Whose basic human rights should we deny today?


30 comments posted
I Agree and Ask a Question

Media Girl,

I first came across this at Feminist Blogs.

I think that is a brilliant reconception of the question at the end of your post and, yes, it would make people understand what they are actually doing when they fail to address the inequalities faced by women.

On the other hand, how do you justify such simplistic, essentialized claims like this:

"Young boys, for example, are being raised in a combination of coddling environments where "self-esteem" must not be diminished by anybody, especially a teacher or coach, while at the same time are raised on a form of popular media entertainment that is anti-social at best: first-person shooter video games. To me that's a recipe for disaster. What kind of monsters will some of these boys grow up to be? Spoiled, aroused by violence, inexperienced at social interactions, especially conflict resolution."

Pretty simple equation--I guess all these male monsters are just a result of "coddling"....?

Thanks for getting me to think more about this issue.

Thivai's picture
Posted by Thivai (not verified) on 11 June 2005 - 11:05am
Regarding the boys

I was just raising concerns I've heard elsewhere. Admittedly it's an overgeneralization and probably could have been explained better, with a caveat attached. But my point was to say that this isn't just an argument to address conventionally liberal political positions -- it applies to conventionally and contemporarily conservative positions as well.

And I admit, I do see a certain neglect of the state of boys in our country today. Overall our educational system is a shambles, with kids leading the world at ages 8-10, but falling way down to near 20th by the time they reach 16. But there's a cultural problem we have regarding boys, and I think it might help explain some of the cultural gender issues we have.

At the risk of citing a book that has been roundly attacked and ridiculed by some feminists, I refer to Robert Bly's "Iron John," where he talks about how, with the scattering of extended family that happened as our economy shifted from agricultural to industrial focus, boys have been growing up with fewer mentors, or "male mothers," within the family. The perspectives and insights offered by a man in the family who's not in authority (and thus without any power that a teenager must, in coming of age, must resist), such as an uncle or grandfather, are rarer than they were 100 years ago. What Bly argues is that many boys end up growing up in what he called "the sibling society," where boys teach each other what it is to be a man. Thus we get street gangs, violent reactions to "disrespect," etc. (I would argue that this explains the juvenile behavior of the MRA trolls that were hammering this site a few days ago.)

And yet as a culture, as a society, we're afraid to deal with this issue. On the one hand, there's resistance to paying attention to a demographic that, ultimately, will have plenty of power in our society. On the other hand, there's resistance to singling any group out as in need of special attention.

I'm not presenting this very well, and would recommend "Iron John" to anyone interested in the subject. Forget the drumming retreats that you saw on television, Bly first and foremost is a poet and an observer, and he does not presume to know all -- he's just describing something that he sees, and I have to admit it makes sense. (To his credit, he recuses himself from what might be similar or parallel issues with girls and leaves that discussion to female scholars and observers.)

Anyway, I'm not saying that "coddling" creates amoral behavior, but there's nothing so scary as a person in power who was spoiled and has a felling of entitlement -- who, what's more, was raised on a diet of hyper-violent entertainment built on fantasies of he himself blowing the shit out of all sorts of people and things.

Boys' grades apparently are suffering, too. That should be a concern for all of us -- especially since these boys are going to be taking the reins of power in this patriarchy we live in (and is not likely to disappear soon).

In other words, my point was to say that we all are people, and all entitled to equal rights and protections. But that should not preclude us from addressing very serious and real failings in those protections and rights when it comes to a specific demographic, simply because that demographic is a subset of the whole.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 11 June 2005 - 11:36am
Not bad ...

I should note that it's not a "frame" that I'm buying into; partly, I'm stimulating discussion a certain way, and partly, I'm trying to outline my own, somewhat libertarian approach to such things.

If we're going to build on women's rights as a subset, even an integral part of human rights, I wouldn't suggest your (admittedly silly) formulation:

The state should not have any power to force a woman or man to get pregnant, remain pregnant or terminate pregnancy.

Instead, I would suggest this:

Every person, regardless of skin color, race, or gender, possesses sovereignty over his own body.*

Short, sweet, and concrete.

If I were to boil my own point down similarly, I would say:

Certain rights may be inherent, but securing those rights requires consensus.

My overall point is that if you're going to secure certain rights -- whatever those rights might be -- they need to be expressed in such a way that they are palatable to audiences outside those who would typically agree with you as a matter of course.


* Yes, yes. "His." I know. But it's grammatically correct, so I'm sticking with it. If you have a problem, take it up with the patriarchy.

pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit on 11 June 2005 - 11:38am
"his" body is not threatened

You argue for linguistic gymnastics so as to avoid calling a spade a spade. So now it seems we have to pretend gender discrimination does not exist in order to support gender equality.

"Certain rights may be inherent, but securing those rights requires consensus."

That is a statement full of internal contradiction, if you ask me. If certain rights are inherent, then there should be no problem if those rights are being denied to a certain demographic.

On the other hand, I am not surprised at your blindness. Your asterisk note is quite telling: even what is "grammatically correct" contains gender bias. When the entire world and how we describe it is wrapped around a male-oriented perspective, understanding and privilege, it's hard to understand a concept that questions the equality of such an arrangement.

And so we as women, in order to gain equal rights, must include men in our rhetoric in order to address injustices against women. Oh the irony.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 11 June 2005 - 12:05pm
From ideal to real
"Certain rights may be inherent, but securing those rights requires consensus."

That is a statement full of internal contradiction, if you ask me. If certain rights are inherent, then there should be no problem if those rights are being denied to a certain demographic.

Except that securing those rights -- making them real -- requires that other people, that is, the society around you, be convinced that those rights are due to you. Sometimes, it takes words. Sometimes, you have to draft an army and lead a revolution to secure the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And so we as women, in order to gain equal rights, must include men in our rhetoric in order to address injustices against women. Oh the irony.

Yes, it is ironic, but, I would say, absolutely necessary if you're trying to build consensus.


pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit on 11 June 2005 - 12:19pm
The opposite approach than what our Constitution mandates

The 10th Amendment says that what rights are not explicitly given to the state remain with the people.

And yet our Supreme Court has taken the view that unless people are specifically given equal rights, they don't deserve them. Hence women did not vote until more than 100 years after the country was founded, African Americans did not secure legally recognized equal access to voting and education until 100 years after the Civil War, and so on.

You're not a person unless the majority says it's so.

You may be arguing Realpolitik on this, but I'm saying that to buy into that frame -- that rights are conferred by the majority, rather than are inherent and inalienably held by each and every person -- is to reinforce it.

I'm arguing that the very assumption that each and every non-dominant demographic must be given equality by the white male establishment is in itself offensive. It's a truism that those in power will not relinquish that power willingly, but it's especially ironic to see that behavior from so-called "liberal" society.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 11 June 2005 - 12:56pm
As an addendum

I offer this post from Booman that is responding to a different challenge than yours, but I believe the argument tiponeill presents still applies:

A political party is a coalition for people with generally shared, but not identical views. For each of us some issues are of high importance, others less so. There often are some issues with which we disagree with the majority of our party, and we realize the necessity of compromise in order to advance the larger agenda. So if the party puts emphasis on Social Security while our major concern is the Iraq War, we still understand the necessity of the big tent.

There are couples of issues, however, that are different - and intensely personal. This seems difficult for some to understand, so I want to use an example that everyone will claim is over-the-top, but please bear with me for a moment.

In your state, the Dems have just selected a Senatorial candidate who is scion of a well-known political family, has large name recognition and is eminently electable. On Social Security and Medicare and labor and, in fact, most issues he is impeccable - there is only one small problem.

As a lifelong KKK member, he opposes equality for blacks, and you are a black voter.

Now, please ask yourself - if you were in this position, how would you react to this choice by your party?

Even more to the point, how would you react to the constant complaints from your fellow "progressives" that you were being an extremist, a selfish "single issue" voter, for failing to put your single-issue aside for the good of the party?

You see, all single-issues are not equal.

Two such issues are the right of a woman to own her body, and the right of a gay person to equality under the law.

YOU may see the issue as a trade off, yourself, but when you insist on party unity to the person that you are proposing to oppress for political gain, it is time that you realize how personally insulting you are being when you tell that person that they are a single issue extremist.

By your argument, it seems, we could not speak of this candidate's affiliation with the KKK or his racism. We could only say blandly that "he's against human rights." And others may say, "How?" But by your argument we are not to answer that, because then we'd be getting into "special rights" of African Americans. After all, why should African Americans get to object to how this candidate treats them, when other demographic groups don't have such privileges!

I'm sorry, but you seem to be arguing for a strange sort of Orwellian world where if we just don't use the words then the problem doesn't exist.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 11 June 2005 - 12:12pm
They're called "Log Cabin Republcans."

That bridge has already been crossed and, frankly, I am amazed when I hear the gay votes goes for people who have no use for gay people. I suspect the Log Cabin boys don't have any time for other gays, anyway

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 11 June 2005 - 1:37pm

My argument is that identity-related issues need to be presented in a manner that absolutely demonstrates their connection to broader themes of equality and due process.

First, in the example of a KKKandidate: He's KKK, that's unacceptable, off with his head because he's a bigot, and bigotry is unacceptable. His general offense is that he is a bigot; his specific offense is bigotry against an African-American.

Incidentally, I'm glad you brought up same-sex marriage; it's an issue that I have studied from a distance (although I really should read some more law review articles about it before my student Westlaw and LexisNexis subscriptions run out).

To apply my standards to the argument in favor of same-sex marriage, the argument goes something like this:

  1. As a general proposition, individuals are granted broad freedom of association and contracting.
  2. One such associational, contractual arrangement, is "marriage," a mutually supportive, bilateral arrangement, that is granted special status by the state because it promotes the growth of societally desriable units ("families").
  3. In "marriage," one is generally granted the freedom to choose a partner without reservation, except for state-mandated concerns about cosanguinity, simultaneous contractual arrangements, and similar conconers.
  4. A homosexual individual is not accorded the same freedom of partner-choosing for this arrangement, as all of this individual's prospective, desirable partners are proscribed.
  5. This lack of freedom is a denial of the individual's specific right to enter into marriage with the individual of his choice, a right that has long been recognized as a fundamental freedom.
  6. Because marriage is a fundamental freedom, denying it to one person is unacceptable, as it constitutes a denial to that individual of the equal protection of the laws.

And so forth. The case that I build begins from the proposition not that marriage laws require remedy because gay people require it, but because current policy specifically transgresses against fundamental freedoms shared by all individuals.

What I'm getting act is that before you go from women's rights to human rights, you have to show a chain of reasoning in between -- a chain that demonstrates why, exactly, the denial of that right is a denial of a human right, fundamental or no.


pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit on 11 June 2005 - 12:45pm
Here's the crux

Your point #4 is the very point that is denied by opponents.

The analogous point #4 regarding women's equality likewise is the very point being denied by opponents.

That is what that is the essential point to be made. Until it's established, clearly, there is no moving on.

The anti-gay crowd denies that gays are not accorded the same freedom as non-gays. It's the very nexus of the conflict, and no dialectic can happen until this point is resolved.

Likewise, with women's self-autonomy, the so-called "pro-life" crowd will deny point #4, that if the state interferes in private medical decisions and seizes control of women's bodies, then it's actually slavery. We cannot go on to fundamental freedoms until we establish very clearly that banning abortion is, at its heart, indenturing pregnant women into a set of state-mandated behaviors (slavery).

That is why we talk of women's equality -- because the denial by the social conservatives is that women's equality is compromised at all. (Although some vocal wingnuts would deny that women were entitled to equal rights anyway, but that's another can of worms.)

