OMG Teh Hysterical Feminists Again!

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Help! The radical feminists are coming!

Watching the responses to Zuzu’s post and other feminist responses to Matt’s piece has been… enlightening. It’s a classic example of how concepts like rationality and logic become gendered, with men automatically assumed to be exercising them when they’re challenging women, and women automatically assumed to be bypassing them when we challenge men or widely-held assumptions.

The run-down: Matt puts up a post questioning the interpretations of the WHO study, which revealed that abortion rate are no higher in countries where abortion is illegal than in places where it is legal. He describes Jessica’s characterization of the study as “questionable”:

A new study by the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization shows that abortion rates are similar in different countries whether the procedure is legal or not. Shocking, I know. Of course, what wasn’t similar was the risk to women’s health.

Now, that happens to be exactly what the study said. Matt says:

The trouble with these kinds of cross-national statistics, though, is that there are all kinds of correlating variables and there’s no way for the kind of survey we’re talking about to isolate the impact of legal change on abortion. In the United States, when abortion was legalized in the 1970s, the number of abortions went up.

Sure, there are all kinds of correlating variables. And it is important to isolate the impact of legal change. The thing is, though, the study did that. It pointed to South Africa, for example, of one country that saw a significant drop in abortion-related infections and deaths after it liberalized its abortion laws. It flat-out says that unsafe abortion is highly correlated with illegality, but that legality does not seem to play much of a role in a country’s abortion rate; contraception access, however, does.

Matt thinks that conclusion is not what one would expect. Fair enough. It’s not what most people would expect. He claims, without offering any actual evidence, that the abortion rate went up after Roe v. Wade. Fine. As far as I can tell, Matt and other detractors are misunderstanding both the conclusion of the study and the feminist response to the study. The study says — and we’re saying — that when you look at abortion rates around the world, there is no correlation between illegality and incidents of abortion; there is, however, a strong correlation between safety and legality, and a strong correlation between access to contraception and incidents of abortion. That is not the same as saying that if one country outlaws abortion, there will be absolutely no change in the abortion rate for that country. So Matt & co are arguing against a contention that no one really made in the first place, which I think is important to point out.

Now, despite my series of posts picking on him, Matt is actually not an asshole, and I really don’t think he put up that post to stick it to feminists or to try to invalidate a very solid study. I just think his post demonstrates a disjoint in the conversation, and he seems to think that we’re saying something we’re not. I think Matt approached the conversation honestly, he just misinterpreted the study based on what he’s read about it, and he’s misinterpreting what we’re saying about it. Matt is a smart dude and a thoroughly decent guy and I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one. But it’s not Matt’s post that I want to discuss; it’s the reactions to it.

Here’s what I think is really interesting: When feminists responded to Matt’s post, the self-appointed Logical White Men stepped in and started to put us in our place. For example, the third comment over at Matt’s place:

What’s this? A man using logic and facts to qualify the assertions of Jessica Valenti! Get ready for a world of libtardsphere circle-jerk disavowals.

It’s kind of like Bizzaro-World, isn’t it? Jessica summarizes the findings of a well-researched study conducted by a well-respected international health organization. She doesn’t inject her opinion into it, other than sarcastically saying, “Shocking, I know.” Matt responds by calling the statistics “questionable” because, well, he just doesn’t think that’s what happens. He doesn’t present any actual evidence, but something just don’t feel right. He then argues against a point that neither Jessica nor the study ever made. Which, hey, that’s fine — I’ve certainly responded to some studies the same way when I think they’re clearly full of it. I don’t usually respond that way to studies that are meticulously researched and that come from really well-respected and highly responsible international organizations, but to each their own.

Somehow, this all gets framed as Jessica and Teh Feminists making wild, unsubstantiated assertions, and Matt speaking truth to power with his logic and facts.

There’s a small group of self-identified liberal bloggers who are young-ish, male, and white, and who dislike “identity politics.” They’re pretty well supported by a handful of the Big Liberal Bloggers. A few of them link here on occasion. I’m sure they’re decent enough guys, but it can be irritating, since otherwise they’re pretty interesting bloggers. But this one is just so over-the-top on this one, I can’t resist. So, take this blogger as one example:

Jessica Valenti over at Feministing had two posts on Monday about studies that told her exactly what she wanted to hear. Unfortunately for her, they’re both pretty flawed, and the conclusions Jessica is drawing from them are ridiculously overstated.

The first, from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization, claims that abortion rates are constant across all nations, regardless of abortion’s legality. Matt Yglesias and Megan McArdle have already done a good job debunking this, so I’ll just sum up by saying that there are too many outlying variables across countries to really make this conclusion on solid footing, and when you look at just one country over time, abortions tend to rise after legalization.

“Debunked” is a funny word, isn’t it? Last I checked, one does not “debunk” a study by saying, “Well this doesn’t seem right,” as Matt did, or “I haven’t actually read the study, but this really doesn’t seem right,” as Megan did. Neither of them did anything close to debunking the study, since neither of them really seem to grasp what the study actually said. As for the study being “pretty flawed,” I’m not seeing where Soberish got that, either. In fact, no one seems to be pointing to any flaws in the study. They’re pointing to what they think are flaws in what feminists are saying about the study.

Further, if anyone is mischaracterizing the study, it’s Soberish — nowhere, in the study or in any article about the study, have I seen anyone say anything to the effect of, “[the study] claims that abortion rates are constant across all nations, regardless of abortion’s legality.” In fact, the study says that abortion rate are highly variable across nations, but that the rates tend to correlate with contraception access and not legal access to abortion. So if we’re going to talk about “debunking” or “flaws,” we might as well get our facts straight. Or, you know, read the actual study. Whatevs.

