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.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Can I be a feminist too?

I consider myself a feminist. I’m a big proponent of women going to college and building their own careers (and I’d like to see more female scientists). I’m very big on a balance between our relationships and the rest of our lives; you should not be made or broken by whether you're single or dating or married. I think society concentrates far too much on our looks, too little on our minds. I’m a huge advocate of expecting and demanding respect from others, particularly from romantic interests. I believe empowered women include women who value themselves, and expect their partners to value them as well. Cruelty, indifference, derision, dishonesty—I hate seeing people tolerate poor treatment, especially due to a fear of being single. I also hate victim-blaming. I’m grateful my boyfriend, brothers, and guy friends understand that the standard is not "it's okay as long as she doesn't say 'no'" but rather "it's not okay unless she says 'yes.'" I’d love for a lot more people to understand this.

I consider myself a feminist. I’m humbled by the women who’ve gone before me, who helped create the opportunities I enjoy today. I’m proud of and inspired by the women who fought for my ability to vote, get an education, own property, access birth control, serve in the military, hold political office, stand up to sexual harassment, graduate from college, and on and on. I feel grateful to modern role models who speak out against ridiculous body expectations, or sexual expectations, or what have you.

Oh, Jennifer Lawrence :-)

I consider myself a feminist and my heart and mind go out to fellow feminists in many respects. I'm glad to be a part of our movement toward equality, making the world better for my daughters. I feel a kinship with the men and women who also work toward that goal.

But then we turn to the topic of abortion, and suddenly I’m shoved right out of the feminist movement and into an ill-fitting stereotype. Apparently pro-life women hate sex and (simultaneously, somehow) think women have a duty to procreate. Apparently, because I'm pro-life I don’t believe our gender can or should make our own decisions. Supposedly I don’t think women should have their own educations, careers, or lives outside of the kitchen (or the bedroom). I'm told I don’t even care if women die. I'm told, in fact, that I hate women, including myself. All of the gender issues I care about so deeply are a farce, smoke and mirrors to hide my backward, misogynistic, sinister agenda of reducing my gender to a bunch of baby incubators.

In reality, I'm pro-life because I believe the non-defensive killing of other human beings is wrong. How sad that this perspective is enough to destroy my credibility as a feminist. 

The truth is I think women should have control over their bodies, and that their sexual decisions should be their own. I think consenting adults should be free to have sex with whomever. I'm glad we live in a society in which birth control is legal and common, and I'd like to see better sex education so more people will use birth control effectively. I really dislike the double standards society has regarding men and women's sex lives. (For example, the phrase "man-whore" irritates me because it seems to imply that normally women are "whores," so in this case we have to clarify.) I can't stand the "slut vs. prude" dichotomy, as if women can only be one or the other, and we sure can't win either way. 

Choose your stereotype.
I also don't believe anyone has a duty to procreate, and I would love it if no one got pregnant who didn't want to be pregnant.

I do believe, though, that once a woman is pregnant, things have changed. I see a huge moral difference between preventing a pregnancy and terminating one, because I recognize the human fetus as part of our species, warranting protection. 

I don't take this position lightly. I understand how dramatically pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing alter women's lives. Indeed I think part of feminism is transforming society so that procreation doesn't affect women so disproportionately. We need better maternity leave and childcare options. We need to break down stigmas surrounding single, student, and working mothers. I'd love to live in a society where employers understand that supporting their pregnant and parenting employees means supporting productive citizens and healthy families. If our society had better support for pregnancy and child-rearing, I believe less women would feel compelled to choose abortion in the first place. 

But in any case, I flatly reject the idea that only when women are able to have their offspring killed can we have the same opportunities as men. If that's equality, it's an abysmal form.

I consider myself a feminist, and I'm pro-life. I know I'm not the only one.

[Re-posted at Secular Pro-Life]