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Why men do not belong in the abortion conversation

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

Last week, I was sitting down in the second floor lounge of Willets pretending to do homework and talking to a bunch of my dorm mates about complete nonsense. This is a common theme in the public spaces of Willets and perfectly depicts our tuition money hard at work.  Somehow as my procrastination continued, the expected nonsensical conversation around me turned from a discussion about Chinese dumplings to the ethics of abortion. How this happened? I have no idea. However, each person in the room was incredibly prepared to give their unique spiel on why they were either pro-choice or pro-life. I sat there and listened to men and women alike argue about the future of abortion legality and the amount of restraints that should be set on the woman. At some point during the bickering I was asked my opinion on the issue. I was asked if I thought abortion was just or fair. Every person in that room looked at me as if I were on the Supreme Court and the final deciding factor on Roe v. Wade. Although my response was disappointing as I wasn’t locked and loaded ready to give my spiel on embryonic development, Planned Parenthood or any other abortion related dilemma. All that I said was, “I’m a man, in this conversation I don’t matter.”

In 1973, the Supreme Court decided that the 14th amendment protected the right of any women to have an abortion. The Roe v. Wade decision was 7-2 as many conservative justices found abortion protected under the rights stated in the constitution; however, since then conservatives all around the United States have protested the decision and fought adamantly against a woman’s right to an abortion. The Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, launched the GOP campaign against funding Planned Parenthood. John Cornyn, Senate Majority Whip, helped campaign against all organizations that performed abortions. Richard Mourdock, Treasurer of Indiana, stated that, “pregnancy from rape is something God intended,” harshly affirming his pro-life stance. The common theme of all of these people is that they are men with strong opinions on abortion. Men make up 80% of congress and 66% of the Supreme Court meaning that men have the dominant say on an issue that pertains 100% to women. Why do men have the privilege to decide the future of a woman?

During pregnancy, women have to carry a child for 9 months yielding the normal side effects of headache, nausea, swollen feet, swollen glands, mood swings, and much more. They may become ill and sometimes can lose the baby due to pre birth complications. Normal side effects of abortion for a women include: irregular bleeding, nausea, spotting and mood swings. This is not to mention the emotional impact that getting an abortion can cause. All of these symptoms and sacrifices are taken into account when a woman is deciding whether or not to have an abortion. Men during pregnancy have side effects including: nothing. Men during an abortion yield no physical side effects because they cannot have one. Yet, men are almost unanimously responsible for making decisions on the right of a women to have an abortion. Men do not have the right to divulge themselves in passionate discourse about a decision they will never have to make.

I was raised in household with my two younger brothers, my dad and my beautiful mother. Each day was a blessing as my family taught me life lessons that I will never forget. For example, the first thing that my father said to me when I turned 14 was, “ You’re becoming a man now, you treat women with nothing but respect and if you do otherwise I will be beyond disappointed.” At this point in time, I was ready to just go play football with my friends as I thought he was slandering me for not playing sports with girls at recess. Little did I realize that this lesson formulated my current beliefs on women’s rights. Women cannot be told what to do as that would infringe upon treating them with “nothing but respect.” My ethical concerns on men making decisions about abortion are culminated from this distinction articulated by my father. In my opinion, the men in Congress who speak with such conviction about abortion are failing to respect the women whom these decisions actually affect.

I hope that my father’s lesson will speak to the rest of the male population of the United States as respect for the other half of our species is lacking. Mr. Pence and company, in my opinion, have no right to make decisions on an elective procedure that they will never have to go through. Do women combat men who want to use Viagra or have a Vasectomy? No, they are showing us respect and it is about time that men start allowing women to control their own future and show them that same respect.


As men we do not belong in this conversation.         


The Ethics of “Doing What It Takes”

in Columns/Sports by

Grayson Allen, perhaps one of the most high-profile college basketball players today, was thrust into the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons. This past December, he was caught intentionally tripping an Elon player during Duke’s game against Elon. This became his third tripping incident in two seasons, and Coach K, one of the most well-known coaches in college basketball history, chose to indefinitely suspend Allen.

       Pundits and the national media were quick to call out Allen’s actions; college basketball analyst and former Duke basketball star Jay Williams made headlines by condemning Allen’s actions.

       “The Atlantic Coast Conference must take immediate action, but I would hope that Coach K before the ACC would take action. [Allen is] a junior, no more gifts. That [tripping] is showing your character, and that is unfortunate,” said Williams

       This incident is just one of many well-published ethical incidents that have come up in recent years in sports. Whether it be the NBA instituting fines for flopping or FIFA handing out yellow cards for diving, “cheating” of all kinds in sports in 2017 has received widespread attention. From the days of George Brett’s “pine-tarred” bat in the MLB, to current football players faking injuries to slow down no-huddle offenses, there has always been an element of “doing whatever it takes” to win in any sport. To what extent the mentality is ethical or morally misguided continues to be a contentious debate in 2017. 