We might also include some sort of evidence for the statement that “when you look at just one country over time, abortions tend to rise after legalization.” I would imagine that’s true, but for all of this dude’s complaints about Jessica’s bad science and lack of factual analysis, he’s not supplying much to back up his own contentions.

I also think it’s funny that Jessica is characterized as drawing conclusions which are “ridiculously overstated.” Here is the entire text of what Jessica wrote about the WHO/Guttmacher study:

A new study by the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization shows that abortion rates are similar in different countries whether the procedure is legal or not. Shocking, I know. Of course, what wasn’t similar was the risk to women’s health.

The study indicated that about 20 million abortions that would be considered unsafe are performed each year and that 67,000 women die as a result of complications from those abortions, most in countries where abortion is illegal.

Moral of the story? Safe, legal abortion is the best bet. Always.

Wow, what a crazy bitch!

Jessica took a comprehensive study of abortion world-wide, which showed that maternal death from abortion is highly correlated with illegal unsafe abortion and concluded that, since illegality is very closely tied to safety, and lack of safety is tied to lots of women dying, it’s better to have safe and legal abortion. Ridiculously over-stated indeed.

He also criticizes Jessica’s response to the Feminists Do It Better study which, come on. Does he really think that feminists read that study and went, “YES! This is totally and undeniably true, always!” No. Of course we didn’t. It was a small study and it doesn’t prove a whole lot, but it was fun and interesting to read, and led to larger discussions of how gender equality influences relationships. Most of us posted on it in a tongue-in-cheek way. I can’t speak for Jess, but I know that I don’t take that study nearly as seriously as the WHO/Guttmacher study. So I’m not going to bother addressing that one, because, in my humble opinion, it’s a non-issue.

Then he goes after Zuzu. He characterizes her position as this:

In other words, Matt’s purely scientific concerns with the study’s methodology are without merit, because the study agrees with zuzu’s ideology. Also, Matt is sexist.

See how that works? If Matt says, “Well this doesn’t make sense to me,” it’s a purely scientific concern. If Zuzu says, “Well, Matt, the parts of the study that are confusing to you are actually addressed in the study, which you may want to read; and also, here are some explanations for why this doesn’t make sense at first glance, but when you think about it from the view of a person who may be pregnant when they don’t want to be — a situation that you’ll never find yourself in — it all starts to come together,” she is a whore to feminist ideology. And a castrating bitch for pointing out that Matt’s position as a man might lead him to overlook certain aspects of the abortion debate that are obvious to women.

It’s almost funny to see what lengths these guys will go to in order to prove that us identity-politickers are totally tied to ideology above all else, while progressive dudes are the height of logic, reason and fact-based analysis.

And then there’s this:

As I noticed in one of my very first posts, it seems we’re so desperate for our arguments to be right that we look to science to bless them its authority. It’s absolutely ridiculous to think this way, though; different people can look at the same set of facts and come to wildly differing conclusions, that’s called politics. It’s only when you start to lie or willfully delude yourself about those facts that we have a problem.

Think of the possible conservative positions on global warming, for instance (excluding any sort of heterodox environmentalism). In this position, one could take a look at the facts and decide that any sort of drastic action to stem global warming was not worth the economic pain it would bring, and that our hope should lie in technological progress. I would disagree with this position, but at least it’s factually based and logically defensible. On the other hand, one could take a look at the facts, ignore them, cherry pick from bad studies, and conclude that global warming isn’t happening. This is a completely different thing altogether; here our hypothetical conservative is denying objective reality. The first position is a rational opinion based on the facts, the second is an attempt to change those facts to fit one’s opinion.

Ok, let’s try this again. Here’s what feminists are saying: Legalized abortion is not correlated with a high abortion rate, and illegalized abortion is not correlated with a low abortion rate. A high abortion rate, however, is correlated with lack of access to contraception. Unsafe abortion is highly correlated with illegal abortion. Legality is highly correlated with safety. That is not the same thing as saying that if you outlaw abortion in a single country, the abortion rate will stay exactly the same; and yet that’s the argument that people like Soberish are arguing against.

He uses the example of anti-global-warming conservatives cherry-picking information to draw ideologically-based conclusions. He doesn’t come out and say it, but the inference is that feminists who cite the WHO study are in the same camp. To which I would say to Soberish: Find me me a study done by any reputable public health organization that does not demonstrate exactly what I wrote in the above paragraph. Really. If the implication is that we’re cherry-picking, then show me the whole tree.

Soberish continues:

Abortion should be legal because women should be free from onerous and discriminatory state control over their bodies, among other reasons. Feminism is a force for good because it seeks to stop discrimination and violence against women, and to change the culture so that we’re all treated equally without regard for sex, among other reason.

Amazingly, I wrote that last paragraph without even putting on a lab coat.

Thank you, Captain Obvious.

Let me clear up what is apparently another fundamental misunderstanding: Feminists are not saying that the fact that legalization has no impact on the abortion rate is the only argument for keeping abortion legal. Not at all. And if that’s what Soberish thinks, then I would encourage him to actually read a feminist blog or two. In fact, I haven’t read a single feminist writer who has read this study and said, “Aha! Now this is the one golden reason why abortion should be legal!”

