The death of nuance.
Perhaps Americans have never had much capacity for nuance. Let’s face it. We aren’t a particularly nuanced crowd. We like our rhetoric in black and white. So maybe there never was a golden age of rational people having thoughtful conversation that recognized that the right answer was probably drawn in shades of grey.
But egads. On just about every subject that is in the public debate at the moment, the dialogue from *both* sides of the argument is simply wrong. Not only is it wrong, it is singularly unhelpful at best and downright duplicitous at worst. Shall we take a spin through controversy?
Let’s start with the mother load. No pun intended. Abortion. First, women generally know when they are in a good position to be mothers. They know this before they fall pregnant. So if you really wanted to prevent abortion, you’d put a Planned Parenthood in every single neighborhood in America. Men generally know when they’re ready to be fathers, for the record. How about getting serious about some male birth control? And making condoms freely available. Right off the bat, the antipathy towards birth control gives lie to the statement that this is about protecting babies. Because an unwanted conception that is prevented is also a woman that never has to choose. As soon as you start shouting about shutting down Planned Parenthood, you totally undermine the notion that you want to prevent abortions from taking place. Prevent pregnancy, prevent abortion. Done.
On the other side. No, not all abortions should be legal. In most cases, you know from the day you realize your pregnant whether or not you’re ready to parent that child. This isn’t the time for procrastinating. The *only* reason for a third trimester abortion should be medical in nature and in that case, there is something so completely wrong with the pregnancy, an abortion is unlikely to cause the fetus pain. If you can’t make up your mind in the first 12 weeks or so… Whenever the research suggests that a fetus can feel pain is the point where abortions need to be banned, with an exemption for medical requirements.
Ready for the next one? Guns.
Banning the sale of assault weapons to private citizens is not the first step in the totalitarian take over of the USA. What do you think you need to be protected from? Have you been watching too much of the Walking Dead? No one needs a machine gun in their basement.
In this case, I don’t think there is a rabid opposition that demands all guns be outlawed. There are just the NRA crazies who are convinced that Rambo is moving in next door, and therefore they need to be equally well armed.
Moving on. Feminism.
John Kasich saying that women left their kitchens to vote for him was dumb and demonstrated that he’s incapable of thinking outside of his male experience, where women by and large do things like making him dinner. This is just one example in a world where the evidence is overwhelming that many men think of women as accessories. Women live with it every freaking day. Just last week, one of my colleagues walked past my desk and commented on my hair, which was down. I usually wear it tied up for this very reason: it attracts attention. It’s red, it’s wavy, it’s long, and whatever stereotype you’ve heard about red heads comes out. He wanted to know how I decided whether to put it up or leave it down and then said that he preferred it down.
Okay, it was intended as a compliment. I get that. He meant no harm. But the compliment rested on the assumption that I might take what he likes into consideration when I wake up in the morning and do my hair. The truth is that I don’t give a shit whether he thinks my hair is attractive. I’m not there to please his eye. If he’d said “your hair looks nice today,” I would have said “thank you,” and that would have been the end of that. But “I prefer your hair down,” shifts the tone into something else entirely. Most women get some variation of that kind of crap on a regular basis… this underlying assumption that a man’s opinion matters to us simply by nature of his maleness.
Why is the feminist discussion necessary? Because many men are still incapable of seeing beyond the historical assumption that their experience and comfort is and should be the prime consideration in any given discussion. The amount of vitriol women receive in the public square of the internet should be enough to convince everyone that this is necessary. Thankfully, I’ve been spared thus far, but that might not last if I’m talking about this stuff.
But feminism has its failures. The biological structure of the male brain is different than the biological structure of the female brain. We are equal, but we are not identical. That shouldn’t be read as an argument that women aren’t good at science or something equally stupid. It just means that we process information differently. Philosophy doesn’t trump evolution. It doesn’t. And when feminists talk about issues like sexual violence, we tend to talk about it like women are the only victims. And there is a faction that seems to say that women have no responsibility to protect themselves or make wise choices. Making men ashamed of being men, rejecting courtesy because it smells like patriarchy, insisting that being born a woman is to be born a victim… These things don’t make sense to me. Perhaps I’m displaying my privilege here, but screaming at men doesn’t seem particularly effective. And you undermine your argument when you leave out large swaths of people in your argument for equality. Feminist issues are human issues, and the second you treat someone like a second-class citizen, you fail.
Finally, the one subject where there is no nuance whatsoever: equal rights for everyone. What other people do has not one damn thing to do with you. Marriage equality for all doesn’t undermine marriage. Look to your own marriage and mind your business. Someone else’s gender experience has less than nothing to do with you. Mind your business. Unless you see physical harm being done to a child or animal (and having two daddies or mommies isn’t harmful: check the science), mind your own damn business. If you don’t approve of abortion, don’t have one and then mind your business. If you don’t approve of pre-marital sex, don’t have it and then mind your business. If you don’t approve of pot, don’t smoke it. And then mind your business.