Your Daily Dose of Mansplaining
Sometimes, when a comment thread bogs down in a long and protracted debate, highly enlightening comments can get lost in the heap. In the cause of preventing one such comment from being lost to obscurity, I'm giving it its own thread so it can receive the degree of respectful attention it clearly deserves.
There's a term coined by the feminist movement that's very useful in contextualizing what you're about to read, which is "mansplaining". Mansplaining occurs when a man explains to a woman, in a superior and condescending manner, information which that woman already knows as well as or better than he does. If the information being imparted is grossly inaccurate or patently absurd and the recipient knows it to be so, even better.
Mansplaining occurs particularly often in anti-feminist, patriarchal religions, where male authority figures - often, elderly, celibate male authority figures - presume to instruct women on the appropriate use of their reproductive systems. Indeed, some of the most ancient and solemn decrees of organized religion are mansplaining through and through. Which brings me to today's comment.
This was from the discussion on my recent post, "In Defense of Sex". In it, one Bruce Roeder favored us with his thoughtful explanation of why he's opposed to the birth control pill, and in favor of NFP (i.e., unprotected sex with periods of abstinence):
One respects the life-giving nature of the couples natural fertility and cooperates with it, the other disrespects and frustrates the natural functions of a healthy couple. One costs nothing, the other profits big pharma and is causing government to bully employers to pay for it. One encourages sexually active couples to have ongoing communication about their relationship, the other encourages us to use our bodies simply as pleasure machines and see our partner as a sexual object. One has no side effects, the other has risk of blood. Lots, strokes, liver tumors, depression, bloating. One has no environmental impact, the other is dumping artificial hormones into the water tables.
Hear that, folks? Unprotected sex has no side effects! That is, unless you count unwanted pregnancy and all the, well, side effects that come along with it. As I said in the comments, "I'm sure the millions of women who've died in childbirth or from complications of pregnancy will be overjoyed to hear that."
When I pointed this out, Mr. Roeder was nonplussed:
And if the women you mention have died, how do you figure the will hear this? Only if they're in heaven, in which case, they will likely understand the point I'm trying to make about naturally communicating and making decisions about sexual love in harmony with the love of your life in a loving, life-giving marital relationship.
Yep, he went there. All the Catholic women who've died from preeclampsia, hemorrhage or obstructed labor, now that they're in heaven, are positively overflowing with gratitude that they followed the church's teachings! If only we could hear them, they'd no doubt be chanting hymns of praise to the Catholic church for selflessly preventing them from using condoms or the pill. Doubtless their widowed husbands and orphaned children are equally grateful, because hey, their wives and mothers may be dead, but at least they're not dirty, contraception-using sluts who have sex for pleasure, right?
You see the mindset on display here: hardcore Catholics don't consider unwanted pregnancy an undesirable side effect because the church views women, basically, as livestock. Bearing children is what they're for, so it can't possibly be a problem if they get pregnant. And hey, even if they die in the attempt, in the worst case they'll go to heaven, so no harm done, right?
The church faithful believe this offensive, misogynist nonsense because they've made up an imaginary world beyond this one, one where they think all their life-destroying doctrines will be rewarded. But we live in the real world. In that world, it's better for women to have precisely as many children as they want and are capable of caring for. The evidence shows that this produces better outcomes all around: fewer needless and tragic deaths; happier and less stressed parents; children who grow up healthier, have better educational prospects and are more prosperous later in life; and whole societies freed from crushing cycles of self-perpetuating poverty. We are atheists because we care about this world and the lives of the human beings in it. It's an increasingly obvious corollary that anti-choice fundamentalists don't care about either of those things.
Image via Know Your Meme
Political activism may get people invested in politics, and affect urgently needed change, but it comes at the expense of tolerance and healthy democratic norms.