By Ishina Das
“One is not born, but rather becomes a woman.” – Simone De Beauvoir
As a world, we have come far. From the removal of labels used previously with negative connotations to the positivity imposed with strong identities, progress has truly helped enrich the idea of acceptance and let many people breathe in a better world. Such is the beauty of life and the existence of mundane things, but why is it that in every waking moment, progress has been retrograding? Why aren’t we as a society moving forward but taking steps that push us back?
Even when the idea of civil rights was first articulated in the American Declaration and much before that existed in a vacuum since man lived in civil society, why is it that some communities still don’t have the liberty to make their own choices?
To be precise, the community comprising all women have been discriminated against since forever, but it wasn’t always so. Ancient civilizations had women (vulva owners) doing the same work as the man (a pen*s owner), so why is it that we regressed as human beings when we progressed as a society?
What a vulva owner lacks other than what they are refused from is absolutely nothing. And here lies the sole problem. For a long time, women (vulva owners) were subjugated by society. By society, I mean a society run by men (pen*s owner) to allow themselves to continue their monopoly over vulva owners.
While pen*s owners were looked upon as subjects – a thinking being, vulva owners were stripped of this subjectification. They were left with being labelled as thoughtless objects who required a higher subject to complete their role in society. While pen*s owners were seen as the default, a prime subject in society, vulva owners were considered as the “other”.
The denial of subjectivity gave society the free license to treat the vulva owner as a mere matter who had no feelings and say over anything. “Thus, humanity is male, and man defines woman not herself but as relative to him.” To deny her autonomy and rip her apart from her agency is everyone’s but her right to do so.
Agency, the fight for one’s agency is widespread, and it stems from the lack of bodily autonomy given to any woman. The autonomy one has over one’s body and mind is the highest form of freedom, liberated from psychological and physical oppression.
Bodily autonomy is a cultural notion that derives from the philosophical idea of personal autonomy. In this idea, a group of people who have declared their right to live autonomously will not face any form of sovereign authority in political or legal form over them. So bodily autonomy encompasses this idea to pertain that a person has the same form of authority free from any alien oppression over their own body.
Martha Nussbaum describes bodily autonomy as, “Being able to move freely from place to place, being able to secure against assault, violence and have a choice in matters of reproduction.”
Even when personal autonomy is a recognized human right, it’s often overruled due to ingrained sexism and patriarchy in a society when it comes to women. Women are often victims of gender-based violence in the forms of assault, sexual assault, abuse, limited access to contraception, and no say in the matters of reproduction.
Just like how a person is given a choice to donate their blood even if it were to their sibling, or a corpse owns enough personal autonomy and privacy not to get their organs taken. A person with a vulva, on the other hand, is refused such liberty when it comes to abortion. Even when the being inside their uterus isn’t a fully developed “person” with distinct rights, a pregnant person is denied this choice in today’s society.
Trent Horn, who in support of Pro-Choice, differentiates the idea into two sophisticated arguments:
The open sexism and male dominance and the play of religious and cultural ethics degrade a person’s choice with a vulva and reduce them to just bearers of children. To tell someone that they “have” to sacrifice their Bodily Autonomy for nine months in an extremely difficult, invasive, expensive process to protect what society views as human life is unethical.
So what’s being spread is that a fetus has more rights than a fully developed human being only because they belong to a certain community. And this proves what Simone De Beauvoir wrote more than a century back; a century back and women (person with a vulva) are still considered the object who needs the subject (the man) to arc the profundity of their own life.