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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

On feminists silencing men's views on abortion

"And I think both the left and the right should celebrate people who have different opinions, and disagree with them, and argue with them, and differ with them, but don't just try to shut them up." - Roger Ebert


Why can’t men shut up about abortion? | Talking Philosophy

"We (us blokes) are not directly affected by a ban on having an abortion, so why should we get a say in whether someone else gets to have an abortion or not?... This has become a popular meme: I’m confronted on a daily basis with claims, whether in the social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, or in the mainstream media, such as newspapers, with the claim that men should simply shut up about these issues and leave it to women to make the decisions...

As it happens, though, I don’t plan to shut up. One reason for that is that I am actually pro-abortion, so I don’t see why I should shut up unless all those anti-abortion men reach a deal with me to do likewise...

As it happens, men often do have pretty good imaginations (with rich experiences of anxiety, fear, inner turmoil, crushing responsibility, and so on, to draw upon), and I’m not at all convinced that we’re unable to imagine something of what it must be like, if we genuinely try. Indeed, some men may be better able to imagine it than many women who have never encountered the situation and perhaps are not sympathetic. If we are prompted to stretch our imaginations, I submit that that’s a good thing...

Many opponents of abortion, irrespective of their sex, can imagine the highest level of anxiety, fear, difficulty, inner turmoil, and so on, for someone who is forced to become a mother against her will, but still oppose abortion. These opponents of abortion are likely to think that abortion is equivalent to murder, or at least something very like murder, in which case they will say that none of the interests of the woman can justify it. However bleak my future may be if I fail to murder someone, that does not usually give me the legal right to do so. There are exceptions for self-defence, but analogies between abortion and self-defence are notoriously tricky and contested...

As it happens, I don’t think that abortion is anything remotely like murder. The trouble is that I don’t see why someone who disagrees with me ought to shut up about it. If he or she holds a contrary position in good faith, and is prepared to back it with arguments, then s/he not only has the legal right to do so, but perhaps also has some legitimate claim on the rest of us to listen (at least if we haven’t heard and considered it all before). And if this (let’s say male) person is truly convinced that abortion somehow harms a fetus much as our deaths would harm us, surely it’s unreasonable for me to expect him to hold his tongue about it...

I doubt that any serious thinker about contemporary politics can avoid taking positions that then entail views on the abortion debate. Keeping entirely silent may not be a practical possibility once you start thinking and talking about almost any other set of fraught political issues."

Comments: "I don’t own a dog. Does this mean I am not allowed an opinion regarding animal cruelty?"

"Please don’t tell me to shut up. That’s so very disrespectful. Until women can reproduce by themselves (they still need a man, right?), there’s no such thing as “women’s reproductive rights”. It’s “reproductive rights”, period. "

"As a man can I really consider the humanity of a female? As a white man can I really consider the humanity of a black man, an Inuit, or an Asian? As me, and only me, with only the highly suspect witness of senses to inform my mind, can I really attest to the validity of YOUR claim to equality of sentient stature with me? Indeed, if you can really remove my claim to such consideration you attack the very foundations of Philosophy itself."

"I see this sentiment expressed quite often among my pro-choice friends. It always rubs me the wrong way. Brains, not reproductive organs, are required for thinking about important social issues... Furthermore, there are plenty of pro-life women, and if you oversimply this debate as a black and white gender war, you are not only dismissing your pro-choice male supporters, but handing some power over to female pro-life activists to play their own gender card and win support with it"

"It is a strange position, philosophically, to expect someone to silence their own beliefs. It is based on an idea that people should only express opinions which they have the direct possibility to experience. By that logic only men should say that men should not express opinions about abortion because women will never be a man and never be able to know if or how abortion affects them. But of course there is no real movement to apply this philosophical principle broadly, no movement to say only people in the military should have a voice in war policy, only tax payers should have a voice in tax policy. It is strange that this principle, which is so obviously flawed in other cases, would be so common in this one issue."

"by the same principle, there should be discussions that exclude childless women"

"Rich, older people pass laws that will overwhelmingly affect poor, young people; that’s true of practically the whole of the criminal law for a start. (Or very large chunks of it anyway.) And that’s not always a bad, or even an avoidable, thing"

"here in New Zealand, we have a cabinet minister responsible for social welfare who was herself a young single mother. While this does give her first-hand experience, this is not manifested in greater sympathy for other teenage single mothers, but in a tough ‘if I can drag myself up by the boot-straps, anyone can’ approach to ‘beneficiaries’. Does this suggest that her personal experience has enabled her to make more informed decisions? Or that she is viewing an atypical (and maybe very lucky) experience as typical?"

"This actually relates to another bugbear of mine: the ‘you wouldn’t say X if you were/had Y’ retort.
‘You wouldn’t oppose the death penalty if it was your child’, or even ‘if you were a parent.’
‘You wouldn’t be taking that line if you had been the victim of crime/unlawful arrest’...
I’m never sure if this is a claim for epistemic privilege, exactly; are these people claiming that I would attain some greater insight or knowledge were I a parent/crime victim? Or merely that my moral priorities would change? If it’s the latter, that does seem like quite a good reason not to implicitly trust the perspectives of such interested parties."
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