IN the pro-life/pro-choice debate I have noticed a complicating paradox. In this article I take no sides in the debate but simply place this paradox on the table to suggest that the issue is more complicated than it is normally portrayed by the pro-choice lobby.
The pro-choicers say that a woman has total autonomy over her body when pregnant because, at that point, it is all about her body. The interesting thing, of course, is that the very definition of pregnancy is the moment when the purity of her body is ‘polluted’ by the presence of something from a male human body. Immediately on its arrival that thing begins to multiply its share in the female body to create new life for that is how human sexual reproduction works. This is the pregnancy paradox. The one moment when a woman claims that it is all about her body it precisely isn’t. This is because a woman does not exist alone in the human sphere nor can she be thought to do so as she is a sexual half of a sexually reproducing creature. You can’t imagine women without men, spinning alone through space, or men without women. Homo sapiens can only ever be truly represented by both, and life is perpetuated only if the two sexes are in relation to each other. They never exist outside that relation and, therefore, mean nothing without each other.
Then, how often when a man enters the abortion debate online is he roundly castigated sooner or later by a furious feminist for not being able to imagine what it is like to be a woman – the female of his species – because he is not one? And yet, if this is true, how did Tolstoy so magnificently create and empathise with the heart-breaking maternal and female dilemmas of Anna Karenina? How did Flaubert imagine himself so brilliantly into the mind and heart of tragic Emma Bovary (he memorably said ‘Emma, c’est moi’)? How did Shakespeare create Beatrice, Desdemona or Lady Macbeth? Indeed, for that matter and by that logic, how did Jane Austen create Mr Knightley and Mr Darcy or George Eliot, Daniel Deronda? These wholly successful feats suggest that, belonging to a literary giant or not, the human imagination is more than capable of traversing the divide simply because male and female belong to the same species and nothing is less unfamiliar to us, apart from our own, than our opposite human sex.
I would claim to be able to understand women (my wife may not agree, of course!) because I grew up with a mother and a sister, am married to my wife and have a daughter, an imagination and a certain ability to empathise. Like most men, I am hard-wired to seek out, know and embrace (in all senses) the opposite sex. It really can’t be any other way and there can’t really, in a sexually reproducing creature, be anything other than the complementarity and mutuality between the sexes set out by Pope John Paul II and developed by the current Pope Francis. It would be surprising if things were not disposed thus. This leads me to characterise the typical Conservative Woman as one who emphasises the familiarity with, rather than the estrangement from, each other, of the human sexes (while still rejoicing ‘Vive la différence!’). We and she know that, although both sexes can mistreat each other (we are also free morally), they are essentially made to complete and bring joy to each other. This is to say that we find our home in each other. This really is to state the obvious if you have observed the essentials of what humans are. There are, of course, always exceptions to this but, as Dr Johnson observed, ‘Let it be considered that there is no position, however false in its universality, which is not true of some particular man.’ In stating these views I refer to the universal or general position.
In spite of this the Modern Progressive Liberal Woman tends to define herself in division and separation from, and enmity towards, the opposite sex. Things are seen in terms of the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ and a state of alienation, the opposite sex existing largely to be a receptacle of blame for the woes of the world. The female psychology exists in a curious and embattled isolation even though no female exists without the biological intervention of a male by virtue of our nature. In this way the whole configuration of nature is somehow blinked at and undone for the artificial imposition of a political end, which is to define the sexual relationships in political terms.
If one is disposed to be religious, various theological arguments can be made to discover a reason for the existence of the universe. One is that it exists so that God’s creation can be known and appreciated by a self-aware creature with full consciousness. Another speculation argues that we exist as we do in order that love might obtain, the necessity of our sexual difference being the obvious vehicle for it. Familiarity with each other is, therefore, the norm and an inevitable product of our constant proximity and dependency. Too little is made of this.