Friday, November 5, 2010

"Human" and "Female" as Mutually Exclusive Categories

[TW: Rape, Torture]

"When a woman is tortured in an Argentine prison cell, even as it is forgotten that she is a woman, it is seen that her human rights are violated because what is done to her is also done to men. Her suffering has the dignity, and her death the honor, and her legal status the recognition of a crime against humanity. But when a woman is tortured by her husband in her home, humanity is not seen to be violated. Here she is a woman- only a woman. Internationally, her violation outrages the conscience of few beyond her friends.

Put more schematically, in the perspective of human rights, what is done to women is either too specific to women to be seen as human or too generic to human beings to be seen as about women. Atrocities committed against women are either too female to fit the concept of human or too human to fit the idea of female. "Human" and "female" are mutually exclusive by definition; one cannot be a woman and a human being at the same time. Women's rights are, in other words, not yet human rights, nor are human rights yet women's rights."

-Catherine MacKinnon in "Rape, Genocide, and Women's Human Rights," Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues

Increasingly, LGBT rights are framed as human rights. As they should be. And yet, I wonder, often, how much this narrative has to do with the fact that men are included in the group "LGBT." How different, say, would the "LGBT" rights movement be if it consisted solely of lesbians, bisexual women, and transgender folks? How much less seriously would the movement as a whole be taken? Would hate crimes against LBT women (and transgender men) be too "female" to be recognized as the atrocities that they are?

That hate crimes against women as women occur every day in this nation, pervasively, and commonly and yet are often, rather than being seen as the human rights violations they are, minimized as "domestic disputes" I believe, answers these questions for us.

No comments: