The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Men shouldn't have opinions about women's issues?

Really? Isn't that rather...sexist?ᅠ

Some recent comments about whether men should comment about women's issues actually confused me a bit. Does anyone out there think that groups have not always spoken of, and thought about, the status and actions of other groups?

I've sat on panels where white writers asked if it was "all right" for them to have non-black characters. And I laughed at that. We're human. We should be able to comment upon, and shed light upon, each other. The only thing I asked, the ONLY thing, is that they start with the assumptions that whites and blacks have equal humanity and roughly equal capacities. In addition, I asked that they actually know some black people. Ask them about how they feel, and think, and see the world.

Now, applying this to thoughts about women's issues, say, reproduction, suddenly gets a huge reaction. And I'm not sure why. I was raised by two women. Most of my teachers were women. Most of my friends are women. I've lived with women my whole life, and have raised a daughter. I would laugh out loud at any white person who has been around black people half as much "not having the right or perspective" to write or speak about black folks. In fact, it would be JUST such a person who should speak most loudly. Would this person know more about what it is to be black than an actual black person? No. But they might very well know more black history, issues, and politics and culture than 90% of black people, and I've met a few of them. They aren't "wiggers", and they don't shout anyone down. They've just been there, and have extraordinary insight.

I don't claim to have extraordinary insight into women's issues, in comparison to an intelligent woman. Nope. But all my life, I've heard women commenting about men: what they do, how they are, what they SHOULD do, what they've done...on and on and on. And I never suggested that they don't have the right to do it. In fact, they have the OBLIGATION to do it. Together, as a society, we make laws that affect each other. Why should we pretend not to have opinions? Why should we keep them to ourselves? How incredibly sexist to suggest that men shouldn't comment on women's issues, or vice versa.

I absolutely, unequivocally, take the position that men and women have no inferior or superior position in respect to each other. Basically the same, with some interesting differences based on who carries the baby. What are those differences, and what should we do about them? Jeeze, I don't know for sure, but trying to stifle the conversation strikes me as being counter-productive in the extreme. Suppressing voices doesn't change opinions. Airing opinions allows people to point out flaws in logic, information gathering, ethics, or whatever.

Again, by such logic, members of no group can comment upon anything they have not directly experienced. That is just politically correct nonsense, and doesn't further the human race at all. Attack my conclusions or the way I arrived at them, sure. But that kind of ad hominem attack, suggesting that I shouldn't speak because I'm a man, doesn't compute.

And it certainly doesn't correspond with the courtesy I've extended women to comment on men, blacks on whites, gays on straights, or anything else. I further suggest that no society could ever exist in which group X cannot comment on group Y. When it applies to my own life, all I've asked is for people to do their own research, ask members of group Y.

There is NO ATTITUDE I've expressed here about responsibility that I did not first hear from WOMEN. Women, telling me they were disgusted with the way girls were acting. And I started by disagreeing with them, and came to see some of their point. Does that make them right? No, they aren't right just because I agree with them. But I've done my research. I've had countless interactions with women over the course of my lifetime on issues just like this. Doesn't make me an expert. Does give me the right to an opinion, or else none of us have the right to any opinion about anything we haven't directly experienced. Since I've never met a single human being who conducts business in such a fashion, I have to suspect that this reaction is expressive of something other than logic.


Christian M. Howell said...

Again, I say it's the fault of men if women act out. We cheer them when they strip adn boo when they don't. On the one had we say they're our "little girls" but on the other we say we can't change anything.

And yes there is a superiority on the side of men when it comes to physical strength.
That's more fear-inducing than a sharp tongue. Until men stop the "trickle-down" there will be hookers and porn stars making more than us while eroding our society even further. Perhaps that's why I HATE SEX SCENES IN MOVIES.

We need science not sex. Women need it even more as they do start beneath men. If you don't feel that way you need to be on my side, not excusing it or deflecting (not to say you did).

Anyone can learn about anything if they are serious so the point is mostly what you do with the knowledge.

Me, I'm concentrating on making real movies with and for women. I'm taking donations.

Dan Moran said...

