Baptists and bootleggers. It’s a Prohibition era phrase more commonly referred to as strange bedfellows. Sometimes political opponents support the same thing, but for different reasons.
Arizona’s state senate passed a bill saying that after divorce, the person (presumably the woman) with the best chance of having a baby will have the rights to the former couple’s frozen embryos. The other person will be exempt from parental rights and responsibilities unless he chooses otherwise.
Republicans control Arizona government, and their motive seems to be stealth recognition of the embryo’s right to life—albeit cloaked as a women’s rights issue.
This should dispel the myth that conservatives oppose government interference in people’s lives.
Not that progressives are any better. I’ve previously criticized the idea of “alimony for your eggs,” stating instead that having a baby should involve the consent of both potential parents.
Though the law exempts a man from legal and financial responsibility if he does not consent to parenthood, it’s questionable whether this aspect of the potential law would hold up in court. In light of the best interests of the child, it’s likely the courts will order the unwilling father to pay child support anyway (and face jail if he fails to deliver).
Ancient philosopher Epictetus’s injunction to know what does and does not belong to you is perhaps the most succinct definition of healthy boundaries. A couple’s frozen embryos belong to them, not to the state. And the decision to become a parent belongs to each individual, meaning that each person should have veto power—including the right to change their mind after having previously given consent.
Advocacy groups, however, promote the talking point that it’s not fair for women to lose their embryos because their ex-husbands don’t want to pay child support.
But no woman is entitled to have a baby. Consent a reciprocal responsibility.
Discussions are too often about dominance rather than truth seeking, argues Spencer M de Gauthier. That’s why we so often talk past each other.
De Gauthier is a former communist who literally got his ass kicked by “social justice warriors.” In the process of trying to understand what happened he discovered the Youtube videos of Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, whom Cathy Newman recently interviewed on the BBC’s Channel 4.
It wasn’t really a discussion, though, because Newman didn’t listen to anything Peterson said. Instead she responded to Peterson’s nuanced statements with, “What you’re really saying is…” And then she’d insert the most simplistic and derogatory statement she could think of.
Peterson, an expert on myth and psychology, became a Youtube star after criticizing a Canadian transgender equality bill (C-16, which eventually became law). Peterson doesn’t oppose civil rights—he opposes the law’s requirement that people use alternative gender pronouns in the workplace. The government compelling you to say something, he argues, is as much an affront to free speech as the government prohibiting you from saying something.
Peterson’s critics called him a bigoted transphobe. And Peterson attracted an alt-right following leading some to incorrectly associate him with the alt-right.
It is fair to say that Peterson hasn’t done enough to denounce the alt-right—if he criticized the right’s identity politics like he does the left’s then his alt-right followers would likely abandon him. The alt-right fails to understand that Peterson’s take down of identity politics also applies to them. After all, he likes to compare Nazis to communists.
But back to Newman’s interview of Peterson. De Gauthier notes that,
What is actually happening is not a conversation or a true argument (the highest form of which is for two persons to work together to earnestly ascertain the truth), but “a dominance hierarchy dispute with an ideological overlay.”
De Gauthier compares modern day efforts to persuade others with rhetoric (or coercive shaming) rather than reason, and the relativistic view that “truth” is not universal but context dependent (and power is usually the context) to the sophists. Socrates often debated and defeated these ancient Greek bullshit artists, arguing instead that truth matters.
Though de Gauthier is talking about social justice warriors, I think the rhetorical aspect is equally true of the right. But rather than relativism the right tends to appeal to religion or an idealized past. The right’s “alternative facts,” however, are as non-rational as relativism.
Newman, like the sophists, is not engaged in a serious quest for truth. She’s engaged in a dominance display. Peterson, however, refuses to play her game. He remains calm and collected. He does not attempt dominance over her. He only tries to correct Newman’s misperceptions. As a result Newman looks foolish, but this is her own doing. Peterson doesn’t catch her when she falls, but that is a reflection of true equality: Peterson neither attacks Newman nor puts her on a pedestal.
