Yxta Maya Murray (Loyola-LA) has posted to SSRN her essay Editing the Wiktionary Entry for “Female,” Berkeley J. Gender, Law & Justice. It is one essay in a series of pieces about “legal fictions” and the intersections of law, language, art and female identity. (For some of Professor Murray’s other work, see here and here, e.g.)
In academic year 2007-2008, 22-year-old Yale art student and radical etymologist Aliza Shvarts deconstructed the alarming Proto-Indo-European base word of “female” by self-inducing many possible pregnancies and then aborting them. Shvarts offered her project to her professors as a senior thesis, announcing that it consisted of two elements: The first component involved a series of videos showing her cramping in various Connecticut motel bathtubs as a result of ingesting unnamed abortifacients. The second feature consisted of an objet Shvarts compiled out of Saran wrap, Vaseline, and blood that she collected from her procedures.
Shvarts’s rebellion constituted an offense against international linguistics but it did not qualify as a crime under the Connecticut Penal Code: In 1971’s Abele v. Markele, federal judge Edward J. Lumbard liberated females from their jurisprudential if not etymological dilemma by striking down an 1860’s state statute that penalized self-induction with a five year prison sentence. “The Connecticut anti-abortion laws take from women the power to determine whether or not to have a child,” Lumbard proclaimed. “In 1860, when these statutes were enacted in their present form, women had few rights. Since then, however, their status in our society has changed dramatically.”
Had it? While Shvarts could not be arrested, manacled, tried, and incarcerated for putting daylight between her body and its putative *dʰeh₁-m̥n-eh₂||who sucks derivation, she was punished . . . .
The full essay is available here.