C'mon, Steve -- I've got no problem with men talking about women's issues. Or with groups of white people talking about black culture. But I'm skeptical about the usefulness of either approach in actually resolving problems.

My specific point, though, in relation to the failure of men to be good fathers, is that it's simply wrong to lay that at the feet of women. We can pick at the edges of the problem, but when we talk about selfish women depriving their children of fathers, that's what we're doing. It happens, but it's a tiny piece of the problem and IMO distracts from our need, as men, to focus on what we're doing wrong, rather than what the women around us are doing wrong.

Did your mom drive your dad away? I know for a fact my sister didn't drive my nephew's father away; he just didn't want to be there. It was too hard.

This is like someone 350 pounds saying he's got back problems. Everything would be fine if he just didn't have the back problems ...

Men discussing women's problems is not as useful as women discussing women's problems, and not nearly as useful as men discussing men's problems. I could phrase that as a race issue just as easily ... what's more useful to a white:

1. To sit around discussing the problems of black people
2. To have black people discuss the problems of black people
3. To have white people discuss the problems of white people

#1 is damn close to sniping. #2 is great, but leaves our white people spinning their wheels in the areas where they actually can do something.

#3 marries a good understanding of the problem with the ability to work on it immediately.

I've taught basketball to both white and black boys. I've lectured black boys about the use of the n-word -- I might be wrong about how harmful that language is, but I'm not uncertain and I feel strongly enough about it to cross boundaries I usually leave be. If you're in the same place with women and solo parenting, god bless you, all of us have to do what we think right.

But on the subject of emphasis, I've spent a lot more time talking about race with white boys than with black, over the years. You need to clean up your own messes before you start pointing at those of your neighbors.

Kai Jones said...

Obviously this post isn't aimed at me, because I haven't said that men shouldn't have opinions about women's issues. Have all the opinions you want, I encourage having opinions.

While I dislike being told that I should be following a restrictive set of rules by people who haven't followed them, that's not my main objection. Some call that hypocrisy and believe it's bad; I'm not in that group, I think hypocrisy is a human thing (after all, having ideals that we don't quite live up to yet is another form of hypocrisy).

I object to the powerful (and Steve, as a man, you have power that I don't as a woman, even though I'm white) telling the oppressed what to do. We're already dealing with the oppression, and telling us in yet another way that you know better than we do about how to run our own lives is more oppression.

Not to mention you seem to be reserving to men the privilege of living for themselves while women must live for the species and culture. That is, you want to control women's sexuality but not men's--sure you're rationalizing it as the most effective way to achieve your goals, but it's still more of the same-old men controlling women from where I stand.

You'd have to overcome that perception to have a chance of convincing me. Likely that's not one of your goals, but likely there are other women and girls you might want to convince who share my perception. Failing to consider that is a huge hole in your plan.

by such logic, members of no group can comment upon anything they have not directly experienced.

Comment all you want. That's what I'm doing: commenting on how your plan and your discussion of it resembles patriarchy. I haven't shut you down, I haven't even asked you or told you to stop discussing what I ought to do with my body. I'm just calling it as I see it: you're another man who is sure he knows better than women do how women should be leading their lives.

By the way, nice play of the "some of my best friends are..." fallacy.

Steve Perry said...

Both Dan's and Kai's comments hit marks for me. Yes, we are all people and wont to use that as the distinction. If I can't write from a female head or a different ethnic or racial group, it limits my ability to do fiction.

But the guy most concerned with the temperature of the hot stove is the one with his hand pressing against it -- and somebody ten feet away offering advice on how he should deal with the situation is not as directly involved. For all we know, he may never have touched a hot stove at all.

Your experience as a boy with an absent father colors your experience in a way that lets you see your truth, but might well block out seeing what is true for someone else.

My father was there. There were plenty of times I wished he wasn't, and plenty of times I would have been happy to trade shoes with you on this one.

There are single women out there who will raise a child on their own who will grow up to be every bit the equal -- physically, spiritually, morally, intellectually -- of a whole shitload of two-parent families. No question on this.

Is it harder? I suspect it is, given my experience rearing a couple of kids. Will it matter in the long run? I don't know.

