Erika Bachiochi

Mrs. Erika Bachiochi is a legal scholar at the Ethics & Public Policy Center and a senior fellow at the Abigail Adams Institute, where she serves as the director of The Wollstonecraft Project. Praxis Circle interviewed Erika because of her leadership as a feminist, scholar, Christian worldview advocate, Catholic, wife, and mother.

The Abigail Adams Institute and the Wollstonecraft Project (EB-1)

Erika Bachiochi:

The Abigail Adams Institute is a humanistic institute that provides supplementary education for Harvard University and other Boston area schools. It is an offshoot of the Witherspoon Institute at Princeton. We do for Harvard what Witherspoon does for Princeton. I started there as a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School for a year and then continued on with the book project I was working on, which we’re going to talk a lot about today. And then after the book, decided that I wanted to begin a project there really inspired by Mary Wollstonecraft’s thought, so it’s called the Wollstonecraft Project, where we sort of inquire into questions of sexual equality and freedom from a sex realist position, which basically takes seriously the fact that there are certain things that are real, such as bodily differences between men and women, but other kinds of differences as well—but then also kind of interrogates questions of virtue ethics and rights and responsibilities from Wollstonecraft and perspective, which of course we’ll get to.

Are you a Catholic feminist? (EB-2)

Erika Bachiochi:

I don’t know that I would ever refer to myself as a “Catholic feminist,” only because having a Master’s in Catholic theology and systematic theology, I read a lot of Catholic feminism or some Catholic feminism, and generally that sort of theology or Catholicism, feminism informs their Catholicism. And I would say that maybe I’m a Catholic and a feminist and that my orthodox Catholicism informs my feminism. And I think the story behind that really is that I was an anti-Catholic during my college years but very much a feminist—a socialist feminist, was a women’s studies student. As I came around—and it’s a big, long story we can talk about—but when I came to really start to embrace Catholic teaching, I saw that it really had something distinctive to say about women and men that I hadn’t heard before and that seemed more accurate.

I think the church gets a pretty bad rap basically because of the all-male priesthood and a lot of misunderstandings about her sexual teaching. So, one of the first publications I did was a book called Women, Sex and the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching where we sort of interrogate the Catholic teachings and look at how they actually are beneficial to women. A lot of my work has fallen on from that or sort of been inspired by my conversion in a lot of ways. So, I guess Catholic and feminist, probably not a “Catholic feminist.”

What changed your political perspective? (EB-3)

Erika Bachiochi:

When I was at Middlebury College in the 1990s, I was a women’s studies student and I volunteered one summer for Bernie Sanders; kind of called myself a socialist feminist. And actually coming to D.C. one spring—so rather than going abroad, I came to Washington D.C.—and it just so happened to be the mid 1990s where the Democrats and Republicans were embroiled in a debate about welfare reform. And I got the opportunity to work as an intern for a small think tank that was working on welfare reform, especially in the States. And that think tank brought together a new Democrat, so a Clinton kind of Democrat and a Reagan Republican. And what I learned at that time, which I hadn’t known before, which is kind of amazing, but this Reagan Republican really, really cared about the poor as did the new Democrat.

And it was the first time I was kind of open to a different sort of way of thinking, and that, in conjunction with a lot of reading I was doing that semester, I was for the first time exposed to essays in political theory. I read Mary Ann Glendon’s work for the first time that semester, her celebrated book, Rights Talk. I read other communitarians which were big at that time. So, it was a sort of bipartisan group of scholars who were really criticizing the liberalism, the individualism of sort of America and looking to supply sort of rich… Or think more about the importance of thick communities, so Michael Sandel, [inaudible 00:06:09], others. I read a lot of them and I became more interested in their thoughts. So, when I went back to Middlebury, I actually dropped women’s studies in sociology and started studying political philosophy. And I fell into the hands of two students of Leo Strauss there at Middlebury and started studying ancient texts with them, but also modern political philosophy as well.

It was my first introduction to Plato and Aristotle, and when they’re taught by Straussians, you actually really read the text and really allow the text to really speak to you. So, I really became very enamored with the ancients then, but then also with the study of political philosophy and how philosophy could inform my search for the truth in a way that I hadn’t really thought of. I mean, I was kind of your typical college student where I thought I sort of knew everything and had really thought questions of social justice, issues of women’s rights, women’s equality, and especially sort of concern for the poor. I sort of saw those at first as political issues. I then had, I guess, was growing in maturity to see that I needed to step back and think about just what does justice mean? And so I got to think about that with Plato and Aristotle and with great teachers there in Middlebury.

That was the first sort of movement toward being more open politically, I would say. I started the Middlebury Political Forum to bring together people on different sides of the aisle. And I have always really enjoyed engaging ideas. I really try to steer clear of ideology in a sense of just sticking to one idea. As I always say to my children, we do principles and you can deal with politics when you know more about the world, but I sort of always really care a lot about kind of principles. That’s how I sort of scrutinize. And I think that’s where the change from being on the left to on the right. The question about small government versus big government I think depends on the issue. I think that those are complex questions right now that we can get into as we go here.

The Formative Years, Tragedy, and Journey to God (EB-4)

Erika Bachiochi:

As it turns out, I mean, I think everybody’s biography is probably incredibly formative to how they think about the world, but certainly mine has been. I grew up in a family that did not practice a religion or anything like that. My mother and father were divorced when I was four, then my mom remarried right away, moved us to Maine. I had been born in New Hampshire, moved to Maine. She was married to her second husband for about eight years and then they were divorced. And then she kind of lived a single life during my teen years, which was very tumultuous for me. And then she went on to get married again when I was 17, and she moved to Holland—the country, the Netherlands—right when I went off to college. So that’s her history.

What was going on for me at that time, at the age of 13, actually, I started experimenting with alcohol and other substances and doing all the things that you can imagine a girl does when she has substances in her, which I won’t get into too much detail of. And that really… I was a pretty big athlete. I wasn’t a great student, I was a fine student, but I was a really, really talented athlete at that point. And pretty much everything kind of fell apart, as you can imagine.

My relationships with boys were really, really unhealthy and destructive to myself basically. So other than the divorces, as you can imagine, the two very important kind of catalysts that drove me to change my life entirely was when I was 16, a dear friend of mine took his own life. And the remarkable thing is that I had a really hard time crying. Everyone around me was grieving, and I just couldn’t really cry. So, I got into counseling and immediately started crying and immediately started looking at my life. That propelled me. I mean, just the honesty with the counselor who cared about me in a way, propelled me into a lot of introspection. At 16, 17, I actually started going to 12 step meetings, started getting into new age spirituality, reading a lot of self-help books. So, by the time I got to Middlebury, I was going to 12 step meetings every day and had stopped substances and all that and was very, deeply spiritual.

So really believed in God, saw God as… Put my trust in God. Prayed to God all the time, but it was very much kind of a “12 step God.” I was still, at that point, anti-Christian, if that all makes sense. Even though as I learned in the years to come that the 12 steps were really quite grounded in a Christian understanding of God, but just without the theology, but a deep sort of understanding of the way in which God can save us from ourselves. So was very into that and did the steps. And it really revolutionized my life, started to just become a bit more focused on others instead of my own belly button. And right around that time, I left after my freshman year, went back to Maine, and another dear male friend who I spent the whole summer with, he was deeply depressed. And at the end of the summer, he took his own life. And that just shook me to the core. And-

Doug Monroe:

That’s a lot at that age.

Erika Bachiochi:

It’s a lot at that age.

Doug Monroe:

It’s a lot. Wow.

Erika Bachiochi:

So, as you can imagine, I wasn’t sort of your average 19-year-old at that point.

An Opened Mind and Return to Christianity (EB-5)

Erika Bachiochi:

So I was praying all the time. I was very introspective, and then just had this kind of momentous… I was trying to help Eben with the way I had been helped, but I was like a kid, and he didn’t want to pray. That really sent me reeling in a way that just really put me on my knees all the time. I just started to think more deeply about things. That’s really, I mean, then I went to D.C. and worked on welfare reform, then I came back and I was open to studying philosophy. And while I was in D.C., had also sort of questioned my views on abortion, had been a very, very adamant—as a women’s studies student, as a leader of the Women’s Center there at Middlebury—had been a very adamant pro-choice feminist.

And really, one of the things that happened was in reading Mary Ann Glendon’s book, Rights Talk, it’s not a pro-life book, though she’s a pro-life scholar herself. But when she’s talking about the court cases of Roe and Casey, she sort of says the court left women on their own. They had their legal autonomy, and that was it. And then she somehow was able to counter that with showing kind of the community the kind of pro-life institutions and organizations had reached out to women to help them. And because of how much help I had gotten from people in the rooms of 12 step programs, it kind of connected to me. There was just a sense with the communitarian movement and just understanding that we all kind of need each other and there should be a way in which… I don’t know, it just opened me up to the possibility that there was a pro-life way.

So, when I went back to school, I was open to this pro-life way. I certainly wasn’t pro-life at all then. That’s when I started reading a lot of philosophy and then met some Christians on campus, met some Catholics on campus, and kept them-

Doug Monroe:

Still at Middlebury?

Erika Bachiochi:

Kept them at arm’s length. Yep, still at Middlebury, kept them at arm’s length. But the more I got to know them, I became more and more drawn to them. I went to a lecture on campus. Somehow Middlebury College had a whole January dedicated to this religion. They had a whole bunch of different people come in. Stanley Hauerwas was one of them, the great Protestant theologian. He told me actually to get back to the Catholic church. I went and talked to him after because I had been kind of bouncing around from different Protestant church… interesting for a Protestant theologian to tell you.

I also went to a lecture by a Catholic worker, someone who was in the line of Dorothy Day, and he was incredible. I went to argue with him. He was talking about the Catholic worker movement and help with recovery from drug addiction. I went thinking, “What does this Catholic have to know about any of this?”

So, I went and found him incredibly compelling and followed him because I was so interested in talking to him more, to a Newman Club meeting, which is a club for Catholic students, and found their Catholic talk really kind of disconcerting, but really could tell in their hearts that they were really seeking truth, seeking God in the way that I was. The end of the story is that I went back to my dorm room and I got on my knees, which was my habit, and I just asked God if He had a son, kind of like, “You and I know each other well, we talk all the time. You’ve saved me for myself.” And from then I was kind of hand delivered, by one of these Catholic students, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, and other books. Then I read and prayed myself back into kind of Christianity. I say back into, because I was baptized as a baby and then finally into the Catholic church.

Married with Seven Children! (EB-6)

Erika Bachiochi:

Yes. So, that’s a great story too. I gave up men for Lent one Lent because I wanted to, I was at BC then studying theology and wanted to—as I’d become Catholic, I was sort of fantasizing about a Catholic wedding and thinking about all the boys as potential suitors—and that wasn’t going well for me. So, I gave up this whole idea for Lent, and I actually met my husband during that Lent, and we became really good friends. He’s an incredible man, a man of great virtue who I don’t think I would’ve been attracted to had we become sort of romantic possibilities at first. So, it was really great that a friendship started first. And yes, we, over the last 20 years, have had seven children, which is kind of amazing. I remember one thing that made me attracted to him was knowing that, especially with my history, that I really wanted to be a good mother. And I thought that with him, I would make a good mother.

Doug Monroe:

All natural children, no adoption?

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah, that’s right.

Doug Monroe:

Wow, that is so impress…

Erika Bachiochi:

Been busy.

Doug Monroe:

I admire that. I got to tell you. I really do.

What’s the idea behind your book, The Rights of Women? (EB-7)

Erika Bachiochi:

The core of the book is a critique of modern feminism from the perspective of an older understanding of women’s rights. There’s a sense that I bring right up in the introduction that the women’s rights movement or the feminist movement, modern feminism, had really gone astray. A lot of what I do in the book is showing how its philosophical basis had changed. So, it’s understanding of what we are as human beings had changed.

And so, Mary Wollstonecraft’s vision, this 18th century English philosopher was one that I’m trying to reclaim because it’s one that understands freedom well and understands that freedom and rights are but a means to something higher. And for her, that is really human development that comes about through the practice of virtue. Really, it’s a freedom for excellence versus sort of a freedom that has no directionality except for sort of one’s own choices, autonomy, individuality, that kind of thing. So, they’re very, very different understandings of freedom and therefore of rights as well.

Who was Mary Wollstonecraft? Personal History and the Revolutions (EB-8)

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah, so she lived in a really fascinating time. She was herself one of the oldest of her family. Her father was an alcoholic, and she really had to take responsibility for her siblings, and I think she matured quickly because of that. She had very kind of heart-wrenching situations that others write about that I didn’t, but where she sat outside her parents’ door because she wanted to go and stop her father from hurting her mother. She had other situations where her sister was pregnant and then had a child, and she had to save her sister from that man. And then because of the law at that time, the sister had to abandon her own child to protect herself. So, she had these sort of harrowing experiences as a young woman. She went on to found a school in Newington Green with her sisters, and her first book was dedicated to the education of your daughters.

And it’s interesting, she’s sort of a real teacher at heart, and in thinking about the education of girls, she brought together different… From scripture to Shakespeare to poetry that I’ve actually just only come across since writing the book called The Female Reader. And it really draws out her real deep Christian anthropology in a way that really confirmed a lot of my own research on this in a way that I would’ve been happy to do more so in my book. But real deep faith—Anglican at first in practice, went on to meet Richard Price, who was at that point a Unitarian minister when Unitarians meant something. And he was also kind of a pamphleteer, was very invested in the American Revolution. He said something like, “After Christianity, the American Revolution is kind of the second greatest thing in the progress of humanity.”

He was in correspondence with many of the founders. He really was one of the chief’s teachers of Wollstonecraft. He was himself sort of a moral theorist and a preacher. And from all accounts, even by Abigail Adams and John Adams who were in his congregation when they went to Britain on their diplomatic assignment right after the Revolutionary War, Abigail Adams said he had this incredible charity. So, really good man who she came under the tutelage of. I think both of them were really upset by the sort of American founding in terms of really thought it had great hope, especially they really shared a lot of… When you think of the founders and understanding that virtue, human virtue is required for liberty. That was very much their thinking too—basically the republican understanding that virtue is necessary for liberty.

Both of them were very appalled by the slave trade that continued on in the States, and then also by the absence of political equality for women. She goes on then to engage in some of the early writing about the French Revolution. I think at first both she and Price had some hope that the French Revolution would be something like the American Revolution.

Mary Wollstonecraft, Edmund Burke, and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (EB-9)

Erika Bachiochi:

She engages with Edmund Burke famously in her first… Or not in her first book, but kind of her first political treaties, Vindication of the Rights of Men. And then goes on to write A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which is the chief text that I look at in my book. Obviously, the title comes from her book, Vindication of the Rights of Women. So my book is The Rights of Women, but really I’m looking at the whole treatment that she has in both of those texts in which she is engaging with Burke in a way that, the best way I would put it, though I don’t put it as clearly in my book, is that if he is really steeped in English traditions and really sees rights as coming straight out of traditions and straight out of the common law and sort of the long English traditions, she wants to push him from a natural law perspective.

That’s what she really does in A Vindication of the Rights of Men is just like, how can you criticize slavery—she knew that Burke was very much against slavery—if you only have this idea of prescription? Which is that we shouldn’t kind of question old traditions, at least quickly for Burke. He wanted… And so Wollstonecraft was more willing to use principle to critique. And his worry with the French Revolution, of course, is “What are they going to do with this liberty?” And I think he was quite prescient. And she then went on to be in Paris during the Reign of Terror, and then I think came to see the real problem, really distanced herself from the French Revolution and was very much sort of a partisan of the American Revolution.

 Wollstonecraft’s Marriage, Death and Legacy (EB-10)

Erika Bachiochi:

At that point, she met an American after she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman when she was in Paris. And for her safety as an English woman, she took his name so they appeared to be married, but because of the laws of coverture and laws which we can certainly talk about, which really were not of benefit to her as she saw from her own sister, that she didn’t want to be actually married to him. This came out later when he abandoned her for philandering and other women. And then she went on to, in her grief, attempt suicide twice. She had a child with him. Luckily, her child kind of is what kept her alive, I believe. And then she went on to marry the anarchist, William Godwin. What happens in terms of history is that she’s often remembered as sort of a “female Thomas Payne” or a “female William Godwin” instead of taken seriously in her own right, which is terribly sexist first of all, but also just really doesn’t pay attention to her thought.

I think there’s a lot of reasons for that. One is that she was really… Liam Godwin wrote a biography in his being grieved of her passing in childbirth. She died about 10 days after childbirth after having a child with him. And he told some of her tragic past, which if you read today, especially with my own past, doesn’t seem as horrifying as it did to the British people then. But I think it went on to really… I think her fellow countrymen really held her in contempt for her life. And then of course, didn’t take seriously her ideas, which of course was a great pity. And probably more famous even than Mary Wollstonecraft is her daughter who she bore from William Godwin, who is the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley.

Doug Monroe:

Well, I would say my impression is that I had the impression that her life facts are over here, and her philosophy and theology and all of that is over here, when in fact, that’s probably not the case at all. I would say that maybe if she had enemies, her life facts, it made it very easy for them to use them against her, and they did. Okay. Could you say that… I feel a sense of tragedy in her life that she just never found the right guy.

The Tragedy, Warnings, and Vision of Wollstonecraft’s Life (EB-11)

Erika Bachiochi:

The way I characterize it in my book, and Wollstonecraft scholars have sort of different opinions of this, but I think that she in a lot of ways in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is warning women to steer clear of libertine men—men who don’t care about their dignity. She’s also warning women to not be manipulative and not self-objectify and not care only about their appearance. I mean, there’s all sorts of things she’s warning them about in order to really inspire them to live lives of virtue, which we’ll talk about. But she is warning them about these libertine men. And then, as it turns out, she thought she had found this new man in this American Gilbert Imlay. And the letters she writes to him, which we have, are incredibly beautiful. And they really call him toward the philosophy of marriage that she espouses in her rights of women. They call him to share domestic life with her. “Why don’t you see how important this life is together with our child?” It’s trying to call him away from this other woman. It’s incredibly tragic. It’s incredibly tragic, especially because as a woman like me in the 21st century who has all sorts of philosophies of marriage and all sorts of philosophies of life that her philosophy seems to me is so edifying for women. It’s one that I found that I’ve been able to live myself with my own husband, with my own children, that our life is very much centered around the work we do together in the home raising our children. The way in which the inculcation of virtue in our children, and the way in which that redounds to inculcating virtue in ourselves, God willing, is something that is really part of her vision.

