the debate over abortion, because in these articles now they’re calling articles about the abortion case at the Supreme Court and abortion more generally, it’s now people who need abortions or birthing individuals or pregnant people. And so some of these real radical feminists don’t like that because they see that as the erasure of women. And it’s true, it is. So it’s kind of a situation where I think it might be best to just sort of sit back and see where those fault lines lead. But it’s showing a real crack in the foundation, which is to be expected because the foundation is built on lies. But it’s an interesting one, nonetheless.

Why do some claim different gender identities?

Ashley McGuire:

Well, I would say for starters, I think the confusion is real. I think this is a very confusing time to be alive. I think confusion is encouraged. You see almost like a contagion like aspect among children because the nature of childhood is being confused. That’s what adults and moral authority are for. They are there to correct you when you are confused. That is what a civilized society’s job is to create moral boundaries, guardrails that help clarify confusion, like when it’s okay to do something and when it’s not, because the very nature of being a child is you don’t always know.

And then you look at Hollywood and all the messages and the inputs that people are getting, even adults. And it goes even beyond that, to just the overarching message that we are just pounded with all day long is you can do whatever you want and it doesn’t matter the implications. Just you fulfill your desires, every desire and you just do whatever you want, when in fact, in order for a free society to work it relies on restraint and we’ve sort of abandoned that idea of restraint, of sexual restraint, of all kinds of restraints. But I think that part of the problem is that starting with that just basic concept of restraint is we’re encouraged to basically give that up.

Doug Monroe:

Well, clearly we’ve gone from what they would argue was a straitjacket to supposedly ultra-freedom, but that has turned into a different kind of straitjacket.

Ashley McGuire:

Right. Then you’re a slave to your passions.

Doug Monroe:

They’re forcing a straitjacket on us. And so like I said, you can say you don’t have a worldview, but you have a worldview. Ok, so…

Consequences of the Sexual Revolution and today’s feminism?

Ashley McGuire:

Well, I think as I mentioned earlier, you have the fact that women are the most unhappy and the most anxious they’ve ever been. You know, women are several times more likely to be on medication for anxiety and depression. You have the numbers that show that eight in ten women with children under the age of 18 say working part-time or not at all is their preferred arrangement. You have rampant STDs, you have the push for delayed marriage and delayed childbearing, which then brings in problems with fertility. So I think women are not happy. And I do think there’s been a little bit of women sort of saying, “You know what, I’m just going to do things my way,” even when elite publications are saying that an elite education is wasted on a woman who decides she’s going to stay home for a few years, and actually you’re seeing a decrease in the number of people who are having, you know, “hooking up,” like even that’s kind of… And there’s various theories. Is this because people are just addicted to screens, or people don’t even go out anymore?

But what I hope is that that is maybe suggesting a revival of just sort of traditional courting. I think that’s probably being a little Polyanna-ish, but certainly I do think there’s a little bit of a pulling away from all of that with women. But the costs are real and you just have to look at statistics of everything from the number of women who say they wish they could have kids, how many kids they wish they say they could have versus what they actually do, to the depression and anxiety statistics. But there’s been real costs.

Doug Monroe:

I think women have been brainwashed to think if they give an inch in public they’ll backslide, floodgate style, to the middle ages or something. I mean, that’s not going to… That ship’s sailed, I’m telling you, before I even came along, where women were viewed to be equal I think in every… With a couple of exceptions, like being in the trenches. Okay.

Are schools teaching gender neutrality?

Ashley McGuire: Well, I just sent, I just read this morning, I’m on a listserv in D.C., about fourth grade, I have a fourth grade daughter, that there was apparently someone whose daughter came home and said they were taught all kinds of things about gender ideology, showed a bathroom where boys and girls can both go, and this wasn’t on… So parents are supposed to be given the right to opt their kids out of this stuff because it’s supposed to be in with the sex ed curriculum, but they’re not doing that. And as a part of researching my book I went and actually pulled up some of these curriculums. Many states you can’t find them. Some places I was able to actually find the curriculum, like in the state of California. And I could not believe how young and how early they start this stuff.

And what’s so interesting as a mom is noticing how “I’m a boy, she’s a girl” or vice versa, that is one of the first concepts every one of my kids articulated. And it’s not like I’m sitting around doing these lessons at home with my kids, you know. It’s like, “I can’t go in there, but mommy can because she’s a girl and I’m a boy.” It’s so clearly a deep, profound, intrinsic part of our identity that even children who are barely able to speak in grammatically correct sentences understand it. In my book I argue that actually children really try to express that. That’s why you see things like the princess culture, and are those always the healthiest ways of expressing it? Probably not, especially if Hollywood’s involved, but certainly it’s something that kids understand about themselves long before… On a very early timeline.

And that is why I think that there is an effort to get in front of that and get ahead of it. And anybody who tries to suggest that there’s not a concerted effort to misguide children on the truth about our sexual realities is completely… They’re either lying or they have their head in the sand because there is a why people are getting into fist fights at school board meetings. It’s because this is happening. It’s happening in a very aggressive way. They’re trying to circumvent parents, undermine them at every turn. And unfortunately I think the public schools have been completely infiltrated. We ended up pulling our kids out of the public school system because there’s no escaping it.

Even outside of school, going into the children’s section of a library, I went into a bookstore with my kids yesterday and it was like screaming from every corner. There was no section for Newberry Award winners, Caldecot winners. It was just all ideology. And so much of it was about sexual ideology. And I’m sorry, but even, I mean, let’s talk about at what age it’s even appropriate to be talking about this stuff with kids. I just think our culture has completely lost the concept of childhood. It’s between-

Doug Monroe:

It’s not appropriate. I’m just going to interrupt. That’s the parents’ job. They decide. That’s it. All right. Well, let’s… I’m sorry to interrupt. I’m getting irritated.

Ashley McGuire:

Hopefully I’m not getting too hot. I start getting hotter and hotter. I mean hot, like passionate.

Have true femininity and masculinity been lost?

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah, I think unfortunately, the argument in my book is that true sexual equality starts with understanding, appreciating, celebrating what makes us different, because, and then I think what’s lost is that when we do that, we help each other be our better selves. And with regards to men, I think men become better men through chivalry. Things like chivalry, heroism, all stuff that’s now been relabeled as toxic masculinity. And certainly there is some toxic stuff in our culture, but women holding the bar high is what helps elevate men to be better men. And so that’s certainly what I think is lost for men, is the chance to grow as men.

The sort of tragic starting point of all this was this idea I think that, going back to second wave feminism, that men live out this like unfettered… Basically it sought to emulate the very worst masculine examples. So it’s holding women to the most base masculine standard that we shouldn’t even hold men to.

Doug and “The Gladiator Thought Experiment”

Doug Monroe:

I want to get your comments on this. This analogy is not in here, but maybe you’ll see how it relates to it. It’s a thought experiment. And I don’t know whether this is nurture or nature of how I’ve been culturalized, but let’s say I’m in a stadium and there’s going to be a game and there’re going to be two teams that come on the field and they’re are going to fight. And it’s actually like a gladiatorial match. So real people are going to die. So, the first team, Team A has men and women, 50/50, dressed in their gladiatorial garb and they come out and it’s quality, man. It’s right down the middle. And so, I’m sitting in the stands and then the other team is Team B and it doesn’t let any women go in there with their gladiatorial garb, A, because they respect them too much and think that they’re what’s worth fighting for. And they also think there’s a higher chance they’ll lose or won’t win if women are in there. And so both seem to match up.

And I’m watching them have this fight. And me being who I am, if I saw women getting slaughtered by the men, which is probably going to happen unless it’s a video game, let’s say it’s a sword fight or something, or whatever, I would start rooting against, and I hate to say this, the 50/50 team because I think they’re immoral. They sort of deserve what they get. If you’re going to be that bad, where you’re going to allow your women to be slaughtered, maybe you should be wiped out.

The 50/50 Team and Gender Equality

Ashley McGuire:

You know, I would say that we’re there we are the 50/50 team, because I give an example in my book of women in combat and women were not allowed in combat for the longest time. And it wasn’t because the military is sexist. It was because, as I put it in my book, now that we’ve allowed women in combat, they have an equal chance of fighting, but an unequal chance of surviving. And when we create a society that is with a male standard and just insert women, women are not going to come out in the same condition as men. And it’s not… The idea that it’s sexist to even say that shows how sort of male-normative our culture is because the implication is that there’s something inferior about not being able to fight in a war physically and survive with the same odds as men.

But why is that the standard? If anything, why don’t we flip the script a little bit and look at the qualities that women bring to the table and maybe try to draw society a little bit more in that direction, which is nurturing, caring, sort of justice-oriented, caring for the weak. But in terms of the 50/50 example, we’re there. I mean, the statistics are clear that you put a woman in a combat zone and she does not have the same odds as coming out uninjured or alive as a man.

