Defending Dependence

My essay, “Dependence: Toward an Illiberalism of the Weak” is part of Plough‘s Family issue. Everyone is dependent (at least some of the time) but women have a much harder time than men pretending not to be. Hiding dependence hurts us all.

On January 21, I’ll be joining Ross Douthat, Sarah C. Williams and Peter Mommsen for a Plough-hosted event on Douthat’s piece in the issue “The Case for One More Child.”

So long as we are not currently weak in body, we are tempted to view ourselves as whole. In the absence of visible blemish, we blunt our longing to become whole. And, lest we be tempted to consider the truth, we need only look at how far from us we have pushed those who are weak. We imagine that we can’t possibly be discardable, like they are, and therefore our souls must be unspotted.

A society that cannot imagine placing the weak at its center, that forgets that society exists for the weak, will be drawn towards the Manichaean modes of cancel culture. We see sin but not grace – we try to find and throw out the bad apples, whom (we think) no one can restore to righteousness. Or we see ourselves mirrored in the most notorious sinners, and work to deny sin, since we don’t want to be cast out with them.


To give an honest accounting of ourselves, we must begin with our weakness and fragility. We cannot structure our politics or our society to serve a totally independent, autonomous person who never has and never will exist.

Read the whole thing at Plough

And continuing conversations on this kind of topic is why I’ve started a new newsletter, Other Feminisms, for discussing the dignity of dependence.