So. I heard in the news recently that pregnant women having natural abortions (ie miscarriages/stillbirths) are now up for murder charges with life imprisonment. More ‘bad mother’ stuff. I suppose we can be grateful if they don’t get the death penalty. Witches caused miscarriages too, gave their foetuses the Evil Eye or some such, so they were burned at the stake. “Women are being stripped of their constitutional personhood and subjected to truly cruel laws,” said Lynn Paltrow of the campaign National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW). “It’s turning pregnant women into a different class of person and removing them of their rights.”
No shit? Well, it makes perfect logical sense to male supremacy. Because females are not human. No human rights are given to non-humans, such as pregnant females. Their female-specific organs are not human because there is no male-bodied equivalent and therefore logically, it stands to Human (ie male) reason that pregnant females, are not human.
The womb and its contents are so external to male bodies, so separated from their own sensory perceptions, that they cannot imagine it being a part of their own bodies, as an arm, or heart, or liver or kidney is. Males and females share these organs, so they can be human. The womb is female-specific therefore it is seen, by men and women both, under male supremacy as alien, separate, animal-like (because animal females have them too), but definitely Not-Human. I remember being told in a lecture once, the strongest muscle in the human body, is the uterus. But since men don’t have one, it can’t be human and some other muscle gets the name. The only way a woman can be considered human under male-dominant laws, is to dissociate herself from her female organs as much as possible. To consider them and their contents separate, to dissociate herself, to dis-member herself, to undergo social, psychological and physical cognitive dissonance, and most especially during the worst of all – during pregnancy.
This is the male-bodied experience of the world. Mary Daly named this male-bodied sensory perception, ‘Foetal Identification Syndrome’. Men, by their own physical senses, just cannot perceive the foetus as anything other than wholly separate from the container, hence they only perceive the foetus as human, not the ‘container’.
Female-bodied experience in attempting to be a naturally complete human, has a different perception formed from different sensory input. Since language is Man-Made, women are often at a complete loss to describe their experiences of pregnancy, lactation or motherhood, as man-made words are often completely inadequate to describe something males cannot feel.
The foetus, like other bodily organs, is a part of her body, its her pregnancy, its her foetus, its a part of her, like her heart or liver or kidney. Its her organs doing their thing. The difference though between these and other organs, is that the process of foetal maturation can stop by itself, or be stopped through intervention, harmlessly during the process for various reasons, or it can mature and be born to continue its growth and maturation.
Natural abortion, (aka miscarriage, stillbirth etc) is sometimes explained away in compassion and well-meaningly as ‘Nature’s Way’. Abortions when a woman intentionally causes a miscarriage, is considered high treason against the State. I see it more as helping Nature along. During the cyclical female holocausts over the millennia, even natural abortions are often seen as evidence of the mother’s intentional use of Evil Powers. Under patriarchy, where women have little control over male demands for PIV, its a necessity for all women to be able to help Nature along in this way.
Either way, is Nature’s Way. Either way can be harm-reduction in making the best-of-a-bad-situation under patriarchy. Either way can, and is, used as a patriarchal weapon of violence-against-women. Hence, while supporting abortion access as a necessary and critical harm-reduction strategy, harm-reduction measures for women who birth is equally critically important to support. This is just in my own personal view, as I am aware that many feminists do not agree with supporting mothering
I believe that harm-reduction strategies, such as enabling women to birth safely, to resist the patriarchal dissociation, (aka mind/body split, or cognitive dissonance), to avoid institutional medical rape and harm, to enable strategies for caring for children communally with other women without the fucking sperm-donors and/or State controlling their lives 24/7, and working for mother’s rights to their children etc – is just as valuable. Calling them ‘mindless breeders’ like patriarchy does, is akin to many left-wing liberal men’s attitudes as ‘Your choice, your problem’. It is seeing women through the male-identified gaze, nodding along that they are mindless animals, and viewing them with contempt. You made your bed, now lie in it. You wanted the kid, so you deal with it. You are on your own, sister. It is also naive fantasy and intellectual masturbation of the highest order, to think that enabling only non-pregnancy harm-reduction strategies is a political or radical solution. It can only ever be a personal solution. Valuable and precious as that is, so is harm-reduction strategies for mothers. Its not either one Or the other. Its both that are valuable as personal Survival strategies. Because no matter how many women have genuinely benefited from it, patriarchy controls it – and it is always a tool of patriarchal power and will always be turned as a weapon of violence-against-women, and unfortunately often ‘other’ women as in India’s missing girls.