Who controls LGBTQ issue dialogue?

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah, and I think it’s really on just about everything. You know, I think the people who are in the press, in academia who are controlling the conversations about all important social matters are increasingly disconnected from where the normal American is. And it’s like the great sort of rift. I think we’re seeing this play out with some of the tumult in our elections and our society is that people increasingly don’t even recognize or understand what people are talking about. It just doesn’t make any sense. But when they start seeing it play out practically in their lives, when their daughter loses a scholarship or, as recently happened in this area, when there’s a violent sexual assault in a bathroom that is a result of gender ideology confusion people are upset and angry and I don’t know how much longer they can continue to control that conversation.

How are men and women different?

Ashley McGuire:

Well, you know, it’s funny because it could happen because truly at least the educational domain is becoming very dominated by women. And I think that maybe the one example of where it’s more of a female norm, and I say this as the mom of three boys, I remember sitting through a parent-teacher conference and hearing them express concern that my four-year-old couldn’t really sit still for crafts. And I was like, “Okay, duly noted. I’m not worried.” But men and women do learn in very different ways. And there’s been a lot of studies on all of this, but I think in terms of like the reason it’s important to… The reason women need sort of… Why society needs especially to recognize what makes women different is that we’re uniquely vulnerable in a way that men are not.

And so it’s really more the physical areas. I think a good example would be parental leave laws. Certainly paternity leave is a good thing. I think it’s good to encourage parents to be involved and to bond with their children. But what the woman has been through is very different than what the man has been through. And so I think more time off is warranted, but ironically, you can’t both make the argument that there’s no difference between men and women, and then argue that we need better laws with regards to pregnancy discrimination and things like that. And that’s really sort of where we are, is that schizophrenic conversation.

Why are young people today delaying marriage?

Ashley McGuire:

Well, I mean, my own example, I was engaged at 24 and married at 25 and people were telling me I was too young. And I think some people couldn’t really even say why. It’s just become sort of an accepted idea. I had friends who would were like, “I’m not getting married till I’m 30.” So the whole delayed childbearing thing, that is one of the biggest lies of feminism. I really think there’s two answers to that. One is that feminism has convinced women that children are an inhibition to their personal and professional flourishing. It’s just not true. I mean, certainly they cause many women to take a different tack professionally. But again, look at Amy Coney Barrett, seven kids on the Supreme Court, it can be done. And the second would be that the hook-up culture, I think, allows men to use women sexually without committing to them. And so those two things combined are what has led so many women I think who would’ve liked to have been married earlier to not be.

What is the state of the feminist movement?

Ashley McGuire:

Well, I’ve struggled with this question myself, because I think either one of two things is happening. The first sort of outcome is that what we call feminism is devouring itself. That the sort of fruits of its conclusions are eating it alive and that it’s sort of collapsing on itself and it happens, I don’t know where we’ll be, but there will certainly be a need for the articulation of a new vision for the rights of women and for sexual equality. The second outcome is that actually gender ideology and feminism is sort of achieving its final frontier, its final end goal, which is the destruction of the family and the complete reordering of society in a way that obliterates the nuclear family and that’s terrifying. And I don’t know which sort, I do genuinely believe that it’s one of those two. I don’t know which one it is and I don’t know how a society can survive after obliterating the nuclear family. So that’s sort of the pessimistic option view if you will, the sort of more optimistic one is that what we call feminism, which I think is a political lie is destroying itself and that there will be an opportunity for a new sort of wave of women if you will, to articulate something new and fresh and truly dignifying to women as to the role of women in society.

How should Christians respond to a hostile culture?

Ashley McGuire:

We do, you know, I like the way our Archbishop Chaput put it, he said, “We’re strangers in a strange land.” I mean, this was a country that was very much forged and founded by Christians seeking refuge. And now we don’t recognize it and certainly experience a lot of hostility and really mockery for our beliefs. I think that there are certain institutions we have to just come completely pull out of, like public school systems. And I know that finding schools that are… But I know so many families that are actually starting their own schools or homeschooling. In fact, the number of families that are homeschooling. This is very much the result of the pandemic, but I also think that during the pandemic parents listening in to Zoom classes were like, “what the heck is my kid learning?”

And I think the movement away from public schools is a lot more permanent than people think. So I think we have to retreat from certain institutions. I do think, and I’m moving in a few days. I think we have to try to forge little islands. I don’t think we can or should completely withdraw from society. In fact, I think Christianity is a fundamentally evangelical religion that we’re called to be salt and light in our society, but you also have be able to withstand your family and protect your own family. And so I think finding communities where you can just live, educate your children, and those may be little communities within larger communities, but I do see a movement of that happening of families sort of seeking out places where even within little islands within our country where you can be in a community of Christians.

And that’s a very sort of early Christian concept. And then I think there’s practical things like I think screens and technology are a huge threat because of what’s out there. So to the extent that you can protect children for as long as you can from that world, I think that’s important too. And then I think we just have to keep fighting the good fight and I think we take consolation in knowing that we know in the end, the victory is won and so it’s finding what our role in that enterprise is.

Has the Catholic Church presented good change to society?

Ashley McGuire:

Hm, that’s probably actually the hardest question you’ve asked me. I think Pope Francis, his sort of initial message was one of reform, sort of reforming parts of the church where there had been rotten corruption. I think that those efforts haven’t always gone as quickly as people would hope that being said Catholic church is one billion people. So any kind of positive change is going to be slow and frustrated by bureaucracy. But on the other hand, I would say sort of on the positive note that I think, because Pope Francis has the ear of some of the church’s enemies in a way that popes haven’t always, I think he remains a very strong messenger on the cultural issues like life and family and has found sort of new ways of articulating them to a generation.

For example, that cares deeply about the environment. And he’s talked a lot about this idea of an integrated human ecology, that, you know, we have a throwaway culture that the same way people just throw things in the trash, we throw people in the trash. So I’ve been grateful for the way that I think he’s sort of updated the messaging. He certainly hasn’t changed any teachings, but he’s updated the messaging to sort of in a way that’s more understandable to today’s young people. And I’m sort of optimistic long term about that.

Why are some Millennials and Zoomers avoiding organized religion?

Ashley McGuire:

I don’t know that I… I think a lot of churches and institutions tried too hard to sort of bend to the culture and in fact it’s sort of boldly proclaiming a counter-cultural message that it’s counterintuitive, but that is often what attracts the attention, or attracts new followers, I mean, look at Jesus himself. He was not in any way trying to bend to the culture of his time, instead he just said things that were direct and ruffle feathers and he attracted a following. So I think we’re sort of seeing the sort of tail end of that, just a little too much pop culture infused into religion and the people I know who are heading in the direction of religiosity are attracted because for the same reasons I was attracted to the Catholic churches teaching on human sexuality because it was so starkly different than what I was told and what I saw.

Where did the Boomer generation go wrong?

Ashley McGuire:

Well, I’m laughing because the expression “okay Boomer,” that’s not an answer. So, I would say the sort of most tragic inheritance from the Boomer generation would be the legalization of abortion. And the question I ask myself is, “How will we atone for that?” I don’t like sort of casting blame, I just find it’s not the as productive. Like if we want to move forward, I think it’s, we just have to kind of look at where we are now and fix what’s wrong and move forward. Because while it’s easy for Millennials to joke about Boomers or to criticize Boomers and turn on Boomers. Boomers also have a lot of lessons to teach us and many of them serve their country and in different ways. And so I just try to always have a respectful attitude towards previous generations, even if what they gave us wasn’t perfect. But I do think that even more so than the national debt, in a broken entitlement system, it’s really abortion that is the thing that my generation has to fix and in terms of, and unhook ourselves from when we conceptualize rights and progress, because we’re never going to have real progress as long as we have abortion.

Doug Monroe:

An interesting subject for you to think about. I don’t think it helps solve the problem because as you gave the reasons why, but just two or three little thoughts. One is, we were really brought up by the greatest generation. It wasn’t our parents who… Most of us were not the greatest generation, some were but mine weren’t. So we were fortunate to have that, that was a real blessing. The second thing is, we’re not all, there’s really like three different generations in a 30-year period…

Ashley McGuire:

Right, right, right.

Doug Monroe:

We’re not all the same at all. Clinton’s totally different, his generation totally different. I know those people, they hired me and all that. But I don’t know where we went wrong, but we got to figure it out and make it better.

What does the 2021 Virginia election tell us?

Ashley McGuire:

Oh yeah. I think that was a very important election. I think it was in total indictment of liberal overreach, especially on a few key issues. One was the handling of the pandemic, but I think more importantly, I think that was parents punching back in a big way. I mean, the whole struggle over parents’ rights and schools, and what’s being taught in schools, especially with gender ideology policies that are being implemented in schools. Parents do not like it and they especially did not like the candidate who lost saying that parents shouldn’t have any say in their kids’ education. I think that sent a clear and resounding message to the left, whether they’ll heed it or not, that they’ve pushed too hard. And I think definitely on gender ideology, but also just overreach in general and sort of usurping things from parents and the family, decisions that belong in the home.

And also, I think it’s interesting to note that this election happened on the eve of the biggest abortion case to be heard in the Supreme Court in decades where there’s talk of, “Will Roe v. Wade be overturned?” And I think that abortion advocates have tried to say, oh, this is going to come back and bite people. But no, the reality is I think it shows that people are ready for a post-Roe America, that you have a state that was a solidly blue state, knowing that the laws may change and still feeling like, a) there’s concerns that were pressing enough that they still, either cross the aisles but I think it shows that a pro-life candidate can win in a state like that on the eve of this major abortion decision, which to me suggests, the country’s ready for the law to change with regards to abortion. And it also shows that people don’t like overreach. They don’t like government overreach and that’s what has been happening. And so it was an indictment of that.

Doug Monroe: And, of course, being a lawyer, it’s not just when do we become human beings from conception on, it’s who has the right to decide on that was the state or the federal government? And that’s probably, if it does get overturned, I think they’ll push it back to the states. I don’t read all about that. I’m not, I try and read what I can about it, but I’m sure you’re a lot more of an expert on that than me, but it’s not just, it’s procedural as well as substantive. Right?

Ashley McGuire:

Right.

Should we balance the budget?

Ashley McGuire:

Yes. I would like to balance the budget. I think, I can’t think of a longer answer to that. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to, but yes.

Is family or government the fundamental institution?

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah. I would say the family and the government’s job is to protect the rights of the family. And I do think we need to rethink rights in this country, much more terms of the family as a unit instead of the individual. I mean, there are certainly rights that are fundamentally individual by nature, conscience rights for example, nobody can take away your conscience rights, including your own family. But then there are rights that are better thought of, I think in terms of the family or within the context of the family. And I think actually what just happened in this selection shows sort of the real tug and pull on this issue, the government was trying to impinge on the rights of parents, vis a vis their children and the voters pushed back and said no. And so I think that the government exists to protect the rights of individuals, but also the rights of individuals in the families that they have formed. Because often those families are protecting individuals who are children, vulnerable people, people who can’t live in society as free-floating individuals, if that makes sense.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America?

Ashley McGuire:

I would say optimistic. And I was recently at a, a gathering where actually it was John Boehner who was talking, who said, “We always eventually get it right, this country.” And I think he’s right. I think we started as an imperfect country. We have struggled through some deep flaws. We’re still struggling through some of those flaws, but I think we always eventually do get it right and I think that, I guess I’m just optimistic that we will continue to do so.

Overview

Ashley McGuire

Ashley McGuire is a Senior Fellow with The Catholic Association and the author of Sex Scandal: The Drive to Abolish Male and Female. Praxis Circle interviewed Mrs. McGuire because of her noted success at a young age as a journalist and author, her position as a leader in rethinking feminism, her skillful articulation of the Catholic faith and Christian orthodoxy as a lay person, and her dedication to interpreting Christian morality in harmony with biological truth.
Transcript

How did you become a successful writer?

Ashley McGuire:

I would say the first thing to becoming a writer is learning to accept no and learning to deal with that. I can’t tell you how many articles I had rejected. I think my first rejection was when I was 16 and I wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times. And of course I got a rejection and I thought, “Why don’t they want to know what I have to say about this?” But it really is. You have to learn to have thick skin and learn to accept that rejection. I mean, probably for the first 10 years that I was writing, nine out of 10 articles got rejected and learning to take rejection and improve and to be able to accept people’s edits, it’s kind of a humbling experience. You get formed and then you learn to improve.

You learn to understand, okay, this is what they’re looking for. And now I’ve kind of learned to self-edit and so I’ll sit down, I’ll write something and there might be a sentence or a phrase that I really love, but I just know the editor’s going to cut that out and learning to kind of cull your own work. So I think that’s a big part of it and also learning to be very careful and double and triple check your work. I think people aren’t really taught good journalism practices anymore. Everything’s so slap dash and hurried, and that’s very much part of the nature of today’s new cycle, where everything’s online and everything’s so quick, but I’ve learned hard from making some mistakes. That’s a very important part of this line of work.

The 10,000 Hours Principle

Doug Monroe:

So it really is a profession you have to get good at. It’s your 10,000 hours kind of theory, whether it’s basketball or writing and you have to be persistent sounds like.

Ashley McGuire:

Exactly. In fact, I was going to say the 10,000 hours example because it probably… Since I graduated from college, I have done some kind of writing every single day. And in fact, I think some of my greatest improvement was when I was writing for this pop culture site called Acculturated, where I would write a couple articles a week. And every day, I was writing maybe 250 to 500 words a day. And that’s very good training for learning to be quick and agile. And so when it came to the point where I was writing a book, I was sort of trained to not be overwhelmed by when you’re younger you might be a writing assignment that takes weeks to do, to just sit down and know, okay, 250 words, 500 words. And in fact, I was talking to somebody who’s written countless theology books, and he said it’s writing 250 to 500 words a day is how you move the ball forward with writing.

Doug Monroe:

That kind of reminds me of Ernest Hemingway a little bit, who would write a page a day and kill the babies. And one of my favorite expressions is, “Professor, it would’ve been shorter, but I didn’t have time.”

Ashley McGuire:

Exactly.

Doug Monroe:

That’s not acceptable.

Ashley McGuire:

Right. No, no, short writing… And I think Abraham Lincoln once said something similar too. He apologized for a long letter because he said, “I didn’t have time to write something shorter.” So, it’s true that shorter writing actually often takes a lot longer.

Childhood Years in the West

Ashley McGuire:

So I was born the great state of Michigan and my family moved to Colorado when I was younger. So I grew up in the west, which is a wonderful place to grow up. And I grew up when the west was really transforming, there were not… The city that I grew up in quadrupled in size since my family moved there. And I was very blessed to grow up in a wonderful home with two loving parents who are still married as the oldest of five kids. So, my childhood was very stable and happy and I’m very blessed. And the older I get, the more I realize that’s the true lottery of life is being born into a home like that because it really gives you more than money or anything else really.

That’s what gives you the kind of foundation to build your own life on. But I was also born as someone who was very opinionated from a very young age and people used to always ask me, “Do you want to be a lawyer when you grow up?” And I almost went to law school and actually it was because I just panicked in the middle of the LSATs that I thought I’m going to just try out something different. And writing was the thing that I was always interested in wanting to do. And I just kept doing that and after getting over countless rejections started getting things published and that’s really what got me on the track that I’m on now.

Education and Professional Background

Ashley McGuire:

Sure. So, I’ll go all the way back to high school because I went to this wonderful high school that, it’s kind of an experiential learning high school called Fountain Valley School. And it turns out half the Grateful Dead went there and kind of an artistic school, a little bit of a different place. But I actually think I got a better education in high school than I did in college. I mean, they taught the classics. They taught the foundations of writing. I got a very good kind of classic education in a sort of unclassical environment and went on from there to Tufts University. And it was really at Tufts that I started developing an interest in the things that I write about because I could for the first time really see the way the sort of sexual revolution was playing out in a not so great way. Went on from Tufts to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, where I worked for many years.

And then I was fortunate enough to get a Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship. And that gave me the chance to sort of off ramp from an office job into full-time writing. And actually it was the project that I proposed for that fellowship that ended up becoming what later was my book. And so now I do a lot of writing, my sort of main work though is with an organization called the Catholic Association. And that came about in the wake of the Obama administration’s health and human services mandate, which led to a really big religious Liberty lawsuit. And so I was brought on to basically be a woman making the argument, a young woman sort of making the arguments opposite of someone like Sandra Fluke for religious Liberty. And it’s a work that I’ve continued doing and really enjoy.

About the Catholic Association

Ashley McGuire:

So, we started as a lay religious liberty organization. So, we’re not officially affiliated with the Catholic church. We’re all women and we started out focusing entirely on religious liberty back when that mandate was really sort of front and center of the political discourse. And that work was still ongoing when I woke up one morning and news that Pope Benedict had stepped down and that led to me flying to Rome where I did around the clock interviews, basically to these puzzled journalists who couldn’t understand how a Catholic woman would not just be Catholic but loved the church, despite the fact that there were no women in the conclave, women can’t be priests.

And so that sort of expanded our scope of work. And then we started talking about the many other areas where the issues that the church teaches about sort of come into conflict with the mainstream press. And so our mission is to defend the church and its teachings in the public square and we are all faithful Catholic women who love the church. And really, even more so than that, want people to see the beauty of the church’s teaching in a culture that just doesn’t appreciate them.

