DNA Tests Are an Anti-Feminist Application of Science

So says essayist (and feminist?) Melanie McDonagh, writing:

So far as I can tell, she’s serious.

I don’t agree with her. I’m not sure I agree there can be any such thing as an “anti-feminist” application of science, but if there is such a thing, it’s not to be found in DNA paternity testing. The system McDonagh praises, where women simply chose the best option possible amongst the prospective daddies and declared him the father, was the result of necessity driven by uncertainty. Certainty and truth serve us better.

It does certainly seem odd that Ms. McDonagh seems to think that knowledge based around facts is somehow “anti-feminist”, while at the same time thinking that a woman lying about paternity is somehow “pro-feminist”.

Perhaps her definition of “feminist” is “It should be OK for women to lie to men in order to get money and support from them.”

I think some people have a problem with the concept that equality works both ways.

I don’t know anything about the author, and I’m not entirely sure that her comments aren’t tongue in cheek, but taking her at face value it seems that her argument is that men have lots of advantages in our society over women, but that one way that women had an advantage over men was clear knowledge of their off-spring’s origins, and that this test is taking it away. To me this seems a sort of two wrongs make a right type view that is hard to defend. The goal of feminism should be to make life as equal as possible between the sexes, not just a scoring of tit for tat.

Is The Spectator the UK equivalent of The Onion? That piece reads like an attempt at humor to me…

I agree with you Bricker, but on the other hand (and without having read the linked essay, so I don’t know if that is the argument), morally speaking, should the fact that among all the men a woman had unprotected sex with, you are the one whose genetic material found its way into her baby, change anything in terms of your obligations? I can see the argument that by having unprotected sex with a woman, you accept the possibility that she may become pregnant, so if she does you may be on the hook even though the child is not actually yours, genetically speaking.

This said, it’s much simpler to go with genetic testing than trying to sort through her and your arguments (what if you claim you didn’t actually have sex with her, for example?).

“Us” as society - I’d agree with you. “Us” as women - McDonagh might well be disagreeing with you there.

Where I think you and her diverge is on the way of looking at things. You are looking at individual instances - it is better in each instance there is certainty and truth.

She, on the other hand, is looking at a more overview - given that there is no certainty and truth overall, and given there is societal discrimination against women, it is better that this one area where uncertainty/untruths tilted the balance a little the other way continues to exist.

I don’t agree with her. But I can, I guess, see where she is coming from. When 95% of life is biased against women, and 5% biased in favor, it may be hard to stomach something equalizing that 5% while leaving the rest of discrimination untouched.

Pretty stupid stuff, really. It’s true that paternity testing does reduce the woman’s options if she is pregnant and believes one of her partners is a more suitable parent than another/the others regardless of who happens to be the biological father. But that’s an extremely avoidable situation: she can sleep with one partner at a time, she can use protection or insist that her partners do (or both), she can be upfront with her partners about her status, or she can have an abortion. I don’t think I could imagine a scenario that’s not covered by at least one of those options.

I can accept that it’s a good thing for a woman with multiple partners to be able to choose which one helps her raise the child. But like the author says, a man can love a child that isn’t biologically his. It happens all the time. The only thing a DNA test does is remove the woman’s ability to get the best partner to stay with her through deceit. Perhaps it’s ungallant and ungentlemanly to ask for a paternity test, but if the situation in the past was that a lot of gallant gentlemen supported children who were not theirs because they couldn’t find out the truth, those gallant gentlemen were taken advantage of. Even if you’re the gallant sort, you’d be within your rights to be pissed off at that kind of deception. The right thing to do is support the truth and access to more information and deal with the consequences, gallantry be damned.

Since when do two wrongs make a right?

The argument would be that 95-5 is closer to “fair” than 97-3.

I think idiots like Melanie McDonagh do more harm to women then DNA testing does. She says something stupid and creates an easy means of discrediting feminism in general.

I am a feminist (no question mark needed!) and I wholeheartedly disagree with her.

Well, yes, just as it would be a good thing for me to be able to choose whether to get my paycheck or Steve Jobs’ paycheck. :stuck_out_tongue:

I note that the commentators on the article have thoroughly schooled the author, making some of the same points made in this thread. I added one of my own about the inanity of suggesting that it is “pro-feminist” to argue that women ought to have a special privilege of choosing an advantageous lie over an inconvenient truth.

I understand what is being suggested.

I just disagree that a wrong is corrected by perpetrating another wrong.

This. There are many differen schools of feminism, and many are quite divergent from humanism. Some view it as a feminist position to visit injustices upon men in compensation/ to balance past inequality.

If you have 10 industries, 9 of which pay men more than women for the same job, and one which pays women more than men for the same job, I don’t see it as a move towards fairness to equalize pay only in the one where women had an advantage. Even though we have one fewer “unfair” industry, we have a society that is overall more tilted towards unfairness.

As I said, and as you even quoted, I don’t agree with McDonagh on this, but it isn’t an outrageous suggestion. And certainly one that deserves a little more nuanced a response than “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Wait. Let’s back up even further to the base assumption. This is the one thing we women had going for us? So us childless women are apparently just fucked, and not in a good way?

I resent strongly any implication that childbirth is so heavily tied to our femininity that a woman has nothing going for her unless she has had a child and. It doesn’t matter what the “and” is, it’s just the beginning.

Am I not a woman? Do I not have girly parts? Do I not have a uterus? Must have I had a child to have anything going for me? Wait, apparently that’s just been taken away from me, too.

Hoping this is a joke!

It is outrageous. It’s stupid and it’s wrong.

I don’t become more equal by lying to a man about who the father of my child is.

That’s feminism? Getting the last laugh on husbands and lovers via lies? I love this line:

She feels that a man is morally obliged to care for another man’s child because the mother says so? Wow. Who pays her to write for the Spectator?

And video surveillance and DNA testing also take choices away from criminals by hampering their ability to get away with lying about a crime. Not too many people think this is a bad thing.

I think she means in terms of societal advantages over men. But nevertheless…