The public/private dichotomy has been around for a long time. There is the private sphere, which encompasses the home and the family. Then there is the public sphere, which includes the law. Issues of reproduction and domestic abuse are generally considered matters of privacy. We continue to consider these private matters because they are associated with the private sphere or the home. Having children is a personal choice of a woman and is considered private because of that and because it occurs in the privacy of the home. It is also considered private because it involves a woman's body and the right she has to her body. Domestic abuse occurs between a husband and wife and is considered private because of that relationship. This is evident in the article where Siegel discusses how it was a right for a husband to chastise his wife by beating her. The public/private distinction can be useful in regulation. When it comes to reproduction, it should be recognized as private since a woman has a right to her own body. Anything that threatens that privacy would then become public. Domestic abuse occurs in the private as well, but should be regulated publicly because it can interfere with women's freedom of choice and their rights to their own bodies. The struggle for bodily integrity for women should not be considered private just because of that. When something is interfering with a woman's bodily integrity through circumstances such as rape or abuse, then it needs to be regulated.
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I think people continue to preceive issues like reproduction and the family private because of the sexual aspect. People like to keep sexual behaviors behind doors. But they do not mind it if the public see's them pregnant, because being pregnant is seen as the most beautiful thing in the world that a women can do.
The private distinction is useful when considering the state because of, like the section on marriage and now the unit on "wife-beating" those issues are meant to be done behind close doors that the public should not know about. As we seen in class in one of our presentations your husband can not legally rape you.The state regulations helps that notion, with state laws and regulations.
I do think that the theoretical approaches we use in class are different than the privacy concept because the privacy concept is more of a personal issue and decision, that the state deems to be ok, whereas the approaches we use in class sometimes go against that.
I think the legal recognition of the women bodily integrity and self control should be up to the women, after all it is her body and she should have the right to have recognition of her body kept private or not.
The notion of treating those issues as private stems from the traditional ideals of marriage, and then it is reinforced by appealing to the notion of privacy. In marriage, both parties contractually become "one." Treating marital issues as private provides the court a convenient rationale for enforcing ideals, ignoring the sensibility of said ideals.
Privacy is used more contemporarily to gloss over the issues at hand. It's a thorny word in that it has a positive connotation, especially in our culture. There are many issues where privacy for certain things can be a very good thing. It's hard for anyone to argue that they're against privacy, even if privacy by definition means "the condition of being concealed or hidden." The premising statement that, "Marital concerns are to be private" more lucidly raises the question if marriage should be private in the first place if, drawing from the definition of privacy, it is phrased, "Marital concerns should be concealed or hidden."
The usefulness of concealing these issues is suspect. The nature of glossing over such matters undermines feminist notions like consciousness raising. Siegel brings up the case of Siddle v. City of Cambridge where the court sides with the husband using reasons conventional with privacy (Siegel, 2194). The husband's actions of breaking into his wife's house and abducting her twice is justified by the court, suggesting the mental health agencies can rectify the situation better (even though the husband has been deemed sane in the trial). I hesitate to say that marital concerns should not be private, but I think a postmodern approach would be useful in circumstantially looking at issues like bodily integrity, self-control and, as other classmates have mentioned, pornography and domestic abuse.
When things are considered private, they are outside the realm of law. When issues are called private it gives the impression that we can do what we want but what it really means is that no protection is provided and we are actually controlled by social biases. The public/private distinction can be useful theoretically. It could be useful if laws given to the public sphere could extend in a liberal way to the private. However, does this erase the private sphere entirely? For example, family is considered private but when family violence arises, laws surrounding violence that apply to the public sphere should extend to the private family. Legally recognizing women's bodily integrity and self control as a matter in privacy also involves the overlapping of the public/private spheres. For instance, autonomy and freedom of a women's body should be considered private. However, when, or if, someone violates this, laws that apply to the public sphere should apply here too. The extent to which the legal recognition is percieved as private or public should depend on the context surrounding the woman. Other theorists, such as postmodern theorists, I believe, would be in favor of breaking down and redefining what the public and private sphere meant and entailed. Radical feminists, on the other hand, would most likely argue that this public/private system of law is primarily a patriarchal system that puts women under the private realm. This argument between public and private extends to many areas of conflict today including the issue of pornography. Like MacKinnon and Dworkin, other theorists have tried to bring pornography into the public realm of law so that it can be regulated.