Who are some supportive women in your life?

Ashley McGuire:

You know, I wouldn’t be anywhere remotely near where I am if it weren’t for the help and support of so many women. In the book or in the acknowledgements, I start off by thinking women who are mentors to me, women who… I think it’s such a DC thing, this idea like a stereotype that everybody’s cutting each other out and stepping on each other’s toes and it is true, but certainly in the world of women writers, I’ve been so blessed to have women like Mary Eberstadt and Kristina Arriaga, who are these incredible forces of nature who have taken time when they didn’t have the time.

They had their own families and their own careers to go through my work, to help me edit things, to help me get things placed. And then just that amazing network of women who are a combination of professional women, moms who just inspire me with the way they live out their lives. And so I just feel so blessed to have so many incredible females in my life who’ve helped me personally and professionally. And I think the acknowledgement section of a book is really important because as any writer knows, you are nothing without the people who helped you get where you are.

Who are some supportive men in your life?

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah. You know, I’ll start with my husband. He’s just a wonderful… He’s a wonderful man. He’s such a good man. He’s been so supportive of everything that I do. And if I told him I wanted to work full time, he would support that. If I told him I want to just focus on our family, he would support that. But he’s a writer too and so he’s also kind of my closest professional confidant.

Sometimes I’m scared to show him things because he’s kind of a tough editor, but he’s a better writer than me. He always says the opposite, but he himself is a great writer. And so he’s kind of a great partner to me and was very supportive of me writing this book. And also my dad, my dad is kind of an interesting guy in that he’s a very kind of traditional Christian conservative, but has also always been very sort of progressive if you will, in the sense that he has three daughters and encourage them to pursue their passions and do whatever it is that they found fulfilling. And so having his support and his example was an essential piece of my life’s foundation.

Do you have a worldview? What is it?

Ashley McGuire:

I definitely have a worldview. In terms of putting it in a pithy way, maybe not there yet, but I think living in this culture has really sharpened my worldview and helped me… I mean, this really started for me in college where I came from a pretty Christian home and I know the media loves stories like that, where they go and then they just go completely crazy and they’re liberated from the shackles of their upbringing. And I had sort of the opposite reaction. I got to college and said, “Whoa, whatever you all are teaching about sex is so wrong.” And I didn’t need any coursework or any classes to tell me that. I knew it from talking to girls, young women and hearing how broken and shattered they were and seeing firsthand how poorly they were treated in that kind of environment.

I mean, I’m talking about a school where they have an annual naked quad run where thousands of students run completely naked through the quad as if it’s an event… And the school sponsors the event at which they say they do for safety reasons, because then they can have the police and chaperone it. But they do this during the study period before finals and every year there would be sexual assaults. And it’s like, “People, you can’t both be surprised by this and be endorsing this at the same time.” The event that really sort of crystallized things for me was this event that the school had called the Sex Fair and they had it on Valentine’s Day. And I just walked into the campus center and it was like a pornographic event. I mean, actually pornographic, I won’t say what was there, but that you need a trigger warning before you go in.

And at the same time, the school was having this rampant issue of sexual assaults so much so that they had to create a special website for people to anonymously report their sexual different kinds of assaults. And it just became so clear to me that what the culture teaches about liberation is anything but, and actually creates an environment where assault is sort of… What’s the word I’m looking for? Creates an environment that destigmatizes behavior that is harmful to women and to men, and that the culture has things completely reversed opposite wrong when to sex.

And so if I were to say that I have a very strong worldview on something, it would be that just about everything the culture teaches about love and sex is completely wrong. And that started in college, the older I’ve got and the more that I’ve seen the way that harm and those scars that people carry from engaging in sort of the post sexual revolution world, the way those really continue to hurt people well into their adult life and even now are starting to be transferred to children. So in terms of one facet of my worldview and the thing that I probably do the most writing about, it would be that.

Why did you go to Tufts University?

Ashley McGuire:

Um, so, the high school that I went to was a college prep school and there’s a big emphasis on college placement and placement into elite schools. And I don’t know why I got into my head that I had to go the northeast. That was my one rebellious thing was I’m going to go to the northeast. I don’t know why I would leave the west. I just ruled out at the coasts really. I was looking at California and the northeast and of all the schools that I applied to, that’s sort of where the chips fell. And it’s funny because I’ve written it multiple times about the school in a not good way. And now I would never let my kids go to Tufts. And I think if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that the emphasis on elite education is another example where we have everything flipped.

The parents are getting robbed or the students, if they’re taking loans, they’re getting highway robbed to basically have everything that you’ve taught their kids undone for the price tag of hundreds of thousands of dollars, either paid by the parents or paid by the students and student loans and then you’re not getting a real education. I mean, I talked about this earlier, but the education that I got in high school, I think was substantially better than the education I got in college because you’re reading secondhand texts. You’re not reading the original sources and you’re not being taught critical thinking. And those are the things that are truly what are going to help you later on in life are critical thinking skills, being able to write a coherent sentence from finish to end, not learning ideology.

And when I went into college, it was just kind of at the beginning of this wave of ideology that’s just washed over these schools. And I don’t think I would’ve been able to write for the student paper. In fact, I know the things that I wrote today. They were just comfortable enough with kind of that provocative edge. I mean, for example, I went to a debate at Tufts between Ann Coulter and Peter Beinart and everybody sat there and listened. There was no cuddle rooms with the stuffed animals and no police escorts necessary. People were able to sit there and listen to a debate between two people who believe completely different things. But I think all of that has changed now.

Do the Catholic encyclicals express your worldview?

Ashley McGuire:

I mean, I certainly haven’t read all the in encyclicals myself, but it was actually, so I’m a convert to Catholicism and it was reading Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body that… Well, actually, it was a couple things. I would start with actually being at Tufts and hearing about the Regensburg address that Pope Benedict gave. And I was intrigued by the reaction just sitting there in the cafeteria, reading in The New York Times thinking, “What did this guy say that has people fire torching convents?” And so went and read it, and I just didn’t understand sort of what intellectual giants popes are or even Catholic theologians. And I was just sort of stunned by the articulation of truth that he gives in this address. So that got me more interested and then I began reading the Theology of the Body, which was such an antidote to what I was seeing at Tufts.

And it was just so clear so night and day to me, I mean truly night and day what the church was teaching about human identity as it relates to our sexuality and our dignity and what I was seeing play out on the college campus that I just took a hard turn and started moving in the direction of the Catholic church. And there was things that I didn’t understand, there still are things about… I’m no theologian, but what’s clear to me is that the Catholic church has been a vanguard of the truth about the human person and that is needed more than ever in today’s culture in terms of defending the truth about who we are about basic… I mean, fundamental basic moral questions, like is it acceptable to kill an innocent unborn child for any reason? Things like that, the meaning of marriage.

And I think the best way I would describe it is that the church has always been the vanguard of truth, but has sort of built out its explanation and understanding of these sort of fundamental human questions, not in a way that ever has changed fundamental church teaching, but certainly has made it more accessible to people. But I think it’s very frustrating to people that the church won’t change. That is why so many… Why it attracts so much animosity in the culture, why there’s been so many attempts to try and undermine the church’s religious liberty, and I’m talking about here because on the fundamental questions of truth and morals, the church has not and will not change.

Is marriage essential to society?

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah. So marriage, I think even setting aside the debate about that we’re kind of still currently having in society about, is marriage even between one man and one woman? I think we have to go back even farther. And this again is where I appreciate what the consistency of Catholic church teaching on this is that it’s permanent, that it is a sacrament, covenantal sacrament, that two people willingly enter with each other, freely, with the understanding that it’s permanent and with the understanding that it’s open to life and just even those three pillars are sort of not understood by the culture and I’ve written about no-fault divorce, and the fact that it’s, in many cases, harder to get out of a cell phone contract than it is a marriage. The need to rethink marriage in the family too, in terms of the rights of children, I think that is essential work that needs to be done. And there’s just such a huge body of evidence that shows how important marriage and the family are to children and, well to society, but we just have to rethink all of this in terms of the family, not just the two people who enter it and this idea that it’s like a contract that you can just walk away from. Especially unilateral, no-fault divorce. I just think in what society is it right that somebody can just walk away and abandon a family that they help to create against their will.

So, I have sort of strong opinions about that because I think it’s a matter of justice. It’s a matter of justice for the other person in the marriage, but also for children. So I guess that’s a long winded way of saying that I think marriage, the family is the essential cell of society or the little platoon as Edminberg called it. And that strong marriages and strong families are what build up a strong culture. And if we want to understand what’s happening with our culture and Mary Eberstadt, I think has written about this in a more sort of coherent way than anybody I know of, then we have to go back and look at what’s happened to marriage in the family. And it started long before people started talking about marriage being between something other than a man and a woman.

Thoughts on Abortion

Ashley McGuire:

It started when people started arguing that you should be able to walk away for any reason at whatever time. And there’s a similar parallel to abortion because people argue you should be able to abort a child in this country at any time, for whatever reason. And now they’re arguing it should be done on taxpayer dime. And the reality is, the majority of American people don’t agree with that, but at a certain point, it’s not about what people think about it. It’s about what’s right and what’s wrong. And I’m great to see that thanks to advances in science and especially ultrasound technology, it’s becoming harder and harder for people to make the case that the unborn child is anything but that. But this is a little, both marriage and abortion, I think are examples of sort of the hyper individualistic culture we live in.

And that comes from both political spectrums. It comes from unfettered liberalism on the one hand and libertarianism on the other hand, this idea that the self is the paragon of importance. But I think that abortion is at the heart of what is dividing this country and we cannot heal the fundamental cultural rift that we’re in until we resolve the question in the law, because in terms of the moral law, the question of whether or not the unborn child has a human right to exist, that question is answers itself. But our laws do not reflect and protect the rights of an entire category of the most defenseless humans, who by the nature of the stage of existence that they’re in, don’t even have a voice to make the case for their own rights.

But one last point I would make about that is I think that the rights of women have been so set back by abortion. I think that when feminism and abortion became entangled, it destroyed the Women’s Civil Rights Movement. And I think we’re sort of in the twilight hours of seeing that destruction play out between abortion and gender ideology. The true rights of women are not going to move forward until we’ve wiped the scourge of abortion from our case, because the rights of one group of people cannot be premised on the destruction of the rights or the eradication of the rights of another group of people. We’ve been down that path in this country. We learned the extremely hard way that it’s just not true. And we have to articulate a new feminism that does not rely on abortion.

How has Christianity influenced the Western history?

Ashley McGuire:

Well, I think we’re so entrenched. I mean, the Western tradition is so fundamentally Christian that we can hardly conceptualize something different. Although, I do think we’re kind of teetering on like neo-paganism. I mean, the funny thing is that to the whole… What?

Doug Monroe:

We’re there.

Ashley McGuire:

Oh, right. Right. Teetering on slash swan diving into… But, there’s nothing new under the sun and we’re just sort of recycling through old heresies like Gnosticism. Even the way I see my sort of millennial peers, celebrating things like the Equinox and it’s like, even these sort of very old traditions, or traditions is the wrong word, old customs that Christianity sort of Christianized. And I think it’s sort of avant-garde and edgy to kind of be into these sort of neo-pagan things. But the reality is, do we really want to live in a pagan world? And frankly, I guess really we are, because we live in a world where child sacrifice is part of our moral and legal landscape and where, as I argue in my book, increasingly it’s like the Leviathan.

It’s like, every man and woman for themselves, and in a world where we don’t acknowledge that men and women are different, which is a very sort of Christian… I mean, it’s a biological reality and it’s the truth. But Christianity, I think, was essential in terms of elevating that understanding, giving it a certain dignity that this isn’t just biology. This is actually something that’s infused with the divine, which is why Adam and Eve is our first story. It’s sort of our first Bible story, is this idea that man was incomplete as himself. And so God gave him woman and then fast forward to Jesus.

He came into the world through a woman, it had sort of a mysterious component to it that we’re invited to contemplate, but we certainly don’t want to live in a world that denies the difference between men and women, because that’s a world where women get utterly trampled. And I do think we are basically there because since I wrote my book, I’ve lost track of exactly where it stands, but they’re going to require women to register for the draft.

And as I was told when I testified before the subcommittee that was debating this, you know, don’t tell me that we’re not going to have another draft, that’s everybody’s excuse or they’re like, “Oh, but we haven’t had a draft since the Vietnam War.” That’s not a comfort. When you’ve got a nine year old daughter, and it’s not so much that it’s the, what kind of world are we creating where we think it’s acceptable to send young women, mothers to war? And I’m not saying that women who serve in the military aren’t extraordinarily heroic and capable, but when we’re sending them against their own will or even talking about that, it’s a scary world.

What worldview or ideology opposes the way you think?

Ashley McGuire:

I would say what we politely call gender ideology. And I might add feminism in there. I’ve struggled my whole life with, can you be a pro-life feminist or even is, do I even call myself a feminist? And I’m not alone. Something like only 20% of Americans self-identify as feminists. And I think it’s a) because the movement’s sort of lost its meaning, but I’ve genuinely come to believe that feminism is a political lie that what the first wave of so-called feminism, that was a civil rights movement. They were women who were advocating to expand the scope of civil rights when it came to suffrage to include women. And they certainly argued for other rights for women like property rights outside the home. But when it reached what we call the second wave, I just think it’s so fundamentally ruptured from even what the first wave of, I just don’t think you can even put them in the same category.

And that was where we really see the argument that our sex is a construct. Some people call gender sex is a construct that, and this is what I argued in my book, is they basically made the argument that for men and women to be equal, women had to be more like men. And that included shutting down our fertility or abortion as just another way of rendering the female body sterile then like a man’s.

And I think that that set our culture on a track that has been so profoundly destructive to women, that now, if you are a successful woman and you don’t agree part and parcel with everything that comes out of gender ideology or what they call feminism, you’re a threat. And so I look at someone like Amy Coney Barrett, and here is a woman who is the most successful woman in her field, basically. She has reached the pinnacle of the legal profession, and she did it with seven children, one of whom had special needs, two who were adopted. And she was nothing but a threat and the way that the culture, and when I say the culture, I guess I mean like the elites who drive the conversation in the media, in the universities, the way they couldn’t even find one thing to praise her for just shows you what a lie it is.

The reception to your book “Sex Scandal”? Origins of the title?

Ashley McGuire:

So actually positive. And I got an interestingly not large amount of blow back, which I was told is sometimes a purposeful tactic to sort of ignore… I mean, I wouldn’t say the book was ignored. I certainly had a lot of publicity for it, but I was sort of braced to be just torn to shreds because that’s what happens to people who take on these sorts of issues and it didn’t. And I do wonder if it’s because I really focused on the fundamentals, not all the way down at the end of the road where we are culturally, but back to the very sort of basics. And I tried to keep sort of a positive tone, focusing more on what makes women good and different from men and vice versa. And so I didn’t get as much negative feedback as I expected.

Doug Monroe:

Hmm. I’m really surprised that… I am as you are. Okay. Here’s the loaded question. Why did sex become a scandal by the time you wrote the book? The word scandal.

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah. So I mean, my husband actually came up with the title.

Doug Monroe:

I love the title.

Ashley McGuire:

It’s a good little play on words, but the scandal comes from the idea that it has become a scandal to the point of being like an anathema that’ll get you canceled if you argue the basic biological truth that men and women are quite literally not the same. And since I wrote the book, that sort of scandal aspect has gotten way crazier than I would’ve expected. You know, there was these tricklings in from the UK where it was advised to use the phrase pregnant people instead of pregnant women. And I just never expected that we’d reach the point where now I have people who are in the obstetrics profession who tell me, “I could never say this publicly, but we’re advised that we have to say birthing individual.” In fact, I just had my fourth kid nine months ago and I couldn’t believe I was actually shocked that on the hospital wall, it said boy or girl. Like check which one.

And you know, they put like a little sticker on which one. And I thought, “How has this not been eradicated?” But we’re at the point where you have the state department saying that people can just go in and change their sex on their passports, which is a national security issue. People saying they can just select on their identification. So, that’s where the scandal comes from. That you can’t even talk about it without being afraid of being canceled.

How did we get to eliminating genders?

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah. I would say exponential acceleration. I cannot believe how quickly the landscape has changed. I mean, when I started writing this book, there was like maybe one story of a male competing against some high school girls in a track meet. The Olympics, I mean, they didn’t know what to do and they kind of didn’t really do anything in the last Olympics. Now it’s moving at lightning speed. As to why, I’m not sure I know why. I just think that the nature of progressivism is such that it’s about a movement in a direction unguided by any morals or purpose. It’s just whatever the direction we’re going in is, that’s where we’re going. And it’s just like a ball that gathers momentum and accelerates. And I mean, I frankly think it’s like a car that someone’s foot stuck on the accelerate and it’s just going faster and faster, but it’s going to crash at some point.

I mean, this cannot continue because it’s so violently in contradiction with reality. I just genuinely believe that there is only so far away from reality you can get. It’s like gravity without coming, crashing back down earth. And the thing that makes me sort of sad and afraid, especially as a mom of four kids, is when that comes crashing down, then what? You know, I mean, again, going back to second wave feminism, that’s where I really think the train left the station on all of this because, and it started in the universities, and it always does. I always tell people, if you want to know where we’re going to be in 10 years, look at the universities because they were the ones who started ejecting grammar and saying, “Yep, actually now you can use ‘they’ to refer to an individual in the first person, instead of he or she.” That was like a decade ago. But it started in the universities and started seeping into the culture in the sixties.

