Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Gender Snowball

A Gender Snowball
© 2006 Ross Williams

Here's a bit of news that may startle: women have more options than men do.

Pause here if you need to catch your breath.

Women can be corporate ladder-climbers; women can also retreat behind the walls of a man's castle. There are enough men out there, and more, who are willing – some exclusively so – to have a woman behind the walls of his castle that women who desire to be kept in the keep shouldn't be alone for long. Men are even importing women to keep behind their walls because the domestic supply is drying up.

Men can't retreat behind the walls of a woman's castle. Not very often. First, there aren't many women willing to keep a man. Are there, Mr Streisand? Second, even when men find such a woman, they get people like me mocking them every chance available. Don't they, Mr Spears?

Women can get law or business or hard science degrees and turn it into a lucrative profession; women can get degrees in Russian Literature and then grouse to everyone around because their career advancements aren't coming at the same pace as those men[1] who got degrees in law, business or hard science and, by complaining, compel unwarranted career advances. A woman’s inappropriate educational choices are obviously the fault of someone other than the woman, and should in no way impact her or her life. They're being kept down by da man which, often, is all men in general, since no man specifically held a gun to the idiot chick's head and forced her to enroll in a worthless degree program.

If a man makes an inappropriate educational choice, he becomes a manager at Denny's or lives in his parents' basement – or both. And the rest of the world tells him impolitely to shut the hell up if he complains. You're the one with the Art History degree trying to find the elusive 6-figure entry-level position. Your choice, buttwad, not mine. Grow up and kwicherbichin.

Say that to the woman with the Russian Lit degree? Better hire a loyyer.

To declare that women also have more reproductive options than men do really shouldn't be stretching anyone's credulity too far, either. Women get pregnant but want to dodge the responsibility of raising a child? There's adoption. If they also want to dodge the responsibility[2] of pregnancy and delivery, there's also abortion.

Men get a woman pregnant? They are given two options and one choice: option one, support the child if the woman chooses to have it; option two, support the woman's choice to abort if she doesn't. His lone choice: do what the woman wants.

This is where the sneering and sanctimonious gender-based fun starts. The typical woman, always able to spot and pontificate on the incredibly obvious, will inform us that men can't get pregnant – are the presses sufficiently stopped? – so therefore abortion is not really the purview of a male.

It’s the reciprocal curse of biology, we are told. Women get pregnant, men get the bills. It is ironic that the people telling us about this curse of biological imperative are usually those who refuse to concede innate biological differences between men and women that manifest themselves in, say, a greater ability among men for complex mathematics, or, say again, a greater ability among women for detailed handiwork. Let’s just leave the fundamental feminist hypocrisies for a later discussion.

Apart from the conclusion of “men have no valid post-conception input” not logically following from the premise of “women are the only ones who get pregnant”, there's the uncomfortable implication that men have no valid input into the reproductive rights debate at all. Reproduction, as women in general and certain types of women loudly and particularly will tell us, takes place in, on and upon women. They are burdened by reproductive responsibility. All the work is theirs.

According to certain women.

So therefore men can just piss up a rope. Apparently.

While that might be an amusing frat-house activity after consuming much beer, it doesn't much help in these circumstances. It's sorta like saying that women can't aim while they pee – as in pissing up a rope – therefore women have no legitimate use for rope. The conclusion does not follow from the premise.

The premises are undeniably true: men can't get pregnant and women can't aim while they pee. But the conclusions we want to draw from those facts are based entirely on selfish, subjective and political desires, and not much else.

We exclude men from the reproductive rights debate simply because it is convenient to do so. We wish to frame reproductive rights as a women's issue, therefore we do. Therefore, whenever men talk about reproductive rights and ask, "Hey! Where's mine?!" he is only doing so in order to somehow interfere with a woman and her rights. Because men just have to be the boss.

Two can play that game: the plethora of choices belonging to women and the disparate limitations placed upon men's choices are there only because women are truly the boss and want to keep it that way.

Isn't sanctimonious presumption fun?