       Unlike that of powerhouse sports conferences, the glitz and glamor of the Centennial Conference doesn’t exactly come with instant replays or millions of Americans tweeting about your every move.  As a result, Division III athletes in general might be suspect to various forms of gaining unfair advantages. Many student-athletes at Swarthmore has almost certainly been forced to make the decision to cheat or not, often in only a split second.

       Max Katz-Balmes ’20, a member of Men’s Varsity Golf, spoke on the ethics and decisions that one has to make in the game of golf.

       “Golf is a very individual sport, and it is really susceptible to cheating,” Katz-Balmes said. “I can think back to as early as my freshman year in high school, where a senior on the team would deliberately take the same score on his scorecard every round … scorecards are probably the easiest way to cheat, recreationally and in high school. I’ve never felt the motivation to do this.”

       Katz-Balmes continued to talk about a former college athlete and current golfer on the Professional Golf Association Tour, Patrick Reed, who was forced to leave the University of Georgia because of a cheating scandal. Reed ended up transferring after teammates caught him fabricating his scorecard in practice rounds in order to get a higher seed in matches.

       Katz-Balmes agrees with the sentiment that cheating in golf can be a huge problem.

       He notes how it is, “easy to make unsportsmanlike decisions” when there is little supervision over a golf match. Golf at the collegiate level has more rules in place than high school or recreational play to deter cheating. Examples include having one team keep track of the opposing team’s scorecards and having an appeal process to challenge potentially inaccurate scorecards.

       However, not all Swarthmore student-athletes feel the same way about the immorality of cheating conduct in athletics. Matthew Stein ‘20, a center back on the Men’s Varsity Soccer team offered his perspective on the ways in which “diving,” more commonly referred to as flopping, is not a downside in soccer.

       “Diving is way more accepted in soccer, I would say the majority of players flop … I have definitely flopped in games, and I don’t believe that is something to be ashamed of.”

       Stein continued, “Diving in soccer isn’t fundamentally wrong. I compare it to video games. Hacking would be cheating in video games; diving in soccer is similar to finding a glitch in a video game. It’s not purposefully cheating, but it is a way to get an edge in the game.”

       As a center back, Stein is often involved in confrontations in the penalty area with opposing attackers and commented on his in-game experiences.

      “The truth is that both defenders and attackers do it. For example, whenever a defender has the ball and an attacker is pushing him, the defender will fall to the ground and almost always get the foul call.”

       John Larkin ’17, a co-captain on the Men’s Varsity Tennis team commented on the different implications of sportsmanship in tennis.

       “When [cheating] does happen, it will come in the form of hooking, or miscalling lines. We don’t have refs in collegiate tennis, so the sport is vastly about calling your own lines,” said Larkin.

       Larkin went on to speak about the importance of sportsmanship for Swarthmore tennis players.

       “Coach Mullan makes it a point to the team that we have a very good reputation in the Centennial Conference. He absolutely does not tolerate any of [hooking] on the team, and if he sees it, he will let you know, and there will be consequences.”

       Larkin makes it clear that from the top-down, hooking in tennis is not an acceptable behavior. Players who do such generally develop poor reputations, and this form of “cheating” is a major problem if exposed.

      Sport by sport, there are clearly different standards as to what is acceptable sportsmanship. Allen’s continued tripping incidents have highlighted a clear problem in collegiate and even professional sports: “Where do we draw the line?What values should athletes aspire to play by, and to what extent are these ideals implemented in competition. Sport by sport, Swarthmore student-athletes tend to have varying viewpoints on the ethics of diving, hooking, scorecards, tripping, and more. The diversity of opinion on the issue of sportsmanship at the college is just a microcosm of a larger debate about sportsmanship and ethics in athletics.

Consider the pig and the ethics of meat-eating

in Campus Journal/Columns/Edible Thinker by

It’s time that we closely examine what we eat. We must begin to recognize that the food on our plate has greater implications, not only for our bodies, but also for subsequent generations. So often, in a world that doesn’t commune with the Earth or seem to depend on local businesses like butcher shops and bakeries anymore, we forget that our food has come from somewhere rather than having simply materialized and that it has been sculpted, really, by many hands.

Swarthmore’s student-run Good Food group — an organization which also oversees the modest but well-kept garden on campus — has staked its existence on raising awareness about where food comes from and what, exactly, goes into it, in terms of nutrients and resources but also sweat, blood. The group’s annual “Meat Day,” which was held last Saturday in the Scheuer room, is a vital event on Swarthmore’s campus because it allows members of the community to sit down together and not only share a meal (in the form of a glistening pig roast), but also discuss the ethical, economical and nutritional implications of eating meat — dimensions that are sometimes woefully overlooked as one gnoshes a burger or tucks into their Thanksgiving day dinner.

