Comment Rescue: The Challenges Women Face
I’ve been bugging commenter Zic to write a guest post and she gave us the next best thing with a well-written comment over at Blinded Trials. With her permission I share the comment here in full*
Want to add this piece on coerced mating by Garance Franke-Ruta at The Atlantic. For this discussion, the whole piece is worth a read, but I want to bring up this graf:
In America, we object to and do not permit any of these approaches [woman as property], because of what they violate: the right to be free from harm, the right of bodily integrity, the right to sexual autonomy, and, most importantly, the right of a woman to belong to herself and not be able to be claimed as property by a masculine act against her, or by anyone, ever.
Men fought against those who advocated women’s rights for close to 500 years in the West by calling them and their vision of female access to these rights — along with the right to be educated, critically, and to have the same suffrage and property rights as men — a violation of nature, or even, as one late-19th century American jurist described the idea of a woman lawyer, a “treason against nature.” And the critics were not entirely wrong. Women’s rights are unnatural, if you think about it — our natural lot the world over through most of documented human history has been subjection without autonomy or freedom. Coercive sexuality and rape are part of that system of subjection, and sexual coercion occurs in nonhuman primate populations, as well, where — depending on the species — it may well persist because it is an effective male reproductive strategy.
Because therein lies the breakdown in the discussion. The notion that women should be treated the same, be equal, with their physical autonomy is new. But the presumptions built into the way we deal with women’ are subject to and shaped by those hundreds of years of tradition. Like Romney’s line that if women are going to be in the workforce, too often, we women hear ourselves qualified with ifs. We women don’t deserve equal pay, in Romney’s world, we deserve an economy that’s so successful even we would be wanted in the workplace and get paid well. The jokes about women driving, the presumption the woman waiting for the elevator is a secretary instead of a boss, that the woman seeking an abortion was a careless slut.
I’ve said that men who want to lessen the demand for abortion need to confront the behavior of men. Women are not property. They own themselves. But if it were your wife, pregnant from a rape, I find it very difficult to imagine even the most pro-life man would be against her having an abortion. Franke-Ruta explains why:
Outside of the context of war, rape historically has been something more akin to a property crime than a crime against women per se — the injured party was the husband or father to whom the woman belonged, and recompense for the crime was made to him for the injury to his standing and damage to the marital or social value of the woman.
This is actually a pretty safe place for a woman on the internet; the men here are gentlemen, and far from ordinary. You mostly seem to recognize women as fully human; even in disagreeing about our lady parts.
But you know this is far from common. I came here with a gender-neutral name, fearing misogyny. And I’m not the only woman who’s done that. There’s a whole lot of hard work for men to do with other men in making the sexual objectification of women unacceptable. That doesn’t mean you won’t look, won’t lust. It doesn’t mean women won’t want you to look, either. But it does mean that the difference between looking and acting are obvious, bounded by respect. Because there’s an eon’s worth of social tradition, hundreds of years of habit, pushing sexual roles, including coercive mating, woman as property, and woman as incapable of deciding for themselves.
I’ve lived through what this means. It’s been hard work for me to be honest here and still be perceived as a whole and healthy person. Speaking exposes you as damaged goods — damaged property. Despite a rape, regular beatings, and a pedophile (molested twice at 11, stalked for five very long years), I remain my own, and strong. But that very history makes me suspect, I may be broken, so I’m not necessarily trustworthy. Because I was raped. I was beaten. I was molested.
Did you wonder, ‘is she broken, is she trustworthy?’ If so, I urge you to question why, re-read that last quote above. Because the kinds of abuses I lived through often do lead to unwanted pregnancy; it often leads to damaged psyches seeking love, wholeness and healing in all the wrong places; in drug addiction, alcoholism, irresponsible sex, and rape. It may not be a direct line from rape to pregnancy, but a different life path, where physical and sexual abuse increase the likelihood of an unwanted pregnancy. It’s a wonder I didn’t find myself there.
But I’ll say this again: virtually every woman I know has been molested in some way; has been the victim of inappropriate sexual advance or worse. So if I’m broken, perhaps all women are broken in some way.
But we get the endless discussions of what women should or should not do. Yet women are only part of the problem of abortion.
* Post edited for spelling only