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Strange Ideas about Women - Theoretical Justification for Sexism

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Author Topic: Strange Ideas about Women - Theoretical Justification for Sexism  (Read 1409 times)
Danielle Gorree
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« on: January 03, 2008, 02:32:43 am »

Strange Ideas about Women - Theoretical Justification for Sexism

By Jani Roberts - >
I could not help drink in Christianity as a child. It was the water in which I swam. As a child, there was nothing negative for me about being a woman. I took a lump of chalk from the hills and carved it into a head of a woman, the mother of life. My own family was dominated by a powerful woman of the Irish tradition , my mother. But in other ways my childhood was a lesson in suppression. I have told elsewhere on this website how it took me years to find myself as a woman, years during which I tried to find myself in studying christian theology, finishing with a masters degree in it.

It took time before I realised with some horror that women were seen by many males, including famous Christian teachers of the past, practically as creatures that exist to service them, as inferiors - and that this dreadful state of affairs had been justified with a pseudo-scienfic theory the purpose of which was both to make women accept such a status as natural and to excuse males from feeling guilty about suppressing their sisters' rights.

A whole ideology was evolved very early in European history to justify the suppression of women. Later simular neo-Darwinist theories were used to justify the dispossession and murder of Australian Aborigines by labelling them as less than human. The renowned Greek scholar Aristotle believed that the biological norm was the male and that the female was a defective version of the male. A thousand years after Aristotle's death, the very influential Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas adopted Aristotle's theory. He wrote: 'As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of women comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence." (Summa Theologica IV, QXCII art 1,2)

The men of the church liked his views evidently. Thomas Aquinas was canonized as a Saint and came to dominate Roman Catholic theology for over 500 years.

Christianity was germinated in part of Europe where some men had already evolved theories to put women "into their place". Petrarch wrote: "Woman is a real devil, an enemy of the peace, a source of provocation." But some of the early "Christian Fathers" showed far greater hatred of women. Tertullian, a well known Christian, in the 3rd century AD wrote: "Do you not know you are each an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil's gateway: you are the unsealer of that forbidden tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert - that is death - even the Son of God had to die And do you think of adorning yourself over and above your tunics of skins." (On Female Dress 1i)

He believed women should dress so as to hide their charms so men like him would not be tempted into sex. "even the grace and beauty you naturally enjoy must be obliterated by concealment and negligence.... it is to be feared, beause of the injury and violence it inflicts on the men who admire you." The female priesthood in some parts of Europe was suppressed early in the Christian epoch.

Men found the power of women to attract them fearsome. They blamed women for their own lack of self control.

This fear of women among men lasted centuries. Pope Innocent VIII issued an astonishing Bull, or official statement, in 1448 called 'Summa Desiderantes' in which he blamed on women the supposed increasing impotence among German men. He said some women had abandoned themselves to devils, become witches that could use magic to make men impotent. Many men loved this theory because it meant they never needed to acknowledge any woman as more talented or spiritually powerful than they. If they did feel a woman was superior, she must be literally bewitching them.

This justified and helped start a pogrom against strong women that was to last over 200 years. Women were forced into accepting an inferior status to men - and it got worse. Men killed and tortured by the hundred the women they most feared. A guideline laid down in the Catholic Church for this persecution was again justified by mock science: 'there was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed from a bent rib, that is a rib of the breast, which is bent as it were in the contrary direction to a man. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives.... All witchcraft comes from carnel lust which in women is insatiable" This quotation is from a book that went through 19 editions, was written by a Catholic priest under authority from the Pope and was a principle text for the Inquisition. (Malleus Maleficarum)

Behind all these theories were male sexual anxieties and insecurites. Men created a myth to explain their neurosis away... and, rather than sort out their own hang-ups, blamed, tortured and killed women - in the name of religion, of all that is holy. Karen Armstrong in her seminal work "The Gospel according to Women" wrote that if the Nazi Holocaust has caused long lasting traumas within the western world, then the centuries of persecution of women must also have left deep scars.

I sometimes forget quite how recent and how dramatic is the change of ideology in the West. Women are today equal - in theory. They have their own late night television shows in which they can openly tease men as sexual equals. The earlier 'scientific' theories for male supremacy are debunked as fraudulent. The witchery words of 'charm' and 'enchant' no longer entail the devil. Since this change, we have gone through a period of saying that it is solely conditioning that makes a woman mentally different from a male. We now know that our very brains are different, that we are differently talented but not definately not inferior.

But despite these changes, the structures society evolved in the centuries of male domination still keep women at bay. The Catholic Church will not admit women priests. Men ares till paid more than women. It is mostly men that make both the laws and wars, and sit in judgement.

The right-wing women's groups have a point, women must be proud to be women. But I do not see this as entailing that women will go back into the home, be wives servicing husbands. The proud woman must be canny. Together with other women she now needs to find her way to reform the very structures of society, the legislature, the armed forces, the churches, business from the top down so that they no longer reflect only traditional male values but rather embody the high female values of nurturing and co-operative action. Adding a few women to male dominated bodies will not do this. Our institutions have been totally shaped by presumptions made during the centuries that males have repressed and used women.
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« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2008, 11:27:17 pm »

Men and women have their brains wired differently and each have their role in a society.

Women just have to come to terms with reality and work with it.  Women tend to divorce themselves from too many time.  It's the ones that embrace reality as whole that go on to thrive in this world.
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