Monday, June 14, 2010

What is the point?

I have fairly good evidence that Lori Ziganto reads this blog, or at least my criticisms of her posts. And why not?  I frequently do vanity searches on Google. Why shouldn't she? Unfortunately, it has had no effect on her thinking—or her writing, anyway.

In her latest feminism-related post, Ziganto attacks Tina Brown for "smearing" conservative women who won primaries lest Tuesday, e.g., Nikki Haley, Carly Fiorina, and Meg Whitman. According to Brown, their wins are a "blow to feminism," since many of them are "against so many of things that women have fought for for such a long time."

Ziganto's response to Brown is perplexing. Ziganto writes, "Oh, really? I must inform you, Miss Brown, that I am a woman and these women represent the things that I fight for, as a person." There are a number of problems with this response:
  • Ziganto assumes that her views are representative of the views of all women.  What reason does she have to believe that? If we consider the issue of abortion, the polling does not appear to support her assumption.  While slightly more Americans call themselves pro-life than pro-choice, a majority of American believe that abortion should be legal in certain circumstances.  Only 19% of Americans believe that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.  Since Ziganto is pro-life, we have some reason not to believe that her views are representative of Americans.  
  • Ziganto is clearly opposed to what we might call the liberal feminist agenda. Ziganto has allied herself with conservative women like Sarah Palin. Surely, then, Ziganto and the politicians she supports are against what liberal feminists have fought for for such a long time, like legal abortion. So how can Ziganto assert that she and the politicians she support are fighting for women? Again by assuming that her views are representative of woman, and that liberal feminists have actually been fighting for things that women oppose. But as I have argued, she can't simply assume this. 
  • A related problem is this: when Brown says that conservative politicians are against things women have fought for, she is obviously making a claim which, if true, can only be generally true. Obviously, some women are opposed to the feminist agenda. But when Ziganto assumes that those anti-feminist women are representative of women in general, she does exactly the same thing she attacks Brown for doing, i.e., assuming that her views are representative of women in general. This is a standard conservative strategy: loudly and vigorously claim that your views are representative of the views of Americans, no matter what the polling indicates. We saw this constantly during the health care reform debate. What Ziganto needs to do is some research. What scientific evidence is there that her views are representative of women? Allow me to help you get started, Ziganto.  (And I know that you may immediately be attracted to your usual biased sources.  Just fight the urge to click on those, roll up your sleeves, and do some actual work, all right?)  
Ziganto is still claiming that the real goal of feminism is to transform women into "perpetual children," who "[rely] on protected victim status." I'm not sure why she keeps saying this, and I don't have the time to read all of her posts on the subject or read her obviously biased sources. But pointing out that women are still victims of present sexism and the legacy of past sexism is not tantamount to perpetuating the victimization of women, for if it were, any attempt to address injustice would simply compound the injustice. Did the drive to abolish slavery transform African-Americans into victims? Did the fight for women's suffrage transform women into victims? If we accept Ziganto's reasoning, then any struggle against injustice is actually evil! Ziganto is deploying another conservative strategy, which is to simply forcefully insist that one thing is actually its opposite. Once you see the reasoning for what it is, its ludicrousness is evident. Feminism is a struggle to end the victimization of women; it is not itself the victimization of women. How could the fight to make women equal before the law turn women into victims?

Ziganto also repeats her claim that feminism is harmful to women:
The leftist agenda, which is the femisogynist agenda, is harmful to all – men and women – but has been particularly harmful to women in one aspect. The pushing of the abortion agenda has done more to harm women and motherhood than anything in recent history. The entire pro-abortion movement has demeaned women by diminishing motherhood to the point that it is considered a punishment and a detriment and that a life itself can be an expendable inconvenience.
I have addressed a few of these points in several previous posts. But I would like to address one point here. Ziganto appears to believe (incorrectly) that feminists promote abortion without informing women of the risks. Ziganto can insist on the reality of post-abortion syndrome all she wants, but it simply does not exist, any more than post-cataract surgery syndrome exists, or post-appendectomy syndrome exists, as I have previously argued. Anyway, I would simply point out here that it is actually conservatives who are guilty of deceiving and manipulating women and using "Big Daddy government" to save women (from non-existent threats). So, for example, a law recently passed by Republican majorities in Oklahoma "requires women to undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before getting an abortion," according to the New York Times. Not only that, a second law "prevents women who have had a disabled baby from suing a doctor for withholding information about birth defects while the child was in the womb." What this means is this: if a doctor believes that a woman might abort if she is informed that her fetus has this or that defect, it is legal for the doctor to lie about that defect (by omission or otherwise), and the woman has no legal recourse. (So much for the importance of trust in the doctor-patient relationship.) Now, I ask you: who is treating women as if they are children or cattle? Ziganto says that she believes in small government, but that is a lie. (I'm in favor of big government, but at least I'm honest about it.) Ziganto would have the government in the examination room with you and your doctor, making decisions about your medical care for you, because neither your nor your doctor are competent to make medical and philosophical decisions on your own.

According to Ziganto's brand of "feminism,"
There is no need to constantly bring up gender as if that is why [female politicians] should win. Conservative women know that. They don’t rely on their gender to somehow protect them nor to get them ahead. They are, you know, grown-ups. They rely on themselves and on the love and support of their families and friends, not the government.
(Notice Ziganto's implication that liberal women rely on their gender to get ahead or win elections. That's another sweeping generalization that will go unchallenged by her readers.) Ziganto also asserts, without argument, that women "already are equal to men," but different. Given the ambiguity of "equal," this assertion can mean a lot of different things. So it's not clear what Ziganto is saying. (Ziganto's slippery use of the language makes her meaning often hard to pin down. I believe that is intentional, for it makes it easier for her to respond to criticisms of her posts.) But it is abundantly clear that men and women are not equal in the sense that men still operate at an advantage in our society politically, economically, and socially. Any person of average intelligence with an internet connection can find non-biased sources which confirm that this is true. So while Ziganto might not want to talk about sexism and may prefer to talk about the advantages of making herself subordinate and vulnerable to the men in her life, the rest of us would like to have a grown-up conversation about this serious problem in our society. Things might be peachy at the Ziganto household, but if she thinks that the same can be said for women everywhere, she's delusional.

Ziganto is a bullshitter, and I think she knows it. It matters not to Ziganto what I write here: she will stay the course (for cutting and running would be so wrong!) and continue posting her poorly argued, poorly researched, poorly written rants. Her views will not evolve. If she is raising money now, she will continue to raise it, and so will all the other responsibility-free talkers and bloggers. If any evolution in her views were to become apparent in her writing, there would be consequences. The Republican Party demands ideological purity of its members.

So what is the point of my continuing to criticize her posts? It is possible that I can help some of her readers see her blog for what it is. Possible, though I think unlikely.

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson