Sunday, October 17, 2010

Engaging: Is It Really Helpful?

I watched part of the "Open Hearts Open Minds" conference earlier. "Open Hearts Open Minds" is a conference featuring both pro-choicers and anti-choicers, and its goal is to find "common ground" and to "bridge the abortion divide" between the two movements. It got me thinking about different methods of activism, and whether or not engaging with antis is really even worth it.

They way I channel my passion for equal rights has changed drastically in the past few years. I used to spend my time arguing with people who believed that women shouldn't have the right to vote (yes, those people are still around). I eventually moved more towards fighting against gender roles, and after that I really focused on reproductive rights. Throughout all of these "phases", I'd engage with those on the other side. I used to spend a lot of energy doing that. I used to argue with antis pretty much non-stop. You see, I've found that arguing with antis, particularly anti-choice activists, is a lot like arguing with people who don't believe in a woman's right to vote. Their beliefs tend to be extreme and their minds tend to be absolutely dead set on staying the way they are. Their arguments tend to be very focused on sexist beliefs and insults. Whether I'm debating with the person who believes that women shouldn't have the right to vote or with the person who believes that women shouldn't have bodily autonomy, I've found that these discussions usually go absolutely nowhere.

There are exceptions, of course. There is always the possibility that you'll come across a fence sitter, or even an anti-choice activist who is willing to listen and whose heart may be changed. Now, of the anti-choice activists I've spoken with, I've found maybe two who were actually pleasant to speak to, so if I were ever to go back to the "engage with everyone" type of activism, I wouldn't get my hopes up on finding activist antis to engage with. However, I have the utmost respect for my fellow reproductive justice warriors who do have the time and energy to try to reach out to antis, even those who seem too far away to reach out to.

Attempting discussion with people who obviously do not want to discuss takes time and energy which is, to me, better spent trying to help women in more direct ways. I have found that channeling my energy more towards types of activism that don't involve engaging with antis directly gets more work done. However, this is not true for all pro-choice activists. Some of my activist friends choose to engage with seemingly hopeless antis. I say, all the more power to them. We need all types of activism in the pro-choice movement. Each activist has his or her strengths and weaknesses, and we should utilize these individual strengths to the best of our abilities. There are so many different types of activism, and I don't find it helpful to label some types "better" than other types. It's hard for someone like me to imagine, but hey, maybe engaging with antis really is useful, so why not use that to our advantage?


  1. When it comes to engaging with antis, I think it depends on where they put their focus. Do they put it on the woman or the zygote? If they put their focus on the woman, I think they have a better chance of coming around to a truly pro-woman stance on reproductive rights, simply because that's where the focus should be. Even if they have really terrible views on women, I think it's easier to have them see the errors in their thinking, since they all know women. But if they put the focus on the zygote, they're too far gone from reality to be brought to reason.

  2. I agree with the general tone of this post, only I am anti death and I would say all the same things about the pro 'choice' movement that you have asserted about pro lifers. Not being argumentative here, only illustrating the point you are making from a different perspective. I believe the debate is at an eternal impasse. The problem is that we cannot agree to disagree. Femily-a pro life person would argue that we not only care about women, but about the distinct and separate human in her uterus. So who cares more?

  3. You can always argue that you care about women, but always remember this: Actions speak louder than words. Saying that you care about women means nothing when you are fighting to take away their basic human rights.

  4. And conversely, I can say the same thing. Life is a basic human right, and since you are taking a human life (scientifically proven), you are taking away that right. That's the point, I believe, of this whole topic. There IS NO real common ground between pro choice and pro life when it comes to the most basic of human rights. I also frequently wonder if there is a point in engaging people who are strident about their position. I even think I could really like some of the people who have spewed some real vitriolic rhetoric at me ( and they, me) if we weren't talking about abortion. But the discussion must take place, eh? How much does 'caring for women' cover. Even caring about the ones who don't agree with you?

  5. "And conversely, I can say the same thing. Life is a basic human right, and since you are taking a human life (scientifically proven), you are taking away that right."

    Well you see, we aren't the ones who claim to fight for the fetus. It isn't about the fetus for us (or at least, not for me. I don't want to speak for other pro-choicers). It's about the women. We're not claiming to fight for the "right to life of the fetus", while antis do often *claim* to care about the basic human rights of the women, while fighting against these same rights.

    "How much does 'caring for women' cover. Even caring about the ones who don't agree with you?"

