A Philosopher's Blog

Is Pro-Life a Cover for Misogyny ? I: Preliminaries

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Politics, Reasoning/Logic by Michael LaBossiere on August 17, 2015
Anti abortion rally in Washington, D.C. Decemb...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During a recent discussion, I was asked if I believed that a person who holds to the pro-life position must be a misogynist. While there are misogynists who are pro-life, I hold to what should be obvious: there is no necessary connection between being pro-life and being a misogynist. A misogynist hates women, while a person who holds a pro-life position believes that abortion is morally wrong. There is no inconsistency between holding the moral position that abortion is wrong and not being a hater of women. In fact, a pro-life person could have a benevolent view towards all living beings and be morally opposed to harming any of them—thus including zygotes and women.

While misogynists would tend to be anti-choice because of their hatred of women, they need not be pro-life. That is, hating women and wanting to deny them the choice to have an abortion does not entail that a person believes that abortion is morally wrong. For example, a misogynist could be fine with abortion (such as when it is convenient to him) but think that it should be up to the man to decide if or when a pregnancy is terminated. A misogynist might even be pro-choice for various reasons; but almost certainly not because he is a proponent of the rights of women.  As such, there is no necessary connection between the two views.

The discussion then turned to the question of whether or not a pro-choice position is a cover for misogyny. The easy and obvious answer is that sometimes it is and sometimes it is not. Since it has been established that a person can be pro-life without being a misogynist, it follows that being pro-life need not be a cover for misogyny. However, it can obviously provide cover for such a position. It is rather easier to sell the idea of restricting abortion by making a moral case against it than by expressing hatred of women and a desire to restrict their choices and reproductive option. Before progressing with the discussion it is rather important to address two points.

The first point is that even if it is established that a pro-life/anti-abortion person is a misogynist, this does not entail that the person’s position on the issue of abortion is in error. To reject a misogynist’s claims or arguments regarding abortion (or anything) on the grounds that he is a misogynist is to commit a circumstantial ad hominem.

This sort of Circumstantial ad Hominem involves substituting an attack on a person’s circumstances (such as the person’s religion, political affiliation, ethnic background, etc.) for reasons against her claim. This version has the following form:

 

  1. Person A makes claim X.
  2. Person B makes an attack on A’s circumstances.
  3. Therefore X is false.

 

A Circumstantial ad Hominem is a fallacy because a person’s circumstances (religion, political affiliation, etc.) do not affect the truth or falsity of the claim. This is made quite clear by the following example: “Bill claims that 1+1 =2. But he is a Republican, so his claim is false.” As such, to assert that the pro-life position is in error because some misogynist holds that view would be an error in reasoning.

A second important point is that a person’s consistency or lack thereof in regards to her principles or actions has no relevance to the truth of her claims or the strength of her arguments. To think otherwise is to fall victim to the ad hominem tu quoque fallacy. This fallacy is committed when it is concluded that a person’s claim is false because 1) it is inconsistent with something else a person has said or 2) what a person says is inconsistent with her actions. This type of “argument” has the following form:

 

  1. Person A makes claim X.
  2. Person B asserts that A’s actions or past claims are inconsistent with the truth of claim X.
  3. Therefore X is false.

 

The fact that a person makes inconsistent claims does not make any particular claim he makes false (although of any pair of inconsistent claims only one can be true—but both can be false). Also, the fact that a person’s claims are not consistent with his actions might indicate that the person is a hypocrite but this does not prove his claims are false.

A person’s inconsistency also does not show that the person does not believe her avowed principle—she might simply be ignorant of its implications. That said, such inconsistency could be evidence of hypocrisy. While sorting out a person’s actual principles is not relevant to logical assessment of the person’s claims, doing so is clearly relevant to many types of decision making regarding the person. One area where sorting out a person’s principles matters is in voting. In the next essay, this matter will be addressed.

 

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  1. ronster12012 said, on August 17, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Michael

    Isn’t the term ‘misogynist’ just a nonsense term designed to shame and intimidate? I ask that because I never hear women labelled ‘misandrist’ just like I never hear non whites called ‘racist’, faggots ‘heterophobe’ etc…..If those terms were actually just descriptive one would hear them used often as there are undoubtedly many women who hate men yet are not called names and there are many non whites who hate whites and are thus racist and anal enthusiasts who have a distain for straights etc but for some reason no one ever seems to call them that.

