Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Ed Brayton's moronic position on abortion and misogyny

Ed Brayton gives us the retarded assertion that abortion and misogyny are unrelated:
It is possible to hold a sincere and principled belief that abortion is wrong without hating women.
This is a completely moronic assertion on two counts.

First of all, read as a generality, the connection between misogyny and abortion proponents opponents is obviously true. The vast majority of abortion opponents really do consider women to be at best second-class citizens and at worst nothing more than walking uteri in whom sapient intelligence is probably a big mistake. To object to a generality because there are some edge cases that do not fit undermines our ability to reason with generalizations. Not everyone, for example, convicted of a crime actually perpetrated it, but we still put people in prison when they lose their trial.

But even read as a universal it's still true. To be against abortion, you have to believe that the rights of a non-sentient collection of cells are more important than a thinking, feeling woman's rights. You must believe that a woman is less important than a blastocyst. I simply cannot imagine how anyone could hold this opinion and not hold women in general contempt.

(via DBB)

Update: Yes, women can be misogynist (and men can misandrous, and human beings can be misanthropes). Ann Coulter. Case closed.


  1. I'm in definite agreement with you on this one, BB!

    Brayton misses the saddest part of all: female "pro-life" activists hate themselves.

  2. I think people can hold that view from general stupidity or lack of reflection - they see a picture of a 38 week gestation fetus, then picture that as a baby, then picture that baby dying, then get all emotional and are "against abortion" - and so they aren't, in their mind, going through a thought process where they compare a pile of cells to an adult woman and go for the cells, they are simply seeing "baby dying bad" and shouting slogans they have not spent any time thinking about. Much like most of the crap that is given by religion - people parrot it out without thinking about it beyond some bare emotional level. So it isn't hatred that inspires some.

    See, I think the fallacy in your reasoning is that you are assuming there actually was some sort of reasoning process involved including all of the appropriate factual considerations - recognizing the start of the process has just cells, recognizing that this means that being against all abortion means putting a bunch of cells ahead of a woman, when quite frankly, I doubt many anti-abortion protesters have thought about it in a reasoned way like that. Sure, if they actually had, then it would be appropriate to label them as unconcerned with the rights of a woman over a blastocyst, but I don't think they have gone through any reasoning process. Probably many of them were simply told to parrot a bunch of things in church, one of them was 'abortion is murder' and so they are out on the picket lines, parroting that - not out of hatred, but out of religious indoctrination. Maybe some of those people can be reached. But just labeling them women-haters won't do it - though perhaps pointing out what you do here, that their position necessarily puts a bunch of cells ahead of a living, breathing woman, perhaps that will get some of them thinking. Sort of like when some were asked what they thought the criminal penalty should be for a woman who gets an abortion, and most said they never thought about it, and then when asked, did not really want to make there be any criminal penalties. If they actually hated women, they'd have immediately advocated life in prison or the death penalty for 'murder' - but they didn't.

  3. Just to play a bit of devil's advocate:

    "To be against abortion, you have to believe that the rights of a non-sentient collection of cells are more important than a thinking, feeling woman's rights."

    This is, as I understand it, a misrepresentation of some anti-choice advocates. The more complex -- and I'll be charitable and assume sincere -- view is that life is life, that sentience and sapience do not hold credence above the simple virtue of being alive. And given that that life (the blastocyst/embryo/fetus) is at the whim of something else's power, without ability to choose or defend itself, that those with power must act to defend it.

    But, like I said, I'm playing devil's advocate. In practice, if an anti-choice advocate genuinely holds this view, they should also be a vegan PETA activist on alternating days. Venturing down the path most anti-choice advocates take is a twisted road of privileging "human" status over all other creatures. Not that, if they were honest and said so, this couldn't be side-stepped (but they don't, so it isn't).