And the last five to 10 years have really, but I would really say the last two years even, has been where the acceleration has just been crazy out of control that it makes me think we’re at the point where we’re about to start heading back down, and where we end up and what that’s going to mean, I don’t know. I mean, but I think in terms of the thinking about sexual equality, we’ll be back to where we were half a century ago because it will have all been a wash because I think women have gained almost nothing from what second wave feminism has contributed. Really, it’s been at a great cost to women. This is not to say like professional educational gains, you know? Yes, those are good. But when they’re sort of like untethered from… At what cost too? When you see that women are the most depressed and anxious that they’ve ever been in recorded history. I mean, clearly there’s a disconnect and a lot of healing that will have to happen.

When did we go wrong with sexuality and gender?

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah, well, sure. So I think what we call gender ideology was born in the universities in the sixties. And I mean, you can look back a little bit further to like Simone de Beauvoir, some really radical, like late stage one feminists, but basically that’s where it sort of took root, and it was this idea that this is all a construct, that male, female is a construct and that construct has been used to oppress women. And we must obliterate that construct in order to liberate women. And obliterating that construct means things like hormonal birth control, and then when that fails, abortion, whatever it takes to liberate women from the sort of practical realities of sex, which is that sex makes babies. And so if we’re going to have unfettered sex like men do, they argued, then we’re going to have to make sure that we can do so the way men do, which is without any implications or any responsibilities, which isn’t true because actually then men had a lot more responsibilities than they do now.

I mean, the great irony is that, I think it was actually Janet Yellen who was the one who said, “Nothing has done more to liberate men from the responsibilities of sex than abortion.” Because it allows them to completely walk away and worse, I mean, look at the case of R. Kelly and some of these horrible Harvey Weinstein figures, it’s enabled them to coerce women, after they’ve used them sexually, to coerce them into something that’s extremely psychologically damaging. So I think, and there certainly was a point, some of the earliest second wave feminists, they weren’t always on board with abortion. It came later and there was some kind of backdoor deals where they were kind of reluctantly agreed to make it a part of their platform for women’s rights. But that’s how the two got fused. And not much later, we started seeing legal abortion, legalization of no-fault divorce, things which some of these second wave, no-fault divorce, second wave feminists have come out and said that this has been bad for women because women get the raw end of the deal.

Consequence of Sex as Construct: Women the Losers!

Ashley McGuire:

But it’s the argument, because I will say people ask me a lot, they’re like, “How did we actually get to this point where people take seriously this argument that men and women are not different and that it’s all a construct?” But what we’re seeing is the lived out sort of extreme ends, logical ends of those arguments where, okay, if men and women really aren’t different, you can self-identify as whatever you want, because it’s a construct. They started making those arguments decades ago. So here we are with people actually doing that. And then, people actually experiencing the realities of it, which is that they can be in your bathrooms or they can demand to be in your rape safe houses, or they can compete on your sports teams.

And, for example, Title IX, Title IX was created to help rectify inequities in sports. The understanding was that… Ironically, it was created because of an understanding that men and women are different and that women sports should be given attention because women are different from men and we should carve out a space for them to compete athletically. And that these are actually great ways for young girls to get scholarships and to get into colleges. And the idea was that you couldn’t, like a school, couldn’t take a pool of money and divert 90% of it to men’s sports at the cost of the women’s sports. So certainly was not a sex blind approach. It was the opposite of a sex blind approach, but then things got flipped around maybe 10, 15 years ago, where increasingly the court said, “No, when we say you can’t discriminate on the basis of sex, it’s not that, oh, you can’t treat the women’s teams like junk and the men’s teams well, it’s that you actually cannot discriminate, like distinguish or differentiate between men and women.”

What happens after abandoning biology as reality?

Ashley McGuire:

Sure. Well, I’d say that if you were to look in a medical textbook or go to medical school, this would be one of the most fundamental things that you’re taught. And in fact, when I set out to write the book, there was actually a lot of talk in the medical community about how for better care, medical care for women, there needs to be a better understanding of what makes women different. And I’ll give a concrete example, which is that for the longest time, pharmaceutical trials were not done with men and women. It was just sort of whoever they can get in a room. They would look at other factors, but not the sex difference. And then they started having a problem where they would put a drug out on the market that hadn’t been adequately tested on women and women would have all these side effects. And they finally realized, for good medical care for women, we have to make sure that pharmaceutical trials are done appropriately on women because their bodies are different. So the thing that I find scary is the way that just really, even in the last year, you’re seeing even the medical community sort of abandon that. And I don’t know where that goes because I’ve been told by doctors in closed doors that they feel like they can’t do their jobs. And do we want to live in a world where even the field of medicine starts slipping away from fundamental biological truth in reality?

Doug Monroe:

Well, I know the head of Phillips Exeter Academies, this won’t be on the video, biology department and he’s been told he has to make the biology woke relevant. You know, same thing. You’ve got to twist science to say some predetermined justice thing.

Ashley McGuire:

Well, it’s like George Orwell, two plus two equals five. I mean, that’s what they’re trying to do with science and you can never make two plus two equal five, but do you want to live in the world where you’re forced to salute to that, to the expression that two plus two equals five?

What are some fault lines in LGBTQ?

Ashley McGuire:

Right. Well, it’s interesting because I’ve heard that there is a rift within that alphabet because for the Ts, they want there to be an understanding that sex is a real defined thing, that there is no spectrum because they’re seeking validation of the fact that… In their minds is that they were born with and assigned the wrong one. I think even more interesting is the way it’s revealing a real fault line in feminism about this. A good example was the Women’s March. There was a huge food fight with the leadership of the Women’s March over whether or not to include men who self-identified as women and that it had to do with the particular hat that they chose to use, because that wasn’t inclusive. So it’s exposing some fault lines.

And I’m seeing this too in the debate over abortion, because in these articles now they’re calling articles about the abortion case at the Supreme Court and abortion more generally, it’s now people who need abortions or birthing individuals or pregnant people. And so some of these real radical feminists don’t like that because they see that as the erasure of women. And it’s true, it is. So it’s kind of a situation where I think it might be best to just sort of sit back and see where those fault lines lead. But it’s showing a real crack in the foundation, which is to be expected because the foundation is built on lies. But it’s an interesting one, nonetheless.

Why do some claim different gender identities?

Ashley McGuire:

Well, I would say for starters, I think the confusion is real. I think this is a very confusing time to be alive. I think confusion is encouraged. You see almost like a contagion like aspect among children because the nature of childhood is being confused. That’s what adults and moral authority are for. They are there to correct you when you are confused. That is what a civilized society’s job is to create moral boundaries, guardrails that help clarify confusion, like when it’s okay to do something and when it’s not, because the very nature of being a child is you don’t always know.

And then you look at Hollywood and all the messages and the inputs that people are getting, even adults. And it goes even beyond that, to just the overarching message that we are just pounded with all day long is you can do whatever you want and it doesn’t matter the implications. Just you fulfill your desires, every desire and you just do whatever you want, when in fact, in order for a free society to work it relies on restraint and we’ve sort of abandoned that idea of restraint, of sexual restraint, of all kinds of restraints. But I think that part of the problem is that starting with that just basic concept of restraint is we’re encouraged to basically give that up.

Doug Monroe:

Well, clearly we’ve gone from what they would argue was a straitjacket to supposedly ultra-freedom, but that has turned into a different kind of straitjacket.

Ashley McGuire:

Right. Then you’re a slave to your passions.

Doug Monroe:

They’re forcing a straitjacket on us. And so like I said, you can say you don’t have a worldview, but you have a worldview. Ok, so…

Consequences of the Sexual Revolution and today’s feminism?

Ashley McGuire:

Well, I think as I mentioned earlier, you have the fact that women are the most unhappy and the most anxious they’ve ever been. You know, women are several times more likely to be on medication for anxiety and depression. You have the numbers that show that eight in ten women with children under the age of 18 say working part-time or not at all is their preferred arrangement. You have rampant STDs, you have the push for delayed marriage and delayed childbearing, which then brings in problems with fertility. So I think women are not happy. And I do think there’s been a little bit of women sort of saying, “You know what, I’m just going to do things my way,” even when elite publications are saying that an elite education is wasted on a woman who decides she’s going to stay home for a few years, and actually you’re seeing a decrease in the number of people who are having, you know, “hooking up,” like even that’s kind of… And there’s various theories. Is this because people are just addicted to screens, or people don’t even go out anymore?

