Marriage - a Historical Feminist View

By Barbara Walker

 

[Birdman comment: Feminist author Barbara G Walker, in her book Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, puts forth the theory that in the early days of human society there existed a kind of utopia in which women were 'in control', but which was somehow overthrown by presumably-evil men and their patriarchal religions, principally Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The primary basis for Walker's theory seems to be that early religion possessed as its central deity the Mother Goddess, whose primacy engendered respect for women and gave them the power to dominate society and thus the opposite sex. In her article on Marriage, Walker cites numerous examples which seem to support her theory of greater women's freedom in this earlier time, but one could argue that the reason a record of her examples survive is not because they were usual, but precisely because they were not. In any event, the cause-effect relationship between goddess-religion and female freedom is speculative at best; but the change from goddess-religion to patriarchal religion is less likely to be the result of the typical feminist fantasy of an evil plot by men than it is a reflection of the evolution of religion from a device to insure fertility -- a matter of diminishing importance as the science of agriculture began to be understood -- to a device to aid social harmony among a growing population which needed to be controlled. For this, the move from a focus on fertility -- the woman's sphere -- to a focus on command and control of others -- the man's -- was a natural one, and was perfectly in accord with the exigencies of survival. More particularly, the notion that society has somehow 'switched' from female to male dominance over the millennia not only beggars the imagination, but simply flies in the face of greater male aggression, one of whose expressions is dominance. Dominance, we may add -- and contrary to the noises which Walker makes in her book -- is a good thing; for in a stable marital relationship there cannot be two lead horses. Furthermore, monogamy is not, as Walker and her feminist colleagues would have it, a 'restriction' or 'burden' on women, but is rather a desirable situation in which the woman receives protection and sustenance for her person and her children in exchange for giving the man sexual exclusivity and allowing him to be certain of his paternity so that he will know he is not raising the replicators of another man's selfish genes. But the truly important thing which Walker and her feminist cohorts ignore about marriage is the natural female power which stems from a woman's beauty and sexuality: It is not a power, like male power, which can impose punishment for noncompliance, but rather a power of attraction which generates desire and love, and which creates an obligation in the man for allowing him sexual and other favors. Accordingly, while a normal man may possess the power to beat and to dominate the woman, the savage beast is first soothed and eventually tamed by his wife's love so that he becomes just as much a slave to her as she is to him, if not moreso. Feminists like Walker, however, who have never experienced a loving relationship, cannot imagine that Nature has provided as powerful a weapon to women as she has to men -- a weapon so formidable that men will not hesitate to lay down their very lives to protect their 'powerless' mates.]

"Marriage"

From The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets

The word marriage came from Latin maritare, union under the auspices of the Goddess Aphrodite-Mari. Because the Goddess's patronage was constantly invoked in every aspect of marriage, Christian fathers were opposed to the institution. Origen declared, "Matrimony is impure and unholy, a means of sexual passion." St. Jerome said the primary purpose of a man of God was to "cut down with an ax of Virginity the wood of Marriage."1 St. Ambrose said marriage was a crime against God, because it changed the state of virginity that God gave every man and woman at birth.2 Marriage was prostitution of the members of Christ, and "married people ought to blush at the state in which they are living." Tertullian said marriage was a moral crime, "more dreadful than any punishment or any death." It was spurcitiae, "obscenity," or "filth."'

St. Augustine flatly stated that marriage is a sin. Tatian said literally, marriage is corruption, "a polluted and foul way of life." Influenced by him, Syrian churches ruled that no person could become Christian except celibate men, and no man who had ever been married could be baptized. Saturninus said God made only two kinds of people, good men and evil women. Marriage perpetuated the deviltry of women, who dominated men through the magic of sex.4 Centuries later, St. Bernard still proclaimed that it was easier for a man to bring the dead back to life than to live with a woman without endangering his soul.5