No. What we are saying is that this study provides one arrow in a whole pro-choice quiver. Reproductive freedom advocates, by definition, believe that abortion is a necessary and fundamental right. We hold that belief for a variety of reasons, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to make a multi-pronged argument, bolstered by actual evidence of what actually happens when women lack that fundamental right. We’re also pointing out that anti-choicers claim to want to lower the abortion rate, but they’re using methods that aren’t at all proven to get to their alleged goal; in fact, the only discernible purpose of their strategy is to punish women.

So really, the concern-trolling over feminists’ misuse of a study is really ill-placed when (a) you obviously haven’t read the study yourself, (b) you seem to be totally misinterpreting what we’re saying, and (c) you’re arguing that reproductive justice advocates, of all people, think we need statistics and only statistics to back up what we think is a fundamental human right.

Soberish, Mike Meginnis, Matt Zeitlin, et al are offended by any inference that any of them, or any liberal dude, might be sexist. So I’m going to try to phrase this as simply and straight-forwardly as I can: Most people do sexist things at one point or another. Most people have sexist thoughts. Most people are influenced by sexist social structures in ways that we’re unconscious of. I include myself in that. That doesn’t excuse sexism, but it does mean that when someone points out that it’s a little odd how you rail against identity politics and automatically characterize feminists as irrational and anti-intellectual when we seem to be the only ones providing actual facts and data points, you might want to actually listen for a minute.

_______________
UPDATE: Mike disagrees with my characterization of him, Matt Z and Soberish. He’s asked me to either change or update the post, so here it is. I’m actually not all that familiar with Soberish, but I am more familiar with Matt Z and Mike. They’re highly intelligent men who are passionate about politics. I don’t read either of their blogs regularly, but when I do read them I generally find them to be well-written and interesting. I will give them both credit for covering issues of race and gender. However, I do take issue with their treatment of so-called “identity politics.” You can read Dana Goldstein’s response to them here. Mike has pointed out that when he writes about race or gender in any sort of thoughtful way, he gets attacked. I can see where he’s coming from — I’ve felt the same way when writing about race issues and LGBT issues. And so I don’t mean for this to come across as condescending or lectoring, because I’ve had to learn it the hard way (and I’m still learning it). I’ve been at the point where I’ve said, “Gosh, they say they want me to cover [whatever issue] and then when I do they rail me for it. What do they want from me?” And I’m realizing — and it’s taken me a while, and I’m still working on it, but I’m realizing — that “they” want me to listen to what they’re saying and to take what they’re saying, and their experiences, seriously. They want me to realize that when they talk about whiteness, or heteronormativity, or racism, that it’s not about me. That when they talk about white privilege, it’s not about me. Even when I’m the person they’re criticizing for racism or heteronormativity or ableism or whatever else, even when my post was the example or the jumping-off point, it is not about me. It is about a larger system of which I am only a very, very small part, but which I am unconsciously helping to perpetuate. I am still not the best ally I could be. I am making a very sincere effort to work on that.

So that’s the thought that I’ll leave Mike and others who might be offended by their inclusion in this post.

I did make some changes to the paragraph describing Mike’s circle of blog-friends, which, like much of my writing, tends to be purposely hyperbolic. But he’s right that there is something of a power imbalance, and I’m not particularly interested in going on the offensive against people who I think could be potential allies. I am not interested in starting a flamewar with Mike, and I don’t think he’s interested in starting one with me. Hopefully this clarified where I’m coming from. I don’t know if it’ll be sufficient to re-build bridges that I apparently just burned, but it’s what I’ve got.


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59 comments for “OMG Teh Hysterical Feminists Again!

  1. Sheesh
    October 18, 2007 at 11:27 am

    Unfortunately, being liberal doesn’t automatically mean that a guy isn’t a sexist asshole.

  2. October 18, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Isn’t it funny how all of those so against identity politics tend to be white middle-class dudes? It’s almost like they share a political view that is shaped by a shared identity. WEIRD.

    For me, any liberal white guy who is opposed to equal rights for women, people of color and the LGBTQ community being associated with them needs to have their liberal card revoked. But there I go with my irrational vagina again, thinking that if you want to associate yourself with a political label, you actually have to support that political ideology’s main tenants. My little girl brain must be confused, thinking that a big part of the liberal framework is that all people should be treated with equal rights, but due to historical, social and financial oppression we need to actively create the circumstances under which such equal rights can be achieved . . .

  3. zuzu
    October 18, 2007 at 11:47 am

    There’s a lot more fun here.

    More of the same, really. A lot of dismissals of what I have to say by writing me off as someone who dismisses others as sexist. And more obvious failures to read the study, and more failure to provide supporting data, etc.

  4. October 18, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Jill,

    Sorry we’re losing you to vaca, but enjoy. I am dying to visit N. Africa.

    I’m really happy to see a post like this. As I commented in Zuzu’s thread yesterday, this kind of gendered interpretation of who/what is considered logical/rational is a huge cultural problem in academia (where I am). I find this both in my own experience, and in my research. A female colleague and I conducted a qualitative study of gender bias in academia and entrepreneurship and found strong evidence of gendered practices that construct science in a male image (i.e., logical, objective, rational). The cool thing about our work was that, because we were studying a relatively new field within academic science – that of the rise of entrepreneurship within the academy – we were able to trace how this particular practice came to be perceived as male too (i.e., entrepreneurs were bold and daring – qualities that men were inherently better at, accd’ing to both our male and female interviewees).

    I recommend for Feministe readers interested in knowing more about the construction and perpetuation of gender bias checking out sociologist Cecelia Ridgway’s work, particularly her chapter in the recent book The Social Psychology of Gender, “Gender as a Group Process.”

