A reply to Lenny Esposito of Come Reason


Lenny Esposito, author of the Christian apologetics site Come Reason, regularly posts ‘in case you missed it’ tweets with links to his past posts; a recent one was to a post from three years ago titled Progressives, Please Help Me Understand International Women’s Day. Since I seem to fit the definition of ‘progressive’, I’ll give it a shot, for what my opinion is worth. As always, please keep comments polite and respectful.

These are the four main questions in the post:

1. How Do We Mark Achievements Today?

You can find examples on the International Women’s Day site under the top menu ‘Missions’.

2. How Do We Accelerate Economic Gender Parity?/3. How Do We Accelerate Cultural Gender Parity?

Huge and important questions; I’ve aimed to give a quick overview rather than an exclusive list. Feel free to chime in with suggestions in the comments.

This article and this article have general suggestions.

This article, this article, and this article have advice on promoting gender parity in the workplace.

This article has advice on promoting gender parity in the home/the family.

Some other thoughts from me: Take relationship abuse and sexual abuse/harassment seriously, and be aware of the many ways in which they can look different from the stereotypes. Make birth control freely and easily accessible to everyone who needs it. And be willing to listen to people’s stories of their lived experience and take them seriously.

4. What do You Mean by Woman?

Short(ish) answer: Any adult whose gender identity is female. For purposes of anti-misogyny endeavours such as International Women’s Day, I would also include a) girls (children whose gender identity is female), and b) anyone who is affected by misogyny as a result of having been determined on the basis of genital configuration to be female, even if their actual gender identity isn’t female. There was going to be a long answer, but it was getting really long and taking forever to write and in the end I decided I just wanted to get this post published already, so I’ve cut that bit and saved it so that if I have more time later I can put it in a future post.

 

As well as those main questions, the post also contained several subsidiary questions, so here are answers to some of those:

[regarding the ‘A Day Without A Woman‘ strike] How does this celebrate achievement?

The strike wasn’t for celebrating achievement, but for protesting the ways in which women (or trans men who still present as women, as per question 4 above) are still disadvantaged or oppressed in society, and for highlighting the extent of invisible work done in society by women or by trans people thought to be female.

[regarding schools with all-female staff on the ‘A Day Without A Woman’ strike] What happens to the female students who are supposed to be taught today?

Same as what happens to the male or transgender students in those schools; they miss one day’s worth of school and catch up over the rest of the year.

Does losing one day’s instruction give them an advantage?

If you’re honest about wanting to understand these issues better, skip the sarcasm; it’s counter-productive.

In educational terms, of course it doesn’t give these children an advantage, but I can’t imagine it’s going to give them a disadvantage compared to other schools; if having your school very occasionally closed for a day puts you at an educational disadvantage, then surely students from the parts of a country with higher snowfall would do worse educationally than students from the warmer areas due to having more snow days during their childhood. In terms of issues other than education, I think it can be an advantage; they see their teachers willing to get involved in protests for what they believe, and I think that’s a positive thing for children to see.

Perhaps we can recognize that women as women offer unique and worthwhile contributions to our society that cannot be measured (or are undervalued) economically. But this seems to get sticky pretty fast.

It can, but not for the reason you’re giving. The trouble with talking about ‘unique contributions of women’ is that it’s an approach which lumps women together as some sort of composite group who supposedly can collectively make contributions men can’t, with the inevitable vice-versa. The trouble with that is that it pigeonholes people. So, for example, a focus on the idea that women have unique gifts for childcare and home-making is frequently used to give women the message that they have to have children/be the primary carer for those children/eschew other careers, while at the same time giving men the message that they don’t get to be stay-at-home carers for their children because that’s a ‘women’s job’. And that sort of pigeonholing limits everyone and harms a lot of people. So I’d rather focus on the fact that each individual can offer unique contributions, and that gender – however you measure it – isn’t the best way to determine what those contributions are going to be.

Progressives have been telling me for a long time that children don’t need women as mothers, they simply need loving individuals. Gender doesn’t matter at all.