St. Paul damned marriage with faint praise, remarking that to marry was only better than to burn (1 Corinthians 7:9); but later followers of Pauline Christianity damned marriage altogether, according to the word of Jesus: "If any man come to me/and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). Jesus renounced his family, declaring that he had no relatives except the faithful (Mark 3:31-35). Jerome interpreted this as a mandate to destroy marriage and the family. He was disgusted by motherhood: "the tumefaction of the uterus, the care of yelling infants, all those fond feelings which death at last cuts short."6 He said every man who loves his wife passionately was guilty of adultery.7 Augustine also expressed disgust at feminine sexual and maternal functions. He coined the saying that birth is demonstrably accursed because every child emerges "between feces and urine." 8

An example of anti-family virtue was made of one of the artificial saints built on a title of the pro-family Goddess, Perpetua, "the Eternal One." In her new Christian disguise as St. Perpetua, she was s devoted to single blessedness that she not only faced martyrdom with equanimity but also renounced her parents, her husband, and her suckling infant in order to become Christian. Her pagan relatives tried to soften her heart by putting the infant to her breast, but she threw it aside and said to them, "Begone from me, enemies of God, for I
know you not!"9

This was the early Christian notion of a "good" woman: one who placed faith before family. Church customs reflected this view. There was no Christian sacrament of marriage until the 16th century.10 Catholic scholars say the wedding ceremony was "imposed on" a reluctant church, and "nothing is more remarkable than the tardiness with which liturgical forms for the marriage ceremony were evolved." It is perhaps not remarkable to find that these liturgical forms were not evolved by the church at all, but borrowed from pagans' oommon law."

The Anglican marriage service came from Anglo-Saxon deeds used to transfer a woman's land to the stewardship of her "houseman" (husband). The original wording had the bridegroom say: "Witn this ring I thee wed and this gold and silver I give thee and with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly chattels I thee honor."The bride responded: I take thee to mv wedded husband, to have and to hold, for fairer for fouler, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to be bonny and buxom in bed and at board, till death us depart [sic]." A curious clerical note made in the margin at a later date, explained that "bonny and buxom" really meant "meek and obedient."12

About wedding ceremonies in Greece and the Balkans, an authority on Greek religion wrote: "With the modern Greeks as with other Europeans, the religious service of their church is intrusive, no real part of the ceremony of marriage, but an elaborate way of calling down a blessing on the ceremonial, or what is left of it, which constitutes the real wedding."13

The Christian priesthood was fighting ancient traditions in which it was remembered that male spiritual authority was dependent on marriage: either a hieros gamos between the ruler of a land and his Goddess, or the mandatory husbandship of priests who were not to contact the deities unless they had wives. In Asia, the gods themselves had to be married. Even patriarchal figures like Vishnu and Brahma needed their Shaktis or wives who embodied their power,and "without whom they avail nothing."14 Brahman priests couldn't perform certain ceremonies without wives.15 Oriental mystics taught that any man was spiritually incomplete until he experienced bhavanan, "husbandship," which linked him to the Goddess as Bhavani or "Existence."16 The implication was that an unmarried man does not exist. Tantric hymns said all women are goddesses because they embody the spirit of the Goddess; thus "women are Life itself."17

Early Israelites also barred unmarried men from the priesthood. They thought a priest's spells and invocations would be powerless if he had no wife.18 Jewish scriptures said, "The man who has neither wife or children is disgraced in the world and is hated by them, like a leafless and fruitless tree."19 Similarly, the spiritual authority of Rome's high priest the Flamen Dialis depended on his marriage to the Flaminica, high priestess of Juno. If she died or left him, he immediately lost his holy office.20

So much depended on a man's ability to remain married, in the most ancient times, that the first rules of marriage invented by men seem to have been rules for insuring permanent monogamy. Thus a husband could hold on to a woman's property and children by binding the woman herself. Matriarchal societies seldom permitted sexual jealousy. Women were free to change lovers or husbands, to make polyandrous or group marriages. Myths record the transition from loose, flexible marital arrangements favored by Goddesses to the rigid monogamy favored by Gods.

The pre-Hellenic Mother of God, Rhea, condemned monogamy as a sin and insisted on her ancient law of group marriage. Her son Zeus defied her, on behalf of patriarchal invaders of her lands. He forced Rhea's "daughter" Hera -- actually another form of Rhea herself -- into a monogamous union, though he never stuck to his own side of the bargain. He was constantly adulterous, and Hera detested him. On one occasion she roused the other gods in a rebellion against him. Zeus punished her by hanging her from the sky with anvils attached to her ankles -- perhaps the first divine precedent permitting men to torture wives into submission.21

Hellenic Greeks believed that men should seize every possible advantage in forcing wives to be obedient and (especially) faithful. Aristotle taught that a husband should be more than twice his bride's age -- he 37, she 18 -- so he could dominate her: "The elder and full grown is superior to the younger and more immature."22 Greek patriarchy foreshadowed the patriarchal religion which, "in the form seen in Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism, is basically nothing other than a formalization, by means of a projection upon deities, and the demand for obedience to their revealed command, of the father's desired sexual control of his wives and of their female children, and the forcible exclusion of male children from sexual activity."23

The Greeks' contempt for wives eventually led to their cult of homosexual romance, ignoring their families and taking young boys for true-love relationships. Some scholars say this belittling of ma was founded on fear of women:

(QUOTE)The Greek male's contempt for women was not only compatible with, but also indissolubly bound to, an intense fear of them, and to an underlying suspicion of male inferiority. Why else would such extreme measues be necessary? Customs such as the rule that a woman should not be older than her husband, or of higher social status, or more educated, or paid the same as a male for the same work, or be in a position of authority -- betray an assumption that males are incapable of competition with females on an equal basis; the cards must first be stacked, the female given a handicap.24(UNQUOTE)

Observing group marriages among their neighbors, the Greeks regarded such customs as barbaric or unusual. In an age when the Greeks were almost the only people with a patriarchal-monogamist social structure, a Greek said to the Spartan wife of Leonidas: "You of Lacedaemon are the only women in the world that rule the men." She retorted: "We are the only women who bring forth men."25

Despite their pretense that their own system was the only normal one, Greek writers like Herodotus knew the Arabs were polyandrous, the Scythians shared spouses and children communally, the Lycians recognized only matrilineal inheritance, and the Agathyrsi "cohabit in common with the women, in order that they should all be blood kin and that their family relationships should prevent them from harboring envy and hostility toward one another."26
'
Caesar said group marriage was the rule in Britain. An indicator of the group-marriage system among the Celts was the multiple paternity of many of their mythic heroes. Clothru, queen of Connaught, married three brothers at once, the same kind of fraternal polyandry practiced by such eastern peoples as the Todas and the Singhalese.27 The Nairs practiced group marriage up to the 19th century. Hindu literature speaks of a princess who married five brothers at once, and was blessed by the Goddess Cunti, and promised many children.28 In the Mahabharata, a speech to the same Goddess Cunti told of "the practice of old indicated by illustrious Rishis fully acquainted with every rule of morality":

(QUOTE)Women were not formerly immured in houses and dependent on husbands and relatives. They used to go about freely, enjoying themselves as best they pleased.... They did not then adhere to their husbands faithfully; and yet... they were not regarded as sinful, for that was the sanctioned usage of the times.... Indeed, that usage, so lenient to women, hath the sanction of antiquity. The present practice, however, of women being confined to one husband for life hath been established but lately.29(UNQUOTE)

After Brahmanism established monogamy in some parts of India, the rules of marriage were greatly changed: "No act is to be done according to her own will by a young girl, a young woman, though she be in her own house. In her childhood a girl should be under the will of her father; in her youth under that of her husband; her husband being dead, under the will of her sons. A woman should never enjoy her own will. Though of bad conduct or debauched, a husband must always be worshipped like a god by a good wife."50

Rules similar to those of the Brahmans were established in in Europe by Christian authorities, insofar as possible. Some churches even insisted that a bride at her wedding must kneel and place her bridegroom's foot on her head in token of abject obedience.31 Christianity accepted marriage only on condition that the partners form a slave-and-master relationship. This meant getting rid of the Goddess whose many forms and avatars protected the married woman in all phases of matrimony and motherhood. [

