Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Surely No Woman...

I'm never sure to what extent discussions on Facebook between major blog personalities (at least, major in that small pond which is Catholic blogging) are considered acceptable fodder for public discussion. Those who make their blogs semi-professional publicity venues seem also to maintain thousands of Facebook "friends", and the comment threads on their statuses can run to hundreds of comments, so I tend to assume that their acceptably public. However, in this case, the discussion that got me thinking yesterday seems to have vanished along with its 100+ comments, so I'll keep things general since it's primarily the general line of thinking on which I wanted to comment.

A well known Catholic male blogger posts on a Catholic female blogger's wall: What do you and your readers think about [pro-life tactic]. I've had a number of pro-lifers tell me that anyone who opposes this tactic is not pro-life, but I can't imagine that any woman would support an idea which so clearly is based on humiliating women.

Leave the merits of this aside: So far as I could tell, most of the fuss in this particular situation (including the position of the male blogger) stemmed from people who didn't actually know much about the real-life details. What I think is interesting here is an assumption one too often gets, that women are a monolithic group of people who we can expect to all share the same insights into some given topic.

For instance, recall back at the height of the clerical abuse scandals when you would hear people going around saying, "If women had more leadership power in the Church, they never would have allowed the covering up of child abuse."

These kind of statements are made by people who think of themselves as standing up for the dignity of women. But in the process, they assume that women do not in fact have the variety of independent thought that men do: Oh sure, men might be for or against abuse, for or against some political position that I'm against, but surely no woman would support this!

Why not?

Even if you think that a belief or practice is strongly anti-woman, it's almost certainly the case that at least some women support it, and indeed support it strongly. That's not because they're class traitor or hoodwinked by patriarchy -- it's because they're persons capable of forming their own beliefs and opinions -- even opinions you dislike. This doesn't mean that people can't argue that some belief or practice is "anti-woman" or "offensive to women" or some such, but don't expect that this means that no women will support the very thing you're opposing.


Leila@LittleCatholicBubble said...

Amen, and thank you!!

(PS: I was a part of that facebook discussion.)

Kate said...

I didn't want to touch that discussion, but you can count me as a woman who still doesn't think that particular policy/medical procedure is inherently humiliating to women. I was frankly astonished that the blogger didn't have the imagination to wrap his mind around the range of reasons someone might support that policy. "Clearly intended to humiliate" is a pretty broad assumption of motivations.

I agree as well about the short-sightedness of assuming that women (or any 'identity group' are monolithic.

Finicky Cat said...

I grew up in a very small bubble where this kind statement was common coinage - "Women prefer..." or "No husband would..." - and it was an enormous SHOCK when I began to discover that in the world outside the bubble these Statements of Reality were...y'know...false. Plenty of husbands clearly DID, and few women outside my bubble claimed this preference at all.

bearing said...

I was at a party in grad school once back during an election season where a friend of mine (we are still friends) commented that he was surprised that I wasn't a supporter of such and such a candidate, who would be the obvious choice because he was the most pro-choice.

It was very clearly a "you are a woman and there is only one candidate for a woman in this race so what odd thing might you have against this guy?" I kind of stood there, and opened my mouth, and closed it again while I tried to decide exactly how I was going to respond to that, while my other friend who went to my parish (I am now his kid's godparent) laughed at him behind his back. Eventually I didn't have to say anything because the dawning realization and shock spread across his face and, to his credit, he changed the subject.

Anthony said...

Somewhat related, from a protestant blog I stumbled across while reading something else:

It is one thing for us to believe that someone’s views, if carried out to their logical end, lead inevitably to fatalism … or anti-trinitarianism … or libertinism … or what have you. It is fair to say that we think that is where someone else’s views lead, and it is fair to try to demonstrate that such is the case. However, it is not at all fair to say that the someone whose views we criticize actually believes what we say his views logically lead to. He may not have thought it through as well as us, or we may be misunderstanding him, or he may have a better line of reasoning which we are unaware of or cannot follow or reject because of our own biases or the like. In fact, our personal bias may keep us from admitting the possibility that the one we criticize may be on to something valid. In other words, we may be blinded by the idol of our own point of view.

Darwin said...


There's also a certain danger to trying to convince people that if they took their beliefs seriously, they'd also endorse some other appalling thing. It may be that the result will be them embracing the appalling thing rather than abandoning their beliefs.