When it comes to the denial of female accountability, it’s often hard to tell the difference between conservatives and progressives.
Having once argued for abortion as a regrettable but occasionally necessary procedure, progressives of the political left now present it as necessary for women’s equality. We’ve all heard from the women who credit their abortions for their success in life and are proud of having had them.
Men oppress women, so the thinking goes, by denying them the right to abort their unborn children.
Rather than rejecting such an argument outright, conservatives sometimes engage on the same ground by alleging that few women truly choose abortion and that, rather than liberating women, abortion hurts them. According to this line of thinking, men still oppress women, not by denying them abortions but by coercing them to have them, or by making women believe, falsely, that they will benefit from them. This conservative argument differs from the progressive one mainly by denying female agency even more fully than progressives routinely do.
In both the conservative and progressive view, the notion that women bear the primary burdens in our society is taken for granted, and female moral innocence is thereby secured. Even in a case in which the law has long made it clear that men have no say whatsoever, it is assumed that men owe women the security and happiness they have too long denied them. And as in the case of sexual relations, absolute standards of right and wrong are side-stepped in favor of concern over how a woman feels about her situation.
Recently, some well-known American conservative commentators, discussing the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, couldn’t resist indulging in the kind of fact-free feminist victimology (and associated male-bashing) that might have come straight from the mouths of The Young Turks.
Commentators for the Daily Wire, one of the largest conservative news and opinion publishers in the United States, held one of their live ‘Backstage’ events on June 29 in which they spoke of abortion in progressive lingo as disempowering women. Their discussion demonstrated that when the subject is female moral agency, even very smart conservatives don’t always think straight.
The short segment begins at around the 24-minute mark. Candace Owen expressed her conviction, having known six women who had abortions, that the idea that women are freely choosing abortion, and are happy with their choice, is a lie. She focused in particular on one woman who was forced—she didn’t say how—to have an abortion by her abusive male partner. “The majority of women are getting abortions under duress,” she declared sweepingly; even those women who were not under duress were emotionally harmed by abortion. It was time, she believed, to speak honestly about these harms to women.
Next, Jeremy Boreing, the Daily Wire’s CEO, laughed at the idea that men would not try to make sex more convenient, the clear implication being that men (but not women) are generally sexual pigs who want nothing but convenient sex, and force women to have abortions to ensure the continuance of their alleged male utopia. The entire sexual revolution was a scam, he suggested, that benefited men and harmed women, with abortion the technology men created to enable their sexual access.
Andrew Klavan agreed with Boreing that men had won the sexual revolution, stressing that women (“young women” in particular) were miserable as a result. He said nothing about young men, who were presumably having a great time impregnating women and then sitting by as their unborn children were torn apart in the womb. The impact of abortion on fathers was never mentioned.
Michael Knowles carried the male-bashing a little further, alleging that rape (which he accepted, according to false feminist claims, to be on the increase) was the result of the sexual revolution, the only beneficiaries of which were “dirtbag men” (but never dirtbag women).
Finally, Matt Walsh pushed the discussion to its feminist-echoing conclusion by asserting that the abortion movement, which claimed to be about choice, actually removed women’s choices by making women afraid, convincing them that they had no choice but to abort. The movement wanted women desperate and fearful; apparently the possibility of adoption could not be expected to occur to the average pregnant woman.
Those listening to only this one part of the conversation, not realizing that the commentators were morally opposed to abortion, might have been forgiven for imagining that they were mainly exercised about the fact that women were feeling bad about their abortions and had been duped into participating in meaningless sex.
(Needless to say, the reality for men of the past thirty years of feminist activism—the increasing public rancor, plethora of false allegations [long before #MeToo], wrongful convictions, abuse of due process on college campuses, paternity fraud, and imprisonment for child support they can’t pay—made no appearance).
Such a female-centered discussion is not unique to commentators for the Daily Wire, of course, and it raises a number of questions about conservative positions on women and abortion, particularly concerning the utility of progressivist victimology. Why do conservative talking points about abortion’s harms to women sound so similar to progressive-feminist talking points about other harms to women? Why do conservatives engage in male-bashing nearly as enthusiastically as progressives? Why do conservatives so assiduously promote feminist myths about male sexual brutality and female powerlessness? Most centrally, perhaps, why are conservatives so averse to holding women responsible for their bad acts?
Is it because conservatives don’t actually believe that women are moral agents fully accountable for their decisions? Do conservatives believe that women are, on the contrary, less capable than men of choosing right over wrong? Is this why they go out of their way to justify women’s immoral choices?
Or is it because conservatives don’t trust women to think rationally about major moral questions, believing that women can be led to reject abortion not through reasoned argument but only through gynocentric appeals to women’s feelings?
Or is it simply because, like many people in our society, conservatives are unable to admit the reality of female evil: that hundreds of thousands of women every year in America make the decision to kill their unborn children not under duress or out of fear or because they were lied to but for reasons of convenience, selfishness, and gross indifference to the life within them.