Saturday, April 01, 2006

"I'm a person. I have ten toes and ten fingers. I'm also a woman, so I don't have a penis, although twice, for nine months, I had twenty toes and twenty fingers and a penis."

The first time I heard someone talk this way, several years ago, it seemed like a cutesy acknowledgement of the humanity of a pregnant woman's prenatal son. The next time I heard it, which was just a few months back, was after the "my arbitrary threshold for the humanity of a fetus is correct" rhetoric really got fleshed out in the public eye, or maybe just in my own mind and I'm not quite up to date on the propaganda.

Yes, the second time I heard the "twenty fingers and a penis" routine, it sounded trite and thoughtless. A woman pregnant with her son may "have" all this stuff, but they're not hers beyond the point that her son is her own. They are not an inherent part of her. A normal woman is not coded to possess double the normal number of fingers and male genitalia. She is coded, and constructed, to carry them in the form of a developing son, but they are not an ontological part of her. Without the contribution of a male, she cannot produce these things at all, and even then, she'll only produce the distinctly male features about half the time.

Unless you care to patch together some telological definition of Woman as strictly a baby making machine, you can't assert on these grounds that a prenatal human is merely a mass of the woman's tissue that can be thought of and treated as casually as a cyst or wad of phlegm.

Well, maybe you could argue, again, that Woman has the metaphysical ability to impute humanity by fiat, much as how the Fourteenth Amendment imputes citizenship, but I think that argument's even shakier.

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