    Also, the past president of the Amer. Sociological Assoc., Cynthia Fuchs Epstein gave a great – and for feminists, perhaps obvious – speech about gender inequity. Her abstract begins:

    “Categorization based on sex is the most basic social divide.”

    Right on, sister. Because it is so inherent in effectively ordering our entire lives, it is very difficult for the average individual to perceive gender as the organizing force that it is.

    Epstein goes on to say, “Gender analyses tend to be ghettoized.”

    If we put that another way, we might say, feminist though is so ghetto, all disorganized and pathological and self-defeating and abnormal ‘n sh*t.

  5. Peter
    October 18, 2007 at 11:48 am

    Jill, that is a wonderful post. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I hope people listen.

  6. ohsohappy
    October 18, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Legalized abortion is not correlated with a high abortion rate, and illegalized abortion is not correlated with a low abortion rate. A high abortion rate, however, is correlated with lack of access to contraception. Unsafe abortion is highly correlated with illegal abortion. Legality is highly correlated with safety.

    Maybe if we continue to say it slowly, enunciating clearly, and repeating it often enough, the message will finally get across. If it works for fiction, it darn well should work for the truth.

    Or maybe someone with better math skills needs to write a simple, easy to understand formula, like A=B, B=C, therefore A=C.

  7. October 18, 2007 at 11:57 am

    I’ve got a fuller response to this post in the works at the moment, but there is one thing I’m absolutely furious about in this post, and I think it needs to be corrected immediately, so I’m going to comment here: The following paragraph is false in almost every way.

    “There’s a small group of self-identified liberal bloggers who are young-ish, male, white, and horribly offended by “identity politics.” They’re pretty well supported by a handful of the Big Liberal Bloggers. A few of them link here all the time in order to demonstrate what a deep disservice feminism and anti-racism and queer rights are doing to the Democratic party and to good white male liberals. I’m sure they’re decent enough guys, but it’s irritating, and so I usually ignore them. But they’re just so over-the-top on this one, I can’t resist.”

    This is wrong in almost every way, but unfortunately it’s now attached to my name. It’s true that I self-identify as liberal and I blog. It’s true I’m young, male, and white. It is in no way true that I am well-supported by a handful of Big Liberal Bloggers — Matt Zeitlin gets a few links from Ezra and more recently Megan (not a liberal), and I get some trickle-down from him, which results in…thirty to fifty pageviews a day, a good number of which come from friends and family.

    I am not offended by “identity politics.” I am skeptical of some of the ways these politics have been employed, but I also wouldn’t describe everything Feminism is or does as “identity politics,” and if she actually read me, Jill would know that. I don’t think feminism does a deep disservice to the Democratic party — I don’t even like the Democratic party that much, as, again, Jill would know if she actually read me. In fact, when I was trying to get my failed gender issues blog off the ground, I specifically reached out to feminist bloggers. I certainly don’t think anti-racism is hurting the Democratic party, either — not that I would care if it did — as you can clearly discover by reading a single fucking post at this site. Read my “race” tag! Go do it now! For fuck’s sake, does that match a single word Jill has written here? If you read my posts on “queer rights” (again, not how I would label it) does it ever seem I’m especially worried they’re hurting Democratic politics? No! And when in the fucking hell have I ever said anything like “good white male liberals?” I haven’t.

    Maybe this is a composite of myself, John, Matt, and Corey, with some traits being borrowed from myself and others from other members of our cadre, but that still wouldn’t work because this doesn’t describe them either. Matt is reasonably “well supported,” for instance, but that description won’t apply anymore unless one of these big bloggers goes to the trouble of calling you on this stuff.

    What’s scary for me about this, and this has been my point for weeks now, is that unknowns like myself can be and are treated this way by much better-known bloggers, and it doesn’t result in any kind of backlash. Nobody calls them on it. The only reason Pandagon or Feministe readers know I exist is that occasionally one of these bloggers will swoop down, call me an idiot, and then return to her perch. This time she even called me, essentially, a bigot. That would be fine if it were rooted in reality, but it isn’t — and reassuring me that you’re sure I’m a “decent enough guy” doesn’t cut it. I want a correction on this shit.

  8. M.
    October 18, 2007 at 11:58 am

    “Sexist” has the same connotations as “racist” or “terrorist” or, in a previous age, “heretic.” It’s a catch-phrase used to set certain people outside of humanity. The “Sexist” is less than human. The “Sexist” is the big evil monster who keeps poor little virgin girls locked in his basement.

    We’ve demonified the term to such an extent that we cannot possibly imagine that all the little acts of sexual discrimination that build up to form a patriarchal society that counts a man’s word over a woman’s can possible be considered “sexism.” Rather, they are “just my opinion” or “well what? It’s true, isn’t it?”

    So rather than sitting back and thinking “hey, you know what, I think you have a point. I think I have been stereotyping the opinions of women and have been discrediting them by evoking images of a shrieking sisterhood. I guess that is kinda sexist. I should go think about this,” they instead have a gut reaction to deny and denounce and discredit the speaker by any means possible (in kindergarden, we called this the “yeah? Well, you’re ugly!” defence).

  9. Peter
    October 18, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Zuzu,

    It constantly amazes me how often in threads, someone (often the original poster) posts a small quote, and then everyone acts as though that is the sum total of the situation, whether it is a study, or a body of written work.

    If all you had ever said was what they quoted, most of the stated objections might even be valid. However, it’s obvious that significant number of them didn’t even follow the link Matt provided, much less care what else you might have said on the issue elsewhere.