You don't, either.

Anonymous said...

I still agree with Steve on his posts. Where is the line with being PC? Basically men should shut up and woman should do whatever they feel is right? Even if it effects the men and their children? To say modern men are weak and failing to live up to their responsibilities, then say they should should just be quiet on issues is ridiculous. Should we just show up and do as told by the majority? Kai Jones- it is not that men have more power it is that it is a different power. When did womens rights become men bashing or limiting mens rights? When did equality turn to woman free to act however they wish and no one having a right to say anything?

Marty S said...

Steve: A great post I agree with it almost 100%. I hope that doesn't scare you too much.

Kai Jones said...

Anonymous: Basically men should shut up and woman should do whatever they feel is right?

Certainly I think the world, our culture, our species, and individuals are best served when individuals make their own choices about their lives.

Even if it effects the men and their children?

Sure. Everything affects men and children. And women, too. Controlling women's sexuality affects women!

To say modern men are weak and failing to live up to their responsibilities, then say they should should just be quiet on issues is ridiculous.

Then don't do it: I certainly haven't said any such thing.

Kai Jones- it is not that men have more power it is that it is a different power.

I disagree with you there. We still live in a patriarchy. Progress has been made, but it's not gone yet.

When did womens rights become men bashing or limiting mens rights?

I don't know, but then, that's not what I'm advocating.

When did equality turn to woman free to act however they wish and no one having a right to say anything?

I think women are just as free to act however they wish (and suffer or enjoy the consequences) as men are. What's wrong with that? Nor have I indicated that no one has the right to say anything; I've only pointed out that what *Steve* is saying is the same old patriarchal "society is falling apart, let's make the women save it" line.

Here's what I advocate: instead of pointing to some group of which you are not a member and outlining how they should act to fix the problem, how about coming up with ways you can improve the situation? I'm not a man, but if I were, I'd be saying "I'll commit to supporting my fellow men who delay sex, who choose to commit to the mothers of their children, and who are active parents of the children they father. I'll denigrate and insult men who don't act like this. I won't tolerate that behavior in my role models or my friends and family."

Nancy Lebovitz said...

It's interesting that not all opinions are created equal. I don't think anyone said that Steve shouldn't have opinions about gay issues when he was in favor of gay marriage.

That being said, I do think Steve's take on women choosing to have children without their father in the household has some mistakes.

One is taking a broad statistical generalization as the only truth which should be noticed. Maybe "children with fathers in their home do better" is actually a matter of combined groups, with children with good fathers doing better than the average and children with bad fathers doing very much worse than the average, but being few enough that the whole group looks better than the children without fathers.

What concerns me about this is that it follows logically from Steve's premises-- that children with fathers do much better and that nothing is more important than children-- that women are morally required to stay with abusive husbands unless those husbands are clearly making the children's lives worse.

I'm betting that at least some of the women who choose to have children without fathers in their lives have a general distrust of adults. This is a bad thing in any number of ways, but suggesting public shaming of the behavior as the only strategy looks more like a desire to punish than a serous effort to find what might work.

As far as I can tell, when you think about fathers, you default to the father you wish you had. This is probably a good thing for your kids, but it doesn't give you an accurate idea of the range of real-world fathers.

In the spirit of speculating about people I don't know that much about....I suspect there's a huge difference between women who say "there are no good men out there" and those who say "I haven't found a good enough relationship and my biological clock is ticking".

Shady_Grady said...

This was timely.

Single mothers by choice

Anonymous said...

It always amazes me how the patriachy we supposedly chattle women under somehow misses how completely biased against men family court situations generally are. Women almost always get preferrential treatment in custody disputes, and too much wiggle room when dealing with paternal visitation. Not to mention the numerous questionable rulings where men whose wives had affairs resulting in non biological children still are forced to make child support payments. Its hard to deny how these are stacked naturally against the man in the relationship.

Kai Jones said...

Anonymous: making a discussion that originated as Steve wanting to control women's bodies into one about men's rights is just the patriarchy again. It's just about impossible to have a conversation about women without some men's rights activist barging in to take attention away from women and turn it back to men.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Shady Grady, thanks for the link. A short version is that the number of single mothers by choice with college degrees has been going up sharply, and there's no evidence that their kids are doing any differently than average. Since this is a recent trend, their kids have only been studied up to age 18.

