by The Council of Disobedient Women
In her excellent oral submission to the Abortion reform select committee on 31st October on behalf of Otago University’s Department of Public Health, historian and public health researcher Hera Cook stated:
“We would ask that the committee not use the term ‘pregnant persons’ and that this term not be used in legislation. We have great sympathy for the problems being faced by trans persons but we do not consider that this is a useful way to understand the experiences of women and fertility. The capacity to conceive … has shaped women’s lives throughout history and our capacity as women to control our fertility while having full heterosexual sexual lives is very new, less than a century, and what we are here to do today is part of that struggle, to enable that … We need to find a … language solution that does not make [trans people] feel stigmatised, that does not mean they are excluded. I do not think that a solution can be the obliteration of women’s experience as pregnant women.”
During the question time directly after Ms Cook’s submission, MP Jan Logie stated, “When we define women as any person who is able to become pregnant … that doesn’t fit my understanding of an inclusive feminist agenda, let alone characterising women by their reproductive potential.”
The Council of Disobedient Women invites Jan to consider that acknowledging that only women have the capacity to conceive is not shameful – nor is it essentialist or prescriptive. It does not assume that all women will, can, or should be pregnant during their lives. What is essentialist are the gendered beliefs and assumptions that have historically been attached to women’s bodies because of this potential capacity. These are harmful gendered beliefs that need to be dismantled. However, we won’t change attitudes by obscuring material reality.
We suggest that Jan’s support for removing the word ‘woman’ from abortion legislation doesn’t challenge essentialism, but buys into it – and intrinsically suggests that there is something shameful about women’s reproductive potential – by obscuring it. We suggest Jan might like to reconsider her own assumptions. It is not women’s bodies that are the problem, it is cultural attitudes towards women’s bodies. We would also like to question in what capacity your feminism is ‘inclusive’ if it doesn’t include … women. Please be a part of the solution Jan, not the problem.
And the disappearing Men…
Lest any readers think this is a beat-up in a tea-cup the Council of Disobedient Women would like to draw your attention to another piece of work where Jan Logie is the relevant Minister. The recent Ministry of Justice report Attrition and Progression (https://www.justice.govt.nz/…/sf79dq-Sexual-violence…) – hereby the renamed “Fabrication and Confusion Report”. If you look really hard you can discover that only 7% of adult victims are male and 92% are female but nowhere is it possible to find the percentage of male and female perpetrators either overall or, apart from rape, related to categories of sexual crimes DESPITE ‘gender’ being part of the perpetrator dataset.
The perpetrators of sexual violence in this country have disappeared! Women no longer have to suffer the abuse of men, because the predominant perpetrators don’t exist according to the body of the report.
It is quite odd that the report still uses the term ‘sexual violence’ if we are now denying what sex is, and crimes appear to be genderless.
Where have all the men gone? Obscured by ‘not all men’ and ‘women abuse too!’