When I read her vision, it was so compelling to me because I was already living it or trying to live it. And then to understand what she wasn’t able to have… Her relationship with William Godwin is really interesting in a way, because when he first met her as a peer in this group of dissenters, those who were dissenting from the English government requiring anyone who worked for the government to sign on as being Anglican. So of course, Catholics are left out and any other Protestants and others are entirely sort of left out of that. And so she was among these dissenting and kind of smaller Republicans at this time.

They had very different philosophical approaches and he really didn’t like The Rights of Woman. Didn’t like that book, didn’t like her. They go on later to meet and then they’re able to have sort of an accord. I think he really grew to love her, I mean, incredible intellect. The fascinating thing is that he never understood her religiosity, because of course he was an atheist himself. And as we know, it’s hard for an atheist to grasp someone else who would go for walks to really commune with the divine and really understood her whole life as being sort of an imitation of the goodness of God. That’s what she thought the point of life was. They had an intellectual, and I think a real loving relationship. But even with him, there wasn’t a sharing in the way that I found with my own husband, so there is a way in which her life is very tragic.

Doug Monroe:

A tragic sense. And I just want to say, “Mary, there are good guys out there, trust me.” And furthermore, the other thing I found astounding is that it’s really just a good moral vision for men as well. I mean, it’s the Wollstonecraft vision for women, and it’s different because you’re a woman, but there’s also the same over here for men. And Mary Eberstadt brought that out pretty well in her book, How the West Really Lost God because it was so focused on what the family can do to bring out God. But anyway, so here’s your big opportunity to state Mary Wollstonecraft. And you might say her name, I hate to coach you a little bit in the beginning, but her moral vision as best you can.

Wollstonecraft’s Moral Vision and Virtuous Duties (EB-12)

Erika Bachiochi:

The way I’ve boiled down Wollstonecraft’s vision in the way that at least, I mean, there’s all sorts of things that you could talk about with regard to her vision. But in terms of how she thinks about rights, I would say that for her, civil and political rights were definitely necessary, but they were a means to virtuously carrying out one’s duties. Virtue and duties for her are more important concepts. And you see them, if you were just look at the number of times that these words are seen in the text, you see that they’re much more important to her thought, though rights are crucial as well. And so, what does that mean? For her, you could think of duties and four different categories, and I think it’s helpful to spell them out. So, the first is duties to self. And sometimes people say, “Well, duties to self, what could that mean?”

No, no, no. For her, the human being was a particular kind of animal. She talked about the human being as a rational creature who was created by God in the image of God. And I mean, she doesn’t use the language of being rightly, whose soul needed to be rightly ordered in the Platonic sense, but she does adhere to a lot of Plato in the sense of wanting to participate or imitate the goodness of God. For her, there’s this one, you have to imitate God’s goodness, and you have to imitate God’s wisdom. And that’s what virtue is. It’s inculcated in very small acts of carrying out one’s duties. When you’re carrying out your duties to yourself, what does that mean? Well, it means, first of all, through self-mastery. Through mastering your appetites. Because she understood that we were creatures, and so we had appetites, we had passions, of course.

But for her, like the ancients, passions are neither good nor bad. They have to be directed if they’re going to be advantageous for the person and for others by reason and by higher principle. If passions lead the way, then she saw human beings— men or women—as being like beasts, just animals. So, to be a rational creature, you had to be led by reason and reason always had to be led by God. So, it’s duties to self so it’s self-mastery, but then it’s also self-development. So really understanding one’s self as someone who could develop both morally and intellectually. Both of those go together. So, in terms of rights, well, women needed the right to a really rigorous education the way men had in order that they could carry out those duties to themselves to develop themselves, both intellectually and morally, in order to develop self-mastery, wo they wouldn’t be but sort of animals or concerned only about their appearance, manipulating others around them. They needed to elevate themselves.

How do they elevate themselves? By understanding their end, which is virtue, but then also duties to others. She very much talked a lot about duties within the family. So, to children, to elderly parents, she really saw motherhood and fatherhood as the first duty of the citizen. Duties to fellow creatures. She has these lovely lines where she talks about, you can only understand how your relationship with God by how you treat the lesser servants among you, which is really quite beautiful. And then, of course, duties to your country and those kinds of things.

all of that though is not, I mean, I think it’s really important that you don’t… A lot of people—and they’re even Wollstonecraft scholars who get this wrong—is they understand when they write duty. She comes before Kant, but they read her as this Kantian who puts duty first. And there is a way in which duty is chiefly important, but it’s in a pre-Kant way, in an older sense of being drawn by the good. And that’s how older thinkers, ancient thinkers understood; is being drawn by what is good, and then you’re to virtuously carry out that duty ultimately for the good of others.

Virtue Ethicist, Not a Stoic (EB-13)

So she’s also not a Stoic, where virtue is just for her own sake. It’s always for benevolence of others. And that moral maturity comes by coming to see others as wants to whom we owe something, to whom we should give of ourselves. And so it’s a really beautiful vision that’s very much also in keeping with sort of a “mere Christianity”, if you would say, is an understanding of also the ultimate equality and equal dignity of all persons, man and woman.

So, there’s just an understanding of the equal dignity of all persons. Man, woman, regardless of race, class and all of that, because of this capacity for moral development and that everyone has a shot wherever they are to develop morally. And she really took that, she saw that as a responsibility of each human being to do so. She expected that institutions would be designed around people’s dignity, but also their development, their capacity to develop themselves intellectually and morally.

So, she really critiqued institutions including marriage, but also aristocracy based on what she saw as power differentials, which made both the one who was in power and the one who was without power made it hard for them to develop in virtue. And virtue is always the reason why she critiqued these, because she saw development of virtue is the ultimate aim of people’s life. Because, well, in an Aristotelian sense, it brought about their happiness and societal happiness as well.

Is Wollstonecraft’s vision of ethics duty, virtue, or utilitarian focused? (EB-14)

Erika Bachiochi:

I would say that she’s not a utilitarian, except insofar as she rhetorically employs different kinds of traditions in order to get to her aim. A lot of Wollstonecraft scholars have talked about that. That in a way, if you sit down and read her work, sometimes it’s hard. “Is she a Platonist? Is she an Aristotelian? Wait, isn’t she drawing on Adam Smith there? Wait, who is she?” And so she’s really pulling together a lot of thought, which I think is quite beautiful. Because it’s showing she’s not the female “Thomas Paine,” She’s not a “female Lockian,” as many have claimed. She’s really her own thinker in her own right because she’s brought together all of this thought.

So, I would say very much not a utilitarian. In terms of right virtue, a virtue ethicist or deontology in terms of duty. I mean, I see her as more of a virtue ethicist, but very much with this duty as that which one is aiming at it because the other person is at the end of our duty. We have duties to others or duties to God. She saw those as really crucially important. I also think—to jump ahead a bit, but I think this is important, we can talk about it again—but is the way I think about how she thinks about men and women is that they have a common call to live out the virtues, but the way those virtues instantiate themselves or manifest themselves in men and women differently is according to their duties. Because she talks about that; that for men and women duties are different, but the same human principle should govern them. And she was talking, of course, most naturally about motherhood and fatherhood, but also other potential duties that they might have.

Rights Always Entail Duties and Vice Versa (EB-15)

Doug Monroe:

Gotcha. Just focusing on duties for a second. And I did pick up, by the way, your Kantian reference in the prior answer, and I saw that. But I mean, just to be practical about it, if you have rights, that you have rights with other people in the room, and the only way your right is worth anything is if they have a duty to enforce it. So, every time you’re talking about any right, whatever it is, the people that are around you have to feel a duty to enforce it, or it’s worth absolutely nothing. What I would say is just my opinion, if you’re a Christian, you eventually lead with duties.

Erika Bachiochi:

That’s right. Well, that’s my view too.

Doug Monroe:

That’s what flips you, right?

Correlation Between Rights and Duties (EB-16)

Erika Bachiochi:

I have a whole paper on this if you’re interested. On writes and duty. So, what I would say about that is that Wollstonecraft does this really… Again, she’s not as systematic as this, but there’s a way in which rights and duties are connected in two different ways. One is that duties are this correlative of rights. And so of course, if I have a right then up and against you, a claim against you, you have a duty toward me. Or if I have a duty as a parent, then you could say, my children have a right to be given care. There’s another way in which she does that, and that is that rights are necessary to carry out duties. There’s two different ways in which she’s interacting with rights and duties, which I’ve also tried to pull out as since doing this book. I’ve tried to get more deeply into rights theory and see where this might be of help in thinking through some of our more contentious issues, including abortion.

But I think it’s a very helpful way to think about it. Whereas for rights theorists today, or at least for a very American understanding of rights, we used to think about rights and responsibilities together, but the way in which they’re sharply connected and absolutely need each other is something that I think Wollstonecraft brings up in a better way than someone even like John Locke, who is of course known as our big rights theorist in our country. I think Wollstonecraft has a way where she… Because her anthropology is so rich and she understands interdependence so much, that she gets rights and duties better. Whereas duty falls off, I think, in Locke’s thought far more than in Wollstonecraft.

Doug Monroe:

The other way to come at it, and you may mention this a little bit in your writing, is just positive and negative freedom. And negative freedom is sort of libertarian and in nature, and positive freedom is the freedom to be who you should be.

Erika Bachiochi:

That’s great.

Wollstonecraft, Early Modernity and Virtue as Happiness (EB-17)

Erika Bachiochi:

I do think of her as putting forward an ancient modern synthesis in a way that others of her contemporary—so Enlightenment thinkers—do not as obviously, at least. I mean, I think other scholars could always say that different… So, there’s certainly schools of interpreters of John Locke who think he’s an Aristotelian and they can read him that way, and others who say is much closer to Thomas Hobbs and all that. And there’s sort of debates that go about, but I think it’s very clear, at least from my reading and other Wollstonecraft scholars, that she has very much a foot within the ancient traditions, and especially because of her view of what the purpose of the human person is. So, what happens, obviously in modernity with Bacon and Descartes, IS a real push toward being able to relieve man’s estate with scientific discovery and technology and these sorts of things.

So, the push to focus on property and then, well, accumulation of property and property rights, but then the ability to consume wealth. Obviously, you see all that in aristocracies, but there’s a push away from me. What modernity is doing is saying, “We don’t want to have these religious wars anymore. We don’t want to talk about these substantive goods and which ones,” right? So, we’re just going to focus on, well, what rights that we can get as property and pushing the good of man’s estate or whatever. And she really pushes back against that and says, “Look, the desire for wealth, prestige, all these sorts of things are no good. They’re not going to make you happy. And it really is just virtue.” And that’s a very old idea. It’s a very ancient idea, obviously a Christian idea as well.

There’s a way in which—especially coming from a Christian perspective—there is looking back at it, there’s a richness of her being, really speaking within the modern time, modern period, but really looking back and appropriating a lot of ancient thought.

Industrial Revolution and Wollstonecraft: Commerce vs. Virtue? (EB-18)

Erika Bachiochi:

What I take in my book is really important is that she was just in the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. And the Industrial Revolution is what changes everything. And is what really I think is the chief catalyst for the first wave of feminism. She wasn’t there to experience that entirely; she started to see… there’s a great line in a later book of hers where she’d been critiquing aristocracy in the monarchy for so long as not being that which where virtue could be really cultivated for both rich and poor. Because for the rich, they’re sloughing off the dignified work on the servants, and for the poor they’re just imitating the rich

So, virtue couldn’t be developed. Well, then she says, “Wait a second though. If the quest for wealth is going to take over for aristocracy, well that’s going to be even worse for the development of virtue.” So, she starts to see. In America, she sees great hope because of this focus the founders had in their rhetoric on virtue. She also sees the possibility of, because of the great territory of American land, the possibility of small farms and ownership, and how much of that could really inculcate virtue in a way that some of our founders did as well. But she really worries about commerce as being the end of people’s lives in a way that I think has been very prescient for us in this country too, where there’s this always this debate between, “What is our identity as Americans? Is it virtue and a quest for virtue or is commerce and getting ahead and all that?” And there’s a big tension there, I think. And she very much saw that in her work.

Doug Monroe:

And of course, economic and social science research supports that a hundred percent, as far as money doesn’t buy you happiness. That’s the simplest way to put it. But there’s just a ton of research on this and it just proves out.

Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Ann Glendon: Sisters in Thought (EB-19)

Erika Bachiochi:

Mary Ann Glendon has always been my greatest intellectual hero. I really credit her with intellectually really sparking interest in questions of political theory, questions of anthropology, what it is to be human and all of that. When I read Wollstonecraft knowing Glendon’s work really well, it seemed to me, well, “Wow, these two are sisters, in terms of their thought.” And what’s fascinating about, and one of the things I argue in my book is, I mean, the basic gist is that Wollstonecraft sets the frame for this lost vision, and then it carries through the first and the second wave of feminism. And what I argue is though there’s many good things I have to say about Ruth Bader Ginsburg—and we will get to that—there’s a way in which the wrong turn that happens in modern feminism could have been avoided had we instead followed the thought of Mary Ann Glendon.

And Mary Ann Glendon, best known as ambassador to the Vatican from the United States. Also, learned hand, professor of law now emeritus at Harvard Law School. She is highest ranking woman in the Catholic church for a long time as the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, an incredible scholar, which is why she held that position, worldwide reputation as a Comparatist lawyer. So, someone who, if you can imagine, knows all the constitutional traditions of different types of nations and communities in her own mind and understands how they compare and contrast. So, really incredibly learned, became also a great scholar of human rights, and both in the critique of rights and a libertarian, real deeply libertarian notion of rights, which is when I first read her in terms of rights talk, but also really wanting to ground rights, she has a great book on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

So that’s her thought. So why do I put these two together? Well, certainly because there’s an understanding in both of their thought that the work of the family, of the development of virtue that parents do in children that parents learn, and through that work in the home, that it is the precondition for every other good. So, for political freedom, for civic harmony, for economic freedom, all of those things have to begin with these preconditions that start from the family. So for her, her first love, in some sense, was family law. She wrote an award-winning book on the transformation of the family. She has a book on abortion and divorce in Western law. And the reason why she’s so important to the story and her scholarship is so important to the story is because she gets us to the other side of the Industrial Revolution.

How the Industrial Revolution Sparked First-Wave Feminism (EB-20)

Erika Bachiochi:

Whereas Wollstonecraft has this sort of thought, this sort of vision for what women and men could be like in terms of collaboration, in terms of their own development and virtue, in terms of their harmonious engagement in the work of the home with raising of children, there’s this break that happens in the Industrial Revolution.

We have agrarian time where Wollstonecraft vision actually is quite appropriate. The work of the home done by, conducted by men and women together. Yes, they’re sort of gendered roles for sure, based on male strength and women nursing and bearing children. But there’s a collaboration that’s necessary just because of subsistence living in the agrarian home. With the Industrial Revolution, men are pulled out of the home, sent to work in factories, and they become—very quickly due to how industrialization and the rise of capitalism works—Is there becomes a deep dependency of the wage earner, this man on the capitalist, and then there also becomes a new dependency of the woman upon her husband.

Of course, legal dependency was something that for age on, there was an understanding from different sources of legal subordination in the home, but there wasn’t an economic subordination. Men in the home relied upon women just as much as women relied upon men. So, in some sense the legal subordination was almost like a fiction. I mean, if you’re living in collaboration and you respect each other and you need each other for the work you do each day, that legal subordination isn’t really that important. And really, there were no complaints about it for a long, long time. There were women in the 15th century, Christina Pisan, who certainly push forward understandings of women’s equality that comes out of the Christian tradition, imago dei. But there’s not a revolution as you see in the first wave of American feminism and other parts of the world, due to what happens in the Industrial Revolution.

So, women become far more dependent on those wage-earning men and it puts them in all sorts of difficult situations. What Mary Ann Glendon work does, is show that the response to that in different nations—but especially in a place like America—is that instead of requiring more duties of men and requiring more collaboration somehow, or expecting that, we do this libertarian turn where we say, “Well, in order for women to have equality with men, we just have to allow for easier divorce. We have to allow for something like abortion,” that’s getting further on. You’re breaking up the family into liberal individuals instead of seeing the need to bring them together through more collaboration, because economically that has broken down.

She also is very clear that after the Industrial Revolution… And Betty Friedan gets into good insights on this. I definitely don’t agree with her on a lot of things, but she has great insights about after the Industrial Revolution. A lot of men took women’s work of the home because, well, through technology created fast appliances that could do a lot of that work that women were doing. Think of the great craft and art of sewing clothing, of the loom at home, which was high above the ground so that children could work under. Women were doing that kind of work, which was very intensive and very highly skilled in the home. And that work was then suddenly taken out of the home. So, then you had this way in which men had earned the wages, and women suddenly needed those wages to buy the things that they once did for themselves. There’s a great asymmetry that begins to grow. And so, of course, women are going to start to need their own work or security, especially when men are then pulled to the cities where there’s other temptations as well. So that’s why, of course, the first women’s movement, temperance was one of their chief aims because of the worries they had about men not being true to their responsibilities in the home.

