Quick Post: Why I’m pro-choice but okay with Zoe’s Law #auspol

I tend to stick away from conversations involving abortion because it is such a sensitive subject.  It’s a conversation which is routinely trolled and is intensely personal.  I can’t think of a legislative issue which has similar stakes.

As a guy, the subject is at arm’s length and I struggle to know the extent to which I can engage with the subject.  There’s an intellectual, emotional, and lived distance between myself and the subject to which I need to be sensitive.

At the same time, as a piece of public discussion, I find it extremely interesting to explore the issues and what they mean for me and how they accord with my other political views.  As a piece of politics, I find it interesting to see the ways in which the issue is framed and to see the way language is used to control the way we think about the issue.

Take the following four scenarios.

  1. A woman discovers that she is two months pregnant but does not wish to be.
  2. A woman is eight months pregnant and her partner dies.  She does not wish to continue with the pregnancy.
  3. A woman is eight months pregnant.  She and her partner decide to end their relationship.  She does not wish to continue with the pregnancy.
  4. A woman has gone into labour.  During childbirth there is a medical complication.  The doctors inform the parents that the child has been severely brain damaged.

In all four of the above scenarios, I do not consider it ethically wrong to terminate the child.  I believe this qualifies me for the label ‘pro-choice’ (even ‘pro-death’) but various people — including Van Badham — have informed me that I am actually pro-life (and anti-choice).

Why?  Because I also think the principle behind Zoe’s Law is a good one.

Continue reading “Quick Post: Why I’m pro-choice but okay with Zoe’s Law #auspol”

Don’t you ever say I just walked away… Celebrity endorsements of the feminist brand

As a young conservative, I’m not sure that anybody cares — or should care, for that matter — about my views on feminism.  Back in 2011, I wrote that men can’t be feminists:

There’s no way for a guy to not think like a guy.  We’ve been socialised to do it.  Feminism requires non-guy thinking.  It’s the external critique to show us that the things we think are ‘normal’ or ‘obvious’ or ‘default rational’ aren’t.  That critique, that discourse, can’t happen if we’re on both sides of the fence. […]  Guys can’t be feminists.  Not really, at least, because merely by interacting with the world, we’re taking advantage of all the privileges we don’t need to acknowledge.  We won’t understand what it’s like to be women and, frankly, the guys who describe themselves as feminists are sort of pretending that they do.

The word ‘feminist’ occupies a strange space in (male) popular language, along with ‘communist’ and ‘socialist’.  It’s a pejorative.  Feminists are those transgressive individuals who don’t really fit into (male) society and are a nuisance and you need to be careful what you say around them or you’ll get sued.

This framing of feminism seems to be the pervasive assumption behind M&C Saatchi’s ‘The Modern (Aussie) Man White Paper‘ released this week as part of the Peter Dutton-endorsed ‘International Men’s Day’.

Stepping around the feminist minefield that stops academics, politicians and everyday men from saying what they really think, this research says what every man is thinking. Through their words and perceptions.

It is unsurprising that many people do not feel comfortable self-identifying as feminist.  If the goal in life is to be social, happy, and loved by a guy, what incentive is there to make people suspect that you’re disruptive and threatening to men?

Continue reading “Don’t you ever say I just walked away… Celebrity endorsements of the feminist brand”

Some kind of secret I will share with you… Why we shouldn’t agree to disagree #auspol

Disagreement is weird.

There’s a positivistic view of the world — dominant in popular discourse — that everything should come down to evidence and reason.  Evidence and reason are mixed together in the cauldron of the mind to produce Facts.  You either believe in Facts or — it is asserted — you’re a creepy post-modernist who doesn’t live in the Real World.

We have a whole host of slogans about Facts.  You’re not entitled to your own, for example.  And we’ve popularised scientists as being the Prophets of Facts.  If a scientist says it’s a Fact, then it’s a Fact.  But sometimes marginalised scientists on the fringes of academia are being persecuted (like Galileo) and so those scientists are the True Prophets of Facts and the mainstream scientists are False Prophets of Facts.

In the ideal world of the Enlightenment, disagreements simply should not exist.  Differences of opinion would mean that somebody is factually incorrect.  Two ordinary people, possessed of all the Facts, will agree.  If they disagree, then somebody is mistaken, lying, or trolling.

Continue reading “Some kind of secret I will share with you… Why we shouldn’t agree to disagree #auspol”

We clawed, we chained our hearts in vain… Why you should use the phrase ‘illegal entrants’ #auspol #asylumseekers

Language is important.  Over at AusOpinion, I’ve argued that claims of ‘neutral’ and ‘apolitical’ language are dangerous lies (link broken).  There is, in fact, no way of describing something in completely neutral terms (whatever ‘neutral’ may mean).

As part of my set up to discuss something even more interesting than language — images — I made a quick mention of the asylum seeker debate.

