Skepchick Quickies 1.28

Skepchick Quickies 1.28

Today is January 28th, also known internationally as Data Privacy Day. Take a minute to educate yourself and double check your own privacy settings.

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By Mary
Mary Brock is a scientist who works on drugs you've hopefully never heard of. She enjoys cooking to Blue Grass music, messing with her cats, and hosting the Boston Skeptics' Book Club. She was born in the South but loves living in New England (despite the lack of chocolate chip pizza). Mary does not use Twitter and don't even try to follow her, because she is always looking over her shoulder.

46 Comments

  1. I really don’t feel sorry for the MRAs there. Marcotte’s quote near the beginning of the article hits it on the head, TBH. The problems men face are always, always, always due to patriarchal interference – due to expectation of what masculinity is, due to demands laid upon women backfiring onto men, and so on ad nauseam. The whole child support schpiel is simply silly. If you don’t want children, use protection. If that fails, well, guess what, too bloody bad. You do not get to disavow your offspring because you don’t want it, even if its mother decides to go through with the (not at all easy) pregnancy against your wishes. And yeah, the biology argument does, in fact, hold water in this one case: If it were men who had to carry a steadily-growing parasite around for nine months, abortion would not only be free, it’d be available on every street corner.

    • Oh, just to clarify: I am, myself, male (and privileged all to hell – white, straight, cis, all of ‘em…).

    • If it would make them feel better I’m willing to change from a father pays child support system to an everyone pays more taxes and we give money to low income families to help support their children system. Nice centralized and removing issues of people not paying support or families with support who still struggle. Course I think I’m some sort of socialist O.O

      • I love this idea (as someone who probably won’t have kids), though it would take a lot of thinking out. Still, it could also help get around the problem of people having kids older and older because they can’t afford them while they’re young.

        • OK, so I know I am being a bit nit-picky here, but is it really true that people delay having kids because they can’t afford them while they are young? I know there are probably some people like that, but is it a big issue across our population? I will say (and this is anecdotal), the people I know who wait to have kids have other reasons, like they are not ready to give up their personal time when they are younger.

          In places where there is a more “socialist” system (most European countries), on average people have kids even later than in the US, and have fewer kids.

          • Huh. Good points.

          • Far as I know and a brief google search shows the main reason people delay their first child is for education and career. Both are associated with having more money first before having kids. Of course not having access to birth control (due to poverty etc) lower the age and that seems to be a bit of a thing in the US.

          • Well, in my population sample of me, I can absolutely say I’ve put off having children because I have no idea how I’d support them. Daycare in my area costs more than my mortgage, and you kids expect to eat, like, every day and stuff.

      • The two approaches are not mutually exclusive. There is room for both parental responsibility and for societal responsibility. Everybody benefits from well-cared for children.

  2. That’s a complicated one, for me, because it’s holding a person responsible for something someone else chooses. Of course, meanwhile birth control isn’t 100% and our society makes the choice to end pregnancies as difficult as possible. It’s a hopeless snarl atm, imo. Still, what you put forward; “If you don’t want children, use protection. If that fails, well, guess what, too bloody bad. You do not get to disavow your offspring because you don’t want it…” sounds exactly like the argument pro-lifers use to argue that women shouldn’t be allowed to choose abortion. The women chose to have sex, now she has to live with the consequences, even though there are other outcomes available (but we don’t like them so we’ll just ignore they’re available).

    I agree though, that virtually all of the problems the MRAs address are caused by patriarchal interference. It was interesting, in the article, how focused these men are on what “feminism has taken from them”. Of course, a lot of it is certainly confirmation bias, but I think every person that feels subjugated (real or not) can be susceptible to that. What it really made me think about how individuals are affected in ways that might not comport with the privilege their group as a whole receives, and how to respond to those people’s points of view.

    • No, it really isn’t the same thing considering men cannot get pregnant.

