By Dr. Miranda Garno Nesler
As Americans prepare to vote this week, a number of issues relevant to this blog have come to the forefront of public debate. Among them are reproductive rights: women and men’s protected legal access to contraception, sex education, and abortive measures. Among the organizations rallying in favor of these rights is the Center for Reproductive Rights, which asserts in its mission that:
“We envision a world where every woman is free to decide whether and when to have children; where every woman has access to the best reproductive healthcare available; where every woman can exercise her choices without coercion or discrimination. More simply put, we envision a world where every woman participates with full dignity as an equal member of society.”
Counter-organizations such as Pro-Life.com argue, on the other hand, that governments and religions should above all protect the embryo and fetus, which constitute human life from conception. With the election nearing, the rhetoric on both sides increasingly engages tropes of humanness and seeks to promote a specific being’s right to human protection and dignity.
What becomes clear in terms of this site is the persistence of language seeking to animalize women. As previous posts have discussed, during the Renaissance women inhabited a liminal legal category in which their “imperfect” genitalia and their limited access to public discourse helped the law to define them as subhuman and therefore incapable of owning property, claiming rape, or bringing cases to court on their own behalf. Much of today’s debates emerge out of preexisting concerns.
Dr. Miranda Nesler is the editor of Performing Humanity and is an Assistant Professor of Early Modern Literature.
Image: Draw the Line. Campaign for Reproductive Rights: http://mashable.com/2012/10/09/draw-the-line/