Posted by: Chasy | 24/01/2012

Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

I honestly can’t believe I’m perpetuating this debate, but I feel like I can’t let this bit go.

There has been quite a kerfuffle over whether Melinda Tankard Reist has certain religious affiliations and whether this is important. Many a commenter on Twitter has engaged in quite fervent chest beating, claiming that it shouldn’t matter what religion she is, because it’s not the reason they agree or disagree with her.

Actually, I think that’s entirely inaccurate and a contradiction in terms, if not hypocritical.

These same people, I am certain, would be the first to engage in the same chest beating if a pregnancy ‘counselling’ service turned out to be religious affiliation designed to manipulate vulnerable and scared women into continuing with pregnancies, rather than allowing them to consider other options also available. The women who seek the services would have been deceived, presumably, by this service’s lack of disclosure. The service are convinced they are completely innocent – they are just following the teaching of Jesus and doing God’s work. People would be up in arms at this sort of unscrupulous behaviour and rightly so.

What I don’t understand is why these same standards aren’t applied to MTR. It is true, yes, that the place that she goes to worship every Sunday is rather irrelevant to the debate. It wouldn’t matter if she was visiting a Baptist church, Mosque, or Jewish Temple. I don’t think picking apart the tenets of that particular branch of Christianity and claiming that’s what MTR represents does anything for the debate. Her motivations in her work, however, are still extremely important. Just like the mythical pregnancy service example given above, if the individual in question manipulating vulnerable people into following their beliefs and values, without disclosing their motivations, then that is not only deceptive, but dangerous.

We seem to be getting all in a flap about freedom of religion and it somehow being the crux of the argument against MTR. I think people are frightened that their own religious affiliation discounts them from debate.

Why? Are you actively campaigning on topics that seem incongruous to the movement you’ve attached yourself to? No? Then why would anyone ever bring your beliefs into the debate? They are irrelevant, no?

The reason why this is dangerous is because if we get caught up in wanting not to question someone’s motivations, which may be religious, when it is relevant to the debate, then our debate becomes impotent. It becomes a circle of platitudes, instead. We blindly ignore the motivations because we’re too afraid of appearing intolerant if we question them, then end up blowing smoke up their arse by way of apology for even daring to question them. I may be wrong, but observation of the discussion seems to lead to it being one of the few reasons we keep coming back to allowing MTR to call herself a feminist.

Without questioning someone’s motivations when they are quite clearly in conflict with the politics they claim to fight for, then we’re left without a fight at all. Why bother continuing? The other guys have won. They have infiltrated our ranks by posing as one of us. Now we don’t know who to fight and we’re fighting each other.

Some have said MTR has no reason to disclose her religious affiliation because, for example, it’s not like she’s campaigning for the continued use of coal while having a large amount of shares in a related mining company. They say she has no financial gain, so how can it be relevant?

That’s not entirely true. She is a lobbyist. That is a business. She makes money off appearance fees and the books she gets published on the subject. I don’t believe this is the entirety of her motivations, though. That’s just a bonus.

She has said herself she ‘follows the teachings of Jesus’. Given that, isn’t obvious what her reward for her work is? Eternal salvation.

That may not make a lot of sense to those of us who aren’t religious, but it’s vitally important to those who are. That is what MTR feels she has to gain. That, then, would be her motivation.

Which, in the grand scheme of things, is kinda selfish.

Dr Jennifer Wilson said it best here:

We need to have from MTR evidence -based arguments against abortion, and many other issues she argues on emotive and anecodotal grounds. Because if this evidence isn’t available, her conclusions are subjective. This is not good enough.

No one should be attacking Tankard Reist because of her faith. She should be rigorously questioned on her evidence for her claims and if she has none, then she should be asked to explain on what they are based. This is the price paid for advocating a public morality. I don’t care what she tells her children to do. But once she’s prescribing for women, thats another story

Dr Jennifer Wilson, the blogger whose questions started this whole discussion, has, of you ask me, also displayed beliefs that are incongruous to the movement she claims to be fighting for, right here. To completely deny the influence of rape culture, and normalising rape and rape culture influences, is completely in conflict with the Feminist movement. After reading that post, I honestly don’t know how she can call herself a feminist. I want to know what her motivations are.