    I was particularly struck how fast it went from “Matt has a sexist bias in this response to this issue” to “Matt is a sexist” to “Matt is a misognist” to “Matt is an asshole” — and from there to completely invalidating everything else they decided you said.

  10. October 18, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    1. I”m filing this under the catagory of “why the American left after the Bush administration is gone is going to look kind of like post-Communist Yugoslavia”. In some ways, I’m relieved. I’m sick to death of tenuous alliances with liberals because I know that 90% don’t respect me, don’t believe what I believe and don’t have my back and are far more concerned with their hip coffee houses and patronizing global politics than actually caring about people who aren’t wealthy white dudes.

    2. I’m really tired the whole meme of people who are not personally connected to an issue trumpeting that lack of connection as a form of credibility. As in, you feminists are so irrational about abortion because have a fear of unwanted pregnancy and a loss of bodily autonomy. I as a dude don’t have to worry about that nonsense so I can look at this issues objectively. It’s like how in whole blow up over Ashley X and Katie Thorpe, pwd were just too emotional and worried about people cutting up their bodies to understand how, logically and rationally, having your reproductive organs removed is really okay.

    3. Feminists are irrational and knee jerk is such a boring old rhetorical strategy but it sure does work in not having to actually answer any feminist concerns.

  11. October 18, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    Mike, the link to you was a response to your link to Soberish. My listing of you, Soberish and Zeitlin was not an exhaustive list of the young-ish liberal bloggers who are horrified by identity politics; in fact, the only person who I qualified as such was Soberish. So no, I didn’t attach your name to that. It was in an entirely different part of the post. And it was in reference to your link to Soberish.

  12. October 18, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Meet the new criticism. Same as the old criticism.

    Whenever the mainstream/ the norm/ the status-quo is questioned, people resistant to change will defend it using whatever means they deem necessary. One standard critique of all non-mainstream ideas is that they’re not logical. And it’s easy for others to jump on board with that attack because the mainstreamers have the same underlying assumptions. So when they create logical arguments, they take for granted things they shouldn’t. And they conclude that whoever is challenging them is crazy/irrational/illogical.

    We (feminists) do not share BASIC assumptions with them (anti-feminists/anti-choicers) so OF COURSE we’re going to come to different conclusions.

  13. Hector B.
    October 18, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Silly feminists, taking at face value survey results from the gold standard provider of sex statistics, the Guttmacher Institute. And the World Health Organization — next thing you know they’ll be believing Centers for Disease Control statistics.

    Real men use their guts to tell them what is right and true. And judging by their quoted comments, these guys must have quite a paunch.

  14. October 18, 2007 at 12:11 pm

    Hector B. – ha!

  15. October 18, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Jill, that’s ridiculous. Being sufficiently vague to create plausible deniability doesn’t change the fact that we both know each and every thing you just said is now attached to the “circle of blogs” you identified at the end of the post.

    If you don’t think that describes me, post an update explaining this. If you don’t think it describes Matt Zeitlin, post an update explaining this. You know what you’ve done here, and it’s going to be really easy to fix it if you care.

  16. October 18, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    And Mike, I have actually read you. I don’t read you every day, but I have seen what you’ve written on feminism and gender. We’ve emailed. I don’t think that you’re a jerk or an anti-feminist. But I do see a lot of problems with the way that identity politics are addressed on your blog. I do see a lot of problems with the way that feminism is addressed.

    As for your contentions on your blog about the Big Blogger attacking the Little Blogger, I’m sorry, but I’m not really buying it. First, this post isn’t an attack. It’s a criticism, certainly, but I don’t consider you (or Matt or whoever else I wrote about ) an enemy. Quite the opposite. But I do see that you guys aren’t always the best allies, and that you tend to dip your toes into sexism (conscious or not). You seem to only link to feminist blogs when you’re taking issue with our Identity Politics. And that’s fine, take issue, criticize away, whatever. But don’t expect us to not come back with a response.

    I’m literally walking out the door to go to the airport, so I’m going to be absent for the rest of this conversation. Sorry, bad timing. But I’ll point everyone to Dana Goldstein, who makes a lot of the same points that I would if I were to stick around. If you’d like me to remove your name from the post, Zuzu has my permission to go in and do it. I’ll put up a brief update, and then I’m out. Sorry.

  17. Emily
    October 18, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Mike – way to make it all about you and ignore the main point of the whole post.

  18. October 18, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    I would agree that I’m “not the best ally.” This kind of shabby treatment is, as I see it, a pretty good explanation for that, but if you want a counterpoint, go read this: http://notaweapon.wordpress.com/2007/08/28/why-i-appreciate-feminism/

    There’s a vast difference between what you said in the body of the post and “not the best ally.” If you had kept your criticism there I would’ve been fine with it — even agreed. Gender issues aren’t my first priority, and that’s okay. It’s not true, incidentally, that I only link to feminist blogs to criticize them — I linked approvingly several times before this kind of attack made me reluctant to read such blogs at all (if I read I might criticize, and if I criticize I might be called a bigot, as shown here).

    You can remove my name if you want, but it would be a lot better to issue the sort of formal retraction that people use when they want to repair damage they did to the reputations of others.

  19. October 18, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    Emily — people are free to discuss the rest of the post, I am (understandably, I think) a little more concerned about the part that tells thousands of people I’m a bigot based on no evidence.

  20. RKMK
    October 18, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    I’ve got a fuller response to this post in the works at the moment, but there is one thing I’m absolutely furious about in this post…

    Now, now, Mike, there’s no reason to get all emotional in a rational discussion. Please, calm your boy-brain. It’ll be alright, let us guide you through the proper way of thinking.