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 11 June 2005 - 1:06pm
Crowd Control

And that's why I won't bother debating some issues with the "pro-life" crowd, especially if we're talking about the American Family Association or the Dobson hordes. Their minds can't be changed, so I can't be bothered with them. But the squishy middle? You have to find a way to appeal to them ... and a chain of reasoning that appeals to their innate sense of fairness is one way to do it.

Abortion ... *sigh*

Abortion is an interesting issue. Once you start getting into the nuts and bolts of regulating abortions (parental and spousal notification, etc.), the binary pro/anti abortion consensus starts to break down.


pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit on 11 June 2005 - 1:14pm
When Mr Sperm met Ms. Ova

About a thousand years ago people argued "how many angels you can put on the head of a pin?" One or an infinite number. This is a classic argument.

Does life begin at conception?

The angels argument pre-supposes angels. Is "zero" an answer? Not in the arguments of ten centuries ago.

The conception argument also has a "zero" option.

What is "conception?' Yes there is a dictionary definition for it, but there is also one for angel. Doesn't make it anything more than someone's dream.

If I get another person's liver, heart, or kidney, does my life begin at that "conception?" If I get a blood transfusion, is that a form of "conception?" The cells transfused to me become MINE. If a man impregnates me, his donation is mine. The concept of "conception" can have "zero" value at this point. Until I bring the ova to a certain point, it is nothing more and nothing less than part of me. True there is nostalgia about intercourse, but it is not where all this begins and ends.

Granted there is a social structure that deals with children and families, but the conception doesn't make the cells now growing my body in any way anything other than me and that, folks, is not the property of the state.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 11 June 2005 - 1:58pm
Conception is simply nostalgia
If a man impregnates me, his donation is mine. The concept of "conception" can have "zero" value at this point. Until I bring the ova to a certain point, it is nothing more and nothing less than part of me. True there is nostalgia about intercourse, but it is not where all this begins and ends.

I've not heard it put that way before, but it has a compelling quality. It does along with the outlook on life that the past is but memory and the future but guesswork. The only reality is the present, and that's ever-changing.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 11 June 2005 - 4:15pm
Thanks for your response, a connection and another suggestion

Media Girl,

Thanks for your thoughtful suggestion...

Having grown up through the mentoring of street gangs from my early teens, this led me to originally question your essentializing of young boys experiences... I've been thinking a lot these days about the lack of ritualized experience that helps young people to move to a more adult stage, so I found your suggestions interesting.

I would also include Susan Faludi's book Stiffed, in particular, "Girls Have All the Power: What's Troubling Troubled Boys"...

I teach university students and I have started showing the movie "Iron Jawed Angels" as a part of a section on radical democracy. What troubles me is that so few women know the history of their struggle for equality--out of 6 classes so far, only one woman (out of app. 80), knew who Alica Paul or Lucy Burns were... very few even knew what a suffragette was or what was the date women received the right to vote.

A sure sign of a patriarchal society that denies women's experiences on so many levels.

Thanks again!

Thivai's picture
Posted by Thivai (not verified) on 11 June 2005 - 1:27pm

That was "Alice" Paul, not Alica (bad typing skills)

Thivai's picture
Posted by Thivai (not verified) on 11 June 2005 - 1:28pm
Mediagirl, I think that you

Mediagirl, I think that you are exactly right.

When you treat threat's to women's autonomy as anything other than a human rights issue, you get reactions like Kos's "I'll focus on important shit."

When you ignore the fact that particular human rights abuses are tied to things like sexism and racism, you get idiot responses like the guy at dKos who tried to argue that the whole "men are entitled because they don't feel as threatened when they cross paths with a guy on an empty street late at night" is bunk - using the example that when white people are afraid of black people, the white person gets blamed, but when women are wary of men, the man gets blamed. Which (besides turning a critique of the system into an accusation of blaming "innocent" individuals) completely ignores the fact that the preponderance of black on white violence is a media myth, but the preponderance of male on female violence is a statistical fact.

Jenny K's picture
Posted by Jenny K (not verified) on 11 June 2005 - 4:08pm
How simple

do we have to make it for people? Women are 53% of the population, therefore the human race is primarily female. Human rights = Rights of women.