The gender wage gap is a particular sticking point for Newman. Peterson states that there are 18 factors attributable to the gap, and while gender discrimination is one it’s not as big of a factor as progressives claim. Newman claims that Peterson was really saying that this is just the way it is and women should put up with it.
But the research backs Peterson up. Politifact states that the claim that women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same job is “mostly false.” The Economist reports that for the same job, women earn 98 cents. Even the American Association of University Women concedes that their “regression analysis of earnings one year after graduation suggests that a 6.6 percent difference in annual earnings remains between women and men after accounting for all variables known to affect earnings.”
Newman also took issue with Peterson’s reference to research showing cross cultural personality differences between men and women, which interestingly are greater in countries with more gender equal. So biology does play a role with gender, but not the crude biological determinism that some on the right advocate. Peterson compares it to the rules of chess: biology sets the stage, but within that there’s a lot of flexibility.
These research findings contradict progressive ideology. People like Newman resort to personal attacks because they can’t win the argument with facts. But trying to win an argument regardless of the facts places dominance above truth.
Many of us were taught as children that no one owes us anything. It’s meant to curb any sense of entitlement we may be developing.
From this it follows that we don’t anyone anything. But this assertion is sometimes seen as impudent. And that can lead to a situation where we feel obligated to others while lacking the right to set boundaries.
Epictetus was a former slave turned philosopher. He counsels us to know what belongs to us and what does not belong to us. Other people and other things are not ours. But our deliberate choices do belong to us.
Further, there are two aspects to not touching things that aren’t ours. One is not taking something that belongs to someone else. The other is refusing to accept things that we don’t want.
For example, let’s say you don’t like a choice I’ve made. And let’s say you criticize that choice using judgmental language. My choice doesn’t belong to you, and your judgement doesn’t belong to me. I can neutralize your judgement, not by striking back at you, but simply by pointing out what belongs to whom and making clear that I reject your judgement.
That is, I can refuse to touch something that doesn’t belong to me. And I can drive the point home by noting that your opinion on the matter is irrelevant. It’s irrelevant because your judgement only impacts my choice if I allow it to. If I choose to disregard your judgement then your judgment become moot.
Easier said than done, of course.
And nowhere are these boundaries more problematic than with gender roles. The sexual assault scandal has brought many men’s attitude of entitlement toward women’s bodies into painful focus.
Yes, women can say no. But a culture that supports this is necessary to make it feel like a more viable choice for women. A popular meme along these lines is:
Women don’t owe men anything.
That’s an important message to teach girls and boys from the youngest age. But it’s incomplete unless taught in conjunction with what logically follows:
Men don’t owe women anything.
The basic notion is that not owing or being owed applies regardless of our demographic profile.
There is no equality if something is not given freely.
But don’t we owe each other respect?
Good manners and politeness are one thing. They smooth social interactions and are generally in our self-interest. And if we choose to be impolite then we have no right to complain if our rudeness is reciprocated.
But respect is a about holding someone in high esteem, and no one is entitled to our esteem. Nor can we say that lack of respect is disrespect. Respect and disrespect are two separate issues. That is, not respecting someone is about what’s being withheld (esteem) while disrespecting someone is about what’s being given (contempt).
And just as we don’t owe anyone respect, we don’t owe anyone disrespect. Even if someone is disrespectful toward me I don’t owe them disrespect in return. In other words, I am not entitled to revenge.
Finally, it’s often said that respect must be earned. I disagree.
Why would I want your respect?
If I don’t hold you in esteem then why should your respect be important to me?
Even if I do hold you in esteem why should I think you owe me the same in return?
Why should I jump through hoops to please you and thereby gain your respect? If you want that from me then you’re being manipulative, but your manipulation does not belong to me.
In fact, your respect will never belong to me because you can revoke it at any time, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
A baker can refuse explicit expression of a certain viewpoint but not alleged implicit expression of a viewpoint.
