Saturday, October 26, 2013
Idle Thoughts -- The Hand That Rocks The Cradle
Comment on H.T.Mills statement that the only reason woman have been ancillary (subordinate ) to men is that men like it: is that a fair statement with in the context of the nineteenth century, as far as you can tell? Would it be fair statement in the twenty- first century?
I'm afraid I have to disagree with Mills on this point. It isn't that men didn't like it. They did. It isn't that that this wasn't one of the main causes for women to be subordinate. It was. My problem is that she makes the absolute statement that this is the only reason.
Throughout history the teachers of, the guardians of, and sometimes even the enforcers of social roles have often been women.
In one of his poems William Ross Wallace declared that, "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." The point is that it is mothers who first and most powerfully convey social norms and expected behaviors to their children. In the efforts to eliminate the horrors of female genital mutilation, one of the groups hardest to convince that this practice must be stopped is the mothers of the girls who are going to be mutilated.
This is not because mothers do not care about their daughters, it is because they do. The mothers know that within their societies this is a socially necessary act. A girl who is not mutilated is considered to be unmarriageable and inherently sexually obsessed. Similarly, it was mothers in China who had their daughters' feet horrifically and painfully mutilated so that they could have the tiny little feet which were so prized in Chinese society, the golden lilies. The "lilies" were actually disgusting to look at, but men never had to look at them since they were always kept wrapped in the presence of males.
None of this excuses the role of men in these matters. After all, it was men who demanded these things be done, usually either to control their future wives or to keep them looking "beautiful". However, much of the enforcement of these rules and the passing of them down to the next generation was in the hands of women.
It is understandable why Mills would blame men for just about everything that was wrong with society. In her era, men completely dominated and controlled the world. However, they did so with the eager cooperation of many women.
Consider the women's rights movement, often confused with the women's liberation movement. The difference is as follows: you could be in favor of women's rights and not be in favor of women's liberation. On the other hand, you could not be in favor of women's liberation and not be in favor of women's rights. We also need to remember that both of these movements had and continue to have very many different types of individuals within them. There were always radicals who were positively anti male, and there were also always women were being completely reasonable and simply wanted to be treated fairly and equally. (Male babies are testosterone poisoned females! vs. We are not second class citizens!)
Both these groups worked very hard to get the ERA, the equal rights amendment passed. This was a constitutional amendment which would have enshrined in the constitution the right of gender equity. At first it looked as if this would have a good chance of success. Then a bitter opposition arose.
The opposition was a group of conservative women led by Phyllis Shafely. They were major contributors to the defeat of the ERA. Once again, let me point out that this was a movement of women, created by women and led by women.
I repeat that it is entirely understandable why Mills would put blame exclusively on men. Especially back in the time when she was struggling for women's rights, men were determined to keep women in a state which was at times little better than owned property. Nevertheless, the fact remains that social pressures are very great on both sexes. It is difficult to stand up and say that you wish to be different. Rights are a human problem, not a gender problem.
I feel compelled to add that in the issue of slavery a similar situation applies. Here in America slavery was rapidly turned into a White versus Black issue, that is, a racial issue. To this day when African-Americans visit formal former slavecenters on the coast of Africa, many of them are shocked to learn that many of the slaves were first taken by other Africans, then sold to the White traders. Some White Americans today misunderstand this and declare that, "The Blacks sold their own people".
The fact is that African society even to this day is a tribal society. They did not see themselves in this Americanized racial sense but rather as different tribes. So one tribe was willing to make a profit by raiding and enslaving members of other tribes, people they did not consider to be fully human since they were from a different tribe. People who were not "us". People who were not "our own people".
This demonstrates that rights are a human problem, not a race problem.