Friday, June 13, 2008

Why Pro-Choice Shouldn't Be a Feminist Issue

Sex-segregation in the labor market is important issue for women; pro-choice is not.

(1) It's easy to avoid having a baby; it's difficult to avoid getting stuck doing pink-collar shit work.

To avoid having a baby all you have to do is use effective birth control. It's affordable, readily available, and the odds of contraceptive failure are minimal. It's much more difficult and expensive to avoid pink-collar shit work. You have to get at least a BA, which is time-consuming and very expensive, and even then there's still a significant risk that you could end up as a secretary or teacher. To get the level of protection against pink-collar shit work comparable to the level of protection contraceptives provide against having a baby you either have to get that BA in engineering or a hard science or else get a post-graduate professional degree, which is even more difficult and more expensive than getting a generic BA.

(2) You can easily avoid raising a baby; you can't easily avoid pink-collar shit work.

If you have an unplanned baby, you can easily get rid of it. You can leave it at the hospital, at a police station or firehouse or at a church--no questions asked. Or you can sell it. Or, best of all, you can dump the kid on the father. First stop on the way home from the hospital--the baby-daddy: "Here's your kid: take care of it. Maybe I'll pop by from time to time to see how it's doing and, if I feel like it, send you some money. Bye." Even if you give birth to an unplanned child, raising it is a free choice--you can easily avoid it. By contrast, you cannot easily avoid pink-collar shit-work. You cannot choose to get a job--getting a job depends on whether a potential employer will hire you. If you don't have one of those expensive degrees and can't get a guy job then your only option is pink-collar shit-work.

The suggestion that abortion is an important feminist issue assumes that it is not feasible for women who have unwanted children to avoid raising them. And the assumption behind this is that women "bond" with their babies and that giving a baby up to be raised by someone else is just too, too, traumatic. That's plain old sexism. Men regularly abandon their children. There's no reason why women shouldn't do that too. Raising a baby is a choice; doing pink-collar shit-work isn't a choice. Women are forced to do that work because they can't get male-identified jobs. The aim of feminism is to see to it that women have a wider range of options--not to see to it that they aren't penalized for making "feminine" choices.

"Why can't a woman be more like a man?" Henry Higgins asked. Because women aren't treated like men, because they don't have the same options and, in particular, because they can't get the same jobs. Women don't do blue-collar jobs because they can't get them, don't apply for these jobs because they know they'll feel like fools for applying and not get them anyway, and don't train for skilled blue-collar jobs because they know that they won't be hired and so their time and money will be wasted. De facto, most women have no choice when it comes to jobs and the aim of feminism should be to fix that. They do have a choice when it comes to raising children and if they choose not to behave like men in this regard they don't deserve any sympathy.

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