Juno, the Roman Queen of Heaven, regulated every aspect of marriage through her priestesses. Juno Pronuba arranged marriages. Juno Domiduca conducted the bride across the threshold of her new home. Juno Nuxia perfumed the doorposts. Juno Cinxia untied the bride's virgin-girdle. Juno Lucina watched over the pregnant woman. Juno Ossipago strengthened her infant's bones. Juno Rumina provided mother's milk. Juno Sospita took care of women in childbed.32 So it went: in marriage and family matters, women ignored God and appealed to their own Goddess. The idea that a male priest should preside alone over a marriage ceremony was unthinkable -- which is one reason why Christians didn't think of it. For many centuries, marriage existed in a limbo without a deity to solemnize it, having no place in canon law, which is why marriage remained so long under the diction of common law.

The Council of Trent decreed that a person who even hinted that the state of matrimony might be more blessed than celibacy would be declared anathema -- accursed and excommunicated.33 The earliest form of Christian marriage was a simple blessing of the newly wedded pair, in facie ecclesiae -- outside the church's closed doors -- to keep the pollution of lust out of God's house. This blessing was a technical violation of canon law, but it became popular and gradually won acceptance. In 1215 the fourth Lateran Council granted it legal status.34 Still, the church maintained that there were no marriages in heaven, according to Christ's statement in the scriptures (Mark 12:25; Luke 20:35). St. Thomas Aquinas assigned a "goodness value" of 30 to marriage, as compared with 60 for widowhood, and 100 for lifelong virginity.35

Medieval folk tales convey a distinct impression that the Christian God opposed marriage. One story said a pure youth and maiden agreed never to marry, "for love of God." But their heathen parents forced them into a wedding. By God's grace, the ground opened under their feet and swallowed them before they could spoil their virginity. A priest who dared officiate at the wedding was found dead next day. Another young couple eloped, being forced to defy God, who "did not sanction earthly marriages." Gebhard, archbishop of Cologne, was said to have blessed married couples illegally, and even took a wife himself. He was excommunicated, besieged by Catholic forces in Godesberg Castle, caught, and killed. The ruins of his castle are still shown to travelers. 36

Common-law marriages were often informal. Mere cohabitation could constitute a valid marriage.37 Temporary trial marriages were legal up to the early 17th century. Peasant "betrothals" were often trial marriages, incorporating such customs as "tarrying," night-visiting, and courting-on-the-bed. Pregnancy might make the union permanent but not necessarily. Bastardy was a commonplace in all social classes of medieval society,38

The church displayed remarkable reluctance to deal with the matter of marriage at all. During the Middle Ages there was no ecclesiastical definition of a valid marriage nor of any contract to validate one. Churchmen seemed to have no ideas at all on the subject.39 They ignored marriage, leaving it largely in the realm of the common law.

Under Roman and barbarian laws, marriages "could be freely initiated and could be terminated without formality by either party and at any time."40 This system persisted among common folk until 1563. Finally the church declared the priestly blessing indispensable to a legal marriage, refusing to recognize any more marriages made by the common law. Still, the church's rule remained invalid in many areas for several centuries more.41

In 1753 Lord Harwicke's Act made clerical blessing a requirement for legal marriage in England, but the Act didn't apply to Scotland, therefore Scotland became a mecca for elopements, because legal marriages could be made there by the old pagan custom of "handfasting" -- simply joining the couple's hands in the presence of witnesses, without benefit of clergy.42 All the way up to 1939, English lovers could travel across the Scottish border to the "marriage town" of Gretna Green for an instant wedding.

When Christian authorities revised pagan marriage laws, they were primarily concerned with placing a wife's property in her husband's control and keeping it there. Women owned the land under the pagan system, and their husbands could acquire an interest in it only through matrimony. This system was reversed in husbands' favor. Common-law and Morganatic marriages were provisionally accepted by Christian churches only after many restrictions had been imposed on the wife's rights of ownership and inheritance. Christian marital morality amounted to taking the means of independence from women and turning it over to men.