    Am I being too pedantic for actually expecting words to mean something other than shaming/intimidating or should I just go with the flow……and not call others names I find accurate and descriptive?

    So IMO before we can decide whether ‘pro life’ is cover for misogyny isn’t it a good idea to find out whether ‘misogyny’ is just a nonsense term to begin with. I mean, since women are given all sorts of special considerations and advantages including a longer average lifespan, legal privileges and social respect then the real questions to ask are about misandry, not misogyny, no?

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 17, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      It is a real word with real meaning. But, it can be misused.

      • ronster12012 said, on August 17, 2015 at 7:09 pm

        Michael

        I’d be more convinced of it being a real word with real meaning if it weren’t used as a political tool. Why do we never hear of a woman being labelled ‘misandrist’ and badgered into a grovelling apology for insulting men, however inadvertantly? Female privilege…..and that’s a term we never hear either.

        IMO, all these terms are meaningless as they are just political tools.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 18, 2015 at 1:35 pm

          I think the term has merit, despite being used as a political tool. The term does refer to a real phenomena (hatred of women) and hence the word does seem to have a legitimate usage. For example, when I describe ISIS’ rape culture as misogynistic, then I am describing it accurately.

          But, as you note, the term does get misused. It is a strong term, on par with “racist” and should only be used when it really fits. Slapping the label around without due care waters it down. So, if someone who has said mean or not-nice thing about women on occasion is branded a misogynist, we will need a new term to handle people like ISIS who advocate a theology of rape and slavery of women.

          True, women generally do not get labeled as “misandrist” and called to task. Like you no doubt have also done, I have heard women comment on men in the media making remarks that would have been condemned if something comparable had been said by a man. One stock defense in regards to this is the claim that women are entitled to more “slack” because they are, as a group, oppressed by men. Another stock defense is the claim that men are generally awful. Both defenses seem to be in error.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on August 17, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Mike, please comment on the following vis-a-vis misogyny:

    Asia’s 163 Million Missing Girls

    China’s one-child policy was put in place some 30 years ago, before ultrasound technology was widely available and used to determine the sex of a fetus. Three decades later, an imbalance of boys over girls that has been made possible by gender-selection abortion practices is visible not only in China, but in India and other developing countries — and in ethnic Asian communities in the U.S.

    Mara Hvistendahl is the author of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men. She puts the number of missing girls in Asia at 163 million, more than the entire female population in the U.S., and reports on the tens of millions of men in Asia, “surplus males,” who without female counterparts may purchase women from poorer countries.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/06/21/gender-selection-abortion-crisis-in-asia-india-u-s.html

    • T. J. Babson said, on August 17, 2015 at 5:37 pm

      I would even argue that the phrase “surplus males” is inherently misandristic.

      • ronster12012 said, on August 17, 2015 at 7:16 pm

        TJ

        I read somewhere ages ago some feminist claiming victimhood for the large number of lonely older women and how they are suffering. Hows that for unspeakable female entitlement, whining like that when the reason is that the men they need for company (and to do all the jobs around the house they can’t or won’t do) are dead, deceased, gone to meet their maker, shuffled off this mortal coil and ceased to be etc etc but it is really they women who are victims lololol

        • T. J. Babson said, on August 17, 2015 at 9:22 pm

          Just imagine the outcry if men lived longer than women.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 18, 2015 at 1:23 pm

        It could be non-misandristic in certain contexts; but I would agree that it does sound not-nice.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 18, 2015 at 1:21 pm

      Yes, China is awful and worse than the United States in many ways. ISIS is vastly more misogynistic than either the US or China. All true. But how does this relate to the issue?

      • T. J. Babson said, on August 18, 2015 at 1:53 pm

        If abortion were not permitted there would not be 160,000,000 “missing” females.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 19, 2015 at 11:35 am

          In China, sure. But how does this connect to the issue at hand?

