Accidents of biology

In 1990, Dan Logan, executive director of the men’s rights group Free Men, made the following killer argument:

We always treat reproductive rights as a women’s subject and something they control. I think the fact that women carry a womb in their body is an accident of biology. It could just as easily have been men.

Can’t fault that logic, can you? Yes, there might be only one class of human beings who gestate, but there might not have been. It’s all totally arbitrary, so best not to go making legal arguments on the basis of reality. This is, after all, only one of an infinite number of possible worlds.

25 years later, and Logan’s case for pretending human reproduction is completely random is now being made by trans activist CN Lester on Newsnight. “The idea of sex as we know it now really emerged in the nineteenth century in French sexology,” they opine. “The idea of male and female is far more complicated than what we were taught in GCSE biology.” Thus it would be foolish to go claiming that, say, people with uteruses are more likely to get pregnant than people with penises. Sure, this might be what actually happens, but “proper” sex is, like, way more complex. It’s pure coincidence that me, you, Lester and everyone else on the planet had to start life in the TERFy environs of someone’s womb. It could just as well have been via the stork. Only it wasn’t.

It’s not that anyone minds the fact that only one group of people gestate, give birth and breastfeed. Just as long as they STFU about it. Sure, the female role in reproduction is hard and sometimes it might kill you, but it doesn’t do to make a big deal of it. Aristotle had the right idea, arguing that women were just the potting soil in which the active male principle could grow. That’s far more inclusive, right? Let’s all deny the existence of a reproductive class, since it’s not as though that will stop us benefiting from their labour. It just removes the need to attach any status or significance to it, while also clearing the way for some healthy free market exploitation.

In this February’s Glamour magazine, the recently transitioned YA author Juno Dawson makes the comment “I don’t think women should be defined by their biology otherwise we’re on some very thin ice. That kind of thinking limits women to being baby-making machines.” If you read this while not engaging your brain, allowing the words to wash over you, you can fool yourself into thinking that what’s being said is that people with wombs should have rights. But it’s not. What Juno is actually suggesting is that for her, the category “woman” includes not just the “baby-making machines,” but actual human beings such as herself. This is the logical conclusion of queer theory, which is no more than a continuation of patriarchy’s age-old attempt to erase female reproductive significance. It doesn’t mean that for people with wombs, biology is no longer destiny. On the contrary, it makes reducing them to their reproductive function all the more straightforward.

Take for example Cory Silverberg’s gender-neutral sex education book What makes a baby. Apparently it’s sperm + egg + a place to grow. Not a human being to gestate you, using all of their physical resources (not just the womb itself). No, just “a place.” We’re back to the Aristotelian matter. Woman as potting soil. Not a person, just a random location. Honestly, ladies, might as well start calling ourselves Offred and be done with it.

It shouldn’t have to be pointed out that this is neither feminist nor humane. But that is where we are now. If it’s those are the kinds of argument you want to be pushing, knock yourself out. But let’s not pretend it’s anything other than the patriarchy setting up shop at Pseuds Corner.