    I'll admit that abortion remains the one area where my liberal credentials rest on shaky foundations. The best I can do for now is to assert that, given what we know about fetal development at this stage, the evil of relegating women to second-class citizenship and abrogating their free right to choose far outweighs the unknown evil of uncertain viability in the early stages of pregnancy. And until anti-choice forces begin agitating for accessible, affordable, high-quality neo- and post-natal care, pro-family (by which I mean including gay families) adoption, and subsidies for child care and public education, they'll never be ought but hypocrites.

  4. BB, I find both your points specious.

    Regarding your own assertion that "the connection between misogyny and abortion proponents* is obviously true", are you aware you are implying that women opposed to abortion are mysoginists?

    Regarding your contention that those who consider abortion wrong do so on the basis of the rights of the fetus overriding those of the mother, I consider it a hasty generalisation.

    * I presume you meant opponent, not proponent.

  5. Your write up appears to completely disregard the opinions of women who are against abortions. Or are they misogynists too?

    If, After thinking about it for a while, You come to the conclusion that the women who are against abortions aren't misogynists -- which you must unless you are going to formulate some bizarre rationalisation that anti-abortion women are self hating -- why does a man have to be a misogynist if his reasons for opposing abortions are the same as a womans?

    Your claim requires one of the following to be true;
    1. Anti-abortion women are actually misogynists
    2. No woman oppose abortion
    3. An anti-abortion man will never oppose abortion for the same reasons as a woman.

  6. The idea that women cannot be misogynist is moronic. Ann Coulter is a perfect example of a misogynist woman.

    One also does not have to be against all women to be misogynist; My grandfather, for instance, was a racist, but he loved his black adopted granddaughter.

    Many misogynists — female and male — especially hate poor women, or women who do not suppress and denounce their femininity or sexuality, or women who have different moral views. Some women, having abandoned the struggle for their own freedom, might well resent the freedom that other women insist upon from jealousy and envy.

    If you think a collection of unthinking cells has more moral value than a class of actual people, then you simply cannot have a good opinion of that class of people. When that class is entirely composed of women, I call that misogyny.

  7. if an anti-choice advocate genuinely holds this view, they should also be a vegan PETA activist on alternating days.

    To make the analogy apt, they would have to also advocate actually feeding human women (and only women) to the larger carnivores.

  8. Oh, and could one of you "women can't be misogynst" retards fly to New York and tell Ayaan Hirsi Ali that female genital mutilation isn't misogynist since it's mostly performed by the girls' own mothers, aunts and grandmothers?

  9. This seems to be an emotive issue.

    As a datum, I offer my own experience of knowing a woman who, inadvertently, became pregnant. She is an atheist.
    She considered having an abortion - there was no medical issue, but there were lifestyle and emotional issues - but in the end decided she could not bring herself to terminate her pregnancy.
    This woman is pro-choice in principle, and a feminist to boot (i.e. the antithesis of a misogynist), yet her choice bespoke of her de-facto belief that, in her circumstances, abortion was wrong.

    PS the child is now a 20-something year old and as far as I can determine the woman concerned has not regretted her choice.

    BB, I'm aware that you are generalising, but in this case I think you're over-generalising.

    Of course women can be misogynistic, but I would need substantive evidence to accept your assertion that, "as a generality", there is a connection between considering abortion wrong and being misogynistic.

  10. I'm an emotional person. Sue me.

    I'm not talking about how a woman should choose to deal with her pregnancy: She is a sapient being, it's her body, and it's her own will that should determine whether she continues or aborts the pregnancy. If she chooses to continue the pregnancy for whatever reasons it is still her own will in control.

    The issue is whether abortion should be criminalized (or left unprovided by the health care system); whether a woman should be coerced or prevented in any way into sacrificing her own will for the sake of the fetus's well-being.

    (Note that not supporting government funding of abortion is precisely the same as not supporting any sort of government funding for health care in general. If you're against only abortion, you're misogynist, if you're against all health care spending, you're Libertarian.

  11. BB,

    Long time reader, first time writer

    I've read over this little snippet several times, and something about it doesn't sit right with me.

