It’s comforting to tell ourselves that a lot of the battles that feminists have fought are finally over, and we’re in the mop up stage. It seems undeniable that attitudes have indeed improved since the days of the pre-Second Wave; one sees more and more female executives, attorneys, and doctors (though not nearly enough) than ever nowadays, and even my D&D book uses the female pronoun as often as the male pronoun in the text.
When D&D hops the equality train, that’s progress.
So we can tell ourselves that women are finally (at least in the West) moving out of the shadow of men, begin to truly have autonomy: that what Elizabeth Gilbert says below is indeed happening, and more than that, is being successful:
…Gilbert says, we’re still in the midst of a radical new social experiment.
“And the radical, unprecedented new social experiment is: What happens if we give women autonomy, education, finances, you know, control over their sexual biology?” she says. “What happens if we give you all this freedom? What are you going to do with it? … And we’re all still sort of puzzling it out in a very intense way.”
And then you open your browser or flip through a newspaper and all that comes crashing down around you, and you see it for the papier-mâché construct it truly is. Like when you read this:
Before the first juror is selected or witness called, a decision allowing a confessed killer to argue he believes the slaying of one of the nation’s few late-term abortion providers was a justified act aimed at saving unborn children has upended what most expected to be an open-and-shut case.
Some abortion opponents are pleasantly stunned and eager to watch Scott Roeder tell a jury his slaying of Wichita doctor George Tiller was voluntary manslaughter. Tiller’s colleagues and abortion rights advocates are outraged and fear the court’s actions give a more than tacit approval to further acts of violence.
”This judge has basically announced a death sentence for all of us who help women,” said Dr. Warren Hern of Boulder, Colo., a longtime friend of Tiller who also performs late-term abortions. ”That is the effect of the ruling.”
Just so that we’re really clear on this, just so that everybody gets on the same footing, just so we can skip past the language issues of calling fetuses “unborn children,” understand this: Roeder’s defense, basically, is that he had the right to kill someone based on his right to control what another human being does with her body.
He had the right to control you. And if you asserted that control (which is due to you, one would hope, as a member of the human race–at least the male half is supposed to have bodily autonomy) and enlisted the help of a medical professional, he had the right to kill that professional in order to remove your autonomy.
Of course, “yours” only if you’re female. Which still seems to be a quasi-legal status.
Think of other cases where bodily autonomy might be involved, and wonder to yourselves if they would be able to be entered as legal justifications: But your Honor, I had to kill that abolitionist, she was helping my slave to escape.
If somebody had killed Dr. Kevorkian, would the court allow a justification defense? Even though it would be a lot more warranted than one in the case of the murder of a physician, a man who helped save the lives of many women?
Jill at Feministe has a good explanation of what’s happening, though it hasn’t quite gotten me off the ledge:
I will write more about this later as time allows, but the judge in the Scott Roeder case — Roeder is the man who shot abortion provider George Tiller at Tiller’s church — has ruled that Roeder may present a case for voluntary manslaughter instead of murder. Voluntary manslaughter is a less serious crime than murder, and subject to softer penalties. This doesn’t mean that Roeder is only being charged with voluntary manslaughter; my best guess based on the judge’s comments here is that he doesn’t want this case to be overturned on appeal, and so he’s allowing the jury to consider voluntary manslaughter as a lesser-included offense. Which makes sense.
Except that there are, of course, bigger issues at play. The judge at least rejected Roeder’s proposed “necessity” defense, but a jury will still have the option of giving Roeder a lighter sentence if the defense makes the case that Roeder had an “unreasonable but honest belief that circumstances existed that justified deadly force.” If the jury does buy that defense — and you can bet that Roeder’s team will make the trial about Dr. Tiller and abortion — it lessens the disincentives for other would-be terrorists to take out abortion providers.
So there is no patriarchy, and justice is for all. Just not the all that includes you.