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Feminism: Sex and gender discussions

Do you believe men and women should have equal rights - or not?

73 replies

HairyLittleCarrot · 27/05/2013 14:44

Bear with me.

I think most people would answer "of course, how ridiculous" when faced with the question. However, on mumsnet recently I'm increasingly reading justifications for not just covert discrimination, but support for the LAW restricting the human rights of women compared to men. I've been hanging out on the FWR boards recently and it always comes as a shock when someone offers support to an infringement of women's rights.

Lots of people rarely seem to get het up about the milder inequalities - such as a man can walk topless down a street without fear of prosecution, but a woman may be considered legally indecent, or the injustice of VAT on sanitary products etc.

But the more frightening inequalities in law that exist, such as a man can possess absolute bodily autonomy but a woman may be prosecuted by virtue of the fact that she is capable of being pregnant and thus has less rights to do what she chooses with her own body. Less rights than a man.

I can understand people struggling with an ethical dilemma on complicated issues, but I can not comprehend how anyone can actually extrapolate that to defend the law upholding different rights for men and women. For me, it's like a litmus test - whatever my personal opinions on any subject, I ultimately believe that women and men should have equal rights under the law.

Not "equal, except if a woman is/does/says ..."

I'm interested to hear people defend why women should have less legal rights than men in any circumstance.

OP posts:
namechangeguy · 27/05/2013 15:20

In the area of pregnancy, men and women are obviously different though. The rights of a foetus, if any, will always affect a woman more than they do men. Isn't that just common sense? Unless a foetus has no rights under the law, that is. I think in this area, it's a case of women's rights vs those of a foetus, rather than women vs men.

(disclaimer: I am not a medical or legal practitioner, so may have used incorrect terms)

badguider · 27/05/2013 15:25

I believe in equal rights, but I know some people who believe the sexes should be treated 'exactly the same' - meaning anybody who gets pregnant should only get the same annual leave at work as anybody else or blah blah blah........ while ignoring this results in the fact that women have less autonomous rights as they're the only ones who do get pregnant.

Keepithidden · 27/05/2013 15:31

It does get a bit complicated when you have effectively two legal entities occupying one body so I can see how these problems arise. Especially as the rights of the feotus seem to change as a pregnancy progresses.

I'm interested in the example you suggest : " uch as a man can possess absolute bodily autonomy but a woman may be prosecuted by virtue of the fact that she is capable of being pregnant and thus has less rights to do what she chooses with her own body." Could you explain this further? Do you mean that she is discriminated against on the basis that she can become pregnant? Or is it more to do with being forced to carry on a pregnanacy for the sake of the nborn foetus? The former is obviously wrong, the latter I'm not even going to attempt to have an opinion on yet.

BTW I am male if that makes any difference (oh the irony!).

scaevola · 27/05/2013 15:35

What a woman can be prosecuted for (or a man come to that) depends on which jurisdiction you are in. OP: what did you have in mind about PG women and the law, and where?

VAT is all bound up with EU agreements. Sanpro already has a discounted rate.

FannyMcNally · 27/05/2013 15:49

If a woman decides to terminate a pregnancy, can the father prevent it? I have heard of court cases (probably in the US) where there has been a conflict, but I don't remember the outcomes.

LRDtheFeministDragon · 27/05/2013 16:10

I believe men and women should have equal rights. I do not believe it is possible or desirable for those rights to be identical, only equal.

I do not think foetuses have any rights at all. IMO, it is right that there should be a crime for causing a woman to miscarry or have a stillbirth (ie., not abortion), because that is violation of her bodily integrity and deliberate causing harm to her. But that is not because the foetus should have a right to be born. IMO it doesn't. I'm pro choice.

I think it would be equally unacceptable to force a man or woman to be sterilized, btw.

namechangeguy · 27/05/2013 16:27

What about practices in countries like China, where baby girls are not wanted? Is it okay to terminate a pregnancy purely because of the foetus's sex? This is such a complicated area, I never have any idea who believes what.

LRDtheFeministDragon · 27/05/2013 16:49

I don't see why it's complicated. Confused

If we lived in a world where boys and girls were valued equally, and someone terminated a pregnancy because of the foetus's sex, I would think they were fucking weird. But we don't.

namechangeguy · 27/05/2013 17:05

If it wasn't complicated, there would be no disagreement and no ambiguity. I speak as someone who can see both sites of the abortion argument, rather than having entrenched views firmly on one side.

I am trying to ascertain whether you believe that a woman carrying a baby, who decides to terminate the pregnancy because of it's sex, is fully entitled to do so. Because I have seen arguments against this point of view on here.