Unless petulant feminist grousing has succeeded where religious legislation has failed, science is still dominated by science and not dictatorial fiat: it takes a man and a woman to accomplish human reproduction. We've managed to make sex sometimes clinical and irrelevant, but we still need one of each in the clinic to not have the sex that leads to the reproduction.

We are, biologically, equal going into reproduction. Politically, we are required to be treated equally, given, if not the same opportunities, then an appropriate equivalence. Think ADA or potty parity. The law can't make a legless man able to climb a mountain, but it can give him a ramp for his wheelchair. The law can't make women pee in whip-it-out mass micturation, but it can require enough toilets that the lavatory throughput rate is the same for both sexes.

So, given biological equality going in, and required political equality regardless, why do women get the choices and men are left pissing up the rope? And what's to be done about it?

That's what Matt Dubay is wanting to know, and he's going to court to ask the question.[3] Millions of other men want to know, as well. As do some women. I've been predicting this for over a decade, myself.

The situation in a nutshell: Matt and an ex-girlfriend are the unwed parents of a child. The ex-girlfriend chose not to abort, which means that she chose to make Matt pay her money for 18 or more years. Matt claims that despite her choosing not to abort, she still had the option, whereas he did not. He didn't even have anything equivalent.

So even though biology requires equality in order to reproduce, and our laws require equality in everything anyway, Matt ended up pissing up the rope.

Now the feminist/traditionalist position will be: "Matt needs to take responsibility for his actions". Okay, that's fine. But we have legal equality in this country, and that means so does his ex-girlfriend; the same legal requirements must be given to all parties. So the feminist/traditionalist will next argue: "But she is taking responsibility...".

But she didn't have to. The same legal requirements did not exist for both. There were legal avenues available to her that were not available to him. Specifically, abortion and adoption.

And the feminist/traditionalist argument next asks: "Are you trying to deny a woman the right to control her own body...?"

Nope. Not at all. But the feminist/traditionalist is arguing to deny the man the right to control his. Whenever the subject of abortion rears its ugly little head[4] and someone suggests that things are not equal, the inevitable response from the pro-abortion shrill squawkers is: "You want to reverse Roe!!!" Nope. We want to make Roe apply to both parties necessary in reproduction.

When women can reproduce by themselves and will rely upon no one else for the consequences of reproduction, short-term as well as long-term, then and only then can the woman have an exclusive lock on the rights associated with reproduction. To do less denies, first, biological imperative and, second, legal equality.

I've had this discussion countless times with people speaking on behalf of feminism or legal traditionalism. Many, particularly in the legal traditionalist ideology, will say, "Yeah, I understand it may not seem fair to this one guy ... but it's less fair to the rest of society to pick up his responsibility for him."

Is it fair to the rest of society to have to pay for building more ladies restrooms in places where women don't generally go just because movie theaters have long lines of women waiting to pee? Is it fair to burden the rest of society with the hundreds of billions of dollars of reconstruction costs to make the entire world "handicapped accessible"?

Many people believe it is fair. Women and cripples shouldn't have to be shunted off to the side, they say, just to get the same treatment as others. So the legless man can now take his wheelchair to the top of Mt McKinley, and all the peep shows on Times Square have twice as many ladies restrooms as men’s. And all it cost was the rest of society to pick up the tab.

The "it's not fair to the rest of society" argument is vacant and meaningless. Why are we suddenly concerned about society now, when men’s reproductive rights are on the table, when we weren’t concerned about the consequences to society before any of the critical phases which led to one and a half million abortions a year – a figure that even pro-abortion activists routinely declare is too many?

There's any number of things that aren't fair to the rest of society but we still do them. One airline passenger in a hundred million has a box cutter that he will use to turn the plane into a makeshift guided missile, so the rest of society is required to pay higher fees and more taxes to hire officious weenies who make everyone stand in long lines which treat them as if they were all box cutter-wielding terrorists. How fair is that?

The rest of society be damned. We have equal rights in this country. If women get a post-conception choice to be parents or not, then so do men. And if you don't mind me saying so[5], I find it more than a little duplicitous[6] for those who argue against male choice to phrase the issue in terms of the man just wanting to avoid responsibility.