Celibacy was strictly enforced among the clergy when new laws permitted men to bequeathe their property (and their wives' property) directly to their children. When priests were forbidden to make valid marriages, they couldn't have heirs. Thus all property they owned or gained would revert to the church when they died.43 Clerical marriages, on the other hand, meant a loss of ecclesiastical income.

Priests abandoned the early church's rule of celibacy and began to take wives during the 5th and 6th centuries. This continued to the 11th century, when papal decretals commanded married clergymen to turn their wives out of their homes and sell their children as slaves.44 These new laws brought much more wealth to the church. Though some ex-wives stayed on as the concubines of their former husbands, they were disinherited in the church's favor.

Churchmen revered St. Hilary, who was married and the father of a daughter. When his daughter wished to marry, however, Hilary forbade her. Fearing she might weaken and lose her virginity, he asked God to kill her. God complied -- with a little help from Hilary himself. After burying the daughter, "by his prayer" Hilary sent his wife to neaven also. The legend claims the wife voluntarily begged Hilary to "obtain for her the same grace which he had obtained for her daughter."45

Besides popularizing the peculiar morality of a saint who killed his daughter, the church fostered "chastisement" of wives by husbands, citing St. Paul's teaching that "the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man" (1 Corinthians 11:3). In practice, under the pretext of discipline a man could torture his wife with impunity, and no legal or religious agency would defend her. A mild protest in the 13th-century Laws and Customs of Beauvais noted that an excessive number of women were dying of marital chastisement, so husbands were advised to beat their wives "only within reason."46

The theological view of the time was that "woman has sinned worse than man" and should therefore be unhappier; her suffering must be doubled on earth, even in the womb, which is why female embryos did not receive their souls from God as early as male embryos.'17 Men were only doing God's will when they made women suffer.

The Oriental heathen, whom Christians thought barbaric, were teaching different rules: "The householder should never punish his wife, but should cherish her like a mother.... By riches, clothes, love, respect, and pleasing words should one's wife be satisfied. The husband should never do anything displeasing to her."48 Westerners simply condemned as obscene the passages in the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad describing as a sacrament a husband's sexual worship of his wife as "House-Goddess (Grhadevata)."

Physical abuse and sexual coercion were so often the lot of a Christian wife that it came to be an accepted idea that no woman could love a husband. A "lover" meant a man outside the marriage. The Countess of Narbonne, ruler of France's celebrated Court of Love, said the relation between husband and wife and "the true love between lovers are two absolutely different things which have nothing in common.... We say definitely and considerately that love cannot exist between married people."50 One good reason was the master-slave relationship. "Men were exhorted from the pulpit to beat their wives and wives to kiss the rod that beat them."51

Medieval society was so accustomed to the idea that all wives were battered by their husbands, that churchmen used this as an argument for women to renounce marriage in favor of the cloister. They told young girls that "the wife was subject to her husband, that often she was exposed to blows and kicks, and often brought forth misshapen offspring.... While men are betrothed they seem filled with gentleness, whereas after marriage they rule as cruel masters."52

It has been recently shown that, "Although omitted from most church historical accounts, the Christian church ... has had a record of practicing and recommending physical abuse to women." The Decretum of 1140 said: "It is right that he whom woman led into wrongdoing should have her under his direction so that he may not fail a second time through female levity." Friar Cherubino's 15th-century Rules of Marriage made a husband his wife's sole judge: "Scold her sharply, bully and terrify her. And if this still doesn't work ... take up a stick and beat her soundly, for it is better to punish the body and correct the soul than to damage the soul and spare the body....Then readily beat her, not in rage but out of charity and concern for her soul, so that the beating will redound to your merit."53

A Russian pope recommended the use of a whip rather than a rod of wood or iron, which was more likely to cripple or kill. "Keep to a whip," said the pontiff, "and choose carefully where to strike: a whip is painful and effective."54

["When thou goest unto woman, do not forget thy whip." --Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathrustra]

Martin Luther thought himself an unusually kind husband. He said when his wife "gets saucy, she gets nothing but a box on the ear."55