On the subject of the young boys - coddling isn't the problem, it's raising them to expect that they are entitled to be violent, greedy and sexually aggressive is. "Boys will be boys" is bullshit - boys will be what you teach them.

The point about treating the group as siblings is interesting, but I think human males naturally run in packs, and females naturally organize as groups or sisters or friends and their children. It's similar to the way large cats operate in the wild. We see so many cases of infanticide where a man kills his girlfriend's baby the same way that a male cat will kill a female's kittens.

I actually think the human race is older than sexual reproduction. There's also a growing body of evidence that it's on its way out (see Adam's Curse by Brian Sykes.) In the mean time, I'd like some man to explain to me exactly what is more important than my uterus, why my egg needs his sperm to be valuable when that egg is capable of reproducing without sperm, but sperm is not able to reproduce without an egg, and I'd like to know why the person who risks her life gestating the infant, is ripped open giving birth to it and feeds it from her own body is supposed to have less to say about the process than the state, her doctor, her priest and someone she may only have encountered once in what may have been an act of violence. I'm not even sure a baby is a separate person from it's mother until it can eat solid food.

There is simply no logical reason to restrict abortion except to control women. The religious foundations come from a culture that was attempting to establish a patrilineal system of inheritance after violent overthrow of what may have been matriarchal, and definitely were peaceful, agricultural peoples during a time of famine. It has no relevance in a society with DNA technology.

Nothing is more offensive to me than the idea that a baby is supposed to be a punishement. A baby is a blessing and choosing to give it life is a sacred act. Forcing such a thing is obscene, and it endangers the physical and emotional well-being of the child.

The idea that a young woman might die from cancer for want of an available vaccine, or that people are dying this minute from AIDS that could easily have been prevented, because of a misinterpretation of the 3,000 year old ravings of some tribal hash heads is absurd.

Morgaine-ism© #8

"A Woman's Sexual and Reproductive Autonomy is Sacred and Absolute."

Morgaine Swann's picture
Posted by Morgaine Swann on 12 June 2005 - 7:42pm
World, Centered on Individual


Don't look at me for explanations of the state's ability to regulate abortion; I support a relatively unfettered right to secure an abortion not because of biology, but becauase it's an unjustified intrusion of the state into indvidual sovereignty; in general, I see it as a personal matter, a family decision, that more appropriately carries personal and familiar consequences.


pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit on 13 June 2005 - 6:00am
Forget what I say, hear my message

To pennywit and others who seems to be of the male persuasion, I think my rhetorical stance can sometimes be mistaken as an indictment of men. Men have been great allies.

One of the most brilliant businessmen I ever hired was Chinese. His name was "Hak" and he had a super sense of humor - non-Western, at that. When he announced to his colleagues that he was leaving them to come to the firm I worked for, and it came out that he would be reporting to a woman, his soon-to-be former colleagues gasped. Report to a woman?

"[Ha-ha-ha.] My wife is a woman. I report to her. [Chuckle-chuckle-chuckle]."

Later when there was a power play by some who wanted to bring the ever-more-profitable Division under their control, it was Hak took me aside to let me know what was going on in the "men's washroom."

So, yes, I have had good experiences with good men. If good men get caught in a cross-fire, the bullets aren't aimed at them. Or as one wag once said - who was caught between two factions - "[Ha-ha-ha.] Please use mortars. [Chuckle-chuckle-chuckle]."

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 13 June 2005 - 7:04am
I'll keep that in mind

OK ... I checked this morning, and I am still of the male persuasion, so I'll keep this in mind.

In workplace-related stories: I once worked in an office where I was the only male on the team. One co-worker, who was from another team, asked me what it was like to work on that team, no doubt expecting me to come up with some sort of male-to-male male-bonding type response.

I didn't have use for that sort of thing, but IIRC, my reaction was "they're all women? I hadn't noticed!" ... which, I think, effectively communicated my views on the matter to my colleague.