Yet, if I speculate and call into question her true dedication to the movement, I doubt anyone would give a flying fuck. Not one single person would give a shit if I said on Twitter “Dr Jennifer Wilson is not a feminist because of this conflicting argument.”

Why is that? Why are we so afraid of religion?

This leads me to believe that there are motivations behind people downplaying the role of MTR’s beliefs. I don’t believe them to be as deceptive or even as important as MTR’s, but I do believe they stem from self interest – in that the commenter does not want to appear to show religious intolerance. Do so and you’ve lost your Lefty Cred for life.

Of course, calling that into question verges on claiming ‘political correctness gone mad’, as we refreain from debate for fear of offending someone. I think I’ve just demonstrated how this argument can go full circle and social media commentary on political issues is about to disappear up it’s own arsehole as a result.

But, just like Dr Wilson and MTR, I can only assume what the motivations of others are and not claim to know what they think, feel, or believe. Sometimes it’s fairly fucking obvious, but I’m still just speculating.

Hmmmm.

That’s my speculating noise.

And, if this makes no sense, that’s because I started writing it at 3:30 in the fucking morning.

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Responses

  1. I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me how MTR can be both anti-abortion AND consider herself a feminist.

    • So am I. I’ve heard plenty of arguments against (see here and here for some very good recent ones), but nobody has given me an equally substantive argument as to why she is. Essentially all I get is, “Because Feminism.” Rightio.

  2. Well, I’m not fighting for any movement.
    I don’t describe myself as a feminist.
    I don’t deny or normalise “rape culture” in my piece about MTR and McFadden. I think McFadden’s stupid song was for his then partner and referred to their sexual activities. I don’t think it’s an exhortation to all blokes to get girls drunk and rape them.
    I think the current wars about who is and isn’t allowed to be called a feminist are wanky and irrelevant.
    Cheers, Jennifer.

    • Hi Jennifer

      Just curious about something. You say that you think the wars about who is and isn’t allowed to be called feminist are wanky and irrelevant.

      Aren’t all your posts on your blog regarding MTR querying her feminist (or lack of) credentials?

      I also thought you described yourself on Twitter recently as a feminist? Or did I imagine that?

      Cheers,
      Bron

    • Hi again, Jennifer

      I’ve just been catching up on today’s blogs and saw your post from just this morning (24 Jan.). http://noplaceforsheep.com/2012/01/24/the-f-word-the-virgin-birth-and-the-sword-of-damocles/

      It just seems strange you don’t describe yourself as a feminist yet you write about your love for feminism and go on to make the case for what ought to be feminism.

      Care to elaborate?

  3. For someone who doesn’t describe themselves as a feminist, you sure do write about it a lot. I was also under the impression you described yourself as such in your stoush with Tammi Jonas, but maybe that was a group hallucination.

    The problem with McFadden’s song is context, which I think you’re not ignoring, it’s just something you haven’t considered. If it was a private recording he did for Delta which was leaked, then, yes, I’d see your point. However, it was meant for public consumption, to enjoy high rotation on commercial radio. It was in the public sphere, not in a private sexual context. Without the frame of reference that, “Doing this to your own girlfriend without her consent is wrong,” then it sends out the wrong message that the sort of behaviour described in the song is normal.

    In my mind, yes, to gloss over that is not only normalising rape but participating in rape culture. I can’t see how one can do so while still fighting the feminist fight (seeing as you decline to call yourself feminist now). I used you as an example of how ideas on who should be a feminist, based on the values they hold, can differ. That is my opinion of feminism, just as you have one of Melinda Tankard Reist and her claim to feminism. It’s seems rather hypocritical to write blog post after blog post on why MTR isn’t a feminist, and why you should be able to question her motivations, then get upset when someone does the same to you.

    The majority of my post is in support of things you’ve been saying over the past week. However, you’ve zeroed in on the section that is vaguely critical of you. This is a pattern I’ve seen in your Twitter and blog posts. You have criticised others who have supported you for trivial things, like not naming you. Perhaps they assumed you wanted to avoid unwanted attention? Quite frankly, it seems like you’re after more.

    Also, to quote you on Twitter today, “People will say anything to slag you off”, let me reiterate – I was not slagging you off. That was my critique of your feminism. Feel free to critique mine, if you wish.


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