Sunday, January 19, 2014

Gay marriage and working parents.

I wish I had more time to explore my thoughts on this blog, but my life has just been so busy lately.

So very quick thought: when it comes to gay marriage, people talk about how the family is the bedrock of society and must be protected. But when it comes to measures to support working parents (e.g. paid maternity leave or paternity leave or work-based childcare, etc.), people talk about how it's a given couple's choice to have children, so they should figure it out. Why should people who don't have kids get less "perks" than people who do?

Does this seem inconsistent to anyone else?

I haven't had a chance to really ruminate on this, but it seems like a discordant standard. If the point is to improve the family unit, how much would it be improved by making it easier for mothers and fathers to earn a living and be there for their kids? If the family is the bedrock of society, aren't procreating couples fulfilling an important social function that we (as a whole society) need and desire them to fulfill?

Maybe I'm just listening to the feedback from two totally different groups--people who care about the family unit when we are discussing gay marriage are different people than people who think couple's should figure it out when discussing working parents. But somehow I don't think so. I don't know, thoughts?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The 4 Legacies of Feminism

I don't post much anymore because I have so many other things going on in life right now that I pretty much always feel guilty if I stop to ruminate on politics and stop trying to get all those other things done.

However, I saw this link today and thought I'd right a really quick post, which also means it's probably sloppy because I am not taking the time to read the link carefully and make sure I understand the author's POV and research whether his factual claims are correct and find sources to back up any counter claims I have and on and on.

So there's those disclaimers.

Anyway, from my skimming it looks like some guy is saying that yeah yeah, sure sure, feminism has helped women have more political and professional success, and now women's college sports teams get lots of money, and stuff...but has it been worth it? Nope. And there are four reasons why:

1) Young women now think they can have sex "just as men do," meaning have sex for fun and not have to expect a long-term commitment in order to have sex. This is bad because of the psychological and emotional effects on women.

2) "The second awful legacy of feminism has been the belief among women that they could and should postpone marriage until they developed their careers." This is bad because "the decade or more during which women have the best chance to attract men is spent being preoccupied with developing a career." Which is in turn bad because "most women are not programmed to prefer a great career to a great man and a family."

3) Women think they should work outside the home. This is bad because more children than ever aren't raised by their mothers, and are more often now raised by nannies/daycare.

4) Feminism has demasculinized men. Feminism has obliterated roles, so men no longer have the role of taking responsibility for the family. This is bad because "most men want to be honored in some way — as a husband, a father, a provider, as an accomplished something; they don’t want merely to be “equal partners” with a wife."

Okay, so, my "quick" thoughts (this is already taking too long) one at a time:

1) From what I've seen of the people I know, sex is different for different people. I agree that men are more likely to be emotionally and psychologically okay with casual sex than women, at least from my sample set. However I do know women who are also okay with casual sex, and when they are in a situation where third parties aren't telling them how to feel or act about it, the ones I know who feel this way seem perfectly content to me. From what I've seen, the most important factor is being able to be very direct and honest with yourself and the people you're having sex with about what it is you need and want, and finding people who feel the same way and can agree to that. This applies to people who want long-term, committed, monogamous sexual relationship, or people who want celibacy until marriage, or people who want to sleep with multiple people before marriage, sometimes even at the same time. I don't pretend all those options apply equally well for me (they certainly don't) but I've known people in every category, and when they had partners who were on the same page, they seemed to do well.

The author cites a correlation in women between depression and multiple sex partners. The author implies that having multiple sex partners makes women depressed, as opposed to depressed women being more likely to have multiple sex partners. I imagine it goes both ways, depending on the personality.

I think the ideal is for people to understand that how they want to approach sex is personal, and they should feel no more pressured to have casual sex in order to be "feminist" than they should feel pressured to have no sex until marriage in order to be "feminine."

I do think casual sex has major drawbacks, mostly because pregnancy is always a risk and it seems to me a lot of people put being able to have sex above making sure they never want an abortion. I think that's an important point but also a bit of a tangent, because the author's point seems to be that women are becoming emotionally and psychologically scarred by living in a society that says it's okay for women to have sex drives "as men do."

I also think it's a BS double standard to call on women to be the purists and hold off while easily accepting that's "just how men are." That could probably be a separate blog post too.

AND I think the authors skips over a major factor of "sexual liberation"--less shame and guilt placed on people who don't want to be celibate until marriage. I've thought about this before. Where I come from and where I was raised, I know people (men and women, but mostly women) who had various sexual experiences in high school and went through major bouts of shame and guilt, but it wasn't some natural, biochemical reaction. It was pretty clearly stemming from being raised to believe most pre-marital sexual experiences are very wrong (especially for women). I've seen some of those same people get older and come to accept that it can be okay to have sexual experiences outside of the template of what their parents demanded, and they've become much happier for it.

When I was in high school I thought my distant someday-husband would be angry or disappointed or disgusted if I had certain sexual experiences before meeting him. The boyfriend I have now actually could hardly care less what my history was before we got together, and I feel the same way about his history. All we really care about is how we treat each other, our loyalty and communication now. And I've thought before about how, had I been born decades, much less centuries, earlier, it would not have been that way. The repercussions for extra-marital sexual experiences (especially for women) could have ranged from my would-be husband leaving me outright to social ostracization to stoning, whatever. Instead, I am with a man who doesn't value me based on my "purity." He cares for me because of my mind, my personality, the way I treat him, and so on. And I'm grateful for that, I know it's not that way for everyone and wouldn't have been for me in a different era. And I think the sexual revolution brought me that. (Or maybe I just have a really great guy? Probably both.)

And I think society treating sex more casually has also affected how sexual assault is treated now compared to how it once was. It's not perfect, of course, but from what I can tell, victim-blaming has decreased enormously since decades past. (Hell, this case was only in 1989!) Wearing a provocative outfit doesn't make it kinda sorta "more okay" for someone to rape her, and I think that's because our society doesn't so strongly correlate casual sex with sin, not as it used to. And I also think it's because in general women are increasingly viewed less as objects and more as people. Getting less stuck on female purity and moving more toward it's-none-of-your-damn-business has, I think, been very good for women.

And while I'm on the subject of sexual assault, I would like to point out that the authors cavalier hand-wavy list of what feminism has accomplished is terribly short. People like this author are the people who say feminism has decreased respect for women mostly, by making sex casual, and yet, hey, isn't it great that marital rape is now illegal? It was only 1993 that the 50th state finally put that crime on the books. But I digress.

So I do think there are costs to how casual sex has gotten, but I think there are great benefits too.

Okay, moving on...

2) I have postponed marriage for multiple reasons, one of which is an interest in my education and career. My mother dropped out of college to get married, and when they got divorced she had no degree and a great deal of difficulty getting a job that allowed her to support herself and her children. This had a great impact on me and even as a child I thought about how there's no way I would get married until I at least had a degree. And given our country's epic divorce rates, I don't think it's unreasonable for plenty of women to feel the same way. Of course you don't get married planning on getting divorced--no one does, I would hope. But it's like the song goes:

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, 
maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one 
might run out.

However, not marrying for the sake of a career doesn't mean I can't date or be in a relationship. This author acts like if you care about education/career you can't even be on the market at all. Speaking as someone working on her master's, I know plenty of women with bachelor's and more who are married or engaged or in long-term relationships. Weird how men have been able to pursue both education/career and relationships simultaneously all this time, but the author seems to assume women can only pursue one or the other. I'm in a 4+ year relationship with a great man, and it's true we aren't married at this point, but it would be easy enough for us to get married as soon as we both feel ready, and it's like that for plenty of people.

I do think there's something to be said for it being easier for women to find mates in their twenties than later, and maybe that's true for men too but I think it's more true for women. At least from what I've seen, it's easier for "older" men (30 and up) to still find partners, even just much younger partners, than it is for "older" women.

However, as I said, I don't think women postponing marriage necessarily means women postponing relationships/courtship, and I also don't think all the women who really don't ever get married necessarily regret it as much as this guy suggests. Meanwhile, research shows women who delay marriage (but still ultimately get married) have lower rates of divorce and higher incomes. Sounds good to me.

As far as his comment about how women are programmed, I do think women are far more relationship-oriented than men and I think women are more likely to emphasize having a family than men. I get how a woman shouldn't go to college just because some ambiguous group ("society" or "feminists") tells her she should, especially if she would really rather settle down and start having kids. However, I'm not convinced that's the reason most women go to college. I think most women go to college for the same reason most men do--they want to develop careers, be financially secure, exercise their minds learning new things, and so on. Or, as the author puts it in his 4th point about men, women want to have "accomplished something." Apparently it makes sense for men to desire to be "honored" for "accomplishing something" but it doesn't make sense for women to desire the same thing, if that thing isn't "being a great stay-at-home mom." *eyeroll*

3) There's a difference between saying women "think" they should work outside the home and saying women want to work outside the home. See the point above. If a woman is only working outside the home because she feels she ought to, and it costs other parts of her life like raising her own kids, I agree that's a problem. The people I know who call themselves feminists believe women should be able to either work outside the home or be stay-at-home parents, and they believe men should be able to do that too, as long as each person finds a partner who wants the same arrangement.

I don't know enough about raising kids to comment on how to do it, but I can say my mom stayed at home with us and it was great and I'm glad she did, and I can totally understand why parents would want to do that. Personally I am very conflicted because I do want children and I think it would be great to stay at home and raise them. At the same time, I like my career path and would like my own career, partially to help financially support our family and partially because I get satisfaction out of exercising my mind and learning new material and creating things myself. I feel weird at the thought of living off of the fruits of my husband's work only, without contributing.

Speaking of finances, I expect a lot of women work outside the home even when they don't want to--not because "feminists" have told them to, but because the family needs the money. I've known plenty of families in which both parents work to get by, especially with more kids. So once again, the author suggests "feminists" and "society" have pushed women to do a thing they neither want nor need to do, but I doubt very much that's the case. In fact, even moreso than attending college, I expect women work outside the home because of lots of reasons besides "feminism" told them to.

4) I like how he puts "equal partners" in quotes. I found this part so condescendingly stupid I thought about just leaving it to speak for itself. But no.

I will just say I consider the man I am with quite masculine--in some ways more masculine than most men. And he treats me as an equal and isn't threatened by that arrangement at all. Masculinity and feminism are not mutually exclusive traits, and how sad to suggest as much to men. Everyone has different tastes in partners, and that's fine, but I know I couldn't ever be with a man whose very identity and sense of self is threatened by me wanting to have my own career, contributing financially (or, *gasp*, possibly even make more money than him!), wanting to have equal say in how we live our lives. I don't usually think of it this way, but I suppose he and I have a "feminist" relationship, and I think it works very well for us. There are some things each of us is naturally better at that wouldn't fit stereotypical gender roles, but we feel free to just do what we're best at and work with each other that way.

I know couples my age with more traditional gender-roled relationships, and that works very well for them. As with sex, I think in any relationship it's important to be able to be honest with yourself and your partner about who you are, how you are, and how you want the relationship to be, and for some people they really want it to be more traditional and that makes them happy, and more power to 'em. And for me, I like a more egalitarian set up, and my bf is good with that, and that works for us.

So, upon thinking about these four major legacies of feminism, I have to say I am as convinced as ever that overall feminism has been a great thing, and I'm very grateful to have been born in a time where my boyfriend and I feel free to live our lives how they work for us.

Aaaand this took  me like 45 minutes. I knew it!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It's just a house.

Yesterday I watched The Family Man while I was working out. It's a pretty good movie; I've always enjoyed it. There's one part, though, that kind of messes it up for me each time I watch it.

The main character, Jack, is frustrated with the coupon-clipping life he and his wife and two kids have in New Jersey. He has an opportunity to get a new job (in a field he loves) in New York that will pay twice his current salary. His wife is upset about this idea, primarily because she says they've become a family in the house they are already in, and she doesn't want to uproot the children.

The thing is, the children are ages 5 and 1, or something like that. I barely even have memories from before I was 5. It seems like the movie was trying to characterize this situation as family vs. money, but all I really saw it as was a house vs. drastically improved financial stability.

It's a nice idea to grow up in the same house your entire life, and if it works out that way I am sure it has it's perks. I was very sad when I was 10 and we moved out of our home and across the country, and I still think of that home fondly. We made a new home (a rental) and 8 years later we had to move out of that one too. That was also sad.

But it wasn't life-ending. If anything it helped me realize that the concept of "family," at least in my case, is about the relationships I have with my siblings and parents, and not so much about the houses and apartments where we have those relationships. Not even the cities or states, necessarily.

Meanwhile, I think it's important to have a certain amount of flexibility in life. There will always be curve balls--situations you didn't or couldn't have planned for. Being willing to adapt makes things a little easier, maybe a lot easier, in the long run. I expect if my partner came home and told me he could make a career move into a profession he preferred, for twice as much money, I would be overjoyed. You can make new memories in new homes anyway.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Communication Breakdown.

I think polls are fascinating. You know how some people can lose hours going from video to video on Youtube? Or article to article on Wikipedia? For me, it's hopping from poll to poll on Gallup, or, in this case, the Pew Research Center.

While meandering their site today, I came across this little infographic:

Pro-lifers, including myself, have often used data like this Gallup poll to assert that about half of America is pro-life. But what does that mean?

When I think of a "pro-life" person, I think of someone who believes abortion is wrong and thinks abortion should (generally) be illegal. I suspect most pro-life activists think of this definition. But if that's how we define "pro-life" then no, half of America is not pro-life. The Gallup poll says only 31% of Americans think abortion should be illegal in the first trimester. The above Pew Research infographic says only 29% of Americans think Roe v. Wade should be overturned (and that includes some people who don't think abortion is morally wrong anyway). I expect the 18% of respondents who believe abortion is morally wrong but Roe v. Wade should not be overturned are people who consider themselves "personally pro-life," which is quite different from our working definition of "pro-life."

You may have noticed the four quadrants of the infographic don't add up to 100%. That's because (as you may have also noticed) the Pew Research Center found 11% of  people answered "don't know." To my mind, these are the most interesting respondents. I imagine these people haven't really developed a stance because they haven't really looked into the abortion debate; these people may be more open to changing (or developing) their position. I think the pro-life movement would be best served by reaching out to these undecided people. But even if we converted all of them, as it stands right now that would still only mean 36%-40% of people who think Roe v. Wade should be overturned. 

It's not nothing, but it's not near the support polls sometimes suggest.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

George Zimmerman's verdict

I haven't read the jury's reasoning, and I'm certainly not suggesting juries always get things right. However it does bother me that so many people were sure Zimmerman was guilty even before he received a proper trial, and are now sure the verdict is wrong.

We have a system for a reason, and we have the high standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" as an attempt to ensure no innocent people go to prison. The price we pay for that is some guilty people will go free. I don't know whether Zimmerman was guilty, but in general I'd rather err on the side of the guilty going free than the innocent going to prison.

At the same time, I want the justice system to work the same way for everyone. A lot of people have been talking about racial bias in this case. I've seen several people link to another Florida story, this time one in which a black woman allegedly fired a warning shot (or shots?) against her abusive husband. She has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. I haven't read about the details, so I don't know, but people are making it sound like the difference between this outcome and the Zimmerman one is race. I also saw someone link to this chart from io9:
Roman [an analyst] also found that Stand Your Ground [SYG] laws tend to track the existing racial disparities in homicide convictions across the U.S. — with one significant exception: Whites who kill blacks in Stand Your Ground states are far more likely to be found justified in their killings. In non-Stand Your Ground states, whites are 250 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than a white person who kills another white person; in Stand Your Ground states, that number jumps to 354 percent.
You can see the breakdown of the killings in the chart below. The figures represent the percentage likelihood that the deaths will be found justifiable compared to white-on-white killings, which was the baseline Roman used for comparison:

So, of course, the chart is showing a significant correlation between race and case outcomes, and of course, as with most correlations between race and X other factors, people assume this proves racism.

But the data we see here doesn't talk about types of homicide, or circumstances or anything. For example, a person killing a lover they found in bed with someone else is very different from a person killing someone in a gang fight which is very different from a person carefully planning to kill his boss which is very different from a person shooting an armed robber and on and on. Meanwhile, race is also correlated with criminal activity, which is also correlated with poverty and education level, and so on.

My point is not that racism doesn't exist. I think racism does exist. I think the above chart is disturbing. But I am not sure if it's disturbing because it suggests that our judicial system is heavily biased based on race, or because it suggests black men are actually more likely to be guilty of murder than white men, or because it suggests some parts of the country are more dangerous than others and thus more in need of Stand Your Ground laws, or what. I expect it's some of everything.

No matter how you look at it, there are clearly problems. No matter how you look at it, race is correlated with different incarceration rates. Whether that's due to the simple prejudice of juries or the complicated institutional problems that predispose certain races to crime, it's still a problem.

I'm not convinced the Zimmerman verdict was the wrong one, but I do think the case the case is a tragedy no matter how you slice it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Heterosexual Lifeboat

Recently I've been reading (or having) more conversations about homosexuality, a topic which I've never really researched. My knowledge and understanding of homosexuality are based primarily on the homosexual and bisexual people I know personally, which, while not being very scientific, has been enough for me because...well, I've just had no reason to want more information. Because I don't really care what peoples' sexuality is.

I believe that sexuality is not a choice because I've watched people I care about struggle--and fail--to not be gay. Either they genuinely didn't want to be gay and were unable to change it, or they put on a long-term elaborate ruse primarily for my benefit, given how few people even knew they were struggling. Seems unlikely. That, and I fail to see the incentive for choosing an important personal quality that will earn you scorn, suspicion, social ostracism, and drastically reduced odds of finding a good mate.

But again, I've never really looked into it. My observations about the gay people I know well--combined with a general popular consensus that no, it's not a choice--have been enough for me.

But because of the uptick in talks about this lately, it got me thinking about it more. And as I was skimming abstracts about origins of homosexuality, I came across this:
"I came out to my mother in a letter. I was twenty-eight. "I was born this way," I wrote, following with the most shattering high note of self-loathing I can think of: "If there were a straight pill," I lamented, "I'd swallow it faster than you can say the word 'gay.'"
I didn't mean either of these things. I said them because I knew they would elicit pity and absolve my mother of the belief that her parenting was to blame for my same-sex attractions. It worked. Five years later, my mother continues to talk about my lesbianism as if it were a genetic defect like Down syndrome--a parallel she's actually drawn--because clearly, in her mind, no one would choose such a detestable and challenging state of being.
This is not a message I'm proud to have sent. Contrary to how I actually feel about my sexuality, it suggests that I'm drowning in a sea of self-disgust, desperately grasping for a heterosexual lifeboat to sail my way out of it. But would my mother have been as sympathetic and tolerant if she thought I had a choice in the matter? Would conservative allies support us if they believed we could help it?
If the answer is no, and I believe it is, what does it say about our self-worth and status in society if we, as gay people, must practice a politics of pity to secure our place in the world? It says, for one, that we don't have a place at the table. It says that we are tolerated, but not accepted. It says, ultimately, that it's time to change our rhetoric. Until homosexuality is cast and understood as a valid choice, rather than biological affliction, we will never rise above our current status...
A few thoughts:

1) I'm not sure how I feel about comparing homosexuality to Down syndrome in that I don't like the idea of portraying Down syndrome as some horrible fate anymore than I like the idea of portraying homosexuality that way.

2) As I read this I tried to imagine if the author were talking about gender, instead of sexuality. I didn't have a choice in being born female, and it's a fundamental part of my identity. However, if I felt from time to time that it would be nice to be a man, I don't think that means that I hate myself. I think it means I recognize that society treats men and women differently, and sometimes I'm jealous. It's not a reflection of how I feel about myself so much as how I feel about society.

The same can be applied to sexuality. The options aren't limited to something freely chosen or a biological affliction. I don't believe it's a choice, but that doesn't mean it's shameful, any more than being straight or male or female would be. And sure, if you hate yourself you will probably wish you were different, but wishing you were different doesn't necessarily mean you hate yourself. It may just mean you wish things were easier than they are. That's not the same thing.

So, yes, I see what the author is saying about not talking about sexuality as a horrible affliction, but at the same time I don't think she should be too hard on herself if she ever wished she wasn't gay.

Monday, July 1, 2013

My Ideal America: Civil Unions & Marriages

During a recent gay marriage debate, a friend of mine proposed this idea: we should have both civil unions and marriages for everyone, but the civil unions would be more lax in terms of expectations and laws about fidelity and divorce, and the marriages would be more strict.

I love this idea.

People talk about the sanctity of marriage, and I've argued before about how it's a weak rationale for banning gay marriage. On a societal level we've consistently had about half of marriages end in divorce for decades. In other words, gay marriage won't change anything because marriage already isn't sacred, so who cares?

But, first of all, I see how that would not be reassuring to someone who wants marriage to be taken more seriously. And secondly, I personally would feel a lot better about marriage if I thought society took it more seriously.

Then again, even if our divorce rates were nice and low, I still think gay marriage should be legal. I don't think there's anything wrong with homosexuality or homosexual relationships. I do, however, have a problem with some of the products of the gay marriage debate. Specifically, I have a problem with this:

First of all - love does know limits, especially romantic love. People fall out of love all the time, sometimes quickly, sometimes after many years. But secondly - that's okay, because marriage is not--or at least, in my opinion, it shouldn't be--simply about whether you're in love.

I think marriage should include love, sure, but also other-centeredness and commitment. I mean "commitment" both in terms of longevity but also in terms of committing to be respectful even when you're pissed off, to put your spouse's interests ahead of your own, to be kind even when you don't feel love at all.

Seriously, how many relationships have you had in your life where you even liked the other person 100% of the time? Much less loved them? People think of love as an emotion, and as long as it is, it's a secondary concern of mine. Love should be an action, a way of treating someone, not a feeling. And to my mind, the way people think of love is directly related to the way our society treats marriage--if love is a feeling that must be sustained at all times in order to stay together, then yes, of course, many people will get divorced. 

What does this have to do with the gay marriage debate? I mean, I think gay people are just as capable as straight people of either falling for the juvenile understanding of love and marriage or taking the more sustainable, less fluffy approach. However, at least from what I've seen, the gay marriage debate has been a lot more about the "all you need is love" version. 

It's really just the idealistic flip side of my cynical "marriage doesn't mean anything anyway, so who cares?" Both "all you need is love" and "it doesn't mean anything anyway" are stances that dismiss the idea of marriage having any real substance beyond publicly announcing that you're in love and getting (very significant) government benefits. If we assume from the get-go that marriage is just about being in love, or marriage isn't about anything in particular, then of course, no, gay marriage won't change anything.

However, if marriage is about more than that, gay marriage could change the institution. For example, some argue that homosexuals are more likely to embrace open marriages--not unfaithful marriages, in which one spouse wants monogamy but isn't getting it, but open marriages, in which both spouses are okay with non-monogamy. I don't see a problem with this. I don't care what people do as long as everyone involved is involved consensually and is okay with the setup. However, marriage is associated with monogamy, and if a high enough percentage of marriages become publicly open marriages, that association may change. You can argue about whether that's a good or bad thing, but you can't claim it has no effect on the institution of marriage. And the same argument applies to the extent that the rationale for gay marriage completely opens the door for polygamous marriage.

Anyway, I'm rambling. The bottom line is in "my ideal America," people could commit to each other regardless of sexuality, and marriage would be taken a lot more seriously. Therefore I love the idea of letting gay and straight alike be able to choose between civil unions and marriages. 

Civil unions would be basically the way marriage is (or is becoming) now--all include no-fault divorce, whatever prenup you want (or none), whatever setup you want. Kids? No kids? Monogamous? Non-monogamous? Married for a few months? Married for years? Whatever. It's not our business, do whatever you want. 

Marriage, on the other hand, would be more old school, in the sense that no-fault divorce wouldn't apply. Adultery and abuse and the like would be grounds for divorce, but you have to have reasons, you have to show cause. Maybe people would have to have kids or adopt kids within a certain time frame...I'd want to think more on that. This still would not break down based on sexuality--gay or straight people could get married. But the point is the Institution of Marriage (TM) would be a separate, more serious institution reserved for people who truly want to commit for life and, possibly, reserved for people creating the family unit, which, I agree, is the building block of society.

I'd like to point out that I wouldn't get married. I would get a civil union, for sure. You see, I am straight, and--completely separate from the gay marriage debate--I have struggled a lot with the marriage question. I'm in my late twenties. I've been with the same man for years. For awhile people were wondering when we were going to get married, because it's just expected of a (heterosexual) couple if they've been together X amount of time, I guess. 

But I am afraid of getting married. I do think of marriage as a lifelong commitment, I take that very seriously, and I don't know if I could promise I would stay with one person my whole life. I don't want to mock the institution of marriage by going ahead and getting married because it's expected, when I'm not even sure, only to realize down the road that nope, I guess I was right, I can't commit for life. I don't think I am other-centered enough to get married. There are a lot of things less severe than abuse or adultery that I think I would leave over. I know legally I can leave for any reason I want, even if I do get married. But then why marry at all? What's the point of marriage if you can only feel okay going into it while reassuring yourself that you can always ditch if you want? Pathetic.

If marriage didn't have those connotations (at least in my head)--if there was another form of marriage where not just your spouse but society understood that you were making some sub-level of commitment but not the supreme commitment of marriage--I would feel more honest about it, and I'd probably do it tomorrow. That is, if civil union meant a less severe legal commitment, I'd get one.

And I'd love it if society divided it up like that. If we left marriage to be marriage, a commitment of more meaning, more devotion, less as-long-as-this-feels-good bullshit, and at the same time we also let people commit at an in-between level--commit to a more serious setup than just dating, but less serious than lifelong...that would be great.

I know it'll never happen. Even if we instituted it tomorrow, society doesn't work that way. People like me--who would love to have a civil union instead--would probably be the vast minority, as most people wouldn't like the connotation that they aren't every bit as serious about their commitment as everyone else.

Maybe we could set it up so that everyone starts with civil a phase after engagement but before marriage...and if they survive the first 10 years in a civil union or something, then they get married.

I don't know. I just want people of different sexualities to be treated equally, and I want marriage to mean as much to the rest of society as it does to me. The end.

So in my world, this guy would get married, and New Gingrich would have a civil union. Or several.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Random thoughts on the SCOTUS gay marriage decisions.

So first, regarding Prop 8: I've seen this quote in several different news articles today.
“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”
I'm fine with Prop 8 being struck down. I don't find the arguments for traditional marriage compelling. But I am bothered by the above reasoning. Isn't it the job of state officials to defend the state constitution? And if they refuse to do so, is SCOTUS saying the people of that state have no recourse? Because that makes it seem as if the governor and state AG can unilaterally decide how a state constitution will play out based on their personal beliefs. Seems hugely problematic, actually. Maybe we're meant to fire them for this, but that seems like an iffy result at best. Ah, politicians.

As far as DOMA, I'm glad the particular provisions got struck down. And I just wanted to say as an aside that I think the estate tax is freaking stupid anyway, and I wish we had a big movement to get rid of that in general. Btw, does this mean that I could now move to a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, marry a woman, and then legally leave her all my vast fortune (HA! I wish) without her having to pay taxes on it? Just wondering. It'll be interesting to see what kind of tax loopholes this could mean. I assume there are heterosexual non-romantic couples who already do this.

I have some loved ones and good friends who are traditional marriage proponents. I was thinking today how frustrated they must be and how that frustration is probably compounded by a feeling that they can't discuss what they think without being heavily set upon. Gay marriage doesn't divide the country the way, for example, abortion does. It's not an even half and half. More people support gay marriage than not, and the trend is increasing, and with it comes, I think, more vehement calling out of anyone who is against gay marriage.

I don't actually think the only reason to be against gay marriage is a hatred of gay people. I think there are religious reasons that have nothing to do with hatred. I don't hold or agree with those reasons but I can recognize the distinction. And I don't think people who are being sincere and trying to explain their positions should be shouted down; there are better ways to disagree.

On another note, I was skimming headlines about all of this and saw one about how this affects immigration--stories about same-sex partners in other countries who now can be supported for green cards. I thought that was pretty cool.

And I like this picture:
How my FB looked this morning.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Let the bickering begin.

I'm pro-life. I get annoyed when people call me "anti-choice," because I am not anti-choices in a general way. I am anti the specific choice to have your fetus killed. 

Similarly, I get annoyed when my fellow pro-lifers call pro-choicers "pro-abortion." There's a difference between thinking a woman should be able to choose whether or not to have an abortion, and thinking a woman should get an abortion. Indeed, I have adamantly pro-choice friends who have discouraged women from getting abortions and helped them find alternatives. There is a distinction.

In fact, I'd go further and say there are pro-choice people who are pro-abortion, pro-choice people who are neither for nor against abortion, and pro-choice people who are anti-abortion. That last group are the ones that call themselves "personally pro-life." They don't want to see their views made law, but they do find abortion morally objectionable. They certainly aren't "pro-abortion."

I apply the term "pro-life" to myself because it's the most common phrase used to describe a person who thinks abortion should be far more legally restricted. I also apply the term "pro-life" in a more holistic sense: I am not only against abortion, but also the death penalty. However, I believe war is necessary in some circumstances, I am not a vegan, and I happily kill mosquitoes. There are many ways in which you could argue I am not "pro-life" in the most general sense, in which case it may be more accurate to call me "anti-abortion."

Bearing all this in mind, I created a Venn diagram to quickly explain how I understand the terms:

The circles aren't meant to convey quantitative proportions, just general subsets.

There are people who are pro-abortion, and they are a subset of pro-choice people. You can't be pro-abortion without being pro-choice, but you can be pro-choice without being pro-abortion.

There are people who are pro-life in a holistic way, and they are a subset of anti-abortion people.You can't be pro-life without being anti-abortion, but you can be anti-abortion without being pro-life in a more holistic sense.

There are people who are legally pro-choice but personally anti-abortion, and they are in the crossover part. 

In the end I think it's simpler to call people by their self-applied labels and move on, but for clarity's sake, the above is how I understand the actual meanings.

Monday, May 20, 2013

No teen sex!

I love Gallup polls. Worth noting:
  • 59% of people find homosexual relations morally acceptable, up 19% since 2001.
  • Compared to 2001, people are also significantly more likely to say they find sex outside of marriage, children outside of marriage, and divorce morally acceptable. It makes sense to me that views on those three topics would change in the same way.
  • Compared to 2001, twice as many people find polygamy morally acceptable, although that still brings the number to only 14%. Doesn't really make sense to me.
  • 42% of people find abortion morally acceptable, which is the exact same percentage as 2001. That is, it's as if views on abortion haven't shifted at all in the last 12 years. That's not entirely true--for example Gallup has had headlines like "The New Normal on Abortion: Americans More 'Pro-Life.'" (May 2010) and "'Pro-Choice' Americans at Record-Low 41%" (May 2012). However there doesn't appear to be a 1-to-1 connection between peoples' views on the morality of abortion and peoples' self-descriptions as either "pro-life" or "pro-choice."
  • Strangely, 67% say "an unmarried woman having a baby" is morally acceptable, but only 60% say "having a baby outside of marriage" is morally acceptable. Guess it goes to show how much difference the wording of a polling question makes.
  • More Americans think it's wrong for teenagers to have sex (63%) than think it's wrong to get an abortion (49%). I was surprised how many Americans think teenage sex is morally wrong, actually. I must just run in social circles where more people are defensive of teen sex.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Seriously, IRS?
Steven Miller during a Congressional hearing regarding the recent IRS targeting of political groups.

According to the IRS, a 501(c)(3) organization is an organization that is "organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes." The IRS defines exempt purposes as follows:
The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.  The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency. [Emphasis added.]
In that light, it's curious that the IRS would withhold 501(c)(3) tax exempt status from the Coalition for Life of Iowa pending the Coalition's answers to the following:
2. Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3). Organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) may present opinions with scientific or medical facts. Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organization spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization.

3. In a phone conversation with POA it was asked about certain signs that may or may not be held up outside of a Planned Parenthood. Please explain in detail the signs that are being held up outside Planned Parenthood and explain how they are considered educational.
What does the phrase "opinions with scientific or medical facts" even mean? The Coalition can only present opinions "with facts"? Facts aren't opinions by definition. One of my pet peeves is actually when people say "In my opinion, [factual statement]." You know why? Because that's not an opinion.

But more to the point, why was the IRS even asking about prayers or signs specifically in terms of educational purposes? I'm no attorney (thank goodness) but my understanding of the "exempt purposes" of a 501(c)(3) organization is that they include educational purposes in addition to many other purposes, including, for example, religious ones. And while I strongly prefer that pro-lifers stick to secular arguments, that's not relevant to whether their purposes are considered exempt under federal law.

Apparently once the Coalition's attorneys responded, the IRS gave it up and gave the Coalition their tax exempt status. To me that further suggests the IRS knew its questions were baseless, but whatever. They let it go. That's great.

However, Coalition for Life of Iowa is one of several pro-life groups the IRS pressed with what then-acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller described as surprising and unusual questions. The IRS is already in the wake of an unfolding scandal regarding its targeting of conservative groups, so I guess these queries of pro-lifers are just additions to a list of IRS problems. Hardly reassuring, is it?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Separation of Politics and Science!

There are some political topics I find much more interesting than others. Climate change is not one of them. So when I saw this in the science section of Google News, I noticed but did not click:

Pinned Image

Then later in the day I saw this on Facebook, specifically from the "I F***ing Love Science" page.

consensus pie chart

After seeing the claim twice in a short period I got curious and decided to check it out. I ended up on a website called "" that claimed:
A new survey of over 12,000 peer-reviewed climate science papers by our citizen science team at Skeptical Science has found a 97% consensus in the peer-reviewed literature that humans are causing global warming.
 If you click on the link in "a new survey" it takes you to a journal called "Environmental Research Levels" and, specifically, a paper called "Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature." And this is what it says:
We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics 'global climate change' or 'global warming'. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5%). Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus. For both abstract ratings and authors' self-ratings, the percentage of endorsements among papers expressing a position on AGW marginally increased over time. Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research.
 Let me just highlight part of that for you:
We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming.
First of all, how is 11,944 papers "over 12,000"? But far more importantly: The Guardian's headline that "97% of climate science papers agree" and Skeptical Science's claim that they "found a 97% consensus in the peer-reviewed literature" that global warming is anthropogenic (man-made) are total bullshit.

In fact, the study they're citing found that 32.6%--not 97%--of the papers they reviewed claim global warming is man-made. Where did the 97% number come from? Well again, quoting from the abstract:
Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.
So why did about 2 out of 3 papers reviewed fail to take a position on the anthropogenic question? I don't know, I haven't reviewed the nearly 12,000 papers myself. I'm sure there are many facets to climate science and these papers didn't all seek to answer the same questions. I also wouldn't be surprised if some experiments were unable to determine the relationship between human activity and climate change, and so could not state a position on it one way or another. Either way, to twist the results around to make a much, much stronger claim than the data shows only furthers my suspicion that the science is too politicized, and too at-risk of corruption.

If you're really just about objectivity and truth (science) over politics, you don't post a twisted stat to further an agenda. You post what people found. How much could the administrators at "I F***ing Love Science" really "love science" if they can't even be bothered to read a whole abstract before eagerly re-posting a misleading graphic? And likewise, why should I trust the people at Skeptical Science to give me useful, honest information if they can't handle correctly interpreting one study?


Saturday, April 27, 2013

In the womb at a shiny, clean clinic.

In response to the Gosnell trial, some pro-choicers are claiming this is what happens when we restrict access to abortion. They say Gosnell exemplifies exactly why we must fight to protect abortion rights. For example, here's NARAL's statement on the subject:
Kermit Gosnell’s actions were reprehensible, illegal and reminiscent of back-alley abortions from the days before Roe v. Wade. The conditions in Gosnell's clinic were horrific, demonstrating what can happen to women when abortion isn't available through safe and legal providers. This is why we work every day to protect the constitutional rights of women to access legal and safe abortion care regardless of income and geography.

Gosnell was a rogue operator taking advantage of an environment created by the careless oversight of local and state regulators. He preyed on women who were financially unable to choose a better option, thanks in part to Pennsylvania's repeated efforts to limit access to abortion. When states go to extreme lengths to restrict abortion, unscrupulous providers like Gosnell are often a woman's last resort. 
Gosnell's clinic was far below the standard of care. The conditions there remind us of what women were forced to go through before Roe v. Wade. We can never go back to those days of back-alley abortion. The best way – the only true way – and to ensure we don't is by protecting and strengthening access for all women to safe and legal abortion care.
Like so many pro-choice defenses of abortion rights, I can't help but notice NARAL's statements focus solely on the women, completely ignoring the infants Gosnell and his staff murdered. (I can say "murder" this time because these babies were outside their mothers' wombs when they were killed; there are no inane semantic arguments here about how "murder" and "abortion" are different because murder is illegal.)

That's okay, though. Over at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kyle Wingfield covers the infanticide angle [warning: graphic descriptions]:
    But pro-choice people are kidding themselves if they believe details of the way the mothers were treated are the only details from the Gosnell trial that matter in this debate. Consider these bits of testimony:
  • “I can’t describe it. It sounded like a little alien,” one of Gosnell’s employees, Sherry West, said of the screams coming from a baby she estimated to be 18 to 24 inches (i.e., the size of a child carried to full term) when it was delivered and then killed.
  • “It jumped, the arm,” another employee, Lynda Williams, said of a baby whose neck she “snipped” after it was delivered into a toilet. Williams testified that Gosnell told her not to worry about the “involuntary response” from an “already dead” child. But why would an “already dead” child have to have its neck “snipped”?
  • The post-birth abortion procedure was “literally a beheading. It is separating the brain from the body,” said Stephen Massof, who previously pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in the deaths of two infants at Gosnell’s clinic.
  • “I see this big baby boy laying there … He had that color of a baby. I didn’t feel as though he had a chance,” testified Adrienne Moton, who both worked for Gosnell and had two abortions at his clinic. Moton estimated she’d “snipped” the necks of some 10 infants.
  • “They looked just like regular babies,” said Ashley Baldwin, who began working at Gosnell’s clinic at the age of 15 and testified she witnessed five or more babies move, breathe or “screech” between their births and deaths. One of them was so large, she said, that Gosnell joked, “this baby is going to walk me home.”
    The point is this: All of those children had the ability to move, breathe, scream, screech and twitch before being removed from the womb. They did not become human in the birth canal, and they were not transformed from some stone-like existence to life via the birth-inducing drugs given to their mothers so that they might be pushed out.

    The notion that these killings would have been OK, if only they had taken place within the womb at a shiny, clean clinic, is barbaric.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Yes, I am judgmental.

And I'm fine with this definition.

After the Boston marathon bombing and before the authorities had any suspects, someone I know claimed no one has the right to judge whoever set off bombs in a crowd of spectators. This person quoted multiple Bible verses about not judging lest we be judged, and claimed that people are calling the bombing "evil" to try to feel better about themselves, when they shouldn't feel better. I interpreted this as equivocating all sins, implying that none of us are any better than the bombers.

It made me kind of grateful I'm not a Christian, if being Christian means stifling my own anger at injustice and wrongdoing by trying to convince myself that the mistakes of my life make me no better than a person who blows up innocent bystanders, including children.

Perhaps from the Christian perspective, that's true. It seems like a rather binary view: you're either a sinner or not (and we all are), and there's no gradation for type or frequency of sin.

I understand the idea that none of us are perfect. I understand and appreciate remembering your own mistakes before being too harsh with others. I admire grace, and I can see it's healing power in some circumstances.

But I don't buy this notion of no judgment. Instead of not judging people so that we won't be judged ourselves, I think we should judge people and be open to being judged in turn. By "judging people" I don't mean "stop thinking and just hate." It seems like that's what some people think "judgment" means. I guess I just mean "be willing to say, 'hey, this is wrong, and you're wrong.'" The do-not-judge crowd sometimes seems to object even to that (which I would argue doesn't go with biblical teaching anyway--I recall plenty of instances in which Biblical protagonists called out other peoples' wrongdoing.)

