Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Marriage and Equality

Awhile back I commented on a post by a guy (conservative anti-gay type) who, in order to defend "traditional" marriage as between a man and a woman only, created the idea that women's equality came about because of their marriages – that "marriage brings equality," or, the interactions women had with their husbands were what led to women's suffrage, not the marching and the protesting and the blood of courageous women spilled on the ground in protest, along with the cultural change these brave pioneers instigated. (Well, what the heck, as the article in yesterday's post reveals, sometimes "marriage defenders" get desperate.) I wish I had found this website while I was taking issue with his fantasy.

OnLawn works hard to make his case, but the No Longer Quivering bloggers, along with their counterparts such as Our Quiverfull, offer real-time examples of how fully patriarchal marriage – traditional marriage, if you will, from the days before women's suffrage and the feminist movement – works. It's true that women often influence their husbands, even under the most oppressive legal circumstance. John Stuart Mill is an example – way back in the mid-1800's, his relations with his wife led to his essay On the Subjection of Women, where he proposed that women should be wholly equal with men. So I have no doubt that OnLawn's argument about marital interactions and relations is correct – for some men. But reading the accounts of the NLQ bloggers shows the flip side; for many – I would argue most – men, the subjection and submission of women in their households leads to varying levels of abuse, from outright physical and emotional abuse to subtle abuse that amounts to no more than fond contempt, such as one might have for a child or pet – the assumption that women are less competent, less able, less intelligent than men.

Where have you encountered that attitude before?

Even when intended with love and nurturance, that attitude damages women and society by preventing the development of the full potential of both men and women.

I have no doubt that many women were in happy, near-equalitarian relationships with their husbands, back when they were legal chattel. But that is a testament to the quality of their husbands, not to the legal disparity between them, or their powers of persuasion. As Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely." The moral character of men put in a position of absolute power over their wives must have degraded, damaging them as well as their wives. The NLQ bloggers' experience shows that it still degrades. The indoctrination of women from birth in their inferiority and natural submissiveness, along with the promise of reward in the afterlife for that submissiveness and fear of punishment for being uppity (emphasized in the past by executions of women purported to be "witches"), serves only to gain their acquiescence. It, and their marital relations, do nothing to bring equality. I know of no one who, having power, has given it up without a strong demand – often a violent demand – being made to do so.

The husbands of 100 years ago are no different. Equality – or at least, women's suffrage – was brought by the persistent demand of women, led by courageous women such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mary Baker Eddy, and others.


anne said...

Hey girl,

I think a point might be made that physical strength often plays a part in oppression among people who are not very enlightened. Just as a bully will pick on people smaller than he, (or she) often men will pick on their wives because they are smaller. Although many men have found that smaller does not mean less vicious!

I've always said that politics begins in the home. I met so many Libertarians that were all for equality for everyone, except in their own homes where they were lords over their wives and children. Although wives have gotten some say-so in marriage, what about children? The oppression in this society upon the young and small is so great that it's only now being addressed.

Along with "put a woman in her place" is "spare the rod, spoil the child." I think one of the confusing things here is that some people go with the ape hierarchy thing. They climb the ladder at work and in society and expect it in the family. Put a male ape in with a bunch of females and the male is at the top. If you believe in hierarchy and have lived it, eventually you might want a place at the top and not just the bottom or the middle ranks. Many people love being waited on and men are no exception. I've known as many marriages where the women were waited on and were at the top, too.

But that's no excuse for legal dominance. The fact that the Persian/Greek system has lasted more than 3,000 years is just stupid. But I can see that those who finally got power would not be so eager to give it up. Great White Man is not keen on coming down from the throne. But it is not just gender that was dominant, but money and race. More and more, we're conceding everything to money.

Even in ancient societies it was always better to be a rich woman than a poor man. Money is a more powerful oppressor than any man or white man or any bully ever was.

But fun to see you posting. Cool. I'm here now, too. Let's see if Blogspot cuts off my head again--I've had to change my picture three times. Hah!

hugs for you, sweetie,

anne said...

Cool, I'm all here now, not headless.

Seda said...

Hey Anne,
The oppression of children is a great point! They currently have about the same set of rights that women had as chattel, except that they're also required to be institutionalized from age 6 to 18 or so. It's a system that doesn't work at all for us - it indoctrinates our children into a dominator/submissor system and locks them into a caste system - but most people don't even realize that. They buy into the system and feed it, and don't notice that it isn't working because that's just the way it is and should be. I'm really glad that our kids are clear that they're in school by choice.

You should see the addition! It's getting close...

anne said...

Seda girl,

I should get down there. I'm SO happy for you having your own room!


love and hugs,

PS, we're REALLY big on kids' rights.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our