Should we ban sex-selective abortion? by mattsteinglass
June 17, 2009, 1:19 am
Filed under: Asia, Gender, United States

William Saletan “attempts a gotcha” (notes Scott Lemieux) by asking pro-choicers whether they oppose restrictions on sex-selective abortions:

Would you oppose regulation even of abortions aimed at preventing the births of girls? Because there’s increasing evidence that such abortions, which take place by the millions in Asia, are now being done by the thousands in the United States as well.

I happen to live in a country where abortion as such is unrestricted and extremely common, but where abortions aimed at preventing the births of girls are illegal. In fact, here in Vietnam, it is illegal for doctors even to inform expectant parents of the sex of their child before birth, in order to preclude such sex-selective abortions. And guess what? These regulations are completely ineffective. Doctors flout the rules, telling mothers after sonograms that “it looks like you have a butterfly” (girl) or “a bird” (boy). Widespread sex-selective abortion contributes to a clearly unbalanced sex ratio at birth. According to UNFPA, in 2008, 112 boys were born for every 100 girls, up from 110 in 2006.

Saletan cites a recent NY Times article about the apparent use of sex-selective abortions among Asian-Americans. He might have noted this point made in that very article, by a doctor who performs such abortions:

“It’s a real touchy thing,” Dr. Steinberg said. “It’s illegal in Asia, and culturally, it’s private.”

Apparently, legal restrictions on sex-selective abortion don’t work in the countries where they exist. So, yes, I would oppose regulation of abortions aimed at preventing the births of girls.

That said, however, I actually agree with Saletan that these questions are worth asking:

Should schools teach that aborting girls is wrong? Should doctors counsel couples not to do it? Should community leaders speak out against it?…What about purveyors of sex selection? Roberts notes that at least one assisted reproduction provider, the Fertility Institutes, offers sex selection and “has unabashedly advertised its services in Indian- and Chinese-language newspapers in the United States.” …The clinic’s medical director, Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, says the practice is “not harming anyone.” Is he right? Should he be allowed to continue peddling sex selection (as he does in this video) to Asian-Americans?

Yes, yes, yes, and no. The apparent high rates of abortion of girl embryos among Asian-Americans stem from the remnants of systemic prejudice against women in Asian-American culture. In the United States, we have a culture of gender equality. Our public institutions and community leaders should make it clear that aborting female embryos because they are female is wrong. And Dr. Steinberg should not be allowed to advertise the practice. To say that we should not criminalize something is not to say that people should be allowed to develop an industry around it.


What *would* make a female Hispanic nominee qualified? by mattsteinglass
May 28, 2009, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Gender, United States

Just curious, but if, in the eyes of the National Review crowd, graduating summa cum laude from Princeton, editing the Yale Law Review, and spending 10 years as a Federal Appeals Court judge doesn’t make Sotomayor qualified to serve on the Supreme Court…what would? Would she have to have won a Nobel Prize? Reached the rank of Admiral as a US Navy JAG? Earned billions of dollars with her own legal-themed cable TV network? Would she have to be capable of creating infinite clones of herself and seeing the curvature of space-time? Or what?

Oh wait! I know! She’d have to be a conservative.

LSU B.A. thinks Princeton/Yale J.D. isn’t smart enough by mattsteinglass
May 27, 2009, 9:24 am
Filed under: Gender, United States

Rod Dreher received a BA in Journalism, without honors, from Louisiana State, so perhaps the extremely stupid thing he wrote yesterday reflects ignorance of how academic achievements are awarded, rather than malice. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, let’s just get this clear. Neither Princeton nor any other university takes race into account when deciding which graduates will be granted their degrees summa cum laude. Antonin Scalia presumably earned his summa from Georgetown, even though he is Italian, just as Sonia Sotomayor earned her summa from Princeton, even though she is Puerto Rican. Samuel Alito presumably earned his spot as an editor at the Yale Law Review, just as Sonia Sotomayor earned her spot as an editor at the Yale Law Review. Similarly, Clarence Thomas presumably earned his cum laude from Holy Cross and his J.D. from Yale Law School, though, unlike Sotomayor, he graduated in the middle of his class and did not serve on the Law Review.

There’s exactly one reason conservatives are accusing Sotomayor of lacking the intellectual “firepower” to serve on the court. (“Firepower?” WTF? Maybe John Yoo, before he gets disbarred for ignoring relevant cases in legal advice to the POTUS, could address the question of whether Sotomayor has the balls to take on other justices mano a mano, whether she has the intellectual power tools to get under the hood of the court and give the law a tune-up? Because I’m not really sure what he’s implying here.) Or, to be precise, there are two. One involves ethnicity. The other involves gender. We all know exactly what’s going on here.

At Hanoi Hilton, Klobuchar flatters McCain by mattsteinglass
April 8, 2009, 4:17 pm
Filed under: Gender, President, Vietnam

John McCain stopped by for a visit yesterday, and this morning we gentlemen of the press were graciously allowed to tag along with him on a visit to Hoa Lo Prison, known to American POWs as the Hanoi Hilton. It’s now a museum.

John McCain with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (right) points out the location of his cell at the Hoa Lo Prison Museum in Hanoi, April 8, 2009.

John McCain with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (right) points out the location of his cell at the Hoa Lo Prison Museum in Hanoi, April 8, 2009.


I’ve seen former POWs become extremely emotional when visiting the museum, but McCain has already been back a few times, and he didn’t seem particularly affected. He seemed to be mainly enjoying an opportunity to show off to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who was accompanying him on the trip, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). At a press conference yesterday afternoon (at the actual Hanoi Hilton, the hotel, that is) Klobuchar began her portion of the opening remarks by gushing over McCain:

Klobuchar: Thank you very much Senator McCain, it is an honor to be here. I’m here as a new senator, also a Democratic senator. I’m here to tell you that Senator McCain is a hero in our country, and it was an honor today to go to see his monument by the lake where he parachuted down, and to think of that moment that changed his life forever.