First Wave Feminism and Sexual Asymmetry (EB-21)

Erika Bachiochi:

The way I frame the history of women’s rights in the Rights of Women is through the lens of sexual asymmetry, which is the basic biological fact that men and women are different with regard to reproduction, but also in other ways: hormonally, in ways that affects them in terms of their strength, in terms of longevity of fertility, in terms of early caregiving because of things like nursing, in terms of sexual desires, all those sorts of different things. And the question for the women’s rights advocates early on for Wollstonecraft herself, who’s sort of like a proto-feminist, but then also for the first wave feminism in the United States, which I refer to as the early women’s rights advocates, is that they were responding to this sexual asymmetry first by respecting it and then by thinking about what was required morally of themselves and of the men in their lives. And then, what would help socially to respond to sexual asymmetry.

What does that mean? Well, with regard to things like greater libido in men, which we know is due to testosterone, but then greater impact of pregnancy, obviously on women, there was a call among the early women’s rights advocates for male chastity, and they talked about voluntary motherhood.

Early Feminism’s Views on Abortion (EB-22)

Erika Bachiochi:

At that time, there were no crimes against marital rape. And because of an understanding that a wife was a husband’s property in some sense through the laws of coverture, there was a view that he could take her whenever he wanted. And clearly there were disproportionate consequences of that act on her. And there was a lot of pushing back against that among the early women’s rights advocates.

That also went hand in hand in there as sort of a response for them to what they call “the rising crime of abortion,” which at that point was there were statutes that had prohibited abortion throughout the pregnancy in the mid to late 19th century. These women’s rights advocates saw no problem with that. They understood the child to be very much their responsibility as mothers from when the child existed within them.

They actually really, some of them, some of the early doctors fought people like Madame Restell, who was an abortionist in New York City, very well known. They also wanted to disabuse women of thinking that their care and concern for their child only happened when they could feel the child through quickening. That the science at that time, the science of embryology had developed to know that there was a child before that time. Dr. Ellis Stockholm talked about life beginning at conception. The first woman to run for president, Equal Rights Party, Victoria Woodhull, was very, very strong in her language calling abortion murder, others likewise. So, they saw voluntary motherhood as also a response to the crime of abortion. That if women could have the way we would say today as autonomy over their bodies, that is, that they could say no to sex even within marriage, even especially within marriage, then they would not have what we would say is today “forced pregnancy.”

But they didn’t see that autonomy extend to taking the life of their own child because they saw that body as a different body from their own to whom they owed a great responsibility. SoM this idea, fast forward to the second wave, that you could have a right to abortion, to ending the life of your own child, would be philosophically untenable to them because they saw rights as necessary to carry out those duties to their child. And they saw the child as having their own rights. Victoria Woodhull is very clear about that. She says, “Rights that begin when they’re a fetus.” So voluntary motherhood, this need for this call up and against the kind of perennial double standard that men should be chaste, that it ought not just be women who are responsible for chastity, but men should be chaste too, comes very much out of Wollstonecraft’s thought as well.

She really is also saying up and against Rousseau at that period, it’s not just women who are responsible for chastity, men are responsible for chastity, too. It’s not just men who are called to have all the other virtues. Women ought to be called to all those virtues as well. So, it’s very much of a peace in terms of the first wave being very Wollstonecraftian.

The Problem with Fertility and the Second Wave Solution (EB-23)

Erika Bachiochi:

What’s interesting as you continue on is the great rupture that happens with Margaret Sanger. Margaret Sanger sees all of this; the misery caused by women having many, many children, poor women having children. And she wants contraception to be the answer to that. It can be understandable that that would be the case, but she really sees not a right to contraception or something like that, but that women have a duty to contracept because of the way in which the female body, female fertility, are the cause of their own poverty.

I mean, she really is quite hyperbolic about this. She blames women’s fertility for war, for all sorts of bad things that happen in the world, famine, et cetera. Then the second wave feminist like Simone de Beauvoir, who follow in her footsteps, really see not the problem in the need for men to have virtue, for women to have virtue, but that the problem is female fertility. Then they go with that, the solution they propose to sexual asymmetry is technological, which is very much in line with the modern project writ large, philosophically in line with Bacon and Descartes, et cetera.

In other words, just to summarize, is that you have this first wave that responds to sexual asymmetry through moral and social means. And so, think of the social means: the right to vote, also joint property ownership, the right to contract, the right to property own, all sorts of different things that enable women to then carry out their duties. The second wave sees the technological solution, the pill, and then on from that abortion is being the way to deal with these asymmetries.

Third and Fourth Wave Feminism: Sexual Freedom and Sex as Construct (EB-24)

Erika Bachiochi:

There’s all sorts of consequences. I would say just about the third and fourth wave, they’re kind of doubling down on the technological solution. The third wave, from my understanding, though my book doesn’t get into this, is really a sex positivity. Women need to be able to have sex and enjoy sex with the freedom that men do. That’s where you just see the thought. I mean, Kate Millett, she criticizes that first wave as being naive. Really, we need to be engaging in sexual libertinism just like men.

And then moving on to someone like Shulamith Firestone, who sees again doubling down on technology, assisted reproductive technology is really the way to get women out of that physical bind, the physical slavery they have of their own bodies, of being the one who’s bearing children. She sees technology as the answer to that.

And then even go further into someone like Judith Butler, who then sees sex as a construct altogether. They want to do away with the body. And with the female body, in some sense, it’s technology that’s allowed that; it’s allowed us to entirely forget, when you’ve medicated or used hormones to change your physiology, you forget what the differences between men and women are most fundamentally, which are reproductive.

I think Aristotle puts it best, that women reproduce inside themselves and men reproduce outside of themselves. There are dramatic consequences because of that basic biological fact, because men can walk away from a pregnancy and callous men have throughout human history. So how do you answer that? Do you call men to something greater, which is what Wollstonecraft in the first wave do? Or you just say, “Well, men are slobs and they’re all going to be like this, and so we’ll ape their capacity to walk away from a pregnancy by doing something which is very different, which is taking the life of her own child.” So, it’s an imitation of men rather than calling men to something greater.

Crosstalk: Feminist Waves and Judith Butler (EB-25)

Doug Monroe:

It’s interesting, you’re thinking of waves in terms of really the practical, moral, individual sense of the man/woman relationship. When I think if it was sort of like a high school textbook, would say the first wave was about the boat. The second wave came along with Betty Friedan and women wanting to get out of the home and that went on for a while. And then the third wave is I think postmodernism and dissing the male/female relationship. And then if there’s a fourth wave, it’s no sex at all. In other words, there’s not male and female or something.

I think you’re talking about the bell curve of male/women relationships where husband, wife, how do they deal with this? It’s interesting you brought up Judith Butler. I don’t think you mentioned a lot about her.

Erika Bachiochi:

No, I didn’t say anything about her. Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

She’s an evil genius.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah, true.

Doug Monroe:

She is truly an evil genius, which is a nice lead in to I did want to get you to, if possible, talk a little bit about the whole property, the coverture. Just the black letter explanation for the people who don’t know the, what is it? The covenant contract? The different ways of looking at marriage. Because marriage is central to Wollstonecraft’s whole existence.

The History of Coverture (EB-26)

Erika Bachiochi:

Coverture comes to be an understanding of marriage that comes out of William Blackstone’s book in the late 18th century, in which he basically does a systematic digest of the laws of England, of the common law. And he is, from our understanding, the first one to write coverture down as the way in which when a man and woman come together in marriage, the man covers over the woman. And she, in some sense—well, in all sense legally— loses any right she had as a femme soul. So, a single woman, to be under his cover. He’s responsible for her and they become kind of one person in the law, but that one person is him. If you think about the unity of marriage in a covenant within Christianity, you could say that there’s a unity, but the unity is the marriage. It’s not the one person, right, of the man.

This has obviously significance, especially because of what I talked about with regard to the Industrial Revolution, that you can imagine if there’s one united in the man and they’re working together in a sort of agrarian era on the family farm, in the family shop, and it’s his profession but she’s working and they’re working as a unit together, that that might not have caused a lot of protests. But with the Industrial Revolution, you have this legal subordination within marriage with coverture, where she has no rights left. So, all her property that’s been brought into the marriage is now his and all of that. She has no right to contract apart from the marriage or anything; she has no right, therefore, to sell some of her goods and have it be to her name in case he’s philandering or whatever. That you can understand that that can begin to cause a major problem for women who have especially men who are going astray, that they have no means of taking care of themselves and their children.

Property Rights 1st, the Right to Vote 2nd, Then the Temperance Movement (EB-27)

Erika Bachiochi:

This is where you start to see, yes, there’s a clamoring for the right to vote, but the right to vote is actually far on. We think of it as, because it’s easy, I guess, in textbooks to say “women, the first wave is all about the vote,” but really it wasn’t all about the vote for quite some time. First, there was this move for joint property ownership. And what’s fascinating about the history here is that you have John Stuart Mill who’s arguing for what’s called separate property ownership, and then you have the women’s rights advocates arguing for joint property ownership. And separate property ownership was what they got, which is okay, so if you go outside the home and you earn your own money, great, you can have it in your own name. But that wasn’t all that helpful because most women didn’t work outside the home. Their great productive work was inside the home.

All they wanted was a joint share in the property, which is what we have today. Finally, in the 1970s and 80s, women actually achieved this, where they’re putting collaborative work into the home, it’s economically beneficial for the life of the home, for the homestead. So, they should own it jointly; when their husband dies, it should go to them automatically. It’s something that we take for granted today, but wasn’t always. That was kind of the first move that they made, was joint property ownership. Over time, of course, voluntary motherhood as I spoke about, the rights within marriage to say no to sex, and then the vote. Why? Because at that point it was understood that men represented women.

In Republican government, you have representatives who represent the people, and then you have men, husbands represent women. Well, in line with temperance, I mean, again, there’s men who aren’t holding up to their duties of really representing their families well. So, temperance is hand in hand at that point with the vote, because as Frances Willard, the head of the Christian Temperance Movement, women’s movement said that we need the home protection ballot. She said, “The 10 Commandments are voted up and down at every election, and women need to be out there (her women) in the Temperance Movement, voting those commandments up because we need the home protected, we need the goods of the home protected.” And there was less confidence, I guess, that men were doing that because of the bottle.

Women as Individuals (EB-28)

Erika Bachiochi:

There’s a significant number of women in that early clamoring for women’s rights that really follow in Wollstonecraft’s track. They read Wollstonecraft, The Revolution published by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton publish parts of the Rights of Woman in their publication. They very much adhere to this understanding of marriage as a collaboration, as human beings, as interdependent, all these kinds of ideas that Wollstonecraft had.

There’s another strain of thought though among women’s rights advocates that starts to rear its head. And that comes out of, after the publication of John Stuart Mill’s Subjection of Women. Mill is much more focused on women as individuals. And out of his book on liberty, that the point of liberty is for individuality, and the development of individuality, which may sound somewhat like Wollstonecraft, but for Wollstonecraft it wasn’t just the development of individuality; it was the individual as a moral person developing intellectually and morally toward a particular end, which she was very clear about.

So, individuality on its own could be in any which way. You really start to have, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is really the first that I would want to name. Alice Paul a little bit later who tends to talk about women as individuals first and foremost, they’re very much in the liberal tradition; so out of John Locke, John Stuart Mill, who see that, if you think about the social contract where men are now individuals entering into civil society, well think of who it was these men could be kind of engaged in political thought and thinking about political ideas. Well, why? Because their wives were at home taking care of their children. They enter civil society as these individuals. The way in which a liberal feminism starts to emerge is that for women to participate in the public sphere, they have to enter as those liberal individuals as well. And so, leave their children behind in some sense.

Libertarians and Women in the Workplace (EB-29)

Erika Bachiochi:

You have what I call the libertarians. It’s coming out of John Stuart Mill, John Locke, understandings of the language they use as self-ownership—much different from a Wollstonecraftian strain. You have these two strains moving on together, the Wollstonecraftian, and then the liberal strain. And that changes how they think when they start to get women entering the workplace. You have the libertarians who really want women on an equal footing with men. The right to contract is really important. Women should be thought of as no different from men. Whereas you have these communitarians much more in line with someone like Wollstonecraft, I think, and others, Frances Willard, more in the labor side who see women—and they see men this way too—but see women as members of families, as mothers, sisters, those responsible especially with special responsibility for the family. They couldn’t be treated just like men were in the workplace.

So, they’re clamoring at that point—and this is a big section of my book—for special protections for women in the workplace, from the industrial workplace. So, limited working hours, minimum wages, because women also didn’t have labor unions to fight for them. They had significant asymmetry and power differentials with their employers. There’s this great debate that goes on in the Industrial Revolution in the courts, and what we know—as a law student, I went and you see the men attorneys fighting it out with the male justices, but what we don’t know are the women behind these men who are making these kind of arguments. Individualistic on the one hand and for right to contract, which are all good and fine, but then understanding women as members of families on the other hand. And they’re really kind of battling it out in the courts. What comes out of this is a lot of women in FDR’s administration fighting for those basic labor laws. So, a floor on minimum wages, but also maximum working hours, those kinds of things, protection of children and others in the industrial workplace that I think were really important to humanizing the workplace at that point.

Some Women Become Imitators of Men (EB-30)

Erika Bachiochi:

I think that there’s no question that there’s a model of feminism that especially comes out of the 1970s where women seek to imitate traditional male behavior. And it’s not only in the workplace, thinking that they need to be market equals, to be equals with men, to work the same hours, obviously earning the same wages for the same work makes good sense, but that they need to be those kind of liberal individuals who come into the marketplace, come into the public sphere and leave their children behind.

Obviously, contraception and abortion make that possible, but there’s also a clamoring for contraception and abortion, especially abortion in order to be these kind of market equals. But there’s also a way in which—and we see this with sex positivity that begins to happen—where they want to be able to have sex like men, and what does that mean? But certainly, in so many studies, you see there’s men, if you put morals aside, have a greater interest in more sexual partners, having sex early on in a relationship, that they don’t have as much regret for casual sex. They actually have more regret for not having had the casual sex. Those kinds of things.

I mean, there’s a male-oriented sexuality that is very much pushed by the testosterone that’s flowing through teenage bodies and beyond that. There’s a way in which the pill and abortion facilitate that kind of male-oriented sexuality. This is something that the early women’s rights advocates very much saw as a threat to them; they saw that even those early contraceptive methods that were around at that point. But then for sure, abortion would kind of tilt the sexual playing field further in the male direction. And that, I think, concerned them quite a bit. Because they wanted men not to be taking advantage of them, obviously, but that sort of viewpoint is entirely lost when it comes to the second wave, or when you introduce the pill and abortion into the kind of sexual marketplace.

Abortion and Gender Equality (EB-31)

Erika Bachiochi:

That everything changes, that there’s a great increase in sexual risk taking that happens. And all of those risks were down disproportionately to women. Women are the ones who then start having more unexpected pregnancies—even though it was thought that the pill would help reduce unexpected pregnancies—because there’s more sex happening because people feel like they can take more risks.  There’s actually more unexpected pregnancies and therefore more out of wedlock childbearing and more abortion. And so that’s what happens. I mean, you can see the direct hit from the pill in 1960 to the increase in especially out of wedlock births, but also of course abortion.

And then clamoring for abortion as a solution to this, when the pill of course was put forth as a prophylactic against abortion at first. If we have the pill, then we’ll have fewer abortions, which were of course very dangerous for women at that time. But then obviously the moral problems with abortion as well. What’s unfortunately happened is that we’ve come along to think—and the Supreme Court has not helped with this in terms of its decision in Roe and then Planned v. Casey—that these kinds of technological solutions are necessary for women to be equal. I mean, this is kind of the mantra that we hear, is that abortion is necessary for women’s equality.

And what’s sad if you look from the perspective of that first wave, is that they saw abortion as a failure. That when women had abortions, that it was evidence that society had wronged them in some way, that they had failed to have the education or that they were locked into bad situations with men and all of that. It’s the exact reversal, where at first it was seen as this is clearly that women aren’t equal to men, and if they should become equal, they wouldn’t need this to go out and get these then illegal abortions. Then it becomes that abortion is necessary for women’s equality. Why? So they could walk away from that pregnancy just as the man could, so they can be unencumbered, just as men are.

I think today we see the casual sex that’s on offer, the kind of pornification that’s happened where porn is available of course due to technology and the ability for people to access porn all the time, that there’s a real kind of tragic way in which sexuality has become entirely driven by the most base motives and most base interests of men who have very little respect for women. When I think Wollstonecraft’s vision, the first wave feminist vision, was that you could see a more female-centered sexuality. Where you could understand that the female’s body is the one that carries the consequences of sex within her, and that those consequences are really serious for her. So that there would be a chivalry toward the woman’s body and those disproportionate consequences. And then a man could wait and be mastering of his own sexuality. And that’s something that’s just entirely lost in this new what we call feminism.

Crosstalk: Unintended Consequences of Reproductive Technology (EB-32)

Doug Monroe:

What you see is women are given the opportunity to become more like men, and those that do very much risk becoming more like men, but more like bad men.

Erika Bachiochi:

That’s right.

Doug Monroe:

Okay? And if there’s ever an example, and this is where if you look at the statistics of the law of unintended consequences-

Erika Bachiochi:

Oh, that’s right.

Doug Monroe:

This is as big an example as you can ever get.

Erika Bachiochi:

That’s right.

Doug Monroe:

It’s the exact opposite of what they hope would happen.

Erika Bachiochi:

That’s right.

Doug Monroe:

Okay. And it’s just a fascinating thing to me.

First Step to Remediation: Ennobling the Home (EB-33)

Erika Bachiochi:

I think one of the shifts that I view, or the way I want to think about the history of feminism, is that a lot of people see the second wave when women go in huge numbers into the workplace as women leaving women’s work for men’s work. And I think to some extent that that’s true. However, I think it’s better to see that the shift is from the ennobling work of the home and seeing the home as the first thing to prioritizing the work of the market.

The logic of the market, the need for market equality takes great precedence in this way. And what we’ve lost is any sense of who’s taking care of the children, because the thought that market equality, the ability to work outside the home in as many hours as a man does, to have the kind of market prestige that a man does is what gives one value, has therefore really seen that most important work of the home; that Wollstonecraft and Glendon saw as so important for every other social, political, economic good is just gone by the wayside. That people don’t see that part of the reason why our republic is crumbling is because that work of the home in inculcating virtue is just seen as totally unimportant. So, we don’t understand parenting, motherhood and fatherhood with that kind of ennobling vision that Wollstonecraft had and that Glendon has and one that I think is really, really important.