    That's something that all people could work on, myself included. I do try to be nice, but sometimes it's hard to be nice to people who have been nothing but evil little jerks to me and to others (not talking about anyone in particular..)

    I am fighting for anti-choice women, too, though. Without reproductive freedom, no woman has freedom, including anti-choice women.

  6. I don't think that pro life people consider abortion a 'basic human right'. And who determines who has rights, and what those rights are? Would you not cosider it worthy to protect the weaker from being harmed by the stronger?I think this would be the position of most pro lifers, with all of the qualifiers in place.

    Maybe some of the common ground should be understanding that typically, the people on either side of the debate hold fast to their beliefs, and the battle for hearts and minds does not need to be carried out against them, but, as I think you already discussed, for the people who don't really hold any particular view ( I believe you called them 'fence sitters').

    Anyway, I've been thinking a lot lately that the real women in real situations don't need another activist. As a matter of fact, this is one pro life anti death person who also realizes that women will continue to make the (what I believe is) the wrong choice and have abortions, because we all make wrong choices, and abortion is still legal. But you're right - actions do speak louder. The time to reach women is before they are walking into the clinic.

  7. If by "the weaker" you mean a fetus and "the stronger" you mean pregnant women, what are you doing by forcing pregnancy on women? You're stripping away their bodily autonomy. What power or strength does one have if they don't have control of their own body? None. You're making women the weaker, and your giving a fetus a right that no one has: using someone's body against their will.

    By the way, nobody has the right to be born. Being born isn't a basic human right. If that was so, all of those eggs passed through menstruation and sperm through various means would be wasted and considered a travesty. It's not.

  8. And while you believe women don't need another activist, you are going to convince them to make the decision you want them to make, instead of being an advocate for them? That's a contradiction. And no, "before they are walking into the clinic" isn't the best time to reach women. There is no best time to reach women, be an advocate for them, and respect them. Any time is good.

  9. With all due respect, femily, the discussion is about finding common ground. I'm not interested in engaging in a debate with you about being pro "choice" or pro life, or what you as a pro "choicer" believe I should do. You aren't going to change my mind, and presumably, I'm not going to change yours. I thought that was part of the point PCG was trying to make. Women don't need more fruitless debate, and because of what I believe, I will advocate for all women, even the ones who aren't born yet (and the boys, too) - and because of what you believe you will continue to do what you think is the right thing. From my perspective, before they go to the clinic IS the right time to offer them whatever relief is necessary to encourage them not to abort their children. The right time is before they make that decision. Why would you think it's bad to help a woman make that choice?

  10. "I will advocate for all women"

    Except for pregnant women, of course. Oh, and women of color. And trans women.

    Again, actions speak louder than words. It doesn't matter how much you say "I will advocate for all women" when you're here trying to take away our liberty.

  11. Too bad there is not yet a way to test zygotes for certain traits. There will be someday. If there was a way to test zygotes for bi, gay, trans traits, I would advocate aborting them all.

  12. The answer to you question is no. Engaging is not helpful for the following reasons -

    1. You pulled the accusation - "Except for pregnant women, of course. Oh, and women of color. And trans women." - out of your ass. I never said I wouldn't advocate for these women. How do you know I don't belong to one of these subsets? And BTW, it's not justice to have liberty when you take away someone else's liberty to acheive it.

    2. Faulty syllogisms. Eggs and sperm aren't conceived human beings. And women don't get an advocacy pass just because they are women. if they are abusers, killers, oppressors, bullies, stronger picking on the weaker, they don't deserve advocacy.

    3. All human beings have the right to exist, and that right is not predicated on developmental level. Otherwise there should be no difference between killing a 24 week fetus and a six month old baby. Both are capable of breathing air and extrauterine living, both require the 'use' of another human being, but neither are fully developed.

    4. The right to exist cannot be granted or rescinded by another human being, for obvious reasons. Just ask Margaret Sanger.

    5. A fetus is incapable of the thought process required, or the ulterior and sinister motives necessarily implicit in the statement "using another person's body against their will". It would more logically be described as an innocent bystander.

    6. While I was attempting to be on the level and respectful, you degenerated into illogical and accusatory. Suprise. I didn't think it was possible to troll your own post.

    I will however, be curious to see if this one makes it past moderation. Which is the final reason engaging is not only 'not helpful', but nearly impossible.

    what pro abortion intellect can't sway,
    must be moderated away.