    • I cringe where I hear the argument “birth control isn’t 100%”. No, nothing is 100%, but when used correctly it is very effective. Does the occasional person get pregnant despite using birth control – yes. Is it a public health issue – no. And men have control of this by choosing/not choosing to use a condom.

      • I wasn’t saying that to excuse men from responsibility regarding birth control. Just to point out that even in the best circumstances it can become a thorny issue.

        • And in every single circumstance the men cannot get pregnant.

        • No, not really thorny at all. We have the right to bodily autonomy. We get to decide whether to terminate because it’s our bodies.
          Furthermore, all children have the right to be supported. Pretty straightforward.

          • I think perhaps there is a fundamental misunderstanding. I am not saying that men should in any way have a say in what the woman decides to do with her body. That is not the thorny issue. I also agree that every child has the right to be supported. I’m saying that the thorny issue is who should be required to support the child, and how. Like I stated above, I would love for finances to not be an issue here. It is though, and I know it can used as a coercively, which is why I think it’s a thorny issue.

          • ” I also agree that every child has the right to be supported. I’m saying that the thorny issue is who should be required to support the child, and how.”

            This is not a thorny issue. If a child results from sex, then both parties involved should be required to support the child, unless they come to another agreement.

          • This is really a reply to Wilson in his reply, but threading depth exceeded…

            There are lots of things where people end up financially responsible for things beyond their control, and there is a solution. For example, in many communities, property owners are responsible for shoveling the snow and de-icing the sidewalk in front of their house. They are also responsible if someone slips and falls on the ice and has medical expenses. It is impossible to stand out on your sidewalk during a snow or ice storm, constantly removing the snow and ice as it forms, and even if you did, someone could still fall at the west end of the walk while you were shoveling the east end. Shoveling isn’t 100%. But there is a solution, liability insurance. If the MRAs were truly concerned about the financial consequences of an unintended and undesired pregnancy, they could form a mutual insurance company which would pay the child support from a fund furnished by their members. (Of course, they would have to trust said members to not lie about having had a vasectomy or having used a condom.) But they don’t do this. They would much rather do the equivalent of posting a sign on their sidewalk saying “Sidewalk not maintained. Pass at your own risk.” ignoring any local ordinances or community standards to the contrary.

            Personally, I would rather go with GideonBanner’s proposal, but then I’m a commie hippie pinko…

          • Fantastic, Buzz! Thank you.

          • @Buzz Well said.

          • Really quite interesting that, even though SEVERAL women have been saying this exact same thing, you only listen when Buzz repeats it. How utterly predictible.

    • @Wilson

      Usually, the argument anti-abortion people use is that a fetus is an innocent child and deserves equal rights as the person gestating said fetus, thus abortion is murder and shouldn’t be legally supported for *moral* reasons.

      Both parents are usually held responsible (gender roles and caretaker status aside) for the care of a child that is born — people with a uterus just have the extra choice of whether or not to continue or terminate a pregnancy with regards to bodily autonomy. If a pregnancy is terminated, responsibility for the potential child is no longer an issue; if the pregnancy is continued, both parents are considered responsible for the child’s welfare, though there may be changes made to the custodial rights of either parent based on a variety of reasons.

  3. I think it is far more accurate to say, not that “feminism has taken things from men”, but rather “feminism has created opportunities for women”. It’s not that feminists have locked us into the infernal pants (DAMN YOU, PANTS!), but that we were already locked into it, and that feminism freed women from having to wear only skirts.

    On the reproduction front, I agree that it’s a rough question. I’m hoping that a GuyUD (so trademarking that, BTW) sort of device becomes available, to limit this question’s effectiveness, but it does raise the question: What’s the difference between “If you didn’t want kids, you should’ve kept your legs closed” and “If you didn’t want kids, you should’ve kept it in your pants”, when we remove rape from the picture? Because, as pro-choice people say, even conscientious use of birth control can fail.