LRDtheFeministDragon · 27/05/2013 17:12

Logical fallacy. Plenty of people disagree over very simple things.

I can see both sides of the abortion argument, I think.

I think a woman should be entitled to terminate a pregnancy in that situation, but I would assume (and hope) that in a world where one gender wasn't preferred over the other, this would be a very unusual choice.

I've never seen the arguments you mention, so can't really respond to them.

namechangeguy · 27/05/2013 17:19

Here is one;

I think it was that discussion that lead to the OP starting this one, though I could be wrong. They are closely related.

namechangeguy · 27/05/2013 17:26

Sorry, that was the wrong link. I'll have a look for the correct one.

HairyLittleCarrot · 27/05/2013 19:07

thanks for the responses. I don't wish to make this a thread about a thread, however, yes, the thread namechangeguy linked to was a catalyst to my beginning this one, although I've been mulling this over for a long time. In that example, a woman in Mississippi has been indicted for manslaughter for taking methamphetamine whilst pregnant, then giving birth to a stillborn baby months later.

A man can never ever face that threat for doing the same act of taking the same drug.

A woman has less rights to do as she wishes with her own body - even if that involves abusing that body. I'm scared at the implications, scared that more people aren't seeing that this is almost akin to slavery of women, this willingness to accept that a woman's body is not legally her own in the way a man's is.

I don't think things are as extreme in the UK, but there are plenty who endorse criminal action against women who choose what to do with their own bodies.

I started this thread because I wondered if those people who are against abortion (late or at all) are prepared to take their thinking to a logical conclusion. What would you do to prosecute a woman who intentionally ends her own pregnancy? Are you equally prepared to stand by the prosecution of women for manslaughter for say, drinking alcohol whilst pregnant, or eating unpasteurised cheese, or horse riding, or any other perceived risk? And if so, how would you rewrite the laws to reflect that a man can enjoy these liberties but they are punishable offences for a woman?

LRD has conveyed eloquently the stance I take.

OP posts:
scaevola · 27/05/2013 19:36

Under UK law, the two possible offences would be procuring an abortion outside the terms of the Act, or the (rarely used) offence of child destruction.

The key question is intent. If the intent is to destroy the foetus, then a criminal charge may follow. But if the intent is to continue with habit (whether legal or not) then it isn't. That isn't a slippery slope; it's a clear distinction in law (both as written and actual cases).

ITCouldBeWorse · 27/05/2013 19:44

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hermioneweasley · 27/05/2013 19:53

But in the UK women get some favourable treatment (in the field of employment) due to pregnancy - extra protection against redundancy. Men and women can't be treated the same when it comes to pregnancy as there are huge and fundamental differences

ITCouldBeWorse · 27/05/2013 19:57

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hermioneweasley · 27/05/2013 20:15

I agree Itcoukdbe - just an example of how the biological differences mean that men and women shoukdn't be treated the same

ITCouldBeWorse · 27/05/2013 20:22

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SantanaLopez · 27/05/2013 20:26

Can I recap here- you are in favour of abortion at any point in pregnancy, your main argument being that a man can do whatever he wants with his body?

That makes absolutely no sense to me. There's no logic in it. It's biologically unfair, yes, but at some point in pregnancy the foetus is viable on its own, therefore it has a legal identity and should be protected.

LRDtheFeministDragon · 27/05/2013 20:31

namechange - oops, sorry, maybe it wasn't very clear, I wasn't demanding links, just explaining my reply wasn't dependent on anyone else's posts (not quite sure why I felt that needed saying TBH, I suspect it's seeing the tedious 'feminists think ...' type posts all over the place atm).

santana - why does viability equate to legal identity?

CoalDustWoman · 27/05/2013 20:36

We don't ha


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CoalDustWoman · 27/05/2013 20:39


We don't have personhood laws in the UK. If we did, I would leave.

I see feminism as liberation from the patriarchy, specifically male violence. I think equitable existence would flow from that. Or at least have the best chance.

SantanaLopez · 27/05/2013 20:40

Legally (I think) personality/ identity etc kicks as soon as a child is born. For me this means that viability actually equals identity, especially as in civil law, if it is in the interests of the unborn child to be born, that child should have that right.

LRDtheFeministDragon · 27/05/2013 20:46

So, are you saying that a 28 week foetus would gain rights purely from existing in 2013 rather than 1960? Or if the woman declines steroids to mature the baby's lungs, it has less of an identity than if she doesn't?

I would slightly worry where this could lead. We could keep on saying 'well, if the mother only did x, y and z, this foetus would be viable, so we should really insist she does these things and preserves its potential rights'.

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