In Response

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thanks for the response, Adel. There are a few comments I'd like to make in turn.

First, I realize you were using the story of the men and their relationship to abortion in order to illustrate that often two people sharing a similar situation arrive at very different ideological beliefs. But I do think there is a fundamental problem when a question so basic to a woman's rights is expected to serve as a vehicle for the compromise of her brothers. Although this was perhaps a somewhat arbitrary example in the service of a broader point, I have a hard time with the image of two men sitting down to haggle over the rights of women based on their own second-hand experiences. And to me, whether or not they ever see eye to eye is irrelevant, because it is not their choice to make. Although in this country, I suppose in many ways it is their choice, but it ought not to be.

I think this series of posts also brings up the issue of different spheres of social engagement and what the responsibilities of each are. Of course, there are many, and multiple spheres, but as someone interested in politics in a professional way, compromise will be very important to you. And thank goodness we have people like you in this world, because (like it or not) compromise is the only way things are going to get done.

However. There is another sphere of social engagement, one that is more abstract, more academic in a way, and not beholden to the rules of civil engagement, of politics if you will. The making of policy and the making of philosophy are, after all, two very different things, although certainly interrelated. So while our policy makers may need to compromise, those of us interested in affecting change through a theoretical reworking of the fundamentals of the system do not. Should not. Were I given a place at that table, I would tell both men that it's not their choice to make, no matter how they feel affected by the ordeal their sisters have been through. I would, actually, refuse to see any point except the one that gives a woman maximum autonomy over her body. And the reason is because I believe that this is the *only* right thing to do.

So perhaps we can agree on this (although I know we actually agree on much). As a participant in our political system, you will foster the kinds of relationships with people that will allow you to empathize with them, to understand them, and ultimately to work with them. As a participant in academia, I will refuse to compromise my fundamental beliefs, and work to construct arguments and analyses that will allow me to deliver and justify these beliefs to a wider audience in the hopes of changing or supporting their opinions. Seems like a pretty good compromise to me.


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