More on "pro-life" and feminism

I still haven’t replied to Hugo (I will when I have time – I hope tomorrow), but he’s decided to take a break from the debate, reasoning that pro-life men should donate money to pro-life organizations but not be heard.

When I take a step back and quiet my own emotions, I look at my own syllabus for my course on masculinity and remind myself of what this country’s history of misogyny and chauvinism has really been. Men (especially white men like me) have, over the course of some four centuries, taken their fears and anxieties about themselves and projected them on to others — especially men of color, homosexuals, and all women. We have used reproductive policy not so much to protect tiny babies as to to limit the options for their mothers. (Look at any of the traditional arguments against legalizing contraception, used as late as the 1960s, and that becomes evident). Given that history — a history that I know intellectually like the back of my hand — how can I expect my voice as a man to be heard separate from that history?

Read the whole thing.

And Amanda at Mouse Words (who, I should acknowlege, criticizes me for participating in this debate – although I’m not sure if she’s saying it would be better that I not express pro-choice views), has an incredible post summarizing the links between pro-life and a male-centric worldview. Here’s a sample:

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating–that the pro-lifers define “conception” as what makes a baby is a rhetorical device to reinstate the belief that a baby is made by a man and merely borne by a woman. There are many steps in the process of turning raw material into a baby, but only one is bandied around by pro-lifers as the point that something turns from raw material into a baby, and amazingly enough that step is the only one that involves a man. Anything pre-conception (or, with the morning after pill, pre-intercourse) that prevents bearing a child isn’t baby-killing, but anything after a man has planted his seed, if you will, is the moral equivalent of murder. Ejaculation has become the end-all and be-all to pro-lifers of what makes something a baby.

Again, I recommend you read the whole thing.

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112 Responses to More on "pro-life" and feminism

  1. 1
    alsis38 says:

    Thank You, Amanda.

    No, Joe, you stupid piece of sexist shit. Let me make it more accessable to your tiny little brain: I’d rather risk dying in an illegal abortion than have a baby I don’t want.

    Living in a world run by your possibly-mythical “majority,” which thinks itself virtuous and important enough to deserve to get its mitts on every last zygote/fetus out there no matter how much it has to stomp on women’s feelings, health and lives to get possession doesn’t seem like any world in which I’d really want to live.

    P.S.– Go fuck yourself, you hateful misogynist little troll.

    (Sorry, Amp. I’m out of Civility Pills today. Joe tends to have that effect over time.)

  2. 2
    Joe M. says:

    Joe, your characterization of alsis as a hysterical female is sexist and nasty. She was referring to her willingness to fight those who oppose her right to freedom. She is no more hysterical than Patrick Henry.

    That’s quite a bit of white-washing. She wasn’t just referring to a willingness to fight for freedom. She explicitly said that she would rather die (!) than be prevented from having an abortion. Imagine the same thing said by an opponent of yours: “I’d rather die than see babies continue to be slaughtered by abortion.” Quite a sign of instability, isn’t it? A little scary that some people think in such extreme terms? Same here.

  3. 3
    Joe M. says:

    stomp on women’s feelings, health and lives

    Well, about half of all women have the “feeling” that abortion is wrong. What about them?

    Oh, I forgot: (1) they don’t count for anything whatsoever, and (2) we must keep pretending that opposition to abortion is purely about male desires.

  4. 4
    Barbara says:

    It is striking to me, in my experience, that men who are indifferent to the issue of whether they have children are also indifferent to the issue of abortion. Men who affirmatively want children frequently, though not always, are in the vanguard of those who “suddenly” change their minds about whether they are “pro-life” (though not all change their political assessment, they can’t bring themselves to call themselves “pro-choice” anymore), but men who really don’t want the baby are not only pro-choice, but affirmatively pro-abortion. I don’t mind that men have strong opinions as to what happens to THEIR own unborn children, though I think in the end it would be futile to try to impose them, I do understand that strong feelings can be the norm. (Even though, really, men will almost always get another opportunity to procreate, unlike women, whose window of opportunity to procreate is really quite short for biological as well as cultural reasons.) The point of being pro-choice is that what one wants for oneself and what one would want one’s own sister, girlfriend, etc. to do is not ipso facto equal to the “ideal” solution for women at large.

    I say this not to rag all over men, but to say that all men and all women should do some serious self-examination regarding where their views are coming from on this issue. For yes, I do believe that “save the baby” is, for many, an unassailable smoke screen or a slogan that lets them overlook all of the social and cultural undercurrents that are motivating them, if not wholly then at least in part.

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    Joe, writing about Amy – and totally ignoring that she had clarified her comment – wrote: Quite a sign of instability, isn’t it? A little scary that some people think in such extreme terms?

    Wow, that’s the nastiest comment I’ve seen on my blog in quite a while. Really, really mean.

    Normally I let people be as rude to Alsis as they want (I’m not willing to enforce civility rules on Alsis, since she’s nearly my oldest real-life friend in the world, so I figure it’s fair to let people insult her in return), but this is far over the line.


  6. 6
    Amanda says:

    Nope, she said she’d rather die than be oppressed by you. I imagine that the British were none too happy with “Give me liberty of give me death”, but even they probably didn’t deliberately misunderstand it.

    And who care if 1/2 of women want the other 1/2 to kow-tow to the patriarchy. Since when did Uncle Tom-ing make oppression acceptable?

  7. 7
    Amanda says:

    Barbara, good point. I’ve seen men’s opinions on abortion as their own life circumstances change, which reflects a society where men can assume that the law will support them in their desire to make decisions for the women in their lives.

    You see the same issue with the father’s rights activists, who are extremely frustrated that the law isn’t backing up their desire to control their ex-wives 100%.

