Thanks to online archives, Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR)’s college-era thoughts about women have been exposed to voters who may be asked to consider him for the U.S. Senate in 2014. Cotton, during his time at Harvard University, penned a 1997 column in which he wrote that men are “simple” and women are “the problem” when it comes to divorce in the United States.
I have been asking women two questions. My first question was “What is your greatest fear in life?” Uniformity characterized the responses. (Yes, these are actual responses from Cliffies; I did not fabricate them.) “Watching my husband walk out on me.” “Losing my lover.” “Getting a divorce.”
My second question was very similar: “What is your deepest hope in life?” Again, the responses were uniform. “Finding and holding onto the love of my life.” “Being a good wife and mother.” “Marrying a man who worships me and whom I worship.”
He went on to tout remedies to this fear, including the then-upcoming march on Washington by the evangelical group Promise Keepers (PK) — a group whose membership rapidly declined by the turn of the century, according Hartford Institute for Religion Reserach’s John P. Bartkowski, who described the decline in his 2003 book, The Promise Keepers: Servants, Soldiers, and Godly Men. “The Promise Keepers’ annual budget dwindled from $117 million in 1997 to $34 million in 2001, and its surviving office staff of one hundred—those rehired after the layoff—was a skeleton troupe when compared with the veritable army of three–hundred and fifty that it employed during its heyday,” Bartkowski wrote.
Cotton also encouraged his readers to support politicians fighting to repeal no-fault divorce laws, even though today every state in the nation has laws that allow it. New York state became the last to pass a no-fault divorce bill in 2010. Instead, he touted biblically rooted “covenant marriages,” which try to prevent divorce except under extreme circumstances such as adultery, abandonment or — in the words of one such model law passed in Arkansas in 2001 – ”cruel and barbarous treatment.” As the New York Times reported at the time of Arkansas becoming the third state to pass such a law, “Fewer than 3 percent of couples who marry in Louisiana and Arizona take on the extra restrictions of marriage by covenant.”
Cotton postulated that “feminists understandably view movements like PK and covenant marriage with anxiety,” even though the National Organization for Women’s New York chapter actually opposed the no-fault divorce bill at the time of its passage (a move many other feminist groups criticized at the time). “Feminists who allegedly speak for women should attack divorce, not its effects,” Cotton wrote.
“If restrained, however, men can fulfill women’s deepest hopes. They can learn that personal happiness comes from the desire to devote and sacrifice oneself to one’s beloved,” Cotton concluded. “A few men can see this by themselves, and women are quite lucky to hook them. Ordinary women must not only defend these men against feminism, but also demand that all other men accept the lifelong nature of marriage. If not, one-half of all women who marry see their ‘greatest fear’ come true. If so, they can have their ‘deepest hopes’ fulfilled.”
[Screenshot of Tom Cotton speaking to CNN]
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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