This doesn't prove that there's no ill effect (we don't know how carefully the study was designed and done) but if there's no conspicuous ill effects, that makes it seem plausible that poverty is the big issue in earlier studies of fatherless children, rather than fatherlessness as such.

There's some evidence that it's easier on kids to have a single mother than one who's going through the ups and downs of the hunt for a relationship.

Marty S said...

There are really four issues being discussed here:

1)What should be the sexuality model for men and women?
2)What should be the family structure model for raising children?
3)What should be the policy on abortion?
4)Who should have what input on the first three questions?

With respect to question four my opinion is that everybody, should have input on all three of the other questions. The answers to these questions are not simple. There is a what is best for society aspect and an ethical aspect.

So what should the sexuality model for men and women be? The old model (however well followed) was women were virgins when they married. This model made sense under conditions up to perhaps the late 1960’s or 70’s. In my opinion they no longer make sense. My sisters were 17 and 19 when they got married in 1955. Few women back then went to college or expected to work full time. Now most women work and it is not uncommon for couples to marry in their late twenties or their thirties. Expecting people to wait to have sex until these ages is not realistic. So a different model is needed. Being perhaps a little old fashion, one that limited sex to serious partnerships with the potential for marriage would appeal to me, but may be unrealistic.
On the subject of family structure I still think the two parent model, one father and one mother is probably best. But I will concede that it is not the only structure that can work. Determining which alternatives are viable and can perhaps work as well as the current model will take time and careful analysis. I suspect that the single parent model, will as Steve suggests, be found not to work as well as the two parent model.

The question of abortion is more a question of ethics, than of societal need. First lets deal with question of women dieing in child birth. If a woman has had difficulty during a previous child birth or has medical condition that would make carrying to term hazardous to her life then of course the abortion option should be on the table(that is legal). Aside from these cases what data is available seems to indicate abortion is riskier than child birth. As far as making laws limiting the circumstances under which abortion is legal, I would say such laws are perfectly reasonable, if it is the judgment of society that this is the more ethical situation. After all perhaps one in five or ten thousand women die in child birth, but 100% of the future children die in an abortion. We pass laws to protect fish in streams, animals in the wild and non-sentient trees in forests. Why is it reasonable to want protect these and not reasonable to want to protect the future child .

Kai Jones said...

Marty S:
If a woman has had difficulty during a previous child birth or has medical condition that would make carrying to term hazardous to her life then of course the abortion option should be on the table(that is legal

So a woman has to risk death *first* and prove that she's a special case to be allowed an abortion? That's not acceptable to me: my friend died in her first delivery, and I almost died in my first delivery. You can't know in advance which women are risking death and which ones aren't.

Besides, I don't accept that the risk of death is the only acceptable reason to have an abortion. It's just the reason that justifies abortion at any time, no matter what.

data is available seems to indicate abortion is riskier than child birth

Got proof? Links? Studies to cite that support this assertion?

The CDC puts the abortion-related mortality rate at less than 1 death per 100,000 abortions.

A report by WHO, Unicef and others puts the US death rate due to pregnancy at 11 per 100,000 live births.

I think pregnancy and delivery have a higher risk of death than abortion does.

Why are you willing to risk women's lives to save fetuses?

Shady_Grady said...

Part of the issue is that fatherlessness is correlated with poverty. There are a lot of other factors of course.

As someone who grew up with both parents it's inconceivable to me to imagine growing up without a father.
Money aside, there are just so many other things I would have missed. Men and women relate to children differently. I am so happy I had both parents.

I understand that different people make different choices. I don't necessarily think people should throw rocks at the single mothers by choice mentioned in the article and I fully understand that these particular women's intelligence, income, wealth, connections, etc may shield them and their children from a host of bad effects.

But I have to confess to being a little nonplussed by their choice. It seems unfair to the child to deny him/her a relationship to their father because the women in the article (by their own admission) have relationship issues.