The second sentence there might have been meant to echo the first sentence, but it’s actually saying something rather different. There is a difference between ‘don’t need’ and ‘doesn’t matter at all’. I don’t think that gender ‘doesn’t matter at all’, and, in this specific context, I don’t think it makes zero difference to a child’s experience of being parented. But what children need is loving parents who can provide them with a secure and stable home. Your next comment is about how this relates to adoption, and, yes, I believe that adults who can provide this should be allowed to raise children even if their home doesn’t contain two parents of conventionally opposite genders; I’d far, far rather see children in a happy secure home with a parent or parents who love them than stuck in foster care limbo waiting for some mythical perfect home that doesn’t exist.

All that is required to be a woman is to identify as a woman. Is that right? But that means I can be celebrated if I choose to identify as a woman today.

Transgenderism (and cisgenderism, for that matter) isn’t about ‘choosing’ to identify as a particular gender. It’s about the inescapable fact that nearly all of us do identify as particular genders – not because we choose to, but because it’s a key part of us – and that sometimes a person’s gender identity doesn’t match the gender of their body.

Your choice of words here makes me fairly sure that you don’t actually identify as a woman. I mean, if I’m wrong about that and you are secretly a trans woman in the closet, then, yes, I would absolutely consider it worth celebrating if you felt able to come out. If not, then, no, you shouldn’t just be choosing to say you identify as a woman if you actually don’t.

The big question in all this is how do we celebrate the achievements of women and rally to gain parity for women when the concept of what a woman is isn’t defined? This is probably where I need the most help, as I can’t make sense of it at all.

Of the suggestions above about ways to work for gender parity, which do you feel you can’t implement due to the existence of transgenderism? Why?

I mean, there are those who deeply identify as football fans or basketball fans. I’m in the minority as a hockey fan. Should I seek a day for celebration of achievement and a call to parity since hockey fans are so underrepresented in society?

Lenny… celebrate what you want to celebrate, but cut out the attempts at point-scoring. I don’t think that being a hockey fan has a negative impact on your pay scale, or your risk of experiencing sexual assault or domestic violence, or on any major aspects of your life. I don’t know whether you meant any of your other questions more seriously than this one, but, because I prefer to assume the best of people where possible, I’ve taken them as meant in good faith and answered them in that spirit. If you’re being honest about wanting to learn and understand, then I hope it helped with that. But, whether the rest of the post was meant honestly or not, please don’t post trivialising comparisons for issues that so many people don’t have the luxury of dismissing as trivial.

Comments

  1. Katydid says

    Tying a whole bunch of things together: I have noticed that conservative longing for their rose-colored memories of “the way things used to be” is highly dependent on having women unable to earn a living and therefore constantly available to provide “unique” services that apparently only women can provide, such as unpaid child care, unpaid elder care, unpaid housework, unpaid social scheduling and unpaid volunteer work in schools and (especially!) churches. I bet you see the connection there: none of it is paid and none of it is valued until it’s not being done…so therefore the answer is to force one gender to continue to do this for no pay or recognition?!?

    One reason I’ve heard about why some conservatives fought so hard against the right for gay people to marry is, “Who will be the woman?” At first this confused me; if two men marry, both remain men. Then I realized what they were really upset about was that it’s obviously demeaning (in their minds) for men to cook, clean, care for children, and do unpaid labor.

  2. blf says

    One reason I’ve heard about why some conservatives fought so hard against the right for gay people to marry is, “Who will be the woman?” At first this confused me; if two men marry, both remain men. Then I realized what they were really upset about was that it’s obviously demeaning (in their minds) for men to cook, clean, care for children, and do unpaid labor.

    Heh. Interesting. I can’t say I recall hearing that — I’m not doubting such claims were implied, and possibly explicitly made — and I also find the question very confusing. An admittedly very quick Generalissimo Google™ search found that being asked vis-a-vis the nonsensical “marriage is only between a man and a woman” stance (as well as a possibly somewhat legitimate variant concerning providing a female role model in child-raising).

    Was there an analogous “Who will be the masterman?” question for female-female marriages? (Again ignoring that possibly somewhat legitimate child-rearing variant.) A similar-ish very quick search failed to find any(?) examples.

  3. Katydid says

    I don’t recall hearing any equivalent whining about two women marrying. There may have been but I never heard it. Typically, religious fundamentalists of all religions don’t seem concern themselves overmuch with what the women get up to–Leviticus in the Bible doesn’t, either.