And there are many Americans I’ve talked to who served in Vietnam who said it’s too hard for them to return. But Senator McCain has returned again and again and again, and has devoted himself to improving the relations between our country and Vietnam.

When Klobuchar called McCain a “hero”, he grinned uncontrollably, guffawed, and leaned back in his chair. Klobuchar has a bit of the”Fargo” accent you also hear in Sarah Palin’s voice, and listening to her successfully butter McCain up, it was hard not to think of what must have been happening last summer, when McCain was interviewing Palin for the VP job.

During the visit to the prison museum, Klobuchar continued the flattery. McCain spoke in a low voice, stoically, as Klobuchar commiserated and made pointedly sarcastic remarks about the museum’s propagandistic portrayal of Vietnamese generosity towards US POWs. Then Klobuchar spotted a 35-year-old McCain in the front row of a photo of POWs marching towards the USAF transport on the day they were released in 1973:

Klobuchar: Is that you? You’re so handsome!

A minute later, McCain laughed knowingly at a display of staged photos of US POWs celebrating Christmas:

McCain: This is (inaudible) hospitality.
Klobuchar: So it wasn’t really like this all the time.
McCain: That was really entertaining. they took me to one of these, I started yelling and shouting obscenities…
Klobuchar: And they never invited you back!

You incorrigible old bad boy, you. One reads stories of how Hillary Clinton ingratiated herself with senior (male) colleagues as a freshman Senator. What hasn’t come through to me before is how sexist the process looks. Of course one assumes that Klobuchar is a smart person who knows exactly what she’s doing, and that in this sense it’s not her who’s being manipulated, it’s McCain. And at some level he surely knows this, too. Still, it’s hard to imagine the relationship between a freshman male senator and a senior female one involving anything like this sort of giggly deference.

Meanwhile, McCain completely ignored Lindsey Graham throughout the tour. Graham is an Air Force veteran who served briefly in noncombat capacities in both Iraq conflicts, but he’s also a short, somewhat chubby guy who seemed strangely ill at ease around McCain. He hung back in third place as McCain showed Klobuchar around. Towards the end of the tour he spotted a propaganda photo of POWs purportedly raising chickens, and ventured a hopeful joke in his rich South Carolina accent:

Graham: Y’all raised chickens! That’s pretty good. I didn’t know you were a chicken farmer. You still raise chickens?

McCain ignored him.

You don’t buy stuff from other countries with PPP-adjusted dollars by mattsteinglass
December 3, 2008, 7:19 pm
Filed under: Development, Economics, Family, Gender

Matthew Yglesias notes that the $25,000 Alex Kuczynski (hi there Alex) paid the surrogate mother of her child is

a decent chunk of change in the United States but over six times per capita GDP in India.

I believe he must be looking at purchasing power parity-adjusted per capita GDP. In flat-out exchange rate dollars, per capita GDP in India is nowhere near $4,000 a year. If you handed someone in India $25,000 it would actually be a lot more than 6 times their per capita GDP (more than 25 times, I think) which means the prospect of carring babies for wealthy Westerners is even more attractive (and will continue to be so for a long time unless there’s a seismic shift in the world economy that collapses the value of Western currencies relative to the rupee).

Feminism vs. individualism? Or something? I don’t get it by mattsteinglass
July 29, 2008, 1:31 pm
Filed under: Gender

Megan McArdle has an interesting post referencing this interesting post by Ilyka at “Off Our Pedestals” about why it’s hard for some ambitious young women to embrace feminism.

I forgot that one of the losses I had to grieve when I threw my lot in with feminism was the idea that I was special and that, as someone special, I could beat the system all on my own. I was cute enough. I was funny enough. I was a “guy’s girl” enough. I was laid-back enough. I was smart enough. I liked fucking enough. I could totally do this, and just as soon as I did, oh, how I was going to have a good long laugh at all the pathetic loser women down there who couldn’t.

Megan responds that this is an instance of the own-bootstrap vs. social-influence mentalities:

It’s good to recognize how much of what we achieve is possible because we stand, so to speak, on the shoulders of giants. It’s very good for women who find the more radical, humorless brand of activist kind of annoying (and I am often among this group) to recognize that their willingness to be radical, humorless, and not very well liked was a necessary component of the massive advances we won a few short decades ago. But it’s not good to tell yourself that really, it wasn’t you, just your environment.

I felt on first read that I understood instinctively what these posts were saying, and then a few hours later I realized I didn’t actually understand them at all. Why should anyone’s ability to give thanks for the titanic struggles of their forebears, or their eagerness to consider themselves a member of the movements those forebears founded, diminish their own sense of accomplishment in (or responsibility for) their lives? I’ve spent my whole life being grateful to Louis Brandeis, my own grandparents, etc. for breaking down the barriers of quotas and prejudice that once kept Jews out of elite universities and so forth. But that didn’t make me feel any less proud of anything I’ve accomplished; if anything I felt more proud as part of a tradition of accomplishment by anyone I could call a forebear. I can’t imagine that blacks feel diminished by identifying themselves with the Civil Rights movement; I can’t imagine Dave Winfield thinking to himself I’m only here because of Jackie Robinson so it doesn’t really count or whatever a more appropriate analogy would be.

If it’s different for women, then why? Clearly gender is very different from race, ethnicity or religion. Its power of influence runs much deeper, and each gender’s identity is involved in a constant conversation with the other gender about what makes each side desirable in a way that isn’t true for ethnicity, race, or religion. But I still don’t really feel I understand this at all.