Controlling Parts Is Controlling The Sum Of Its Parts

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Matthew McConaughey got his son's placenta to bury under a tree. This lady had a medical examiner on call to take her mom's donated brain for scientific study at the time of her mom's death. But me, I couldn't get my newborn son's umbilical cord or placenta stored for medical purposes.

Then again, that would have required my then-husband's support and he didn't want me to have the pain medication (too expensive) nor would he get me something to eat after labor & delivery, which meant 36 hours of not eating (because he was too tired). So it shouldn't have been surprising that he wasn't willing (too exhausted from watching me labor & deliver) to support me in my position with the doctors about our son's (perhaps costly) medical tissues storage.

But it was surprising that even though my then-husband wasn't there to flatly refuse tissue storage, his absence spoke volumes. Enough to put the kabosh on the conversation. And since it wasn't a topic then-husband was willing to bring up with the docs, it just couldn't happen.

This could be a short muse-y, but not amusing, post if I just left it at that. But I can't.

If my existence as a woman wasn't enough to make me question bodies, their parts & souls, and who owns & controls them -- and it was -- having gone through the whole process of guardianship for the eldest child sure did.

When bodies & their parts are controlled, we diminish not only autonomy in the physical and legal sense, but the constraints send the message to all that those beings those bodies & parts belong to are not free & equal beings.

It makes no fundamental difference if the ability to control our own body is thwarted by an individual, by a government, by a religion; the result is someone, something, ultimately has the power to make choices for us. We are not free & equal; we belong to someone, something.

Like a child (or not legal adult) who cannot sign contracts because they are deemed not to be able to comprehend what they are signing, and so can not be held accountable for those responsibilities, telling women they may not control their own bodies sends the message that we can not be held accountable for such responsibilities. As irresponsible beings we are deemed inferior to our male counterparts.

Our voices are, if not physically silenced, diluted & distorted by the knowledge (steeped not only cultural mores but legal construct) that we are inferior. Doctors, teachers, & lawyers turn to male family members for the final word; the male employee makes more money then the female employee; the male speaker, pundit, or candidate has more authority than the female version; the more-often-elected male politician makes decisions regarding 'his' female constituency, uncaring that 'she' out-numbers 'he' in the constituency; the accused male's denial has more weight than the female's victimization -- and her appearance, lifestyle, & economic factors are far more discussed than his. Need I go on?

For the most part, the voices of women are viewed as the chatter of children -- and just as dismissed.

The right to choose, therefore, is about more than abortion; not having the right to choose undermines all our choices and our right to live autonomous lives.

Being pro-life as a personal belief is fine if it suits you; but forcing your beliefs on all women as a law, controlling them, isn't. Your belief system makes several assumptions -- and not just about the non-proved moment of when life occurs. You mistakenly believe that laws are here to protect souls in some perceived afterlife, from whatever rules and regulations you believe it has; but laws are for the here & now -- and for the beings here now. You assume, and broadcast on billboards, that the unborn are more important that those already here; such supersedure really makes me angry.

But what's worse is your mistaken belief that not sharing your beliefs means morally bankruptcy, mental handicap, or some deficiency rendering the person incapable of making "a correct choice" and so you must make it for them. In doing so, you remove the right to make a choice -- not just about terminating a pregnancy, but your control undermines a woman's ability to make any choice because of those aforementioned perceptions.

Let me make it clear: Your leap of faith does not mean I am required to jump to the same conclusions as you do. If & when I don't, it doesn't make me inferior -- to you or anyone else. And should I fail, the consequence shall be mine.

When you remove the ability of many to make choices based on your (unproven) beliefs, you also deny them the right to failure.

People have the right to fail.

Babies learning to walk have the right to fall, children in school have the right to red pens mark their failures, and people have the right not only to fall in love but to fail at love & relationships; failure is one of the ways we humans learn.

No matter how much we wish to protect our children, they have the right to fail and to learn from those mistakes. We may wish to spare them such heartache, but eventually they will run about and love in the world without us. The resulting failures and the accountability for those failures is part of growing up.

This is something I've struggled with on a daily basis ever since I became a parent and had to think about quite a bit lately in terms of parenting an adult child with Asperger's.

When a parent, no matter how well-intentioned, monitors & corrects all the activities & choices of a child, they are saying that the child has not -- cannot -- master the skills, and has no accountability for them. This non-adult status & its ensuing irresponsible behavior (which each of us bemoans everyday), is a horrible limbo of perpetual childhood which cripples & hobbles, keeping people bound to & dependent upon others. That's not freedom, not equality, not autonomy.

By the same virtue, young women have the right to drive, vote, strip themselves naked for Girls Gone Wild videos, and the right to make the choice about terminating a pregnancy. You may not like their choices, but they are theirs to make. And if things turn out differently than they had thought, if those women have failed in their decision making, if they have made a mistake, it is their mistake to learn from & live with. Just as do the young men who exercise their right to drive, vote, film Girls Gone Wild videos, and go off to war to terminate the lives of others. Every free, autonomous, & equal adult has the right to make choices, the right to fail, and the right to be held accountable for those choices & failures.

Amputating the right of women to control their own bodies, restraining their voices and authority, restricting their right to make choices, and denying them the right to fail is to keep women in a state of perpetual childhood.

It's not the way we want to live. It's not the way we ought to live.


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You can't prove she's not Marilyn reincarnated. (You really canít!)

DeeDee is a wife and mother, a collector of kitsch and women's history, and a blogger on vintage living.

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