Assisting our eight grader with her American History lessons has called me to revisit the United States’ Declaration of the Independence, of which the second paragraph states, “ … We hold these truths self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. …”
However well-meaning these men were in seeking freedom and independence from Great Britain, Parliament and King George III, their clarity and self-reflection on the truth of their words leaves much confusion in light of our nation’s history.
Besides being totally opposed to freedom for women and peoples of color, never mind the Native Americans from whom they usurped the land we now call the United States of America, these men, our founding fathers crafted this document, the basis for our government with a certain purpose in mind–the creation of a nation and government that allowed them, the founding fathers and men, learned and relatively well-off, like them to live a life of freedom to pursue happiness as they perceived and defined happiness.
Had women, Native Americans or African-Americans crafted the Declaration of Independence its words might offer a completely different purpose and perspective.
Two hundred and thirty-six years later and now twelve years into this new century women stand on the brink of an inheritance long fought for by those women and some men before us–women’s liberation and equality.
But what is freedom and what does equality mean in a country founded on the belief that true liberty brings with it the attachment of a life wherein the pursuit of happiness is held as an inalienable right to be demanded and received, if not taken, at all costs?
Regarding womanhood, motherhood, and marriage, this question raises a conundrum of concerns and a hailstorm of more questions, not the least of which is how do women define happiness?
Not the least of which is, How does one achieve equality with another who lacks a key capacities you possess?
The ability to conceive, carry and birth children into life sets women apart from our male counterparts.
However we may feel about our ability to conceive and give birth, the choices we make concerning whether we become mothers or not, cannot erase this ability.
That some of us may see it as a blessing, others a curse, or carry a dispassion as perhaps many in between feel, the opportunity to give birth, which only the female species possess, is at best a charged subject for both men and women.
Women who stand against a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion strike me as those who in believing the old adage, “ … the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world … ” fail to remember that only in choosing to rock that cradle can a woman approach the empowerment of defining her own destiny.
Giving birth without the desire to do so, or worse, to adopt a role that culture has attached to your gender not only imprisons the woman who would be mother, but also holds hostage any children to which she might give birth.
I am convinced that much of the stance men hold against choice and a woman’s ability to legally undergo abortion rests on their envy of lacking a womb and thus the ability to usher life into the world.
It would seem that at the very core of their conviction roils a fear that amid a woman’s choice to have an abortion many of them would have, at no fault of their own, never entered life.
Now alive and faced with the female ability to choose whether to give birth these men now question their role and/or the importance or necessity of their presence in the perpetuation of the human race.
As Greg Hampikian writes in The New York Times article (August 24, 2012), Men, Who Needs Them?, “ … Fathers are of great benefit. But that is a far cry from ‘necessary and sufficient’ for reproduction. If a woman wants to have a baby without a man, she just needs to secure sperm (fresh or frozen) from a donor (living or dead). The only technology the self-impregnating woman needs is a straw or turkey baster, and the basic technique hasn’t changed much since Talmudic scholars debated the religious implications of insemination without sex in the fifth century. If all the men on earth died tonight, the species could continue on frozen sperm. If the women disappear, it’s extinction.
Ultimately the question is, does “mankind” really need men? With human cloning technology just around the corner and enough frozen sperm in the world to already populate many generations, perhaps we should perform a cost-benefit analysis. …”
Women hold a power that those of us in America often ignore and abdicate acknowledging in favor our establishing purpose and meaning in our living along the path as laid out by the founding fathers–men who like those today and in yesteryear lacked the ability to give birth to human life.
This is not to say that every woman must or should have a child. Nor do I believe that having children provides the only way a woman can experience passion and meaning.
Rather it is in acknowledging our ability to do so, and the option to choose whether we want to and will have children that empowers us beyond what any man can ever touch upon.
Recognizing this we step into the light of what it truly means to be female and woman.
Unlike me, we women have choices–the choice to undergo childbirth of remain childless.
And this ability, this reality of choice to give birth, like the choice of abortion strikes fear into the hearts of many, both men and women.
Choice guarantees uncertainty.
And uncertainty, like life itself, demands, if we are to create and experience true and substantive success, truth and honesty–a humble awareness that life is as fragile as it is beautiful.
And that no man or woman’s measure can be circumscribed according to the desires of another in the latter’s pursuit of happiness.
It strikes me that men such as the founding fathers, and not unlike many today, ignore and minimize the importance of women in their efforts to create meaning and purpose in their lives because for all they can set their minds to and accomplish, the miracle of channeling human life into the world eludes them voraciously.
I wonder what the world might look like if women across the globe embraced this power not simply to give birth, but more importantly our ability to choose whether we will have children, and exercised our capacity to choose, rather than looking to men–who lack the ability to give birth–for a template for how to chart our destiny and living.
Tags: abortion, anti-abortion, awareness, birth, British Parliament, childbirth, choice, conceive, Declaration of Independence, destiny, empowerment, fathers, female, founding fathers, freedom, gender, Great Britain, Greg Hampikian, honesty, human life, joy, King George III, liberty, life, male, man, marriage, men, motherhood, mothers, Native Americans, Pawan Pandey, perpetuation of the species, pursuit of happiness, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, The New York Times, truthfulness, Who Needs Them?, woman, womanhood, women, women's liberation and equality