          • WTP said, on August 19, 2015 at 11:51 am

            TJ, you gotta remember Mike can turn on that HRC kinda dumb whenever he likes. Wiped the server? You mean like with a cloth? Notice how Mike can blame GOP for problems in academia :

            If only the Republicans were serious about small government-instead of just cutting budgets and micromanaging education, they would step in and trim away the bureaucracy and aid the faculty in restoring schools to their proper purpose of education.

            You see, when necessary he can tar the GOP for failures of institutions that lean significantly demographically and ideologically to the Dems and further left. But when it comes to female targeted abortion, he simply cannot see how this could possibly relate to the subject of misogyny. You’ve run waaaay to far afield of the subject. He’s all about objectivity, you know. Accordion objectivity.

            • T. J. Babson said, on August 19, 2015 at 2:14 pm

              HRC is not getting a free pass from the press the way Obama has. The funny thing is, it was not long ago that lefties were complaining that Petraeus got off too easy for mishandling classified info.

            • WTP said, on August 19, 2015 at 3:01 pm

              Oh, please. They have been bending over backwards, standing on their heads, closing one eye, and squinting reeeeaaal reeeaaal hard to parse every ounce of this story in her favor. Where the smarter, more honest (heh) members of the press are starting to crack is in that they have tired of the game and watching their credibility cracking even harder. Some of them are starting to panic. If Magus or I had done anything anywhere near this egregious our careers would be over, credit trashed, lives ruined. Yes, we might avoid prison…or I would, Magus’ luck would have him end up as Bradley Manning’s cell mate, but legal fees and such would effectively be the end of me. No one would consider either of us for a position of trust. That is assuming Magus serves out his sentence without strangling BM to death with a rope made from months of meticulously horded daily rations of dental floss.

              And yet, after allllllll this, HRC leads in the polls over most every GOP contender and remains within the MOE of the rest. No way anyone can pull that off without significant support by the MSM. It would not surprise me in the least to see her survive this and win the Dem nomination and even possibly be the next POTUS. It’s a sign of how mentally weak and gutless our press and a good chunk of our business leaders, at least the ones who still support her, are.

            • TJB said, on August 19, 2015 at 5:11 pm

              You are right that they have not come down as hard on HRC as they would a Rethuglican, but they are not giving her the completely free pass Obama received.

            • ronster12012 said, on August 20, 2015 at 3:58 am

              WTP

              There is absolutely now way known that HRC will suffer any penalty. 1/ She is a woman, allegedly, and so gets megacredit for that alone. She could eat babies alive on TV and a fair portion of her rusted on constituency would see it as a patriarchal plot to discredit her.
              2/ She undoubtedly has the dirt on many top players, and they will make all this mess go away. Drag it out till the public gets tired of it all and any emotional energy associated will just dissipate. Find a technicality, or an ambitious judge and it’s finished.
              3/ She is a member of the elite and the elite don’t jail each other…….there but for the grace of god and all that. It’s not like they are subject to the same laws as everyone else, are they?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 20, 2015 at 2:15 pm

              I’ll put up a post to discuss the evil of HRC’s Servergate.

          • T. J. Babson said, on August 19, 2015 at 2:05 pm

            Mike, the issue at hand is the link between abortion and misogyny–is it not?

            • T. J. Babson said, on August 19, 2015 at 2:08 pm

              If you are pro-choice and are aware that abortion kills far more female babies than male babies, that seems like a pretty good prima facie case that the pro-choice position is misogynistic.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 20, 2015 at 2:05 pm

              The issue is not whether or not the practice of abortion in China kills more females than males or whether or not China has a misogynistic policy. The issue is whether the pro-life position is a cover for misogyny.

              Whether the application of abortion in China is misogynistic or not is a different issue.

              A person can be pro-choice in that he believes that there are situations in which the woman has the right to chose, yet also hold that there are cases in which such a choice would be immoral. There are plenty of real folks who accept a right to chose, yet would oppose abortions at month 8, abortions that are done for the purpose of eliminating a female child, etc.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on August 20, 2015 at 1:59 pm

              The issue is whether or not pro-life is a cover for misogyny or not.

  3. Anonymous said, on August 18, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    Remember, not buying the whole global warming thing means you hate the Earth, too. Magus

  4. Anonymous said, on August 18, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Also, don’t discount the “mangina” effect when it comes to pro choice men.


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