A newsroom's an interesting environment ... one of my female co-workers once discovered a photo of a statue, the photo being called "well-endowed elephant." The statue, apparently, had generated some controversy in its hometown, and my co-worker was trying to find the offending bit of the statue in the photo so she could see for herself. Before long, about half of the people in the room were at the computer with her, trying to adjust color, lighting, etc., on the photo so that we could see what the fuss was about.

On the subject of men. While I joined in mocking the Talented Mister Key elsewhere, I do sympathize, somewhat, with the general point of view that on a number of core issues relating to women, some of the discoursers actively try to bar men's concerns about the same issue.

While I dislike debating abortion with people, I'll use it as an example here. If I assume a healthy, consensual, long-term, monogamous relationship between two individuals who have evinced to each other a desire to raise a family together, the idea that a woman in such a relationship, when pregnant, might elect an abortion without consulting with her partner chills me to the bone.

To my mind, a person who would do that evinces an appalling lack of respect for her partner, as she denies that partner a say in the establishment of their family. I'm not one to countenance law-related penalties for this behavior, but I think this hypothetical woman's partner should re-evaluate the relationship. I know that I would.

While activists like the Talented Mister Key are odious, their central thesis has a grain of truth to it.


pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit on 13 June 2005 - 7:38am
Point well made

You brought up a good.

If I assume a healthy, consensual, long-term, monogamous relationship between two individuals who have evinced to each other a desire to raise a family together, the idea that a woman in such a relationship, when pregnant, might elect an abortion without consulting with her partner chills me to the bone.

That is a horrifying image. It is one where trust has been dashed.

When a mate realizes his/her significant other, S.O., has been cheating, it is a chilling moment. The person might be so chilled that she goes completely numb. What if the S.O. trip's out of town are to a love nest or, even!, that there is a second family underway. What if the S.O. gets a sexual transmitted disease, STD,. that prevents a future pregnancy or the STD infects the loving partner.

I think I can understand the concern and while I can make some comparisons about infidelity and finances and ownership, I fear that would not address your concern in this matter and won't go there. I think I understand. At least I hope I do. I am tempted to say the concern is something along the lines of child custody and feeling that you have no say and that your feelings and concern and participation are secondary to non-existent.

It does get down to some human rights. Going back to your well-crafted points about marriage being a civil right. If two women live together but are not allowed to be married because they are women and one of the women bears a child. I won't go into the details, but I have second-hand experience in a few of these relationships. The S.O. who does not have the baby is in much the same boat as you describe. For better or worse, she has no paternity obligations/rights, even though the baby was brought into the world as an expression of love between the partners, irrespective of the sperm source. If it were a husband and wife, even though there were a sperm donor or the wife had "cheated," the husbands name, pro forma, goes on the birth certificate, at least for starters.

In fact, what if the person contributing the sperm happens along and lay claim to the child? In a second-hand case, I was a long-standing friend of the biological mother - a beautiful, intelligent and charming woman - who in her prime was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I saw the legal hell the surviving spouse and dying mother went through to make sure the child would be raised by the surviving spouse and it was through sheer luck that the surviving S.O. knew "more than a thing or two" about law.

I am not putting this case out as a rebuttal to your concerns or to dismiss what you have said. To repeat, I hope I hear you and you raise a point that is chilling.

I am seeking common ground and say, "yes," there are parallels we might agree upon and places where we can see how the other party might feel and how the law can be an juggernaut that crushes humans that end up in its path.

As to the person in the specific case to which I witnessed second hand, watching for the sidelines, as it were, the father's identity was known. Although legally he surrendered his rights, and therefore any legal or economic obligations as well, what social obligations were there? What if the child asked about the biological father who, at least at the time I knew this couple, was alive and lived not all that far away?

Life is not a romantic comedy (with a tragic vehicle) so that the father marries the surviving S.O. and the three (or more to come) live happily ever after. Hollywood might have a neat solution to the problem that squares with Middle America, and I think all too often the laws are written for Hollywood endings for the feel-good-movie-of-the-summer.

