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Women, Fundamentalism and The Quiverfull Movement

April 21, 2009

Sarah Posner at the American Prospect has a review of two books that examine the rise of religious fundamentalism in the United States, discussing the impacts on the role and rights of women, specifically with regard to an interesting socio-religious group called the Quiverfull movement.

Michelle Goldberg’s latest, The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World, (excerpted in the May issue of The American Prospect) is an essential account of how U.S. aid policy, beginning in the 1970s with efforts to slow spiraling population growth, came under the sway of the sexually puritanical demands of the American religious right, to ruinous effects. The resulting unavailability of safe abortion and family-planning services, combined with the devastation of HIV/AIDS and other disasters, has wreaked havoc, Goldberg argues, on personal lives, economic prospects, and therefore political stability. Taking her readers through Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe, Goldberg shows how homegrown religious fundamentalism, with its own restrictions on sexual autonomy, converges with the U.S. presence to upend the future of generations of children.

Kathryn Joyce’s Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement puts the American fundamentalism that has fueled Goldberg’s story under the microscope. The movement that provides the title of Joyce’s book is just one subset of a broader feature of conservative evangelicalism that requires “wifely submission” to a husband’s “male headship.” Quiverfull, a natalist movement named for Psalm 127 (“Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them”), commands women to produce as many children as possible for their husband, in order to build an “army of God.”

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