    Thanks for this post, Jill. Funny, I was discussing this study on a couple of different blogs, one which makes me sign in under my TypeKey ID, which shows as “Rachel”, and another under this ID. I said pretty much the same thing on both blogs, but I’ll let you take a wild guess under which name I took fire for being “irrational” and “drowning in the quagmire of identity politics”, and under which name I was generally accepted as adding to the conversation in a calm and rational manner.

    (I’m really glad I switched to a gender-neutral handle after the Sierra debacle; as a social experiment, it’s been rather eye-opening. 9 times out of 10, I’m assumed to be male.)

  21. October 18, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    Damn it. I wrote a whole update and it got eaten. Maybe I will to an internet cafe tomorrow.

  22. zuzu
    October 18, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    Mike, I find it interesting that you and a bunch of other guys seem to have stopped reading my post right after you saw the word “privilege,” and started running off about how sexist I was and how I was using the “language of privilege” as argument to show that Matt was wrong.

    I find it interesting, because I was making an entirely different argument in that post, that having a pundit class (and a political class) that’s pretty much all drawn from the same white, well-educated upper-middle-class world that Matt is from and Tucker Carlson is from results in some pretty obvious limitations on perspective, and issues that are important to people who make up the majority of this country are invisible to them and don’t get addressed. And when someone with that kind of limited perspective dismisses a well-researched study because it doesn’t fit in with what he perceives as the way things work, it’s a pretty good argument for diversity of viewpoints.

    I’m also fascinated with how quickly “Matt doesn’t know what he’s talking about here because he just doesn’t have to think about the kind of things that would make this data come out this way” became “OMG Matt is sexist! Evil! Horrible!”

    And now, having turned this into “OMG feminists are calling Matt sexist!”, you’re here objecting to Jill’s observation that you’re among a group of bloggers who are quick with the “OMG feminists are calling me sexist!” schtick.

  23. Persia
    October 18, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    I would agree that I’m “not the best ally.” This kind of shabby treatment is, as I see it, a pretty good explanation for that

    Mike, I’d never heard of you until I read this post, but if you’re allying with people not because of principle or moral belief, but whether the feminist bloggers are nice to you… let’s just say I’m deeply unimpressed.

  24. October 18, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    Amazingly, I wrote that last paragraph without even putting on a lab coat.

    Wow… that wasn’t deeply and phenomenally insulting.

    If he really holds such an esteemed view of feminists, why does he treat us as second rate pop philosophers in need of a good talking to?

    I hate to say it, but your update also makes them look really thin-skinned. If they’re as smart as you give them credit for being (and honestly, I felt your characterisation of them as otherwise intelligent earlier in your post was sufficient) then they should be able see and acknowledge when they’ve acted against their own interests.

    It drives me nuts when my guy friends take exception with my pointing out how their privilege causes them to be blind to certain issues and experiences. If they want to help, they have to stop thinking of these issues in terms of themselves. They’re not helping anyone that way.

  25. Bloix
    October 18, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Matt spends his free time hanging out with Megan McArdle. What else do you need to know about him?

  26. sylvie
    October 18, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    ohsohappy – I am that dork. It is relatively easy to capture the primary claims of the study in some kind of causal diagram. The negative signs mean that the cause decreases the occurrence of the effect. I used maternal deaths/injury as a variable, which legality of abortion decreaes, although it would have been equivalent to instead use safety as a variable which legality increases. while the study itself is correlational, standard methods of causal analysis (Pearl, Glymour, Schienes, Spirtes, Woodward) justify the interpretation in the causal graph.

    I don’t know how to put the diagram in comments, but if you email me I will send it to you.

    hkandersen@gmail.com

  27. SarahMC
    October 18, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Re: the Update:

    You burned bridges, Jill? I don’t think so. These guys says they would be feminist allies… if only the feminists would bow down before them and reserve all criticism.

  28. RKMK
    October 18, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    These guys says they would be feminist allies… if only the feminists would bow down before them and reserve all criticism.

    Srsly. With “allies” like these….

  29. October 18, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Thanks for the update.

    I don’t buy that accusations of sexism are “not about me” when they are attached to my name, but I do see what you’re saying and it’s not unreasonable — I do think it’s not useful to phrase critiques of society as a whole as personal attacks, though.

    I’ll totally concede that I’m not always as supporting of feminists as I should be, again — I’m an easily angered person and I avoid some subjects because I know I’ll say the wrong thing if I don’t. Apologies insofar as I have done that, or will in the future.

  30. rb
    October 18, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    Hey Mike – I’m just going to go ahead and focus on something you say in your post:

    “the way feminists attack and claim their critics are merely acting from a state of privilege every time anybody questions one of their pet scientific studies is kind of silly.”

    I think this unfortunate bit encapsulates the kind of world view that gets a lot of us rolling our eyes. Your image of “feminists” appears to be that of a monolithic class of harpies lying in wait, like snakes in the grass, just waiting to take advantage of lil’ ol you. Your assessment of state-of-the-art scientific research as “one of their pet studies” is, how should I put this – kind of silly, and depressingly common among (yes) young men of privilege. And your overall dismissal of passionately held believes as “kind of silly” is overly glib at best and overtly sexist at worst (to the degree that people identify “feminist” as “female”, which itself is in error).

  31. Sheesh
    October 18, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    I’ll say this much: neither this post nor any of the other posts here on this subject changed my opinion of Mike or any of these other named bloggers in the slightest. I didn’t have any interest in reading them before and I probably won’t be reading them now.

