|For those who do not understand why the male flowchart has no "yes" option for abstinence, click here.|
Feminists tell me that the movement and its advocacy are about promoting female autonomy, independence, and strength... our right to make our own choices and live by them...
...until we get pregnant. Then, all bets are off. We're not autonomous. We're not independent. We're not strong, and our choices are meaningless. Instead of living by them, we're to demand that others pay for our decisions. We're to hold others responsible. Cry victim, and let loose the dogs of court!
The mental process behind this apparent change of heart is one of twisted and self-serving rationalization. How else can anyone, after making a broad series of choices, each along the way requiring the confrontation of an unwanted possibility, taking the path of greater risk with no preventative measures, ignoring the opportunity to eliminate the outcome, passing up multiple avenues of escape, then demand restitution from the person she left behind six or seven decisions ago?
Frequently, I'm confronted with the argument that if a man doesn't want to be saddled with a support order, he shouldn't have sex, should have his genitals surgically altered for birth control purposes, or should wear a condom. Feminists make these arguments as if the man somehow miraculously impregnated the woman without her participation. There she was, blithely going about her business, walked past the wrong horny asshole, and BAM! Where the heck did this baby come from?
My objection to the responsible man argument is one which I think should be readily apparent, but recent discussion has demonstrated to me that to many, it is not. In deciding to write about it, I struggled to come up with an artistic representation of how I see this, without graphic depictions which I see as unnecessary to the discussion. Huge thanks to my friend Mitschu for reminding me that flow charts exist and for the link to Lucidchart.com, where the charts in the graphic for this entry were made.
As the graphic shows, the process by which we arrive at the situation used to justify a court-ordered payment from the father to the mother is one which is predominantly controlled by the mother. By no means is the circumstance of being the primary caregiver for a child an involuntary circumstance for her. It is certainly not one which can reasonably be considered to be inflicted by the father, given the series of steps taken between the moments prior to participating in sexual intercourse and the moment when the mother files a support claim. How, then, do those who oppose the idea of a paternal parental surrender equal in effect to maternal "safe-haven" abandonment justify their position?
They resort to the same series of logic fails used to justify other feminist positions.
This begins with the Gatekeeper to Consent argument, which considers the pursuit of sexual gratification to be one directional. Men are assumed to have only the option of pursuit. Women are assumed to have only the option to refuse or relent, with relent being an inflicted condition rather than a voluntary one, as indicated by the perception not that the woman decided she was interested, but that the man talked her into it. This is the basis for beginning the debater's argument, "If a man has sex," rather than "If a couple has sex." The wording is designed to limit responsibility to the man right from the beginning.
It continues with the Appeal to the Helplessness Charge. The Helplessness Charge is the feminist requirement of assumption that during any given experience, the woman has no alternative option to letting events progress unchallenged. If options are acknowledged, feminists accuse the debater of blaming the victim. What they really mean by this accusation is that the debater is threatening the status of victim, as having viable alternatives to suffering a condition or experience moves the individual from the status of victim to the status of participant. No one feels sorry enough for a participant to give her any power or restitution for any suffering she might claim as a result of her participation.
The point at which the debater in this argument appeals to that charge is in only offering the admonition that the male should have used either surgical or prophylactic birth control. This is the use of misdirection to limit the perception of options. It focuses on the few options available to the male participant, while ignoring a wealth of more effective options available to the female.
Further, it ignores the very arguments in the debate over the feasibility and potential value of a male form of ingestible hormonal birth control. The idea of hormonal birth control for men was protested and dismissed under the thin argument that men would lie about being on it or forget to take it, and in doing so trick women into having unprotected sex. The proposal of a male pill has been treated as an attack on female reproductive control. Bloggers and commenters even discussed the topic as if the addition of a male birth control pill to the mix would somehow eliminate women's concurrent use of birth control. In the course of discussions on the topic, the thought that women shouldn't be expected or required to leave birth control up to men has been repeatedly expressed.
This takes us to the culmination of the sex act, when both sexes have had equal opportunity to prevent pregnancy. Each partner could have abstained. Each partner could have used birth control. Each even had the chance to make the use of more than one method a condition upon which consent was contingent. For the sake of argument, let's say that it doesn't matter what choices were made, because pregnancy can happen in spite of birth control. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that birth control was used and failed. It can reasonably be argued that at the moment of conception, neither partner is any more or any less at fault for the situation. Neither party is exempt from responsibility. If the options stop at this point, with no other chance to alter the situation, then it would be reasonable to expect both parties to bear equal culpability, and equal rights. Neither parent should be considered more or less responsible based on gender. If this was the circumstance being addressed, arguments against paternal parental surrender would have merit.
Since that is not how things are, they do not.
After the moment of conception, the father's options stop. Under the feminist "My Body, My Choice" argument, the father is given no right to decide whether the pregnancy may progress, or must be terminated. To this end, she has immediate options, short-term options, and surgical options. The father has no say in these options. He cannot prevent them, and he cannot enforce them. He may not make even minor decisions related to the impending birth of his offspring. The purpose of stating that fact is not as an indictment of it, but simply the establishment of an important understanding: The statement does not judge or condemn. It only points out that this is how things are.
