Monday, February 4, 2008

Maybe this is why I hate labels

Ed has an interesting post about how it is both lazy and incorrect to simply label someone misogynist for being against abortion - and he lists other contexts for such labeling as well.

I commented there, but I'll briefly recap. As I commented:

I think this is something that needs to be pointed out more. I've been accused of being a mysognist by certain feminists simply for disagreeing with them, heck, even for not completely toeing the line where I agree with them. It seems like 'mysoginy' is an overused word, in general. I somehow don't think there are as many people out there "hating women" as the use of that word would imply. Heck, one can even be a sexist jerk without necessarily hating women.

But as [Ed said], it is easier to label someone with something that you can then safely ignore as "evil" and not worth listening to than it is to actually adress the content of what someone says. In times past I saw a similar phenomenon with debates I had with those of the more right-wing bent - their dirty word is now 'liberal' so they labeled everything and anything they disagreed with as 'liberal' or they'd label you a 'liberal' and then you could be safely ignored as automatically discredited.

I think it is better to try and address issues than just slap labels, especially where labels are so loaded. Labels like 'racist' or 'misogynist' basically brand someone as almost irredeemably evil in our society - which is part of why I in the past have so loudly protested the overuse and misuse of these words. It is not particularly helpful, for instance, to label all white people racist - all that does is piss people off and frankly, anyone who does that has lost rather a lot of credibility in my eyes to even discuss the issue of racism. Not to mention the fact that labeling an entire race with a term of 'evil' is itself probably a racist thing to do.

So it is better not to use labels, if you can avoid it. It is better to deal with people as individuals. I will use labels people have self-identified with, but even there, I will point out where a label might have problems of its own (as I've suggested in the past with the 'feminist' label).


The Barefoot Bum said...

Sure, labels are over-used. But they're also useful. Instead of complaining about the label, perhaps Ed could give us something better than an argument from incredulity why preferring the rights of a collection of cells to a woman's autonomy should not be considered misogynist.

DBB said...

To be fair, it is more than just a collection of cells if you are talking beyond the start of the first trimester. But then again, I suppose the anti-abortion activists, by wanting to outlaw all abortion, are explicitly finding the zygote to possess rights over the host woman, so actually, nevermind, you are right, that is their argument.

The problem is, many people, particularly when it comes to religious things, don't really think these things out, they just repeat them by rote - 'abortion is murder' - without really thinking that it is, as evidenced by the documentary where a man goes and asks anti-abortion protesters about that - specifically, he asks, if abortion is murder, what should be the criminal penalty for a woman who gets an abortion? Most who were asked indicated that they had never really even thought about that before, then gave answers that sounded like they really did not want to treat abortion as murder at all, since they did not want to penalize the woman in the way a murderer would be penalized - most did not want jail time for her at all. Which just goes to show that despite the slogans, most really haven't examined what they are really advocating. Which makes it hard for me to just label them allas 'women haters' when it is clear may of them really don't hate women in general and don't even seem to hate women who get abortions.

But if you just label them all women haters, when internally many of them know they really aren't, they are just going to ignore you. Which maybe you don't care - maybe you think they are beyond help or reason (and perhaps you are right about many or most of them in that regard if that is what you think) but some of them are not. Why not at least make an effort to reason with them and see if at least a few can be convinced?

Perhaps people just get into their mind the image of a baby being killed and that just shuts off their reason. There are strong insticts to protect children, particularly babies. Particularly if you have children of your own. Not everyone has them, but most people do. I feel it now with my daughter. If someone ever hurt her, I'd want to beat them to a bloody pulp. I would be thinking only of her, nothing else. So maybe people get all stuck up on the image of a baby dying and then their brains shut down and they don't stop to consider the woman (or anything else), not out of hatred, but out of an overemotional response to the notion of a baby being harmed.

In the end, I don't like labels like this because the label, to a great degree, presupposes the MOTIVES of those who are pro-life, and unless one is a mind reader, or unless there is a lot of specific evidence for a specific individual, motives are tough things to discern for sure.

You'll never convince someone they are in error if you just simply assume they have evil motives - particularly if you then decide it isn't worth trying to reason with them because they are evil and you can't reason with evil people.

Sure, there are loons it is a total waste of time to try to reason with - and once you've determined that they are loons, you just stop dealing with them. But not everyone on the opposite side is a total loon beyond all reason.

I try not to attribute to evil motives or conspiracy that which could be explained by simple incompetence, stupidity, laziness, or lack of reflection. Sometimes there are evil motives, but most of the time, I think it is more of the latter. Or at least I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt initially in dealing with someone.

And so in that spirit, I would not simply label all anti-abortion people as women-haters.