  32. h0tr0d
    October 18, 2007 at 2:45 pm

    Thanks for exposing me to these blogs. I didn’t think there were any independent thinking white male liberals left anymore. I wonder if any of them vote democratic ?

  33. donna darko
    October 18, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    Shannon said it best:

    If they want to go around doing horrible and mean things to people, they need to expect that other people will be angry about it. They need to either stop doing horrible things or stop bitching if people get mad at them for being douchebags. You can’t have both.

  34. Zoe
    October 18, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    I don’t buy that accusations of sexism are “not about me” when they are attached to my name

    You might want to check out the Feminism 101 blog, or read Zuzu’s rather cogent explination of her experiences with trying to not be racist, or even try to logically differentiate between “Somehow, this all gets framed as Jessica and Teh Feminists making wild, unsubstantiated assertions, and Matt speaking truth to power with his logic and facts.” and “Mike is sexist.”

    Especially when the end of the original post contained this:

    “Soberish, Mike Meginnis, Matt Zeitlin, et al are offended by any inference that any of them, or any liberal dude, might be sexist. So I’m going to try to phrase this as simply and straight-forwardly as I can: Most people do sexist things at one point or another. Most people have sexist thoughts. Most people are influenced by sexist social structures in ways that we’re unconscious of. I include myself in that. That doesn’t excuse sexism, but it does mean that when someone points out that it’s a little odd how you rail against identity politics and automatically characterize feminists as irrational and anti-intellectual when we seem to be the only ones providing actual facts and data points, you might want to actually listen for a minute.”

  35. lalala
    October 18, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Mike disagrees with my characterization of him, Matt Z and Soberish.

    Aw diddums ickle Mike.

    He’s asked me to either change or update the post,

    Entitlement much ?

    so here it is.

    I’d have told him to sod off and grow up, and pointed out to him that behaving like a whiny entitled misogynist asshole is not really the best way to prove you’re not one.

  36. SoE
    October 18, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    (irony) All those stooopid scientists with peer reviews and protocols and criteria to be met and checking data against variables. Who would actually do that before publishing a paper?(/irony)

    First scientists found out that men talk just as much as women and now they’re poiting out feminists have better relationships. That’s probably too much to bear for any “real” man.

  37. piny
    October 18, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    I think this unfortunate bit encapsulates the kind of world view that gets a lot of us rolling our eyes. Your image of “feminists” appears to be that of a monolithic class of harpies lying in wait, like snakes in the grass, just waiting to take advantage of lil’ ol you. Your assessment of state-of-the-art scientific research as “one of their pet studies” is, how should I put this – kind of silly, and depressingly common among (yes) young men of privilege. And your overall dismissal of passionately held believes as “kind of silly” is overly glib at best and overtly sexist at worst (to the degree that people identify “feminist” as “female”, which itself is in error).

    I was rolling my eyes because of the kneejerk dismissal of the concept of privilege. Maybe it’s my uterus talking, but I don’t see anything irrational about the argument that being unable to get pregnant makes you much less likely to understand how someone would react to getting pregnant. Zuzu didn’t use “privilege” as shorthand for “stupid;” she responded with a pretty cogent analysis of a gaping hole in Matt’s reasoning.

  38. October 18, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    I keep coming back to this line in Matt’s post.

    Meanwhile, it seems that legal abortion helps promote relatively more permissive attitudes about sex.

    I live on the border of a rough area in Tampa. Women I have seen get pregnant repeatedly are not properly educated about contraceptives. They are also don’t get abortions. The state usually takes the kids because they have financial and personal problems parenting. I have no idea whether or not they are having more or less sex than women whom have abortions. Neither can Matt.

    Making abortion illegal would not stop people from having sex. I’m curious how can Matt know how much sex women were having before Roe v Wade? I have been googling and haven’t found an actual study (not counting Christian Right b.s.) that backs up Matt’s claim.

  39. kate
    October 18, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    This whole thing reminds of my anti-racism training seminars when I was an activist. So many sheltered, entitled white folks running around demanding that people (of color in particular) stop RIGHT NOW making them UNCOMFORTABLE with all that criticism and silly talk about privilege.

    Soon, understanding and reason would resume, but those crazy people would be all up in their face again — “How could it be?” the white folks would cry, “I told you I’m your ally, don’t you believe me?” When called on again they’d protest that it wasn’t their white privilege for which they begged relief — oh no! Its just that someone called them shit and did it without the proper authority to do so!

    Many dealing with privilege find themselves conflicted with feelings of guilt at their complicity in an unjust system and the sense of powerlessness they feel to stop it. Unfortunately and some may correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t see male privilege as neither sufficiently challenged nor do I oft see male liberals sufficiently willing to admit their tacit complicity in continuing oppression against women — and the requisite humble follow-up of vowing to become more aware of their complicity in order to stop it.

    Mike’s responses seem to illustrate this quite well.

    Mike: I’d suggest you pipe down and possibly do what all men should do on the abortion issue any other women’s issue: accept that you come from a place of ignorance which you will never completely overcome, listen to us to those who do come from a place of better and deeper understanding , learn how to support the people you portend to support and work on why you have such a problem doing that.

  40. October 18, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    Generally when someone calls me something that doesn’t apply to me, I don’t argue about it in some idiot blog. A simple statement of ‘Obviously, you don’t know me’ would suffice. The internet simply isn’t that important.

    Sometimes it seems there are very few who understand the internet is NOT serious business rule. To each his own. I’d call both sides idiotic simply because what each said about the other has no real impact on anyone’s lives nor does it impact the entire world at large. Neither side agrees with the other side, fricking leave it at that.