But I have not answered your concern. I do hope you feel heard.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 13 June 2005 - 8:31am

Legislating human relationships is difficult, to put it mildly.

I'm glad you can see where I'm coming from. That means something.


pennywit's picture
Posted by pennywit on 13 June 2005 - 10:43am
The Chosen

Reb Saunders says it is not easy to be a friend.

I also heard that friendship is a relationship, unlike others, that really has no basis in contract law nor in other aspects of law.

If someone chooses to abort a child and does not involve the mate - assuming this relationship is a solid one - something has gone drastically wrong. The interesting question is, why would a person choose to have an abortion with all the positives of the hypothetical?

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 13 June 2005 - 1:53pm
Conception - when life begins

Thank you for building on my point and adding many points of your own.

I jokingly wrote to Media girl, "does conception begin when the guy brings you flowers?"

Your point,

I'm not even sure a baby is a separate person from it's mother until it can eat solid food.

is one well taken. The way the discussion of conception is usually framed is sperm entering egg. Many religious arguments also go there - that the soul "enters" the picture as the sperm enters the egg. Even if we believe in souls, it is a matter of dogma that this is the precise moment that God injects a soul into the process.

Insofar as Christians scripture, the Bible is moot on the point, so far as I know and there is no reference to the sperm entering the egg. As I parse it out, this notion of sperm entering egg is a rather modern idea and was witnessed when microscopes were first build. Religion merely declare that that was when God injected the soul. But, as I suggest, there is nothing in scripture about that because this exact process was unknown to people 2000 years ago.

Abortions and contraception, however, have been known since ancient times and different cultures have had different views on the matter, but "the moment of conception" is a bit of a moving target, just like angels on the point of a pin.

Men do not have a monthly reminder in their early years that a potential baby has not happened. Men do have experience with losing their seed through stimulation, but the ovum is not discharged just because a woman is stimulated. I think this might create a different view of what "the moment of conception" is in the general male view versus the general female view. The monthly reminder is much less pleasant than the sexual release that men have. If men had bad cramps for three days every time they were getting ready to produce a baby, their psychology would be a bit different.

The moment of conception would not be quite the same, and yes, the birth process and carrying the child and then getting the child to the point it can be weened, usually is not part of the arguments put forth.

I believe the sexes can communicate on how our experiences color what we understand to be involved in conceiving a child. If we pause to listen to one another, all of us can learn from one another.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 13 June 2005 - 12:34am
It's a politics of self-absorption

Much of the denying of human rights, we must remember, is done by humans whose rights are being denied: the African Americans who are opposed to gay rights, the group of gay citizens who are opposed to feminism, women who are homophobic, disabled people who are racist, etc.

This is a problem of human nature, and very difficult to sort out. For me, the liberal preoccupation with human rights is troublesome because I have no idea why we would exclude non-human creatures from discussions of freedom from suffering.

Diane's picture
Posted by Diane (not verified) on 13 June 2005 - 1:58pm
The trap of identity politics

You make a good point, Diane, and this indeed is the heart of the "problem" that identity politics faces. However, specific grievances need to be addressed, so turning away from identity politics altogether simply because they could be used to argue unjust causes (e.g., we deserve equality, but they don't) does not serve.

That is why the context of equal rights for all, for which Pennywit argues, is also important.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 13 June 2005 - 2:17pm
Identity Politics

All politics is identity politics. Radical Republicans practice identity politics when they try to impose their Christian heresy on the rest of us. The slave owner is practicing identity politics, as is the pimp and the business owner. It only becomes "identity politics" when an oppressor is trying to tell an oppressed group to STFU, and wants to minimize their feelings.

Diane, in another time, I might agree with you about the animals. For me, it is a matter of priority. I want us to treat animals better, but I'm more concerned with women and children first. Maybe that's the same as the guys taking a position not supportive to ours - I suppose it could be from your perspective - but I'm having a hard enough time convincing the world that I'm a person, so forgive me if I'm species-biased.