English jurisprudence applied to marital "disagreement" the famous Rule of Thumb elucidated by Blackstone: a husband was free to beat his wife with a whip or rod no thicker than his thumb, "in order to Enforce the salutary restraints of domestic discipline." British law up to the late 19th century decreed that acts which would amountto an assault if committed agaist a stranger were legally innocent when committed by a husband against a wife.56 Wives had little help from the law; they were legally classified with minors and idiots, and were consigned to the custody of their husbands.57

When John Adams was helping to draw up the Constitution of the United States in 1777, his wife Abigail wrote to him, "Do not put such unlimited power in the hands of husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could."58 Abigail's plea went unheard. The American husband was no less tyrannical than his British forebear. It has been said that among the Puritans especially, the husband "exercised the authority of God" over his wife.59

In 1848 feminist Emily Collins described a typical example of the abused American wife: a woman who mothered seven children, cooked, cleaned, washed, spun, wove, sewed and mended the family clothing, milked the cows, and took the multiple responsibilities for the welfare of nine persons, including her husband, who beat her because she sometimes "scolded" -- that is, nagged, or complained. This was accepted as sufficient reason for violent attacks on his hard-working spouse.60

Up to the middle of the 20th century, American law upheld the so-called doctrine of immunity, which meant the "sanctity of the home" could not be invaded to stop husbandly violence. A man's home was his castle, even if it was also his wife's prison. The law denied women the right to sue their husbands for assault because the suit "might destroy the peace of the home." Only in 1962 did a judge rule that the peace of the home was already destroyed by a wife-beating, therefore the doctrine of immunity was legally unsound.61 Even now, the law may refuse to recognize a woman's right to protection within her home.

Wife-beating was a by-product of the Christian view of woman as man's property. Napoleon remarked, "Woman is given us to bear children. She is our property.... She is our possession, as the fruit tree is that of the gardener."62 St. Thomas Aquinas said a wife is lower than a slave because a slave may be freed, but "Woman is in subjection according to the law of nature, but a slave is not."63

Josephine Henry reported that "The ownership of the wife established and perpetuated through Bible teaching is responsible for the domestic pandemonium and the carnival of wife murder which reigns throughout Christendom. In the United States alone, in the eighteen hundred and ninety-seventh year of the Christian era, 3,482 wives, many with unborn children in their bodies, have been murdered in cold blood by their husbands....The by-paths of ecclesiastical history are fetid with the records of crimes against women; and 'the half has never been told.'"64

From feudal times onward, Christian systems of slavery placed similar powers in the hands of slaveowners and husbands, often combining the two functions. A sister of President Madison wrote: "We southern ladies are complimented with the name of wives: but we are only the mistresses of seraglios." A southern planter's wife described herself as "the chief slave of the harem." The wife of a Confederate general wrote: "God forgive us, but ours is a monstrous system.... Like the patriarchs of old, our men live all in one house with their wives and their concubines.... Any lady is ready to tell you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody's household but her own. Those, she seems to think, drop from the clouds."65

Southern ladies' doublethink about their roles was an expected, even mandatory, social response. The first edition of Emily Post's Etiquette described "The Instincts of a Lady: As an unhappy wife, her dignity demands that she never show her disapproval of her husband no matter how publicly he slights or outrages her."66

Though the rule obviously served the man's dignity, not the woman's, unhappy wives tried to obey it. Patriarchal society manage to convince them that if they failed to make their marriages "happy,' they failed as women and as human beings. Hence, battered wives often accepted the guilt for their own victimization. Recent investigators report that battered wives go to great lengths to conceal the crime because of their own embarrassment and shame.67

Churches helped develop this secret embarrassment. One clergyman's routine advice to brides was: "Your duty is submission....Your husband is, by the laws of God and of man, your superior; do not ever give him cause to remind you of it."68 Of all professional groups, clergymen have proved least able or willing to help battered wives.

