Women Aren’t People, They’re “Hosts”

Handmaids Tale. Women are just hosts, not people.

Fertile women of Gilead’s Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu, airing today) were not seen as people. They were mere vessels carrying the babies of men.

Too many theocratic Republican legislators see women the same way today.

Like Oklahoma Rep. Justin Henry who asserted:

I understand that they (women) feel like that is their body (but) what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.

Women don’t have bodies. They are incubators for other people’s bodies.

Do baby girls have bodies until they become fertile and then lose them?

Republicans are campaigning to strip American women of their rights, say Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin in the New York Times.

By elevating the status of fertilized eggs and embryos over women, for instance, women are increasingly being arrested when they make their own decisions about how to give birth or when they miscarry.

Consider this partial list compiled by Jesse Kornbluth @ HeadButler.com and Rebecca Traister @ New York Magazine:

  • In Washington, D.C. a judge knew that a cesarean section could kill a seriously ill 27-year-old pregnant woman. He ordered the procedure anyway. Both the woman and her baby died.
  • A pregnant Iowa woman fell down a flight of stairs and went to the hospital. The hospital reported her to the police, who arrested her for “attempted fetal homicide.”
  • A Utah woman gave birth to twins. One died and health care workers argued it died because she delayed having a cesarean. She was arrested for fetal homicide.
  • In Louisiana a woman went to the hospital because she was bleeding vaginally. She was convicted of second-degree murder and spent a year in jail before medical records proved she’d had a miscarriage.

Dictators hate women’s reproductive rights

The 20th century’s most loathsome regimes controlled women’s reproduction.

The Nazis closed family planning centers and outlawed abortion, making it a capital offense, says Steven Conn, Associate Professor of History at Ohio State. Stalin banned abortion. Ceausescu outlawed contraception and made miscarriage subject to criminal investigation. Today China forces abortion and sterilization. Conn observes:

The day after the evil Ceausescu had been executed, the National Salvation Front issued two decrees; it lifted the ban on the private ownership of typewriters, and it repealed the laws that policed pregnant women.

Trump and his right-wing extremist friends look eerily similar to these despots.

Make America great again — for whom?

Hmmmm, Make America great again?

Even the handmaid’s Commander admitted that while the newly installed theocratic regime was better for him,

Better never means better for everyone… it always means worse for someone.

Handmaid’s Tale trailer:

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on April 26, 2017, in feminism, reproductive rights and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 53 Comments.

  1. Jessica Sanchez

    I find it mind-boggling that in this day and age we seem to be going backwards and not forward in honoring women’s right to choose. I vote in every election and often ponder how people still elect officials such as the one quoted here who stated “I understand that they (women) feel like that is their body (but) what I call them is, is you’re a ‘host.” In my opinion, the same people who don’t respect women’s right to abortion are the same people who also reject funding for anti-contraceptives and basic health-care. I fear what is to come as a woman, let alone a woman of color, if we continue on this road.

  2. Women aren’t people, they are hosts… or in the case of Democrats, mothers are birthing people which sounds like “host” to me. According to Democrats, people don’t have mothers they have incubators for other people’s bodies.

    “Hey, birthing person, can Josh come over to play?”

    “Ask your impregnator”.

  3. First of all I want to point out something about The Handmaid’s Tale. I read it when it come out and then again a few years ago to see if my perspective had changed. In between – maybe 5 years ago? I listened to an interview on NPR with Margaret Atwood where she explained that nothing that happened to the women in The Handmaid’s Tale was made up. She had researched it all and simply dropped real life things that had happened globally to women into the fictional narrative. Nothing in The Handmaid’s Tale is made up. The big things all actually happened- and can STILL happen to anyone now or in the future. This is utterly mind boggling and unsettling but that doesn’t negate the fact that most women- even in America- are just a few votes away from losing all their currently held rights. I dont’t know what the solution is exactly but I do know that combatting misinformation, bad scientific education and propaganda , or to be more positive- updating and correcting , constantly, misinformation, scientific education and identifying propaganda as such- are just the basics. Women’s issues- access to abortion in particular as well as bolstering women’s health options in general, are sorely needed even now in 2021. We also need to vote/place women and minorities into powerful decision making places to increase the nations’s access to different points of view that will, hopefully, bring more empathy and personal knowledge that pertains to legislation to the table.

