CC: Internet Ombudsman

Dear Amanda Marcotte,

I’m puzzled by a blog post you’ve written that mentions me. Reacting to a post I wrote at The Atlantic, you hone in on the part of my argument I’ve boldfaced in the excerpt below:

The narrow assertion I want to make is that the social norms we are inculcating are working to safeguard reproductive choices for women, and to undermine men’s investment in pregnancies and child-rearing. Given that progressives and feminists are especially invested in pushing back against the notion and reality that rearing children is the province of women, I’d be curious to hear whether they agree with my diagnosis, and how they think these questions ought to be navigated. Is there an inherent tension between the social norms that advance your agenda on reproductive rights, and the ones that better bring about the world you’d like to see more generally?

Here is how you characterize that passage:

Conor is less interesting to me. He uses the phrase “your agenda on reproductive rights”, making it exquisitely clear that he doesn’t consider women’s rights to be human rights, and there’s not much you can do with someone whose argument is premised on the belief that “women” are a separate category from “human”.

On reflection, does that strike you as sound chain of reasoning? If so, could you please explain it to me, because not only do I know your conclusion to be incorrect, but I am baffled by how you got there.

You also write:

He also buys into the fallacy that child support constitutes 100% of the expense of raising a child, when of course single mothers usually pay far more than 50% of the money and 90% of the time and 100% of the physical creation effort that goes into making a child. Okay, 99.9%, but I’ll get back to that in a second.

Actually, I neither argue nor believe that child support constitutes the entire expense of raising a child, and I defy you to provide the quote the demonstrates otherwise.

In your next line, you write of Damon Linker and I that “Both authors, due to their obvious emasculation fears, fell for the ‘abortion party’ story hook, line, and sinker.” Obvious emasculation fears? Anyway, here’s what I actually wrote about the “abortion party” article:

Last week Alternet published a controversial essay wherein the narrator attended a party thrown to raise money for a friend’s abortion. Numerous conservative bloggers wrote obligatory posts. The piece took heat from the left too. Tracy Clark-Flory posted a worthwhile example. “I hadn’t heard of an abortion party until today. That’s despite growing up in the liberal sanctuary of the San Francisco Bay Area and attending a passionately feminist women’s college,” she wrote. “I’ve seen women unabashedly announce “I had an abortion” to friends and strangers alike, out loud and on T-shirts and bumper stickers, but an abortion party is an entirely new concept to me.”
In a followup comment, Mary Elizabeth Williams astutely writes that “the story reads like it was calculated to provoke the most apoplectic reactions of the right. The wimmins are celebrating baby killing, and men aren’t welcome!” It’s that last bit about men not being welcome that I’d like to focus on. The piece’s numerous flaws notwithstanding, it affords an opportunity to discuss an issue that all the critical responses I’ve seen have mostly ignored.

Can you possibly think what you wrote is a fair characterization of what I wrote? For shame. I guess that’s what I get for noting that you and Andy McCarthy employ a similarly flawed approach to public discourse. If you criticize me again in the future, I hope you’ll do a better job addressing what I am actually arguing, as opposed to gross mischaracterizations. At the very least, you could provide a direct link to the blog post at issue so that your readers can make up their own minds about who is right.


Conor Friedersdorf