Friday, October 30, 2009

Are Women Human? by Catharine MacKinnon

In acknowledgement of the fact that women are actually included in the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, but our mostly male media and our President forgot to notice, Catharine MacKinnon's Are Women Human? seems painfully appropriate. Read the essay -- or an excerpt:

Fifty years ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defined what a human being is. It told the world what a person, as a person, is entitled to. Are women human yet?

. . . If women were human, would we have little to no voice in public deliberations and in government? Would we be hidden behind veils and imprisoned in houses and stoned and shot for refusing? Would we be beaten nearly to death, and to death, by men with whom we are close? Would we be sexually molested in our families? Would we be raped in genocide to terrorize and destroy our ethnic communities, and raped again in that undeclared war that goes on every day in every country in the world in what is called peacetime? If women were human, would our violation be enjoyed by our violators? And, if we were human, when these things happened, would virtually nothing be done about it?

It takes a lot of imagination -- and a determinedly blinkered focus on exceptions at the privileged margins -- to envision a real woman in the Universal Declaration's majestic guarantees of what 'everyone is entitled to'. After fifty years, just what part of 'everyone' doesn't mean us?

The ringing language in Article 1 encourages us to 'act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.' Must we be men before its spirit includes us? Lest this be seen as too literal, if we were all enjoined to 'act towards one another in a spirit of sisterhood,' would men know it meant them, too? . . . And now that 'everyone' has had a right 'to take part in the government of his country' for the past fifty years, why are most governments still run by men? Are women silent in the halls of state because we do not have a human voice?

When will women be human? When?