Like all reproduction processes are on the entire planet. In the 20th century, most of the artificial reproduction technologies began with prevention/removing pregnancy (but didn’t stop there). Barrier methods, non-PIV sexual practices worked as well. But they compromised male’s enjoyment of PIV, and were wholly dependent on male agreement. Yeah, right. If there is any universal female experience, it is that males will viciously defend their right to PIV-on-demand, by any means necessary, and there is probably SFA that women can do about it except minimise the consequences to themselves in their personal lives. On top of which, such options are only available for small percentages of women, in primarily western so-called liberal democratic countries, and those were hard-fought to get in the first place, and take up a lot of feminist time and effort to keep.
The herstorical experience of the early decades of hormonal and IUD contraception is a bloody one of violence-against-women. A mini-holocaust of female deaths and disability, and IUDs work as a 28-day DIY abortion kit. Can’t be good for the body. No matter how many women benefited from it. The news about the Pill broke in the western white middle-class women first. By 1968, the UK medical fraternity concerned with the high death rate, the strokes, the thromboembolism in healthy young fit women, finally (took them long enough!) did some real research and found the oestrogen dose was way, way too high. Immediately they halved the legal maximum dose in the Pill, which left big pharma with millions of unsold stock in warehouses. Not to waste, they then dumped these stocks on third-world markets. If such doses were killing healthy young white middle-class women, what do you imagine it did to small, undernourished, poor third-world women?
But thats ancient history now. The men fixed it. Eventually. They used enough female lab rats, monkeys and humans over the next decades through 2nd, 3rd and currently “4th generation” pharmaceuticals, to finally get it right, or close enough. Side-effects are just minor irritations now. Not statistically significant. Women can put up with a lot to prevent pregnancy, since they can’t do much about PIV.
Then the flip side of the exact same patriarchal ethics, is in artificial-pregnancy research (if PIV, or donor-insemination wasn’t simple enough to maintain the species?). Males control both the on, and the off, switches, for their benefit. First I question the enormous amount of resources going into this research. All that money in research funding, for what? Germaine Greer quotes that global expenditure on artificial reproduction technologies, is second only to global defence spending (Sex and Destiny; The Politics of Human Fertility, 1984). Janice Raymond in the Transsexual Empire queried why doctors who had been in the forefront of M2t surgical technology in the 1960s and 70s, moved into artificial reproduction medicine in the 1980s.
Some radfems saw the ‘writing-on-the-wall’ in the 1980s with the arrival of the first IVF babies. They looked to the future of where the technologies potentially might end up. They took their thoughts to a logical end, even if that end is still decades or centuries away. Other feminists thought it was not important enough for feminist analysis, because it was very limited and had enormous failure rates for the first 10 years. But each new batch of women undergoing the procedures enabled the technodocs to get better and better at it. A lot of the experimental women died or suffered disability from their experimentation of massive hormonal assaults, and repeat cycles of IVF treatments over several years. I’m sure they learned heaps from their mistakes during the autopsies, just like they did with the Pill. We’ll do better next time, now we figured out where we fucked up. Now, the rates are so successful, its all over the place and major multinational industry up there with Monsanto and Exxon.
Along with egg farming and surrogacy. The precedent on commercial surrogacy womb prostitution was set with the infamous Baby-M case. Along with newly formed social (and legalised) splits of biological ‘mothers’ – ie. genetic mother, the gestational mother and the social mother, all with different levels of ‘human’ and civil rights.
Men of course, can also be genetic parents, and social parents, hence these roles are socially valued accordingly, and given similar, if not equal, legal recognition. They are ‘equivalent’ and therefore ‘human’. However, the mental gyrations that masculinist biologists had to go through to ‘reconstruct’ the process of female ovum donation to be parallel or ‘equal’ to male sperm donation is mind-boggling. Young, healthy, women sell their ova via the internet. Its said that ‘Its no different to sperm donation’.
Excuse me? When women can donate their ova via a 5-minute wank, I’ll believe that.
The risks in this process are horrendous, and the whole idea of ‘informed’ consent in making reproductive ‘choices’ is something women have rarely been allowed to have, and especially not in the egg-farming industry as explained in Eggsploitation (2011).
So men and women are ‘equal’ as genetic parents, in this social reconstruction, if you can reconstruct the ovum with sperm as equivalent pieces of biology. We can of course socially and surgically remove all the female-addons from the equation, in order to force the concept in our collective brains that they are indeed the ‘same’. Human (ie male) reconstruction of the facts of biology, physics and chemistry, in order to make it “fit” the same way male bodies function. Every Sperm is Sacred. Ova can come along for the ride, but only if they do as they’re told.