Traditionally, privacy is a defense of personal life. A sort of means of keeping the law out of a particular aspect of life - since you have a right to privacy. By all means, feminist theory complicates that.
As Siegel discussed, privacy has become a means of excusing domestic violence - that the government can't meddle in the business of your marriage, for the sake of harmony. At the same time, it's obvious that marriage is a public institution, controlled by government. So, then, legal changes to protect wives have crossed that line of public and private.
On that note, I think that dominance theory addresses this well, because it connects individual experiences into a broader scheme - systematic problem. That is, really, making the private into the public, and what's more, it makes it changeable. In this way, it opens up legal reform and consciousness-raising. At the same time, equal treatment theory contended that women, just like men, deserve to be in the public "sphere" of life. And, with that, as women burst into the public sphere, so do the inequalities aren't supposed to exist in the public. All of these things contribute to how to change laws, as well as understanding the extent to which patriarchal laws cannot change.
Privacy seems to be an arbitrary right in America; the government insists on regulating everything from the definition of marriage to reproductive rights, claiming that women's sexuality, what she does with her body, and her reproduction are all elements of the state.
Throughout American history, as we saw in the Siegel reading, there are vast examples of the government demanding control over reproduction and the family, but only in some cases. For example, the reproduction for the state is regulated through marriage. Marriage is still defined as one man and one women, hopefully leading to reproduction. This is true, however, there are circumstances when the government will consider a matter private and turn its back on regulating certain matters. For example, Siegel speaks of wife beating as a perfect instance where the government takes part, but does not regulate. Pre 1970's, domestic violence was seen as a private matter because it concerned a husband and wife. In American government, this is a union that must be kept intact and preserved in all of their perfection and familial duties. Of course, this does not include domestic violence and if this boiled to the surface, the husbands (most of the time) were let off. By having minimal repercussions for the husband's actions, the government ensured the image of family, which was the more important than a wife or child's life.
When considering state regulations, it is helpful to look at certain issues as mainly private and public, but the mistake is made in not seeing an overlap. For example, wife beating was seen as strictly a private matter pre second wave feminism, however that still occurs today. But, with social and legal reform, many are seeing that wife beating may occur in the privacy of a home, but it will and does bleed into the public. It can lead to low productivity (if people are calling in ill so others will not find out), increase in other forms of violence (learned behavior), etc. The public and private distinction can be made, but not entirely.
I see distinctions between privacy, for example, in terms of radical and cultural feminisms. Radical feminism would argue that there is no private realm; everything is regulated by the public and for the public. Of course, the public being male patriarchy and the private being the victims, or the women. Cultural feminism would say that there are clear distinctions between private and public, but the privacy should be regulated through the understanding of an individual's own privacy (gender, culture, etc.)
The battle for women to have self-control and bodily integrity should not be a private matter. I do agree with Siegel that proper reform and regulation cannot occur unless these crimes are unveiled. It is an individual's choice if they choose to bring something from private to public, but this distinction would not be so great if topics (i.e. wife beating) of the private were not so stigmatized.
I see this matter that Siegel speaks about relating to other forms of sexual violence that are put in the private sphere and not regulated. I think of the example of pornography. We live in a country where we have the 1st Amendment which gives us the right to free speech. People can choose to have pornography and view it, but because the private sphere is so closed off from the public, society does not want to nor does it ever look at the way the violence reflected in pornography could seep into the public.
