Since the first time when the males of our species became aware of their possible role in the generation of children and tried to usurp the place occupied by women in filiation – and consequently in society – in many ways “of erase ”women came to their minds. The first and most effective was to “immobilize” them by keeping them focused on pregnancy and child care. At the beginning of the adventure ofHomo sapiens, that is, 200 to 300,000 years ago, it is estimated that a woman was “immobilized” for about six years with each newborn baby. With successive pregnancies, the immobilization was permanent and, in fact, social activities became gendered: men in the social space, women in the domestic space.
Those that we now call “traditional society” are all male-dominated societies even if some, especially in traditional Africa, are matrilineal in structure. They are in fact male power societies and are organized by a gendered distribution of tasks and powers.
Some societies (we think of ancient China and Japan) will try to justify this bipartition by respecting an ethic in the pure service of male power. As is blatantly evident in this passage from the sublime In Praise of the Shadows* from Tanizaki: “Our ancestors first of all delimited in the luminous space an enclosed volume of which they made a universe of shadow; then, at the bottom of the darkness, they confined the woman, convinced that they were that they could not exist in this world to be human with the clearer complexion. If we agree with them that the whiteness of the skin is the supreme condition of the ideal feminine beauty, we must recognize that they could not act otherwise, and that it was perfectly lawful for them to do so. Whatever the society, the woman is relegated to a central point of the household, the most remote, the most hidden point – out of the sight of rivals who could impregnate her – a territory surrounded by a male fiefdom which controls. access to social space.
The “erasure” of women was essentially achieved through domestic confinement, which is very well reflected in the well-known Germanic injunction of the three Ks: “ Children, Kitchen, Church ” (children, kitchen, church), these traditional values devolved to women that each society will decline in its own way.
The social erasure of women can still be achieved through customs or taboos such as the ban on the wearing of glasses for women in Tsarist Russia in order to limit their access to education. The same is true in all male totalitarian regimes – including those who want to impose Sharia law – where the education of women remains the great taboo since it makes it possible to maintain an obviously fragile male power if it is only due to this. education of girls is prohibited. The pinnacle of this system is represented by the infamous Sunni preaching group Boko Aram, literally meaning in the Hausa language: “Western education is a sin”, since Western education is emancipatory of the condition of women.
Finally, the social erasure of women can very easily be achieved through violence, direct elimination such as the murder of girls at birth, prenatal selection or honor killings. The so-called “honor” crime is almost always a feminicide. Under the guise of tradition or religion, a man – for he is always a man – has the right to kill (and rape) anyone (mainly a woman) in his family for immoral behavior, real or perceived.
The social erasure of women is the very reason – if not the only one – for male domination.
In the 1970s in the West, a revolution took place – the capital nature of which we cannot stress enough – certainly the most significant event since the beginning of humanity: the separation of sexuality and fertility.
Attention : this formidable freedom is never acquired. It is extremely fragile, reactionary forces are always ready to oppose it because it allows the social existence of women. Why this fragility? Certainly because the new generations born with this freedom are not sufficiently aware of its importance. If we take a step back, the period of great Western freedom of the past 50 years is actually an anomaly compared to the previous thousands of years when women were subject to the male order. It is also an anomaly with regard to 80% of today’s humanity where women have no – or little – social existence.
Attention : the reasons for the regression are always the same: under cover of the right to life, it is essentially the maintenance of traditions – and thus of the tradition of male power. We never – or very little – talk about contraception to the whole world. If it is widespread in the West – but the West represents only 12% of the world population – it is quite different for the rest of the world: from 4% of the population in South Sudan to 88% of membership in Norway . Contraception is least common in sub-Saharan Africa, less than one in three women. The immobilization can still play its role, it is a tool for the male power always in place.
The termination of pregnancy occupies a very special place in the arsenal of means of defense of a free woman, it allows to decide whether or not to continue a pregnancy and the birth of a child. In democratic nations, it is an essential right which is however today called into question. Already in Poland a virtual ban on abortion has been established since 2020 except in cases of rape or incest, Hungary is taking the same path … other countries have expressed the desire. More serious, at the end of 2020, 32 countries, including the United States, Brazil and Egypt, co-signed a joint declaration which directly attacks the right to abortion, affirming that “There is no international law on abortion, nor any obligation of states to finance or facilitate abortion”. Hypocritically, this statement is said “For the health of women and the strengthening of the family”, under the pretext of “Well-being of women” and of “Preservation of human life” for the merit of the traditional family.
The refusal of the United States Supreme Court to block Texas anti-abortion law speaks volumes about the power of the reactionary forces that oppose “the social existence of women.” It is true that this court had just been modified by Donald Trump with a majority of extremely conservative judges (six out of nine). But the warning is serious, Texas today is a state where it is nearly impossible for a woman to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, even in the event of incest or rape – ban from week six onwards. amenorrhea, that is, pregnancy is barely detectable. And especially because of the accompanying articles of this law: in particular the encouragement to denounce, rewarding the report of a violator of the law.
It is interesting to note the diversity of attitudes towards abortion in the 50 American states (fig above) with Texas and Mississippi in the lead, which thus believe in modifying case law to endorse this new masculinist order.
The powerlessness of the Supreme Court and the reiterated will of many authorities (state, traditional, religious) to prohibit or limit the freedom for women – and couples – to choose their destiny must awaken our vigilance towards the greatest asset of social liberation of women: contraception and abortion. It is only to notice, in history, only two periods when women had a free social existence, were able to exercise professions in complete freedom and even run states: ancient Egypt and the present West. One thing in common: the existence of contraception and the termination of pregnancy. The Egyptians knew about contraceptive tampons and knew how to terminate pregnancies. The women were architects, doctors and pharaohs there.
*In Praise of the Shadows from Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Verdier. ** Le Monde with AFP, September 2, 2021 *
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Several ways to erase women!
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