The “Manifesto of the 343 Sluts”, also known as the “Manifesto of the 343”, appeared in issue 334 of Le Nouvel Observateur on April 5th, 1971. It was in French, and was written by Simone de Beauvoir. Here is an English translation of it by Rachel C. This translation is in the public domain.
Manifesto of the 343 Sluts
One million women in France have abortions every year.
Condemned to secrecy they do so in dangerous conditions, while under medical supervision this is one of the simplest procedures.
We are silencing these millions of women.
I declare that I am one of them. I declare that I have had an abortion.
Just as we demand free access to contraception, we demand the freedom to have an abortion.
A word which seems to express and define the feminist fight once and for all. To be a feminist is to fight for free abortion on demand.
It’s a women’s thing, like cooking, diapers, something dirty. The fight to obtain free abortion on demand feels somehow ridiculous or petty. It can’t shake the smell of hospitals or food, or of poo behind women’s backs.
The complexity of the emotions linked to the fight for abortion precisely indicate our difficulty in being, the pain that we have in persuading ourselves that it is worth the trouble of fighting for ourselves.
It goes without saying that we do not have the right to choose what we want to do with our bodies, as other human beings do. Our wombs, however, belong to us.
Free abortion on demand is not the ultimate goal of women’s plight. On the contrary, it is but the most basic necessity, without which the political fight cannot even begin. It is out of vital necessity that women should win back control and reintegrate their bodies. They hold a unique status in history: human beings who, in modern societies, do not have unfettered control over their own bodies. Up until today it was only slaves who held this status.
The scandal continues. Each year 1,500,000 women live in shame and despair. 5,000 of us die. But the moral order remains steadfast. We want to scream.
Free abortion on demand is:
Immediately ceasing to be ashamed of your body, being free and proud in your body just as everyone up until now who has had full use of it;
no longer being ashamed of being a woman.
An ego broken into tiny fucking pieces, that’s what all women who have to undergo a clandestine abortion experience; just being yourself all the time, no longer having that ignoble fear of being ‘taken’, taken into a trap, being double and powerless with a sort of tumor in your belly;
a thrilling fight, insofar as if I win I only begin to belong to myself and no longer to the State, to a family, to a child I do not want;
a step along the path to reaching full control over the production of children. Women, like all other producers, have in fact got the absolute right to control all of their productions. This control implies a radical change in women’s mental configuration, and a no less radical change in social structures.
1. I will have a child if I want one, and no moral pressure, institution or economic imperative will compel me to do so. This is my political power. As any kind of producer, I can, while waiting for improvement, put pressure on society through my production (child strike).
2. I will have a child if I want one and if the society I will be bringing it into is suitable for me, if it will not make me a slave to that child, its nurse, its maid, its punchbag.
3. I will have a child if I want one, if society is suitable for both me and it, I am responsible for it, no risk of war, no work subject to whims.
No to supervised freedom.
The battle that has risen up around the subject of abortion goes over the heads of those it is most relevant to – women. The issue of whether the law should be made more liberal, the issue of when abortion can be permitted, basically the issue of therapeutic abortion does not interest us because it does not concern us.
Therapeutic abortion requires ‘good’ reasons to receive ‘permission’ to have an abortion. To put it plainly, this means that we must earn the right to not have children. That the decision as to whether to have them or not does not belong to us now any more than it did before.
The principle remains that it is legitimate to force women to have children.
A modification to the law, allowing exceptions to this principle, would do nothing other than reinforce it. The most liberal of laws would still be regulating how our bodies can be used. And how our bodies should be used is not something which should be regulated. We do not want tolerance, scraps of what other humans are born with: the freedom to use their bodies as they wish. We are as opposed to the Peyret Law or the ANEA project as to the current law, since we are opposed to all laws which claim to regulate any aspect of our bodies. We do not want a better law, we want it to be removed, pure and simple. We are not asking for charity, we want justice. There are 27,000,000 of us here alone. 27,000,000 ‘citizens’ treated like cattle.
To fascists of all kinds – who admit that is what they are and lay into us, or who call themselves Catholics, fundamentalists, demographers, doctors, experts, jurists, ‘responsible men’, Debré, Peyret, Lejeune, Pompidou, Chauchard, the Pope – we say that we have uncovered them.
We should call them assassins of the people. We should forbid them to use the term ‘respect for life’ which is an obscenity in their mouths. There should be 27,000,000 of us. We should fight until the end because we want nothing more than our right: the free use of our bodies.
The ten commandments of the Bourgeois State:
You choose a fetus over a human being when that human is female.
No woman will have an abortion while Debré wants 100 million more French people.
You will have 100 million French people, as long as it costs you nothing.
You will be particularly severe with poor females who cannot go to England.
As such you will have a wheel of unemployment to make your capitalists happy.
You will be very moralistic, because God knows what ‘we’ women would do if we had such freedom. You will save the fetus, since it’s more interesting to kill them off aged 18, the age of conscription. You will really need them as you pursue your imperialist politics.
You use contraception yourself, to send just a few children to the Polytechnique or the ENA because your flat only has 10 rooms.
As for the others, you will disparage the pill, because that’s the only thing missing.
Anna de Bascher
Hélène de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir
Nicole de Boisanger
Françoise De Camas
Françoise de Gruson
G. Le Bonniec
M.-France Le Dantec
Colette Le Digol
Françoise Le Forestier
M. Claude Lejaille
Emmanuelle de Lesseps
Bona de Mandiargues
Odile du Mazaubrun
M. de Miroschodji
Lila de Nobili
Scania de Schonen
Catherine de Seyne
The list of signatures is a first act of revolt. For the first time, women have decided to lift the taboo weighing down on their wombs: women of the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Free Abortion Movement, women who work, women who stay at home.
At the Women’s Liberation Movement we are neither a party, nor an organization, nor an association, and even less so their women’s subsidiary. This is an historic movement which does not only bring together women who come to the Women’s Liberation Movement, this is the movement for all women, wherever they live, wherever they work, who have decided to take their lives and their freedom into their own hands. Fighting against our oppression means shattering all of society’s structures, especially the most routine ones. We do not want any part or any place in this society which has been built without us and at our expense.
When womankind, the sector of humanity that has been lurking in the shadows, takes its destiny into its own hands, that’s when we can start talking about a revolution.
A Free Abortion Movement has been set up, bringing together all those who are prepared to fight to the end for free abortions. The goal of this movement is to stir up local and corporate groups, to coordinate an explanatory and informative campaign, to become the only mass movement capable of demanding our right to decide for ourselves.