Why I Didn’t March For You: How Evangelicals are Reframing Antifeminism Post-Trump
By Kira Ganga Kieffer.
You may have noticed fervent backlash to feminism on Twitter during International Women’s Day. The hashtag #DayWithoutAFeminist was a snarky retort against the #DayWithoutAWoman protests being organized by the Women’s March.
Intended to voice dissent against the women’s strike, the hashtag’s strident tone resonates with conservative communities, including evangelical Christian women. While the Day Without a Woman garnered criticism on the Left and the Right, the response to both the strike and the international mass protests for the Women’s March on January 21, 2017 within the female Christian blogosphere has been particularly virulent. In many ways, some politically-active evangelical women are redefining their approaches to antifeminism through social media discourse, often by using overtly secular and conservative political arguments rather than religious justifications.
Antifeminist religious reasoning stems from the post-World War II move in conservative American Christianity toward reified “traditional gender roles” as the foundation of both family structure and social order. Evangelical leaders drew upon literal biblical interpretations to support patriarchal language and practices that promoted the gendered hierarchy of female “submission” to male “headship.” Consequently, many conservative Christians have adhered to a “complementarian” theology of marital relations premised upon the equality of all souls before God but which emphasizes the importance of gendered roles in family and worldly life. These arguments, popularly known as “Titus 2 Womanhood” or “Biblical Womanhood,” are still prevalent in the popular arena of evangelical marriage, family, and sex self-help literature. They have also fueled the evangelical antifeminism movement. On the other side, feminists have tended to dismiss Christian antifeminists for resisting modernity and the potential for women’s societal liberation.
There is a long history of Christian women activists fighting against feminism in the U.S. One need look no further than Phyllis Schlafly and the anti-ERA movement, the “suburban warriors” of the Cold War era, or the “family values” crusaders of the 1960s and 70s. However, as Republican politics have evolved away from Reagan conservatism into a populist and pseudo-libertarian powerhouse, Christian antifeminists’ arguments against women’s movements have adapted to utilize more political and less religious language to fight feminism.
For conservative Christian writer Mary Ramirez, the tables have turned, and feminists and Women’s Marchers are now the groups clinging to the past and refusing to accept 21st century womanhood. On her blog, “A Future Free,” Ramirez routinely lambastes so-called “modern feminists” because they falsely gripe over being “second-class citizens” who are paid less, hold fewer leadership positions, and are more often the recipients of domestic violence, sexual assault, and harassment than men. According to Ramirez, women were once second-class citizens in American society, but this inequality was rectified by the 19th Amendment and other legislation. In short, sexism is not structurally persistent, but a thing of the past. Today’s feminist agitations are based on incorrect facts, and any gendered discrepancies are the result of women’s individual choices. In “5 Lies that Modern Feminism Teaches Our Little Girls,” Ramirez argues, “given that women are choosing lower-paying college majors that parlay into lower paying jobs, choosing to forgo management tracks for other priorities, choosing to stay home with children instead of getting ahead in the workplace, choosing to stay quiet instead of press for a raise…hello wage gap. And it’s got precious little to do with our lady parts.” Here, Ramirez sounds far more like Rand Paul than Apostle Paul.
In “Dear Daughter: Here’s Why I Didn’t March For You,” Ramirez enumerates the reasons why women participated in the Women’s March, seemingly giving credence to their concerns. About halfway through, Ramirez abruptly doubles back to refute every point, calling each cause for marching a “terrible, horrible, no good very bad lie.” Ramirez argues that feminists falsely attribute problems to structural gender inequality, which in turn reinforces sexist notions of inequality. Ramirez writes that, “It’s a lie that women get abused (and more often) simply because we’re women.” At the crux of this antifeminist logic lies the well-worn conservative view of the individual as supreme, which has become a rallying cry for Goldwater Democrats to Tea Partiers to Trump-supporters. Although it is seemingly areligious, this ideology mirrors a core evangelical belief in the power of individuals to attain their own salvation through personal decision and to interpret scripture independently. It is little surprise, then, that evangelicals have been strong supporters of this libertarian strand of recent Republican political ideology.
The 2016 election and its feminism-fueled backlash to Donald Trump’s victory have shifted conservatives into the driver’s seat of American politics. Ramirez’s writing demonstrates how this political turn empowers conservative women to broaden the scope of antifeminist arguments away from traditional religious reasoning. Antifeminists now claim that feminists are losing sight of their own agency because they undermine women’s ability to control their own actions. They assert that feminist women identify themselves too much according to gender and in doing so, assume that the obstacles they face are because of gender, not individual decisions and priorities. Clearly this type of antifeminist argument neglects complicated and well-documented issues of intersectionality and structural misogyny while representing a privileged point of view that hinges on the vaunted ideal of individual autonomy. Yet, it should not be dismissed by scholars or feminists alike, as its very claims mimic some politically expedient strategies.
 See Margaret Lamberts Bendroth, Fundamentalism and Gender from 1875 to the Present (Yale University Press, 1993) and Seth Dowland, Family Values (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).
 Feminist scholars have critiqued evangelicals’ literal biblical interpretations for creating gender roles that deny women’s agency. Other scholars have offered more nuanced arguments about the ways in which “submission” can be empowering for women. Most notably, R. Marie Griffith’s God’s Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission (University of California Press, 1997) argues this interpretation.
 For scholarly analysis of American evangelicals’ views on marital sex, see Amy DeRogatis’ Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism (Oxford University Press, 2014).
 For more on the historical roots of evangelical women’s grassroots conservatism see: Lisa McGirr’s Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton University Press, 2002); Michelle Nickerson’s Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right (Princeton University Press, 2014); Seth Dowland’s Family Values and the Rise of the Christian Right (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015).
Kira Ganga Kieffer is a Ph.D. student at Boston University, specializing in American Religious History within the Department of Religious Studies. She graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Religion and History from Brown University. Her research interests include U.S. religion and politics, evangelicalism, liberal religion, and alternative health practices.