Why are rates of fertility lower in the West? (EB-34)

Erika Bachiochi:

So, if the work of the home is important, if the work of the family is important, and families today are being crunched in so many ways economically, I mean, there’s all sorts of causes of this. There’s a sort of  mating where two elite professionals marry and therefore their salaries combine and you have them competing. Or you have the single mother who’s been abandoned by the father of her child competing for housing and all of life’s necessities against that, those sort of two high powered earners. You have all sorts of other ways in which it’s just very difficult for people coming right out of maturing, getting married to have children together. It’s just much more economically difficult for all sorts of reasons.

Lower wages for men without college degrees, which are many, many men. Manufacturing jobs, going for more high skilled jobs. There’s all sorts of reasons why starting a family is difficult. Costs of healthcare, all of that. It seems to me that we’re just in a different time right now and that fertility rates are going way down. People, women especially, say that they’re not having the number of children they want. They’re having a hard time finding mates. I mean, there’s all sorts of things that are caught up in that. It’s hard to put the Sexual Revolution back in the tube. And there’s ways I think that we can do that; certainly by limitations on abortion, through limitations on prohibitions of porn, not sure how to do that, but there certainly are ways in which these kind of catalysts of the Sexual Revolution can be, I would hope, through legislation you could start to see something shift.

But there’s also a way you need to get to that economic issue that happens where people do want to start families and find that they’re having a hard time. They’re having a hard time with being able to have one parent stay home, at least even part-time, to be able to really have the life of the home be the thing that they’re most focused on, most prioritizing, which I certainly have done in my own life.

What legislative actions should be taken to support the family? (EB-35)

Erika Bachiochi:

So, what are the kinds of things that we need to do? And I think part of it is that we need to make sure that those households that are raising children are not disproportionately harmed economically by the work they do in raising those children. Children used to be a great economic good, right, in agrarian times. And they’re economically more burdensome, but they’re not a burden. They’re a great joy and a great gift. And we need them for civilization to continue. But the great good that they bring to adults’ lives.

And so how do we make that possible? So, I think it’s thinking creatively about how local, state, and the federal government can take tax burdens off of people, can supplement income of people through things like the EITC, the earned income tax credit. I’ve always been in favor of wage subsidies. I think it’s a great way for people who are working out in the world but make very small wages that aren’t able to take care of their children. To do so through really creative ways, to take seriously the needs people have for childcare, but not through institutional childcare, through allowing monies to be potentially subsidized for poor folk, but that can be used in all sorts of different ways for their own family members, potentially their mother, their sister, whoever it is that’s home with children, so that people can work for the good of their children, but also put those children in the care of those they really trust.

I also think that we should be really thinking seriously about reducing the cost of healthcare of having children. I’m not a policy wonk, so I think about these things in a more principled way, but that reducing the cost of having children, of having a family, is super important. One of my favorite ideas is that I think we could take an idea from Hungary but kind of change it, which is that when a woman has a certain number of children or even just spends a certain amount of time, it could also be a man, it’s usually a woman, with young children in the home that their tax burden, their income tax burden for the rest of their life, should just go to zero. That they’ve contributed already to the good of the commonwealth, the commonweal, and that they shouldn’t have to be paying taxes on any income they earn after that. So those are kind of some ideas. I think others at EPPC, people I work with there, were floating about other ideas as well.

What should the relationship be between government and the family? (EB-36)

Erika Bachiochi:

I think a really important principle is that the family has important work that it does. So, the government needs to stay out of that work when the family’s doing that well, of course, but also facilitate that work. So, it never replaces the work of the family, but if there are some obstacles in the way to family formation and the tax code in all sorts of different places, then the government should be there to help the family do the work that the family needs to do. I would say that the family is absolutely kind of the first organ of society, and so the government is there to assist when need be, but certainly never take over the important work that the family does, that only the family can do.

Crosstalk: “Masculinism” (EB-37)

Doug Monroe:

Let me ask you, real quick, about my question about “masculinism” which you never hear about. But this is where Doug feels like he’s 67; I feel like I’ve been basically the same person all my life, that somehow I came into a worldview, that I went out and explored every way I could, and I actually came back to… Well, it seems to make sense.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

I’m just finding out what people have figured out for 2000 years. But because of the way the world has skewed, especially the last 20 years, against white men in particular, okay, that I almost need to fight for the goodness of men in the public square, which makes me a bit of a “masculinist.” Good gracious.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

But I may get mowed over if I don’t, and people like me.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Doug Monroe:

Do you have any …?

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Doug Monroe:

What do you think about that?

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

I don’t want to do it.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah, I know.

Doug Monroe:

I agree. I honestly agree with all of your philosophies.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Doug Monroe:

So there’s no conflict that I see.

Erika Bachiochi:

Right. Me either.

Doug Monroe:

And it’s not you I’m worried about. It’s

Masculinity That Puts Virtue First (EB-38)

Erika Bachiochi:

I think there’s a way in which, starting with the second wave of feminism, there’s a real way in which the sexes were at battle with one another. And all of Wollstonecraft’s work was to see that you had to bring the sexes together. Right? There was already a divide because they’re different. Right? So, how is it that you bring them together and that marriage does that, and especially a virtue-based marriage, right, where you kind of love the virtues in the other, and you really try to accentuate them. I think that there’s a real issue of identity for men today. I think Richard Reeves has been one who has just brought this up in his new book, Of Boys and Men. But conservatives have been talking about this for a long time. And what I would want to see is a real discussion about masculinity that puts virtue first.

I worry a lot about kind of a post-Christian masculinity put forth by someone like Andrew Tate that could have imitators, that could be really, really horrible for the good of women. Therefore, I still see …. I mean, there was a time period, probably 10 years ago, when I thought I can just be a Christian and not be a feminist, because I thought Christianity and the way in which it kind of ennobles both sexes and the good of virtue and the family and all of that, especially when seen hand-in-hand with kind of anti-discrimination law, which, at least for the Catholic Church, has been something that they’ve seen to be important, especially in the thought of John Paul II. But there’s been a shift away from sort of manliness based around virtue toward sort of a different kind of manliness, which I think comes out of this. Well, it’s the feminism. It’s the one that feminists of the 1970s have imitated, right? It’s kind of that worst possible man that’s kind of brought up as what men are possible ever, what men should imitate. And I think that’s deplorable.

The way in which Wollstonecraft challenges both women to be virtuous and, of course, men to be virtuous, I think there ought to be men doing the same thing, right, for men, because it’s important for men to lead men, but toward virtue. I’m really a big proponent in sort of articulating this really carefully. I don’t think there are different virtues for men and women. I don’t think there are masculine virtues and feminine virtues. I think there’s virtue. I think Wollstonecraft has taught me this, that virtue is an imitation of God, and God is a unity; all of those attributes of God we should imitate. However, virtues look very different in men and women because not only of their different bodies, they’re embodied and they have different responsibilities. They have different temptations due to different hormones running through them. So, virtues look very different. You could, then, at the end of the day, want to say masculine and feminine virtue.

I think it’s better not to go that way because I think it can start to look as though you’re saying that women aren’t required to possess certain virtues and men aren’t required to possess other virtues. And that makes me very nervous because I think it’s important for everyone to work to possess all the virtues. And that’s what I think is the great call of Mary Wollstonecraft. But I do think there’s a way in which men need to be called just as women do today. I think both. There’s a real paucity of virtue in both camps, right? And again, thinking of virtue as intellectual and moral excellence.

God and Spouse: A Conversation on Life’s Priorities (EB-39)

Doug Monroe:

I want to get your reaction. Along the same lines, I think this fits in with what you’re saying, but I honestly don’t know what you’re going to say. Okay. My father, he’s religious, yes, but he’s not particularly religious. He’s a Christian. My mother was very much so. She’s gone. Dad’s still alive at 90. But Dad, very early on said to me… I’m the oldest. I’ve got three sisters, and then a youngest brother. But he was very, very clear. He said this three or four times. It would stick out. “Keep two things right in your life. One, your relationship with God. That’s number one. Number two is your relationship with your wife.”

Erika Bachiochi:

Yep.

Doug Monroe:

If you do that, the rest of your life will work out well. So, the impression was it’s good to be a Christian. That’s God, right? And secondly, it’s important to get married. And so, you keep your wife happy, you’re fine. Okay? What’s your reaction to that?

Erika Bachiochi:

I think that’s great. I mean, I think that the single most important recognition is our dependence upon God, and that’s what knits all of us together. Right? But I also think that if one is married, the spousal relationship is the second most important relationship; certainly before children, certainly before work, certainly before other family or friends. And there’s a way in which prioritizing that relationship, the collaboration, the reciprocity, the love, all of that, and the way in which you deeply have to grow, because often you hit really difficult times when marriage is just hard. There’s friction. And just really attending to that relationship and allowing that person to grow and meeting that person as a new person in ways, because over the course of 20, 30, 40 years, there’s a way in which that person grows and you come to know them in different ways. I think that core relationship then redounds to the benefit of your children, to your work, to everything else in your life. Right? Obviously, there are times when there’s abuse, there are other things, and you can’t live together. But I think your father was absolutely right.

Old Wisdom: Women Influence Men (EB-40)

Doug Monroe:

I think if you ask the men I knew about women, most of the ones that I would respect would say life would not be worth living at all without women. Okay? That’s number one. Number two is I think they would say without question, there is nothing more beautiful in the world than a woman, sunset, Grand Canyon, nothing, not even close. Okay.

I think that’s a little bit different than women. You know, you can say women, yeah, life wouldn’t be worth living without men maybe to some of them. But there is a difference there. And I can’t put my finger on it. And I don’t feel like feminists harness that aspect of the middle of the bell curve of men.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

And if you don’t, you’re going to get a lot more bad men.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah. There’s an old ….

Doug Monroe:

You see what I’m saying?

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah. No, no, that’s beautiful. And there’s an old, old wisdom there that women have great influence over men. Right? That’s why they’re still the sexual gatekeepers, right, because if they demand a man to mature, theoretically, then if there were no other women around who are giving him everything his lower bodily appetites would want, then he would mature. The problem now—and this is a real insight that sexual economics gives us—is when you flood the marketplace with the pill and abortion, and you allow there to be sort of much easier sex, then you don’t have that kind of old wisdom anymore, right, because women are much more free to give men sex. And therefore, there aren’t as many women or the women who do want to wait and, therefore, require of men that he mature, they don’t have kind of the market share, to put it in an economic term, where they don’t have that kind of power over men in the way, the influence over men in the way that they used to.

The Importance of Shared Parenthood (EB-41)

Erika Bachiochi:

I think that’s also some wisdom from scripture in Ephesians 5, that there’s a way in which women do need to be kind of told by God to respect their husbands, right, or else they tend to treat them like other children, because women are highly competent, can multitask, can do lots of things. Actually, a priest told me… The answer he gave me for why women couldn’t be priests is that there’d be no men left on the altar because women can do it all. And then men will just be like, “All right, I’ll just take the remote control and sit here with my beer.” So, women have to allow men to be out there leading and doing that and respecting them in those positions. Or else men will just be like, “Fine, you just do everything then.” And that’s why fatherhood is so important; because women have to allow men to kind of take that lead in their families as fathers or else they just become redundant and unimportant.

Of course, the woman is the center of the home, right, in terms of she’s the one who knows everything about the children. They were in her, she nursed them. She has an intimate relationship. And so inviting men into fatherhood, I think, is so crucial because men then find themselves in their relationships with their children so much. But women have to kind of open the door and allow men in. And it’s not like you do as many dishes as me and you do the… But it’s inviting them into fatherhood and letting them lead in that way, letting them really take kind of moral authority of their children just as the woman has too. And being collaborative in that way, I think, is really important so that men see their role in the family as just as important as the woman’s role in the family.

I think you see that in really great marriages. And really great parents are where both see that kind of co-equal role in the family as so crucial to their children’s upbringing, but also to their own relationship, right, as mother and father, and that they’re different. And that over time it’s sometimes hard to put your finger on what the differences are. But over time, I think, when you’re married, you start to see the ways in which there are different ways you have authority over your children. And there are different ways in which that presents. And you start to kind of lean into that. And it works. It ends up really working well and being great compliments to one another.

Feminism Ends with the Sexual Revolution (EB-42)

Erika Bachiochi:

I think, actually, one of the best summaries of my book is by my friend, Mary Harrington, who said, after reading it, that “feminism did not begin but end with the Sexual Revolution.” There’s a way in which the Sexual Revolution took over for feminism. So, a lot of the things that were won in that first wave were what feminists wanted, right, but as the Sexual Revolution kind of rolls on and requires kind of greater technology and more of this and more of that to be exactly equal, exactly the same as men, it becomes you need and clamor for more and more things. I think there’s a way in which the most obvious thing I, as a feminist, would say is that I think it would be better for women if the world kind of wasn’t designed according to sort of male ways of being, so male sexuality, all those kinds of things.

But that’s really one of the problems with feminism. Feminism has, in large part, been instead of saying women are different and, therefore, in order for us to be in the workplace, we need to take our responsibilities in the family seriously. So flexible work, all these sorts of things, which would be great, still. There, early on, was a move for kind of somehow trying to imitate the ability for men to sort of leave children behind, whether it’s obviously through the pill, that abortion in a real definitive way or institutional daycare. I think that still, because women are never going to be the same as men, there’s a push in modern feminism for, well, how can we get to be more equal? And I just think it’s kind of the wrong question. Right? When you have equal rights and there’s sort of nondiscrimination, you can compete for a job, things like that. Really, what’s necessary is not so much something that women need, but I think it’s something that all of us need, which is to have the family be prioritized and our relationships and our friendships be prioritized over our market relations. Right?

And so that’s something that would just be good for everyone. Right? It’s where instead of working long hours and thinking that your salary’s the most important thing, to take relationships more seriously, but that’s just good for both men and women.

Is there a new wave of feminism and does it represent the majority of women? (EB-43)

Erika Bachiochi:

I really do think there is the emergence of a new feminism that’s made up of some religious people, some religious women inspired by someone like John Paul II, but then also some women who have really seen the move toward the transgender ideology as revealing a lot of major philosophical problems with liberal feminism and this kind of technological solution to asymmetry. I mean, I think there’s evidence that it’s happening because of several books that have been published recently that are really questioning the Sexual Revolution in a way that Mary Eberstadt was early on, that those of us who are Catholic kind of saw more quickly, but are now doing it from a secular perspective.

I have just gathered, actually, a lot of these women into one institution at the Wollstonecraft Project or one journal called Fair Disputations. There are women from the UK and the US who take seriously bodily differences between men and women, but not only bodily differences, other sorts of differences too that mean that we have kind of different desires around work and family and that see things like pornography, prostitution, sex trafficking, and really reproductive technologies that solve these problems with technologies as all kind of anathema to the women’s movement.

I see it happening because I’m sort of part of pushing it forward. Are there a majority of women? No, I think we’re far from that. I think that there has to be a real questioning, and a lot of people learn this through their own bad experiences, but questioning first of kind of the casual sex culture, questioning of the morality of abortion, what we’re doing, what we’re relying on when we see abortion as so important to this whole thing. Right? And until you get there, it’s going to be really hard to push it forward. I think, though, the single best way really is through the great examples of happy women who are living an entirely different way.

Should it be about love? How is sex viewed by women today? (EB-44)

Erika Bachiochi:

There’s a way in which, I mean, I just think the way we’ve prioritized abortion in the women’s movement, that sex then becomes kind of sexual pleasure becomes kind of a right of expression. It becomes part of our identity of who we are, of how we express ourselves. And it disconnects entirely from both, one of its ends, which is the possibility of creating new human life, and then the other end, which is the way in which it expresses love. I think women have the instinct that they want to only be sexual when they’re feeling loved, but that so many women don’t even know that they’re missing that because of how crude the sexual ethic has gotten, which is really sad.

Actually, tonight I’m having a conversation with a woman named Christine Emba, who wrote a book called Rethinking Sex. And the kinds of stories she documents of women and men she interviewed in the way that the culture has taught them about sex, that it’s really just something you kind of have to do. It’s what Mark Regnerus calls “cheap sex.” It is so heartbreaking to think that this is the case. So yeah, I mean, in that way, there are a lot of wounded people from the Sexual Revolution, especially today with pornography, with the trans movement and all of that. One hopes that the wounded will come and rise up, I mean, somewhat like I did in the sense of having our wounds and being healed from our wounds, and then being able to be powerful, I hope voices in saying that there’s another way to do this, and really, yes, the love is at the center of that act.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future? (EB-40)

Erika Bachiochi:

I am a person who always has a lot of hope. I think it’s just kind of a gift of grace to be a hopeful person. Part of that is for my own history, I think, that I just see the possibility of forgiveness, of sort of immense healing from personal suffering, of what friendship can do in people’s lives, of God’s grace. I always have a posture of hope. I also just have certain things that have happened in my own life. I mean, not only my own kind of recovery and healing, but then the fact that I can be as happily married as I am, the fact that I have seven happy children, which all seem kind of impossibilities at some point in my life. Not only impossibility, something I wouldn’t have desired at all, but the fact that they all exist in the world. As they get older, my oldest is 21, that they’re becoming friends now too, in some sense, is really beautiful.

The other thing, though, other piece of great hope I have, is I was involved in the founding of a classical school. And we founded it 10 years ago at 25 students, and it’s now 230, and this is in Massachusetts. And to see not only the beauty of that education, but then families coming from all over and creating kind of a community of families that all are just beautiful, that see their commitment in their marriages and in their families and the beautiful children that are coming out of these families. To me, it’s a small sliver of the universe, but it gives me great hope.