How many are willing to say that a woman seeking an abortion is trying to evade responsibility? They exist, but who are they? In short, they are the ones carrying signs in front of abortion clinics and screaming at pregnant women. We've come full circle. The supporters of abortion rights have adopted the tactics of their enemy when the subject becomes extending those rights to others ... as a nation with Equal Rights® requires.

If a fetus is, as pro-choice requires us to believe, just a mass of cells that has no rights of its own until it is born – thus allowing abortion – then they should have absolutely no problem with the man who was 50% responsible for creating that mass of zero-rights cells from disavowing himself of those cells – as one-point-five million women literally do annually. And what's more, our courts, which are obliged to impose "equal treatment under the law" regardless of consequences[7] should have even less of a problem with the man walking away.

Freedom means walking away when we want.

Women walk away from abortion clinics every day. But when women don’t walk away from abortion clinics…? When they don’t walk away because they never walk into them…?

They are left with a child. And that child costs money. Again, another unassailable fact. Kids cost, sometimes out the wazoo.

This creates a dilemma. Where does the money come from? Legal traditionalists will tell us: the parents. Fifty-percent woman, fifty-percent man. A whole legal-bureaucratic industry has sprung up to define what “fifty-percent” is, and why a man’s fifty-percent is largely all cash and a woman’s fifty-percent is largely anything but. This legal-bureaucratic industry is long on rationalization and short on Constitutional justification.

We are Constitutionally required to treat everyone the same; that’s not debatable. Equal treatment under the law is so important to us we put it in there twice, just to make sure we could get it through our thick heads.

We don’t require unwed women-parents to fork over cash for their own children, why do we make unwed father-parents do so? The answer is: because we can, and we hide it under the pretentious and sanctimonious phrases of “responsibility” and “accountability”. Yet, unless we do the same to the mothers that we do to the fathers[8], we are creating an unequal treatment under the law.

Okay, let’s suppose that we make unwed women-parents cough up cash, send it to the state only to be sent back to them, thus treating all unwed parents the same across gender boundaries. We will not be treating divorced parents like unwed parents.

Grrr. Alright, let’s just suppose that we make new laws and bureaucratic rules that require divorced mothers to send some of their money to the state each month just so it can be sent back to them, thus treating divorced mothers and unwed fathers and divorced fathers and unwed mothers all identically… We still won’t be treating them the way we treat “parents”.

Homes where Mommy and Daddy come home from work, make dinner, eat it at the table, play with little Susie and little Bobby, help them with their homework, read them a bedtime story and kiss them goodnight aren’t required to send cash to the state so it can be sent back to them to pay for raising the kids. We assume that’s what the parents will do without prodding.

We all recall what happens when we make assumptions.

The only thing that all parents are required to provide their kids are:
1] adequate food;
2] adequate clothing; and
3] adequate shelter.

Within those vague guidelines there’s a lot of wiggle room, and notably absent from these requirements are cash values. The entire concept of “child support” is – or should be – Constitutional anathema. As long as a child is “adequately” cared for, the government has no justification in stepping in and laying down specific requirements such as: “you must spend – or send – ‘X’ dollars on raising this child”. If the government doesn’t do that for parents of intact families, they have no business doing that for parents of non-intact families. “Equal protection”.

For the sake of making yet another point, let’s accept for the space of the next several paragraphs that the concept of “child support” is a valid legal construct under our Constitution. How is child support determined? What happens if it isn’t provided?

Child support is determined by a fairly superficial method called, in most places, the “income shares model”, which relies heavily upon statistical chicanery.[9] In short, Ozzie and Harriet spend ‘X’-percent of their income raising one child, ‘Y’-percent raising two children, etc, therefore the law demands parents of non-intact families to use that same percentage of their income, without deviation, to devote to their children – a large share of which is presumed to be for holiday gifts.

But the law assumes[10] that the mother, by virtue of having the child live in her home the vast majority of the time, is paying her share without actually paying it. The law requires only the father to pay it.[11] This constitutes unequal protection.