The so-called “gay wedding cake” lawsuit raises some interesting questions.
If a baker can refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple then can a baker refuse to bake a cake for an interracial couple if the baker’s religion says miscegenation is wrong?
It would be hard to support a baker’s religious rights in one case but not the other. But a widespread religious exemption—especially if it applies to corporations as well—would rip a huge hole in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
On the other hand,
If a baker cannot refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple then must a baker also bake a cake for an anti-gay evangelical?
Again, consistency would seem to imply that discrimination against evangelicals is also wrong.
In the end I think this calls for a legislative solution. Courts can interpret the law or strike down unconstitutional legislation, but creating new laws is tricky. Federal civil rights legislation does not include sexual orientation or gender identity, so it would be plausible for a Supreme Court justice to say they personally support civil rights for LGBTQ individuals while also saying that the baker isn’t violating federal law. Of course, the state of Colorado does have a civil rights law covering sexual orientation, so adding a large exemption to state law in favor of the baker would be judicial activism—which conservatives claim to oppose.
I’ve previously written in favor of adding sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights legislation. But the issue of compelled speech can’t be ignored. For the government to force you to say something you disagree with does violate your free speech rights, and in some cases your religious freedom.
Here’s the distinction I draw: In most circumstances baking a cake as a business endeavor does not involve the baker’s personal expression. A wedding cake used in a same-sex wedding is usually indistinguishable from a wedding cake for a heterosexual wedding (except for the bride-and-bride or bride-and-groom on top of the cake, which the baker doesn’t usually manufacture anyway).
However, baking a cake that includes a meaningful symbol or words that convey a particular viewpoint could violate the baker’s religious or freedom of expression rights. If the same-sex couple requests the equality symbol on the cake then I think the baker should be permitted to refuse inclusion of the symbol. But the baker cannot refuse to provide a generic wedding cake. Likewise, a baker could not refuse to bake a generic cake for an anti-gay preacher, but a baker could refuse to put Romans 1:26-27 on it.
The latest documentary by sometime feminist Cassie Jaye has caused no small amount of controversy. More so than previous documentaries such as Daddy I Do, where she criticizes purity balls and father’s attempts to protect their daughter’s virginity. Or The Right to Love, which supports the fight for marriage equality.
The Red Pill looks at the men’s right movement, challenging what we think we know about gender issues.
The film is controversial because of its positive portrayal of the men’s rights movement. Jaye gives A Voice for Men founder Paul Elam a sympathetic hearing without challenging him on his ranting online persona. Also unquestioned is men’s rights activists (MRAs) failure to take women’s issues seriously while demonizing feminists and blaming them for problems men face. And left unexamined is the claim that society is gynocentric.
But Jaye does ask feminists tough questions. They avoid the issue of paternity fraud and stand firm in their opposition to a legal presumption of shared parenting. On the issue of father’s rights Katherine Spillar from the Feminist Majority Foundation says a man’s choice happens before he has sex. Another feminist in the film says men have a responsibility not to put themselves in these situations. Which would be misogyny if someone said that about women.
Later in the film feminist Michael Kimmel denies that domestic violence against men is a serious issue despite a Centers for Disease Control report (tables 4.7 and 4.8) showing that 5.066 million men have been pushed or slapped by an intimate partner in the past 12 months compared to 4.322 million women. Even with severe domestic violence the CDC found more male victims than most people would expect – 2.266 million men and 3.163 million women in the past 12 months.
Men and gender: It’s complicated
Since the advent of second wave feminism a half century ago men have struggled to proactively discuss gender issues. Today the Internet is the primary medium for MRAs to vent their concerns and anger, often anonymously. And anti-feminism is their focus.
Meanwhile, male feminists advocate men checking their privilege and acknowledging their collective guilt as oppressors. But feminism is a female perspective on gender where men’s issues are usually discussed in terms of how masculinity affects women. It’s difficult for men to speak genuinely about men’s lived experiences when taking their cues from women.