At this year’s “Meat Day,” there was a panel comprised of Ed Mills, a professor of meat science from Penn State University; Theresa Klinger, who supplied the pig for this year’s roast and who, along with her husband, runs Kli-vey Farms in Buckhorn, PA; Ariyeh Miller, the owner and operator of 1732 Meats in Landsdowne, PA; and Sarah Scheub ’12, a recent alum and young farmer. The panel was moderated by Iz Newlin ’14. All told, the group provided insightful commentary while fielding an array of questions from the large group of students in attendance (the Scheuer room, I was encouraged to see, was totally packed). And though I came away largely unconvinced as to the benefits of eating meat, there’s no question that any sort of dialogue that forces us to confront the realities of choosing to eat a certain way, be it carnivorously or otherwise, is a good thing — an essential thing, in fact.

In terms of the panelists themselves, I was somewhat intrigued by Mills’ point that meat can — and does — have the potential to improve certain diets. In particular, Mills cited communities in Kenya whose overall health was benefitted from eating meat, saying that animal protein aids in brain development in a way that the same quantity of plant protein, apparently, cannot match, which might give us slight pause in terms of doing away with all meat outright.

Meanwhile, Klinger and Miller both spoke passionately, and I think more persuasively, about healthy livestock and the meat they yield. It’s certainly true that the difference between an egg, say, that has come from a pasture-raised chicken who is free to engage with its environment and forage to its content and an egg that has come from an anemic, sequestered one is truly night and day — and the same goes for pork and beef products. There’s something about the deep orange, sunset hue of a healthy yoke or the nutty flavor of acorn-fed pork. These things just seem to be in concert with the way the world ought to be. They seem fundamentally right, even to a non-meat eater.

I was less satisfied, though, when it came to the issue of the environmental impact of eating meat, a crucial topic which I felt was largely glossed over by the guest speakers. I was honestly annoyed by Mills, whose presence on the panel was invaluable, but who, despite his background in hard science, did not say when pressed that Americans eat too much meat. The fact is, we do. It’s another component of our rabid, unchecked consumerism. Mills mentioned other comparable nations in Europe and Asia whose industrialization correlated with greater levels of meat consumption. But this seems to be a non-point which merely drives home the extent of the problem. Meat is an expensive commodity — there’s a reason those Kenyan villagers don’t eat it very often — and with increased affluence comes the resources and desire to produce, buy and consume costlier goods. But meat’s high “price” transcends literal currency and extends to its environmental expense which is formidable, and quite frankly, makes its consumption unethical.

At a time when the frequency of severe weather and the degradation of environment is happening literally before our eyes, Mills’ noncommittal answer seemed shortsighted and culturally influenced, indicative as it was of our first-world society’s fatal ambivalence.

Perhaps equally upsetting was the panel’s general apprehension over discussing the gory details of the act of killing itself. When asked point-blank about how the animal was slaughtered, Klinger initially balked until she managed to get around to saying that its jugular was severed (the process, known as exsanguination, is standard). Farmers, and especially consumers, must own, and become intimately familiar with, the tumultuous act of taking a life as a prerequisite for selling and eating meat. I agreed with Sheub and Mills when they said that everyone who eats meat should experience depriving a creature of its life. If you can’t face that stark reality in all of its morbidity, who are you to partake of what it yields?

The fact is that when you eat meat, a life was sacrificed for your sustenance. The question then becomes, is that fact petty or profound? I’ve killed a chicken, and even though they’re considered to be the most primitive farm animal, I found myself physically affected by the act. I became dizzy and needed to step away afterwards. Klinger also admitted that after slaughter days, she loses her appetite for meat. If we could wholly grasp what it means to take life, would we be so keen to fill our stomachs?

At the end of the day, however, it must be said that eating meat occasionally is not inherently bad. It can be done right, providing it is regarded as what it is — a luxury and a fragment of a once-living being. For these reasons, meat is a special thing and it should only be eaten if special people raised it in a special place, as the Klinger family does at Kil-vey Farms.

Mills was right when he said that ultimately, the decision to consume meat is one that has to be made on an individual basis. This is because, really, it is a deeply personal decision to consume meat, one that harkens all the way back to the primal interplay between human-animals-nature by enacting the beyond-intimate relationship of killer and killed. This is what Miller was talking about when he spoke movingly of “honoring life.” It’s about using every part of the animal and understanding each aspect of its development — from “farm to table” — as a means of acknowledging the gift of sacrifice and the environmental price of its luxury. It’s exactly that sort of vital awareness that “Meat Day” succeeds in raising, providing we take note.

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