When Ozzie and Harriet do not meet their “income shares” statistically average expenditures, does Ozzie go to jail? No he does not. We simply say, “ah, well, y’know, parents don’t have to spend that much … it’s only the national average.” If Ozzie and Harriet are atheist and don’t celebrate Christmas, Easter and Halloween, or Hanukah, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we don’t thrown them in jail for not using the portion of “income shares” averages for gifts. We dismiss it as “parental rights” to raise their children as self-important heathen.

When a divorced or never-married mother doesn’t spend her “income shares” portion on the child, we similarly declare it to be the untouchable bailiwick of parental authority.

When a divorced or never-married father doesn’t “spend” his “income shares” portion? There’s court; there’s garnishment; there’s attachment; there’s jail. With attachment or jail there’s also a felony criminal record that trails behind. The divorced or never-married father is not granted the same parental authorities every other parent in the country is granted: the authority to say “I don’t believe my child needs to have a Sony Game Cube®.” Unequal protection.

The common rejoinder here is “But he’s responsible!!” Aye, that he is. But what of it? As long as the child is provided what the laws require of all parents, there is nothing – under equal protection – that can, or should, be done about it. Again, we don’t criminalize Ozzie and Harriet, who are just as responsible, because they don’t buy Ricky Nelson the Frankie Avalon records he wants. Food on his plate, clothes on his back and a roof over his head are all that Ricky needs, and all that can be demanded from his parents.

Even when the basic minimums are not provided, it is rare that criminal charges are ever applied. If the school nurse sees Ricky Nelson and determines that he’s undernourished and not dressed for the weather, she’ll kick off an investigation after which Ozzie and Harriet will likely only be sternly scolded and warned to feed their kids and dress them appropriately. On rare occasions, and only after much legal wrangling, Ricky may wind up in foster care, living with Ward and June Cleaver. Essentially, the government will have said Ozzie and Harriet haven’t got a clue on how to be parents so their parental rights are stripped. But they still don’t go to jail.

And neither does the divorced or never-married mother who cannot feed or clothe or shelter her kids.[12]

When the divorced or never-married father doesn’t provide what it costs to get the kids’ Christmas or Hanukah gifts, we take him to court, take his money or, if he has no money, throw him in jail. When the divorced or never-married father doesn’t provide what it costs to feed, clothe and shelter the kids we take him to court, take his money or, if he has no money, throw him in jail.

Being “responsible” is a self-righteous dodge when it’s not applied equally. And it’s not being applied equally.

The concept of throwing the father in jail for non-support is fraught with Constitutional problems, especially. In late January of 2004, Joseph Smith was in a Florida court being scolded for being in violation of his parole. He had been arrested on some drug charges, and one of the conditions of his parole was that he pay restitution to somebody or other, and pay fines and quite possibly court costs. The only thing was: he wasn’t paying his fines. Hence his court appearance for parole violation. He walked out of court just as much in violation of parole as he was when he walked in.

On February 1st, he raped and murdered Carlie Bruscia. A few days later he was caught and confessed. Almost immediately it was learned that he’d been in court just a few days earlier not being thrown into jail for violating parole. The judge presiding over the parole hearing said at the time that “the United States does not allow debtor prisons”…

…except when it comes to non-support.

We rationalize throwing the father into jail for failure or refusal to follow the orders of the judge – for contempt of court. Yet, Smith failed and/or refused to follow the judge’s order to pay his fines and restitutions and whatnot, and the judge couldn’t throw him in jail – which would have saved Carlie Bruscia’s life – because “the United States does not allow debtor prisons.” When the contempt of court consists of not coughing up cash, of being in debt, we are not allowed to use jail for punishment or remedy unless you’re a father.

So, unless you’re mentally retarded, you understand the uncomfortable corner that the legal-traditionalists have painted themselves into here. There isn’t a single aspect of reproductive rights – either in the denial of reproduction, or in the commission of reproduction – in which the playing field is anywhere close to level. Women own it. What’s more, they know they own it, and they aren’t, as a political force, giving an inch.

Those who speak for women’s political group-think will trivialize challenges to the status quo as attempts to turn back abortion rights, or impoverish women, or as harmful to children. They will dismiss attempts to get equal reproductive rights with “He shoulda kept it in his pants.”

