The Time Falwell, Jr. Reinforced Sexism by Renouncing Sexism

Posted by Jared Byas on October 11, 2016 in Jared Byas politics 24 Comments

imrs-phpby Jared Byas

Yesterday, Sarah Pulliam Bailey published a Washington Post piece on Jerry Falwell’s defense of Trump in spite of his recently revealed lewd comments. Of course, predictably, Falwell pulled the “we’re all sinners” card, which is conveniently pulled out when we need to get out of an ethical jam but promptly put away when asked about the death penalty.

But that wasn’t the most interesting thing he said. In his denouncement of Trump’s lewd comments, Falwell said something more revealing:

“I’ve got a wife and a daughter, and nobody wants to hear their women talked about in that manner.”

Now, I can think of a lot of ways that COULD have fallen out of Jerry’s mouth:

Option A: “I’ve got a wife and daughter and they’ve taught me how abusive comments like that can be.”
Option B: “Nobody should talk that way about another human being.”
Option C: “Women should never be talked about in that manner.”
Option D: “I know women aren’t allowed to hold positions of leadership in the church but at least they should be treated with respect.”

And the list can go on and on. But no.

“I’ve got a wife and a daughter, and nobody wants to hear their women talked about in that manner.”

I realize that sexism is dead and we’re all just politically-correct sheep and overly sensitive troublemakers but IF sexism were alive and well but perhaps a little more underground than it was in the past, I couldn’t imagine a better way for it to come to the surface than Jerry’s sentence.

What I heard from that comment:

1. Trump’s comments were inappropriate because they offend MEN, men who “don’t want to hear their women talked about in that manner.”

2. Women are owned by men, men who “don’t want to hear THEIR women talked about in that manner.”

Realize what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that evangelical beliefs are a gateway to sexism and sexual assault.

All I’m asking for is that we please take a second to acknowledge how ironically delicious it is that Falwell’s denouncement of explicit sexism was implicitly sexist. Is that too much to ask for?



  • We’re all sinners, but some of them are way worse sinners than we are.


    We’ve all sinned and been forgiven, but I’m not so sure about those others.

    This part of my comment is totally serious. This comment–which could have been written on any number of occasions during this campaign, and might need to be repeated during the next month–Providentially comes to us during Yom Kippur. I’m a Christian, but I really do think that, as individuals, and as a church, and as a nation, we really do need our own Days of Atonement. We have all indeed sinned and fallen way short of the glory of God. Painfully short.

    Providentially–random chance? I don’t think so. The more I learn about Jewish spirituality, the more I believe that God has a keen sense of humor.

    • Here’s a joke I found on Reddit.

      a muslim, a jew, a christian and an atheist walk into a coffee shop ..and they talk, laugh, drink coffee and become good friends. thats what happens when you’re not an asshole.

  • And the person Jesus had his longest recorded one-on-one theological discussion with was a woman, and the conversation was deep, serious, and revealing. Plus, she “got it.” All this while the disciples were doing the shopping. It breaks my heart that so many girls and women (and also boys and men) see Christianity as sexist, when Jesus was not, and it is only our mistaken way of doing it that most certainly is.

    • Christianity is sexist. it’s been this way for most of its sects, across all geographies, across all its centuries. The two-coming-together-to-be-one is a deeply held archetype. It’s a wrestling between dualism and monism, central to Western understanding of the world. The type historically has had isomorphic correspondences between matrimony, ecclesiology, and Christology. Perhaps Jesus was not sexist (I find this a difficult question for historical Jesus studies), but Christianity’s doctrine of gender is central to its frameworks for seeing the world, if not God and the otherworld too. By tinkering with Christian conceptions of gender, you’re down at the bottom of its Jenga tower.

      • Gary,
        Not sure I understand the Jenga tower, but I’d like to understand. I’m sure I’m not a scholar on these issues as you are. I only meant that in terms of men being “in charge” of women, superior to women, etc., I don’t think the Bible tells us that is God’s intention, or that Jesus thought men were more important than women. The cultures we are in, and our failings as humans, have added that in, I believe, but I don’t think it has to be that way to please God. I agree that the practice of Christianity has, to great extent over the years, been sexist. And I agree that gender is real and important, though I’m not sure I know what Christianity’s doctrine of gender is. But, as I said, on these issues I’m not as smart as you are.

        • Paul wrote that in Christ there is no male or female. That sounds pretty non-sexist. As for the Jenga tower bit, maybe we ought to be down at the bottom and pulling hard. It’s religion that’s the foundation of the “tower”, not following Jesus.

  • Oh boy, they will never, ever understand your point.
    Women being owned by men runs through the Old Testament and is normative from their experience. Just another reason evangelicals are going the way ot the dinosaurs, or better yet, following their lemming leaders over a cliff.

    • Let’s not forget that even in the Old Testament the picture of women includes Deborah, Miriam, Esther, Ruth — and the central voice in the Song of Songs. The mistake evangelicals make is in not seeing the nuance even in their own texts. Strong women, who defy the attempts of the larger narrative to put them in their place, to portray them as needing the care of men, and not having voices of their own.

    • Good point. It should bother us that any woman, whether part of our family or a complete stranger on the other side of the world, is spoken of in this way. It really should. Women should not have to earn their dignity by associating with “the right” men.

  • Falwell’s wording shows that he sees himself as a benevolent sexist, although he would never use those words, he would euphemize them to complementarian. I think the idea of being a benevolent sexist is along the same school of thought as being a benevolent slaveholder, hopefully better than a malevolent slaveholder, but still not God’s ideal.

  • Your assessment of J.F. Jr.’s attitude towards women based on a one-sentence quote may be correct. I would be more confident if Jr. had the opportunity to elaborate on his comment.

    • I agree it is a bit unfair to convict him on one sentence, especially since it was in the passive voice and a weak sentence at that. But, since we are in a sound bite world, I guess that’s what we get.
      All I ask is that this blog try to remain a respite from our too political world outside?

  • Good point. It did seem implicitly sexist; however, one could argue that evangelical beliefs are a gateway to sexism, at least, not necessarily sexual assault.

  • The sons of Jacob can’t help but ask, “Should someone have treated our wives and daughters–our women–like a prostitute?”

  • There are some good points here, and it’s important to point out the irony and inconsistency in Falwell’s statement. But “delicious”? I think that’s a poor word choice. The irony is delicious only when you’re enjoying the intellectual high ground without experiencing the damaging effects of implicit sexism.

  • In the same interview, Falwell, Jr. said, “I don’t think the American people want this country to go down the toilet because Donald Trump made some dumb comments on a videotape 11 years ago.”

    i suppose we should be grateful that Falwell considers sexual assault “dumb”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *