Monday, November 1, 2010

I Bind You, Patriarchy

Hey look, it's the Malleus Maleficarum, the Catholic-priest written handbook that Catholic Inquisitors used to hunt, torture, and murder (mostly female) "witches" in medieval times. (Thanks Gutenberg!).

Of particular interest to my delicately wicked lady brain is the section explaining "why a greater number of witches is found in the fragile feminine sex than among men."

The witchy ways of woman had come about, basically, because according to various holy men, "All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman," beings who are "feebler both in mind and body" than men. And, because it is womankind who comes from the "broken rib" of mankind (as opposed to the biological reality that all humans actually come from female bodies), women are inherently "an imperfect animal" of a "different nature than men."

Thus, not surprisingly:

"What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colours!...When a woman thinks alone, she thinks evil."

Oh, and natch, a woman is "more carnal than a man, as is clear from her many carnal abominations."

For all of these reasons- stupidity, nagginess, defectiveness, "insatiable" horniness- it was really "no wonder that so great a number of witches exist in this [female] sex."

At this point, I think my feelings can best be expressed by a Whitney gif:


So, um, moving on.

Some historians note that the women most often targeted as "witches" were those living outside of patriarchal norms, such as elderly women and women not living as part of a nuclear family unit. Such women are beings whom patriarchy has no need for. In a society organized around the nuclear family unit in which the man is the head, it was "these women, particularly older women who had never given birth and now were beyond giving birth, [who] comprised the female group most difficult to assimilate."

If a woman exists solely to be a mother and a wife and she is neither of those things, she is nothing but a burden to society. A waste of space in Father's house. A woman taking food from the mouths of real people- men and boys.

With these historical facts in mind, female adherence to the myths of male-female "gender complementarity" and Incredible Inherent Difference becomes somewhat understandable. To some women, the very survival of the female sex depends upon keeping alive the idea that, together, men and women are greater than the sum of their parts. Men and women need each other, some women insist, perhaps hoping in the backs of their minds that their men don't figure out that women need men (not to kill them) just a little bit more than men need them.

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