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Are Women People?

by Brenda Shaughnessy

The Octopus Museum: Poems2019

A report commissioned by the COP’s Department of Human Studies. In the interest of anthropological authenticity, cephalopod researchers utilized only methods and modes used by humans themselves, in their various legal, academic, and socio-cultural institutions. To the best of our ability, we worked within their language and wielded their tools in order to better understand their mysteries, and how to serve mankind’s legacy. —the authors




We don’t believe the question in the report’s title to be self-evident.

Governing documents use this term, self-evident, so it seems legit, foundational, but it’s a pleonasmic tautology, a proud cheese full of holes, a question answered untruly by itself, palindrome-like: Is it real? Real it is!


To begin to understand how to answer the question we must define the two terms: women and people. People is a broader term than women. Women are a subset of people. Women are a kind of people.


People are not a kind of women.


At this moment someone will always say: men are also a subset of people! It goes the other way, too! People who need to interject that point are usually men. When you hypothetically posit the word women as a term that includes men (logical, as the word men is already there within the word women) in practice the terms lose all meaning. 

Men found it insulting and risky not to be named as the sole primary term--it seemed wrong, their personhood status implied but not legally inscribed. And it was deemed too clunky to have to say men and women every single time a reference was made to people, so women became the secondary term, an addendum to the word men

To recap: People includes both men and women. Man claims to include women but doesn't. Women doesn't include men, or women as a group. Man is plural, encompassing humanity (which, clearly, serves man). Woman is singular, individual. To each her own. 



Does a person have to be a human being?”

Are animals people?

Are corporations people?

Are ideas people?

Are objects made by humans people?

Are fictional characters people?

What about past people?

Are dead people still people?

Are people who exist in memory only, names inscribed on stones or buildings, people?

Are people who only exist in wills and legal terms people?

Are the wishes and requests of dead people people?

Are ghosts, once they’ve been proven to exist, people?

What about future people?

Are children people?

Are babies people?

Are unborn babies people?

Are fetuses people?

Are embryos people?

Are zygotes people?

Are sperm people?

Are ova people?

Are people’s plans to have children people?

Are the ova of people’s children people?

Are the ova of people’s unborn babies people?

Are the ova of embryos people?

Are the undifferentiated cells that may become ova or sperm people?

Are the undifferentiated cells that may become people who may become parents to people who may become parents to people who may become parents to people who may become parents people?

If there’s a possibility that essential parts (undifferentiated cells, for example) of people are in themselves also people, then are other essential parts also people?

Is a human brain people?

Is a human heart people?

Is human waste people?

Is human emotion people?

Is human ingenuity people?

Is human survival instinct people?

Is the basic luck to be born at all people?

Is DNA people?

Is a torso people?

Is a neck people?

If it’s possible that essential parts are people, might non-essential parts be people?

Is a foot people?

Are seeing or unseeing eyes people?

Is human sexual arousal people?

Is a human sense of humor people?

Is language people?

Is talent people?

Are mental disorders people?

Are diseases people?

Is a photograph that captures the essence of a person and allows that person to live on in human memory people? (i.e., a child pointing to a photo, saying, “That’s Grandma!”)

What about people for whom essential or non-essential parts are absent? Are they people? Are parts of them people, but not other parts? Is it possible to be part people/part non-people?

Are humans with artificial body parts people?

Are humans who hurt other humans without remorse people?

Are humans who cannot take care of themselves people?

Are humans who are chemically dependent people?

Are humans who are terminally ill people?

Are humans who lack melanin people?

Are humans who lack compassion people?

Are humans who have impaired function (physical, mental, emotional) people?

Are humans who do not use language people?

Are humans who could survive in the wild with no human interaction people?

Are loners people?

Are people who can’t learn people?

Are people who don’t want to learn people?

Are people who hold positions of power in governance, law enforcement, or other hierarchies that control the lives and freedom of people people?

Are people who hold positions of power in governance, law enforcement, or other hierarchies that control the lives and freedom of people people?

Are members of Congress people? (Is the State people?)

Are police people? (Is the embodiment of law enforcement, to which people must submit, people?)

Are scientists people? (Is someone first and foremost beholden to the data people?)

Are engineers/programmers who only work with machines, never humans, people? (Are machines people?)

Are dancers people? (Are humans who primarily use their bodies for art people?)

Are artists people? (Is someone for whom aesthetic questions are primary people?)




Children are, at the very least, future people, but anything could happen.

They could be female, and a good half of them do end up as such, so children are just as likely to become future women (not people) as they are to become people.


They could belong to a religion, and depending on which one, this might make them god’s people, not people-in-themselves. For example: the Christian god in particular does not share, so Christians are not people, they are god’s.


