Unravelling Moral Doublespeak

How Modern Moral Doublespeak Harms Everyone

Modern feminism has spent well over a half-century calling our attention to the many ways women suffer neglect, discrimination, and abuse. It actually hasn’t been that hard to get everyone on board with this, to the point where any pushback is quickly and thoroughly railed against.

But suppose someone began to suggest that men also aren’t faring well in our society? It seems that’s a much harder concept to sell. Nevertheless, social analyst and commentator Aaron Renn has taken on that task with growing success through his newsletter The Masculinist.

In a recent edition, The Pro-Life Movement’s Moral Doublespeak, Renn observes that women who undergo abortions are almost universally defended as victims of a crime perpetrated by men. He draws on a number of examples from the group he labels “Christian white knights,” whose goal, it seems, is to heroically protect these women from any hint of culpability.

What’s notable is not just that these high-profile pro-life organizations and people think women shouldn’t be punished for procuring an abortion, but their extreme reticence to assign even partial moral blame to them.

This “doublespeak” is even embedded in the language people use. Renn continues:

This victimology rhetoric seems to have continued evolving since then. A friend of mine was at a big conservative Christian donor conference recently and told me a prominent speaker there used the phrase, “women who have experienced an abortion.”

This extreme passive voice expression goes beyond saying that women who abort their babies are victims who don’t deserve moral blame; it treats abortion as something that just happens to a woman. I’m pretty sure none of these people would describe men who abuse their wives as “men who have experienced wife beating.”

As Renn notes, this pattern may in part be credited to the cognitive dissonance generated by two commonly held beliefs: abortion is murder, and women are naturally virtuous. A concomitant assumption that lurks behind this is that men are the primary sources of evil in our world.

Knowing there are ditches on both sides of this road, Renn is careful to avoid denying the obvious reality that men are indeed often perpetrators of evil and women can indeed be tragic victims. Still, his observations should bring some clarifying balance to many Christian conversations. He writes:

The modern Christian church...seems incapable of admitting that women who abort their babies know what they are doing. They can’t bring themselves to even acknowledge that women initiate about 70 percent of all divorces.

All of this reflects a larger social patterning which tends to reduce the solution to all our ills to the accurate assigning of blame. When the only categories we have to work with are perpetrator and victim, or oppressor and oppressed, we will inevitably miss the core Christian message of sin and redemption. 

Beyond this, however, it seems vital that we consider the damage done to both men and women as long as the patterning Renn identifies is allowed to continue. While women no doubt find comfort in the personal and social exoneration they receive, what they are forfeiting is something they may desire even more: a society in which men, rather than being stereotyped as oppressors, are actually confident, respectful, and respected.

It may seem right and even noble for men to take the blame on themselves—and where that’s appropriate, of course they should. But as our world increasingly embraces these all-or-nothing categories of responsibility, men eventually figure out it’s not a battle they can win. Rather than taking responsibility for their actual choices, all too often they simply decide not to care anymore.

Further Reading

is a homemaker who lives near Centerville, Tennessee. Her website is www.bereansnotepad.com.

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