    • I’ve pondered the same thing. The abstinence-only approach, clearly such a failure, seems to only apply to women. I haven’t heard it in response to unplanned fatherhood. Rather than fighting for reliable male birth control, MRAs want to just sign a document waiving responsibility because, oh, they didn’t want a baby (and that evil woman trapped me, she stole my semen!). Instead of looking at equality, they just want consequence-free sex for their gender.

  4. The fact that “men are confused about whether they should hold a door open or a woman”. Are you kidding??? Holding the door open for another person is polite. Especially if you have free hands.

    Do I have sympathy for men who have lost custody of their children despite fighting for it? Yes if there is no reasonable reason for them not to have custody. But the reality is that most custody agreements are jointly decided and when men fight for custody they get it. Often men don’t ask for custody hence they end up with child support payments. It’s not forced on them. That’s often what they decide. If they fought for custody and did not get it – there’s probably a good reason for it. As for unwanted pregnancies. I’m sorry, but use a fricken condom. Learn how to use them because they are almost 100% effective when used properly.

    Arguing that ones privilege has been taken away means you need more rights is ridiculous. I think of MRA’s as a bunch of scared white men that don’t understand why they now have to work for things that they used to just get.

  5. Mark, the arguments do t apply the same way to men when it comes to unwanted pregnancies. The problem is we don’t live in a truly equal society where all women feel empowered to make their sexual partners wear condoms and where many men believe that it’s only the women’s responsibility to use birth control. The argument that men should have some say in what a woman chooses as a result of their pregnancy is dangerous. The danger is forced abortions and denial of abortions. It’s the woman’s body and there are too many situations where women don’t feel that they have a choice.

  6. The problem is we don’t live in a truly equal society where all women feel empowered to make their sexual partners wear condoms and where many men believe that it’s only the women’s responsibility to use birth control. The argument that men should have some say in what a woman chooses as a result of their pregnancy is dangerous. The danger is forced abortions and denial of abortions. It’s the woman’s body and there are too many situations where women don’t feel that they have a choice.

    THIS. So much this. It is not the same thing because MEN CANNOT GET PREGNANT.. You cannot compare these things becuase —men cannot become pregnant—.

  7. It’s a minor point maybe, but in the MRA article, there’s a brief mention of height requirements for the NYPD. This can be a race as well as a gender thing; for example, the mean height for Mexican American men in the US is 5’7″, which is (barely) closer to the average height for white and black women than that for white and black men. Certainly in many places you could not afford to rule out most women and a sizable percentage of Latino and Asian candidates based on height alone.

    This is one purely selfish reason I prefer more companies to design products with women in mind. I definitely prefer not to sit in chairs that seem to have only been tested by men 4-5 inches taller than me.

  8. That’s the rub Mari. Men can’t get pregnant. It means they don’t really understand.

    The article on coerced pregnancy is a great companion piece for this. It really drives home the issues. There are a lot of control issues involved in the pregnancy.

    • It would be great if Wilson would reply to these points. Wilson?

  9. I’m going to repeat this again. Men can’t get pregnant. Their beef is with nature and biology on that one. An unintended pregnancy isn’t fun and games for anyone involved. But it’s worse for the woman. Financially, physically, emotionally – she carries the burden in a way that the man never will.
    And MRAs hate that they can’t control women, they hate that they might have to bear some of the responsibility that women would otherwise have to shoulder alone.

  10. From the forced pregnancy article: “It’s not necessarily about the outcome, but about the control.” Yeah. Say that over and over and over again until it sinks in. It seems so ridiculous, on the face of it, that all those laws about abortion and consent and everything else were about control. I mean, everything you hear from the religious right is about the “sanctity of the fetus” and “God’s requirement for married couples”, so it’s hard to imagine that all of the things you hear are really just a thick layer of bullshit hiding a desire to control women.
    As for that MRA douche, there’s only one point on which I agree with him, the bit about “social customs that impose an outdated (and crippling) expectation of masculinity on men.”
    You’re right. Those social customs do suck. And feminists are trying to get rid of them, too. Congratulations on catching up to the 1960s feminist movement. You’ll find that, contrary to common belief, you can now hug your male children without your testicles falling off.