It’s a complex situation without a clear solution.
A movement is born
The central text of the men’s rights movement is The Myth of Male Power, written in 1993 by former male feminist Warren Farrell. His key point that the male role requires men to devalue their lives in the service of others sparked a movement even if it didn’t become mainstream.
Male disposability garners such little concern that few people have even heard of it. But MRAs present several statistics backed by United States government reports, including men being 93% of workplace deaths, almost four in five suicides, and 98% of combat deaths. They note that Boko Haram kidnapping girls generated an outpouring of international concern while the boys they burned alive were ignored.
Male disposability isn’t just about death. High divorce rates have decreased father involvement in children’s lives, reducing men’s value to a child support check. Yet research shows the essential role of fathers in children’s lives – boys especially. And boys are falling far behind girls in school, but little is being done about it.
MRAs are angry because they feel dehumanized. But feminists feel dehumanized by MRAs. Jaye shows footage of a feminist protest against Farrell without giving the context for why feminists labeled him a rape apologist. In The Myth of Male Power Farrell writes, “before we began calling this date rape and date fraud, we called it exciting.” MRAs respond that this quote must be understood in its larger context. Though Farrell was not advocating rape, flippant comments about rape are always cringeworthy.
Where do we go from here?
Both feminists and MRAs seem passionate about equality and sensitive to gender bias while at other times being anti-equality and promoting gender bias. But this isn’t as inconsistent as it seems. Both feminism and the MRM are primarily about self-interest.
In the end Jaye concludes that she supports gender equality but is neither a feminist nor a men’s rights activist. But she’s not sure what direction that might go in. Despite my criticisms of the documentary, I agree with Jaye’s conclusion.
Gillian Anderson’s The Fall keeps generating controversy. Political columnist Cathy Young calls the TV show “fauxminist,” disagreeing with some who call it the most feminist show on TV.
Almost every male character being bad or useless is a tradition of films with female heroes such as Thelma & Louise and Maleficent. But Young notes that even some feminists have wondered if The Fall is misandrist (man hating).
Alyssa Rosenberg writes in the Washington Post that The Fall suggests “all men are capable of terrible things. That’s the sort of sentiment that anti-feminists accuse feminists of using to smear innocent men, and that most U.S. feminists would aggressively deny believing.”
That it’s almost exclusively men who abuse and sexually exploit others is unquestioned. But is that true?
Society puts women on a pedestal. Traditionally, God is a man and Satan is a man. But as former feminist Warren Farrell notes, feminists say God could be a woman but Satan is a man. My take is that that men’s rights activists think God is a man and Satan is a feminist.
Or maybe both God and Satan can be either male or female.
The media, however, often ignore stories that challenge the notion that women are angels and men are devils. The Justice Department found that a significant number of boys in juvenile detention are sexually abused by staff. But it didn’t make headlines. Does the fact that 95% of the perpetrators are women (despite women being a minority of the staff) have anything to do with burying the story?
The Department of Health and Human Services found that a slight majority of child abusers are women. The Centers for Disease Control found that men are almost as likely as women to be emotionally abused by an intimate partner (Tables 4.9 & 4.10). And while 1 in 4 women have experienced severe domestic violence, so have 1 in 7 men – making men about a third of the victims. And despite an almost exclusive focus on teen girls as victims of dating violence, it turns out that boys are almost as likely to be experience dating violence.
The CDC also found that 1.27 million women have been raped by an intimate partner (Table 2.1) while the figure for men is almost non-existent. But that’s because a woman forcing a man to have sex isn’t considered rape. However, 1.267 million men have been “made to penetrate” (Table 2.2), and 79.2% of the perpetrators are women (page 24).
None of this means we should vilify women. But we shouldn’t vilify men either. Almost every human being, man or woman, has the potential to be violent in certain circumstances – particularly with their significant other. But acknowledging this means departing from the view of gender dynamics that dominates academia and pop culture today.