A bunch of links to stuff I’ve published elsewhere I want to point to:
At XX, I wrote a response to Ross Douthat for the latest iteration of his “slutty sluts need to stop fucking” campaign.
A fetus was brought in to “testify” in Ohio for an abortion ban. No women who’ve had abortions were allowed. I write about this silliness at The Guardian.
The amount of stuff to keep track of for RH Reality Check is overwhelming lately. I was lucky and had a chance to write about some Texas pro-choice legislators who at least tried to fight back with humor. I also want to highlight the podcast this week, because I have Sarah Jaffe on to talk about the ten male Democrats who voted to eliminate private insurance funding for abortion. Also, I combed through way more conservative media than is healthy for me to zero in on some of the highlights of the right wing war on women.
And, to cap it off, here’s an article I wrote for the Good Men Project on MRAs. When the editor of GMP approached me to write about this, I was really hesitant. For one thing, I’ve come around to the idea that while MRAs make a lot of noise, they aren’t actually that big in numbers. They’re just really persistent, which is unsurprising, because the ideology (if you can call it that) really attracts men who are bullies and abusers, and persistence is their M.O. Which is the second reason I hesitated, which is that MRAs thrive on attention, and if you give them any attention, they swarm on you. Henry Belanger describes a feminist as saying, “If you write about them, it’s like feeding a stray cat tuna fish. Except more like if you feed 100 cats tuna fish—they just show up and hang out and mewl and will completely swarm the place.” That feminist was me. Writing about MRAs and attracting their attention is something I hesitate to do for mental health reasons. The inevitable outrage and flame wars and crap they spew at you is straight up triggering for me. It reminds me of when I moved out on an abusive ex-boyfriend, and he responded by calling me at work and harassing me.
But I agreed to write the piece for a couple of reasons. One, I think GMP is trying to do something admirable, and I’ve criticized them in the past for not doing a good enough job in my eyes, and the reasonable thing to do when someone you’ve criticized responds by asking for help is to offer that help. So, I asked if I could just make fun of them, because I don’t think MRAs really make arguments very often so much as just complain and act like pure reactionaries. Even anti-choicers are more coherent. The other reason is that I do think their complaints/pseudo-arguments do, unfortunately, have traction their small numbers wouldn’t predict. The reason is that we still live in a sexist society and their arguments tend to play off unquestioned assumptions people have who haven’t really thought deeply about what patriarchy really is and what it means. And the result is that a lot of men who think of themselves as liberal and even feminist, but who still have a lot of unexamined male entitlement, occasionally are swayed by these whines masquerading as arguments. So, you have to deal with MRAs for that reason.
And sure enough, as soon as I tweeted this article, I had a guy claiming to be sympathetic to feminism freaking out because men don’t have “reproductive rights”. This is one of the most asinine and irritating complaints ever, and yet it takes off because MRAs deliberately confuse different issues. But let’s be clear: No one is trying to pass legislation aimed at restricting a man’s right to control his reproductive organs. If only I could say the same thing about attempts on women’s rights!
The argument—-well sort of argument—is that because women who are pregnant have a legal right (that’s severely restricted) to terminate a pregnancy, men should incur a special right that is not enjoyed by women to reject responsibility for born children. Some MRAs call this a “paper abortion”.
The problem with this argument is that it conflates embryos with babies (not surprising, as Sperm Magic is part of the sexist imagination, even if someone is a pro-choice sexist), and more importantly, it conflates being pregnant with impregnating someone. But after the conception occurs, only one person is pregnant. Abortion is a medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy. Refusing to pay child support has nothing to do with your control over your body and your right to receive medical interventions. I don’t know any feminists who oppose men’s right to control their bodies or access medical interventions that give them that control. I don’t know any feminists who believe men shouldn’t have a right to vasectomies, for instance. MRAs try to frame abortion as, “A pregnancy just happens to exist, but only women get to say if it becomes a baby. Unfair!” But the law actually says, “People who are pregnant have a right, within limits, to have a doctor terminate that pregnancy.” (By the way, it’s important to understand that not all women can get pregnant, and not all pregnant people are women. Since many MRA arguments rest on false assumptions about men and women, exacting language is necessary. Male-identified people who become pregnant also enjoy the right to abort that pregnancy.) Since a pregnancy is not a child, this is a completely different thing than abandoning a child.
