Today is International Women’s Day and I am not sure what I should be celebrating, or if I should celebrate at all. The whole idea seems kind of nebulous and imaginary to me.
I know, this should surprise me. I have identified as a feminist for years, feminism and gender studies were part of my formal education, and I am aware of the reasons why things should be done to secure for women their rights – which they are deprived of. – But when I think about it now, it does not coalesce into shape and reason for me anymore. Not because I have started thinking that women have always got what they should have got and nothing was ever wrong. No. The problem is, I am not sure I believe in ‘rights’ anymore.
What is a ‘right’ supposed to be? – Standard definitions go like this – “Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory.” – Now read that again. Does it not sound entirely, and very conveniently, made-up?
If you disagree, think about those words up there. ‘What is allowed of people or owed to people.’ Allowed by whom? Owed by whom?
The answer is ‘people’, isn’t it? – These rights are things that we allow – or, owe – ourselves. – This in itself is a very simplistic, naive and ostrich-blind notion. One could only think this cocktail up – yeah, feels about right – sometime in the eighteenth century.
My first contention is, – where is this ‘we’ coming from? What ‘we’? Our species isn’t a homogenous collection of individuals! What if some people refuse to be a part of ‘we’? What about those aristocrats in 1789 Paris, who were running down staircases and halls and hiding behind curtains to escape the bloody mobs who were coming to kill them? Did they agree that they allowed or owed everyone else any ‘rights’? – What about the mobs? Did they agree that they owed those cowering aristocrats any ‘rights’? – I don’t think so.
Seems to me that some people have taken it upon themselves to represent the entire species and that is what truly hides behind the all-encompassing, white-robed ‘we.’ Some smart, intelligent people thought they knew what was best, and they rigged the game that way. They are the ones who agreed that they allowed, or owed, some specific things to everyone else; and everyone else should owe those things to everyone else.
I’m not saying that’s necessarily bad. I’m just saying, why not be transparent and clear about it? Why the pretentious ‘we’? – Looks like someone is trying too hard. Looks like someone is not really sure of themself, – like someone is trying to spread white linen sheets all over the place because unsavoury things need to be kept out of sight.
You know that part towards the end of that definition, that “some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory” part? – Read that and you will get it. You’ll get that this entire ‘rights’ construct is a creation of man (Yes I was gender-specific intentionally). People made this up. Not people like you and me. Extraordinary people, – people who were thinkers, wonderers, leaders, philosophers, kings. All the religious gurus and social theorists and natural scientists. The ablest of them, over millennia, thought these up, and what we have today is an old stitched-together patchwork of bits and pieces of their propositions.
This patchwork is what we call Rights. Rights of Man, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, – whatever you will. It’s a made-up catalogue of fantasies.
The imagination was that these fantasies will be put into practice. Things like Right to Freedom, Right to Equality, Right against Exploitation, etc., they would be applied to real life and that would make life better for humankind as a whole.
But that did not happen. You might object and say, sure that happened. How the hell are you able to type up these things if you don’t have freedom of expression? How are there girls in your classroom if there’s no right to equality? How this? and how that?
Thing is, all these good things we have, there’s no guarantee that we are always going to have them, as long as we want. If something is my RIGHT, then I ought to have the power to retain it, oughtn’t I? It’s not much of a right if someone can take them away from me! – What I have, what the girls in my classroom have, what a transgender person ticking the ‘Other’ box on an Indian form has, – these are not rights. These can be whisked away any moment, by the people from whom they came.
There are no Rights in nature. It’s not a part of the biological paradigm. An egg does not have a right to hatch. A wave does not have the right to swell. A deer does not have the right to resist being eaten because it couldn’t run fast enough because it’s pregnant. A flower does not have the right to not get plucked. Or, to not get pollinated. There’s no #MeToo for the violated gynoecium.
Homo sapiens isn’t suspended on a different level of reality. This is what the fathers of Human Rights got wrong. They were riding high on the wave of Humanism, and they had imagined, in their rapture (and ignorance) that we are special. They otherized nature, made nature into a distant ‘She’, and then with time assigned ‘Her’ the role of madonna or whore – as the situation demanded. – It is only very recently that we are learning to see reality for what it is – that we are a part of nature and there is nothing here that can be otherized.
Therefore, there cannot be any Rights in human society, too.
No, not rights, what we have are PRIVILEGES.
All the good things in the world that we want, – it is a privilege to have access to them. It is a privilege we sometimes get to enjoy, and sometimes we don’t. And there’s a rule at work here, too. How much access to privilege you have is directly proportional to how much POWER you have.
If you have more power, you can grab more privileges. If you are unfortunate enough to be weak, then you lose, – nothing for you. That’s the whole game. Everywhere. You have enough muscle, you win the fistfight – or maybe you get to board the overcrowded bus ahead of the others. You have enough money – you get to throw your friends the awesomest barbecue party – or maybe get admission into that top league college abroad. You have enough brains – oh, you are the star kid of the school, beloved of teachers and envied by classmates, and maybe you are launching the next digital phenomenon in another fifteen years, on your way to becoming the next Jobs. – And if you don’t have any of these, then you won’t be getting any of the nice things, friend. You are mediocre. Oh, you are always going to be unique, like every snowflake ever is; but you are always going to be another unique brick in the wall, unique in your ordinariness, without a warm glance from anyone but yourself.
And if you are severely lacking in all of those, – brawn, riches or brains? Well, you are dead. You were dealt the Full Retard card, man. You are completely and utterly fucked.
Women have been getting the worse deal because, in history, the way we have socially evolved has favoured physical strength and material prosperity a lot. And men have been in control of those things. So they did things their way. Oversimplification, but that’s roughly it.
Now in 2020, things are more evenly balanced. But the amount of injustice in the world has not gone down. There is still a lot of powerful people grabbing all the privileges, and there is still a lot of powerless people who are getting screwed in various ways every day because none of those privileges is available to them. They can’t have proper food, proper air, proper room to live in or move around. They can’t have proper education, proper means to nurture their emotions, a proper environment to be or make. You know why they don’t get these things? Not because they belong to a particular sex. It’s because they don’t have power.
No, I am not saying being a woman doesn’t factor into it; it does. But – taking the cliched example – a woman gets raped in an alleyway not because she’s a woman; she gets raped because she is powerless. If she had been an MMA fighter (muscle), or a CEO of a company (money), or a genius musician (brains translated into money) – those mooks in the alleyway couldn’t have touched her. They’d have been the ones whom she could’ve stomped into the curb.
Powerful women abuse powerless women all around us every day. They even do it in the name of celebrating International Women’s Day. It’s not about being a man, woman, child, whatever. It’s about being powerful. That gets you some privilege.
Got it, girlie? – You have no Rights.