Dare we even raise the issue of women’s rights today? Both the political left and right answer with a resounding “No.” Are their reasons for this response so different from each other? I answer this question with another resounding “No.” Women’s rights are central to neither, women’s status easily excluded from either agenda. At best, there are more urgent matters that supersede women’s rights. At worst, the assault on women’s rights and women’s bodies is intentional and malevolent.

Are women human beings, a biological reality, deserving as their biological counterparts? Yes. No. Maybe.

Today, in the third decade of the 21st century of the Common Era, these are not facts, but still and again only questions. Epistemology then demands that we ask the following questions:

  1. What is a woman?
  2. What is a human being?
  3. Can a member of the first group also be a member of the second one?

In the Common Era in those countries that count their years inside this inevitably Christian frame, women began as chattel, the possessions of the men who owned them, married them, impregnated them and controlled them.

At the governmental level, the American Constitution included the retention of coverture, despite the well-known protestations of many enlightened women of the time, most prominently Abigail Adams. That instrument, written by white, male slaveowners and enshrined and followed most literarily by the current Supreme Court, recognized only white, male, landowners as citizens. Modification over the years to include previously excluded groups has been considered progress. But modification is not the same as full inclusion, as we are seeing today. What is modified can also be unmodified and erased by a flick of the judicial pen.

In the early American tradition, the legal rights of women were subsumed under coverture, the principle that afforded women no legal identity separate from and included under that of their fathers or husbands. In the non-United States, these laws remained well into and through the 19th century. And even more importantly, none of the changes were given to us willingly or honorably. Every small or large change in the status of women came only after years of struggle by women of that generation, women who were attacked, assaulted, and vilified for demanding equal rights, much as are women who continue this seemingly endless struggle today.

Women, those whom we have named the First Wave of Feminism, had to struggle to acquire the right to vote in 1920. The burgeoning of a second wave in the 1960’s, that lasted perhaps until the 1990’s, was responsible for access to education, employment, participation in sports, the rights to own property, to have and use credit cards, the regular inclusion of women on juries, the legal inclusion of marital rape as a crime, and yes, the legalization of abortion as a woman’s right to control her own body. Finally, we had the legal rights to our own names, our own separate existence, and our own bodies. True, these rights were consistently violated by those who had the power to do so, but at least they were declared rights to be defended legally and personally.

Now, in 2022, the arc of justice has taken not just one, but two, carefully planned detours, simultaneously to the left and the right, abandoning women at each turn. We are no longer going forward nor are we going backward. We are instead careening from side to side to side, facing a very intentional assault on women’s rights from multiple directions, while the ignorant and the uninformed cheer on the internet sidelines as if it were a cultural sporting event.

From the Left, from so-called progressives, rises an orchestrated assault on women’s most basic rights in the name of a largely unexamined and unquestioned adoption of the rights of transgender individuals, not in addition to, but instead of women in many instances. These supporters strive to ban discussion, debate, and research entirely. To silence free speech. Even the most innocent of questions can release a deluge of aggressive recrimination. This militantly enforced position results in the eradication of women’s sex-based rights to privacy, body autonomy, and same sex activities. To question, to compromise, to consider women at all is forbidden.

From the Right now comes a complete ban on women’s control of our own bodies. I do not know of one single legal principle designed to limit men’s control of their bodies. This difference again speaks volumes about who are and who are not citizens with full the rights thereof. Even as rape or incest inform us that our bodies do not belong to us, the restrictions in the aftermath of such horrors reinforce that soul killing knowledge. The very unwanted pregnancy and other consequences that can result from such terrorism are upheld by the highest court of the land. “Not your choice, women,” they tell us. You must bear all children. You must bear all insults and assaults.

In the endless circle dance that is American politics, we can also anticipate the psychological issues that will arise in the wake of an unwanted and perhaps unwelcome generation, the complex physical/psychological concomitants of being born in such circumstances. Of course, some may eventually be welcome, some adopted and loved, but what of the rest? And what of those who are the result of rape or incest? What of the additional burden placed on the poor, who cannot afford access to legal abortion or the cost of another child in their already overtaxed families? In the solipsistic thought that has become so American, we will have to gear up mental health services instead of eliminating the source of these traumas. Sadly, I can already envision the addition of Post Roe Unwanted Children’s Disorder (PRUC) to the DSM, along with the clamor of Big Psychology and Big Pharma to roll out remunerative treatments and medications.

Neither progress nor regress, but digress. As the path digresses in seemingly divergent directions, all detours away from women and women’s rights can seem disconnected to the uninformed observer. Even many feminists do not see this proliferation of exits along the road to women’s rights and so focus instead on an artificially induced struggle with other feminists, playing right into the hands of those who create these detours.

To the Left, we are no longer women, but are instead vulva bearers. To the Right, we are no longer women, but fetus bearers. The Left is replacing women and sex in language, in thought and in body, as well as poisoning children with drugs and unnecessary surgery. The Right is replacing women’s sex-based rights with a form of coverture, making us all fetus bearing objects to be controlled, demanding that a cluster of fertilized cells’ right to be born supersede the rights of women; They must be given life even to face abuse, poverty or being gunned down in elementary school by those who have greater rights than they, the gun bearers.

Not only has the passage of the amendment to the Constitution designed to afford equal citizenship to women been delayed and denied, but even accomplished “rights” are being attacked and undermined as we revert to a modern form of coverture.

And so, we return to our original questions:

  1. What is a woman?
  2. What is a human being?
  3. Can a member of the first group also be a member of the second one?

Today we, as a culture, as a 21st century society, find these questions up for debate. We are unsure of the answers. Yet we are denied debate, discussion, or protest. We are denied our voices, our very words. Many women are loath to fight for ourselves. To put ourselves first. We have learned our lessons too well. But finally, we must put ourselves first if we are to survive at all. We must protest. We must question. We must demand. Our freedoms are on the line, as are those of future generations. We must fight for our very lives and for theirs. I raise my open voice in the service of that goal. Please join me before it is too late.

When, if ever, will we finally cease to protest that, “Women’s rights are human rights,” the very words declaring that they are not?