Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bill Bennett Talks to James Dobson About Abstinence, Feminists, Gays

As you recall, former Secretary of Education and Drug Czar Bill Bennett just released a new book, The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood, in which he discussed with Pat Robertson in an October 26th episode of The 700 Club. Bennett spoke at length with James Dobson about the book in a two-part segment of Family Talk, where the men had both positive and negative things to say.

Dobson and Bennett began "The Value of Manhood I" segment of Family Talk with familiar jabs at feminism and the LGBT community. At the 5:04 mark, Dobson and Bennett attributed modern "confusion" about masculinity to alleged moral relativism, gay culture, and feminists.

BENNETT: We used to know and be unapologetic about saying what it means to be a man and to raise men to manhood ... We're not sure of that anymore because of the things, Jim, you and I have been talking about forever ... Moral relativism, the notion that there's no right or wrong, who's to say. The dizzying array of signals, to gay culture, which has confused an awful lot of boys, the messages there.

DOBSON: And the feminist movement has just hammered away at what manhood means.

BENNETT: The feminist movement. Remember Gloria Steinem? "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." If you put on TV, if you go to the universities, if you check the popular culture, you'll see there is not a consistent message to boys about what it means to be a man, and as a result they’re confused.
Dobson and Bennett covered a wide range of topics during their discussions, including Ronald Reagan as an exemplary man and (to their credit) the horrors of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal. On the topic of masculinity, the two spoke of the importance of men working hard, showing courtesy to women, and loving and providing for their families.

The conversation took an unexpected turn at the 20:33 mark of "The Value of Manhood II," when Dobson asked Bennett to talk about his wife Elayne. Bennett described his wife's work with Best Friends, a sexual abstinence program for teens that drew controversy in 2008 over its federal funding. During the conversation, Bennett lamented that Elayne could not "talk about one form of family being preferable to another" in her program, a possible jab at calls for tolerance for same-sex couples.

DOBSON: Here at the end of the program, talk about who she is ... She has had this program for teenage girls called Best Friends.

BENNETT: She's a hero of mine, and she's a hero of the country. It's by the research the most successful abstinence education program in the country, and she works in the public schools, which is not an easy place to work. She's now been given some directions from people in the Obama administration about what she can say and not say. They'd prefer that she--strongly prefer that she not use the word 'abstinence."

DOBSON: Can't even use the word. They tell her not to use the word.

BENNETT: And do not talk about one form of family being preferable to another, you know, that the the nuclear family, the family of husband--of man and woman.

DOBSON: And the government can say that to her because they provide some money for her.

BENNETT: It's the guidelines, yeah, and she's being audited, which I believe, I shouldn't say this, but I think she's being harassed because the success of her program.
Amidst otherwise positive messages -- including horror at the Sandusky abuse scandal and calls for men to be responsible and courteous -- Bennett's appearance on Family Talk also included jabs at feminists and gays that we've come to expect.

(Hat tip to Right Wing Watch)

To listen to "The Value of Manhood I", click here

To listen to "The Value of Manhood II", click here. 


  1. Seems to me that Bennett and Dobson are longing for a world that no longer exists.... a world in which men feel good about themselves at the expense of women and gays are locked firmly in closets and teenagers don't have sex with each other. That world has been gone since the 1950's and perhaps never really existed even then.

  2. It's always interesting when a neoconservative proposes to educate the public on what it means to be a man.

    That said, one problem I have with petite spirits like Bill Bennett and James Dobson educating folks on masculinity is that they seem unable to define what it means to be a man except to define it in reaction to something -- such as in reaction to feminism or to homosexuality. It makes me suspect they don't know what they're talking about.

    There is nothing really intrinsic to conservatism that prevents someone from being a man. It's just that today's conservative leadership -- unlike the conservative leadership of past ages -- are little more than whiners in the mode of a Dobson or a Bennett.

    Rudyard Kipling was in many ways as conservative as they come. Yet he seems to have been much more of a genuine man than today's reactionaries. His poem, If is good advice to either gender on what it means to be a genuinely adult man or woman.

  3. I had caught broadcast during the section about Elayne Bennett which you highlight above. I couldn't figure out why "abstinence" would be a forbidden word. Any guesses on that Ahab? If that is true, and if her program is as successful as Bill suggested, I could see the potential that that command is politically motivated. There could be an ounce of truth in Bill's statement.

    But it is funny that they don't understand why she shouldn't be allowed to say one type of family is preferred over another, and why they would even feel the need to do so. How long will they persist in the homosexuality-is-a-choice delusion? Unfortunately, I think it will be for about another decade before they rescind that position.

  4. Wise Fool -- Whether she was actively discouraged from using the word 'abstinence' or not, I cannot say. I do think that the belief that heterosexual married families are better than other types of families is an outdated and homophobic idea.

    Paul -- To be fair, Dobson and Bennett did defined masculinity in some positive terms (i.e., responsibility, courtesty), but unfortunately that doesn't erase their anti-feminism and homophobia. Healthy masculinity should not be reactionary.

    Pinkpackrat -- I think the Religious Right as a whole longs for a bygone era. Whether it actually existed as they imagine it is debatable.


All comments are subject to moderation. Threatening, violent, or bigoted comments will not be published.