Overview

Erika Bachiochi

Mrs. Erika Bachiochi is a legal scholar at the Ethics & Public Policy Center and a senior fellow at the Abigail Adams Institute, where she serves as the director of The Wollstonecraft Project. Praxis Circle interviewed Erika because of her leadership as a feminist, scholar, Christian worldview advocate, Catholic, wife, and mother.
Transcript

The Abigail Adams Institute and the Wollstonecraft Project (EB-1)

Erika Bachiochi:

The Abigail Adams Institute is a humanistic institute that provides supplementary education for Harvard University and other Boston area schools. It is an offshoot of the Witherspoon Institute at Princeton. We do for Harvard what Witherspoon does for Princeton. I started there as a visiting scholar at Harvard Law School for a year and then continued on with the book project I was working on, which we’re going to talk a lot about today. And then after the book, decided that I wanted to begin a project there really inspired by Mary Wollstonecraft’s thought, so it’s called the Wollstonecraft Project, where we sort of inquire into questions of sexual equality and freedom from a sex realist position, which basically takes seriously the fact that there are certain things that are real, such as bodily differences between men and women, but other kinds of differences as well—but then also kind of interrogates questions of virtue ethics and rights and responsibilities from Wollstonecraft and perspective, which of course we’ll get to.

Are you a Catholic feminist? (EB-2)

Erika Bachiochi:

I don’t know that I would ever refer to myself as a “Catholic feminist,” only because having a Master’s in Catholic theology and systematic theology, I read a lot of Catholic feminism or some Catholic feminism, and generally that sort of theology or Catholicism, feminism informs their Catholicism. And I would say that maybe I’m a Catholic and a feminist and that my orthodox Catholicism informs my feminism. And I think the story behind that really is that I was an anti-Catholic during my college years but very much a feminist—a socialist feminist, was a women’s studies student. As I came around—and it’s a big, long story we can talk about—but when I came to really start to embrace Catholic teaching, I saw that it really had something distinctive to say about women and men that I hadn’t heard before and that seemed more accurate.

I think the church gets a pretty bad rap basically because of the all-male priesthood and a lot of misunderstandings about her sexual teaching. So, one of the first publications I did was a book called Women, Sex and the Church: A Case for Catholic Teaching where we sort of interrogate the Catholic teachings and look at how they actually are beneficial to women. A lot of my work has fallen on from that or sort of been inspired by my conversion in a lot of ways. So, I guess Catholic and feminist, probably not a “Catholic feminist.”

What changed your political perspective? (EB-3)

Erika Bachiochi:

When I was at Middlebury College in the 1990s, I was a women’s studies student and I volunteered one summer for Bernie Sanders; kind of called myself a socialist feminist. And actually coming to D.C. one spring—so rather than going abroad, I came to Washington D.C.—and it just so happened to be the mid 1990s where the Democrats and Republicans were embroiled in a debate about welfare reform. And I got the opportunity to work as an intern for a small think tank that was working on welfare reform, especially in the States. And that think tank brought together a new Democrat, so a Clinton kind of Democrat and a Reagan Republican. And what I learned at that time, which I hadn’t known before, which is kind of amazing, but this Reagan Republican really, really cared about the poor as did the new Democrat.

And it was the first time I was kind of open to a different sort of way of thinking, and that, in conjunction with a lot of reading I was doing that semester, I was for the first time exposed to essays in political theory. I read Mary Ann Glendon’s work for the first time that semester, her celebrated book, Rights Talk. I read other communitarians which were big at that time. So, it was a sort of bipartisan group of scholars who were really criticizing the liberalism, the individualism of sort of America and looking to supply sort of rich… Or think more about the importance of thick communities, so Michael Sandel, [inaudible 00:06:09], others. I read a lot of them and I became more interested in their thoughts. So, when I went back to Middlebury, I actually dropped women’s studies in sociology and started studying political philosophy. And I fell into the hands of two students of Leo Strauss there at Middlebury and started studying ancient texts with them, but also modern political philosophy as well.

It was my first introduction to Plato and Aristotle, and when they’re taught by Straussians, you actually really read the text and really allow the text to really speak to you. So, I really became very enamored with the ancients then, but then also with the study of political philosophy and how philosophy could inform my search for the truth in a way that I hadn’t really thought of. I mean, I was kind of your typical college student where I thought I sort of knew everything and had really thought questions of social justice, issues of women’s rights, women’s equality, and especially sort of concern for the poor. I sort of saw those at first as political issues. I then had, I guess, was growing in maturity to see that I needed to step back and think about just what does justice mean? And so I got to think about that with Plato and Aristotle and with great teachers there in Middlebury.

That was the first sort of movement toward being more open politically, I would say. I started the Middlebury Political Forum to bring together people on different sides of the aisle. And I have always really enjoyed engaging ideas. I really try to steer clear of ideology in a sense of just sticking to one idea. As I always say to my children, we do principles and you can deal with politics when you know more about the world, but I sort of always really care a lot about kind of principles. That’s how I sort of scrutinize. And I think that’s where the change from being on the left to on the right. The question about small government versus big government I think depends on the issue. I think that those are complex questions right now that we can get into as we go here.

The Formative Years, Tragedy, and Journey to God (EB-4)

Erika Bachiochi:

As it turns out, I mean, I think everybody’s biography is probably incredibly formative to how they think about the world, but certainly mine has been. I grew up in a family that did not practice a religion or anything like that. My mother and father were divorced when I was four, then my mom remarried right away, moved us to Maine. I had been born in New Hampshire, moved to Maine. She was married to her second husband for about eight years and then they were divorced. And then she kind of lived a single life during my teen years, which was very tumultuous for me. And then she went on to get married again when I was 17, and she moved to Holland—the country, the Netherlands—right when I went off to college. So that’s her history.

What was going on for me at that time, at the age of 13, actually, I started experimenting with alcohol and other substances and doing all the things that you can imagine a girl does when she has substances in her, which I won’t get into too much detail of. And that really… I was a pretty big athlete. I wasn’t a great student, I was a fine student, but I was a really, really talented athlete at that point. And pretty much everything kind of fell apart, as you can imagine.

My relationships with boys were really, really unhealthy and destructive to myself basically. So other than the divorces, as you can imagine, the two very important kind of catalysts that drove me to change my life entirely was when I was 16, a dear friend of mine took his own life. And the remarkable thing is that I had a really hard time crying. Everyone around me was grieving, and I just couldn’t really cry. So, I got into counseling and immediately started crying and immediately started looking at my life. That propelled me. I mean, just the honesty with the counselor who cared about me in a way, propelled me into a lot of introspection. At 16, 17, I actually started going to 12 step meetings, started getting into new age spirituality, reading a lot of self-help books. So, by the time I got to Middlebury, I was going to 12 step meetings every day and had stopped substances and all that and was very, deeply spiritual.

So really believed in God, saw God as… Put my trust in God. Prayed to God all the time, but it was very much kind of a “12 step God.” I was still, at that point, anti-Christian, if that all makes sense. Even though as I learned in the years to come that the 12 steps were really quite grounded in a Christian understanding of God, but just without the theology, but a deep sort of understanding of the way in which God can save us from ourselves. So was very into that and did the steps. And it really revolutionized my life, started to just become a bit more focused on others instead of my own belly button. And right around that time, I left after my freshman year, went back to Maine, and another dear male friend who I spent the whole summer with, he was deeply depressed. And at the end of the summer, he took his own life. And that just shook me to the core. And-

Doug Monroe:

That’s a lot at that age.

Erika Bachiochi:

It’s a lot at that age.

Doug Monroe:

It’s a lot. Wow.

Erika Bachiochi:

So, as you can imagine, I wasn’t sort of your average 19-year-old at that point.

An Opened Mind and Return to Christianity (EB-5)

Erika Bachiochi:

So I was praying all the time. I was very introspective, and then just had this kind of momentous… I was trying to help Eben with the way I had been helped, but I was like a kid, and he didn’t want to pray. That really sent me reeling in a way that just really put me on my knees all the time. I just started to think more deeply about things. That’s really, I mean, then I went to D.C. and worked on welfare reform, then I came back and I was open to studying philosophy. And while I was in D.C., had also sort of questioned my views on abortion, had been a very, very adamant—as a women’s studies student, as a leader of the Women’s Center there at Middlebury—had been a very adamant pro-choice feminist.

And really, one of the things that happened was in reading Mary Ann Glendon’s book, Rights Talk, it’s not a pro-life book, though she’s a pro-life scholar herself. But when she’s talking about the court cases of Roe and Casey, she sort of says the court left women on their own. They had their legal autonomy, and that was it. And then she somehow was able to counter that with showing kind of the community the kind of pro-life institutions and organizations had reached out to women to help them. And because of how much help I had gotten from people in the rooms of 12 step programs, it kind of connected to me. There was just a sense with the communitarian movement and just understanding that we all kind of need each other and there should be a way in which… I don’t know, it just opened me up to the possibility that there was a pro-life way.

So, when I went back to school, I was open to this pro-life way. I certainly wasn’t pro-life at all then. That’s when I started reading a lot of philosophy and then met some Christians on campus, met some Catholics on campus, and kept them-

Doug Monroe:

Still at Middlebury?

Erika Bachiochi:

Kept them at arm’s length. Yep, still at Middlebury, kept them at arm’s length. But the more I got to know them, I became more and more drawn to them. I went to a lecture on campus. Somehow Middlebury College had a whole January dedicated to this religion. They had a whole bunch of different people come in. Stanley Hauerwas was one of them, the great Protestant theologian. He told me actually to get back to the Catholic church. I went and talked to him after because I had been kind of bouncing around from different Protestant church… interesting for a Protestant theologian to tell you.

I also went to a lecture by a Catholic worker, someone who was in the line of Dorothy Day, and he was incredible. I went to argue with him. He was talking about the Catholic worker movement and help with recovery from drug addiction. I went thinking, “What does this Catholic have to know about any of this?”

So, I went and found him incredibly compelling and followed him because I was so interested in talking to him more, to a Newman Club meeting, which is a club for Catholic students, and found their Catholic talk really kind of disconcerting, but really could tell in their hearts that they were really seeking truth, seeking God in the way that I was. The end of the story is that I went back to my dorm room and I got on my knees, which was my habit, and I just asked God if He had a son, kind of like, “You and I know each other well, we talk all the time. You’ve saved me for myself.” And from then I was kind of hand delivered, by one of these Catholic students, C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, and other books. Then I read and prayed myself back into kind of Christianity. I say back into, because I was baptized as a baby and then finally into the Catholic church.

Married with Seven Children! (EB-6)

Erika Bachiochi:

Yes. So, that’s a great story too. I gave up men for Lent one Lent because I wanted to, I was at BC then studying theology and wanted to—as I’d become Catholic, I was sort of fantasizing about a Catholic wedding and thinking about all the boys as potential suitors—and that wasn’t going well for me. So, I gave up this whole idea for Lent, and I actually met my husband during that Lent, and we became really good friends. He’s an incredible man, a man of great virtue who I don’t think I would’ve been attracted to had we become sort of romantic possibilities at first. So, it was really great that a friendship started first. And yes, we, over the last 20 years, have had seven children, which is kind of amazing. I remember one thing that made me attracted to him was knowing that, especially with my history, that I really wanted to be a good mother. And I thought that with him, I would make a good mother.

Doug Monroe:

All natural children, no adoption?

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah, that’s right.

Doug Monroe:

Wow, that is so impress…

Erika Bachiochi:

Been busy.

Doug Monroe:

I admire that. I got to tell you. I really do.

What’s the idea behind your book, The Rights of Women? (EB-7)

Erika Bachiochi:

The core of the book is a critique of modern feminism from the perspective of an older understanding of women’s rights. There’s a sense that I bring right up in the introduction that the women’s rights movement or the feminist movement, modern feminism, had really gone astray. A lot of what I do in the book is showing how its philosophical basis had changed. So, it’s understanding of what we are as human beings had changed.

And so, Mary Wollstonecraft’s vision, this 18th century English philosopher was one that I’m trying to reclaim because it’s one that understands freedom well and understands that freedom and rights are but a means to something higher. And for her, that is really human development that comes about through the practice of virtue. Really, it’s a freedom for excellence versus sort of a freedom that has no directionality except for sort of one’s own choices, autonomy, individuality, that kind of thing. So, they’re very, very different understandings of freedom and therefore of rights as well.

Who was Mary Wollstonecraft? Personal History and the Revolutions (EB-8)

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah, so she lived in a really fascinating time. She was herself one of the oldest of her family. Her father was an alcoholic, and she really had to take responsibility for her siblings, and I think she matured quickly because of that. She had very kind of heart-wrenching situations that others write about that I didn’t, but where she sat outside her parents’ door because she wanted to go and stop her father from hurting her mother. She had other situations where her sister was pregnant and then had a child, and she had to save her sister from that man. And then because of the law at that time, the sister had to abandon her own child to protect herself. So, she had these sort of harrowing experiences as a young woman. She went on to found a school in Newington Green with her sisters, and her first book was dedicated to the education of your daughters.

And it’s interesting, she’s sort of a real teacher at heart, and in thinking about the education of girls, she brought together different… From scripture to Shakespeare to poetry that I’ve actually just only come across since writing the book called The Female Reader. And it really draws out her real deep Christian anthropology in a way that really confirmed a lot of my own research on this in a way that I would’ve been happy to do more so in my book. But real deep faith—Anglican at first in practice, went on to meet Richard Price, who was at that point a Unitarian minister when Unitarians meant something. And he was also kind of a pamphleteer, was very invested in the American Revolution. He said something like, “After Christianity, the American Revolution is kind of the second greatest thing in the progress of humanity.”

He was in correspondence with many of the founders. He really was one of the chief’s teachers of Wollstonecraft. He was himself sort of a moral theorist and a preacher. And from all accounts, even by Abigail Adams and John Adams who were in his congregation when they went to Britain on their diplomatic assignment right after the Revolutionary War, Abigail Adams said he had this incredible charity. So, really good man who she came under the tutelage of. I think both of them were really upset by the sort of American founding in terms of really thought it had great hope, especially they really shared a lot of… When you think of the founders and understanding that virtue, human virtue is required for liberty. That was very much their thinking too—basically the republican understanding that virtue is necessary for liberty.

Both of them were very appalled by the slave trade that continued on in the States, and then also by the absence of political equality for women. She goes on then to engage in some of the early writing about the French Revolution. I think at first both she and Price had some hope that the French Revolution would be something like the American Revolution.

Mary Wollstonecraft, Edmund Burke, and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (EB-9)

Erika Bachiochi:

She engages with Edmund Burke famously in her first… Or not in her first book, but kind of her first political treaties, Vindication of the Rights of Men. And then goes on to write A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which is the chief text that I look at in my book. Obviously, the title comes from her book, Vindication of the Rights of Women. So my book is The Rights of Women, but really I’m looking at the whole treatment that she has in both of those texts in which she is engaging with Burke in a way that, the best way I would put it, though I don’t put it as clearly in my book, is that if he is really steeped in English traditions and really sees rights as coming straight out of traditions and straight out of the common law and sort of the long English traditions, she wants to push him from a natural law perspective.

That’s what she really does in A Vindication of the Rights of Men is just like, how can you criticize slavery—she knew that Burke was very much against slavery—if you only have this idea of prescription? Which is that we shouldn’t kind of question old traditions, at least quickly for Burke. He wanted… And so Wollstonecraft was more willing to use principle to critique. And his worry with the French Revolution, of course, is “What are they going to do with this liberty?” And I think he was quite prescient. And she then went on to be in Paris during the Reign of Terror, and then I think came to see the real problem, really distanced herself from the French Revolution and was very much sort of a partisan of the American Revolution.

 Wollstonecraft’s Marriage, Death and Legacy (EB-10)

Erika Bachiochi:

At that point, she met an American after she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman when she was in Paris. And for her safety as an English woman, she took his name so they appeared to be married, but because of the laws of coverture and laws which we can certainly talk about, which really were not of benefit to her as she saw from her own sister, that she didn’t want to be actually married to him. This came out later when he abandoned her for philandering and other women. And then she went on to, in her grief, attempt suicide twice. She had a child with him. Luckily, her child kind of is what kept her alive, I believe. And then she went on to marry the anarchist, William Godwin. What happens in terms of history is that she’s often remembered as sort of a “female Thomas Payne” or a “female William Godwin” instead of taken seriously in her own right, which is terribly sexist first of all, but also just really doesn’t pay attention to her thought.

I think there’s a lot of reasons for that. One is that she was really… Liam Godwin wrote a biography in his being grieved of her passing in childbirth. She died about 10 days after childbirth after having a child with him. And he told some of her tragic past, which if you read today, especially with my own past, doesn’t seem as horrifying as it did to the British people then. But I think it went on to really… I think her fellow countrymen really held her in contempt for her life. And then of course, didn’t take seriously her ideas, which of course was a great pity. And probably more famous even than Mary Wollstonecraft is her daughter who she bore from William Godwin, who is the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley.

Doug Monroe:

Well, I would say my impression is that I had the impression that her life facts are over here, and her philosophy and theology and all of that is over here, when in fact, that’s probably not the case at all. I would say that maybe if she had enemies, her life facts, it made it very easy for them to use them against her, and they did. Okay. Could you say that… I feel a sense of tragedy in her life that she just never found the right guy.

The Tragedy, Warnings, and Vision of Wollstonecraft’s Life (EB-11)

Erika Bachiochi:

The way I characterize it in my book, and Wollstonecraft scholars have sort of different opinions of this, but I think that she in a lot of ways in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is warning women to steer clear of libertine men—men who don’t care about their dignity. She’s also warning women to not be manipulative and not self-objectify and not care only about their appearance. I mean, there’s all sorts of things she’s warning them about in order to really inspire them to live lives of virtue, which we’ll talk about. But she is warning them about these libertine men. And then, as it turns out, she thought she had found this new man in this American Gilbert Imlay. And the letters she writes to him, which we have, are incredibly beautiful. And they really call him toward the philosophy of marriage that she espouses in her rights of women. They call him to share domestic life with her. “Why don’t you see how important this life is together with our child?” It’s trying to call him away from this other woman. It’s incredibly tragic. It’s incredibly tragic, especially because as a woman like me in the 21st century who has all sorts of philosophies of marriage and all sorts of philosophies of life that her philosophy seems to me is so edifying for women. It’s one that I found that I’ve been able to live myself with my own husband, with my own children, that our life is very much centered around the work we do together in the home raising our children. The way in which the inculcation of virtue in our children, and the way in which that redounds to inculcating virtue in ourselves, God willing, is something that is really part of her vision.

