Today many people are posting this anti-abortion video and noting the subliminal message — that women are just objects, not people.

As Trailer Park Feminist (who has a transcript) says, “And shouldn’t we treat women like property, you know, just in case?”

Conversely, if you thought there was a chance a woman might actually being a fully sentient human being, and not just an ambulatory major appliance … well, I second Mustang Bobby:

I’m not sure which is more amazing; the ease with which the anti-abortion folks can reduce a complicated and intensely personal event such as a pregnancy down to this simplistic and dehumanizing idiocy, or the idea that they can portray women as nothing but a cardboard box and get away with it.

See also Bean (the comments are a hoot).

I’ve written many times before that an absolutist anti-choice position requires denying the autonomy and humanity of women. Certainly people of good will might favor some restrictions, such as gestational limits, on elective abortion. By absolutist I’m referring to the people Ellen Goodman wrote about earlier this year

Cynics, take heart. We offer you advance word from the troops preparing for Monday’s annual March for Life marking the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The parade’s theme this year is “Thou Shalt Protect the Equal Right to Life of Each Innocent Human in Existence at Fertilization. No Exception! No Compromise!”

No exception! No compromise! Lots of exclamation points!

You can find high-flown absolutist rhetoric declaring that even a zygote has rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That may sound glorious and all, but in real life an absolute “protection” of “human life” from conception requires stripping fertile women of their rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and in extreme cases their rights to life, also. There are copious real-world examples of women living under draconian abortion laws who die gruesome deaths because of those laws. Clearly, such laws value the lives and humanity of women less than the lives and humanity of embryos. Women in these countries often go without medical help after a miscarriage because they fear persecution by the Womb Nazis. This is nothing other than political oppression.

For that reason, I continue to be astonished at the number of self-identified libertarians who see nothing wrong with banning abortion. The same people who roar with righteous indignation over big, oppressive government have no problem with government treating women like brood animals.

The words libertarian and liberal share the root word liberty. Over the years a great many views and opinions have been labeled “liberal,” but liberty and equality remain liberalism’s cornerstone. As it says here, liberalism’s fundamental principle is that “freedom is normatively basic, and so the onus of justification is on those who would limit freedom, especially through coercive means.”

I bring this up because I want to make it clear that, although liberals may disagree on many issues, no one who wants to criminalize all abortion can rightfully be called a “liberal.” If libertarians like Justin Raimondo want to claim that person, of course, that’s their business. But he ain’t one o’ ours.

Libertarians will disagree, but I say the essential difference between liberals and libertarians is that the latter define oppression as something only the federal government can do. If state governments violate the rights of its citizens and treat women and minorities like chattel, that’s OK with them. Liberals, on the other hand, think oppression is wrong no matter who or what is doing the oppressing. We think, for example, that if a state is denying its African American citizens equal treatment under the law, it’s a legitimate use of federal power to force the state to stop the oppression. Libertarians generally disagree, and would rather allow states to discriminate than concede any part of state sovereignty to Washington or federal courts.

Thus, to most libertarians, liberty and equality are less important than maintaining a weak federal government.

Justin Raimondo asks why “neocons and sectarian leftists” have united to “smear” Ron Paul. I can’t speak for everyone, but I do want readers of this blog to understand what Ron Paul stands for. And he stands for the political oppression of women. His followers seem to think it is enormously significant that Paul wants to keep the federal government out of abortion law and give the states total authority in the matter. I, on the other hand, think Womb Nazis are Womb Nazis, no matter what branch of government they report to.

I have seen people show up at liberal/progressive gatherings with Ron Paul T-shirts and buttons who don’t seem to know anything about Paul except that he’s against the war in Iraq. Well, folks, educate yourselves.

If you agree with Ron Paul’s views (meaning you aren’t one of my regular readers) then vote for him. That’s what republican government is about; you vote for the candidate you think will best represent you. My intention here is to be sure we’re all clear that Ron Paul is no liberal.

Yes, the Iraq War is a vital issue, but it’s not the only vital issue, and Ron Paul is not the only anti-war candidate. The struggle for liberty and equality in this country will continue long after the Iraq War has scrolled off the page into history.

And women aren’t boxes.

29 thoughts on “Boxes

  1. Pingback: ShortWoman» Blog Archive » CreepShorties

  2. Libertarians are overwhelmingly male. Many of them might be converted to liberalism, but they may be socially isolated and don’t understand how it could work to their benefit, but they feel outcast and therefore believe it would only work to their detriment.

