Feminism Causes Cancer

… was not actually the headline of an article in the current Guardian Weekly, but it was pretty much what it said. Apparently, if women do not get pregnant young and then basically stay pregnant, it greatly increases their risk of breast cancer.

What this proves is that “X causes cancer” does not guarantee that X is bad. You have to look at all the benefits of X, and at who gets the benefits and who gets the cancer. In this case, feminism benefits women, and women get the cancer, so it’s entirely reasonable for women to decide that the trade-off is a reasonable one. Indeed, in this case women can actually choose to make the choice on an individual basis. A woman can choose to have lots of children and reduce her risk of breast cancer; the existence of feminism is no threat to her.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we don’t need to do anything about it. Minimising breast cancer is still a very worthwhile goal. Breast cancer is still bad, even if it isn’t bad enough to make feminism as a whole a bad thing.

I doubt that there has ever been a culture where public debate has been as sophisticated as it needs to be, but it would be nice if public debate could acknowledge that something can be good despite having negative features, and bad despite having one or two good points. In many cases, this really does seem to be difficult for everyone to manage.

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