Cargo Cult Social Justice: You’re Fooling No One

I’d like to talk about the rhetorical tactics on display by these forced-birth women claiming to be feminists:

According to Murphy, “the central tenement of feminism is equality for human beings regardless of sex, gender, orientation, race, religion,” and that concept should extend to unborn children. “To devalue the preborn life simply because of their location or of their dependency is an act of discrimination,” she said. “In what good society does improving one side of human rights involve harming and causing violence to other human beings?”

The word you want is “tenet,” not “tenement,” for fuck’s sake.

This type of argumentation is what I call “cargo cult social justice.” It’s where regressive social movements—and opposition to legal abortion is absolutely regressive—appropriate the language of progressive movements and think it works the same way. Ms. Murphy’s use of social-justice-derived language to support the cause of forcing women to have babies is especially transparent, but she’s far from alone in this.

Other examples include the forced-birth movement casting themselves as the world’s leading anti-racists (the basis of their position being that Planned Parenthood does not turn black women away at the door) and MRAs accusing feminists of “slut-shaming” men when we’re really just trying to persuade men to prioritize consent and embrace condom use. Also, homophobes and other Christian supremacists pretending to be a persecuted minority (the most notorious example at the moment being Kim Davis and her hangers-on), and conservatives in general quoting Martin Luther King as if they wouldn’t have been the ones chucking him behind bars.

This here, though, this forced-birth rally pretending to be feminist, is an especially obvious instance of trying to force progressive language into a regressive framework and wondering why the rally doesn’t attract more people. In the same article, Ms. Murphy is holding a colorful, artsy handwritten sign that reads: “telling women they can’t be free without abortion is MISOGYNY. #womenbetrayed #trynonviolence”

I can sort of understand how an energetic, ideologically driven young woman would see similar-aged pro-choice feminists getting fired up on protesting oppressive practices and policies, and she sees us using words like “discrimination” and “misogyny” and “equality” in certain contexts, and she thinks she can achieve the same effects by going through the same rhetorical rituals, but she doesn’t understand the relationship between the language and the ideology.

For instance, those of us in progressive movements often talk about the evils of discrimination, but we’re talking about discrimination on the basis of demographic factors in contexts in which those factors shouldn’t be an issue. The truth is, we all—yes, all of us—practice discrimination every day, and that will always be the case. When businesses hire people for jobs, we tend to see nothing wrong with them discriminating on the basis of things like educational level, work experience, technical skills, and cognitive capacities. To refuse to hire a known arsonist as a firefighter is an act of discrimination, and an entirely reasonable decision.

With that in mind, there’s no moral impact in her statement: “To devalue the preborn life simply because of their location or of their dependency is an act of discrimination.” I mean, it’s obnoxious that she uses words like “preborn” without irony, and to use “location” as a euphemism for a mature person’s uterus and bloodstream, but still, the abortion-permissive position does discriminate against embryos on the basis of their dependency. Yeah, we do. We totally argue that a mature, biologically independent, uterus-bearing person takes moral precedent over an embryo occupying their body, on the basis of the embryo being unable to exist anywhere else, while the gestating parent could easily get on with their life once the embryo is expelled. There can be no equality between a pregnant person and a fetus. One must be subordinate to the other, and to make the gestating parent subordinate to the dependent fetus is fucking repulsive. It’s necessary to use discrimination to resolve conflicts. When a woman is pregnant and doesn’t want to be, there is a conflict between her interests and the life of the embryo. The pro-choice position tends to discriminate on the basis of factors such as “being able to digest and respirate independently” whereas the anti-abortion position penalizes on the basis of having a healthy uterus and recent sexual experience.

To argue that all women really want to be pregnant all the time, though? And that we should be forced by law to give birth to children we don’t want? Now THAT is misogyny. That is why the feminist movement must be pro-choice.