A surprising number of anti-feminists describe themselves as being pro-choice when they’re attacking feminism. The message of these “I’m pro-choice, but…” messages is I’m-liberal-so-my-eviscerations-of-feminism-are-ever-so-objective.
Many of these people are extremely prolific writers who enjoy ripping apart opposition arguments. Yet they’ve never ripped apart pro-life arguments.
I’ve never seen a Christina Hoff Sommers article focused on defending abortion rights, rather than mentioning being pro-choice as part of an anti-feminist attack. I’ve seen Cathy Young take a “pox on both their houses” approach, in which she advocates a pro-life position – defunding Planned Parenthood unless it stops providing abortions – by calling it a “compromise.” I couldn’t find an example of Cathy defending her avowed pro-choice position (although she has written2 in moderate approval of “choice for men”). In fact, I only know Cathy, Sommers, and their compatriots are pro-choice because they mention being pro-choice as a credential to advance anti-feminist positions.3
Disclaimer number one: Writers like CHS and Young have collectively written thousands of articles and posts. Although I follow them both, I haven’t read all their work, and google searches are imperfect. So maybe I’ve missed it.4 If defending abortion rights is part of their output, it must be a very small part of it.
Disclaimer number two: They have a right to focus on whatever they want. No one has time to write about every worthy issue in the world. But I’m not criticizing them for not defending choice; I’m criticizing them for not defending choice while repeatedly using their pro-choice views as a credential.
Disclaimer number three: I’m sure all of these writers genuinely think abortion should be legal, at least in the first trimester. So in that sense – a somewhat theoretical sense, for writers as hugely prolific as these – they are pro-choice. End disclaimers.
As a practical matter their pro-choiceness is opportunistic. None of these writers extend their pro-choice views to publicly defending the right to an abortion, even though abortion is in desperate need of defense.
It’s hard to take the “I’m pro-choice, so I have credibility when I say feminists are evil” mantra seriously when saying that appears to be the entire extent of their (public) commitment to reproductive rights. (Apart from reproductive rights for cis men.)
The claim to be pro-choice is especially shaky for professional opinion-writers writers like Sommers and Young, who have devoted huge portions of their careers to discrediting mainstream feminism. As I once pointed out to Cathy, if so-called “equity feminists” (Sommers’ term for libertarian and conservative feminists) have their way and mainstream feminism stops existing, that will effectively end abortion rights in the USA. Pro-lifers are smart, relentless and determined, and feminists are their only effective and consistent opposition.
No matter how bad things get, it would be foolish to look to Sommers, Young and other “equity” feminists to defend reproductive rights. I say this because they’ve had decades to use the considerable strength of their pens to defend choice, decades during with the right to abortion has grown more and more threadbare, and they’ve said and done nothing – even though their voices, respected in many right-wing circles, could reach listeners who ignore what liberals say.
Attacking left-wing and progressive feminists – which is to say, the feminists who have actually done the work of defending choice – is their priority. Defending choice is not and never will be.
Which is, again, their right.
But until they actually make defending abortion rights a priority, it’s opportunistic and disingenuous of them to use the pro-choice label as a shield.
- I don’t want to exaggerate my friendship with Cathy. We’ve been friendly adversaries for many years online, but we’ve only met face to face once, that I recall. Still, I think well of Cathy, and I believe she thinks well of me. [↩]
- If you follow that link and read the comments, you’ll find some comments by me, as well as many excellent comments by Mythago. [↩]
- Similarly, I only know Christina Hoff Sommers is pro-same-sex marriage because she signed a petition of SSM advocates criticizing SSM supporters on free speech grounds. It’s fine for her to criticize arguments from SSM supporters – but it’s telling that she has never, as far as I can find on google, criticized the arguments of SSM opponents. [↩]
- I asked Cathy directly, and she couldn’t point me to any articles she’s written refuting pro-life arguments, but may have one in progress. [↩]