But it's their life, not mine.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Shady Grady, this isn't simply about women denying children a relationship with their father. This is about (among other things) fathers who have no interest in having relationships with their children, and children who probably wouldn't exist if a father in the house were required.

You seem to be assuming that a father as good as your own was available, and this probably isn't the case for a lot of those families.

More generally, I think that when people hear "father" or "mother", they reflexively insert what they grew up with. In my case, my parents stayed together. The family was moderately dysfunctional, with my mother being emotionally dominant. My father was emotionally distant with some tendency to snipe.

There are any number of people who say that their primary difficulties are with their father, or that they had a really good relationship with their father. I have no reason to think they're lying or mistaken, but I have to take it on faith. I can't actually imagine what they're talking about.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Marty, I'd say that if you have an opinion about a situation that involves people who aren't like you, there's a special duty to pay attention to what they're saying-- you can't trust your imagination to be well enough stocked to give you an accurate take on the issues.

In the case of abortion, a lot of women have been willing to take a serious risk of death to abort. This implies that having a pregnancy you don't want-- for any reason-- is a very serious issue. Women's desires to run their own lives don't even seem to be on your radar.

Marty S said...

Kai: Before I made my statement I googled abortion death rate and the preponderance of articles I found suggested higher date rates associated with abortion. Here is one of them.

You say the WHO study found the death rate from pregnancy to be 1 in 9000. That agrees with the 1 in 5000 to 1 in 10000 range that I found.

Nancy: You say that many women risk their life to have an abortion, so they must have a good reason that I don't understand because I'm not a woman. By that logic since many drinkers risk their life by driving under the influence and I don't drink I have no right to believe that laws against drinking and driving are justified. Most people who do something have a justification in their own mind why it is correct. The thief whose only source of income is his thievery, may feel justified. After all the person he steals from is better off and can afford the loss. I can understand the thief's rationalization, that doesn't mean I have to approve of his actions or that a law against stealing is justified.

Kai Jones said...

Marty S.: Got any unbiased sources? I'll take the CDC and WHO over some organization calling themselves "for life" any time.
Oh, hey, that's a small study done in Finland. My numbers are for the US.

Shady Grady and others: When you fantasize about a father, you're likely making up a good one. They're not all good: men are only human, just like women. Try fantasizing about a father who beat you, or one whose every word toward you was humiliating and demeaning. Or one who simply didn't care: sure they were in the home, but they never asked about your day, encouraged you in your pursuits and dreams, or taught you disciplined behavior. (And you could have had a mother like that, too; it's not just men who are sometimes lousy parents.) I definitely think having no father at all is better than one whose every act and word tells you that you don't matter to him.

My husband grew up in a happy family; he has a very difficult time even understanding intellectually some of the things that happened to me when I was growing up. His parents were loving, involved people who made genuine efforts to teach him how to find a good life to live; mine didn't even manage to feed me, house me, or get me to school on a regular basis. Assuming that the missing parent you imagine would be one of the good ones, while an appealing thought, is hardly likely to match reality.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

With respect to question four my opinion is that everybody, should have input on all three of the other questions.

I agree, easily. There may be some aspects of the questions, though, where one person has more informed input than another.

On the sexuality and family structure questions, I can't find any quarrel with you. On the abortion/child birth question, I have a specific disagreement with you: I think that childbirth is significantly more physically risky than abortion, and you think the opposite.

My belief is based both on personal experience (two of my three sisters had life threatening pregnancies, in both cases their first, and other relatives also had hazardous pregnancies) and the fact that, like Kai, I'm in the position where the studies I've seen appeared to indicate greater risks from childbirth than from abortion. I think your Google results may be skewed by pro-life sites doing a better job of advertising the set of data supporting their claims, without that data set actually being larger. If you can get similar results, not from Google but from Medline, or from some group like the CDC instead of one with a pro-life axe to grind, I may reconsider my assessment of the relative risks. It's not like I jump for joy at the thought of more abortions. I just really do see pregnancy and childbirth as events that involve significant health risks (and also, of course, if you can manage to want the child, significant joy).

Steve Perry said...

