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Katelyn Walls Shelton: Ireland preserves ‘mother’ in its constitution


WORLD Radio - Katelyn Walls Shelton: Ireland preserves ‘mother’ in its constitution

Elites sought to erase women and redefine ‘family’ in favor of more gender-neutral phrases

A woman votes on proposed changes to the Constitution in Dublin on Friday. Associated Press/Gareth Chaney/PA

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday March 13. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next: gender politics.

International Women’s Day isn’t the most popular holiday of the year. But in Ireland, political conservatives have more to celebrate than usual.

WORLD Opinions commentator Katelyn Walls Shelton says Americans can learn a lot from Ireland’s culture war.

KATELYN WALLS SHELTON: Last Friday–on International Women’s Day–Ireland attempted to erase the word “mother” from its constitution. Despite early projections that the referendum would pass, it failed miserably.

It’s ironic that on a day designed to honor women, some in Ireland tried to replace such a uniquely feminine word with gender neutral terms like “members of a household.” Ireland’s Minister for Equality said he hoped such changes would make Ireland “a kinder, a more inclusive society.”

Of course, the erasure of women and redefinition of “family” is a pervasive effort amongst liberal elites who everywhere seek to flatten distinctions in the name of “equality.” But as author Leah Libresco Sargeant has noted, “when ‘equal’ treatment for men and women means asking women to be interchangeable with men,” women always “wind up shortchanged.”

Perhaps most ironic is that Ireland’s historic language actually protects women from government pressure to be interchangeable cogs in an economic machine. The statute notes that “by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved.” It also says that the State “shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged … to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home.”

Apparently some consider the original language misogynistic. But must any talk of women raising children in the home elicit the old trope of the “barefoot woman pregnant in the kitchen”? I suspect women might appreciate the choice to love children and create a nurturing environment for them instead of being pressured to farm them out to external “care”.

In fact, the erasure of the Irish statute would have left women vulnerable to exploitation by the state. We see this very thing play out in America, which has no such protection for mothers in its law, and where women largely receive no paid maternity leave and are sometimes pressured to return to work days or weeks after giving birth. Often, both parents need to work in order to reach financial stability. As a result, families often outsource childcare to the state via public schools that catechize their children in the secularism that caused the problem in the first place.

Author John Duggan spent part of his childhood in Ireland. He says the effort to change the Irish Constitution is only the latest push to move Ireland toward full secularization. Pro-lifers might remember that just six years ago, Ireland amended its Constitution to allow for abortion. Ireland had previously been one of the only Western nations holding strong against radical abortion activists.

Irish and Americans alike would do well to remember that the de-Christianization of society will only ever result in injustice. And injustice always comes first for the weakest, most vulnerable members of society. Friday’s vote didn’t go the way many on the left hoped it would, but it shows what’s really at stake today in Western culture. When all differentiation between men and women is coded as misogyny, we lose the distinctiveness of each. As Leah Sargeant puts it, “Real justice for women requires welcoming us as women, not helping us better pass as ‘neutral’ humans.”

I’m Katelyn Walls Shelton.

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