  41. October 18, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    So I am reading this all, and I still can’t understand all the fuss.

    How could there be any serious debate about whether making abortion illegal would somehow make shit safer? Abortion in a hospital is really extremely safe; abortion in a hotel room is far less so. The following statistics make things pretty obvious:
    Abortion in the U.S. (when legal) has a mortality rate of 0.3-0.8 per 100,000. Call it a round 1/100,000.

    Abortion when illegal has an estimated mortality rate of ~120-600/100,000.

    Even if you stretch the numbers to make illegal abortion look safer than it really is, it’s still 100 times more dangerous than legal abortion. As a result, if the goal was to reduce maternal mortality by restricting access to abortion, you would have to expect a hundred-fold reduction in the number of abortions. Anyone want to claim that’s likely? Or even plausible in a fantasy world?

    I have little doubt that the absolute number of abortions is increased by making them legal; economics would suggest no other option. But so what?

  42. Hector B.
    October 18, 2007 at 11:33 pm

    I have little doubt that the absolute number of abortions is increased by making them legal; economics would suggest no other option. But so what?

    The message from the Lancet article seems to be that women who need an abortion will get one even if it might kill them, not that they are getting them because they appreciate a bargain.

  43. Coldorderful
    October 19, 2007 at 12:16 am

    I linked approvingly several times before this kind of attack made me reluctant to read such blogs at all (if I read I might criticize, and if I criticize I might be called a bigot, as shown here).

    If this is your way of demonstrating that you *don’t* suffer from Stereotypical White Liberal Dude-itis, yeah it needs work.

    I didn’t think there were any independent thinking white male liberals left anymore. I wonder if any of them vote democratic

    If by “independent” you mean “indistinguishable from right-wing blogs with the same dismissive, condescending, moronic talking points on issues of concern to most of te population” then you’re in for a treat, the majority of Democratic and liberal blogs shall be your playground.

  44. Pingback: Soberish
  45. occhiblu
    October 19, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    I sometimes feel like people get into a pattern in which one side (in this case, a feminist blog) says something fairly simply and obvious (“illegal abortions kill people, contraceptive access reduces abortions”), but the other side is so caught up in expecting to disagree with the first side that they just assume those “hysterical feminists” must be saying something totally different than the words on the page because those words actually make sense and therefore can’t be the whole message.

  46. J. O.
    October 19, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    On the John Cain lynching:

    After a progressively horrifying review of the linked commentary at Quixote and Feministe, I’m not even going to address the study that started all of this, because clearly the validity of the study is not what certain readers have been calling into question. At least Feministe pretends to argue over his analysis while subtly suggesting that John is a sexiste, perhaps even genetically, simply because he is a man and therefore due to his gender is unable to fully understand Feministe’s position on abortion rights. This fallacy, echoed at Quixote with far less sophistication, is offensive on a democratic basis, and denies John the right to intellectual participation based on his sex, of all things. I’d love to put this argument to the test with animal rights activists. In any case, as with handicapped rights (my line of work), certainly the affected group must have their voice heard and included, but you can’t just exclude everyone else, especially if this exclusion is selective to those whom disagree with you. To do so is to a disservice to your own position, argument, and intelligence (intelligence refers to Feministe. Sorry quixote, but I didn’t detect any signs of intelligent life on your blog). So please, feminist blogosphere, please do not dismiss the voice of white male bloggers based on their gender (or race? where does “white” come into play and why did you bring it up?)

    Also John is not a sexist.

  47. zuzu
    October 19, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    J.O., you really are going to have to start using different terms than “lynching” to describe simple criticism if you want anyone to take you seriously.

    Incidentally, this really had nothing to do with John Cain until he started huffing about how unfaaaaaair it was that I attributed a rather obvious and gaping hole in Matt’s logic (namely, that there are a whole lot of other considerations besides legality that go into a woman’s decision whether to seek an abortion) to the fact that he doesn’t have to recognize or even see what doesn’t affect him personally.

    Run along, now. Shoo, shoo.

  48. Coldorderful
    October 20, 2007 at 12:28 am

    denies John the right to intellectual participation based on his sex, of all things

    Yep, failing to agree with him in all things and pointing out the flaws in his argument = “subtly calling him a sexist” = silencing him = denying his right to participate in discourse = lynching= white liberal dude genocide = worse than the Holocaust

  49. donna darko
    October 20, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    failing to agree with him in all things and pointing out the flaws in his argument = “subtly calling him a sexist” = silencing him = denying his right to participate in discourse = lynching= white liberal dude genocide = worse than the Holocaust=having his limbs blown off by a landmine

  50. October 20, 2007 at 7:01 pm

    I blame Nice Guy(tm) Syndrome. As in “hey, I never hit/rape/degrade women! Therefore it’s impossible for me to do/think anything sexist!”

    Dudes need to chill, self-examine, and then if they still disagree, continue to chill and say “oh well, I think she’s wrong.” Because otherwise, it becomes whining. Which is where we are now.

    Why is it that women are supposed to deal with freakin’ rape/death threats on the web, but so many men can’t even take a criticial link? Ay. I’ve had plenty of people say hateful things to me, been deleted, been flamed…and you know, hey. That’s their right, and if it was clear we weren’t going to agree, I moved the hell on.

  51. Helen
    October 22, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    I never heard of Mike Meginnis until this thread, but his comments here do a great job of making him sound like a whiny overprivileged child who flunked critical thinking.

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