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Sunday, April 25, 2004

Men and abortion rights

On Air America they are interviewing a young man who is marching on D.C. today and it's sort of sad that the first question addressed is, "Why would a man care?" His answer, a good one, is that people need to understand the importance of standing up for the right of others. Certainly, that's a more than sufficient argument for men to stand up for women's rights. If it wasn't for men acting out of a sense of basic justice, for instance, women would have never gotten the right to vote.
But in the case of women's reproductive rights, men have more invested than simple sympathy for women's causes. If a woman has a baby that she doesn't want, odds are pretty good that the father of the baby doesn't want it either. While well-off men have nothing to worry about because they have the cash and connections to obtain abortions for women that they have impregnated, there are alot of average men who will be very sorry they didn't support women's rights if abortion rights get repealed.
I have spent alot of space in this blog arguing that one of the major reasons that the abortion rights is that abortion rights symbolize, to many men, women's rejection of male control and therefore of men themselves. It's nonsense on various levels, but it's an emotional argument and not a logical one. In my experience, the likelihood that a man is pro-choice or pro-life depends more on his fear of losing power and importance in women's lives than any other factor. There's a solid reason that churches that vehmently have opposed women's rights throughout history are the very ones that oppose abortion. It's about women, not about babies. And it explains why so many men who cheerfully support politicians who would ban abortion tolerate it and even promote it in their own lives if it seems like the best decision.
The anti-abortion arguments that are made to appeal to men make it a man vs. woman issue. That's the reasoning behind the long lists of important men in history who could have been aborted, at least in theory. To those of us who are pro-choice, this list is utter bullshit. Yes, in theory these men could have been aborted. In theory, their parents could have fallen asleep early that night and not conceived, either. In theory, their mothers could have been killed in accidents before they were born. It didn't happen. So what?
Well, the list is an emotional argument addressed directly at the fear that women want to take over. This is a list of Important Men who could have been wiped out by foolish women who didn't understand their place in life, as support systems for Important Men. These independent women out there are threatening the world, because how can men be Important if they don't have a network of women willing to give up everything to support them?
In order to get men on our side, we're going to have to work through the emotional propaganda thrown at them to convince them that they are under attack by women who want to wipe them out altogether. One important message that needs to get across is that reproductive rights for women help couples make the best decisions for themselves. It would be helpful if the men in the pro-choice movement addressed other men about male self-interest served by feminism. Right off the top of my head, I can think of two big things that men will lose if women don't have easy access to birth control--sex and money.
I see why feminists, male and female alike, shy away from speaking frankly about how men save money on child and housewife care if women are allowed to minimize their number of births. It seems so shallow. And they really shy away from pointing out that women who don't have to worry about pregnancy are women who are more willing to have lots o' sex. True as it is, there's a fear that it will only increase men's sense of entitlement to access to women's bodies. But I think that fear is a bit overblown. The argument is that if women are free, men get laid more. That's outright encouragement for men to support female independence. It's also would have the effect of undermining anti-feminist arguments that feminists hate men and male sexuality.

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