Privacy seems to me to be a recent sort of phenomena. Only recently, I'd say since 1920s/30s, has there really been a notion of "privacy". With industrialization, finally enough people have collected in one area, and production of goods has exceeded need where privacy is ironically possible. Since the skeleton of our government is essentially 17th century, this creates an unforeseen problem.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, there was much more of a focus on bartering, and community. After all, it only makes sense to live next to people who have what you need and vice versa, but not live with so many people that certain goods and services do not become taxed (e.g. doctors). As a result, smaller tight knit communities would be formed and people had a more intimate relationship than what we're familiar with by necessity. Moving past a bartering system, and to the Industrial Revolution, we find ourselves with a freedom to live where we want, but also a lack of community due to a reduced need for interaction. Because of these reasons, I feel that we live in effectively a different society.
The laws, as usual, have been lagging behind change in thought and in practice. This is reflected in the theories that we have been studying. The idea that people, while not being born equal, are entitled to a certain amount of respect and civil liberties is a thoroughly modern idea. Our laws still show an older, Victorian mentality of objective truths and hierarchies and a pseudo-science instead of our present day soft sciences. Instead of swinging wildly from one side to the other, we should work to refinement.
When first confronted with a previously unheard of level of privacy, akin to what the aristocracy had in the Old World, America decided to treat it here the same. The government had little say in what people did in their own castles. Thus, familial issues were left up the king of the castle and became "private matters". However, people forget that no matter how private and personal they think their actions are, they affect (and reflect) society as a greater whole, and with that recognition some "private" fell under public regulation.
I think that there needs to be drawn a quick distinction, and some terms defined here. Private and public, as I have laid out, are meant to show a couple of things. First drawn from my observations, Private means matters of family and the household. Private can also concern personal interactions between two people (or, maybe, a small group of people). Public is that which is defined and regulated by legislation or government agencies. I have noticed a severe gap between these two sectors, as well as overlap.
The most important thing is the gap. I believe that there is room for Individual legislation. In the current discourse, arguing for a woman's body to either be "private" or "public" comes off as inappropriate. Both of those terms, as I understand them, are too outdated and ill-equipped to deal with the issue of such things as bodily integrity and self-control. Those two things are more private than private, but still need to have some say in the public, because active participation in a society dictates as such. Being part of a society means that no matter how insignificant we think our actions are, we still have to recognize the ramifications and the impact of those actions upon everyone else, and the culture that we have created and participated in.
Which, to finally conclude this long winded post, is why theory is important. Theory is just exploring new territory before turning into practice. We need to understand culture and society, and how it changes in order to better change our laws to accommodate new beliefs in public opinion. We are more rich now than ever in free-time and the luxury to be introspective, so it is possible to modify (or even break free) or our archaic system and its trappings.
Note: The last blog assignment should have been labelled Week 8; I have corrected post titles and category labels. Sorry for the confusion.
This week we begin the unit on bodily integrity with a reading on the history of domestic violence law in the United States and with our textbook's chapter on sex and violence. We will also study reproductive rights in this unit.
In her article on "wife-beating," Reva Siegel discusses how changing conceptions of marriage contributed to changing attitudes toward spousal abuse. As we will see when we read reproductive rights cases, the concepts of familial and sexual privacy played an important role in both spousal abuse and reproductive rights law.
In this week's blog post, I would like you to begin to consider the role of privacy in issues of gender and law. As we saw in our previous unit on marriage, matters that we consider private are subject to government regulation and public debate, and decisions that we consider personal are shaped by broad legal/cultural discourses. So why do we persist in perceiving issues like reproduction and the family as private matters? Is the public/private distinction useful when considering state regulation of such issues, and if so, how? Do you think that the different theoretical approaches that we are studying differ with regard to the usefulness of a concept like privacy? Should the struggle for legal recognition of women's bodily integrity and self-control be a matter of privacy? Can you think of other concepts on which one might base such a struggle?