  8. 8
    alsis38 says:

    Thanks, Amp. I’ve got a fresh supply of pills in this morning. :o

    Well, about half of all women have the “feeling” that abortion is wrong. What about them?

    I just don’t believe this. How many times and ways do I have to tell pro-lifers that I don’t now, and never have, supported compulsory abortion or compulsory birth control for any woman who doesn’t want them ? That for Pro-Choice and Pro-Life to truly occupy spaces equidistant from one central pole, I probably WOULD support those things. Except that the point of being Pro-Choice is exactly that. CHOICE. It never has been nor ever should be merely a Pro-ABORTION stance.

    But I think it’s really true that a lot of Pro-Lifers look at a woman and see only an incubator. The more I read these threads, the more I’m afraid that that’s not mere hyperbole on the part of orgs. like NARAL.

    IOW, guys like Joe literally can’t hear me when I explain that compulsory ANYTHING doesn’t apppeal to me;that a woman should have the baby (and a social safety net to help support it) OR have an abortion. She should have what she says she wants. They literally can’t hear me because –in their eyes– clearly any woman who would abort a fetus is merely a piece of valuable production equipment with a few gears loose. In an ideal Pro-Life world, said equipment could be immediately seized control of and “repaired” until it “produces” the result Joe’s wonderful “majority” has decreed that it should.

    For the millionth time: I don’t want to control any woman and force her into abortion. I support economic and social policies that would make it easier for her not to abort if she truly wants a baby. IOW, I actually respect her as a human being even if her ideas of the “right” kind of family differ radically from my own. I can see that she IS a human being who knows her own mind.

    For all their high-flying rhetoric, the Joes of the world are too obsessed with beatifying fetuses to return the favor, to demonstrate the simple respect that would say, “Fine. I don’t agree with you but I guess you know your own mind.” In fact, I’m an impediment to them;a barrier to their ideal world in which every last damn fetus on the planet would be brought to term.

    I will never reconcile myself to being ruled over by people like that. [scowl]

  9. 9
    Barbara says:

    I really don’t know that I would put it in terms of desire to control. That is perhaps too loaded of a term. I would put it more in terms of the fact that men have come to expect that their own views are equivalent to the normative judgments of society at large, that society reflects their own assessment of right and wrong on all kinds of issues. I would also say that for some men, it is a kind of self-affirmation — that is, a required correlative to being committed to fatherhood is the notion that children are the most important thing in the universe, thereby legitimizing required (and not necessarily desired) changes in one’s life. That others don’t feel this way, make other choices and avoid trade offs that you feel required to make can seem threatening. That’s probably enough armchair psychology for one day, but seriously, I’ve seen so many people, both men and women “change” their mind in both directions depending on what they “really” wanted in the way of outcome (baby/no baby; marriage/no marriage) that I’ve learned to ignore most arguments from pure principle.

  10. 10
    Amanda says:

    You’ve got a good point, Barb.

    Still, I would say that most women I know who want babies didn’t change their opinion to pro-life suddenly. I mean, just from experience, I don’t hear many women saying, “Well I used to be pro-choice, then I wanted/had a baby.” They could of course be out there. But it’s still a personal thing, because a woman is forced to consider what a man can more easily ignore–that it’s not as simple as just wanting a baby.

    What if you want it but it makes you unbearably sick to be pregnant? What if you want just one, but then get pregnant a second time? What if you have your darling baby and she grows up to get pregnant and not want to be?

    You know, that’s the funny thing, now that I think about it. A lot of mothers I know hardened into already-held pro-choice beliefs the day they had a daughter. ;)

  11. 11
    jstevenson says:

    Barbara: I agree with your sentiment. I wrote as such in a reply to Amanda. What discredits a good argument like the one you just made is the tired old argument that “men just want to control my fetus”. Which, I certainly agree is the case in a place like Iran (see — woman goes to court to ask to only be beat twice a day) or Somalia or . . . Texas (just another needless jab at the lonestar state).

    I disagree with you that men think their views are corralative of society’s assemssment of right and wrong. I think that is only true for half the men on several given issues, just the same as it goes for women.

    In order for a view to reflect the judgement of society at large there has to be a majority of women who feel the same way. I would call that a judgement of right and wrong of society at large. I don’t think only men believe there is a requirement for changes in one’s life when you have children. As a matter of fact, the amount of absent fathers would contradict that proposal.

    Certainly, there are men that believe that being a good father requires a change in lifestyle. But is that picture of a good father, solely a male judgement of right and wrong? For some reason I believe women would think there is the same requirement for them, even if men did not think women had to change their lifestyle.

  12. 12
    Barbara says:


    I think that the argument I’m making is more subtle, and I’m not wedded to it as an absolute explanation, just as being consistent with my experience of the different ways in which men and women think and possibly and explanation for the phenonmenon that I have definitely seen in men who change their opinion on the issue of abortion. It is my experience that men frequently see their own “self-interest” as being consistent with what is right overall — “good for me = good.” (This is actually healthy so long as it’s kept in perspective.) I think women are more relative in their judgments; they are frequently also in a position of believing (or being made to believe) that what is good for them is in conflict with what is good for others (their children, their husband). They are less likely to think “good for me = good” in some overall sense. I do not think these judgments are conscious, as I said above.

    As for the “what I believe is what society believes” aspect of my “argument” or observation or whatever, I think that you may be right in that it is most likely to be the case in certain segments of society — for instance, I am not the only one who has noticed that many conservative white protestant men (and perhaps some Catholics) feel that they’re now being victimized, when to the outside observer what they really mean is that they can’t impose their views on everybody around them. Somehow, when society doesn’t reflect their views in an unambiguous way, they think that something is wrong. This is the flipside of what I said above, and obviously, historical and not just gender roles are in play here.

    My day is too busy to go on.