I was thinking about all the talk about anatomy in the air these days. The womb. The foetus. The ‘heartbeat’. The fingernails.
Sometimes this just washes over as normal. As if it is perfectly normal that our way of talking about other people should be rigorously anatomical.
Clearly it’s a good idea to have a strong grasp of anatomy if you are a medical practitioner, and it certainly helps to know one’s arse from one’s elbow when receiving medical advice about one’s condition.
But what about when it comes to other people? By coincidence, as I started writing this, I Got Life by Nina Simone was playing.
‘Hey, what have I got?
Why am I alive, anyway?
Yeah, what have I got
Nobody can take away?
Got my hair, got my head
Got my brains, got my ears
Got my eyes, got my nose
Got my mouth, I got my smile
I got my tongue, got my chin
Got my neck, got my boobies
Got my heart, got my soul
Got my back, I got my sex’
In Nina Simone’s singing, this about someone who is deprived of so much, yet who recognises that as a living, breathing human being she is still endowed with the basic means of fighting for liberation. Or to put it another way, she has nothing to lose but her chains.
It’d be an entirely different song if the possessive pronoun ‘my’ didn’t feature. It’d stop being an affirmation of possibility, and become a rather desperate list of anatomical objects instead.
What happens when this merely anatomical register is used, when people are discussing the laws by which they will agree to be governed?
If you find yourself talking -in the abstract- about ‘the womb’ as an object to be governed by law, you have most likely forgotten that each and every such organ is part of a human being who has to live their life among others, with all the variety, diversity and adversity that human life brings. And when you forget about it, you take it for granted that the people affected have no say in it.
Sometimes, you don’t even notice. Or at least I don’t notice. And maybe part of that is down to the fact that I have never heard any high-flown radio panels or read any earnest op-eds about how best to legislate for ‘the penis’, or ‘the testicles’.
I would ask men reading this: what do you think would be the best legislation to introduce governing the penis? What kind of basic laws should be introduced that ensures that the best use is made of the life contained in the semen stored in the testes? And please don’t try and argue that the sperm isn’t alive: I’ve seen the opening scenes of Look Who’s Talking.
If you find the above scenario absurd, to say nothing of inhuman, then you must, if you have a vote, vote to Repeal The 8th.
To whomever sings ‘I Got Life’, the Eighth Amendment says: no, you haven’t.