  4. I also find it hard to believe how close-minded some men/women are while it is 2021, especially people who were raised in different cultures like in my culture, being a Mexican-American, I’ve observed that Hispanic men look down on women and think they’re smarter or superior just because they are men, they are also expected to be very manly men as machismo is common in Hispanic households. Calling women hosts like the Oklahoma Rep. is very degrading to women since they are implying that women are only here to produce children, however, some women are infertile and can’t have children or they willingly choose to not have children.

  5. Astonising. This is the only word which came to mind as I sat here and read this blog in its entirety. To some, women are not seen as human beings with potential, feelings or even wants and desires. Instead, we are merely viewed as “hosts” used to carry the offspring of the dominant male. Throughout history, women have fought for their rights, protections and opportunities. For it to now be 2019, and only two years ago a man felt compelled to dwindle our entire existence down to the term ‘host’, is not only demeaning and insulting, but absolutely incorrect. The fact that a woman’s right to control her own body has been put in the hands of so many males is nothing short of confusing. They create laws as if they could understand what happens inside of our own bodies, when in reality they have absolutely no idea what we are put through in terms of menstruation, child bearing and much more.
    One of the main questions which constantly stands out to me is that of their so-called ‘concern’ for the lives of children put into question with the legality of abortion. However, why are most men so eager to condemn women to a fate of death in the off chance that a child might be saved? As you mentioned throughout the blog, in the cases located in D.C, Iowa, Utah and Louisiana, the fate of the mother is actually of no concern. So I pose this question, what makes one life more valued than another? My point here is not to persuade or argue for the acceptance of abortion, but instead to propel the right of a woman to choose what is best for herself in a time of crisis. There are too many unknown variables within a pregnancy to deem them all as ‘pure’. It should absolutely be the prerogative of the woman to decide what is the best decision to her at the best time. Specifically, The Handmaid’s Tale is nothing short of a cautionary tale, warning of the terribly close dystopian society which we are headed without action.

  6. Cynthia Minton

    In 2018, in a developed nation you wouldn’t expect to hear words and actions asserting that a woman’s purpose is to be a vessel for babies.

    This sentiment should only belong in the past and dystopian novels like Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale.

    When did our rights as women get stripped away?

    How could a judge be allowed to order a cesarean section knowing it could kill an ill 27-year old? How could a woman be put in jail for having a miscarriage?

    These weren’t solitary instances or mistakes. This was all done legally all over the country.

    Each and every woman should have the choice with what happens to her body.

    Pregnancy and becoming a parent is a wonderful thing but under no circumstances should it be forced on a woman. It is a choice or it should be…

    All these politicians that treat women as baby-makers don’t seem to be concerned what happens to the child after it’s born. They take away the right to affordable birth control and even abortions but then abandon the mother and child after it’s been delivered.

    Moreover, the action of taking away this choice is essentially designating women to second-class citizens.

    Of course, this also impacts lower class women more as they do not have the financial resources to pay for lawyers, birth control and abortions. Even if a state declares abortions are illegal, a wealthy person could theoretically travel somewhere else to have the procedure done. Women living in poverty would not have this alternate option.

    No matter which way you look at this taking away this all-important choice is trapping a woman and placing her in the hands of male lawmakers who are insistent on prioritizing fertilized eggs and embryos over women, as the blog post states.

    This may be a controversial subject for many people – due to personal beliefs religion etc.

    But if we think it is horrifying for a man to force a woman to get breast implants, we should also see forcing a woman to carry a baby against her wishes just as

    • “In 2018, in a developed nation you wouldn’t expect to hear words and actions asserting that a woman’s purpose is to be a vessel for babies.”

      Errm, it’s a kind of biological reality. A billion years of evolution has selected genes that optimise a woman’s ability to make babies so as to reproduce those same genes. The selfish gene as Dawkins put it. First grade evolutionary science. Dont take it personally, every creature’s purpose is to reproduce itself.

