A recent editorial in The Oklahoman attacking the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice is a disingenuous, snarky piece of sophomoric drivel that deserves some basic refutation and a collective response.
Titled “Feminists for double-standards” (April 25, 2013), the editorial is filled with enough weird, overly wrought false comparisons and red-herring claims to make any decent English instructor cringe in embarrassment for its writer, who obviously needs to go to a writing lab for remedial help.
The overall thesis of the piece is difficult to discern. It seems to be that OCRJ members, who rallied at the Capitol this week during Pink Wave 2013, are feminists who contradict feminist tenets. The editorial never directly criticizes the group’s focus on bringing attention to Oklahoma’s draconian anti-abortion laws or legislative proposals that threaten the rights of women to control their bodies. It even agrees with a comment made by Martha Skeeters, OCRJ president, about the state’s high female incarceration rate.
What’s the point? If The Oklahoman wants to argue that state lawmakers should control women’s reproductive capabilities then by all means it should do so, but why simply attack a group that thinks otherwise with misleading claims that it somehow contradicts itself on some philosophical level about women’s rights? Again, what’s the point, especially since the editorial’s overall argument is not really an argument but more of a twisted maze of false, self-proclaimed epiphanies? It’s a make-believe, gotcha commentary without any real gotcha.
The editorial begins by making the claim that essentially OCRJ members are “self-proclaimed feminists” who embrace “double standards.” Note that it doesn’t focus on OCRJ’s work or the point of the rally. The point seems to be to undermine OCRJ’s credibility in some manner, not to argue against its positions.
The main evidence provided for the dubious and just plain weird double-standards claim is that in her remarks Skeeters argued in favor of alternative sentencing for many imprisoned women in Oklahoma, which leads the nation in female incarceration. The editorial actually agrees with Skeeters’ overall point, but finds her “logic bizarre.” Isn’t that bizarre in itself?
Speaking of bizarre logic, here’s the editorial’s big point: “If women can be trusted to make their own decisions and live with the consequences when it comes to having an abortion, shouldn’t the same standard apply to women who decide to break the law?” That’s supposedly a double standard, though not in any traditional sense that anyone can really understand.
It’s difficult to even parse the false comparison. I’ll try. Yes, women can be trusted to make their own decisions. It’s not a question, ever, of “if” or “when” or “how.” How does that belief somehow contradict the belief that the state has a ridiculously high and embarrassing female incarceration rate? What’s the “same standard”? Let’s be very clear: An abortion is NOT a crime, and Skeeters is not arguing that women who do actually commit criminal acts should not face consequences. She’s just arguing for sentencing that would allow more incarcerated mothers to live with their children.
But, the editorial screeches in the arrogance of stupidity, “. . . why stress the separation of mothers from their children when incarceration also separates fathers from children (not to mention the permanent separation that abortion creates)? Should the law treat criminal parents differently based on gender when each commits the same crime?”
Note, again, that the writer is not actually talking about OCRJ’s main mission of fighting for reproductive justice and rights for women. The writer is making red-herring claims about double standards to make snarky asides, such as “not to mention the permanent separation that abortion creates.” (Note the italics. It’s a code.) Skeeters is not arguing that fathers should not also be given alternative sentencing to be with their children, and, of course, what about single mothers or pregnant women who are incarcerated?
And, of course, men don’t have reproductive organs, and OCRP’s mission is to fight for reproductive rights for women.
The editorial then criticizes Skeeters for supporting sex education classes in our schools. “Skeeters’ comments,” according to the editorial, “suggest she’s fine with politicians intruding on private parental decisions regarding their children’s learning about the birds and bees, but not similar efforts regarding citizens’ abortion decisions.” Again, the false comparison and weird logic is simply staggering. Sex education classes help prevent abortions. That’s one of the points of sex education classes. It’s the Oklahoma right-wing religious folks who are the hypocrites when they try to criminalize abortion at the same time they fight against sexual education classes in our schools. That’s the real double standard.
The editorial, and so many like it in The Oklahoman, can make this a suffocating place in which to live. OCRJ is a group with a clear mission that is standing up to express its political viewpoints against a tidal wave of right-wing hypocrisy in this place. They do so in a peaceful, heartfelt and intelligent manner, and this is what they get from the state’s largest newspaper, which won’t even engage them on the real issues. If The Oklahoman wants to send women to jail for having abortions, then it should argue the case and leave the logic and the critical thinking to the grownups in the state.