Any decision made after the conception of a baby, whether that is to continue or not, is made by the mother, and only by the mother. The feminist argument "My Body, My Choice" deserves to be answered with, "Your Choice, Your Responsibility." If the father chooses to be in agreement with the mother in her decision, it's reasonable to expect him to back that up by offering equal support, sharing the expense and effort involved in whatever mutual choice is made, whether it be abortion or birth. If the two parties are in opposition, however, the mother's choice legally trumps that of the father. It is therefore unjust to assign him responsibility for that choice. If the mother chooses to be in disagreement with the father in his wishes regarding the pregnancy, it is reasonable to expect her to back that up by supporting that choice on her own. She should not have the right to demand assistance financing her choice from an individual who is in opposition to the choice she is making.
There are those who argue that not awarding the mother a child support payment would force her to have an abortion if she fears that she will be unable to financially support herself and the baby. This is a false argument, which depends on the person to whom it is presented being distracted by feelings of sympathy.
Having the right to make a choice does not equal having the right to have someone fund that choice. Lack of funds does not equal force. The legal choice is still there. No one is telling the mother that she is required to travel to an abortion clinic, go through the pre-op precess, sign her consent, pay for the procedure, and have it done. No one is telling her that she is not permitted to make a different selection from the available options following birth: claiming full custody, shared custody with or custodial surrender to family, open or closed adoption, or safe-haven abandonment. Feminist arguments in this area can be simplified to the following: But those choices are hard. Making those choices is emotionally challenging and can be emotionally painful. Backing that choice up financially will be hard work. A woman shouldn't have to go through all of that. You only want to punish her for having sex.
The same advocates who argue that men should be saddled with a potentially crippling, often arbitrary financial burden as punishment for their lack of forethought in having insufficiently protected sex with a fertile woman actually argue that women should be exempt from the emotional consequences of our actions despite an equal lack of forethought in having insufficiently protected sex with a fertile man.
Women are not entitled to force anyone to pay for our choices just because we are women.
Choice extends beyond pregnancy, after childbirth, when the mother's choices include four possible ways of not accepting caregiver status. The first possibility hinges on whether the father wants custody. Certainly, if the mother feels burdened by the circumstance of parenthood, and the father wants to step in and take responsibility, he should have that right. In fact, in a truly gender equal legal system, even if there is a custody dispute because both parents want to take responsibility, then from birth, both parents should start out with an equal chance of being awarded custody, and an equal burden of proof in determining which living arrangement would be more beneficial for the baby. In a situation like that, following a situation in which birth control and abortion choices were equal, and in which expectations and enforcement of support would be equal regardless of who had custody, it would be reasonable to expect a father who declines to take custody of his child to back up that choice with support.
Since that is not the case, as the mother does not have to recognize the father's choice related to birth, that is not a reasonable expectation. Further, the father is given little or no say in who does act as a caregiver. By creating a series of hoops for him to jump through, states limit the rights of fathers to challenge adoption or safe haven abandonment if the mother chooses to exercise either option without his consent. The father's rights are further limited if he and the mother are not married, and the mother chooses not to even tell him about the pregnancy. Under the My Body, My Baby fallacy, some women feel entitled to bypass fathers' rights to choose to take a caregiving role in their children's lives.
Even if the first two (relinquishing custody to the father or to family) are not available due to lack of willing participants, that still leaves two other choices. Given the removal of "relinquish custody to the father" as an option, there should be no challenge from him should she opt for adoption or "safe-haven" abandonment. In fact, even a father who wants custody may find it difficult to prevent adoption. Regardless, the mother is not legally required to claim custody and financial responsibility after birth. There is no outside entity which will make her choice for her. As with the decision to carry and give birth, the decision of the mother to retain or relinquish custody following birth is a unilateral personal choice. The making of such a choice does not entitle one to demand supporting funds from an individual who had no part in the decision.
Under today's system of medicine, law, and policy, a woman's condition of custodial motherhood is a not just a choice, but a step-by-step series of choices, for the majority of which the father does not have anything even close to an equivalent. A woman's reproductive and custody options far outnumber those of a man. In addition, some of her rights are considered greater than his, and some trump or eliminate his. Men have traditionally had little recourse when their reproductive or custody rights have been violated by women. It is therefore inexcusable to assign blame to the man for the results of the woman's decision, and even more so to enforce upon him a financial payment to her for making that decision. This is why, in an unwed parenting situation, there needs to be an option for fathers who truly wish to walk away, have nothing to do with the mother or the child, and not pay any restitution to the mother. If true equality is what feminists seek, they should have no problem with the concept of parental surrender applied to paternity, where from any point prior to conception to the moment he decides whether or not to sign a custody and/or support agreement, the father could sever all paternal ties, rights, and responsibilities the same way a woman can when allowing adoption or using a safe-haven drop-off location.