  7. It’s surprised that there’s a law that takes away women’s reproductive rights. If women are unable to take charge of their own bodies, then how to embody gender equality. There was once a child policy in my country. It was canceled a few years ago, but most couples chose one child. As parents in reproductive rights, we have the right to decide how many children we want, not to let a law decide. In today’s society, women have the same rights as men,but there are some ideas that women should obey men by some traditional cultural in the history. This is the reason why we should still fight for women’s rights.

  8. I think it is extremely ridiculous that laws are made on behalf of women, especially that the people making these laws are usually white men that would not know anything about the woman body and what is best for it. Also using words such as incubator and host, makes a comparison to mosquitos or a an object just being used to keep the other thing alive and running. It takes away from the fact that women have thoughts and minds of their own and are not just responsible to bear the children of men. Women also have the option to refuse to have children if they wish to do so. I think this post is a great conversation starter on why major changes need to be made in the policies for women’s rights.

  9. The list you’ve given made me speechless!! …. the whole world considers the US as one of the most progressive countries of the world. There should be more protest against such weird laws and arrests.

  10. Amelia de Leon

    The treatment of childbearing-women shows one side of the double bind of being a woman in many of today’s societies The lack of freedom and power a woman has over her body especially when pregnant strikes fear into the hearts of women. For someone like me, a young woman who has always been iffy about the idea of having children at all it just makes me push away harder from that part of my feminine side. However, women are still mocked and challenged when they try to pursue lives and careers outside of the house and motherhood no matter what personal reasons that they may have. You are either an outsider in a man’s world, or you’re a mother and a host for carrying children with no rights to your body. Not that you should have to justify not having children to anybody but it really shouldn’t be hard to see at least some of the reasons if you just look at the way women are cast aside for the unborn.

  11. Nick Hellmuth

    One thing that I wished I saw more of is a scientific consensus of when “life” occurs, or more importantly, when a fetus or embryo is considered a fully living entity. Can there be a scientific consensus on such a thing? It would be nice if scientists and doctors could agree on it, but for many people its political thinking first and scientific thinking second, that is, most people look to facts to back up their already determined beliefs rather than vice versa, including scientists. Even if scientists could come to a consensus about when “life” begins, going in either against or for the favor of any side of this debate, will that change the way we actually view this issue? I doubt it would for me, pregnant women who are unready should be able to choose to opt to abort for their and their babies sake in my opinion, even if there is hard scientific evidence saying “life” is already achieved. From my perspective less overall suffering occurs when people choose to abort because they aren’t ready to have a child and when “life” actually occurs is irrelevant, but what does that say about us that science and respect for life can fall second to our already determined beliefs? How much do you think your opinion would change in this debate if scientific consensus provided evidence against your beliefs? I am not trying to be antagonistic, I just think its important and healthy for us, as humans, to think about these things and perhaps see where we truly stand and why.

    • And the thing is that they aren’t even actually pro-life. They are anti-life on pretty much every other issue.

      And as it turns out, making abortion illegal does little to stop it. Desperate girls and women find ways to get the job done even when it’s illegal. And too often die in the process.

  12. It does often seem in patriarchal societies that women are to be considered for the sole purpose of creation, almost like a container for the child.
    These judicial rulings seem to be quite unconstitutional. It seems to be almost too easy to arrest these mothers for fetal homicides, especially in cases where further records could prove it was an actual miscarriage.
    Another interesting aspect about the policy making that involves women’s reproductive rights is the lack of women representing other women. On every level, it makes a logical sense to promote more participation of women when it concerns policies that regulate their rights.

  13. I am baffled by these cases on women! As far as we have pushed forward for the equality of both men and women yet we still have little control of what is entirely ours, our bodies. You’d think that we go through enough that at least we could have control over something, but we have barely a choice in the matter. I am afraid of the day I have a daughter and what I will have to tell her. “ It’s your body honey, your body your choice! Well that is if legislation decides it is.” I hope with time this will all be a distant memory and women can actually be in control of their own bodies without the government having a say in it.

  14. Janell Teixeira

    To this day, I still cannot wrap my head around why some men think that they have any say in what a woman does with her body. Just about everything a woman can do with her body, such as getting a tattoo, piercing, make up, what she wears, etc., men have an issue with and feel like they need to make it known and try to stop it. Last I checked, women do have brains, like men, so why can’t we freely express ourselves and make our own decisions, just like men can, without a man trying to tell us we are doing something wrong. The reproductive rights of a woman are no different. Why do men think women are incapable of making their own choices regarding their bodies? We are the ones who have to carry and birth children, we are the ones who deal with the toll it takes on our body, so why can’t we decide what happens to our body? Everyone knows what rape is, yet some men still try to blame the victim or justify the actions of the rapist. If the victim gets pregnant by rape, she didn’t have control over that, so why can’t she decide for herself whether she wants to keep the baby or not. I don’t understand why people think women should be punished for something they couldn’t control.
    I totally understand why people would be pro-life. With an interest in the medical field, I believe we should try to save as many lives as we can. However, I also believe people should have a choice in what they do with their life, without input from other people. Some people who are pro-life just believe that all life should be saved and not taken, but they don’t look at, or don’t care, about the situation someone is in or the reasons behind the decisions they make. These same people are the ones who once a baby girl is born, want to take her rights and no longer care about her life. How can people try to tell someone, mainly men to women, what they can and cannot do when they aren’t in that situation themselves? The decision a woman makes about her body does not affect anyone’s life except hers, so other people should not have a say in what she can and cannot do. If people really cared about “life” so much, they would make laws and do what they could so that children are not going hungry, families aren’t living in poverty, and help our education system so that it’s easier for people to get the career they want.
    I don’t even understand why we have to have a conversation like this, it seems like common sense to me, but I guess some people just can’t handle equality.

    • You make some important points.

      And bottom-line, they don’t even seem to be pro-life given how the same states vote on things like Medicaid and prenatal care for poor women…

  15. It is wonderful to find a place where the issue of women and their rights are seriously discussed. I’m looking at the issue from the viewpoint of economics and consent. The ideas I see expressed on the related subjects of women, sex, pregnancy, age of consent, rape, abortion, birth choices, marriage and more are all founded in premises. Thanks for being here!

  16. The Handmaid’s Tale is my favourite Atwood and I’m excited to see the show.
    It’s supposed to be dystopian and yet as you’ve outlined, it hits a little too close to home.
    The same people who make such a fuss over the rights of a “fetus” don’t want to have anything to do with it once it’s out and an actual baby in need. I steam over the kinds of people who think they should be able to dictate what happens to a woman’s body. It’s absurd.

    • Yep: “The same people who make such a fuss over the rights of a “fetus” don’t want to have anything to do with it once it’s out and an actual baby in need.”

      The real plan is to limit women’s rights by limiting our autonomy.

  17. The. Hell.
    Women have been denied rights to their own bodies that CORPSES have!
    When a Will states that the ENTIRE BODY should be buried or otherwise disposed of- no matter how healthy- everyone follows that rule, because the dead must have their way. Even if parts of the body, like organs, skin grafts, etc., could have been used to save the lives of a score of people.
    But women, in many countries (and they’re trying to do it in America too) are being forced to carry, even if there’s no chance they or the baby will survive (stillborn, illness, etc.). Apparently these “pro-lifers” would rather kill both the fetus and the mother, than let her dictate her own body. They’d rather ruin the lives of hundreds of women and girls who never wanted a child, and found themselves pregnant against their will, than to let them be productive members of society.

    • Since they don’t care about the baby once it’s born — they can starve to death without food or die without medical care — the real concern is revealed: limiting women’s autonomy by limiting their rights over their bodies. When women have a lot of babies it’s hard to be financially independent.

  18. Good god this is a terrifying and shameful time. There has to be a better way to have these discussions, that would let people feel Christian and still respect female humanity.

  19. I agree full heartedly, women are seen as a container for a child vs the being they are. When laws with conception arise and controversy around abortions it’s thru the eyes of a cluster of cells vs the women bearing the child. We are in a world directed through the rich, white, male perception.