The Government — perhaps inspired by Genesis 2:19 — has begun a process of renaming the policy issues formed of the air, land, and sea.  Under the ‘Call A Spade A Spade‘ policy, ‘asylum seekers’ (already a contentious term — are all people who arrive by boat seeking asylum?) will be called ‘illegal entrants’ (a term the minister assures us is analogous to ‘stolen goods’).  Shadow Immigration Minister, Richard Marles, complained about the terminology, stating that it was ‘language being used for a political purpose’ which ‘clouds the debate and it acts to work against trying to achieve bipartisanship in the area of immigration policy.’  He didn’t explain what he meant by implying that language could be used for a non-political purpose, or why bipartisanship was the most important goal of immigration policy. [Source]

One day, I’ll learn my lesson and be sufficiently wise to leave well enough alone.  That day’s not today.

Many people are — entirely understandably — outraged at the new terminology.  They believe — entirely incorrectly — that other words and phrases are more ‘neutral’ or more ‘correct’.  Blinded by outrage, they don’t see that the change in terminology provides an excellent opportunity for asylum seeker activists to change the course of the public discussion.

Continue reading “We clawed, we chained our hearts in vain… Why you should use the phrase ‘illegal entrants’ #auspol #asylumseekers”

Have some sympathy, and some taste… Re-imagining the role of the critic (ping @childers_g) #arts #auspol

English: Canberra Centre City Walk entrance wi...

Despite having a fraction of the population, Canberrans consume art like a major city.  I’d heard the statistic before — Andrew Leigh uses it to make a fascinating argument about the value of community — but this time I was hearing it in a different context: Jack Waterford, editor-at-large of the Canberra Times, was framing a conversation about the role of the critic.  If Canberra has such an appetite for the arts, where are the critics?  What is their role?  How do they link artists to audiences?  And — perhaps most strangely — why does Canberra lose its critics to the larger cities, Melbourne and Sydney?

If you ever get the chance to hear Waterford talk, take up the opportunity.  Even when he’s dead wrong, he’s engaging and thought-provoking.  I’m still mulling over ideas and it’s now several hours since I saw him talk as part of a panel hosted by the Childers Forum here in Canberra: The Role of the Critic.

Continue reading “Have some sympathy, and some taste… Re-imagining the role of the critic (ping @childers_g) #arts #auspol”

Quick Post: On how @prestontowers’ ‘The Link’ shows what’s wrong with politics #auspol

Over on AusOpinion, Preston Towers suggests a new political party called ‘The Link’ (link broken):

The Link would be a wholly more positive and welcoming name for a new party with a new approach to advocating a progressive line of thought.

The policies of The Link would be unashamedly “leftist” and be unfettered by the compromises and pragmatism that parties like the Greens and the ALP have had to negotiate over the past few years.  I can’t imagine The Link would ever go into a coalition with a Major Party in the way the Greens have in Canberra and Tasmania.  That would help their policy purity considerably. [Source]

‘Unfettered’ by ‘compromises and pragmatism’.  Right.  Because that’s what we need, yet another party ‘unfettered’ by ‘compromises and pragmatism’.  Over on Twitter, he qualifies the merit of his new party:

But within this short sketch of a proposal is a problem that reflects broader issues within Australian politics.  What does it mean to be ‘unashamedly “leftist”‘?

Continue reading “Quick Post: On how @prestontowers’ ‘The Link’ shows what’s wrong with politics #auspol”

Does the dispute between RadFems and the Trans-community reflect a genuine dilemma? (A reply to @cheshireb)

Whenever I try to write about something that’s potentially fraught, I dispense with my usual custom of quoting song lyrics.  Once again, we’re in the territory of discussing something that invariably results in somebody getting really upset and everybody feeling worse off for the experience.

When I wrote about the Festival of Dangerous Ideas and how the controversy market has squashed our ability to engage meaningfully with genuinely ‘dangerous’ ideas, Fatima Measham asked me what ‘dangerous idea’ would I like to see explored at FODI.

I’ve written before about a particular form of privilege: the assumed right to stay disengaged from the problems of others:

It is in this way that we can start to discuss privilege.  As a straight white guy, I can ‘win’ these discussions in two ways.  First, I can simply refuse to engage with them.  Somebody’s saying something that makes me uncomfortable?  I can ignore them.  I have the ability to pick and choose conversations which suit me in a way that marginalised people can’t.  More than that, I can instigate conversations to an increased degree than marginalised people can’t.

Second, I can further marginalise people who try to raise these conversations.  Are you saying something which confronts my intuitions about the world?  I’ll mock you and make you a figure of ridicule rather than engage with your ideas.  Checkmate, Holmes. [Source]

For me, the Dangerous Ideas are precisely these ones — the ones which the vast majority of people keep at arm’s length, passively suppress, and refuse to engage.  Unfortunately, actually confronting people with things they don’t want to hear doesn’t end up selling tickets to events.   Continue reading “Does the dispute between RadFems and the Trans-community reflect a genuine dilemma? (A reply to @cheshireb)”