On Women as “Chattel”

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by Jack Donovan on January 31, 2010

A pal of mine poked a little fun at me the other night on the phone.

“So, do you still believe women should be chattel?”

He’s an independent-minded ally, and he likes to bust my balls when I shift into angry man mode.

The thing is that I’ve never said that I believe women should be treated like “chattel.”

That’s a feminist meme, characteristically distorted and hysterical, so I thought it might be worth addressing here on The Spearhead. I don’t think most of our readers or writers truly want to see women treated like “chattel.” But for attacking feminism, or suggesting that civilization works better when men and women take different roles, many have no doubt been accused of attempting  to subjugate women and  been likened to wannabe whip-cracking slave masters.

Women as ChattelIn some alternate feminist reality–in a galaxy far, far away from our own–men are as base and villainous as Jabba the Hut, and feminists are cold-but-comely princess Leias, heroically strangling him with the chains of patriarchy.

Yet, years after her triumph, Leia still can’t stop bitching about her moment in the sun as a sex object. Her subjugation turned out to be her defining role. Without the gold bikini, she’s no hero–just another cranky, boozy old broad.

The problem with the whole enslaved women song and dance is that women have rarely been enslaved in the Western World. The harem is a foreign idea, a playboy fantasy. Even Hugh Hefner’s women come and go of their own free will.

Western men have been, for the most part, fairly monogamous.

Sure, women have been barred from participating in business or politics. But they were also forbidden to do the most dangerous jobs; men were the ones literally dying for work. And women weren’t exactly kept in shackles in the basement. They had keystone roles as wives and mothers. While it is true that some men have been cruel and abused their wives for sport, I have a hard time believing that has historically been the norm in Western households. It was certainly not the ideal. There’s too much literature to suggest otherwise.

Women were not treated like men, but that does not mean they were slaves. To say they were is a lie in almost every case.

First Wave Feminism was not about releasing women from bondage, it was about gaining political power. And Second Wave feminists were hardly “slaves.”  Second Wave feminists were primarily educated, middle class white and Jewish women who thought the role of being a good mother in a luxurious, suburban home sounded terribly boring.

So feminists piggy-backed onto the civil rights movement, and borrowed a lot of rhetoric from African-Americans–who could, however, legitimately make the claim that their people were “chattel” in recent Western history.

My job takes me into the homes of a lot of older couples. The other day, I came across a charming man and woman–probably both in their seventies. They were around to see the rise of Second Wave feminism, but it didn’t seem to have poisoned their relationship. They were of the old school, like both sets of my grandparents, who loyally took care of each other until the ends of their lives.

The older fellow bragged to me about how he used to be able to lift things like I could. His wife came in, and together,  they both discussed the best possible place to put the product I was installing. They clearly had different roles, but they also seemed to be very much in love, and treated each other with deferential respect. His wife was a woman, not his slave. Not chattel.

This often–though not always–seems to be the case with couples of that age. Polite, respectful, dignified, civilized. These people are fugitives from a better time.

In those moments, I wonder how men and women of my “liberated,” entitled, latte-guzzling generation will behave when they get to be that age. Will the women even have husbands? Will the men have wives? Will they complement and take care of each other, or will they just bitch at each other as “equals” engaged in a constant struggle for power?

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