  11. I once wrote a not-serious blog about that very issue regarding child support in an effort to spark some conversation (and never got it, sadly); while I brought up the question, I was in no way supportive of the position that men should not pay support.

    The biology isn’t the same, and while some animals can do their thing and move on, humans live in a society supposedly based on mutual support as well as personal gain & freedom. The fact is that because they can avoid responsibility, a huge number of men will choose to do just that. I would rather enforce the support to balance things between the father and mother to take care of the child than allow so many women, already at a disadvantage, shoulder all responsibility. Inconvenient for the guy? Possibly, but sooooo much moreso for the woman. But of course she’s the one society looks down on for having the kid(s), not the guy(s) who abandoned her. And she’d still be condemned if she had chosen abortion.

    I’ve never been more than theoretically in that situation (late periods), so perhaps it’s easier for me to take this stance than if I’d ever “had” to pay child support, but then, if I’d had a child I’d want to support it and be part of its life.

  12. @Wilson: Children have rights, among them, the right to be supported. The child’s rights are paramount. They come before the rights of the parents’. The courts decide in the best interests of the child, not the parent. Once the baby is born, men have the same rights to their children as women. They also have the same responsibilities. Those responsibilities are enforced by courts. Child support isn’t unfair, it’s necessary.

    http://family-law.freeadvice.com/family-law/child_custody/voluntarily-terminating-parental-rights.htm
    http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p60-240.pdf

    • I didn’t say it was unfair. Some of you are taking my “I think this is complicated.” and misconstruing it to mean whatever argument you suspect I’m culpable of holding (until I clarify your point out of existence). I know the legality. I still think it’s a complex issue. I think almost everything is a complex issue. Should I rephrase? “I’m thinking deeply about this, and have not yet reached a conclusion.” Happy? I’m not going to spend all day endlessly clarifying my thoughts and positions just because you suspect I’m sinister.

      • “I’m saying that the thorny issue is who should be required to support the child, and how.”

        That’s what I’m responding to. I don’t think you’re being sinister, I just don’t see a better solution.

      • “I’m thinking deeply about this, and have not yet reached a conclusion.”

        Your conclusion SHOULD align with our points, becuase it is the most logical conclusion. The isssue is in no way “thorny”. You are utilizing EASILY DEBUNKED MRA talking points. punchdrunk has been very patient with you. This is not at all a thorny issue. Stop saying it is.

  13. Regarding the Women in Combat article, that was great! Proving Professor Kingsley Browne’s argument against women serving combat roles was a tired line used to repress people was great! ZING! Um, being a woman that preformed not only her job in a support function, a truck driver that carried supply up and down Iraq, I also apparently had the *privilege* to work in a combat role as a soldier. During the war, I never felt as if I was acting in any way that was “humiliating” to other soldiers, the Army or to my country, nor “dangerous to unit cohesion”. :)

  14. Is it really fair to characterize abortion as strictly about bodily autonomy? Do we really want to? It seems like a dangerous concession to the right. Shouldn’t “I don’t want to be a parent” be enough of a reason for a women to have an abortion? If medical science got to a point where they could say ‘instead of an abortion, we will provide an even less intrusive procedure which will remove the embryo/fetus from your body, so that we can grow it to a baby in a lab, and then you will be responsible for raising it’ I do not think anyone here would think that would be acceptable. And with good reason. Choosing to have sex shouldn’t shackle women to twenty plus years of responsibility and a lifetime of being a parent.

    Choosing to have sex shouldn’t shackle *anyone* to twenty plus years of responsibility and a lifetime of being a parent. We have made enormous progress getting people to stop saying to women ‘if you do not want to have a baby, do not have sex’ because we recognize this. But we still have no problem saying it to a man. It is a serious problem, and it deserves to be addressed.