Matsu - you make a good point about different experiences leading to different perceptions. Our perceptions are far more tenuous than most people realize. For example, there is a culture where babies are never diapered. When the child has to go to the bathroom, the mother knows this and takes the child to the bushes. Anthropologists observing this asked how they knew to do that, but the idea of not knowing was as incredulous to the mothers as knowing is to us. Would they consider a baby a separate person at that point?

There is or was another tribe that had no concept of "otherness". They made no distinction from one's own body and the body of others, even to the point that they would moisten food with their own spit and offer it to another - they perceived the entirety of their tribe as one body.

Pennywit spins a lovely picture of domestic bliss, but it has little to do with reality. It would be great if everyone were in a loving relationship, but very few people are. Even if she is part of such a relationship, the decision lies with the woman. A friend of mine just divorced a husband because he insisted that he suddenly wanted a child. She doesn't, and never did, so she left a very loving relationship. She was blessed to be in a position to choose to leave. Women in dependent or abusive relationships don't need the added burden of having no control of their own bodies.

Women's issues should be separate from men's concerns. They should not be treated as inferior, or less important, but rather none of their business. No uterus, no opinion.

The history of what we know about conception is fascinating. When people learned that men had anything to do with conception (it is hypothesized that women knew this long before men realized it) the men theorized that they deposited the baby whole and that the mother was merely the ground in which the seed was planted. We know now that this is not true. In fact, I haven't found the specific paper yet, but I know that in 1979 is was determined that two ova, either both from the same woman or one from each of two women, could be combined and would develop into a female child. This is not possible with sperm. I'm just waiting for lesbians to realize this and start having their own biological children. It could revolutionize the entire debate when women realize that sperm is not necessary with a little technology.

In the mean time, I recently disappointed my evangelical uncle by telling him that every fetus begins life as a female. He would have preferred that we all start out as male - you know "in God's image" - but the reality is that Nature always prefers her own gender, and a "Y" chromosome is not enough to create a male child. Additional processes must take place in the womb, or an XY child will be born female.

This is where I think women have to develop a sense of entitlement. We not only create life, we create gender, and that power should never be abused, or enforced or subject to the will of any man. Goddess knows, men feel entitled enough and it's been long enough. It's time for us to reclaim our power.

Morgaine-ism© #8

"A Woman's Sexual and Reproductive Autonomy is Sacred and Absolute."

Morgaine Swann's picture
Posted by Morgaine Swann on 13 June 2005 - 11:07pm
Morgaine, I appreciate what you are saying

It is easy for me to get into prioritizing a few repressed groups, too--women, children, and non-humans (sorry, but we are animals, too). And gays. But where does that leave the man who is tortured and imprisoned because of his political beliefs? Or the man who is pulled over and whacked around by police because of his color?

And when you get down to it, no one, other than a child, is as defenseless as factory farm and lab animals.

Just so you know where I'm coming from.

Diane's picture
Posted by Diane (not verified) on 14 June 2005 - 11:37am

Hey, Diane-

I know where your are coming from, but what's your point about people who are tortured for political beliefs or attacked for color. I believe ALL torture is wrong. I believe most violence is wrong ( I wish I could say "all", but I have to leave the possiblility open that at some pooint I have to defend myself or my democracy) but that's not what we were talking about here. Why not write a blog post here and we'll continue the discussion? It's an important topic that I'd certainly be willing to explore further.

Morgaine-ism© #8

"A Woman's Sexual and Reproductive Autonomy is Sacred and Absolute."

Morgaine Swann's picture
Posted by Morgaine Swann on 15 June 2005 - 12:20am
I didn't mean for it to be complicated.

I may not have expressed myself clearly. I just meant that I understood that you have a priority, i.e., women and children. And that I have priorities, too, but ideally, I wish I didn't for the reason you state--that all torture is bad.

My personal reason for putting non-humans high on my list ist that they are most defenseless. But a man being dragged by a car in Texas and a hog having its legs pulled off: It's all the same to me.

Diane's picture
Posted by Diane (not verified) on 15 June 2005 - 10:15pm