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Horrors of Society: Oppression of Women Part 1

It's not news that women have been systemically oppressed throughout history. The Ghouls tell you why not only religion but science is wrong for shaping society into what it is today! We watched Stepford Wives to discuss subservience, what it means to be a strong, independent woman and the roles we play in society and on screen.  We have MUCH more to say so stay tuned for part two featuring Handmaid's Tale! 

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RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

Kat's Facts - Traditionalism, Science and the Oppression of Women

Today in Kat’s history corner we are talking about the history of the oppression of women, specifically the why and the how of this oppression.

So before we get started I’m gonna throw 3 definitions out there that will help us on our journey.

  1. Historiography: The study of Historical writing. It is “Why was history written this way, what influenced the ideals, thoughts, perspectives displayed in the writing and most importantly is the source of the writing reliable”. It’s the Media analysis glasses of history.

  2. Traditionalist: dictionary defines a traditionalist idea, argument, or organization supports the established customs and beliefs of a society or group, rather than modern ones. Gross euphemism for oppressors acting in favor of the patriarchy.

  3. Sexual Asymmetry is defined as the assignment of different tasks and roles to men and women based on sex within a culture.

Okay, so we have our definitions. How does this tie into the oppression of women? Let’s start with Historiography. Some of this is pulled from The Creation of the Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner which can be found here

So what is the history of the oppression of women? What historical influences support or refute the idea that women need to be oppressed? What “evidence” is used to further this ideology? Is this evidence scientific, based in fact, or presented with bias? There are two things we see commonly used as "justification" for this oppression. Religion, and Science. Now I know Religion and Science usually work against each other, but they pair together perfectly in how they are manipulated and have been used to justify it historically in both American, and Western culture.

The history of western society is largely driven by Darwinism and Christianity. Both have been used as validation for systemic methods of oppression. Creating an understanding of a lesser and validating the mistreatment of that lesser on religious or scientific grounds. So when viewing the history of humankind, traditionalists hold to the idea that ‘Women’s subordination is a universal, god-given, or natural fact.' That is the lens that Traditionalists use for this. So, traditionalists view history with bias, in that their lens is that of the patriarchy. They inherently assume that if men and women are designated certain roles, that if there are any differences between them, that the reasoning is because one group is a lesser.

So as is the case for any information we take in, we should question what is being presented to us, and I would argue that the usage of universals is already a red flag. Generalizing things is a quick way to catch yourself in exceptions, and honestly potentially invalidates the entire argument. So we question this universal, and anyone critical of the patriarchal explanations, we have to ask "How, when, and why did female subordination come into existence? Is it actually something universal?"

We know how traditionalists would answer this question. "The argument could be offered in religious terms, woman is subordinate to man because she was so created by god." Taken from Adam’s rib, and the reason we fell from Eden. "Traditionalist defenses of male supremacy based on biological deterministic reasoning have changed over time and proven remarkably adaptive and resilient. When the force of the religious argument was weakened in the nineteenth century the traditionalist explanation of women’s inferiority became “scientific”. Darwinian theories reinforced beliefs that species survival was more important than individual self-fulfillment. Much as the social gospel used the darwinian idea of the survival of the fittest to justify the unequal distribution of wealth and privilege in American society, scientific defenders of patriarchy justified the definition of women through their maternal role and their exclusion from economic and educational opportunities as serving the best interests of species survival. It was because of their biological constitution and their maternal function that women were considered unsuited for higher education and for many vocational pursuits."

"Sigmund Freud’s theories further reinforced the traditionalist explanation. Freud’s normal human was male; the female was by his definition a deviant human being lacking a penis, whose entire psychological structure supposedly centered on the struggle to compensate for this deficiency. Even though many aspects of Freudian theory would prove helpful in constructing feminist theory, it was Freud’s Dictum that for the female “anatomy is destiny” which gave new life and strength to the male supremacist argument."

Another claim is because of “Sexual Asymmetry”. While Sexual Asymmetry has been observed in all known human societies, Traditionalists interpret this term with bias and manipulate it as evidence of ‘rank’ to further justify oppression. If god or nature created sex differences, which in turn determined the sexual division of labor, they inherintely assume that the reason for this is because women were less than men. They use religion and “science” as a scapegoat so that no one can be blamed for sexual inequality and male dominance. Especially not men, right? "Mensuration and menopause, even pregnancy were regarded as debilitating, as diseased or abnormal states which incapacitated women and rendered them actually inferior."

And they see motherhood as a woman’s chief goal in life, and responsibility. by implication defining not wanting to have a baby as deviant behavior. A woman’s maternal function is seen as a species necessity, since we could not have made it to the modern world without the majority of women devoting most of their adult lives to childbearing and child-rearing. In order for society to continue, society has to be created, and as men are not biologically capable of birthing a child, so the pressure of reproduction is purely in the hands of the woman. So it is argued that for this reason, "the sexual division of labor based on biological differences is functional and just. It also implies that that forcing women to conceive, would be just according to this framework. "

Another argument traditionalists would make is that men are dominant because they are physically stronger, and they use the “history” of men providing for women as a means to justify each group to their lot. Now let’s talk science, if we’re considering Anthropology a scientific school or thought. "The man-the-hunter explanation has been disproven by anthropological evidence concerning hunting and gathering societies. In most of these societies, men would hunt big-game, and big-game hunting was an auxiliary pursuit."

Meaning it was a supplemental form of survival. It was EXTRA and not essential to survival. "While the main food supply was provided by gathering activities and small-game hunting, which women and children did. Also, it is precisely in hunting and gathering societies that we find many examples of complementarity between the sexes and societies In which women have relatively high status, which is direct contradiction to the claims of the the man-the-hunter school of thought."

"Feminist anthropologists have recently challenged the many earlier generalizations, which found male dominance virtually universal in all known societies, as being patriarchal assumptions on the part of ethnographers the scientific description of the customs of individual peoples and cultures.

"and investigators of those cultures. When feminist anthropologists have reviewed the data or done their own field work, they have found male dominance to be far from universal. They have found societies in which sexual asymmetry carries no connotation of dominance or subordination. Rather, the tasks performed by both sexes are indispensable to group survival, and both sexes are regarded as equal in status in most aspects. In such societies the sexes are considered “complementary”. Their rules and status are different but equal."

Sources: The Creation of the Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner which can be found here