Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I am equal, not the same

Motherhood and career success should not be mutually exclusive.

[Today's guest post is by Sean Cahill, a recent graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law. She says: "Because it changes the way my voice is heard when it comes to life issues, I feel compelled to state that I'm a woman, despite what my name suggests."] 

Throughout history, women have been told we are inherently and biologically inferior to men. Our inferiority is evidenced solely by the fact that we are women. Our own biology, fertility and ability to bear children have been used to subordinate and objectify us. These have been used to prove we could never be equal to men. Early Roman law described women like children, forever inferior to men. Confucius stated: “It is a law of nature that women should be held under the dominance of man.” Aristotle agreed: “The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities, we should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness.”

Napoleon Bonaparte said: “What a mad idea to demand equality for women! Women are nothing but machines for producing children.” In an argument against woman’s suffrage in the U.S., a senator wrote: “Woman is woman. She can not unsex herself or change her sphere. Let her be content with her lot and perform those high duties intended for her by the Great Creator, and she will accomplish far more in governmental affairs than she can ever accomplish by mixing up in the dirty pool of politics.”

Men have been held as the default. As feminist author Simone de Beauvoir wrote: “being a man is [of] no peculiarity’ [while] simultaneously it is acknowledged that ‘the body of woman [is] a hindrance, a prison, weighed down by everything peculiar to it.’ In this way, the male body and man as social being is ‘neutral’ and ‘unaltered’ and therefore good. It is the woman who is distinguished in her deviance from the default. Hers is a body crafted in the perfect image of man, but taken tragic and disgusting wrong turns in the journey to finality.” The early feminists fought against this idea of men as the standard. They argued that women, while different, deserved equal rights.

The legalization of abortion is described constantly as the liberation of women. As one pro-choice organization puts it: “In the early 1970’s, the woman’s movement demanded that abortion be legalized... It was clear that, without [abortion], women couldn’t be the equals of men – no matter what advances women made in the job market or in higher education.”

Women who bear children cannot be equal? Is a pregnant woman who must choose between her career and unborn child liberated by the availability of abortion?

Roe v. Wade was not our liberation, it was our defeat. It was when we stopped fighting the idea of a male default, when we stopped saying “we’re different but not inferior.” With a host of options both natural and artificial to time or avoid conception, a woman who does become pregnant needs to end the life of her unborn child to remain a fully functioning member of this society? Pregnancy is not an infliction to be cured. To celebrate abortion is to agree with the archaic view of women as inherently flawed. It is to admit that our amazing ability to sustain a new life forecloses the possibility of being equal. Mary Catherine Wilcox explains: “To say that in order to be equal with men it must be possible for a pregnant woman to become un-pregnant at will is to say that being a woman precludes her from being a fully functioning person.”

There are real problems in this society that need to be solved, but the female body and its ability to sustain a new life that has already come into existence is not one of them. We must stop dealing in this archaic thinking: the idea that women are inherently flawed because they get pregnant and men don’t. To say we need abortion to be equal is in fact undeniable proof that we are far from equal. We cannot accept that to remain equal to men, we "need" to rid our bodies of new human beings. We are not liberated until both sexes are fully accepted as they are.

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