Once upon a time I wrote an opinion piece about the trend of vapid vanity tattoos and how stupid I thought they were. Wow, you'd have thought I'd advocated eating children when the responses came in from people who felt THEIR tats were very significant and spiritual and despite agreeing that most women getting them were idiots, they themselves were absolutely NOT following some herd. Another time I wrote about how I think that faking orgasms is about the worst relationship sin I could imagine short of cheating, but this time at least I anticipated the flood of responses from women who thought that THEIR faked orgasms were actually good for their relationships. What interested me the second time was that I'd specifically tried to avoid sounding judgey. I expressed that this was how I personally felt and why, even citing studies I'd found supporting my claims, but women still felt they had to justify their own behaviors and explain--sometimes at excruciating length--why they thought this behavior was perfectly okay for them while--and this is the weird bit--still vilifying other women who do it. I came away with a very good understanding of the human tendency to think that a good personal justification excuses everything.
In that vein, this last week or two we have three interesting "the only moral whatever is my whatever" stories. First we have Scott DeJarlais, one of those odious "pro-life" and "family values" fundie nutbags who is working hard to remove women's personal autonomy because he knows so much better than us what's good for us. Not only was the hypocritical fuckwad cheating on his wife with a patient of his, but when she got knocked up, he blamed her for the accident and demanded she get an abortion. I'm sure he has some Olympics-grade rationalizations for why abortion and cheating were totes okay for him, though. I understand the latest is that the mistress just faking the pregnancy. Uh huh, I'm sure he knew that on that phone transcript, too.
Second, we have this new study that tells us that even men who hold forced-birth attitudes can see those views shift dramatically once they come face-to-face with an unexpected pregnancy. Again, I'm sure they all have wonderful reasons for why abortion's wrong for everybody else but okay this time for them; the study cites one reason that stood out to me--that the partner in question wasn't quite "the one" for them. Ah, that explains everything. You go right ahead and drive that girl to the clinic, Sparky!
And our third, Dinesh D'Souza, a Christian college president who totally got caught sharing a hotel room with a young woman while not quite divorced from his wife. If you want him to come talk to your church group about bringing Christianity into your everyday lives or maybe about defending "traditional" marriage (read: being an anti-gay bigot), that's a big part of how this dickbag makes his living in between cheating and lying. And if you're curious, he has the best doublespeak you've ever heard for denying the allegations and rationalizing why it was totally okay for him to share that room with another woman. I'm sure they were just praying about being more moral than everybody else.
Reminds me of how people were back in the 50s and 60s, when middle-class women were only given grudging consent to work outside the home if their husbands couldn't possibly afford them to be housewives AND approved of their sex slaves wives taking this step. If such women couldn't make it abundantly clear that they "deserved" this signal honor of working outside the home, they got the withering disapproval and scorn of their neighborhood betties. And it reminds me of how Americans have always felt about abortion--that we'll "allow" it to women who are too young, too white, too pedigreed, too non-consenting, but sluts, especially minority sluts, deserve the "consequences" of their actions. And how evangelicals tend to view "traditional" marriage as being weirdly anti-gay but are as a group totally okay with divorce and remarriage. We haven't grown much beyond the mindset that considers justification to be the king of all it surveys. And I say that we can do better.
I've done a lot of shit in my day that someone'd probably not like, including but certainly not limited to: deciding never to have kids, becoming sexually active before marriage, playing D&D, buying an American car, becoming a fundie, marrying young, divorcing, deconverting, buying a non-American car, going to a state school instead of the private one I could have barely swung, working outside the home, not working outside the home, and a lot more. Taking the first one alone, I've seen women try to "justify" this life decision all sorts of ways: they're worried about overpopulation. They love kids--why, just look how often they babysit for friends or relatives. They have health issues or they're desperately poor. They give back to the world in so many other ways. They volunteer. What it comes down to is this: they want the grudging consent of this hostile baby-frantic world to be "allowed" to be child-free.
Know what? It's not my business to wonder why they are child-free. They're adults. We're not quite yet a forced-birth country. And they don't need to justify a life decision like that beyond a "I don't want kids" and a frosty glare. What a wonderful feeling it was when I realized that. (And later, when I realized that opinion pieces about vanity tats and faked orgasms were kind of part of the problem. Get people defensive, and they're going to start defending themselves. Who'da thunk?)
I was going to call this entry, "The Only Moral X," but I don't want to give the impression that this entry is just a pro-choice thing because the issue I'm perceiving is a lot broader than that. Here's the problem. We have this tendency, even we ex-Christians, to perceive the world in terms of motivations and not behaviors. We need to let go of this ridiculous, stupid, self-defeating, histrionic tendency to demand justifications for anything we don't like so we can grudgingly concede that someone is allowed to have that abortion, marry/fuck that consenting adult, buy that car, go to that school, for whatever reason they want or for no reason at all, because anything else is setting ourselves up as the Thought Police. Either it's legal or it's not legal. If it's my right and I'm not overstepping your rights by doing it, then it doesn't fucking matter why I'm doing it. I don't have to justify anything I'm doing or not doing to you if it doesn't affect you in any way, and I don't even have to feel bad when I tell you to fuck off when you imply that I do.
It's not okay to set ourselves up as the Thought Police. It's not our place to get in the way of someone else's perfectly legal decision. What we're saying when we do this is that we have some kind of mandate from on high to decide for others how they will go about using the liberties they're granted by law. Hey, didn't we get enough of that shit when we were churchie?
Instead, let's judge behaviors. I'm certainly allowed to think whatever I want about tattoos, cheaters, fakers, people who have lavish weddings, and guys who play too much Minecraft, but ultimately it's their dumb tattoo, soul-crushing affair, faked orgasm, huge stupid wedding, and weird-ass video game. Constructing my own personal morality isn't the same as forcing it on others. If they're not asking me to watch, trying to get into my pants, or writing/voting legislation about it, then I fail to see how their actions are any of my business. If they ask my opinion, I'm addicted to giving it, but otherwise, I'm sure I've done all kinds of shit that they in turn would--and do--condemn. Part of being civilized is knowing when to back off and let adults handle their own lives. "Mind your own business" is one of the most sublime concepts to come out of the modern age (and it isn't even that new!). And once we do it, we no longer compartmentalize our thinking so far that we must condemn others but try to find loopholes for ourselves when life does what life always does: get in the way of our idealism and fantasies.
What we need to be judging and blocking are these cockbites who think it's okay to campaign against free will and liberty while doing exactly what they preach against because they're so sure that this one time they feel justified in disregarding the rules they're trying to set up for others, and especially we need to block those assholes who think they have one single say in another person's legal and consensual life choices. In many of us, this attitude is one of the hardest things to shed, but it's one of the most crucial bits of trash we'll ever jettison.
ETA: I should probably mention that I don't actually think tats are dumb or necessarily any of the other stuff I mentioned in the later part of the essay; I was making a point more than stating a personal preference. So hopefully we're cool