“Real women” and the struggle against spiritual forces of darkness: A transnational feminist analysis of Concerned Women for America
This dissertation examines Concerned Women for America (CWA), an anti-feminist Christian conservative organization, as a way to study how religion intertwines with media and culture within the larger contexts of globalization and transnational politics. Over the last twenty-five years, CWA has formulated a specific US American religious nationalism, in which women play an important role. Starting in the 1970s, CWA established itself as a "Christian women's alternative to feminism" in order to defend US culture and national sovereignty and to protect women, children and the "natural" family. Since the 1990s, CWA has expanded its interests to the international arena, especially within the United Nations, and now focuses on sex trafficking as a global concern. To better understand what discourses reveal about culturally and religiously-based attitudes in the United States, I use transnational feminist cultural studies as a theoretical and methodological tool. This approach offers ways to historicize, critique, and de-essentialize discourses and examine how both religious nationalisms and feminisms function as systems of representation and as transnational movements. The signifying practices of CWA take shape in multiple locales. The first part of the dissertation critiques the historical narrative created by CWA about its formation and the culture war with US feminism in the 1970s and 80s, focusing specifically on the importance of the Equal Rights Amendment. In the next section, I scrutinize CWA's media coverage of UN conferences and proceedings pertaining to women and children, arguing that CWA situates itself as an expert on family and national sovereignty issues by generating truth claims about the purpose, function, and outcome of the United Nations. In the final analysis chapter, sex trafficking is analyzed as a transnational economic and political practice providing an entrance point for groups, such as CWA, to engage in contemporary Christian missionary discourses. I demonstrate how CWA's conceptualization of women, nation, and itself as a Christian public policy organization is interconnected with and mutually constituted by feminism.
0708: Mass media
0453: Womens studies
0323: American studies