    I don't disagree with what your saying but I do disagree with the method you've taken in saying it.

    I object to the statement:
    "To object to a generality because there are some edge cases that do not fit undermines our ability to reason with generalizations".

    It's a really, really, really weak point. It borders on dishonesty. We've made a habit of not reasoning with generalities, because they're not especially deductive, and the results tend to be fairly interpretive. I've seen several post that you yourself have made where the utmost effort is taken to ensure that the -precise- definition of words is maintained, to ensure that your point cannot be misconstrued, or derailed.

    Reasoning with generalizations tends to lead to syllogisms, and worse yet, inductive logic.

    It also starts to come across like the entire position is contrived of your own incredulity.

    "I SIMPLY CANNOT IMAGINE anyone could hold this opinion and not hold women in general contempt".
    (emphasis mine, of course)

    That's great that you can't imagine how that's possible, but it doesn't contribute the slightest bit of credulity to the stance.

    I'm not saying your right or wrong, I'm merely suggesting that perhaps you were in a hurry when you typed this out, because the arguments aren't really supported and rigorous as they would need to be honest and convincing.

    I hold you and your work in high regard because of your commitment to intellectual honesty. You almost always show your work (so to speak), and more often than not your arguments have been so substantial and meaty that after reading them my mind feels full. This particular post for me was like biting into an apple only to find that it was filled with dust.

    Keep up the (otherwise) great work,
    it's usually a high point of my day to read what you have to say.


  12. BB, I grant your thesis in the understanding you were referring to anti-abortion ideologues in your initial post, but I still think you've misrepresented Ed Brayton's position, which is more nuanced.

    Regarding Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I have read her autobiography Infidel and, as I understand it, her grandmother performed the mutilation (against her father's [and therefore her dutiful mother's] wishes) in the belief she was acting in Ayaan's best interests.

    It is sad that Ayaan's grandmother was not consciously misogynistic.

    The result contrasts with the intent, and that is the tragedy of false beliefs - the misogyny here is part of the culture, and those inculcated with it are victims themselves.

  13. Regan: We reason with generalities all the time, especially regarding ethics and morals.

    Almost all our laws cover only the general case, not the universal case, leaving exceptions to the discretion of officers of the court. It's simply not cognitively feasible — in a deep sense of "not feasible" — to always reason exclusively in universals. Generalities are just one form of probabilistic reasoning.

    If a position is predominantly adhered to for some particular reason, then it's a valid inference to conclude that some person probably supports that reason, and it's a deduction to conclude that the person at least tolerates that reason.

    Even if such a thing were possible, if one were not a misogynist, if one really does believe that women are not second-class citizens, I think you are far better off waiting until the no-bullshit obvious misogynists who presently dominate the anti-abortion position abandon their support.

    For instance, I think privatizing (in some sense) Social Security is a damn good idea. However, since this idea is dominated by people who want to privatize Social Security in the sense of allowing stockbrokers to rip off and gut the Social Security trust fund, I simply don't advocate the idea.

    I'm not super thrilled with Israel, and I think Orthodox Judaism is as repressive and objectionable as any of the Abrahamic religions, but I mute my criticism because I don't want to support Nazis and anti-semitic racists. Sucks, and maybe the discourse will be better in a few generations, but there it is.

    Besides, any of these hypothetical non-misogynist abortion opponents could just as easily apply their efforts to unobjectionable and non-misogynist-dominated endeavors, notably universal birth control and sex education.

    "If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas."

  14. Er... If a position is predominantly adhered to for some particular reason, then it's a valid inference to conclude that some person who supports the position probably supports that reason, and it's a deduction to conclude that the person at least tolerates that reason.

  15. That being said, Regan, I will always, to the best of my ability, evaluate any specific argument on its own merits. I don't automatically assume that any argument against abortion rights is misogynist, but I do (on the generality) presume as the default position that anyone who opposes abortion rights is probably misogynist. (On the universiality, I conclude that all abortion-rights opponents are misogynist.)