When I read her vision, it was so compelling to me because I was already living it or trying to live it. And then to understand what she wasn’t able to have… Her relationship with William Godwin is really interesting in a way, because when he first met her as a peer in this group of dissenters, those who were dissenting from the English government requiring anyone who worked for the government to sign on as being Anglican. So of course, Catholics are left out and any other Protestants and others are entirely sort of left out of that. And so she was among these dissenting and kind of smaller Republicans at this time.

They had very different philosophical approaches and he really didn’t like The Rights of Woman. Didn’t like that book, didn’t like her. They go on later to meet and then they’re able to have sort of an accord. I think he really grew to love her, I mean, incredible intellect. The fascinating thing is that he never understood her religiosity, because of course he was an atheist himself. And as we know, it’s hard for an atheist to grasp someone else who would go for walks to really commune with the divine and really understood her whole life as being sort of an imitation of the goodness of God. That’s what she thought the point of life was. They had an intellectual, and I think a real loving relationship. But even with him, there wasn’t a sharing in the way that I found with my own husband, so there is a way in which her life is very tragic.

Doug Monroe:

A tragic sense. And I just want to say, “Mary, there are good guys out there, trust me.” And furthermore, the other thing I found astounding is that it’s really just a good moral vision for men as well. I mean, it’s the Wollstonecraft vision for women, and it’s different because you’re a woman, but there’s also the same over here for men. And Mary Eberstadt brought that out pretty well in her book, How the West Really Lost God because it was so focused on what the family can do to bring out God. But anyway, so here’s your big opportunity to state Mary Wollstonecraft. And you might say her name, I hate to coach you a little bit in the beginning, but her moral vision as best you can.

Wollstonecraft’s Moral Vision and Virtuous Duties (EB-12)

Erika Bachiochi:

The way I’ve boiled down Wollstonecraft’s vision in the way that at least, I mean, there’s all sorts of things that you could talk about with regard to her vision. But in terms of how she thinks about rights, I would say that for her, civil and political rights were definitely necessary, but they were a means to virtuously carrying out one’s duties. Virtue and duties for her are more important concepts. And you see them, if you were just look at the number of times that these words are seen in the text, you see that they’re much more important to her thought, though rights are crucial as well. And so, what does that mean? For her, you could think of duties and four different categories, and I think it’s helpful to spell them out. So, the first is duties to self. And sometimes people say, “Well, duties to self, what could that mean?”

No, no, no. For her, the human being was a particular kind of animal. She talked about the human being as a rational creature who was created by God in the image of God. And I mean, she doesn’t use the language of being rightly, whose soul needed to be rightly ordered in the Platonic sense, but she does adhere to a lot of Plato in the sense of wanting to participate or imitate the goodness of God. For her, there’s this one, you have to imitate God’s goodness, and you have to imitate God’s wisdom. And that’s what virtue is. It’s inculcated in very small acts of carrying out one’s duties. When you’re carrying out your duties to yourself, what does that mean? Well, it means, first of all, through self-mastery. Through mastering your appetites. Because she understood that we were creatures, and so we had appetites, we had passions, of course.

But for her, like the ancients, passions are neither good nor bad. They have to be directed if they’re going to be advantageous for the person and for others by reason and by higher principle. If passions lead the way, then she saw human beings— men or women—as being like beasts, just animals. So, to be a rational creature, you had to be led by reason and reason always had to be led by God. So, it’s duties to self so it’s self-mastery, but then it’s also self-development. So really understanding one’s self as someone who could develop both morally and intellectually. Both of those go together. So, in terms of rights, well, women needed the right to a really rigorous education the way men had in order that they could carry out those duties to themselves to develop themselves, both intellectually and morally, in order to develop self-mastery, wo they wouldn’t be but sort of animals or concerned only about their appearance, manipulating others around them. They needed to elevate themselves.

How do they elevate themselves? By understanding their end, which is virtue, but then also duties to others. She very much talked a lot about duties within the family. So, to children, to elderly parents, she really saw motherhood and fatherhood as the first duty of the citizen. Duties to fellow creatures. She has these lovely lines where she talks about, you can only understand how your relationship with God by how you treat the lesser servants among you, which is really quite beautiful. And then, of course, duties to your country and those kinds of things.

all of that though is not, I mean, I think it’s really important that you don’t… A lot of people—and they’re even Wollstonecraft scholars who get this wrong—is they understand when they write duty. She comes before Kant, but they read her as this Kantian who puts duty first. And there is a way in which duty is chiefly important, but it’s in a pre-Kant way, in an older sense of being drawn by the good. And that’s how older thinkers, ancient thinkers understood; is being drawn by what is good, and then you’re to virtuously carry out that duty ultimately for the good of others.

Virtue Ethicist, Not a Stoic (EB-13)

So she’s also not a Stoic, where virtue is just for her own sake. It’s always for benevolence of others. And that moral maturity comes by coming to see others as wants to whom we owe something, to whom we should give of ourselves. And so it’s a really beautiful vision that’s very much also in keeping with sort of a “mere Christianity”, if you would say, is an understanding of also the ultimate equality and equal dignity of all persons, man and woman.

So, there’s just an understanding of the equal dignity of all persons. Man, woman, regardless of race, class and all of that, because of this capacity for moral development and that everyone has a shot wherever they are to develop morally. And she really took that, she saw that as a responsibility of each human being to do so. She expected that institutions would be designed around people’s dignity, but also their development, their capacity to develop themselves intellectually and morally.

So, she really critiqued institutions including marriage, but also aristocracy based on what she saw as power differentials, which made both the one who was in power and the one who was without power made it hard for them to develop in virtue. And virtue is always the reason why she critiqued these, because she saw development of virtue is the ultimate aim of people’s life. Because, well, in an Aristotelian sense, it brought about their happiness and societal happiness as well.

Is Wollstonecraft’s vision of ethics duty, virtue, or utilitarian focused? (EB-14)

Erika Bachiochi:

I would say that she’s not a utilitarian, except insofar as she rhetorically employs different kinds of traditions in order to get to her aim. A lot of Wollstonecraft scholars have talked about that. That in a way, if you sit down and read her work, sometimes it’s hard. “Is she a Platonist? Is she an Aristotelian? Wait, isn’t she drawing on Adam Smith there? Wait, who is she?” And so she’s really pulling together a lot of thought, which I think is quite beautiful. Because it’s showing she’s not the female “Thomas Paine,” She’s not a “female Lockian,” as many have claimed. She’s really her own thinker in her own right because she’s brought together all of this thought.

So, I would say very much not a utilitarian. In terms of right virtue, a virtue ethicist or deontology in terms of duty. I mean, I see her as more of a virtue ethicist, but very much with this duty as that which one is aiming at it because the other person is at the end of our duty. We have duties to others or duties to God. She saw those as really crucially important. I also think—to jump ahead a bit, but I think this is important, we can talk about it again—but is the way I think about how she thinks about men and women is that they have a common call to live out the virtues, but the way those virtues instantiate themselves or manifest themselves in men and women differently is according to their duties. Because she talks about that; that for men and women duties are different, but the same human principle should govern them. And she was talking, of course, most naturally about motherhood and fatherhood, but also other potential duties that they might have.

Rights Always Entail Duties and Vice Versa (EB-15)

Doug Monroe:

Gotcha. Just focusing on duties for a second. And I did pick up, by the way, your Kantian reference in the prior answer, and I saw that. But I mean, just to be practical about it, if you have rights, that you have rights with other people in the room, and the only way your right is worth anything is if they have a duty to enforce it. So, every time you’re talking about any right, whatever it is, the people that are around you have to feel a duty to enforce it, or it’s worth absolutely nothing. What I would say is just my opinion, if you’re a Christian, you eventually lead with duties.

Erika Bachiochi:

That’s right. Well, that’s my view too.

Doug Monroe:

That’s what flips you, right?

Correlation Between Rights and Duties (EB-16)

Erika Bachiochi:

I have a whole paper on this if you’re interested. On writes and duty. So, what I would say about that is that Wollstonecraft does this really… Again, she’s not as systematic as this, but there’s a way in which rights and duties are connected in two different ways. One is that duties are this correlative of rights. And so of course, if I have a right then up and against you, a claim against you, you have a duty toward me. Or if I have a duty as a parent, then you could say, my children have a right to be given care. There’s another way in which she does that, and that is that rights are necessary to carry out duties. There’s two different ways in which she’s interacting with rights and duties, which I’ve also tried to pull out as since doing this book. I’ve tried to get more deeply into rights theory and see where this might be of help in thinking through some of our more contentious issues, including abortion.

But I think it’s a very helpful way to think about it. Whereas for rights theorists today, or at least for a very American understanding of rights, we used to think about rights and responsibilities together, but the way in which they’re sharply connected and absolutely need each other is something that I think Wollstonecraft brings up in a better way than someone even like John Locke, who is of course known as our big rights theorist in our country. I think Wollstonecraft has a way where she… Because her anthropology is so rich and she understands interdependence so much, that she gets rights and duties better. Whereas duty falls off, I think, in Locke’s thought far more than in Wollstonecraft.

Doug Monroe:

The other way to come at it, and you may mention this a little bit in your writing, is just positive and negative freedom. And negative freedom is sort of libertarian and in nature, and positive freedom is the freedom to be who you should be.

Erika Bachiochi:

That’s great.

Wollstonecraft, Early Modernity and Virtue as Happiness (EB-17)

Erika Bachiochi:

I do think of her as putting forward an ancient modern synthesis in a way that others of her contemporary—so Enlightenment thinkers—do not as obviously, at least. I mean, I think other scholars could always say that different… So, there’s certainly schools of interpreters of John Locke who think he’s an Aristotelian and they can read him that way, and others who say is much closer to Thomas Hobbs and all that. And there’s sort of debates that go about, but I think it’s very clear, at least from my reading and other Wollstonecraft scholars, that she has very much a foot within the ancient traditions, and especially because of her view of what the purpose of the human person is. So, what happens, obviously in modernity with Bacon and Descartes, IS a real push toward being able to relieve man’s estate with scientific discovery and technology and these sorts of things.

So, the push to focus on property and then, well, accumulation of property and property rights, but then the ability to consume wealth. Obviously, you see all that in aristocracies, but there’s a push away from me. What modernity is doing is saying, “We don’t want to have these religious wars anymore. We don’t want to talk about these substantive goods and which ones,” right? So, we’re just going to focus on, well, what rights that we can get as property and pushing the good of man’s estate or whatever. And she really pushes back against that and says, “Look, the desire for wealth, prestige, all these sorts of things are no good. They’re not going to make you happy. And it really is just virtue.” And that’s a very old idea. It’s a very ancient idea, obviously a Christian idea as well.

There’s a way in which—especially coming from a Christian perspective—there is looking back at it, there’s a richness of her being, really speaking within the modern time, modern period, but really looking back and appropriating a lot of ancient thought.

Industrial Revolution and Wollstonecraft: Commerce vs. Virtue? (EB-18)

Erika Bachiochi:

What I take in my book is really important is that she was just in the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. And the Industrial Revolution is what changes everything. And is what really I think is the chief catalyst for the first wave of feminism. She wasn’t there to experience that entirely; she started to see… there’s a great line in a later book of hers where she’d been critiquing aristocracy in the monarchy for so long as not being that which where virtue could be really cultivated for both rich and poor. Because for the rich, they’re sloughing off the dignified work on the servants, and for the poor they’re just imitating the rich

So, virtue couldn’t be developed. Well, then she says, “Wait a second though. If the quest for wealth is going to take over for aristocracy, well that’s going to be even worse for the development of virtue.” So, she starts to see. In America, she sees great hope because of this focus the founders had in their rhetoric on virtue. She also sees the possibility of, because of the great territory of American land, the possibility of small farms and ownership, and how much of that could really inculcate virtue in a way that some of our founders did as well. But she really worries about commerce as being the end of people’s lives in a way that I think has been very prescient for us in this country too, where there’s this always this debate between, “What is our identity as Americans? Is it virtue and a quest for virtue or is commerce and getting ahead and all that?” And there’s a big tension there, I think. And she very much saw that in her work.

Doug Monroe:

And of course, economic and social science research supports that a hundred percent, as far as money doesn’t buy you happiness. That’s the simplest way to put it. But there’s just a ton of research on this and it just proves out.

Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Ann Glendon: Sisters in Thought (EB-19)

Erika Bachiochi:

Mary Ann Glendon has always been my greatest intellectual hero. I really credit her with intellectually really sparking interest in questions of political theory, questions of anthropology, what it is to be human and all of that. When I read Wollstonecraft knowing Glendon’s work really well, it seemed to me, well, “Wow, these two are sisters, in terms of their thought.” And what’s fascinating about, and one of the things I argue in my book is, I mean, the basic gist is that Wollstonecraft sets the frame for this lost vision, and then it carries through the first and the second wave of feminism. And what I argue is though there’s many good things I have to say about Ruth Bader Ginsburg—and we will get to that—there’s a way in which the wrong turn that happens in modern feminism could have been avoided had we instead followed the thought of Mary Ann Glendon.

And Mary Ann Glendon, best known as ambassador to the Vatican from the United States. Also, learned hand, professor of law now emeritus at Harvard Law School. She is highest ranking woman in the Catholic church for a long time as the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, an incredible scholar, which is why she held that position, worldwide reputation as a Comparatist lawyer. So, someone who, if you can imagine, knows all the constitutional traditions of different types of nations and communities in her own mind and understands how they compare and contrast. So, really incredibly learned, became also a great scholar of human rights, and both in the critique of rights and a libertarian, real deeply libertarian notion of rights, which is when I first read her in terms of rights talk, but also really wanting to ground rights, she has a great book on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

So that’s her thought. So why do I put these two together? Well, certainly because there’s an understanding in both of their thought that the work of the family, of the development of virtue that parents do in children that parents learn, and through that work in the home, that it is the precondition for every other good. So, for political freedom, for civic harmony, for economic freedom, all of those things have to begin with these preconditions that start from the family. So for her, her first love, in some sense, was family law. She wrote an award-winning book on the transformation of the family. She has a book on abortion and divorce in Western law. And the reason why she’s so important to the story and her scholarship is so important to the story is because she gets us to the other side of the Industrial Revolution.

How the Industrial Revolution Sparked First-Wave Feminism (EB-20)

Erika Bachiochi:

Whereas Wollstonecraft has this sort of thought, this sort of vision for what women and men could be like in terms of collaboration, in terms of their own development and virtue, in terms of their harmonious engagement in the work of the home with raising of children, there’s this break that happens in the Industrial Revolution.

We have agrarian time where Wollstonecraft vision actually is quite appropriate. The work of the home done by, conducted by men and women together. Yes, they’re sort of gendered roles for sure, based on male strength and women nursing and bearing children. But there’s a collaboration that’s necessary just because of subsistence living in the agrarian home. With the Industrial Revolution, men are pulled out of the home, sent to work in factories, and they become—very quickly due to how industrialization and the rise of capitalism works—Is there becomes a deep dependency of the wage earner, this man on the capitalist, and then there also becomes a new dependency of the woman upon her husband.

Of course, legal dependency was something that for age on, there was an understanding from different sources of legal subordination in the home, but there wasn’t an economic subordination. Men in the home relied upon women just as much as women relied upon men. So, in some sense the legal subordination was almost like a fiction. I mean, if you’re living in collaboration and you respect each other and you need each other for the work you do each day, that legal subordination isn’t really that important. And really, there were no complaints about it for a long, long time. There were women in the 15th century, Christina Pisan, who certainly push forward understandings of women’s equality that comes out of the Christian tradition, imago dei. But there’s not a revolution as you see in the first wave of American feminism and other parts of the world, due to what happens in the Industrial Revolution.

So, women become far more dependent on those wage-earning men and it puts them in all sorts of difficult situations. What Mary Ann Glendon work does, is show that the response to that in different nations—but especially in a place like America—is that instead of requiring more duties of men and requiring more collaboration somehow, or expecting that, we do this libertarian turn where we say, “Well, in order for women to have equality with men, we just have to allow for easier divorce. We have to allow for something like abortion,” that’s getting further on. You’re breaking up the family into liberal individuals instead of seeing the need to bring them together through more collaboration, because economically that has broken down.

She also is very clear that after the Industrial Revolution… And Betty Friedan gets into good insights on this. I definitely don’t agree with her on a lot of things, but she has great insights about after the Industrial Revolution. A lot of men took women’s work of the home because, well, through technology created fast appliances that could do a lot of that work that women were doing. Think of the great craft and art of sewing clothing, of the loom at home, which was high above the ground so that children could work under. Women were doing that kind of work, which was very intensive and very highly skilled in the home. And that work was then suddenly taken out of the home. So, then you had this way in which men had earned the wages, and women suddenly needed those wages to buy the things that they once did for themselves. There’s a great asymmetry that begins to grow. And so, of course, women are going to start to need their own work or security, especially when men are then pulled to the cities where there’s other temptations as well. So that’s why, of course, the first women’s movement, temperance was one of their chief aims because of the worries they had about men not being true to their responsibilities in the home.

