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I have a huge comment to make.

perich posted this on his blog recently:

Meghan McArdle of The Economist makes an interesting point today on her blog, Asymmetrical Information. Conservatives and/or men tend to make the argument that if a woman should have a right to terminate a pregnancy, a man should have the right to refuse to support the child. If the woman can wash her hands of the deal, then so can the man. Right?

I used to buy this argument until I read Robert Wright's The Moral Animal and was reminded of something I learned in high school: namely, biology. A human male produces millions of sperm in his lifetime; a woman, about thirty eggs. Reproduction is essentially riskless for a male; outside of a hospital environment, little better than a coin toss for the female. The ratio of reward-vs-responsibility for reproduction is not evenly distributed at all between men and women, so any notion of distributing "rights" evenly is absurd.

(EDIT: To clarify: there are arguments to be made for and against demanding child support from the male parent. But any argument that hinges on the notion that men and women are equal partners in the reproductive game, as the conservative argument mentioned above does, is factually inaccurate. They are not equal partners. Women do much more of the work. Now argue what you will, based on your notions of social order, but don't try and tell me something that's biologically false)

I responded with some links:

So you don't believe in compelling child support? Better stop trying to trap you into pregnancy... you'd fight it to the supreme court.

...wait a sec, hold up there. Like the vast majority of women in the world, I don't use a child to trap a man into paying to raise it. Child support just doesn't pay the bills. The amount is usually so low that it's not worth it.

By why should I tell you this, when it's been said so well before?

And androidqueen responded:

i hate myself but i can't help but close myself off to anyone who tries to talk about justice but starts off by smearing my entire profession. or really anyone who tries to talk about justice and starts off with any kind of generalized negative stereotype.

that said, trying to keep an open mind, i don't think that ms marcotte makes her argument very well. it comes off as an angry rant ("men just can't stand the fact that we actually have rights now, and they're doing this just to spite us! that makes it wrong!") instead of a clearly thought out statement pointing out what is missing from the suit. the one valid point that she does bring up, who is responsible for paying for the abortion, is practically a throwaway at the end.

maybe i'll read the other one, but the URL makes me not want to. i consider myself a feminist, but i don't understand why people only want to preach to the choir.

This exceeded the comment length allowed, so I'm posting here.

I actually didn't get the computer progammer thing. I thought it was a reference to some cultural thing I didn't understand, actually.

But in this case, I liked reading these rants, even though that's what they were. Because, frankly, men's rights groups make me angry, so rants in return make me feel better.

Various men's rights groups of the type of the one that is sponsoring the man who started this round of arguments have done some pretty sketchy things in the past. They've posted advice on how to fuck up an ex-wife's life by ruining her credit, stealing the car, etc. I don't think any of them have been so stupid as to advocate "custodial interference," but they've been quick to defend any men who kidnap their children from their wife's care.

Many men's rights groups have the position, in general, "men should get what they want." What men want and the arguments vary (and are sometimes contradictory), but that's the basic idea. If they want sole custody, they should have it. If they want no responsibility, they should have it.

I like the feminist rants because when I read about some of the things written by men's rights groups, I get mad. I find it hard to put into words the strange undercurrents in what they say, and these rants help encapsulate that for me.

I personally found the most telling point to be the constant thematic choice of, "This woman got pregnant on purpose... to trap my money." Now, I won't say that doesn't happen, since I watch Law and Order and I know that anyone is capable of anything. But I find it hard to believe that every time that happens, the only relief the man can find is from men's rights groups. And I find it hard to believe that every person these men's rights groups represent was sperm-baited by a woman.

I imagine that, most often, people get together, have sex, and despite best efforts at birth control or whatever, baby happens. And then they have differing ideas about what to do.

I do believe that the woman has the final decision about what happens with her body, although I hope that her and the man in question are in a relationship and talk about it. So in my mind (and I think legally as well) when the woman wants to keep the baby and the man doesn't want it - that's the only scenario we're talking about. Neither want baby? No baby. Man wants baby and woman doesn't? No baby. Both want baby? Seems to be more about custody than child support, when there is a problem, so let's table that one for now.

Why does this happen? Maybe the woman is opposed to abortion. Maybe she falls in love with her baby from the word go. For whatever reason, say she decides to keep it and the man... well, the man just doesn't want to be involved.

Men's rights groups don't really talk about this. They always characterize the woman as a lazy, welfare-mom slut who deliberately tricked the upstanding male citizen in question.

For my part, I wonder about the opposite situation. Where a man says to a woman, I love you baby, I want to make a child with you, and then runs off when she gets pregnant? I imagine that that happens a lot more often than women who deliberately impregnate themselves for $300 a month.

So what then? Do we put baby-making in the "fraud" category of crimes, and investigate the he-said she-said of each one?

"Did you, Ms. Doe, deliberately miss a day of birth control?"

"Did you, Mr. Doe, promise Ms. Doe that you'd marry her?"

There'd be no end. Just character witnesses forever, and plenty of perjury. The courts would be tied up forever. The parents would litigate until the child was three.

So the country made a ruling. Man and woman make baby, man and woman both take care of baby. Straight from A-Z, no stops at H (He said he'd marry me) or S (She could have gotten an abortion) on the way. And the rule is that whoever doesn't take care of the kid should contribute financially.

