Before talking to you about American ideologues in dresses (with long petticoats sticking out), followers of uterine appropriation, allow me to recall this information that I have already published in these pages and that I loved to share with the students. It shows to what extent planetary phallocracy has always tried to have control over the genital apparatus of women, well beyond the uterine part which is still the subject of another attempt at appropriation by judges. conservatives on the US Supreme Court.
At the beginning of what would become reproductive physiology, much like explorers discovering a new land in ancient times when it was customary to name its discovery after themselves, male scientists did not hesitate to claim territories in the female genital system. Thus you will find in the female reproductive system tubes belonging to Gabriel Fallope, the follicles of Reinier de Graaf, the glands of Thomas Bartholin and those of Alexander Skene. Among the male explorers of old who claimed territories in the female genital, there is also the incomparable Ernst Gräfenberg, who is the owner of the Gräfenberg point, commonly called the G-spot. In short, however personal the female genital is, with so many bearded scientists in glasses squatting there, I wonder if we can still speak of intimacy to describe it.
The uterus was an elusive organ that spilled a lot of bullshit presented as certainties. Hippocrates saw the uterus as a living being with a mouth and able to move around in women’s bodies. A kind ofalien of breeding.
Housed in the lower abdomen, this little monster traveled between the head and the feet and could stay in the organs of its choice. The ultimate goal of this uterine beast? Satisfy her desire to have children. Don’t ask me how it can be done with a traveling uterus lodged in the lungs or the spleen. It was therefore necessary, according to the most famous doctor of Antiquity, to take care not to ignore the desires for enjoyment which appease the Beast. In the absence of satisfaction, it happens, says Hippocrates, that the Beast obstructs the passage of the breath and causes a myriad of illnesses. Uterine mobility will be associated with great lubricity which, in turn, will be symptomatic of a disease baptized, by these “great connoisseurs of the female body”, hysterical suffocation.
This vision of a mobile and insatiable bestial uterus inhabiting the female body has survived its designer and continued in another form, carried by other thinkers of undeniable misogyny.
Thus, the French doctor Joseph Raulin (1708-1784) professed that the woman suffered from a hypersensitivity which affected her brain and, consequently, her cognitive abilities. At the time of puberty, added his contemporary, the philosopher Saint-Lambert (1716-1803), the uterus became so hypersensitive that it tipped the woman’s brain into a debilitating paralysis. If you want to discover stories to make your hair stand on end, I recommend you read History of misogyny – The contempt for women from Antiquity to the present daya book by Adeline Gargam and Bertrand Lançon.
Before arriving at this offensive of the Republican right on free choice which unleashes passions, I must also tell the vision formerly defended by the spermatists when the time came to explain to children how babies are made.
You know, it will be necessary to wait a hundred years after the discovery of America for another find of capital importance to come to shed a little more light on our reproduction. It was in Holland, the land of all vices, that we first saw the tip of its nose, or rather the tip of its tail. The sperm cell was discovered in 1677 by a Dutch cloth merchant named Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723). As is often the case with great scientific discoveries, chance had it right.
Leeuwenhoek’s primary objective, with the makeshift microscope he had just tinkered with, was not to unlock the secret of life.
Mr. rather sought to improve the counting of fibres, the number of which per surface unit was at the time one of the quality indices of fabrics. It is not known how the idea was born, but the cloth merchant one day had the curiosity to study his sperm with his new toy. Once the semen was under the lens of the microscope, what was the surprise of our budding scientist to see hyperactive bugs moving frantically! He then thought that they were microscopic animals which, by some miracle, lived in the male semen, so he later baptized them spermatozoids – the word sperma meaning in Latin semen, and zoos referring to animal, as in the word zoology which designates the study of animals. Even today, we talk about these famous Leeuwenhoek animals, even though we know that they are not real fauna. But the denomination made its way into the vocabulary and managed to fertilize minds.
This is where this uterine story that I want to tell you begins. For the next two centuries, scientists sought to understand the role of these animals that populate their testicles. It was even believed, seriously, that they were microbes appearing in the semen by spontaneous generation. Others assumed that their task was to stir the mixture of male and female principles to promote the formation of the fetus.
In other words, sperm were to reproduction what a whip is to the preparation of mayonnaise!
It was also at this time that the school of thought known as the spermatists emerged, the main representative of which was a collaborator of Leeuwenhoek, Nicolas Hartsoecker (1656-1725). Here, the woman was nothing less than a flowerpot in which the man deposited his seed containing the preformed baby to make it grow. This was a uterine ideological appropriation on a background of pseudosciences which is not very far from what the religious right advocates, which is pacting with the American Supreme Court to decide the future of free choice.
I’ve always had a problem with these middle-aged males who ideologically make control of women’s bodies a life project. Yes, abortion is an act that should never be trivialized. But, contrary to what the American religious right seeks to do, the decision to go to a pregnancy termination clinic must unquestionably belong to the woman.
Comedian George Carlin, who in my opinion is America’s greatest comic-philosopher-sociologist, said, “It’s amazing how much conservative Republicans love fetuses. They spend their time talking about the protection and the rights of the fetus, but as soon as this fetus comes out of its mother’s womb, they don’t care anymore. Which is so fair, because you never hear Republicans ranting about the millions of poor people who live like animals in America.
According to data from the Gun Violence Archive, gun violence claimed 40,726 victims in 2021. Is the Republican right putting so much energy into protecting these humans who were once fetuses?
Does this sanctification of human life light up in their hearts when the time comes to apply the death penalty? I wonder how we can say for life (pro-life) and adhere to an ideology that does not care so much about the death of the most vulnerable in society.
It’s sad to see this country uninhibitedly becoming a theocracy or, to be more precise, a Trumpocracy. Many informed observers have told us since Trump’s election that America is in serious danger of becoming a right-wing dictatorship. The most ironic part of this threat to free choice in America is that it is the fact that the balance of the Supreme Court has been unbalanced by the appointments of Donald Trump, a president who believes only in money, to power and to the image reflected in its mirror. Is there anyone on earth who thinks Donald Trump is a sincere believer who cares about abortion when you know his story?
This sling aimed at controlling women’s bodies was greatly facilitated by the man who gloried in putting his hand in their intimacy without asking permission. The same one who paid for the services of a porn star while his wife was pregnant. This is the very definition of the height of irony!