Control over women’s bodies

The struggle of women in Poland, which these days are demonstrating against the return to the Middle Ages, is a struggle of all women in the world. It is a fight for human rights.

Hours of Lead, p. 136:

Control over weaker bodies. A form of humiliation: the state spreads its legs over a body and decides. In one country the state restricts birth under threat of punishment. Of what else can a society that will regulate something as intimate as conception be capable? In another country the state demands births under threat of punishment, introducing anti-abortion laws laced with with Catholic obscurantism, Poland being a prime example. Whenever the air is aquiver with fear and uncertainty, those in power deflect attention to a territory under their control: the territory of bodies with a vagina. Fear drives people into the privacy of their own homes, into their little houses known as states. Nationalism can grow stronger only when it coexists with racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, and patriarchal zeal. Nationalism needs nationalists. And, once again, a woman’s life is reduced to national duty: bear as many children as possible for the nation. She has no other duties in this world, turning, once again, into the private property of the male and forced to serve the purpose of reproduction and childbearing. Nationalists lay claim to their wives and daughters as faithful readers of Friedrich Nietzsche: though far from being an expert in romantic relationships, he did know the best medicine for ambitious women; woman is an enigma with a single solution, which is pregnancy. To submit to enslavement voluntarily, a woman should not be able to read and write, she must not think. But the state has a problem. How to bar women from education in this day and age? This is the general problem dictators often face: how to force people back into slavery. The principal conflict in our twenty-first century world will be neither that of class nor of religion; rather, it will be the conflict of the sexes. Western and Eastern societies alike are marching towards the restoration of traditional sexist values, towards chauvinism, the worship of violence and the false certitude of power as their highest value. Patriarchal men, who comprise the majority at present, never doubt themselves and have one thing in common: the conviction that the woman’s job is to serve and obey the man, and that the name of her happiness is “whatever he wants”.

Translated by Julia and Peter Sherwood

Photo from the protest in support of Polish women, Zurich. (Photo: Radka Denemarková archive)