Now whether you want to take up the issue of women generally taking custody, that's something else entirely. So let's talk about it without gender for a second.

Unless a custodial parent - of either gender - managed to bang a Rockefeller, the money he or she receives in child support will in no way cover the actual expenses of raising a child. The purpose of the law, as I see it, isn't to bankroll the lifestyle of the custodial parent, or to force the non-custodial parent to completely support someone else. It is to make the non-custodial parent contribute, to make him or her assist. The NC helped start it... and when it comes to a child, the law says that you have a responsibility to see it through.

And I agree.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 17th, 2006 08:15 pm (UTC)
see, what i like about this argument is that, for the most part, it basically sticks to the relevant facts. you don't go off knocking people for completely irrelevant aspects of their life.

i do find the "lazy welfare mom" argument frustrating, largely because it demonizes women the same way that referring to these men who don't want to have children as "deadbeat dads." it is a fallacious argument intended to appeal to the emotions of the audience rather than sway them with actual facts and conclusions drawn from those facts.

of course, as you know, i still disagree with you. with great power comes great responsibility. if i'm going to argue that i, and only i, have the right to terminate my pregnancy (and i would), i have to take responsibility for the consequences that follow. you could argue that the pregnancy wouldn't have happened if it weren't for the guy, and you'd be right, but because abortion is an option, the baby's birth is no longer a direct result of a decision he could have made.

a strawman analogy is to say that requiring men to pay child support after upholding women's right to abortion is like requiring men to support their wives after upholding women's right to get a job. it made sense at one time, when certain rights were not recognized, but not anymore.
Mar. 17th, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC)
I understand your point of view. Perhaps I'll change my mind over time, but I still feel pretty strongly about compelling child support.

One of the things I was referring to when I said I got angry is the way that the argument is framed: because women can abort, men shouldn't have to pay child support. It seems to lead back towards enforced marriage when copulation results in a baby, in that, if abortion were illegal, the man would be responsible for supporting the baby entirely.

Emotionally, it feels like the debate is being framed in a way to make the man "solely" responsible. Not only does that imply that if the woman can't abort, she is no longer responsible in any way, but it appears to conflate the (theoretically) sole support of a male patriarch with the truly auxiliary nature of child support.

I also don't think it's unfeminist (infemenist?) to say that when women get pregnant, sometimes they want to keep the baby. I feel like saying "because I can abort I should be solely responsible" feels defensive - not that I haven't felt that way myself, sometimes. Like I have to disavow maternal feelings, and be all "logical" (with all it's masculine connotations) in my thoughts to even enter the debate.

And I guess I'm saying that no matter the stated intentions when they had sex (they both didn't want kids and then the woman changed her mind, they both wanted kids and then the man changed his mind), if the woman keeps the baby (whether or not the man supported her through her pregnancy and then reneged post-birth, or stated at the outset "abort it," or stated too late for a legal abortion "abort it"), the man should help in some degree, because he helped make that baby.

There are so many scenarios (see parenthetical notes) where a woman can get defrauded into thinking the man's she having sex with will help her and be her partner, that I think it makes sense for the man to be responsible by law. The exception should be where he can prove fraud or entrapment by the woman. And even then, that's hard to prove. (More character assassination. More unecessary litigation.)


I have to go back to work now, seriously, but I have a question... I thought "deadbeat dads" were just ones who were not paying court-mandated child support. Am I wrong about that? In that case, it's not so much that they don't want to be dads, but that they're bucking the will of the court. If they went to court and got their child support payments eliminated, then they would no longer be deadbeat dads, right? This seems like a pretty important distinction, so I really don't want to be wrong about it.
Mar. 17th, 2006 09:24 pm (UTC)
must work and there is more to say than this but:

regarding "enforced marriage": how do you feel about alimony as it pertains to the relative income of the parties?

regarding "deadbeat dads": ahh, i think you are correct. when i used the term before, i thought it meant simply men who slimed their way out of paying.
Mar. 17th, 2006 11:06 pm (UTC)
Hmmm... never really articulated my thoughts on it before.

Personally, I'm in favor of alimony (in? because of?) cases where the woman does "unpaid work" supporting the man. If they split up, her unpaid work is worthless for supporting herself, but the man can continue.

I'm also in favor of pre-nups, though, when both people coming to the negotiating table have the capability to negotiate. I can see scenarios where the pre-nup could be abused, which is why I add that little cautionary phrase.


And cool. I was worried that I had been using "deadbeat dads" wrong, and considering how in a huff I got in this post, I would have really hated to be wrong on a bit of language I could have used. :)
Mar. 17th, 2006 11:14 pm (UTC)
Also, I just read some of the comments at the Pandagon link, and at least 10 of the first 20 were like, "Why you slammin' on computer programmers, yo?"
Mar. 18th, 2006 12:21 am (UTC)
With alimony, the argument is that the spouse of greater income would not have been able to develop such a position without the support and home life provided/augmented by the spouse of lesser income. This argument is fairly gender-neutral in theory at least.

Mar. 17th, 2006 08:35 pm (UTC)
This is an engaging argument and, to be honest, much more likely to persuade me than either of the links from yesterday.
Mar. 17th, 2006 08:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I spent a lot of time thinking about it last night, before falling asleep.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


Christine Flynn

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