" ... non-biological children ..."

I like that one, Anon.

Shady_Grady said...

I don't think I am fantasizing about a father; I have a great one. =) To me he was the finest man I've ever known. I've known lots of other people with similar relations to their fathers. I've also known people that couldn't stand their father-with good reason.

But the NYT article wasn't just about women with husbands or boyfriends that left them, it was also discussing women that made the choice to have children that would have no fathers at all. Their mothers wanted it that way. It is their life. I do not think they should be prevented from living it as they see fit. I do think though that they could be doing their children a disservice.

I would think it would be easier for the child (boy or girl) to grow up and learn about conflict resolution, compromise, give and take, and all the other myriad intricacies of interrelations that happen between men and women if they get to see that firsthand in their own home.

As someone said I could be assuming that a father as good as my own was available and that might not be the case, but the tone of the article was that available or not these women didn't want a father in their child's life because among other things that would mean giving up independence. I think the whole point of romantic life is that some independence is given up. So I don't really understand why anyone, male or female, would want to raise children without the opposite gender. Obviously this doesn't apply to abusive situations, gays/lesbians, widowers, etc.

Marty S said...

Lynn: Yes if you google this subject you will find that right to life groups are probably more vocal on this subject, just like many of the citations on other subjects represent aggressive use by liberal groups of some study they have found favorable to their cause. However, the Finish study does exist. It is also discussed on sites that are less biased than the one I sited The data sets CDC and Finish reflect different approaches to the question. While one can argue that the CDC study is more relevant because it reflects U.S. data, it suffers from the fact that it gathered by voluntary reporting, which in situations like this tend to be biased. I do not deny, that childbirth represents a health risk, I just take the position that a lot of things we do in life represent health risks and that the health risk to the mother of childbirth is less than the health risk to the unborn child of an abortion. It all comes down to the ethical value you place on preserving that life.

Kai Jones said...

For hundreds of years women have raised children alone--because the men left them. They left to go to war, to go to sea, to find a new trade route, to explore the world, or simply to get way. Women were left behind to raise the children, not knowing whether their husband would ever return, unable to remarry until there was proof of death. Sometimes the husband even came back from the war, from the sea, from the exploration. But it wasn't the woman's choice to raise those children alone, it was the man's.

Now women are choosing it. I just don't see the problem: the result is the same, children growing up without a father. As a woman I don't have a strong opinion about men growing up fatherless. My sons had an involved father even after our divorce, and they had other good male role models: coaches, daycare workers, my friends. Not father substitutes, of course, but father alternatives in case they didn't want to grow up to be just like their own dad.

When you imagine children bereft of the opportunity to learn from the compromises and negotiation necessary to a good romantic relationship, you are again assuming a good relationship. I didn't learn any of that. I learned about men hitting women, men verbally abusing women, men and women pursuing selfish pleasures instead of taking care of their children, men and women abandoning their children to the care of others.

From my perspective as a child of divorce and other bad relationships, I know my life was better when my mother didn't have a man in her life. She was less stressed, more involved with me, and a better homemaker and provider than when there was a man with our family. Our life was more stable, I attended school regularly, and we had less frequent problems with food and shelter when our family didn't include a man.

I'll freely grant that a good, healthy, intimate relationship between adults is the best possible basis for children. But the second best isn't necessarily a paired couple just because they're paired.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

But it wasn't the woman's choice to raise those children alone, it was the man's.

Well, in the "left to go to war" cases, it wasn't always either one's choice. My grandfather left my grandmother to raise her children alone because his country got invaded in WWII; I think from his point of view he was more fighting to defend his family than leaving his family to fight.

Mileage may vary some here, depending on the family and the war.

(FWIW, in my own life I've only known of a few fathers bad enough that they were better off out of their children's lives. But there are of course some such cases.)

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Marty, you've mischaracterized my argument. It's not that anything people take serious risks to do is necessarily right, it's that anything people take serious risks to do is so important to them that their motives are worthy of serious consideration.

And in re your comparison to drunk driving, this especially applies to decisions people take when they aren't impaired.

Lynn, it's not just that sometimes men leave their families to defend them, often enough, men go to war because they're conscripted.