First Wave Feminism and Sexual Asymmetry (EB-21)

Erika Bachiochi:

The way I frame the history of women’s rights in the Rights of Women is through the lens of sexual asymmetry, which is the basic biological fact that men and women are different with regard to reproduction, but also in other ways: hormonally, in ways that affects them in terms of their strength, in terms of longevity of fertility, in terms of early caregiving because of things like nursing, in terms of sexual desires, all those sorts of different things. And the question for the women’s rights advocates early on for Wollstonecraft herself, who’s sort of like a proto-feminist, but then also for the first wave feminism in the United States, which I refer to as the early women’s rights advocates, is that they were responding to this sexual asymmetry first by respecting it and then by thinking about what was required morally of themselves and of the men in their lives. And then, what would help socially to respond to sexual asymmetry.

What does that mean? Well, with regard to things like greater libido in men, which we know is due to testosterone, but then greater impact of pregnancy, obviously on women, there was a call among the early women’s rights advocates for male chastity, and they talked about voluntary motherhood.

Early Feminism’s Views on Abortion (EB-22)

Erika Bachiochi:

At that time, there were no crimes against marital rape. And because of an understanding that a wife was a husband’s property in some sense through the laws of coverture, there was a view that he could take her whenever he wanted. And clearly there were disproportionate consequences of that act on her. And there was a lot of pushing back against that among the early women’s rights advocates.

That also went hand in hand in there as sort of a response for them to what they call “the rising crime of abortion,” which at that point was there were statutes that had prohibited abortion throughout the pregnancy in the mid to late 19th century. These women’s rights advocates saw no problem with that. They understood the child to be very much their responsibility as mothers from when the child existed within them.

They actually really, some of them, some of the early doctors fought people like Madame Restell, who was an abortionist in New York City, very well known. They also wanted to disabuse women of thinking that their care and concern for their child only happened when they could feel the child through quickening. That the science at that time, the science of embryology had developed to know that there was a child before that time. Dr. Ellis Stockholm talked about life beginning at conception. The first woman to run for president, Equal Rights Party, Victoria Woodhull, was very, very strong in her language calling abortion murder, others likewise. So, they saw voluntary motherhood as also a response to the crime of abortion. That if women could have the way we would say today as autonomy over their bodies, that is, that they could say no to sex even within marriage, even especially within marriage, then they would not have what we would say is today “forced pregnancy.”

But they didn’t see that autonomy extend to taking the life of their own child because they saw that body as a different body from their own to whom they owed a great responsibility. SoM this idea, fast forward to the second wave, that you could have a right to abortion, to ending the life of your own child, would be philosophically untenable to them because they saw rights as necessary to carry out those duties to their child. And they saw the child as having their own rights. Victoria Woodhull is very clear about that. She says, “Rights that begin when they’re a fetus.” So voluntary motherhood, this need for this call up and against the kind of perennial double standard that men should be chaste, that it ought not just be women who are responsible for chastity, but men should be chaste too, comes very much out of Wollstonecraft’s thought as well.

She really is also saying up and against Rousseau at that period, it’s not just women who are responsible for chastity, men are responsible for chastity, too. It’s not just men who are called to have all the other virtues. Women ought to be called to all those virtues as well. So, it’s very much of a peace in terms of the first wave being very Wollstonecraftian.

The Problem with Fertility and the Second Wave Solution (EB-23)

Erika Bachiochi:

What’s interesting as you continue on is the great rupture that happens with Margaret Sanger. Margaret Sanger sees all of this; the misery caused by women having many, many children, poor women having children. And she wants contraception to be the answer to that. It can be understandable that that would be the case, but she really sees not a right to contraception or something like that, but that women have a duty to contracept because of the way in which the female body, female fertility, are the cause of their own poverty.

I mean, she really is quite hyperbolic about this. She blames women’s fertility for war, for all sorts of bad things that happen in the world, famine, et cetera. Then the second wave feminist like Simone de Beauvoir, who follow in her footsteps, really see not the problem in the need for men to have virtue, for women to have virtue, but that the problem is female fertility. Then they go with that, the solution they propose to sexual asymmetry is technological, which is very much in line with the modern project writ large, philosophically in line with Bacon and Descartes, et cetera.

In other words, just to summarize, is that you have this first wave that responds to sexual asymmetry through moral and social means. And so, think of the social means: the right to vote, also joint property ownership, the right to contract, the right to property own, all sorts of different things that enable women to then carry out their duties. The second wave sees the technological solution, the pill, and then on from that abortion is being the way to deal with these asymmetries.

Third and Fourth Wave Feminism: Sexual Freedom and Sex as Construct (EB-24)

Erika Bachiochi:

There’s all sorts of consequences. I would say just about the third and fourth wave, they’re kind of doubling down on the technological solution. The third wave, from my understanding, though my book doesn’t get into this, is really a sex positivity. Women need to be able to have sex and enjoy sex with the freedom that men do. That’s where you just see the thought. I mean, Kate Millett, she criticizes that first wave as being naive. Really, we need to be engaging in sexual libertinism just like men.

And then moving on to someone like Shulamith Firestone, who sees again doubling down on technology, assisted reproductive technology is really the way to get women out of that physical bind, the physical slavery they have of their own bodies, of being the one who’s bearing children. She sees technology as the answer to that.

And then even go further into someone like Judith Butler, who then sees sex as a construct altogether. They want to do away with the body. And with the female body, in some sense, it’s technology that’s allowed that; it’s allowed us to entirely forget, when you’ve medicated or used hormones to change your physiology, you forget what the differences between men and women are most fundamentally, which are reproductive.

I think Aristotle puts it best, that women reproduce inside themselves and men reproduce outside of themselves. There are dramatic consequences because of that basic biological fact, because men can walk away from a pregnancy and callous men have throughout human history. So how do you answer that? Do you call men to something greater, which is what Wollstonecraft in the first wave do? Or you just say, “Well, men are slobs and they’re all going to be like this, and so we’ll ape their capacity to walk away from a pregnancy by doing something which is very different, which is taking the life of her own child.” So, it’s an imitation of men rather than calling men to something greater.

Crosstalk: Feminist Waves and Judith Butler (EB-25)

Doug Monroe:

It’s interesting, you’re thinking of waves in terms of really the practical, moral, individual sense of the man/woman relationship. When I think if it was sort of like a high school textbook, would say the first wave was about the boat. The second wave came along with Betty Friedan and women wanting to get out of the home and that went on for a while. And then the third wave is I think postmodernism and dissing the male/female relationship. And then if there’s a fourth wave, it’s no sex at all. In other words, there’s not male and female or something.

I think you’re talking about the bell curve of male/women relationships where husband, wife, how do they deal with this? It’s interesting you brought up Judith Butler. I don’t think you mentioned a lot about her.

Erika Bachiochi:

No, I didn’t say anything about her. Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

She’s an evil genius.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah, true.

Doug Monroe:

She is truly an evil genius, which is a nice lead in to I did want to get you to, if possible, talk a little bit about the whole property, the coverture. Just the black letter explanation for the people who don’t know the, what is it? The covenant contract? The different ways of looking at marriage. Because marriage is central to Wollstonecraft’s whole existence.

The History of Coverture (EB-26)

Erika Bachiochi:

Coverture comes to be an understanding of marriage that comes out of William Blackstone’s book in the late 18th century, in which he basically does a systematic digest of the laws of England, of the common law. And he is, from our understanding, the first one to write coverture down as the way in which when a man and woman come together in marriage, the man covers over the woman. And she, in some sense—well, in all sense legally— loses any right she had as a femme soul. So, a single woman, to be under his cover. He’s responsible for her and they become kind of one person in the law, but that one person is him. If you think about the unity of marriage in a covenant within Christianity, you could say that there’s a unity, but the unity is the marriage. It’s not the one person, right, of the man.

This has obviously significance, especially because of what I talked about with regard to the Industrial Revolution, that you can imagine if there’s one united in the man and they’re working together in a sort of agrarian era on the family farm, in the family shop, and it’s his profession but she’s working and they’re working as a unit together, that that might not have caused a lot of protests. But with the Industrial Revolution, you have this legal subordination within marriage with coverture, where she has no rights left. So, all her property that’s been brought into the marriage is now his and all of that. She has no right to contract apart from the marriage or anything; she has no right, therefore, to sell some of her goods and have it be to her name in case he’s philandering or whatever. That you can understand that that can begin to cause a major problem for women who have especially men who are going astray, that they have no means of taking care of themselves and their children.

Property Rights 1st, the Right to Vote 2nd, Then the Temperance Movement (EB-27)

Erika Bachiochi:

This is where you start to see, yes, there’s a clamoring for the right to vote, but the right to vote is actually far on. We think of it as, because it’s easy, I guess, in textbooks to say “women, the first wave is all about the vote,” but really it wasn’t all about the vote for quite some time. First, there was this move for joint property ownership. And what’s fascinating about the history here is that you have John Stuart Mill who’s arguing for what’s called separate property ownership, and then you have the women’s rights advocates arguing for joint property ownership. And separate property ownership was what they got, which is okay, so if you go outside the home and you earn your own money, great, you can have it in your own name. But that wasn’t all that helpful because most women didn’t work outside the home. Their great productive work was inside the home.

All they wanted was a joint share in the property, which is what we have today. Finally, in the 1970s and 80s, women actually achieved this, where they’re putting collaborative work into the home, it’s economically beneficial for the life of the home, for the homestead. So, they should own it jointly; when their husband dies, it should go to them automatically. It’s something that we take for granted today, but wasn’t always. That was kind of the first move that they made, was joint property ownership. Over time, of course, voluntary motherhood as I spoke about, the rights within marriage to say no to sex, and then the vote. Why? Because at that point it was understood that men represented women.

In Republican government, you have representatives who represent the people, and then you have men, husbands represent women. Well, in line with temperance, I mean, again, there’s men who aren’t holding up to their duties of really representing their families well. So, temperance is hand in hand at that point with the vote, because as Frances Willard, the head of the Christian Temperance Movement, women’s movement said that we need the home protection ballot. She said, “The 10 Commandments are voted up and down at every election, and women need to be out there (her women) in the Temperance Movement, voting those commandments up because we need the home protected, we need the goods of the home protected.” And there was less confidence, I guess, that men were doing that because of the bottle.

Women as Individuals (EB-28)

Erika Bachiochi:

There’s a significant number of women in that early clamoring for women’s rights that really follow in Wollstonecraft’s track. They read Wollstonecraft, The Revolution published by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton publish parts of the Rights of Woman in their publication. They very much adhere to this understanding of marriage as a collaboration, as human beings, as interdependent, all these kinds of ideas that Wollstonecraft had.

There’s another strain of thought though among women’s rights advocates that starts to rear its head. And that comes out of, after the publication of John Stuart Mill’s Subjection of Women. Mill is much more focused on women as individuals. And out of his book on liberty, that the point of liberty is for individuality, and the development of individuality, which may sound somewhat like Wollstonecraft, but for Wollstonecraft it wasn’t just the development of individuality; it was the individual as a moral person developing intellectually and morally toward a particular end, which she was very clear about.

So, individuality on its own could be in any which way. You really start to have, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is really the first that I would want to name. Alice Paul a little bit later who tends to talk about women as individuals first and foremost, they’re very much in the liberal tradition; so out of John Locke, John Stuart Mill, who see that, if you think about the social contract where men are now individuals entering into civil society, well think of who it was these men could be kind of engaged in political thought and thinking about political ideas. Well, why? Because their wives were at home taking care of their children. They enter civil society as these individuals. The way in which a liberal feminism starts to emerge is that for women to participate in the public sphere, they have to enter as those liberal individuals as well. And so, leave their children behind in some sense.

Libertarians and Women in the Workplace (EB-29)

Erika Bachiochi:

You have what I call the libertarians. It’s coming out of John Stuart Mill, John Locke, understandings of the language they use as self-ownership—much different from a Wollstonecraftian strain. You have these two strains moving on together, the Wollstonecraftian, and then the liberal strain. And that changes how they think when they start to get women entering the workplace. You have the libertarians who really want women on an equal footing with men. The right to contract is really important. Women should be thought of as no different from men. Whereas you have these communitarians much more in line with someone like Wollstonecraft, I think, and others, Frances Willard, more in the labor side who see women—and they see men this way too—but see women as members of families, as mothers, sisters, those responsible especially with special responsibility for the family. They couldn’t be treated just like men were in the workplace.

So, they’re clamoring at that point—and this is a big section of my book—for special protections for women in the workplace, from the industrial workplace. So, limited working hours, minimum wages, because women also didn’t have labor unions to fight for them. They had significant asymmetry and power differentials with their employers. There’s this great debate that goes on in the Industrial Revolution in the courts, and what we know—as a law student, I went and you see the men attorneys fighting it out with the male justices, but what we don’t know are the women behind these men who are making these kind of arguments. Individualistic on the one hand and for right to contract, which are all good and fine, but then understanding women as members of families on the other hand. And they’re really kind of battling it out in the courts. What comes out of this is a lot of women in FDR’s administration fighting for those basic labor laws. So, a floor on minimum wages, but also maximum working hours, those kinds of things, protection of children and others in the industrial workplace that I think were really important to humanizing the workplace at that point.

Some Women Become Imitators of Men (EB-30)

Erika Bachiochi:

I think that there’s no question that there’s a model of feminism that especially comes out of the 1970s where women seek to imitate traditional male behavior. And it’s not only in the workplace, thinking that they need to be market equals, to be equals with men, to work the same hours, obviously earning the same wages for the same work makes good sense, but that they need to be those kind of liberal individuals who come into the marketplace, come into the public sphere and leave their children behind.

Obviously, contraception and abortion make that possible, but there’s also a clamoring for contraception and abortion, especially abortion in order to be these kind of market equals. But there’s also a way in which—and we see this with sex positivity that begins to happen—where they want to be able to have sex like men, and what does that mean? But certainly, in so many studies, you see there’s men, if you put morals aside, have a greater interest in more sexual partners, having sex early on in a relationship, that they don’t have as much regret for casual sex. They actually have more regret for not having had the casual sex. Those kinds of things.

I mean, there’s a male-oriented sexuality that is very much pushed by the testosterone that’s flowing through teenage bodies and beyond that. There’s a way in which the pill and abortion facilitate that kind of male-oriented sexuality. This is something that the early women’s rights advocates very much saw as a threat to them; they saw that even those early contraceptive methods that were around at that point. But then for sure, abortion would kind of tilt the sexual playing field further in the male direction. And that, I think, concerned them quite a bit. Because they wanted men not to be taking advantage of them, obviously, but that sort of viewpoint is entirely lost when it comes to the second wave, or when you introduce the pill and abortion into the kind of sexual marketplace.

Abortion and Gender Equality (EB-31)

Erika Bachiochi:

That everything changes, that there’s a great increase in sexual risk taking that happens. And all of those risks were down disproportionately to women. Women are the ones who then start having more unexpected pregnancies—even though it was thought that the pill would help reduce unexpected pregnancies—because there’s more sex happening because people feel like they can take more risks.  There’s actually more unexpected pregnancies and therefore more out of wedlock childbearing and more abortion. And so that’s what happens. I mean, you can see the direct hit from the pill in 1960 to the increase in especially out of wedlock births, but also of course abortion.

And then clamoring for abortion as a solution to this, when the pill of course was put forth as a prophylactic against abortion at first. If we have the pill, then we’ll have fewer abortions, which were of course very dangerous for women at that time. But then obviously the moral problems with abortion as well. What’s unfortunately happened is that we’ve come along to think—and the Supreme Court has not helped with this in terms of its decision in Roe and then Planned v. Casey—that these kinds of technological solutions are necessary for women to be equal. I mean, this is kind of the mantra that we hear, is that abortion is necessary for women’s equality.

And what’s sad if you look from the perspective of that first wave, is that they saw abortion as a failure. That when women had abortions, that it was evidence that society had wronged them in some way, that they had failed to have the education or that they were locked into bad situations with men and all of that. It’s the exact reversal, where at first it was seen as this is clearly that women aren’t equal to men, and if they should become equal, they wouldn’t need this to go out and get these then illegal abortions. Then it becomes that abortion is necessary for women’s equality. Why? So they could walk away from that pregnancy just as the man could, so they can be unencumbered, just as men are.

I think today we see the casual sex that’s on offer, the kind of pornification that’s happened where porn is available of course due to technology and the ability for people to access porn all the time, that there’s a real kind of tragic way in which sexuality has become entirely driven by the most base motives and most base interests of men who have very little respect for women. When I think Wollstonecraft’s vision, the first wave feminist vision, was that you could see a more female-centered sexuality. Where you could understand that the female’s body is the one that carries the consequences of sex within her, and that those consequences are really serious for her. So that there would be a chivalry toward the woman’s body and those disproportionate consequences. And then a man could wait and be mastering of his own sexuality. And that’s something that’s just entirely lost in this new what we call feminism.

Crosstalk: Unintended Consequences of Reproductive Technology (EB-32)

Doug Monroe:

What you see is women are given the opportunity to become more like men, and those that do very much risk becoming more like men, but more like bad men.

Erika Bachiochi:

That’s right.

Doug Monroe:

Okay? And if there’s ever an example, and this is where if you look at the statistics of the law of unintended consequences-

Erika Bachiochi:

Oh, that’s right.

Doug Monroe:

This is as big an example as you can ever get.

Erika Bachiochi:

That’s right.

Doug Monroe:

It’s the exact opposite of what they hope would happen.

Erika Bachiochi:

That’s right.

Doug Monroe:

Okay. And it’s just a fascinating thing to me.

First Step to Remediation: Ennobling the Home (EB-33)

Erika Bachiochi:

I think one of the shifts that I view, or the way I want to think about the history of feminism, is that a lot of people see the second wave when women go in huge numbers into the workplace as women leaving women’s work for men’s work. And I think to some extent that that’s true. However, I think it’s better to see that the shift is from the ennobling work of the home and seeing the home as the first thing to prioritizing the work of the market.