    How to address it is tricky. We’ve basically said a woman’s bodily autonomy and a baby’s right to support trump the rights men should have to have sex without consenting to be a father. And they should. They absolutely should. But it doesn’t mean men’s rights aren’t being tossed out in that equation, and they deserve an advocate. Unfortunately, ‘MRAs’ we have seem to simply want their rights to trump everyone else’s, which is why they’re so damn distasteful. But a conversation about how we can protect the rights of all three groups (such as some sort of socialized child care fund mentioned above) is a conversation worth having at the very least.

    • “But a conversation about how we can protect the rights of all three groups (such as some sort of socialized child care fund mentioned above) is a conversation worth having at the very least.”

      And that conversation is under the larger umbrella of feminism. You’re implying that no one is having that conversation, or is trying to stop that conversation, which is not true.

      • I agree that feminism can solve these issues for men as well. But what I don`t see are feminist spaces that are interested in focusing on men`s issues. I do see a lot of ‘shut up and listen’ directed at men. And I see a lot of responses like the one below, where my claim that both sexes should be able to have sex without consenting to becoming a parent is interpreted as a suggestion that men should be able to compel a woman to have an abortion or refuse to support their child – which I tried to make extremely clear wasn’t my position, and apparently failed.

        The short of it is that I don’t see feminist spaces as places to discuss men’s issues. And I see “Men’s Right’s” spaces as so utterly selfish and distasteful I’ve no interest in being there. This may be a problem with my own perception and confusion over when and where I voice my thoughts and when and where I should shut up and listen.

    • Men have exactly the same rights and responsibilities as women once the baby is born.
      I don’t know why you think men are left out – because they’re not allowed to say ‘didn’t want!’ and walk away?
      How are their rights being tossed out of the equation?
      Because they can’t force an abortion or walk away from a child?

      • (well, walk away from child support, they walk away from their kids all the time)

      • Yes. Again, choosing to have sex shouldn’t shackle *anyone* to twenty plus years of responsibility and a lifetime of being a parent. This is why feminists have fought for access and availability of conception and abortion for decades.
        But obviously the women’s right to bodily autonomy and the child’s right to support trump the above. Some rights are more important than others.

  15. Just a side note: Men can get pregnant.

    The reality is that men lose their reproductive rights when their sperm leaves their body. Maybe it is better stated that men have no reproductive rights once their sperm leaves their body. Unless donating to a sperm bank or an equivalent, the events that took place up to the point the sperm departs the body, including lies, subterfuge, errors, mistakes, rape, contraceptive failure, etc. make no difference. Good advice to young men with the means is to freeze sperm for future children using a qualified sperm bank, then get a vasectomy to keep your sperm in your body. Or, alternatively, if you have the strength of will, abstain from any kind of sex.

    Once a baby is born, the parents have the obligation to support the child. Unless one is a legally recognized and protected sperm donor, there is simply no compromise on this. The circumstances leading up to the birth of the child are inconsequential.

  16. I read this with personal interest.
    I’m sure I will be accused of catastrophized up-trumped nefarious heinous motives for just saying this, but I still assert that “child-support” is often unfair, unjust and just plain evil.

    Not that it shouldn’t exist, but that it should be fair, and ruled in favour of the children.

    I was ordered to pay, and an arrears was calculated. Because there was an arrears, my passport and license were revoked. Because my passport and license were revoked, I was no longer qualified for my job, and was immediately terminated. My appeal verdict was that I could not have the amount recalculated unless I was employed. 114% of my gross income was required of me or I faced incarceration. I paid, but now, because of how I got the money, I face consequences once I go to court and my new employer is informed of my yet-to-be-written record. Meanwhile, I am certain to lose my home and my career, while the mother has proceeded to purchase a whole string of properties that will provide her with a persistant income. My child is certain to lose what I could have offered as a father, and I am certain to lose a chance at a dignified life. The goose MUST be killed.

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