Saturday, April 13, 2013

Women's Lib

Feminism comes in a variety of flavors, ranging from the laudable (even heroic, as in the case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali), to the harmlessly silly (Slutwalks), to the downright malign (e.g., academic feminism). But the Marxist version of feminism occupies its own little circle of hell, and that's where we now turn our attention. The reason is this excerpt from the Oppression of Women resolution presented at Socialist Action's 2012 convention. The author is Christine Marie.

I guess it shouldn't surprise anyone that Marxists regard labor as the epitome of humanity--that trait that most distinguishes us from animals. It is our ability to work for a living that drives civilization, creates wealth and culture, and enables freedom. If only it weren't for those &*#% capitalists stealing the value of our labor and exploiting us, then all would be well.

I suppose the more academic Marxists have mellowed a bit, and acknowledge that there are other values in human life besides labor, and hence work is only first among equals in the pantheon of good things. But Socialist Action (SA), being a political organization, simplifies things for us masses. By their lights, we don't work to live, we live to work. Our work is all that counts.

The goal, therefore, is to put as much of human activity into the paid labor force as possible. Parents shouldn't take care of their own children. Instead, they should send the poor dears to paid daycare centers, where union-scale workers (gender-neutral, of course) will raise them in a professional, politically correct, and loving manner, all supervised by the workers and farmers government.

But the poor dears are themselves a problem. Procreation, unfortunately, distinguishes between male and female, and so inhibits the free movement of women into the paid labor force. Thus birth control and abortion are to be championed. There is, after all, no better baby than a dead baby--how can you get any work done with those little tykes yammering and whining all day long. Eventually I suppose we'll refine the art of test tube babies to the point where both women and men are rendered redundant.

In the meantime, the people who get women pregnant are men, those evil bastards. It's precisely that kind of discrimination that dooms women to earn only 76 cents for every man's dollar. To remedy this egregious fact of life a comprehensive affirmative action plan for women is needed. Some sort of equal pay for equal work scheme has to be devised, so even though a woman takes a six month maternity leave, she should earn just as much as the guy laying bricks. Or something like that.

So I'm not going through this article bullet by bullet--it's too boring, and you can read it yourself if you really want to. It's all the same Trotskyist boilerplate that I remember from my youth. I'll limit this post to two topics: abortion and affirmative action.

The abortion issue has been decided in this country. Even if Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow, by the end of the year all fifty state legislatures will craft laws that basically reestablish the status quo. Nobody apart from some Taliban-style fundamentalists wants to ban abortion outright. And likewise, very few are comfortable with expanding abortion "rights" beyond the first three months of pregnancy. A large majority of the American people support the existing framework, however reluctantly.

I am part of that majority. I reject the facile equation between abortion and murder. Aborting a ten-week old fetus is just not the same thing as murdering a ten-year old child. It just isn't--get over it. By the same token, I reject the facile equation between abortion and health care. Unlike standard medical care, abortion is fraught with moral choices and competing interests between woman, child, and family. Abortion is not the same thing as gall bladder surgery. It just isn't--get over it.

So I agree with Bill Clinton--abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. I'll add another term to that list: shameful. My wife and I have a friend who, under great pressure from her husband of the time, chose to abort her second child. I thought that was tragic then, and I think our friend thinks so now (though I have not discussed it with her). Her daughter has no siblings, and her grandchildren will have no cousins or aunts or uncles. I find that terribly sad. People who have abortions have failed in a fundamental human activity. I realize it's sometimes necessary and one shouldn't cast blame, but it's never a good thing. To abort a child because of some short term financial exigency as our friend did, is, I think, deeply shameful.

SA casts it in terms of "reproductive freedom." They mean a freedom to engage in the paid labor force on terms equal with men. They accompany this with some very bizarre economic reasoning arguing that capitalists oppose reproductive freedom because it hurts their profits. The reasoning falls short, but I'll have to save that for some future post. Personally, I think "reproductive freedom" (at least regards abortion) is true only in the Janis Joplin sense: "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

I used to get very upset by affirmative action. University campuses are ground zero for the effort, and there is no question that affirmative action has affected my career negatively. Not disastrously, mind you, for I am now a full professor with a six figure salary, who served in academic administration for a decade. But were I female I would be at a more prestigious institution, would have advanced further through the ranks, and would have had a much easier time finding jobs.

I resented it partly because it hurt my career, but also because I didn't see why I should be blamed for every body else's problems just because I'm a white male. I am no more responsible for slavery than you are (regardless of your race or gender), and I've never beaten my wife. I have tried to treat all my colleagues and subordinates as fairly and honestly as possible--and I think most college administrators make that same effort. It's bizarre that one third of the population (white males) should be collectively forced to sacrifice for the remaining two thirds of supposedly oppressed people.

SA maintains that "[a]n effective working-class program ... for affirmative action to achieve gender equality in all trades and professions that we are fighting to maintain" is necessary. I don't see how affirmative action enhances gender equality at all. All it does is breed resentment and promotion by gender rather than merit.

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