One abused wife from a "nice suburban neighborhood" wrote of her appeal to her clergyman and the reprimand she received. The minister demanded to know what she was doing wrong to bring her husband's violence down upon herself, and advised her only to search her own soul and discover how she might behave better to relieve the tension. She had a husband so violent that she feared for her life. Yet her spiritual leader and alleged comforter gave her less than no comfort. He tried rather to increase her suffering with a specious burden of guilt.69

In 1977 Ellen Kirby of the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church wrote: "The institutional church either through its blatant sexist theology, which has blessed the subordination of women, or through its silence, blindness, or lack of courage, has showed itself to be one of the leading actors in the continuing tragedy of abuse."70 Under the circumstances it seems unrealistic for Pope Paul to have observed in 1966 that "a true contradiction cannot exist in the divine laws pertaining to the transmission of life and pertaining to the fostering of authentic conjugal love."71 Translated from theologese, the "divine laws" meant simply the church's stand on birth control and "authentic conjugal love" meant husbandly dominance over the wife.

Patriarchal religions developed many rules for maintaining male dominance in marriage, but the structure was inherently unstable:

(QUOTE)The patriarchal "family" of academic social science is but a euphemism for the individualistic male with his subordinate dependents. As a social unit the family means the (male) individual, activated by his most aggressively individualistic instincts; it is not the foundation, but the negation of society....
Human society did not arise as an organization of adjusted interests. It arose out of an extra-rational sentiment; it has never existed in any form except through the binding force of such sentiments.7Z(UNQUOTE)

The patriarchal family was at bottom unnatural, a reversal of the ideological authority of the female over her dependents. "Economic man acts in perfect self-interest; a woman cannot base her relationships within the family on the principle of quid pro quo: she gives. It appears, from a masculinist perspective, that woman might be a more primitive version of a man -- not because there is prima facie evidence of her lower intelligence, but because of her loving and giving nature, which are taken as evidence of lower intelligence. Rousseau's 'noble savage' like his ideal woman was compassionate and nurturing."73

As a rule, women were driven into marriage by social pressures : spinsterhood was even less attractive economically. When patriarchal laws took property out of women's hands and placed it in the hands of men, unmarried women became as helpless to support themselves as wives were. In the 17th century, a "spinster" was any woman imprisoned in a "spin-house" without money or male protection. John Evelyn described a spin-house as a place where "incorrigible women are kept in discipline and labor."74 It was seldom noticed that spinsters had become "incorrigible and lewd" in an effort to earn a living, in a society that allowed them to learn no skills other than trying to please men.

Though patriarchal marriage typically existed for the service of man, there was usually a pretense of male autonomy and leadership; and the discovery of its mythical quality caused the wife's "basic trauma", according to Jessie Bernard:

(QUOTE)There are few traumas greater... than the wife's discovery of her husband's dependencies; than the discovery of her own gut-superiority in a thousand hidden crannies of the relationship; than the realization that in many situations his judgment is no better than hers; that he does not really know more than she; that he is not the calm, rational, nonemotional dealer in facts and relevant arguments; that he is, in brief, not at all the
kind of person the male stereotype pictures him to be. Equally, if not more, serious is her recognition that she is not really the weaker vessel, that she is often called upon to be the strong one in the relationship^(UNQUOTE)

Marc Feigen Fastau also pointed out that false commitment to the myth of masculine steadiness and objectivity brings on disillusionment among wives:

(QUOTE)Nothing contrasts more sharply with the masculine image of self-confidence, rationality, and control than men's sulky, obtuse, and, often virtually total, dependence on their wives to articulate and deal with their own unhappy feelings and their own insensitivity, fear, and passivity in helping their wives to deal with theirs. This, more than anything disillusions women about their men. Bromides like 'Men are just overgrown little boys' are both a description of the phenomenon and an attempt, by labeling it innocuously, to ease the pain of disillusionment, disillusionment at having subordinated yourself to a person who isn't, it turns out, special enough to justify the sacrifice, who is probably not much smarter than you are in most ways and in some very important ways is a lot less perceptive, more dependent and more childlike.76(UNQUOTE)

Though wives provide an essential support system, without which few men would be capable of carrying on productive careers, the "job" of a wife is the last relic of slavery in that it earns nothing. A woman can't collect unemployment insurance for losing this job, even when it means financial hardship for herself and children. As a widow she is taxed at the highest level because she is not considered a contributor to her husband's estate. Yet a conservative estimate of the market value of a wife's services amounts to $1,000,000. Nor is the job an easy one. Data collected by th Department of Health and Human Services show that housewives suffer more from symptoms of stress than do working women.