Let me repeat this for clarity: Reproductive rights are derived from the right to bodily autonomy. Becoming pregnant or impregnating another person is a big deal, so your right to exercise bodily autonomy over these aspects of your body is a fundamental right. The right of those who can get others pregnant to control their own bodies is not only something I support , but it’s generally not under attack by anyone. Men’s reproductive rights are threatened because of the religious right, but it’s mainly that they’re civilian casualties on the war on women. The Christian right’s attempt, for instance, to take away women’s access to contraception and STD treatment tends to reduce access for men, as well. But men are not the targets of a single law or de-funding scheme aimed at depriving them of the ability to control their own reproductive organs.
Abortion rights are about the right to terminate a pregnancy, not to say no to parenthood. MRAs claim this a distinction without difference, but they’re wrong. Many abortions are performed on women who want to say yes to parenthood, but whose health or circumstances require the pregnancy to be terminated. Like anti-choicers, MRAs are invested in minimizing that pregnancy is a medical condition that changes the body of the person experiencing it. But we must keep this front and center, because there is a huge difference between being pregnant and being the parent of a born child that requires care. While many women do terminate pregnancies so they don’t have to care for a child, they aren’t abandoning an actual child that’s actually born, which is what MRAs demand the right for men to be able to do.
MRAs characterize abortion not as a matter of control over your body, but giving women “special” rights to say no to parenthood after sex has occurred, which is the only event MRAs seem to think matters. It is not. Abortion is the right to control your body. Pregnant people actually have fewer rights than everyone else to control their bodies, since the Supreme Court has said that the state interest in the fetus creates restrictions. Pregnant people have fewer, not more rights. Keep this in mind when you get into this argument with paranoid dudes with massive entitlement issues.
Amusingly enough, there’s a reality TV show that demonstrates quite neatly how big a difference there is between “right to terminate a medical condition occurring in your body” and “right to simply say no to parenthood of a born child”. “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” exists mainly for the WTF factor, but it blows open the argument that abortion is an absolute right to say no to parenthood that men don’t enjoy. A woman who gives birth without knowing she was pregnant doesn’t have a right to “abortion”, since she is not pregnant. So, despite what MRAs say, the right to abortion is not a right to say no to parenthood. It’s a right to terminate a pregnancy. If you go into labor without knowing you’re pregnant, your pregnancy is terminating itself. If abortion rights were actually about getting a “window” to say no to parenthood, then women who give birth without knowing they were pregnant would be offered this option, but they’re not. Both men and women have the legal responsibility towards their born children, unless those children are given up for adoption, which is another thing altogether.
What really bothers me is that when men like the one who went after me on Twitter this morning start demanding that I understand that I start to see how women’s right to continue a pregnancy is a severe imposition on their right to unfettered casual sex with a cast of thousands, I can’t help but shake the feeling that we’re discussing a completely theoretical right for them. Whereas the right to control your body is very much under attack for real from conservatives if you’re anyone but a straight, cisgendered man. I’m just way more worried about actual abuse, forced childbirth, health care access and various other problems than the possibility that someone is going to have women banging down the door to have unprotected, anonymous sex with him any day, and he’ll be helpless to stop them from obtaining his sperm or using it for nefarious purposes.
Whew. I’m exhausted even having to trot through the motions yet again. I really hate the MRA situation not only because MRAs themselves put you in a situation that’s reminiscent of fighting with an abusive boyfriend, but because they bring out the sexism in men that otherwise might let it not take over their minds. When it comes to addressing MRAs, I get more men scolding me for my tone and my unladylike behavior, or concern trolling me for not taking MRAs bullshit—like the argument that giving women some rights that still fall short of equality over their bodies means men should get special compensatory rights—seriously. The idea that when a man speaks, women should listen patiently and mind their manners no matter what really comes out in this situation. I’d really rather go through it over and over.
Which is why, when male feminists ask what they can do, I have come around to asking them to deal with MRAs and MRA arguments. Since they’re men, they don’t get concern trolled, scolded on tone, or talked down to nearly as much. I mean, they do, but it’s muffled to a large degree. This is a situation where male privilege can be put to good use. Female feminists who fight this battle really get worn down, because MRAs tend to have one mode when it comes to women, which is wear them down and force them to submit, and they will expend a whole lot of energy in this direction. If men could take on some of the work of fighting them, that would be super fucking awesome. And I will have to shout out to Hugo and David for being willing to fight just these battles for just that reason.