  3. I never met a libertarian who didn’t view “No Gummint” as having many exceptions– always for things he personally disagreed with. A lot like fundies and Scripture, in that regard.

  4. Okay, with two masters degrees, I don’t think I’m exactly stupid, but I just don’t understand this ad. My first thought when I saw it was all about pre-natal health care. But maybe the Roman Catholic church is catering to people without much upstairs. Or else this is what they mean by “dog whistle” politics. Regardless, just comparing women to boxes is indeed insulting, whatever the intended message. This simply adds to my disrespect for the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church. One of the many reasons I departed their legions years ago.

  5. I posted this in the comments at Orcinus, but the following is something that liberal democrats should find troubling about Paul

    The practice of judicial activism – legislating from the bench – is now standard for many federal judges. They dismiss the doctrine of strict construction as hopelessly outdated, instead treating the Constitution as fluid and malleable to create a desired outcome in any given case. For judges who see themselves as social activists, their vision of justice is more important than the letter of the laws they are sworn to interpret and uphold. With the federal judiciary focused more on promoting a social agenda than upholding the rule of law, Americans find themselves increasingly governed by men they did not elect and cannot remove from office.

    Consider the Lawrence case decided by the Supreme Court in June. The Court determined that Texas had no right to establish its own standards for private sexual conduct, because gay sodomy is somehow protected under the 14th amendment “right to privacy.” Ridiculous as sodomy laws may be, there clearly is no right to privacy nor sodomy found anywhere in the Constitution. There are, however, states’ rights – rights plainly affirmed in the Ninth and Tenth amendments. Under those amendments, the State of Texas has the right to decide for itself how to regulate social matters like sex, using its own local standards. But rather than applying the real Constitution and declining jurisdiction over a properly state matter, the Court decided to apply the imaginary Constitution and impose its vision on the people of Texas.

    Similarly, a federal court judge in San Diego recently ordered that city to evict the Boy Scouts from a camp they have run in a city park since the 1950s. A gay couple, with help from the ACLU, sued the city claiming the Scouts’ presence was a violation of the “separation of church and state.” The judge agreed, ruling that the Scouts are in essence a religious organization because they mention God in their recited oath. Never mind that the land, once privately owned, had been donated to the city for the express purpose of establishing a Scout camp. Never mind that the Scouts have made millions of dollars worth of improvements to the land. The real tragedy is that our founders did not intend a separation of church and state, and never envisioned a rigidly secular public life for America. They simply wanted to prevent Congress from establishing a state religion, as England had. The First amendment says “Congress shall make no law” – a phrase that cannot possibly be interpreted to apply to the city of San Diego. But the phony activist “separation” doctrine leads to perverse outcomes like the eviction of Boy Scouts from city parks.

    These are but two recent examples. There are many more, including the case of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was ordered by a federal court to remove a Ten Commandments monument from Alabama courthouse property.

    Ok, so Paul thinks the principle of church/state separation – the greatest and only truly unique innovation of the American experiment is a “phony activist ‘separtion’ docrine.” He applys a fundemantlist reading of the Constitution to ignore that the 14th amendment established that the Bill of Rights applied to all citizens.

    Indeed, the 14 amendment is part of the “imaginary” Constitution which doesn’t fit into his “strict constructionist” (read: fundamentalist) reading of the Constitution.

    He cites the 9th and 10th amendments to say that there is no right to privacy or sodomy and that there is instead state’s rights.

    Um, no. States don’t have rights, people do. The 9th amendment says the powers not relegated to the federal gov’t are reserved to the states or the people. And the 10th amendment says that all rights not mentioned in the Constitution are assumed to be guaranteed to the people.

    Paul, however, believes that the 10th amendment (along with the 9th) means that the states have the right to regulate private sexual conduct. And he doesn’t believe privacy is a right.

  6. I meant to say, voting for Paul to stop the war in Iraq or the drug war comes at too high a cost for me. I have a deep, deep reverance for the first amendment.

    To me, voting for Paul would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  7. Hume’s Ghost:

    I think you have that backward. IIRC, 9 regards non-enumerated rights (Googling: yes, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”)

    The 10th says that the powers not belonging to the Fed belong to the states or the people. For some reason, a lot of libertarians think that the founders wrote that to mean “the states”, because they were so sloppy in their wording and all.

    That’s always been my view of RvW… the right to make a medical decision that has a huge impact on a woman’s life belongs to “the people”, not the states.

