Archive for May, 2010


Kick out the old folks?

Are early retirement incentive programs ageist? I know they can be useful for companies to save money in times of financial trouble, and can increase turn over, which can be helpful for new people entering the job market, but it does seem like it might be ageist on two counts:

1. Older people may be pressured to retire before they really want to; it sends a not-so-positive message about older employee contributions when they are essentially being paid to quit working; for people who do not take an ERI option, the resulting work environment may be less friendly towards people their own age simply in virtue of there being less of them.

2. It may be a way of taking advantage of younger people- getting them to do the same work that people who retire did, but for far less pay.

It seems to me, that both pay and employment ought to be contigent on performance, rather than age.

Despite, these realizations, (which, as Feminist Philosophers pointed out here, seem like they shouldn’t be realizations for an institution that claims to have moral authority), that the Catholic Church needs to avoid defensiveness over the sex abuse scandal, it seems like there is actually quite a bit of defensiveness going on.

We have Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, saying that the sex abuse in the Church is a “homosexual crisis.”

We have facebook events dedicated to getting people to change their statuses to show solidarity with the pope against “unfair attacks.”*

And, we have an Archbishop who writes this:

“A study undertaken by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice reported last November that the height of reported sexual abuse cases by priests occurred during the 1960s and 1970s. This clergy abuse was concurrent with the so-called ‘sexual revolution,’ resulting in a high incidence of sexual promiscuity, divorce and drug use within our culture.”

I don’t understand his association of the abuse with the time of the “sexual revolution.” Abuse is not analogous to consensual sex or liberal views of sexuality. Abuse is abuse. It’s about domination and power. I’m not certain how the divorce rate is relevant either, because divorce rates have risen to be sure, but maybe, just maybe, this is because women’s equality has risen and there is now less pressure to stay in a terrible marriage just because getting married and staying married is “what women do.”

Of course, he does say that he’s not offering context to exonerate anyone, but offering context is still a form of excuse- it’s saying, “Well, I know what I did was wrong, but it’s less wrong than it seems.”

*Clarification: I have no idea if the attacks are unfair or not, and I don’t think saying they are unfair is, in and of itself, being defensive. However, I do think saying they are unfair before we know if they are fair or not, or assuming any attack against the pope is unfair just because he is the pope, is being defensive.

Terminology and Abortion

I recently read Epistemic Injustice by Miranda Fricker, and it got me thinking about terminology in politics– the way we use certain phrases, terms, or arguments to establish credibility or diminish the credibility of others. I think, though, that we also use terminology to establish or diminish the credibility of ideas themselves, and not just of individuals putting forth ideas, e.g., calling health care “socialism,” or terming tea-partiers “tea-baggers.”

Recently we saw that support for gays and lesbians in the military drops when they are referred to as “homosexual” rather than “gay or lesbian.”

Which leads me to a conversation I had recently, with a woman who kept referring to pro-choicers as “pro-abortion.” Similar rhetoric surrounded the controversy of Obama giving a commencement speech at Notre Dame. While this might not be particularly popular with my fellow liberals, I think we need to stop using the term “anti-choice.” The thing is, I don’t like being referred to as “pro-abortion” because I’m not. I don’t think that term adequately reflects the nuance of my position on the issue. But, regardless of accuracy, the abortion debate is divisive enough without fighting over what to call each other. If we don’t want to be called “pro-abortion” (and I don’t) then I don’t think we ought to call pro-lifers “anti-choice.”

I think when we use terms to manipulate the debate, or to debase others, we’re really lowering the level of discourse. And the abortion debate doesn’t need to go any lower. If we can’t even respect what each side wants to be called, how can we respect each other enough to have a real conversation or come up with real solutions?

Maybe I’m just naive, but I think pro-lifers and pro-choicers can (and should) work together to minimize the number of abortions that happen. Ultimately, whether it’s financial reasons, lack of sexual education, social stigma (of being a single pregnant woman, pressure to adhere to beauty ideals, etc.), health risks resulting from lack of medical care, or just plain fear- there are external factors that can play into a woman’s decision to abort, and those are factors that we can do something about. It’s a divisive issue, but there’s a lot of common ground that tends to get overlooked.

There’s probably people on both sides who think that meeting in the middle will compromise their values; but from a pro-choice perspective, these issues are fundamentally issues of equality and justice for women- and if external factors largely determine a woman’s choice, then it’s not really a choice at all. From a pro-life perspective, again, equality and justice, not to mention actually preventing abortions. If we work together we’ll be much more successful in these respects.

Here’s some good advice from a sidewalk!