The Gender of Justice
Outside any courthouse you can find a blindfolded lady constructed in concrete, proudly holding the scales of righteousness, the sword of swiftness all while proclaiming justice is blind. A courtroom, the final stop on the road to the truth, promises equal treatment under the law.
It fails to mention this is reserved for men only, more specifically straight white men. The very law of the land, written by and for men, to protect men. The subjugation of women isn’t merely a side effect, it’s the whole damn point.
Monotonous statutes penned over centuries to ensure man’s control. From the Comstock Act of 1873, to forced procreation, the law has a long history of infringing upon women. With over 120 laws introduced across the nation this year alone attacking the LGBTQ community, it’s not surprising that many are aimed at stripping the right of Trans people to simply exist. After all, we mustn’t allow the indoctrination of our children to include the acceptance, and love of those deemed immoral by those in charge.
The more one investigates the decades of the women’s liberation movement, the more you will find yourself face to face with the present. Like seriously, is there a cosmic mirror we are unaware of?
In this multi-part series, we peel back the layers of a deep truth long suppressed from the history books. Stories of women that are often twisted and reshaped to fit the narrative of those in charge for no other reason than for them to remain in power.
Let’s get started, after all there is a lot to unpack and only a month to talk about it. We wouldn’t want the celebration of women to outshine the perpetual legacy of old white men ruling over them. Speaking of men ruling over women…
In 1873, Anthony Comstock celebrated congress passing the ‘Act for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use’. While the statute didn’t offer a definition of ‘obscene’, it sought to suppress the dissemination of, and possession of, information and/or instruments it deemed ‘immoral’, ‘obscene’, and ‘indecent’. From pamphlets, books, pictures and drawings, the moral compass of the country was headed to hell and mankind was at stake.
Of course, no law would be complete if a woman wasn’t specifically subject to his wrath, thus the inclusion of anything pertaining to contraception and abortion, even if written by a physician, was quickly added as a misdemeanor offense. Congress agreed women could not be trusted with such knowledge and designated Comstock himself as a special agent, giving him the power to arrest anyone he deemed in violation of the act.
Resolved to prevent what he determined a crime and the inevitable corruption of children, Comstock set out to reset the moral compass of America. Setting his sights on Ezra Heywood, he would make an example of this threatening feminist, who studied women’s role in society. When Heywood published Cupids Yokes, in which he asserted women should have the right to control their own bodies, Comstock swooped in and arrested him for making obscene observations. He even went so far as to arrest another man for mailing him a copy of this vile compilation.
Comstock more vehemently sought to enforce another aspect of the act, which included birth control and began arresting physicians for supplying written materials explaining pregnancy and how to prevent it. How dare women control the size of their families, even if they are poor- it wasn’t their place and Comstock was making it his.
President Theodore Roosevelt tended to agree, when he penned a venomous letter in 1906 to a reverend in Nebraska for merely suggesting one purposely limit their family size. Roosevelt compared its immorality to that of prostitution and theft, proclaiming anyone disagreeing with him lacked intelligence and character. Accusing the reverend of blasphemy that would lead to the total destruction of the human race, Roosevelt made clear his position on women and their right to autonomy. He wasn’t alone then, nor now.
The United States and its Supreme Court continues to obliterate the perceived rights of women, reminding us at every turn, we were never part of the founding father’s intention. When women are not full citizens of a country built on the ideal of freedom, it says more about what actual democracy is, not what its suppose to be.
The white man’s discovery of a faraway land, to the creation of an idyllic world has never been about equality. The road from 1619 to 2023 is a long and winding one, and honestly no one could cover it all in a mere thirty days. We invite you to peek behind the wall of containment and perhaps break a few bricks with us. Join us as we shine a light in a few dark corners hidden in the halls of congress, illuminating the elusiveness of actual justice.