Marty S said...

Nancy: I didn't say that women's motives in seeking an abortion aren't worthy of consideration. I said that it is reasonable to make laws limiting abortion if a majority of the society believes the enacted law to be justified. I clearly stated that where there is high physical risk to the mother I personally would advocate legal abortions. There are other motives for abortion that I would agree with. However, there are reasons that some people feel are valid for having an abortion that I don't agree with. Everybody has their own position on this subject and they are all to some degree valid. I just claim that my not being a woman doesn't disqualify from having a valid opinion on the subject.

Steve Perry said...

Marty --

"Everybody has their own position on this subject and they are all to some degree valid."

Doesn't follow. A whole lot of people once believed the Earth was flat, that the sun circled it, and that disease was caused by flux in the aether. They were wrong. They enacted laws reflecting their ignorance.

Galileo had to recant perfectly valid science or be kicked out of a church that believed the Earth was the center of God's Universe.

"E pur si muove," he was alleged to have said. "And yet it moves."

All positions are not valid. We can disagree about which are which, but A is not non-A ...

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Good point, Nancy, about conscription.

Sadly, the men who have the most choice about wars are often not the ones directly fighting them.

Marty S said...

Steve Perry: Your Galileo argument is completely specious with regard to my comment. Yes many statements one makes are either valid or not valid, but at least many have both a degree of validity and a degree of invalidity. For instance suppose I make a statement that a certain is day is cloudy. If there is a single cloud in the sky this statement is at least partially true, but the more clouds for longer time period, the more validity my statement has. So my statement merely said that those who would legalize abortions have some merit in their arguments and those who make them illegal have some merit to their arguments. Since this is a subjective decision it is more like my cloudy day example than your Galileo example and my statement is perfectly reasonable.

Anonymous said...

To Kai,

You are pretty defensive about the question of men's rights being brought up at all. It was a valid argument when addressing the desire to grant special rights to women and exclude men simply because of the existing patriarchy and past oppression. Feminism is all about equality not reversing the scales, and as a woman I find your close mindedness distressing.

Steve Perry said...

Not to offer lessons in logic here, Marty, but you apparently could use them. You can hedge things, but there's nothing specious about presenting evidence.

The sun does not revolve around the Earth, not if ten billion people say it does and really believe it.

If you are going to offer that both sides of a debate are valid, then you need to present evidence. Burde of proof lies with the affirmative. What you've offered, essentially is that a lot of people believe abortion is murder.

Belief is not proof. Especially when that belief relies on faith in something that is ipso facto beyond the rules of evidence.

One can believe in a god or gods. One cannot prove they exist. That's what blind faith is, and it isn't amenable to reasonable discussion.

Creationist Science is an oxymoron.

When you can show me that the mating of a sperm and egg results in sentience, you'll have something.
Nobody has done so yet.

Marty S said...

Steve Perry: I'm not sure where god or Creationist Science comes into discussion. But I think you have at lest found something we agree on. Teaching creationism as a science in school is a total abomination. Now as to logic. I don't have to believe or prove that the initial cell formed by the reproductive act is sentient in order to believe legal abortions should be limited. It merely needs my sense of ethics telling me that protecting that cell will result in a sentient human being at the end of the birth process. Again this no different than an environmentalist believing that we must protect the habitat a species lives in so that the species doesn't cease to exist.

Steve Perry said...

Well, to keep the logic flowing here, protecting that cell *might* result in a human being. It might also spontaneously abort a week later. Or miscarry a month later or three months later.

The fetus might develop anencephaly, or die in the womb, or cause pre-eclampsia in a perfectly healthy mother with no risk factors for it that kills her.

And since, if you carry the logic one step further, every human sperm and egg *might* become a human being, if they come together. Of course, of ten million sperm heading upriver, only one will make it if the conditions are right. But - which one?

Would you protect all sperm and eggs? Would male masturbation become a crime, ala Onan? If a woman ovulates and does not become pregnant and allows the egg to decay and flow away with her menses, should she be punished?

Yes, i agree, this sounds pretty silly. But it's only one tiny step back from that fertilization, isn't it?

