|Art by Arna Baartz|
The notion of "rights" is an entirely patriarchal one; it's a construct that arose along with the idea of private property. In reality, people (and all living things, and Earth herself) have needs, and life was arranged naturally for all to have a shot at getting our needs met: there was plenty of land to live on with food, water, materials for shelter, etc, freely and readily available to all. Extending that to humyn reproduction, womyn are naturally equipped not only with the (typical) capacity to breastfeed, but also with maternal hormones making us inclined to meet the needs of our dependent young...to name just 2 things among much more that goes along with the natural reality of needs, not rights, being the material basis of our lives.
Humyn societies until patriarchy were focused on the mutual meeting of needs and most included in their ethos the needs of life around them (the whole biosphere which they inhabited). People understood the difference between 'right and wrong' primarily in terms of the meeting of needs: they knew it was right to participate in mutual needs-meeting within life. They knew it was wrong to refuse to participate-- and especially to prevent needs-meeting of others by poisoning the land/water, hoarding necessities or otherwise preventing access to the things others needed to live. But then, such peoples' notions of private property and even of their social group's home territory were pretty basic, limited by choice--because they understood that for life to go on for us, life must be able to go on, for all. And how could anyone 'own' Earth and the life upon it?
Once the ideas of private property and other forms of dominance began to be developed intellectually during the early times of patriarchy, that's when the idea of 'rights' came into being. The very term is legalistic, emerging as a construct within systems of law invented by men--usually straight out of their Divine Scriptures. The ideology of "rights" is meant to act as both a rationale for greed, war, hoarding, etc, *and as a control on the unbridled greed and violence of patriarchy. Like this: "people have a right to get rich, to expand their territory and access to resources by murdering and enslaving people and destroying land in war-making, the right to engage in profitable industries that pollute the water...etc" AND "all people (as we overlords define "people") have the right to live-- to eat, drink and have shelter, to be safe enough to pursue happiness...etc."
The evidence that this notion of "rights" is a male ideological construct rather than a fact of nature lies all around us as institutional misogyny (rape and battering culture), as land theft and genocide, as racism, mass extinctions, pornstitution and industrial poisoning of Earth, to name some of the worst things occurring which all benefit men most of all. The much-vaunted notion "rights" is one only nominally enacted in humyn life--certainly not respected in meaningful material terms by men and malestream culture. Men have all the rights, especially (in white western culture) white men of material means.
Which kind of goes with what I earlier shared about grieving our losses, accepting that what we grew up to believe is nothing more than illusions, and getting on with surviving without directly fighting the courts and our abusers (where we can avoid that). We think we have rights, that our children have rights; we don't. The concept of legal rights, of a benevolent government that exists to preserve our rights? It's all nothing more than a lot of gaslighting meant to keep us trapped and crazy. By the idea of rights men even gaslight themselves into believing that their individual and collective behaviors are sanctioned by the Holy Writ of Rights. But of course, the most potent and damaging gaslighting is done to us: womyn, POC, the impoverished and all who inhabit the margins of the world of men's creation, where only they matter.
We have to get on as best we can with the work of meeting our needs, and our children's, understanding that in man's world, we have no rights at all that will help us meet our needs.