  20. Reblogged this on Rcooley123's Blog and commented:
    Excellent essay on how women’s human rights are stripped in many societies even now. The religious and political right in this country bring this to the legislative arena on an increasing basis. Many of us refer to this as a War on Women, which right wing ideology claims is a myth, but what better name exists for it?

  21. A very timely post, Georgia. I went to the Hulu site, but it’s down this morning. Perhaps too many people trying to access it? In any case, I’ll be watching it as soon as I can get it.

    I just now downloaded the book to my Kindle. Have you any idea how this movie remake stacks up against the original? I haven’t read the reviews.

    • I know that Margaret Atwood, who wrote the novel, also worked on this mini series on Hulu. She even has a cameo as one of the curly headed “Aunts.”

      I will know more after watching the series. I know some details have changed, like in the book ethnic minorities are shipped away somewhere but in the miniseries a black woman plays the best friend of Offred. And there has been some updating like references to Tinder.

  22. Georgia, is it possible that you are mistaking a religious wing of the Republican party as the entire Republican Party, much like mistaking all radical Muslims as the entire Muslim world?

    If you think about how much effort the Republican establishment went to defeat Trump, you may want to reconsider thinking he is a Republican. I think he just saw an opportunity running as a Republican, since one can’t win the Presidency in our “winner take all” process.

    The voters were tired of both political establishments, as well as the news media (who are advocates rather than reporters), big money donors , the entertainment establishment and an educational elite that cares more about indoctrination than they do helping people learn to be critical thinkers.

    • It’s true that not all individual Republicans feel this way. But Republican policy skews this way.

      The Republican Party often makes policy this way because of their Christian Coalition. So here you have entire Republican controlled states with these laws that are harming women.

      And as I wrote in the last post, at the federal level we are defunding women’s health in the United States and worldwide in a way that is causing suffering and death for many women. Unfortunately, Trump and the establishment Republicans are united on this.

    • No. It is party policy enacted by the highest elected Republican officials and enshrined in the party platform.
      The “few radicals” are the Republicans who retain some semblance of humanity, and they are nearly extinct.

  23. What? Women are being arrested for such ridiculous reasons! More than the law, the implementation should be done with some common sense, at least.

    • Laws that make women’s status lower than a fertilized egg is a law that needs to be changed.

      If a “pro-lifer” were protesting stem cell research because it destroys embryos and a fire broke out and someone had to choose between saving a two-year-old whose mom couldn’t find a babysitter and a vat containing thousands of fertilized eggs (people), who would choose to save the fertilize eggs over the 2-year-old?

      A fertilized egg should not have equal status to a woman. Let alone higher status than a woman.

      • Very true. Laws should always be tilted in favour of born human being than unborn life.

      • My brother-in-law was completely against abortion until his wife had a complication and he was told that he might have to choose between her life and the unborn baby. luckily he never had to actually make that choice but knowing that he might have to he did decide that he would choose his wife.

        We talked about why he made that choice. Partly it was because he loved her and he didn’t know the baby. In fact many people loved his wife and it would have been a greater violence to rip this woman they all loved away from their lives.

        And it’s just crazy to say that a fertilized egg should have more rights than an actual girl or woman.

      • Why would your brother-in-law be the one to choose between his wife’s life or the unborn baby’s life? Why wouldn’t his wife be the one to make the choice? It was her life that was in jeopardy.

      • Because she would be unconscious. But it’s interesting that they didn’t ask her wishes before. That said, I had a student whose mother was in the same situation and she told the doctor to save the baby rather than herself. So maybe they wanted someone’s opinion who wouldn’t make a choice out of worrying about feeling selfish?

      • “who would choose to save the fertilize eggs over the 2-year-old?”

        I’ve never come across a pro lifer who says abortion shouldn’t happen if the woman would die.

      • Most probably don’t. But these laws have been proposed from time to time.

      • “But these laws have been proposed from time to time.”

        Laws that the woman should die in preference to the child? Citation please.

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