Marlene Dixon said marriage is "the chief vehicle for the perpetuation of the oppression of women; it is through the role of wife that subjugation of women is maintained."78 To a large extent it was the Christian concept of marriage in the western world that brought this about, since the church declared women socially, politically, intellectually inferior and made them their husband's chattels.79 Wife-beating was so routine in Christian Europe that the symbol of "marriage" in Alsatian New Year decorations was a miniature man beating his miniature wife.80

Nineteenth-century clergymen in both Europe and America consistently upheld a husband's right to abuse his wife and to use "salutary restraints in every case of misbehavior," without the interference of what some court records of 1824 referred to as "prosecutions." In other words, it was vexatious for a battered wife to seek redress, but not vexatious for her husband to beat her in the first place. Many clergymen still have this attitude. A battered wife said: "My husband repeatedly spoke scripture at me about what the wife's responsibility was.... She was supposed to be submissive, and he would quote Paul, verse after verse after verse. I didn't feel like I had ver much to fight with....I don't recall any clergy person I went to -- and I went to more than one -- being supportive of my feelings about not continuing the marriage, of not wanting the abuse to continue. I got no support from any clergyman."81

Only recently, and grudgingly, did the clergy of some denominations remove the word "obey" from the bride's responses in the marriage service. Many clergymen still believe a wife should bow to her husband's wishes more than he bows to hers -- not the best attitude in men who think themselves qualified to act as marriage counselors.

fading.82,114. 2. Briffault 3. 57?. 3. Lederer, 162-63. 4. Bullough, 103, 112. CmMl. M.I., 95. 6. Briffault 3, 373. 7. Sadock, Kaplan & Freedman, 22. |Staora.99. 9.deVoragine, 736. 10. Fielding,233. II. Briffault 3,248-49. HBtot.447. 13. Rose, 144. 14. Mahuninanatantra, xxiv. 15. Bullough, 234. MdUdeU. 117. 17.Avalon, 172. 18. Brasch. 70. 19. Forgotten Booh, 201. fcj&ult3,20. 21. Graves, G.M. 1,54. 22. Bullough, 64. 23. Legman, 416. Bdiough. 309. 25. Hartley, 219. 26. Bachofen, 140, 145. ~ ~ It 3,378; Hauswirth. 88. 28. Briffault 1, 712,683. 29. Briffault 1, 346. 1,345. 3I.Hazlitt,453. 32. Lumusse, 203. 33. Briffault 3,375. Brit., "Marriage." 35. Murstein, 115. 36.Guerber, L.R., 77, 110, 121. (3,249. 38. Fielding, 233-34. 39. Pearsall, W.B.. 166-67. Brit.. "Marriage." 41. Briffault 3, 249. 42. Encyc. Brit.. "Marriage." IJfareon, 197. 44. H. Smith, 263. 45. de Voragine, 90-91.
court, 228. 47. de Voragine, 150. 48. Mahanirvanatantra, 162-63. 5%. 50. Briffault 3,428. 5 I.T.Davidson. 98-99. 52. de Voragine, 282. ton, 99. 54. Murstein, 445. 55. T. Davidson, 100. &Levy, 34-36. 57. Crow, 147. 58. Rugoff, 169-70. " & English, 7. 60. Stone, 233. 61. Langley & Levy, 40. , 137. 63. de Riencourt, 219. 64. Stanton, 196-98. 300; Rugoff, 325-26. 66. Wolff, 346. 67. Langley & Levy, 117. h it English, 7. 69. Langley & Levy, 21. 70. T. Davidson,' 211. •,wx. 72. Briffault 3, 511-13. 73. Ehrenreieh & English. 17. 74.Funk,260. &Moran, 154-55. 76. Feigen Fastau, 82. 77. Sheehy, 313-14. 193. 79. H. Smith, 228. 80. Miles, 270. 81. Hirsch, 173, 354.

 

 

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