Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gender Equality Threatens to Undermine British Monarchy

I lived in England for ten years, my wife Esther is English, and our children all have dual citizenship, so you can imagine that the British monarchy is pretty important to us. The monarchy remains important to us even after we moved to America in 2007.

I first came to understand the importance of the monarchy shortly after I moved to England to marry Esther, and Princess Diana was the victim of a fatal car accident. As I watched my wife and all her family grieve, I confess that inwardly I sometimes wondered what all the fuss was about. Sure, it was sad, but people die all the time. You see, I was still thinking like an American and had no idea how deep the love of the British people for their royal family ran.

I was reminded again of how important the monarchy is in 2011 when my family sat and watched the royal wedding as Prince William married Kate Middleton. It wasn’t just for sentimental reasons that we were transfixed by the remarkable ceremony. The wedding had profound spiritual significance that I later wrote about in my Changepoint article ‘Generous Love.’ Moreover, the symbolism and significance in which the royal wedding was couched reminded us that the monarchy is still an integral part of British life.

If at the time of watching the royal wedding I had been told that in less than two years legislators would be attempting to pass through laws to prevent Princess Kate from ever becoming queen, I would not have believed it. Yet that is exactly what has happened. What’s more, it is happening in the name of “gender equality.”

Is the Monarchy Sexist?

MPs are trying to ensure that Princess Kate
will never become queen, but will occupy
the sanitized and politically correct title
of “princess consort.”
Having married into a family of royalists, it came as a cold shock for me to realize that there are some people in Britain who feel very differently about the royal family, and who would like to “shore them down to size.” One such man is John Hemming, a Member of Parliament for Birmingham Yardley and a member of Britain’s Liberal Democrat party. He recently came to believe that the monarchy is “sexist” and must be restructured to conform to the canons of “gender equality.”

Hemming’s logic is simple: if the ruling monarch happens to be a Queen, we don’t call her husband King, so why should we call the wife of the ruling monarch the Queen? For example, Prince Philip, though the husband of Her Majesty the Queen, is not called King Philip but the Duke of Edinburgh. By contrast, when Prince William is king, his wife, Princess Kate, will be Queen. The problem, he believes, can be resolved by passing laws ensuring that Princess Kate will never become queen, but will occupy the sanitized and politically correct title of “princess consort.”

No Fair!

The purpose of this post is not to defend the monarchy to an American audience. I am all too aware that ever since the American War for Independence, Americans have had a natural predisposition against aristocracy. Alexander Hamilton summed up the American spirit in Federalist #84 when he announced that “the prohibition of titles of nobility…may truly be denominated the corner-stone of republican government.” Similarly Thomas Jefferson declared in his autobiography that “a foundation laid for a government truly republican” involved “a system by which every fibre would be eradicated of ancient or future aristocracy.”

Edmund Burke would NOT
be pleased
But regardless of whether or not we support the idea of a hereditary monarchy, we should all be concerned about the movement to homogenize the gender polarity, as if men and women are exactly the same and must to be treated equivalently in every area of life. As Christians we should all instinctively recoil at the cold egalitarian logic that shouts “No fair! If Prince Philip isn’t a King, I don’t want Princess Kate to ever be Queen.”

Certainly there are some areas where the sexes ought to be treated equivalently. Do both men and women deserve equal respect and protection under the law? Absolutely! But does this mean that men and women should be treated the same, and that all dissimilar treatment is a case of unjust discrimination?

Anthony Browne is one journalist who has concluded that the answer to this second question is no. In his book The Retreat of Reason: Political Correctness and the Corruption of Public Debate in Modern Britain, Browne showed that gender discrimination is not only accepted in many instances, but many times is necessary, laudable and defensible. He writes:
“Young men pay higher rates for car insurance than young women and older men, because young men are, on average, more dangerous drivers than young women and older men. A young man who is a safe driver is thus discriminated against because of the characteristics of other people in his age and sex group….Anti-discrimination campaigners may publicly declare that all discrimination on the grounds of sex should be outlawed, but they are unlikely to agree that all men should have the right to use women’s toilets, that men should be allowed to go to women’s gyms, or to demand overturning the right of women’s clothes shops to refuse to employ men….Men pay smaller pension contributions than women for a given level of private pension, for the simple reason that, on average, they have shorter lives and so on average claim less….The various forms of rational discrimination that are widely accepted are not often called discrimination – although that is clearly what they are – because accepting that some discrimination is actually essential to the working of a society would undermine the public acceptance of a ‘zero tolerance of all forms of discrimination’. The war on discrimination would become meaningless if there were general public awareness that actually some forms of discrimination are needed.”
The move to make everything fair has been the root of another debate over the monarchy, this one revolving around the rules of succession. According to nearly a thousand years of precedent, a first-born girl can only inherit the British throne if she has no younger brothers. The current British government decided that the monarchy needed to be refurbish to make it more 'modern' and gender neutral, by abolishing this allegedly ‘archaic’ and ‘sexist’ tradition.

I first became aware of this when Christian Voice hired me to write a booklet campaigning against any changes to the laws of succession. I confess that my initial reaction was “What a waste of time! So what if they want to make the monarchy a little more fair to women—don’t we have more important things to be concerned about?”

I quickly changed my mind when I began to look more closely at the actual arguments being used by those who were agitating for the changes. But it was when I spoke to representatives from anti-monarchy groups that I began to get seriously alarmed. This is because all the arguments that were being used to bring gender equality to the monarchy were arguments that, if carried to their logical implication, suggested that perhaps the monarchy itself might need to be abolished.

The monarchy reminds us that life is not,
and was never meant to be, fair.
For example, I kept hearing appeals to the need to be ‘modern’ and for the laws to conform to ‘this day and age.’ Those who have sought to spread the poison of republicanism throughout the Commonwealth have often done so with similar appeals to “this day and age”, suggesting that the monarchy itself is out of date and a relic from the past. This is the very same line of reasoning taken by those who wish to change the laws of succession.

Or again, if under the mantra of ‘equal rights’, we altered the succession rules so as not to discriminate against firstborn females, then it would be hard to know how to answer those who said that such a system is unjust for discriminating against second-born children, or even children from another family. An hereditary monarchy occupied by a single person at a time is inherently antithetical to the idea of ‘equal rights.’

The power of this logic has not been lost on the virulent anti-monarchy lobby that is at work to destroy the crown. Last year I wrote to the anti-monarchy group Republic and asked if they saw the debate about succession as an opportunity to make the case for abandoning the monarchy completely.  A representative from the group wrote back and said, revealingly, that
“once we concede the principle that the throne should be open to women, the debate will raise a lot more questions: why not a second born daughter? Why not someone else’s daughter? So, we are looking forward to this debate to enable us to highlight the unfairness of the hereditary principle in and of itself.”
The idea of fairness is deeply inscribed upon the fallen mind of man and lies at the root of many modern pathologies. It does not seem particular fair that God should determine our gender, and so we have people who revolt against their own biology. It does not seem particularly fair that some people should be rich and others poor, and so we have people who attempt to level all economic distinctions. And, of course, it does not seem particularly fair that one person should inherit a throne that is inaccessible to the rest of us. But that is precisely why the monarchy is necessary. The monarchy reminds us that life is not, and was never meant to be, fair.

Further Reading

•    'MP Wants to Stop Princess Kate Becoming Queen', by Robin Phillips

•    'Gender Equality Takes Center Stage', by Robin Phillips

•    'Christian Voice Takes Stand For Male Primogeniture', by Robin Phillips

•    'Hark what discord follows when you meddle with the monarchy', by Charles Moore

•    'Edmund Burke Would Not Be Pleased' , by Robin Phillips

•    'The trouble with being 'modern’ is that you soon go out of fashion', by Charles Moore

•    'Unmaking a Difference  Is Gender Neutrality the New Stereotype?' by Robin Phillips


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