Two posts, one grouchy and one cheerful. This is the grouchy one.

Because perhaps I’m not yet cynical enough, it still amazes me that folks in the world can feel comfortable making statements, or proposing laws or writing books, that are obviously hurtful to particular groups.  For instance, a couple of weeks ago Michael Bérubé wrote an online essay about a bioethicist who was analyzing disability and who made a couple of points:  that having a disability makes someone's life “less good,” and that not having a disability will likely make someone's life "more flourishing."  Bérubé has a complex, compelling, and important response.  But one thing that struck me in this scholarly conversation is that we’re still in a field where some scholars can say, “Having a disability makes your life less good,” and other scholars, like Bérubé, have to respond with, “Ummm, what an interesting assumption you’re putting out there!  Let’s talk about why that’s really troubling!”

Another for instance would be the recent No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act which explained that the only rape which should qualify a woman for federal funding for an abortion would be a “forcible rape.”  As Kristen Schaal explained on the Jon Stewart show, “There’s rape, and then there’s rape rape.”  Some folks I know were having an email exchange about this, and the question was raised, Why does this matter?  Who cares if the law just allows for abortions in the case of forcible rape?  My friend Robin responded,

When is rape not forced? When it's achieved through intimidation or fear. When the victim is a child. Or potentially any time there is no sign of extrinsic violence.

Susan Estrich, in her study Real Rape, makes a distinction between simple and aggravated rape: aggravated rape involves extrinsic violence, more than one assailant, or the assailant is a stranger. Most rapes are simple rapes: there isn't extrinsic violence, there's only one assailant, and the victim and perpetrator know each other. Simple rapes are not treated seriously by law enforcement or by juries. I suspect they would not be counted as forcible rapes.
This is Robin having to say, "Ummm, what an interesting assumption you all are putting out there!  Let's talk about why that's really troubling!"  (The wording was changed yesterday, but this law still sucks a large monkey penis.)

Next week in my classes we’re discussing Harriet McBryde Johnson’s Too Late to Die Young, and she writes,
Don’t they hear the bigotry?
No, they don’t.  When bigotry is the dominant view, it sounds like self-evident truth.


Erica said...

Yes! and Amen! and I Concur!
I was horrified by the language in the "stupid bill" as I like to call it, and signed the petition, contacted my congresspeople and put links to the story, petition etc. on my FB page. Talked in my post about how I thought it was a crazy conservative tactic to get the liberals all up in arms so the conservatives could change the language, say they conceded then get the horrific bill passed. Yesterday when the language was dropped, I posted that story on FB too with the hope that now we can fight directly to get the bill itself dropped!

Rebekah said...

The last quote in this post is powerful...and frightening - the way things can be compartmentalized and presented so neatly and glibly that they sound very nearly logical and reasonable. Unfortunately, when you dig a little deeper, the actual intent is quite horrifying.

Anonymous said...

I admire your love toward those with disabilities. Of course, rape under any situation is horrendous. What I cannot find love for here is an innocent, unborn child. Eyes are thickly veiled and she is not seen. Ears are filled and she is not heard. Hearts are not touched and she is thrown away. Who will stand for her the way you stand for those with disabilities? In what respect is it alright to hurt the innocent in response to being hurt? Is it truly healing to take the life of a child because someone deeply hurt you? The only thing that will make this world truly whole is love.

Anonymous said...

Bioethicists just try to justify various policies and positions. With 92% of women aborting fetuses diagnosed with Down Syndrome, a bioethicist wouldn't be doing her job if she didn't try to figure out why.

The bioethicists (neither really is a straightforward bioethicist) Sandel and Glover, that Berube discusses, both make arguments for the respect owed all children. They argue against policies to genetically engineer children, and Glover suggest the only way you can be justified in aborting a child with Downs is if you somehow make a public statement about the worth of people with Downs. This is to mitigzte the harm done- the bias exhibited- in the choice to abort a baby for that reason.

To blame bioethicists for talking in terms of "floursihing" and "good" does not seem fair- esp. because of these results. But also because they are trying to meet us where were are. We think in terms of good, we evaluate our own choices (such as to abort or not) in terms of our own flourishing. It has been a concept since ancient times, and it is always a contested ideal: what would it be to flourish?
The people worth attacking are ones who do not bring up this issues, as if it is settled.

If you read the Glover, I think you'll see that he should not be attacked for using these terms (how artificial to not, and how would he refer to common sense views that he challenges, if he did not!); again, the point of these analyses is to change people's prejudice about people with Downs. Surely we can talk of good and flourishing! Don't discourage this!

Biffle said...

Readers: Please keep in mind that Baxter Sez has a long-standing policy of not publishing anonymous comments.