  8. The “it might be a baby” is an interesting game.

    I thought that, in this country, if there was reasonable doubt that a crime was committed, we didn’t punish the alleged offender.

  9. Indeed, the 14 amendment is part of the “imaginary” Constitution which doesn’t fit into his “strict constructionist” (read: fundamentalist) reading of the Constitution.

    Libertarians hate the 14th Amendment, but the 14th (some bad 19th century court opinions notwithstanding) has been the chief instrument enabling the expansion of civil liberty for more many, many decades.

    It’s a legitimate amendment, guys, Reconstruction notwithstanding. If the 14th is illegitimate, then so is the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. Deal with it.

  10. The “it might be a baby” is an interesting game.

    So is the “they might be crazy” game, and the “they might be idiots” game, which I play frequently.

  11. What I’ve never gotten is what happens when a woman is carrying an XX?

    Aren’t they both objects to be manipulated then? Why does the one with less utility (the gestating XX) have precedence.

    That said I’m also personally uncomfortable with stripping fetuses of humanity but it is a position I can take a lot easier than the other. Hence why I like viability barrier before any state action could occur. Of course medical science will I’m sure fuck that up soon by making viability in the first 4 weeks or something but for now it works.

  12. The big problem with Libertarians is that they see the Federal government as the only enemy to liberty.

    In the real world, it is only one of many. The biggest, sure. But in many ways not the worst. States are often far more intrusive, municipalities downright dictatorial. And an abusive partner in a relationship does more to destroy liberty (on a small scale, but if it’s you that’s the entire universe) than the nastiest world government an anti-UN paranoid can imagine.

  13. you said: to most libertarians, liberty and equality are less important than maintaining a weak federal government.

    The entire essay was awesome, but this quote is going up over the mantle.

  14. What the hell! Just have the baby,bill the republicans for the doctor and set the baby on the republican national committee steps ring the doorbell and run! You never know it might be a Bushbot?

  15. I have been watching this debate for a long time. The conservatives, be it Catholics or Baptists hit the issue with as much emotion as possible ‘Save the unborn baby!!!’ And though I don’t agree, I could actually respect that opinion – except I have looked a little further.

    The Right-to-Life crowd has raised Billions – with a B – to overturn Roe v Wade. All of that to save babies – how noble! But wait.. with all that philanthropy for babies – one would expect that they would be ardent supporters of Planned Parenthood, contraception – at least for married couples not ready for children, What about millions in charitable programs for unwed mothers so they CAN have the baby? Millions for pre-natal care for poor mothers? Folks, it aint there. All this sympathy for ‘unborn babies’ and damn near NOTHING except lectures about abstianace.

    Money is sincere. When there is no money or education in family planning or contraception, or support for unwed mothers, no medical care for expecting mothers who agree to carry the child to term, I have to conclude, this is not about babies at all. It’s about establishing as a matter of LAW what a womans sexual role in American society is.

    In the minds of these people, pregnancy is not only Gods gift to a married couple in a sanctioned relationship, it is God’s PUNISHMENT for immoral behavour outside a sanctioned relationship. Abortion can NOT be allowed because it allows immoral people to avoid God’s just punishment. And that viewpoint is just plain frightening.

  16. Pingback: The Mahablog » Boxes

  17. I looked at the video clip and to me the analogy appears to be between a box and a fetus, not a woman. The opening sequence is saying that if a box might contain a baby, you would treat all boxes as if they contained babies. Similarly, if a fetus just might contain a baby, you would treat fetuses with similar care. A box may or may not contain a baby, but if there is even a small chance it does, you would not smash, fold, spindle, or mutilate any box. A fetus, similarly, may or may not contain a human being, but even if there is a chance it does, that would mean something similar. Review the clip and see if that makes sense.

  18. What I mean by the above comment is that the fetus:baby::box:baby analogy is a bit like Pascal’s wager, where the tenets of Christian belief are implausible and the odds may be long against their being true, but the stakes are high enough that it is better to believe than not to believe. The clip seems to be saying that even if there are long odds against a fetus being a human being, the stakes are high enough to warrant acting on the possibility that they are.

    What is left out of the equation is the part of Pascal’s wager that says that if you accept Christianity and it turns out not to be true, then you have lost nothing, since your non-existent soul will suffer no harm from a non-existent God. But in the case of abortion, there is the pro-choice argument that restricting abortion does cause harm, and that there are stakes on the other side of the equation (with Pascal, the stakes on the other side are equal to zero).