The logic of the market, the need for market equality takes great precedence in this way. And what we’ve lost is any sense of who’s taking care of the children, because the thought that market equality, the ability to work outside the home in as many hours as a man does, to have the kind of market prestige that a man does is what gives one value, has therefore really seen that most important work of the home; that Wollstonecraft and Glendon saw as so important for every other social, political, economic good is just gone by the wayside. That people don’t see that part of the reason why our republic is crumbling is because that work of the home in inculcating virtue is just seen as totally unimportant. So, we don’t understand parenting, motherhood and fatherhood with that kind of ennobling vision that Wollstonecraft had and that Glendon has and one that I think is really, really important.

Why are rates of fertility lower in the West? (EB-34)

Erika Bachiochi:

So, if the work of the home is important, if the work of the family is important, and families today are being crunched in so many ways economically, I mean, there’s all sorts of causes of this. There’s a sort of  mating where two elite professionals marry and therefore their salaries combine and you have them competing. Or you have the single mother who’s been abandoned by the father of her child competing for housing and all of life’s necessities against that, those sort of two high powered earners. You have all sorts of other ways in which it’s just very difficult for people coming right out of maturing, getting married to have children together. It’s just much more economically difficult for all sorts of reasons.

Lower wages for men without college degrees, which are many, many men. Manufacturing jobs, going for more high skilled jobs. There’s all sorts of reasons why starting a family is difficult. Costs of healthcare, all of that. It seems to me that we’re just in a different time right now and that fertility rates are going way down. People, women especially, say that they’re not having the number of children they want. They’re having a hard time finding mates. I mean, there’s all sorts of things that are caught up in that. It’s hard to put the Sexual Revolution back in the tube. And there’s ways I think that we can do that; certainly by limitations on abortion, through limitations on prohibitions of porn, not sure how to do that, but there certainly are ways in which these kind of catalysts of the Sexual Revolution can be, I would hope, through legislation you could start to see something shift.

But there’s also a way you need to get to that economic issue that happens where people do want to start families and find that they’re having a hard time. They’re having a hard time with being able to have one parent stay home, at least even part-time, to be able to really have the life of the home be the thing that they’re most focused on, most prioritizing, which I certainly have done in my own life.

What legislative actions should be taken to support the family? (EB-35)

Erika Bachiochi:

So, what are the kinds of things that we need to do? And I think part of it is that we need to make sure that those households that are raising children are not disproportionately harmed economically by the work they do in raising those children. Children used to be a great economic good, right, in agrarian times. And they’re economically more burdensome, but they’re not a burden. They’re a great joy and a great gift. And we need them for civilization to continue. But the great good that they bring to adults’ lives.

And so how do we make that possible? So, I think it’s thinking creatively about how local, state, and the federal government can take tax burdens off of people, can supplement income of people through things like the EITC, the earned income tax credit. I’ve always been in favor of wage subsidies. I think it’s a great way for people who are working out in the world but make very small wages that aren’t able to take care of their children. To do so through really creative ways, to take seriously the needs people have for childcare, but not through institutional childcare, through allowing monies to be potentially subsidized for poor folk, but that can be used in all sorts of different ways for their own family members, potentially their mother, their sister, whoever it is that’s home with children, so that people can work for the good of their children, but also put those children in the care of those they really trust.

I also think that we should be really thinking seriously about reducing the cost of healthcare of having children. I’m not a policy wonk, so I think about these things in a more principled way, but that reducing the cost of having children, of having a family, is super important. One of my favorite ideas is that I think we could take an idea from Hungary but kind of change it, which is that when a woman has a certain number of children or even just spends a certain amount of time, it could also be a man, it’s usually a woman, with young children in the home that their tax burden, their income tax burden for the rest of their life, should just go to zero. That they’ve contributed already to the good of the commonwealth, the commonweal, and that they shouldn’t have to be paying taxes on any income they earn after that. So those are kind of some ideas. I think others at EPPC, people I work with there, were floating about other ideas as well.

What should the relationship be between government and the family? (EB-36)

Erika Bachiochi:

I think a really important principle is that the family has important work that it does. So, the government needs to stay out of that work when the family’s doing that well, of course, but also facilitate that work. So, it never replaces the work of the family, but if there are some obstacles in the way to family formation and the tax code in all sorts of different places, then the government should be there to help the family do the work that the family needs to do. I would say that the family is absolutely kind of the first organ of society, and so the government is there to assist when need be, but certainly never take over the important work that the family does, that only the family can do.

Crosstalk: “Masculinism” (EB-37)

Doug Monroe:

Let me ask you, real quick, about my question about “masculinism” which you never hear about. But this is where Doug feels like he’s 67; I feel like I’ve been basically the same person all my life, that somehow I came into a worldview, that I went out and explored every way I could, and I actually came back to… Well, it seems to make sense.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

I’m just finding out what people have figured out for 2000 years. But because of the way the world has skewed, especially the last 20 years, against white men in particular, okay, that I almost need to fight for the goodness of men in the public square, which makes me a bit of a “masculinist.” Good gracious.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

But I may get mowed over if I don’t, and people like me.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Doug Monroe:

Do you have any …?

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Doug Monroe:

What do you think about that?

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

I don’t want to do it.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah, I know.

Doug Monroe:

I agree. I honestly agree with all of your philosophies.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Doug Monroe:

So there’s no conflict that I see.

Erika Bachiochi:

Right. Me either.

Doug Monroe:

And it’s not you I’m worried about. It’s

Masculinity That Puts Virtue First (EB-38)

Erika Bachiochi:

I think there’s a way in which, starting with the second wave of feminism, there’s a real way in which the sexes were at battle with one another. And all of Wollstonecraft’s work was to see that you had to bring the sexes together. Right? There was already a divide because they’re different. Right? So, how is it that you bring them together and that marriage does that, and especially a virtue-based marriage, right, where you kind of love the virtues in the other, and you really try to accentuate them. I think that there’s a real issue of identity for men today. I think Richard Reeves has been one who has just brought this up in his new book, Of Boys and Men. But conservatives have been talking about this for a long time. And what I would want to see is a real discussion about masculinity that puts virtue first.

I worry a lot about kind of a post-Christian masculinity put forth by someone like Andrew Tate that could have imitators, that could be really, really horrible for the good of women. Therefore, I still see …. I mean, there was a time period, probably 10 years ago, when I thought I can just be a Christian and not be a feminist, because I thought Christianity and the way in which it kind of ennobles both sexes and the good of virtue and the family and all of that, especially when seen hand-in-hand with kind of anti-discrimination law, which, at least for the Catholic Church, has been something that they’ve seen to be important, especially in the thought of John Paul II. But there’s been a shift away from sort of manliness based around virtue toward sort of a different kind of manliness, which I think comes out of this. Well, it’s the feminism. It’s the one that feminists of the 1970s have imitated, right? It’s kind of that worst possible man that’s kind of brought up as what men are possible ever, what men should imitate. And I think that’s deplorable.

The way in which Wollstonecraft challenges both women to be virtuous and, of course, men to be virtuous, I think there ought to be men doing the same thing, right, for men, because it’s important for men to lead men, but toward virtue. I’m really a big proponent in sort of articulating this really carefully. I don’t think there are different virtues for men and women. I don’t think there are masculine virtues and feminine virtues. I think there’s virtue. I think Wollstonecraft has taught me this, that virtue is an imitation of God, and God is a unity; all of those attributes of God we should imitate. However, virtues look very different in men and women because not only of their different bodies, they’re embodied and they have different responsibilities. They have different temptations due to different hormones running through them. So, virtues look very different. You could, then, at the end of the day, want to say masculine and feminine virtue.

I think it’s better not to go that way because I think it can start to look as though you’re saying that women aren’t required to possess certain virtues and men aren’t required to possess other virtues. And that makes me very nervous because I think it’s important for everyone to work to possess all the virtues. And that’s what I think is the great call of Mary Wollstonecraft. But I do think there’s a way in which men need to be called just as women do today. I think both. There’s a real paucity of virtue in both camps, right? And again, thinking of virtue as intellectual and moral excellence.

God and Spouse: A Conversation on Life’s Priorities (EB-39)

Doug Monroe:

I want to get your reaction. Along the same lines, I think this fits in with what you’re saying, but I honestly don’t know what you’re going to say. Okay. My father, he’s religious, yes, but he’s not particularly religious. He’s a Christian. My mother was very much so. She’s gone. Dad’s still alive at 90. But Dad, very early on said to me… I’m the oldest. I’ve got three sisters, and then a youngest brother. But he was very, very clear. He said this three or four times. It would stick out. “Keep two things right in your life. One, your relationship with God. That’s number one. Number two is your relationship with your wife.”

Erika Bachiochi:

Yep.

Doug Monroe:

If you do that, the rest of your life will work out well. So, the impression was it’s good to be a Christian. That’s God, right? And secondly, it’s important to get married. And so, you keep your wife happy, you’re fine. Okay? What’s your reaction to that?

Erika Bachiochi:

I think that’s great. I mean, I think that the single most important recognition is our dependence upon God, and that’s what knits all of us together. Right? But I also think that if one is married, the spousal relationship is the second most important relationship; certainly before children, certainly before work, certainly before other family or friends. And there’s a way in which prioritizing that relationship, the collaboration, the reciprocity, the love, all of that, and the way in which you deeply have to grow, because often you hit really difficult times when marriage is just hard. There’s friction. And just really attending to that relationship and allowing that person to grow and meeting that person as a new person in ways, because over the course of 20, 30, 40 years, there’s a way in which that person grows and you come to know them in different ways. I think that core relationship then redounds to the benefit of your children, to your work, to everything else in your life. Right? Obviously, there are times when there’s abuse, there are other things, and you can’t live together. But I think your father was absolutely right.

Old Wisdom: Women Influence Men (EB-40)

Doug Monroe:

I think if you ask the men I knew about women, most of the ones that I would respect would say life would not be worth living at all without women. Okay? That’s number one. Number two is I think they would say without question, there is nothing more beautiful in the world than a woman, sunset, Grand Canyon, nothing, not even close. Okay.

I think that’s a little bit different than women. You know, you can say women, yeah, life wouldn’t be worth living without men maybe to some of them. But there is a difference there. And I can’t put my finger on it. And I don’t feel like feminists harness that aspect of the middle of the bell curve of men.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

And if you don’t, you’re going to get a lot more bad men.

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah. There’s an old ….

Doug Monroe:

You see what I’m saying?

Erika Bachiochi:

Yeah. No, no, that’s beautiful. And there’s an old, old wisdom there that women have great influence over men. Right? That’s why they’re still the sexual gatekeepers, right, because if they demand a man to mature, theoretically, then if there were no other women around who are giving him everything his lower bodily appetites would want, then he would mature. The problem now—and this is a real insight that sexual economics gives us—is when you flood the marketplace with the pill and abortion, and you allow there to be sort of much easier sex, then you don’t have that kind of old wisdom anymore, right, because women are much more free to give men sex. And therefore, there aren’t as many women or the women who do want to wait and, therefore, require of men that he mature, they don’t have kind of the market share, to put it in an economic term, where they don’t have that kind of power over men in the way, the influence over men in the way that they used to.

The Importance of Shared Parenthood (EB-41)

Erika Bachiochi:

I think that’s also some wisdom from scripture in Ephesians 5, that there’s a way in which women do need to be kind of told by God to respect their husbands, right, or else they tend to treat them like other children, because women are highly competent, can multitask, can do lots of things. Actually, a priest told me… The answer he gave me for why women couldn’t be priests is that there’d be no men left on the altar because women can do it all. And then men will just be like, “All right, I’ll just take the remote control and sit here with my beer.” So, women have to allow men to be out there leading and doing that and respecting them in those positions. Or else men will just be like, “Fine, you just do everything then.” And that’s why fatherhood is so important; because women have to allow men to kind of take that lead in their families as fathers or else they just become redundant and unimportant.

Of course, the woman is the center of the home, right, in terms of she’s the one who knows everything about the children. They were in her, she nursed them. She has an intimate relationship. And so inviting men into fatherhood, I think, is so crucial because men then find themselves in their relationships with their children so much. But women have to kind of open the door and allow men in. And it’s not like you do as many dishes as me and you do the… But it’s inviting them into fatherhood and letting them lead in that way, letting them really take kind of moral authority of their children just as the woman has too. And being collaborative in that way, I think, is really important so that men see their role in the family as just as important as the woman’s role in the family.

I think you see that in really great marriages. And really great parents are where both see that kind of co-equal role in the family as so crucial to their children’s upbringing, but also to their own relationship, right, as mother and father, and that they’re different. And that over time it’s sometimes hard to put your finger on what the differences are. But over time, I think, when you’re married, you start to see the ways in which there are different ways you have authority over your children. And there are different ways in which that presents. And you start to kind of lean into that. And it works. It ends up really working well and being great compliments to one another.

Feminism Ends with the Sexual Revolution (EB-42)

Erika Bachiochi:

I think, actually, one of the best summaries of my book is by my friend, Mary Harrington, who said, after reading it, that “feminism did not begin but end with the Sexual Revolution.” There’s a way in which the Sexual Revolution took over for feminism. So, a lot of the things that were won in that first wave were what feminists wanted, right, but as the Sexual Revolution kind of rolls on and requires kind of greater technology and more of this and more of that to be exactly equal, exactly the same as men, it becomes you need and clamor for more and more things. I think there’s a way in which the most obvious thing I, as a feminist, would say is that I think it would be better for women if the world kind of wasn’t designed according to sort of male ways of being, so male sexuality, all those kinds of things.

But that’s really one of the problems with feminism. Feminism has, in large part, been instead of saying women are different and, therefore, in order for us to be in the workplace, we need to take our responsibilities in the family seriously. So flexible work, all these sorts of things, which would be great, still. There, early on, was a move for kind of somehow trying to imitate the ability for men to sort of leave children behind, whether it’s obviously through the pill, that abortion in a real definitive way or institutional daycare. I think that still, because women are never going to be the same as men, there’s a push in modern feminism for, well, how can we get to be more equal? And I just think it’s kind of the wrong question. Right? When you have equal rights and there’s sort of nondiscrimination, you can compete for a job, things like that. Really, what’s necessary is not so much something that women need, but I think it’s something that all of us need, which is to have the family be prioritized and our relationships and our friendships be prioritized over our market relations. Right?

And so that’s something that would just be good for everyone. Right? It’s where instead of working long hours and thinking that your salary’s the most important thing, to take relationships more seriously, but that’s just good for both men and women.

Is there a new wave of feminism and does it represent the majority of women? (EB-43)

Erika Bachiochi:

I really do think there is the emergence of a new feminism that’s made up of some religious people, some religious women inspired by someone like John Paul II, but then also some women who have really seen the move toward the transgender ideology as revealing a lot of major philosophical problems with liberal feminism and this kind of technological solution to asymmetry. I mean, I think there’s evidence that it’s happening because of several books that have been published recently that are really questioning the Sexual Revolution in a way that Mary Eberstadt was early on, that those of us who are Catholic kind of saw more quickly, but are now doing it from a secular perspective.

I have just gathered, actually, a lot of these women into one institution at the Wollstonecraft Project or one journal called Fair Disputations. There are women from the UK and the US who take seriously bodily differences between men and women, but not only bodily differences, other sorts of differences too that mean that we have kind of different desires around work and family and that see things like pornography, prostitution, sex trafficking, and really reproductive technologies that solve these problems with technologies as all kind of anathema to the women’s movement.

I see it happening because I’m sort of part of pushing it forward. Are there a majority of women? No, I think we’re far from that. I think that there has to be a real questioning, and a lot of people learn this through their own bad experiences, but questioning first of kind of the casual sex culture, questioning of the morality of abortion, what we’re doing, what we’re relying on when we see abortion as so important to this whole thing. Right? And until you get there, it’s going to be really hard to push it forward. I think, though, the single best way really is through the great examples of happy women who are living an entirely different way.

Should it be about love? How is sex viewed by women today? (EB-44)

Erika Bachiochi:

There’s a way in which, I mean, I just think the way we’ve prioritized abortion in the women’s movement, that sex then becomes kind of sexual pleasure becomes kind of a right of expression. It becomes part of our identity of who we are, of how we express ourselves. And it disconnects entirely from both, one of its ends, which is the possibility of creating new human life, and then the other end, which is the way in which it expresses love. I think women have the instinct that they want to only be sexual when they’re feeling loved, but that so many women don’t even know that they’re missing that because of how crude the sexual ethic has gotten, which is really sad.

Actually, tonight I’m having a conversation with a woman named Christine Emba, who wrote a book called Rethinking Sex. And the kinds of stories she documents of women and men she interviewed in the way that the culture has taught them about sex, that it’s really just something you kind of have to do. It’s what Mark Regnerus calls “cheap sex.” It is so heartbreaking to think that this is the case. So yeah, I mean, in that way, there are a lot of wounded people from the Sexual Revolution, especially today with pornography, with the trans movement and all of that. One hopes that the wounded will come and rise up, I mean, somewhat like I did in the sense of having our wounds and being healed from our wounds, and then being able to be powerful, I hope voices in saying that there’s another way to do this, and really, yes, the love is at the center of that act.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future? (EB-40)

Erika Bachiochi:

I am a person who always has a lot of hope. I think it’s just kind of a gift of grace to be a hopeful person. Part of that is for my own history, I think, that I just see the possibility of forgiveness, of sort of immense healing from personal suffering, of what friendship can do in people’s lives, of God’s grace. I always have a posture of hope. I also just have certain things that have happened in my own life. I mean, not only my own kind of recovery and healing, but then the fact that I can be as happily married as I am, the fact that I have seven happy children, which all seem kind of impossibilities at some point in my life. Not only impossibility, something I wouldn’t have desired at all, but the fact that they all exist in the world. As they get older, my oldest is 21, that they’re becoming friends now too, in some sense, is really beautiful.

The other thing, though, other piece of great hope I have, is I was involved in the founding of a classical school. And we founded it 10 years ago at 25 students, and it’s now 230, and this is in Massachusetts. And to see not only the beauty of that education, but then families coming from all over and creating kind of a community of families that all are just beautiful, that see their commitment in their marriages and in their families and the beautiful children that are coming out of these families. To me, it’s a small sliver of the universe, but it gives me great hope.

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