But males can’t gestate at all, or even come close, so the gestational female is the least valued, and worse for her, she can’t be reconstructed, surgically or socially, to fit a male ie “human” biological ‘norm’. A Total Non-Human Misfit. As with lactating women, she must reconstruct herself to do it the way males can do it in order to feel ‘human-like’, or if that’s not possible, rendered invisible in purdah, or held in social and legal limbo (aka No Man’s Land), until such time as we can dispense with her altogether.
The legal ramifications are the most bizarre on pregnant women, for 9 months they are in legal limbo, ie not human, because there is no male biological counterpart. Courts scratch their heads. She doesn’t “fit”. Especially surrogates. Therefore she/it does not exist, is not human, and hence logically, no human rights, and no civil rights either. If the sperm-donor comes forward, he has the right-to-choose, claim it or not, Law supports him either way. Recently, this has expanded to have gestational women’s names removed from birth certificates, even where they have provided the egg as well.
Then to add insult to all of this, mothers have fuck all rights to their own kids. Under constant surveillance, not just within the family, but outside it everywhere she goes, every word she speaks. Family law on custody, visitation and adoption have become increasingly conservative over the last 10-20 years. “Bad mothers” hitting the headlines, to remind us of the punishment if we stray from our role. Its the “father” who has all the rights, single mothers without a male sponsor are totally fucked. Taking kids off mothers, the ‘Stolen Generations’ for the flimsiest of reasons has become an art-form. I’ve seen more sympathy and compassion given for our household cats, when it comes time to remove the litter – at least we usually wait for weaning with our pets babies.
Womb prostitution ( see Google Baby documentary) is now as widespread as sex-trade trafficking. Indeed, some are co-located. Some trafficked women are not just fuck-toys now, but also used as ‘breeders’ for the baby trade. Some use IVF, others do the implantation the old-fashioned PIV way. For a price.
Now, I know this has been very long-winded, and I fully expect readers have long since dropped off in boredom, but I need to go to the end of my thoughts, and connect-the-dots.
Because wait – there’s More!
In tandem with all this, over the last 30-40 years is advances in related forms of technology.
1. Care of earlier, and earlier (and earlier) premature ‘babies’. Improvements in keeping very immature infants alive, which has also impacted (negatively) on abortion laws as well.
2. Embryonic stem cell research. At first I was puzzled, when my country amongst many others in the western world were “debating” this line about diseases on one hand, and right-wing right-to-lifers about the poor fucking embryos on the other. It doesn’t make sense, in cell biology. Embryonic stems are lousy for cell therapy for diseases, ADULT stem cells do all that so much better, and much more successfully. Except reproductive cell lines. Namely, female eggs. No usable egg stem-lines in adult females. Duh! Embryonic egg cell-lines is what they are really after. You can grow human eggs from embryonic cell lines.
3. Womb transplants. Just like 40 years ago around early IVF in the news, many feminists believe this can never be done successfully, or wont ever become a big-thing. A passing fad. Like transgenderism. Doesn’t stop them trying, does it? Doesn’t stop them spending unbelievably obscene amounts of money, time, effort in ‘experimenting’ and ‘recruiting’. Like hormonal contraception, and IVF it may take many decades of experimental fuckups, or ‘setbacks’ before they get it right.
In 2009, I first heard about womb transplants and it being “just an organ like any other organ”.
In 2011: First womb transplant planned.
First step, is transplanting from woman to woman and experimenting with managing blood supplies, hormonal levels etc, may need to take them out early – thats where pre-term delivery technology comes in. Next step, into males (remember the M2t surgeons who made career changes into ART?). Last step, into machinery. May take a long time, but they don’t seem to be giving up on it.
Taking thoughts to its end – connect-the-dots – with embryonic sources of egg stem cells, female embryos still need to be conceived (in a lab), but females need never be born, let alone grow up.
I’m sort-of glad I’m getting too old for all this shit, hope I’m long gone before it becomes reality. As for the here-and-now, and since personal solutions of harm-reduction are all I can aim for, I might toddle off to a local version of Michfest 🙂
Herstorical Note: This post was originally posted here, at the Radfem HUB, on July 5, 2011, and was authored by HUB author Rainsinger. On May 28, 2012, Rainsinger left the HUB and indicated that she wished to have this post removed from the HUB, and no longer desired to have her name associated with the HUB. Instead of allowing content to be deleted from the HUB which would be deleterious to our herstory, it was proposed by the remaining HUB bloggers, and agreed to by Rainsinger, that, as a compromise, the substance of the post would be left intact and authorship would be changed to the generic HUB user, “HUB Newsfeed”. However, the HUB now regrets making this compromise, and believes that changing the authorship of the post was also deleterious of our herstory. The post should have remained intact, in every respect. We regret this error in judgement, as well as the fact that this change is permanent and cannot be altered. — Eds. 6/15/12