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MAY 15, 2008 12:38AM

Where do pro-choice men fit?

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I posted a long piece about the NARAL Pro-Choice America endorsement of Barack Obama. I said it was wise for NARAL and I commented on some of the strong* responses from pro-choice Clinton supporters.

I hadn't considered that my frustration to these angry reactions went beyond my support of Obama and NARAL, and rationally-arrived-at belief that the nomination is locked up anyways.

Then I read a letter in response to Salon's War Room posting on the matter:


It's insulting to those of us who, as male Democrats, have consistently supported women's causes to suggest that endorsing a candidate is a 'betrayal' because he doesn't happen to be a woman. This sort of position is simply unacceptable.-- odanuki


Yeah! It is not simply that these Clinton supporters who are expressing rage and betrayal over the NARAL endorsement are being irrational and unfair and damaging to the cause. (They are.) I'm also kind of taking it personally.

I'm a feminist-identified, heterosexual, married with kids, middle class, Midwestern, white guy. I am also pro-choice. I spent five years working for a NARAL affiliate. (So, I have a definite bias/perspective.) I wasn't the only male in the pro-choice world, but it was definitely female dominated. As it should be.

I believe strongly in the issue of the right to choose. I believe it because I have a deeply held belief in personal freedom. I regard reproductive freedom as the most threatened. I want a world of wanted children. I have many women in my life who are of or will be of reproductive age--this issue impacts them. It also, in a much less direct way, impacts men.

The vast majority of pro-choice women, be they professional staff or unpaid volunteers, accepted my presence and contribution to the important fight.

Some didn't.

Generally, they were older women. I don't think I ever had a problem with anyone under 40.

The women who under appreciated my contribution to the movement and the women supporting Clinton who can't fathom why other pro-choice and/or feminist women wouldn't line up behind Clinton are being near-sighted and counterproductive.

Do they realize what they are saying to men supporters? They are telling male supporters and male politicians that they will always come up short. They are telling men they aren't needed.

Guess what? Men are needed.

Most men understand that when it comes to the issue of abortion, it is more personal for women. Women have much more at stake. Yes, the asshole men don't realize or care; but I think a majority of men see this. 

The majority of elected officials on all levels are men. You're not going to get very far by disregarding their contributions. We can hope that groups like Emily's List can help us get to gender parity in Congress and elsewhere. But even then you're talking about half of the politicians still being male. (Quick related fact: More male voters identify as pro-choice than female voters.)

It is fine for Emily's List to have a mission to support only pro-choice, women Democrats. The line is crossed when a pro-choice, non-partisan group like NARAL endorses a pro-choice man over a pro-choice woman and they are raked through the coals as a traitor to all women.

How are pro-choice men supposed to take this, regardless of whether they support Obama, Clinton, or someone else? If they are like me, they take this as a you can't win. It doesn't matter that Obama has just as strong of a record on abortion as Clinton. It doesn't matter that Obama and Clinton talk about the issue in almost identical words. It doesn't matter that Obama has the nomination practically speaking. He doesn't have a uterus and thus doesn't measure up. Anyone who sees differently is a traitor.

I believe in high standards for elected officials, but how is the guy supposed to get a uterus?

For us pro-choice or feminist-supporting men who aren't running for president, we know how this applies to us. We can do everything right in supporting women's choices. Even so, there are some in the movement that will always regard with suspicion and derision.

It makes me sad.

If you keep on pushing away the men, reproductive rights will continue to be successfully chipped away.


* "Strong" responses, not "bitter." On another discussion board, I made the mistake of referring to the more obnoxious anti-NARAL / anti-Obama reactions as "bitter." You know, because of that stupid, over-blown thing about Obama referring to some voters as bitter. It was supposed to be cute. Note to self, don't refer to a group that is overwhelmingly female as "bitter."

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Well said, Turtle. I think we women aren't helping our own causes when even on a progressive website such as, we segregate ourselves. I'm talking about the Broadsheet section (I hate that name), in which topics like birth control and abortion rights are interspersed with articles about high heels and Sex and the City, all bundled together under the sassy pink logo that looks like the cover of a chick-lit romance.
I was at the Emily's List meeting last year, and met Hillary. (See the end of this picture gallery and was definitely a "guest". I had a fine time, and everyone was friendly and wonderful, but there was no question who the meeting was for. And that's fine. I can well understand women wanting to promote Clinton. If elected, she will make a great president. The flip side is: If Obama is elected, he will make a great president... and he will be a great president for women.

What you're describing is hardly new, ST, and has haunted the women's movement since The Pill provided its biggest boost in teh 60s. It's a fine line between "we deserve better" and "we deserve better than you", and too many people (in any movement) can get caught up in the hype.
I guess no good deed goes unpunished in this day and age.

I try to "fit in" by filling out their surveys, sending some money now and then, and otherwise keeping my mouth shut. If they want my help beyond that, they'll ask for it.
I also think the Hillary supporters who are so pissed at NARAL need to get a grip. NARAL endorsed Obama not because of some notion that he's the better candidate, but because he won. Because it's over.
Thanks Biblio, and others.

I would actually defend Broadsheet. It's clearly about female stuff, but it is done in a way that I think welcomes men and their contributions to discussions.

For me, the line is crossed when men are told they are never going to measure up and that their contributions are unwelcome. Sure, gender matters and we need to acknowledge how our own gender is shaping our perspectives. Sometimes, men need to shut up and listen. (I was in a couple women's studies classes in college where one of the few guys in the class would consistently dominate discussions.)

If men are being told though, that they are never going to be accepted, no matter what they do, because they don't have a uterus; they're going to retreat and leave all that so-called "female stuff" for the females. That doesn't serve anyone well.
Great post.

"I'm a feminist-identified, heterosexual, married with kids, middle class, Midwestern, white guy. I am also pro-choice."

And for that, you are my Crush of the Week!

Reproductive freedom affects us all. Balkanizing the fight for choice actually hurts the cause. Biblio Files makes an excellent point - how can we expect this topic to be taken with the deadly seriousness it deserves when it is relegated to a Pink Ghetto populated, all too often, with the ready-to-be-offended?