But what I hope is that that is maybe suggesting a revival of just sort of traditional courting. I think that’s probably being a little Polyanna-ish, but certainly I do think there’s a little bit of a pulling away from all of that with women. But the costs are real and you just have to look at statistics of everything from the number of women who say they wish they could have kids, how many kids they wish they say they could have versus what they actually do, to the depression and anxiety statistics. But there’s been real costs.

Doug Monroe:

I think women have been brainwashed to think if they give an inch in public they’ll backslide, floodgate style, to the middle ages or something. I mean, that’s not going to… That ship’s sailed, I’m telling you, before I even came along, where women were viewed to be equal I think in every… With a couple of exceptions, like being in the trenches. Okay.

Are schools teaching gender neutrality?

Ashley McGuire: Well, I just sent, I just read this morning, I’m on a listserv in D.C., about fourth grade, I have a fourth grade daughter, that there was apparently someone whose daughter came home and said they were taught all kinds of things about gender ideology, showed a bathroom where boys and girls can both go, and this wasn’t on… So parents are supposed to be given the right to opt their kids out of this stuff because it’s supposed to be in with the sex ed curriculum, but they’re not doing that. And as a part of researching my book I went and actually pulled up some of these curriculums. Many states you can’t find them. Some places I was able to actually find the curriculum, like in the state of California. And I could not believe how young and how early they start this stuff.

And what’s so interesting as a mom is noticing how “I’m a boy, she’s a girl” or vice versa, that is one of the first concepts every one of my kids articulated. And it’s not like I’m sitting around doing these lessons at home with my kids, you know. It’s like, “I can’t go in there, but mommy can because she’s a girl and I’m a boy.” It’s so clearly a deep, profound, intrinsic part of our identity that even children who are barely able to speak in grammatically correct sentences understand it. In my book I argue that actually children really try to express that. That’s why you see things like the princess culture, and are those always the healthiest ways of expressing it? Probably not, especially if Hollywood’s involved, but certainly it’s something that kids understand about themselves long before… On a very early timeline.

And that is why I think that there is an effort to get in front of that and get ahead of it. And anybody who tries to suggest that there’s not a concerted effort to misguide children on the truth about our sexual realities is completely… They’re either lying or they have their head in the sand because there is a why people are getting into fist fights at school board meetings. It’s because this is happening. It’s happening in a very aggressive way. They’re trying to circumvent parents, undermine them at every turn. And unfortunately I think the public schools have been completely infiltrated. We ended up pulling our kids out of the public school system because there’s no escaping it.

Even outside of school, going into the children’s section of a library, I went into a bookstore with my kids yesterday and it was like screaming from every corner. There was no section for Newberry Award winners, Caldecot winners. It was just all ideology. And so much of it was about sexual ideology. And I’m sorry, but even, I mean, let’s talk about at what age it’s even appropriate to be talking about this stuff with kids. I just think our culture has completely lost the concept of childhood. It’s between-

Doug Monroe:

It’s not appropriate. I’m just going to interrupt. That’s the parents’ job. They decide. That’s it. All right. Well, let’s… I’m sorry to interrupt. I’m getting irritated.

Ashley McGuire:

Hopefully I’m not getting too hot. I start getting hotter and hotter. I mean hot, like passionate.

Have true femininity and masculinity been lost?

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah, I think unfortunately, the argument in my book is that true sexual equality starts with understanding, appreciating, celebrating what makes us different, because, and then I think what’s lost is that when we do that, we help each other be our better selves. And with regards to men, I think men become better men through chivalry. Things like chivalry, heroism, all stuff that’s now been relabeled as toxic masculinity. And certainly there is some toxic stuff in our culture, but women holding the bar high is what helps elevate men to be better men. And so that’s certainly what I think is lost for men, is the chance to grow as men.

The sort of tragic starting point of all this was this idea I think that, going back to second wave feminism, that men live out this like unfettered… Basically it sought to emulate the very worst masculine examples. So it’s holding women to the most base masculine standard that we shouldn’t even hold men to.

Doug and “The Gladiator Thought Experiment”

Doug Monroe:

I want to get your comments on this. This analogy is not in here, but maybe you’ll see how it relates to it. It’s a thought experiment. And I don’t know whether this is nurture or nature of how I’ve been culturalized, but let’s say I’m in a stadium and there’s going to be a game and there’re going to be two teams that come on the field and they’re are going to fight. And it’s actually like a gladiatorial match. So real people are going to die. So, the first team, Team A has men and women, 50/50, dressed in their gladiatorial garb and they come out and it’s quality, man. It’s right down the middle. And so, I’m sitting in the stands and then the other team is Team B and it doesn’t let any women go in there with their gladiatorial garb, A, because they respect them too much and think that they’re what’s worth fighting for. And they also think there’s a higher chance they’ll lose or won’t win if women are in there. And so both seem to match up.

And I’m watching them have this fight. And me being who I am, if I saw women getting slaughtered by the men, which is probably going to happen unless it’s a video game, let’s say it’s a sword fight or something, or whatever, I would start rooting against, and I hate to say this, the 50/50 team because I think they’re immoral. They sort of deserve what they get. If you’re going to be that bad, where you’re going to allow your women to be slaughtered, maybe you should be wiped out.

The 50/50 Team and Gender Equality

Ashley McGuire:

You know, I would say that we’re there we are the 50/50 team, because I give an example in my book of women in combat and women were not allowed in combat for the longest time. And it wasn’t because the military is sexist. It was because, as I put it in my book, now that we’ve allowed women in combat, they have an equal chance of fighting, but an unequal chance of surviving. And when we create a society that is with a male standard and just insert women, women are not going to come out in the same condition as men. And it’s not… The idea that it’s sexist to even say that shows how sort of male-normative our culture is because the implication is that there’s something inferior about not being able to fight in a war physically and survive with the same odds as men.

But why is that the standard? If anything, why don’t we flip the script a little bit and look at the qualities that women bring to the table and maybe try to draw society a little bit more in that direction, which is nurturing, caring, sort of justice-oriented, caring for the weak. But in terms of the 50/50 example, we’re there. I mean, the statistics are clear that you put a woman in a combat zone and she does not have the same odds as coming out uninjured or alive as a man.

Who controls LGBTQ issue dialogue?

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah, and I think it’s really on just about everything. You know, I think the people who are in the press, in academia who are controlling the conversations about all important social matters are increasingly disconnected from where the normal American is. And it’s like the great sort of rift. I think we’re seeing this play out with some of the tumult in our elections and our society is that people increasingly don’t even recognize or understand what people are talking about. It just doesn’t make any sense. But when they start seeing it play out practically in their lives, when their daughter loses a scholarship or, as recently happened in this area, when there’s a violent sexual assault in a bathroom that is a result of gender ideology confusion people are upset and angry and I don’t know how much longer they can continue to control that conversation.

How are men and women different?

Ashley McGuire:

Well, you know, it’s funny because it could happen because truly at least the educational domain is becoming very dominated by women. And I think that maybe the one example of where it’s more of a female norm, and I say this as the mom of three boys, I remember sitting through a parent-teacher conference and hearing them express concern that my four-year-old couldn’t really sit still for crafts. And I was like, “Okay, duly noted. I’m not worried.” But men and women do learn in very different ways. And there’s been a lot of studies on all of this, but I think in terms of like the reason it’s important to… The reason women need sort of… Why society needs especially to recognize what makes women different is that we’re uniquely vulnerable in a way that men are not.

And so it’s really more the physical areas. I think a good example would be parental leave laws. Certainly paternity leave is a good thing. I think it’s good to encourage parents to be involved and to bond with their children. But what the woman has been through is very different than what the man has been through. And so I think more time off is warranted, but ironically, you can’t both make the argument that there’s no difference between men and women, and then argue that we need better laws with regards to pregnancy discrimination and things like that. And that’s really sort of where we are, is that schizophrenic conversation.

Why are young people today delaying marriage?

Ashley McGuire:

Well, I mean, my own example, I was engaged at 24 and married at 25 and people were telling me I was too young. And I think some people couldn’t really even say why. It’s just become sort of an accepted idea. I had friends who would were like, “I’m not getting married till I’m 30.” So the whole delayed childbearing thing, that is one of the biggest lies of feminism. I really think there’s two answers to that. One is that feminism has convinced women that children are an inhibition to their personal and professional flourishing. It’s just not true. I mean, certainly they cause many women to take a different tack professionally. But again, look at Amy Coney Barrett, seven kids on the Supreme Court, it can be done. And the second would be that the hook-up culture, I think, allows men to use women sexually without committing to them. And so those two things combined are what has led so many women I think who would’ve liked to have been married earlier to not be.

What is the state of the feminist movement?

Ashley McGuire:

Well, I’ve struggled with this question myself, because I think either one of two things is happening. The first sort of outcome is that what we call feminism is devouring itself. That the sort of fruits of its conclusions are eating it alive and that it’s sort of collapsing on itself and it happens, I don’t know where we’ll be, but there will certainly be a need for the articulation of a new vision for the rights of women and for sexual equality. The second outcome is that actually gender ideology and feminism is sort of achieving its final frontier, its final end goal, which is the destruction of the family and the complete reordering of society in a way that obliterates the nuclear family and that’s terrifying. And I don’t know which sort, I do genuinely believe that it’s one of those two. I don’t know which one it is and I don’t know how a society can survive after obliterating the nuclear family. So that’s sort of the pessimistic option view if you will, the sort of more optimistic one is that what we call feminism, which I think is a political lie is destroying itself and that there will be an opportunity for a new sort of wave of women if you will, to articulate something new and fresh and truly dignifying to women as to the role of women in society.

How should Christians respond to a hostile culture?

Ashley McGuire:

We do, you know, I like the way our Archbishop Chaput put it, he said, “We’re strangers in a strange land.” I mean, this was a country that was very much forged and founded by Christians seeking refuge. And now we don’t recognize it and certainly experience a lot of hostility and really mockery for our beliefs. I think that there are certain institutions we have to just come completely pull out of, like public school systems. And I know that finding schools that are… But I know so many families that are actually starting their own schools or homeschooling. In fact, the number of families that are homeschooling. This is very much the result of the pandemic, but I also think that during the pandemic parents listening in to Zoom classes were like, “what the heck is my kid learning?”

And I think the movement away from public schools is a lot more permanent than people think. So I think we have to retreat from certain institutions. I do think, and I’m moving in a few days. I think we have to try to forge little islands. I don’t think we can or should completely withdraw from society. In fact, I think Christianity is a fundamentally evangelical religion that we’re called to be salt and light in our society, but you also have be able to withstand your family and protect your own family. And so I think finding communities where you can just live, educate your children, and those may be little communities within larger communities, but I do see a movement of that happening of families sort of seeking out places where even within little islands within our country where you can be in a community of Christians.

And that’s a very sort of early Christian concept. And then I think there’s practical things like I think screens and technology are a huge threat because of what’s out there. So to the extent that you can protect children for as long as you can from that world, I think that’s important too. And then I think we just have to keep fighting the good fight and I think we take consolation in knowing that we know in the end, the victory is won and so it’s finding what our role in that enterprise is.

Has the Catholic Church presented good change to society?

Ashley McGuire:

Hm, that’s probably actually the hardest question you’ve asked me. I think Pope Francis, his sort of initial message was one of reform, sort of reforming parts of the church where there had been rotten corruption. I think that those efforts haven’t always gone as quickly as people would hope that being said Catholic church is one billion people. So any kind of positive change is going to be slow and frustrated by bureaucracy. But on the other hand, I would say sort of on the positive note that I think, because Pope Francis has the ear of some of the church’s enemies in a way that popes haven’t always, I think he remains a very strong messenger on the cultural issues like life and family and has found sort of new ways of articulating them to a generation.

For example, that cares deeply about the environment. And he’s talked a lot about this idea of an integrated human ecology, that, you know, we have a throwaway culture that the same way people just throw things in the trash, we throw people in the trash. So I’ve been grateful for the way that I think he’s sort of updated the messaging. He certainly hasn’t changed any teachings, but he’s updated the messaging to sort of in a way that’s more understandable to today’s young people. And I’m sort of optimistic long term about that.

Why are some Millennials and Zoomers avoiding organized religion?

Ashley McGuire:

I don’t know that I… I think a lot of churches and institutions tried too hard to sort of bend to the culture and in fact it’s sort of boldly proclaiming a counter-cultural message that it’s counterintuitive, but that is often what attracts the attention, or attracts new followers, I mean, look at Jesus himself. He was not in any way trying to bend to the culture of his time, instead he just said things that were direct and ruffle feathers and he attracted a following. So I think we’re sort of seeing the sort of tail end of that, just a little too much pop culture infused into religion and the people I know who are heading in the direction of religiosity are attracted because for the same reasons I was attracted to the Catholic churches teaching on human sexuality because it was so starkly different than what I was told and what I saw.

Where did the Boomer generation go wrong?

Ashley McGuire:

Well, I’m laughing because the expression “okay Boomer,” that’s not an answer. So, I would say the sort of most tragic inheritance from the Boomer generation would be the legalization of abortion. And the question I ask myself is, “How will we atone for that?” I don’t like sort of casting blame, I just find it’s not the as productive. Like if we want to move forward, I think it’s, we just have to kind of look at where we are now and fix what’s wrong and move forward. Because while it’s easy for Millennials to joke about Boomers or to criticize Boomers and turn on Boomers. Boomers also have a lot of lessons to teach us and many of them serve their country and in different ways. And so I just try to always have a respectful attitude towards previous generations, even if what they gave us wasn’t perfect. But I do think that even more so than the national debt, in a broken entitlement system, it’s really abortion that is the thing that my generation has to fix and in terms of, and unhook ourselves from when we conceptualize rights and progress, because we’re never going to have real progress as long as we have abortion.

Doug Monroe:

An interesting subject for you to think about. I don’t think it helps solve the problem because as you gave the reasons why, but just two or three little thoughts. One is, we were really brought up by the greatest generation. It wasn’t our parents who… Most of us were not the greatest generation, some were but mine weren’t. So we were fortunate to have that, that was a real blessing. The second thing is, we’re not all, there’s really like three different generations in a 30-year period…

Ashley McGuire:

Right, right, right.

Doug Monroe:

We’re not all the same at all. Clinton’s totally different, his generation totally different. I know those people, they hired me and all that. But I don’t know where we went wrong, but we got to figure it out and make it better.

What does the 2021 Virginia election tell us?

Ashley McGuire:

Oh yeah. I think that was a very important election. I think it was in total indictment of liberal overreach, especially on a few key issues. One was the handling of the pandemic, but I think more importantly, I think that was parents punching back in a big way. I mean, the whole struggle over parents’ rights and schools, and what’s being taught in schools, especially with gender ideology policies that are being implemented in schools. Parents do not like it and they especially did not like the candidate who lost saying that parents shouldn’t have any say in their kids’ education. I think that sent a clear and resounding message to the left, whether they’ll heed it or not, that they’ve pushed too hard. And I think definitely on gender ideology, but also just overreach in general and sort of usurping things from parents and the family, decisions that belong in the home.

And also, I think it’s interesting to note that this election happened on the eve of the biggest abortion case to be heard in the Supreme Court in decades where there’s talk of, “Will Roe v. Wade be overturned?” And I think that abortion advocates have tried to say, oh, this is going to come back and bite people. But no, the reality is I think it shows that people are ready for a post-Roe America, that you have a state that was a solidly blue state, knowing that the laws may change and still feeling like, a) there’s concerns that were pressing enough that they still, either cross the aisles but I think it shows that a pro-life candidate can win in a state like that on the eve of this major abortion decision, which to me suggests, the country’s ready for the law to change with regards to abortion. And it also shows that people don’t like overreach. They don’t like government overreach and that’s what has been happening. And so it was an indictment of that.

Doug Monroe: And, of course, being a lawyer, it’s not just when do we become human beings from conception on, it’s who has the right to decide on that was the state or the federal government? And that’s probably, if it does get overturned, I think they’ll push it back to the states. I don’t read all about that. I’m not, I try and read what I can about it, but I’m sure you’re a lot more of an expert on that than me, but it’s not just, it’s procedural as well as substantive. Right?

Ashley McGuire:

Right.

Should we balance the budget?

Ashley McGuire:

Yes. I would like to balance the budget. I think, I can’t think of a longer answer to that. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to, but yes.

Is family or government the fundamental institution?

Ashley McGuire:

Yeah. I would say the family and the government’s job is to protect the rights of the family. And I do think we need to rethink rights in this country, much more terms of the family as a unit instead of the individual. I mean, there are certainly rights that are fundamentally individual by nature, conscience rights for example, nobody can take away your conscience rights, including your own family. But then there are rights that are better thought of, I think in terms of the family or within the context of the family. And I think actually what just happened in this selection shows sort of the real tug and pull on this issue, the government was trying to impinge on the rights of parents, vis a vis their children and the voters pushed back and said no. And so I think that the government exists to protect the rights of individuals, but also the rights of individuals in the families that they have formed. Because often those families are protecting individuals who are children, vulnerable people, people who can’t live in society as free-floating individuals, if that makes sense.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about America?

Ashley McGuire:

I would say optimistic. And I was recently at a, a gathering where actually it was John Boehner who was talking, who said, “We always eventually get it right, this country.” And I think he’s right. I think we started as an imperfect country. We have struggled through some deep flaws. We’re still struggling through some of those flaws, but I think we always eventually do get it right and I think that, I guess I’m just optimistic that we will continue to do so.

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