Do two joined cells have the same rights as a newborn? As the mother? Because they *might* become human?

It's a slippery slope. The day may be coming when sperm and eggs can not only be harvested and put together and then implanted in a woman's womb, but raised in a creche, in an artificial womb.

What happens then?

Which is the greater morality -- allowing embryonic stem cells that are left over from fertility clinics that are going to be discarded anyway to be used to maybe help create a cure for Parkinson's Disease? Or forbidding that practice based on religious morality?

These are all difficult questions, but I cannot believe that the answers should come from God. If God hadn't wanted man to use his brains, He wouldn't have given them to us, would he?

Marty S said...

Steve Perry: I still don't know where god comes into this discussion. I certainly have never mention him. Nor do I know where stem cell research,on which I have expressed no opinion, comes in. Now you make the argument that if one believes the fertilized egg should be protected, then one must go back in time and outlaw contraception. This is the catholic church's position and from their point of view perfectly reasonable. I can make the same argument as you do in the other direction. If a woman can abort an unborn child without a compelling reason, but just because she doesn't want a child then Susan Smith shouldn't be in jail for drowning her children, that she no longer wanted. Or suppose a woman on the delivery table suddenly decides that she doesn't want the child and tells the doctor to abort it. Is that okay. One has to set some point where the child's life is more important than the woman's comfort. All I have consistently said in this discussion is that individual's opinion about where to set the break point, and what would be a compelling reason for overriding that break point has a degree of validity and where that break point is set or what exceptions should be made in law should be a consensus of the opinion in our society.

Steve Perry said...

You didn't have to mention God, Marty -- that's where your argument comes from -- your religious faith. Because there is no scientific evidence that human life becomes sentient at conception, so you must have gotten it elsewhere.

And "reason" has a different meaning for those of us who use it and the Catholic church, because from their point of view, it's not reason but faith.

God said so.

If sentience is the cut-off for killing, of course. And if it isn't, then there goes T-bone steak, fried chicken, and shrimp.

You can believe what you want. But if you want to justify it to somebody who doesn't believe it, you need better tools than "because." And in the end, that's what faith is -- a belief that needs no proof.

Steve Perry said...

P.S. And if the consensus of opinion is that the world is flat, it's still wrong, so argument from numbers doesn't work.

Marty S said...

Steve Perry: My beliefs with respect to abortion haveabsolutely nothing to do with my religious faith. I haven't been in a synagogue for at least twenty-five years unless I was attending a family event. You don't need to be religious to have a sense of right and wrong or have opinions on what actions are or are not ethical. By the way I know plenty of people who are vegetarians because their sense of right and wrong excludes killing animals for food. As far as sentience goes the counter argument to yours is simply that it is as true that carried to term the fertilized cell will turn into a sentient being as that the earth circles the sun, but cows, chickens and shrimp not only are not, but never will be sentient.

Josh Jasper said...

Vegetarians don't pass laws prohibiting you from eating meat, Marty.

If you don't approve of abortions, don't have one. It's the telling people they can't have one that the debate centers around.

So, from the Catholic church's point of view, life begins at conception (fertilization, not even implantation) and anything that stops that is a sin, and should be prohibited.

That's fine. Religions can believe what they want, and tell followers to do so, or go to hell. It's when they stop outside of the religion, and make laws prohibiting nonbelievers from doing what they want where we've got problems.

If it were up to the Catholic Church, the majority vote would end up banning birth control, including condoms, wherever it could.

Are you arguing for morality by majority vote? Does something become wrong or right depending on how many people pass laws allowing or forbidding it?

Marty S said...

Josh: The concept of democracy is that the laws are based upon the peoples will. When the those with a moral imperative tried do to ban alcohol back in the 1920's it didn't work because the majority of people didn't buy into it. Laws don't necessarily reflect morality. They do in a democracy tend to reflect what the majority believe is moral.
By the way if you carefully read my comments, I have never said that those who favor abortion as totally the decision of the pregnant woman are wrong or immoral. I have consistently said all positions on the subject have a degree of validity, so that includes the pro abortion position.