I also don't think this binary view of wrongdoing makes sense. Yes, everyone makes mistakes--and not just mistakes, everyone willfully chooses to do bad things at some point. But all mistakes aren't equal. Imagine a world where everyone cheated on their taxes and shoplifted, but no one raped or killed anybody. Are you at all unsure which world you'd rather live in? Of course not, it's obvious. All of those actions are bad, but they aren't all equally bad. And it makes sense to me that the thieves would look with disdain on the murderers, because murder is worse.

And I mean it when I say we should be open to being judged ourselves. Again, by judgment I don't mean blind hate, but I would hope and expect people who care about me to call me out when I'm doing something stupid or wrong. Judgment is part of the process of holding me to higher standards, standards I want to be held to, and I'm fine with people saying "Hey, you're being a jerk and knock it off" if that's what I'm doing. If I am doing wrong, why shouldn't I be judged?

I'm not going to stay silent about things I think are wrong, especially not out of a misguided desire to not have anyone ever tell me I'm wrong either. Both of those seem like bad ideas to me.

So yes, I'm judgmental. And I'm fine with you judging me for it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Who's the illegal immigrant?

I'm not involved enough in the immigration debate to have opinions on specific policies. I suspect if I were more involved I would land on the lenient side of things, as I do believe our country benefits from diversity and a strong work-ethic (which, at least in my experience, is associated with immigration).

However, while I lean toward a more permissive system for immigration, I think the following pro-immigration argument is nonsense.

I saw this today:

I've seen other versions of it before:

The idea, of course, is that people of European descent are hypocrites for trying to control United States borders because their ancestors were illegal* immigrants themselves--invading an already-occupied land without permission.

But that's not what hypocrisy is. Hypocrisy is "Do as I say, not as I do." Hypocrisy is not "Do as I say, not as my great great great great great grandfather did." By this rationale a white person who argues for racial equality is a hypocrite if her ancestors were slave owners. Or a man who embraces feminism is a hypocrite if his ancestors didn't think women should be able to vote.

The fact is we have no control over what our ancestors did, and no obligation to agree with their actions, much less create standards now that would justify their actions once upon a time. This doesn't just apply to immigration, but to tons of issues--imagine if we were pressured to create laws today that justified marital rape, or lunatic asylums, or child labor. The argument seems to be "your ancestors once did the very thing you're trying to stop, therefore you cannot be against it."  What a lousy rationale.

*I don't know of any actual laws in North America at the time that made colonization illegal, but you get the point.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Reproductive Rights are Human Rights"

Stumbled upon this Elle story about men who don't want to be fathers but are "forced"* to by their pregnant partners.
Dubay's argument was that while his girlfriend was permitted by the Constitution to end her pregnancy for any reason, he had no comparable right, in violation of the Equal Protection clause. As a result, he contended, he shouldn't have to be financially responsible for the child.
As the public face of the case, Feit duked it out on CNN with then–National Organization for Women president Kim Gandy, who argued that once a child is born, the rights of the child supersede those of the parents. Since this was the law in all 50 states, men had to accept their financial obligations, Gandy said. Elsewhere on the airwaves, Dr. Phil chastised Dubay—he'd exercised choice, all right, a choice to practice condomless sex. And Fox's Bill O'Reilly bullied Feit with declarations about what it means to be a man and taking responsibil­ity for one's own actions.
As Feit points out, this reasoning is ironically similar to that often used against women's reproductive rights: Abortion encourages sexual promiscuity and irresponsibility; the right of the fetus should override a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy that could've been avoided with birth control; women should have to suffer the consequences of their sexual dalliances.
Interesting conundrum. Do the men have a point? Do abortion rights and child support laws create a sexist standard? I say it depends. It comes to this: Why do pro-choicers think abortion is justified?

If abortion is justified because of bodily rights, then the double standard between the genders makes sense. When it comes to procreation, men and women don't have the same bodily responsibilities at all, so of course they don't have the same rights either. If it's about physical autonomy, you can just say "no one can use your body against your will" and that is as true of men as of women. Sure, it never actually comes up for men in terms of pregnancy, but if it did they'd presumably have the same choice to abort; it's a consistent standard.

But if that's all abortion is about, why do we hear so much about reproductive rights? People sometimes use the phrases "reproductive rights" and "bodily rights" interchangeably, but they aren't the same.

When we talk about reproductive rights, we talk about women being able to choose whether and when they want to become mothers. We talk about each woman carefully considering her responsibilities to her other children, or her educational and career goals, or her concerns over a bad relationship, or her financial issues. What does any of that have to do with her body? Planned Parenthood's motto (Every child a wanted child!) isn't about bodily autonomy--it's about whether people want to be parents, whether they want to reproduce. It's about reproductive rights.

I'm assuming "humans" include "men," right?
 Even in Roe v. Wade itself, the Court created a right to abortion based on much more than bodily concerns:
Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved.
So the Supreme Court considered:
  • Other offspring;
  • Psychological harm;
  • Mental health;
  • Distress of other people involved;
  • Preparedness to care for a child; and
  • Stigma of unwed motherhood.

None of that is about bodily rights.

But the Court didn't leave bodily rights out entirely. In the above passage, they also cited concern over  direct medical harm during a pregnancy and physical health during child care. Then again, the Court disagreed with the idea that the right to abortion is absolute or has much to do with unlimited bodily rights.
...some amici argue that the woman's right is absolute and that she is entitled to terminate her pregnancy at whatever time, in whatever way, and for whatever reason she alone chooses. With this we do not agree. ... The privacy right involved, therefore, cannot be said to be absolute. In fact, it is not clear to us that the claim asserted by some amici that one has an unlimited right to do with one's body as one pleases bears a close relationship to the right of privacy previously articulated in the Court's decisions. The Court has refused to recognize an unlimited right of this kind in the past.
So this isn't just about bodily rights. Wouldn't all the non-physical reasons a woman might be unwilling to raise a child apply equally to an unwilling man? If pro-choicers believe in not just bodily rights, but reproductive freedom, why do so many of them apply that freedom to women only?

*I put the word "forced" in quotes because, unless you were raped, no one made you get a woman pregnant, and therefore no one made you become a father. You took that risk yourself. The difference between me and most pro-choicers, though, is that I apply the same logic to both genders.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Aborting to protect our bodies?

We hear a lot about bodily rights during the abortion debate. Moving beyond the abortion debate to society in general, I think it's clear that bodily rights are fundamental. It seems most other pro-lifers think it's clear too. You'll be hard-pressed to find a pro-lifer that says they'd be fine with laws forcing drivers to donate blood to people they hit with their cars, or even requiring parents to donate kidneys to their sick children.

Yet when we are discussing abortion, it seems to me a lot of pro-lifers tend to avoid the bodily rights argument. They brush off the "my body my choice" assertion as a cop out, a cover up for less noble justifications. I've seen many pro-lifers respond to the bodily rights argument with disgust or bewilderment, claiming it's a bunch of mental gymnastics, a twisted, desperate attempt to justify a horrible act. After denouncing bodily rights as a red herring, they see no reason to consider or discuss it.

Of course this doesn't apply to the entire pro-life movement; there are plenty of pro-lifers who try to explore the moral distinctions between pregnancy and allegedly analogous situations. Still, in my experience it seems too many pro-lifers haven't seriously considered--and in some cases refuse to consider--how much bodily rights do play into the abortion debate. Sometimes I'm surprised by this, because the issue of bodily rights weighs heavily in my consideration of my abortion stance.

I wonder if pro-lifers dismiss the bodily rights argument partly because it's not usually why women get abortions in the first place. While bodily autonomy is a commonly cited reason for keeping abortion legal, it's not a commonly cited reason for actually getting an abortion.

According to Guttmacher:
The reasons most frequently cited were that having a child would interfere with a woman's education, work, or ability to care for dependents (74%); that she could not afford a baby now (73%); and that she did not want to be a single mother or was having relationship problems (48%).
Not mentioned is a concern for bodily health, or a frustration or fear over sharing her body with another.

The Guttmacher report elaborates:
In a 1985 study of 500 women in Kansas, unreadiness to parent was the reason most often
given for having an abortion, followed by lack of financial resources and absence of a partner. In 1987, a survey of 1,900 women at large abortion providers across the country
found that women’s most common reasons for having an abortion were that having a baby would interfere with school, work or other responsibilities, and that they could not afford a child.
Again, the main reasons women choose abortion have nothing to do with their bodily autonomy.

Still, that doesn't mean bodily autonomy is irrelevant to these women. Guttmacher found that 12% of women cite concerns over their health as cause for an abortion, including "from chronic or debilitating conditions such as cancer and cystic fibrosis to pregnancy-specific concerns such as gestational diabetes and morning sickness."

Why is there such a divergence between the reasons people insist abortion should be a right and the reasons women actually get abortions? Does the difference matter? Are there parallel differences between the reasons people protect other rights vs the reasons people exercise those rights?

[Re-posted on Secular Pro-Life]

Friday, March 8, 2013

Kinda hard to take you seriously, guys.

So I saw this:

And then I had an argument in my head, with myself. It went something like this.

Yeah, okay, but the people who are against gay marriage are also against 72-hour farce marriages. It's not like traditional marriage people are totally cool with Kardashian.

But they aren't trying to make farce marriages illegal. There's not a huge movement to get rid of no-fault divorce. Besides, forget the 72-hour strawman--about half of all marriages end in divorce. How many people fight against gay marriage that are themselves going to get divorced, getting divorced, or are already divorced?

Well the country is divided on gay marriage. Maybe the people against gay marriage have much lower divorce rates, and the people for gay marriage are also more willing to get divorced.

...Maybe. I'm dubious. Anyway even if the rates varied, I really doubt they vary so much that most of the people fighting for the sanctity of marriage aren't and would never get divorced.

So then I tried looking up divorce rates. I didn't find rates broken down by demographic (though to be fair I didn't look long at all) but I did find this:
  • 36% of Republicans, 58% of Independents, and 66% of Democrats think gay and lesbian relations are morally acceptable (not sure if this means gay marriage or just any gay relationships)
  • 60% of Republicans, 69% of Democrats, and 71% of Independents consider divorce morally acceptable.
  • 5% of Republicans, 11% of Democrats, and 14% of Independents consider polygamy morally acceptable.
My first reaction is that people who think divorce is fine but gay marriage isn't are hypocrites. But then again I expect that "sanctity of marriage" isn't the only reason to be a traditional marriage proponent, so maybe there are other motivations that allow you to consistently be okay with divorce but not gay marriage.

I can't fathom how you can be okay with gay marriage and not polygamy. If marriage is about consenting adults being with whomever they want, why would numbers be any more of a restriction than gender? That makes no sense to me.

Ultimately, I think people are kidding themselves to think marriage means anything in particular on a societal level. You can get married whether you are in love or not, whether you want (or even can have) kids or not, whether you plan to have sex or not, be monogamous or not, stay together for life or not. And then you're going to turn around and tell me it's super important that only straight people, or only two people, get married?

If we lived in a society where the divorce rate was super low--not because it was illegal but because people entered marriage carefully and worked very hard to preserve their marriages--and if we lived in a society where everyone who got married at least intended to have kids, then I might be open to the whole traditional marriage idea. I don't believe marriage is a right. I believe it's just some institution our society defines how they like, and if our society really defined it as the we-should-mate-for-life-and-make-children, I might feel "Well, that's what marriage is. If you want some other kind of relationship that's fine, but it isn't marriage."

However we don't live in a society like that. On a societal level we don't treat marriage like anything, in particular. Don't get me wrong--on a couple-by-couple basis I think marriage can have very deep meaning. But on a societal level it's just kind of, you know, whatever. And meanwhile I don't think there's anything immoral about being gay, and I just can't see a societal-level reason to allow straight marriage and not gay marriage...and not polygamy, either, by the way.

And, while I'm at it, this is why I don't find the arguments on either side of the gay marriage debate compelling. When I observe society, I don't see marriage treated as a sacred bond to last a lifetime and produce children, so I'm not buying the traditional marriage proponent argument. But I also don't see marriage as a deep, lifelong love connection to whomever you want, either, so I'm not buying gay marriage all-you-need-is-love arguments. This is especially true since, apparently, most people who are for gay marriage are against polygamy. I mean, come on. I'm supposed to take your arbitrary definition of which consenting sexual relationships are legitimate more seriously than everyone else's?

When I think about this I get really irritated that the government recognizes marriage at all, as it seems pretty outdated and a waste of money. BUT, as I've said before, if we're going to pretend the government has any business giving financial incentives for romantic relationships, I don't see an argument for giving them to straight people and not gay people.

So I end up a gay marriage proponent, more out of negation than anything. But there it is. Society should let everyone get married, because marriage doesn't appear to mean anything in particular anyway. Who are we kidding?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

2D ... Friendship?

I argue a lot. How I feel about the people I'm arguing with often goes something like this:

However, there's one particular person that ends up at the X, roughly.

Know why? Because he is almost always calm and always respectful. He seems to genuinely want to discuss more than debate, to understand more than to win. The more I talk to him, the more I realize we disagree on (seemingly) everything. Yet I can't help but like him because of his style.

It's just amazing to me how style can make more of a difference than substance. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think so. Even being aware of the reasons I feel open to respectful people, I still....just feel open.