But here’s the thing: so should she have. If he shoulda kept it in his pants if he didn’t want the repercussions, she shouldn’ta let it in her pants ditto. We grant her the ability to get it out of her pants long after it’s been left there, but we don’t allow the same for him. Unequal protection.

There are consequences. And there are ways to mitigate consequences. Our current laws grant women all the mitigations and assign men disproportionate consequences.

Those who vapidly dismiss equality in reproductive rights with “he shoulda kept it in his pants” are making an anti-abortion argument. Something tells me they haven’t thought the parallels completely through. Yes, there’s the “it’s her body” argument. And it’s a fine argument that I have absolutely no quibble with.

It’s just that this principle isn’t being equally applied, as required by our legal principles. We’re back to equal protection of the law. The father has a body as well. The mother’s body is used for nine months as a gestation-mobile. Then for roughly 18 years as a caretaker which, as we’ve seen, has vague and ill-defined performance guidelines at best. If she does a tremendous job she’ll be treated the same as if she does a lousy job.

The father, on the other hand, has well-defined parameters applied to him: he must use his body for 18 years in a remunerative trade through which he provides a specific amount of cash to the mother. He will have no assurance save the assumption[13] imposed by the courts that the mother is even using the money for the purpose it is being provided – again, there are no specific requirements placed upon her.

Her: body used for 9 months during which she has the opportunity to mitigate the consequences before birth as well as after; if unmitigated, 18 years of requirement-less caretaking.

Him: no options for mitigation of consequences; body used for 18 years as a labor-for-cash machine.[14]

We are in clear violation of equal protection.

Equal protection of the laws is a national constant, and it will ultimately be the fulcrum upon which our legal landscape rests on this issue, despite the faltering and politically-charged invectives that fly around while the dust is settling. Eventually men and women will have equivalent reproductive rights. The only question is: on which side of the liberty scale will those equivalent rights be located?

If the equivalent rights are to be located on the “he shoulda kept it in his pants” side, then say goodbye to abortion rights, ladies. You shoulda kept it out of your pants in the first place; you didn’t, so now live with it.

If the equivalent rights are to be located on the side which allows the mitigation of consequences, then say hello to “Roe for Men”.

Again, men cannot get pregnant. Therefore they cannot abort.

Women are not the property of, or legally subordinate to, any man. Therefore a man cannot compel a woman to abort.

But women have several means to mitigate unwanted reproduction; a man has zero. Roe for Men will get here sooner or later; it is inevitable[15]. When it arrives, it will probably be equivalent to adoption, which unmarried pregnant women have been doing on their own for centuries. Even today, with laws that prohibit it, unmarried pregnant women are still unilaterally adopting out their children.

And men are left pissing up a rope.

[1] and women, too, but let's forget about them
[2] not to mention the pain, discomfort and the plain old annoying lifestyle disruption
[3] http://www.cnn.com/2006/LAW/03/08/fatherhood.suit.ap/index.html
[4] if you'll pardon the imagery
[5] and even if you do... especially if you do
[6] substitute freely with hypocritical, disingenuous or plain old liar, liar pants on fire
[7] witness Plessy v Ferguson or Brown v Board for consequences
[8] or, conversely, not do to the fathers what we don’t do to the mothers
[9] http://www.supportguidelines.com/book/chap1b.html
[10] there’s that word again
[11] Once again, I am fully aware that there are custodial fathers in this country. But custodial fathers are, even at present, a single-digit percentage of single-parent householders, and thus they are tokens. I refuse to discuss the subject of non-intact families using the terminology of equality until there is some equality manifest. Tokenism does not count any more today with fathers than it counted in the 60s with working women or in the 50s with blacks.
[12] Such parents only go to jail when the child dies. Divorced or never-married fathers go to jail when the child doesn’t get Nintendo®.
[13] and there’s that word yet again
[14] if anyone can give me a valid and unrationalized distinction between this and the 13th Amendment-violating “involuntary servitude” please drop me a line…
[15] again, the alternative, under Equal Protection, is the elimination of abortion rights


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