    I'm also being very explicit about the argument from incredulity. I'm certainly willing to evaluate any argument to the contrary on its own merits, but I definitely haven't heard a single one. I note the flaw in James' devil advocacy, and John Morales' friend is did nothing but exercise the right that I completely support to decide for herself whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

  16. One of the very famous Founding-Fathers ... err, founding mothers :-) of Feminism was very much against abortions (for obvious feminist reasons).

    And enouncing unproved statements while simply expressing one's mind (especially on one's own blog) is perfectly A.O.K ... but when one regards or expects himself to be scientifical and rational (reasonable), the spewing-forth of such Deus-ex-machina axiom-like sentences, which one [the reader, that is] is bound, as it were, to accept (without daring to express any dissent), is at best question-begging, circular and self-contradictory (and therefore illogical or unreasonable).

    Abortion is obviously murder (such a dry statement needs little or less defending). Of course, one might argue that it's still permissible (like, say, killing enemies in self-defense during combat) --> but that's quite another domain altogether.

    As far as women-rights go, it's logically questionable whether, or to exactly what extent, they seem to apply here. (Are there any siamese-twins rights, enabling one twin to sacrifice the other for his own humanity's sake and well-being ?). Of course, arguments CAN be made one side or the other ... but, even at the end, it would still be far from clear which way of reasoning things, or looking at things, or perceiving reality, makes more sense ... In *ANY* case, the post itself does nothing to that respect: it neither reasons nor debates anything; it simply enounces statements that desire themselves to be perceived by the reader at an axiome-like, quasi-religious level ... which is fine in intself, I guess, but goes against the declared scope of the blog itself and therefore leaves readers wondering ... :-?

    Like-wise, it's equally unclear how exactly all these men and women that advocate the opposite are self-loathing or self-hating in any clear-cut, logical, obvious way (save for the yet-to-be-proved idea that they are so *PRECISELY BECAUSE* they hold to a different position than Yours). :-?

    As for the very sentences that start this particular post, I think that this very blog has at its side a link entitled "Logic and Fallacies". ('Ad Hominem', perhaps ?).

  17. nothing more than walking uteri in whom sapient intelligence is probably a big mistake.

    And why exactly so? Are *human beings*, by any chance, nothing MORE than MERE disembodied ideas (and utterly devoid of any such things as, -say-, sentiments or will) ? Aren't our feelings, dreams, hopes, desires, sexuality and parenthood (whether motherhood or fatherhood) very much integral components of *WHO* and *WHAT* we *ARE* ? Or should these, perhaps, be disconsidered ? (My opinion, obviously, is that, if one were to do just that, one would end up severely handicapped from a mental, spiritual, psychological as well as physical perspective). The human being is a large cohesive whole, and any tampering with its complex psycho-somatical integrity can not hold anything good, save only to jeopardize and compromise the health and sanity of the entire human being; and to sacrifice one's fulness for a reductiuonist view of our nature doesn't exactly do *US* any justice, much less bring *US* any real fulfilment.

    a non-sentient collection of cells

    The *SAME* can be *VERY* safely predicated of *ANY* child or infant: whether it's a few months *before*, or a few months *after* its birth ... so, what are You suggesting, then? Euthanising one's own children, under a certain age, if things just don't work out, or turn out alright for their parents? Or if their being-raised puts too much stress or effort (mental, psychical, physical, economical) on the parent ? Or if they jeopardize one's career ? AND IF NOT, THEN WHY NOT ?

    You *MUST* believe that a woman is less important than a blastocyst.

    *MUST* I ? (What are we even actually doing here ? Are we comparing human beings here !?, and saying: "THIS one's more important ... oh, no, wait, strike that: THIS one ... oh, no: THIS one").

    ALL HUMANS ARE EQUAL, BUT SOME ARE MORE EQUAL THAN THE OTHER --> does this statement sound in *ANY* way familiar to You?

  18. BB,

    You've made your point increasingly clear, and I feel all the better for it.



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