    Most of my career (IT), I’ve been the sole woman or one of a minority of women surrounded by men. I’m quiet by nature, and in a cubicle situation, people forget I’m there and start talking and talking and talking. I hear a lot of things, misogyny and toxic masculinity included. A shocking number of men seem to thoroughly hate women and the worst insult they can think of is to imply that a man has womanly qualities. They feel it’s their duty to squash women down. It’s like the past 50 years of history have never happened. Disclaimer: NOT ALL MEN!

  4. blf says

    religious fundamentalists of all religions don’t seem concern themselves overmuch with what the women get up to

    Except for things like clothing, staying home, virginity, keeping quiet, not violating the sanctuary of whatevers, and a long long list of other things… but I take your point.

  5. Katydid says

    @blf; obviously. 🙂 As long as the women birth, raise,and keep the platoons of children away from their own father’s notice, keep an immaculate house, cook gourmet meals with a budget of pennies and clean up after them, maintain a supermodel appearance at all times, organize, provide, and clean up after church potlucks, teach Sunday School and work in the nursery yet always, ALWAYS be available to satisfy the man’s lusts and be happy (“stay sweet!”)…then the men don’t care what else the women get up to.

    Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if the women were also like the Proverbs 31 woman, and bring in an income with something home-based, so that she’s completely available for everything in the previous paragraph while simultaneously supporting the household.

  6. StevoR says

    Shifting this to the right thread now. Mea culpa.

    ***

    As always, please keep comments polite and respectful.

    Sometimes that’s really hard when it seems very clear to you (me) that the questiosn are disingenous and not being asked in good faith.

    I like your answers and agree with them here Dr Sarah but I .. have my strong doubts over the sincerity and choice of framing .. by the .. person ..asking them.

  7. Dr Sarah says

    Oh, we’re past ‘strong doubts’ here; Esposito hasn’t replied to my tweet or let my comment on his post through moderation, and he’s been tweeting regularly during that time so it clearly isn’t a case of life circumstances keeping him off social media entirely. At this point, I think we can say quite confidently that his post wasn’t meant sincerely.

    In case you’re wondering; yes, I knew this was almost certainly going to be the outcome. (I originally wrote about my doubts of his sincerity while writing the post, although I ended up deleting that part before posting.) No, I don’t regret taking the non-sarcastic of his questions at face value and answering them politely. I gave him a chance to either live up to his claims of being genuinely interested and appreciative or to prove them false, and he’s chosen the latter.

    I can entirely sympathise with anyone who doesn’t want to be polite on the subject or to take part in discussion on those terms. Thanks for taking the trouble to do so in your comment; I appreciate it and admire the beautifully tactful and restrained phrasing. 🙂 (Also, thanks for moving the comment when needed.)

    I have the ‘polite and respectful’ comment policy because a) while polite discussion doesn’t often change anyone’s mind, insult-slinging certainly doesn’t, and I’d rather leave open the small chance of persuading someone to a different viewpoint, and b) because it’s what I personally feel more comfortable with. Plenty of people run their blogs differently and that’s fine by me, but this is how I choose to do mine.

    Thanks again for contributing.

  8. ShifterCat says

    @Katydid & blf: I never actually heard any conservative *say* “Who will be the woman?” but it may well have been a matter of not wanting to say the quiet part out loud, even to themselves.

    One of the conservative anxieties of same-sex marriage was that it would “change the meaning of marriage”. In this case I’d say they were right… but that SSM changes the meaning of marriage for the BETTER. It provides a more egalitarian model of what a marriage can be. I think that’s what conservatives really mean when they say things like, “But how will we explain this to our children?” It’s not that they honestly have trouble with the concept of saying, “Those two adults fell in love and decided they wanted to live with each other forever” — it’s that they’re afraid they won’t be able to tell their kids, “it’s the woman’s job to keep a house clean,” without having their kids pipe up, “But Lily’s Daddy does the laundry while her Papa does the vacuuming.”

    As far as fundamentalists not concerning themselves with lesbians… well, a lot of male chauvinists believe that it’s not really sex unless there’s at least one penis involved. Said penis didn’t necessarily have to be attached to a guy, though. (Heads-up: this link contains hilarious but not-at-all safe for work medieval drawings. https://going-medieval.com/2019/01/09/on-dildos-and-penance/)

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