This post was inspired by a rant on Sinister Blog and the subsequent comments and responses. I’ll be reiterating some of the ideas discussed there.
The answer is, they don’t. They just hate strong independent women. They hate women who think they are the equal of men. For them this hate is justified; men are physically stronger.
Might makes right. Right?
Leaving aside the fact that pretty much any woman is capable of picking up a .357 and turning your dome into a stadium, we live in the age of information and technology. Brains are far more important than brawn. (And for those of you who would argue that women aren’t as intelligent as men, I would say that this is the point where I must beg your leave so that you may return to digging in the mud with your mighty fine stick. Never argue with fools, I says; let them run and play.)
For the rest of us, we need to understand how we got to this point before we can truly determine where we need to go.
1. Back Story
Religion, as in nearly all things in our culture, plays a significant role in the subjugation of women. Religion didn’t give birth to misogyny, it merely justified it.
Back in the hunter-gatherer days, marriage didn’t really exist, not the way we consider it today. Groups of people stuck together for protection and to raise young but there was, generally speaking, and so far as we can tell, no higher purpose.
As hunting and gathering gave way to farming, the importance of owning stuff increased. People wanted to pass their lands on to their kids. A fertile wife could provide lots of children to help out around the farm. So a “good woman’ (i.e a virtuous woman) had value. Monetary value. A virtuous woman was one about whom their could be no controversy regarding the paternity of children. The easiest way ensure this was by marrying a virgin. Thus a virtuous woman was either a virginal woman or a faithful mother and wife. At the same time, nobody wanted this other woman to take the family’s hard-earned (and often hard-fought for) possessions, so ownership passed from father to son. A woman was considered an asset, like a sturdy mule.
So marriage wasn’t always the wondrous union of love-struck souls it supposedly is now; it was a business transaction. This social contract was codified pretty much unanimously in the western religious texts:
Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
We always quote the first part, but not the rest. Kinda changes the meaning, doesn’t it? And remember that the Old testament is a canonical religious text for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. There are other texts that demand a woman’s submission to man, but Deuteronomy clearly illustrates the idea that a woman was viewed as a man’s property, like his slaves, his animals, and his land.
2. Present Predicament.
Like all things, the role of woman has evolved over time. What has remained constant, however, is that in nearly every return to cultural piety, the status of women is greatly reduced. There currently is an effort to return to those times once more.
Unlike many other issues of social injustice, gender discrimination is not confined to religious fundamentalism. It is far more pervasive and goes to the core of our culture itself. The true liberation of women requires a fundamental redefining of gender roles. Women can take care of themselves and no longer need men to provide for them. When a man can no longer hold over a woman provision for her lifestyle, he is forced to use other, less developed skills to maintain her favor. It gives women much more control in relationships and other social interactions.
Additionally, women have increasingly become legitimate competitors in the professional world. Women graduate from high school, college, and graduate school at higher rates than men. Women also tend to get better grades in school. More young women have become disinterested in starting a family, preferring instead to pursue other interests.
Then comes the scary part: women asserting their sexuality. Women have become increasingly free to explore and express their sexual desires and interests. And it turns out, women are as kinky and perverted as men (over 30% of all pornography is purchased by women). That all sounds fine and dandy…until your girlfriend breaks out a surprise apparatus she wants to try on you.
Things can get a bit confusing.
I believe this confusion has led to resentment from men and women alike. The backlash seems to have started sometime in the 1990s when women’s liberation was rolling along.
I started hearing terms like feminazi catching steam. “Shut up and make me a sandwich” jokes started making the rounds again. Then corporations began doubling down on the glass ceiling. Equal pay became an unreasonable demand because women are hormonal and unreliable employees. In the media, women became increasingly portrayed as victims of physical and sexual brutality or objectified for their sexual beauty. Pornography got flat out violent. Slut shaming became vogue again. And now, reproductive decision-making is being taken out of women’s hands and given to the state.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to see the interconnectivity between these events. They’re man’s way of reasserting gender dominance. Unfortunately for its proponents, this reassertion is nothing more than a last desperate gasp. In the end, the War on Women will share the same fate as the Jim Crow south. The extreme vestiges will linger; the rest will die.
3. Looking Forward.
As with any movement in social justice, action must be purposeful and deliberate. And in the push for women’s rights we are doubly obstructed. Women are as confused by the redefining of gender roles as men. Many women conform to the male-driven ideal of sexual objectification and submission to remain appealing; many other women conform because they agree with it. Plus, many women are confined by their own guilt and shame about their sexuality.
The problem is we cannot, as a society, empower women; women must empower themselves (see Rihanna & Chris Brown). Society can only give women tools: the information and social programming that will allow them to suffer neither fools nor abuse by a fool’s hand; and to explore their own individuality without constraint or societal judgment. Women’s liberation is not about making every woman a bisexual-chic big city professional; it’s about a woman being accepted for whatever she chooses to be.