In the case of Buddhists, their god shares them and they share their god, but as they share themselves with everyone and all, belonging to none—not even themselves—they cannot be claimed as, or to be, people.


There are many such cases to be considered.





Depending on geography or parental heritage, having brown or dark skin, skin which does not usually change even over a long life, these factors…

these factors, in and of themselves, have no bearing on whether or not they are people…


but certain circumstances present obstacles


to their inclusion


Mere origin or heritage or skin color is not in and of itself considered a factor


and in the case of mixed-heritage, or dual-country-of-origin, there are complexities


to consider the fixities of legal terms, to honor existing definitions where they do exist


Let it be stated that People of Color, taking into account all the variables and contingencies, are certainly people (unless they are women or future people—a separate category with variables and contingencies as argued above and below).


These people are a category in and of themselves—a kind of people obligated to continually renew their licenses, registrations, residencies, identification papers, passports, bank account information, school enrollment, property deeds or rental leases, birth and death certificates, health benefits, medical forms and records, utility accounts, social security data, employment records, political party affiliations.


These documents must be continually updated to protect the status of People of Color as people.


These documents are and records are proof that dark-skinned people, brown people, people who come from Countries of Color or who have one or more parents from Countries of Color are people and it is incumbent upon them to keep all records and data updated, renewed, and accurate.


This is all for their own protection.


There is a long history of fraudulence, misinformation, identity theft, impersonation, money laundering, forged documents, improper registration, multiple claims, and other illegal activity, and so vigilance is required to protect People of Color’s status as people.


Legal offenses, such as criminal activity and association with violence, can result in the individuals forfeiting their access to this system of registration and renewal required to extend their status as people in perpetuity. If individuals enter the prison or corrections systems as perpetrators of crimes, they can no longer uphold the obligation of being people, and the status of personhood can be revoked.


Outside the judicial and correctional systems, it’s possible to default on that status as well. Simply forgetting to renew registrations or any of the above documents can render questionable/null/void an individual’s status in the group known as people. Crimes are defined as any “illegal activity” and this includes any lapses in registrations or expired documents.




Differences between men and women are primarily physical. Socialization, legislation, education, and segregation have codified, altered, and enhanced those physical differences, it seems, in the interest of people.


1. People are physically born out of the bodies of women.

2. Male sperm are required to start new human life, but sperm can be separated from men, stored indefinitely, used at will, without any need for the rest of the physical man.

3. Female ova can also be harvested, frozen, implanted separately from the woman, but no artificial replacement has been found for the gestation of the embryo. This forty-week period of gestation can only occur in the body of a living woman. There is currently no medical or scientific research advocating the creation of artificial gestational systems.

4. Women are required to make People

a) this has been interpreted in two ways

i) “women, inseparable from their bodies, are essential to making people.”

ii) “women are obligated/compelled to make people.”


5. Men are not required to make people

a) this has been interpreted in two ways

i) “men, whose reproductive contribution is easily and painlessly extractable from their bodies, are inessential to making people.”

ii) “men are not obligated/compelled to make people.”


6. People are dependent on women to continue making people. Such a small percentage of women are (1) of childbearing age, (2) able to bear children, and (3) want to bear children. Some estimate that only 7–10% of the total population are women who meet all three criteria to bear children.


 7. For the benefit of all people to ensure their survival and continuation of the human species, women’s reproductive systems—inasmuch as they are inseparable from women as beings—are of collective special interest to the people, and can be said to be “held in trust” of the people.


8. For survival and continuation of the people themselves, the people are the Trustees of “the reproductive capacities of women between the ages of thirteen and fifty. Women of childbearing age and ability cannot be said to have full control over their bodies, as they may not qualify as Trustees, if they are not proven to be people.


9. This document seeks to discover whether women can be proven to be people.


10. In the event that proof cannot be obtained that women are people, women will be held indefinitely (or until proof can be obtained) in a “pre-status” category. “Pre-status” status confers no rights of people-hood, which are deferred until the required documentation is obtained, received, and validated.




Based on our research, it appears the definition of “human” is unstable, and so is that of the plural synonym “people.” Human parts may or may not be “people” and as “women” are a part of the term “people” they may or may not qualify in and of themselves. It has been discovered that a tiny minority of humans can legally, fully occupy the category of people (with most of the population falling in the subcategories of Special Status and Women) and this minority is deeply endangered, growing more minuscule as time passes. It has been established that women are occasionally people, depending on circumstances that can change. This is primarily because they are essential to the survival of the human species and therefore they paradoxically are (1) the seat, crux, and essence of people as well as (2) too essential in their reproductive capacity to be allowed full personhood—their bodies must be held in trust by the state (which confers personhood) in pre-status from ages thirteen to fifty in order to preserve the future of potential people. In the cases that women are also in “Special Status” categories as people of color and/or children, further contingencies apply.”

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