Turnabout

Those of you familiar with the tropes of the men's rights advocates know that one of the most common MRA complaints is that of a woman trapping a man into fatherhood. In the typical MRA formulation, a woman used her feminine wiles in order to make a man impregnate her, and then she stuck him with child support, the evil bitch.

Now, I'm not foolish enough to argue that such a thing could never happen -- obviously with as many people as there are in the world, there are going to be some women who actually would do something that dumb -- but it hardly seems like a common occurrence. Few women think having a child and getting child support are the ticket to the big time; indeed, most would much rather have a partner in raising the child than simply a monthly stipend. So where does this idea, durable as it is, come from?

One thing we have seen from conservatives in general is that they are very adept at the art of projection. Often, the things they rail against the most are things that they, themselves, are guilty of. And it turns out that when it comes to someone being trapped into parenthood, there may be a bit of projection fueling the charge:
Miller's study is based on interviews with 61 girls from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds with a known history of intimate partner violence living in the poorest neighborhoods in Boston. The analysis included 53 girls between the ages of 15 and 20 who reported being sexually active and involved in relationships that included recurring patterns of physical, sexual or emotional abuse from a male partner. Twenty-six percent of these girls reported that their partners were actively trying to get them pregnant by manipulating condom use, sabotaging birth control use and making explicit statements about wanting them to become pregnant.

"We were floored by what these girls told us," Miller recalled. "You think of forced sex as an aspect of abusive relationships, but this takes that abuse a step further to reproductive control of a young woman's body."

Now, more research into this is needed -- it was a small study, and society can only benefit from understanding the underlying patterns of abuse, so that we can short-circuit them whenever possible. But the pattern unearthed in this study is both interesting and, if we're honest, unsurprising.

Of course some abusers want their wives or girlfriends pregnant. It's harder to leave if you have to be a single parent. It's much harder to leave if you're young, uneducated, or in a similarly difficult situation. Yes, women have access to abortion, but as we all know, that access is not universal and not always easy for someone of limited economic means to obtain, despite Planned Parenthood's best efforts. And even if a woman is able to financially and logistically obtain an abortion, she may not do so for fear of what her abusive partner may do to her.

The fact is that MRAs are rarely upset at women for having children; they're upset at women for having the temerity to leave. The "bitch trapped me" argument is wonderful post hoc reasoning; when pregnancy wasn't enough to weld a woman to your hip for life, and motherhood didn't make her stay with you, then, and only then, do you argue that you were tricked, deceived into placing your penis into her vagina, that you had no choice, and now you're ruined financially.

I've no doubt some of the men complaining most vociferously about being trapped into child support were men who pressured or deceived their partners into conceiving, bullied their partners into forgoing abortions, pushed their partners toward the maternity ward, all with the idea that this would make the woman beholden to them forever. And then the ungrateful bitch left, and took the kid with her.

That last sentence is the motto of the men's rights movement, of course. But it's spoken with more relish by these men, and why not? They are, after all, the unlucky ones. I would imagine far more women are trapped by their pregnancies, trapped by the need to protect and provide for their children, trapped by their dependency on their abusers' income, and their abusers' positioning of them as loyal, stay-at-home mothers. The MRAs whose partners escape -- their wifes and girlfriends were too smart, too stubborn, too independent to submit. No wonder they're so angry.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus