Are Women People? (Is This Up for Debate?)

As a nation, we are on the brink of such darkness, it is almost unimaginable. There are people who – strangely, inexplicably – claim to value a potential human life above an actual human life. These people are in the political position of ending the rights of actual humans, and that creates an even more incredible question; are women people?

Legally, it’s been strange. The rights that American women fought to have recognized in the last several decades have all taken a very long time, and a great deal of debate. Many of us know the story that the key vote that won American women’s suffrage was cast by a politician whose mother’s persuasion changed his position.

Motherhood is one of the most influential positions a human can hold. It is one of the most difficult and demanding tasks any human can take on, and no one should ever be forced into it.

Motherhood is not recognized as a profession, as one does not get paid for it.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Lily Ledbetter Act of 2009 are very specific about women being paid the same wages for the same work, but ask any American if women are paid equally, and you’ll hear a story about why not. As if women didn’t quite qualify as people.

As if laws were just vague suggestions.

Laws that are not enforced have much in common with laws that are unenforceable. Look at the federal statute against growing or consuming a particular kind of weed. If that law had worked, we’d have the memory of an extinct species of plant, not a multi-billion dollar industry. All that the law created was a lot of unnecessary suffering.

Declaring that half of humanity have no say in the functions of their own bodies is an impotent, unenforceable rule. You can only think this makes sense if women are not people, but objects.

Laws that take away women’s rights create a vast amount of unnecessary suffering. Not just for women; for all of humanity.

Because whatever the law says, women are people. People who have a lot of experience in working around and overcoming limitations. People who have the right to vote for leaders who recognize their humanity.

There is a proverb that darkness does seem deepest before the dawn. If you have to ask if other human beings are people, this might be the morning that wakes you up.

Judith Martin-Straw

The Actors' Gang

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