    Carry on.

  13. "I never said I wouldn't advocate for these women."

    I've said it twice before, and I'll say it again. Actions speak louder than words.

    Thanks for proving my point ;)

  14. "Otherwise there should be no difference between killing a 24 week fetus and a six month old baby. Both are capable of breathing air and extrauterine living, both require the 'use' of another human being"

    Not true. 6 month old babies do not use other people's bodies. Are they dependent in other ways? Of course. But that dependence can be easily transferred. That's not true for pregnancy.

  15. Have you ever tried to feed a newborn without holding it? They use other people's bodies everyday for their needs to survive. Otherwise they would die.

    You are desperate to hold onto your silly beliefs.

  16. Because holding a baby is equivalent to carrying a fetus inside of your body for 9 months. Yeah. :/ And you must have missed the part about their dependence being easily transferred to another person, unlike pregnancy.

    I could tell with your first comment here that you weren't here with good intentions, with you implying that pro-choicers are pro-death and whatnot.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. If you were the first anonymous commenter then that last comment still applies to you- "I could tell with your first comment here that you weren't here with good intentions, with you implying that pro-choicers are pro-death and whatnot."

    I mean, really, what can you expect when you come here with that attitude?

  19. Just illustrating the point you were trying to make. I believe pro choice means pro death. You believe pro life means anti women ( among a host of other uncharitable things). I expected no less from you. Exactly what attitude would you expect based on the convictions I hold? I, however, did not make it a personal attack before femily and you did. Add no class to the list of pro choice defining characteristics. The answer is still no.

  20. Yes, anonymous, if you come to pro-choice forums and call us names like 'pro-death', then no, engaging is not helpful. You obviously don't want to engage, so what's the point, anyway?

  21. Good morning!

    Here's some tips for good dialog.

    Don't make fallacious statements.

    I said I was anti death. Fact: Abortion involves killing which involves death. There is no way to clinically dispute that killing and death occur. What is debateable is the difference between what you and I believe is killed and is dead.

    I said that I believed pro choice was the same as pro death. I did not say you believed it. To support that this was my own personal opinion, I pointed out that you believe pro life means - "anti women (among a host of other uncharitable things)", which would be your personal opinion. Everyone has their personal opinion.

    Don't construct straw man arguments to avoid discussing the other person's claims. If you can't address a comment head on, don't start calling the other person disingenuous, accuse them of a bad intentions and attitude, or say they don't want to engage.

    You knew from the beginning I was pro life. I remained respectful and attempted to have a discussion about the topic. I did not troll your post, I wanted to see how sincere you were and attempt to have a civil discussion. Not about the age worn finer points of why we disagree, but about why we can't ever talk about it. Actually I found the discussion very interesting, but totally without epiphany.

    Thanks for not moderating me out of existence. :)

    Have a nice day.

  22. "I said that I believed pro choice was the same as pro death."

    Yes, which made it clear that you were NOT here to discuss or to engage. I believe I made it clear in my post that I'm not here to engage with people who don't want to engage. Your first post was just screaming "I don't want to engage at all!", so of course I didn't want to engage with you, either.

    I'm a vegan, and I could easily call all omnivores pro-death because they support choices that involve the killing of animals. Will I do that? No, because if I'm going to discuss veganism with an omnivore/vegetarian, I'd rather actually discuss it, not argue it. You came here calling us pro-death. You never wanted to discuss.

    Yeah, it's your personal opinion, whatever. Some antis have an opinion that I'm a nazi. Does that leave room for discussion? No. I could say that I have a personal opinion that you're an asshole (I'm not saying that I do). Does that leave room for discussion? No. I could say that I have a personal opinion that you deserve to burn in hell (again, this is an example). Does that leave room for civil discussion? No, and neither does "you're pro-death".

    "I remained respectful"

    You were never respectful. You started disrespecting pro-choicers in the very first line of your first post. Again, as I believe I made clear in my post, I'm not interested in discussing with those who don't want to discuss. If someone starts calling me names in their very first post, you think I'm gonna want to discuss anything with them?



Due to constant spam and derailing coming from a few antis, I am now making this blog a "safe place". This does not mean that I won't allow opposing views. It means that I'm not longer going to allow hateful or unrelated/spammy comments. This will continue on until the anti-choice spammers get bored with harassing me and the people who post here, and is especially relevant when it comes to the topic of rape. I hope this doesn't deter any respectful people from commenting. :)