    I would not be going over this except for the fact that mahablog is more nuanced than the average blogger. I still see the video very differently from most viewers at this site.

  19. I really don’t care for Ron Paul’s ‘I’m just a country doctor’ rose collored glasses schtick. Does he think we can pay for MRI’s witha chicken? or a can of soup?
    As for states rights- the above comment is correct . States do not have rights, people do. And I believe we fought a horrendous war to affirm that states cannot treat a protion of the population like chattel just because a state legislature is dick headed enough to vote garbage into law, or people are deluded into amending state constitutions. We have a federal government that supercedes that in order to not have a tyranny.

  20. On topic: the “person in a box” argument is a classic of Catholic thought. The thing is, when there are two boxes, one of which might contain a person and the other of which you know for sure does, the second box gets priority.

    The argument is that we don’t really know for sure when a bit of biology starts being a person, so it is morally best to err on the side of life. The argument has some weight for late-term abortions when there is no major medical problem. And some people use that argument as the start of something absolute, giving the possibility of personhood the full weight of personhood. But that’s an abuse of the argument. The good of the definite person outweighs the good of the maybe person. And for things like stem cell research, let’s get real – people have organs. A cluster of undifferentiated, unimplanted cells is not even maybe a person. Because personhood means something. Something real and intimately tied to the body, not some tacked-on soul. Defining exactly what it means can be complicated, but… On a cloudy day, you can’t pinpoint the moment of dawn, but midnight is still night and noon is still day. A woman is a person. A fertilized egg is not.

  21. The Spirit of Synchronicity: I was just writing up a post of my own on the objectification of people by the Christianist right when I ran across this post. It’s not just women — it’s all of us. We are merely cogs in God’s great machine.

    Except for the wingnuts, of course.

  22. Ed Whitney: The analogy you suggest probably is the one the video makers consciously intended. However, the fact that that’s how they view the issue still reveals that they don’t see the woman as part of the human/moral equation; subconsciously, to them the woman is just an object, a box.

  23. subconsciously, to them the woman is just an object, a box.

    That would be “consciously”.. The makers of the video are Catholics, and as such thier beliefs are that woman was made from man for man. They can sweeten it up with all kinds of loving, caring, and being an equal being type rhetoric, but the bottom line in their beliefs is that woman is created to serve as an object to please and serve man. It was not good that Adam should be he got a help-mate…. A toy, a tool,chattel,property, an object for his sexual gratification and desires.. and a cook and a maid.

    “Women know thy place!”… and put on your invisible burka.

  24. Sorry, “a fetus might contain a baby” makes no sense to me. A box can contain things, but not become them. Given time and the right circumstances, a fetus might become a baby.

    If the propagandists intended the box = fetus analogy, their logic is even more out of whack than I’d previously thought. Not only are they blind to the difference between potential and actual, they fail to grasp the distinction between objects and the processes that affect them.

  25. The “Pascal’s wager” idea (which may reside in the unconscious minds of many Catholics who read him in college) depends on the stakes on one side being infinite and being zero on the other side. That is exactly what I was driving at; it is the point made by maha that the woman is excluded from the moral equation and treated as if her stakes were zero.

    There is one question I would like to see asked of all serious anti-abortion politicians in public debates: what period of incarceration is correct for a woman who gets an abortion under their proposed laws? They all say that they see women as victims whom they seek to protect. They say that this is a smoke screen question which sets up straw man who wants to treat the woman as a criminal. However as an earlier link from maha,, shows, these are real men, not straw men. Someone needs to create a confrontation on this issue.

    I once heard a radio talk show with an anti-abortion host taking calls from the public. One guy called in and said that women should be locked up for life if they had abortions, saying that it was no different from hiring a hit man to whack your child on the playground. The host, a soft-spoken woman) was clearly taken aback by the harshness of this caller’s point of view, but it is a logical entailment of the “abortion is murder” position. So why do we not hear people ask “OK, how long should the woman go to prison for?”

    As ShortWoman noted in the initial comment here, Colorado will have an amendment on the general election ballot which confers legal personhood on zygotes. Another issue (seldom brought up but pertinent) is that the proportion of fertilized ova that go to term is less than 50%. The physiology of implantation is complex and iinefficient, what with the need for the blastocyst to arrive at the endometrium at just the right time. The number of acts of unprotected intercourse that result in established pregnancies is well under 50%, though exact figures are hard to come by. I expect to be accosted at the supermarket by a petitioner and will have to ask them about this issue. It is not brought up in public debate nearly enough.

Comments are closed.