Imprisoned for life, by your husband
May 25, 2007 7:37 AM   Subscribe

You, wife, your husband, minister, of the strict Calvinist stripe. You're well educated and deign to have your own ideas which challenge your husband's beliefs. For your own protection, to keep you from infecting the children with your heretical ideas, and just basically to control you, your husband has you committed to an insane asylum. A doctor at the hospital agrees and you are imprisoned, most likely for life. If you sign a paper agreeing to never challenge your husband's beliefs again, you can be free. Too proud, you refuse and remain confined. You do write a book though.
posted by caddis (94 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Such is the story of Elizabeth Packard. She eventually gained her freedom from the asylum, yet upon her return home her husband locked her into a room in their house and made plans to secrete her off to another state and have her committed to an asylum more willing to through away the keys for life. Days before this plan is hatched she managed to slip a note to a friend leading to the case of Packard v. Packard. In 1864 she had no option to challenge her commitment to an asylum in court, but she could challenge her confinement in the house. She was determined sane and went on to advocate for reforms in mental institutions and commitment laws.

Husbands of the time wielded incredible power over their spouses. However, the power of having someone imprisoned for life, just at the husband's request was among the most fearsome of powers. Elizabeth Packard was not the only woman who suffered such a fate.
posted by caddis at 7:38 AM on May 25, 2007


oops, forgot Packard v. Packard
posted by caddis at 7:43 AM on May 25, 2007


Thus the institution of marriage is defended from all the homos, weirdos, and people who advocate divorce.
posted by Artw at 7:43 AM on May 25, 2007


plans to secrete her off to another state

couldn't he just ooze her into another county?
posted by quonsar at 7:46 AM on May 25, 2007 [9 favorites]


So before the mistakes of letting them vote and wear shoes was the mistake of letting them out of their cages! Of course!
posted by DU at 7:46 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


The lesson: never marry a religious fanatic.
posted by jonson at 7:46 AM on May 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


That many want to go back to this kind of ownership is insane.
posted by amberglow at 7:47 AM on May 25, 2007


The lesson: never marry a religious fanatic.

Fixed that for you.
posted by ND¢ at 7:50 AM on May 25, 2007


Holy shit, how have I never heard of this lady? Thank you for the post, caddis!
posted by Greg Nog at 7:51 AM on May 25, 2007


Bring back footbinding!
posted by Artw at 7:56 AM on May 25, 2007


I call bullshit. Everyone knows that the 1860s in America was a time of enlightment and a flowering of rights for the individual. Next thing you know, people will be claiming there were slaves in the 1860s. Poppycock!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:57 AM on May 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Really interesting post, thanks caddis. What a determined, admirable woman.
posted by gaspode at 8:00 AM on May 25, 2007


Bring back footbinding!

According to my Chinese friend's grandmother (who did have bound feet), the restriction and confinement aspects of that were just a cover story. The real reason was to create a soft folded pocket of skin for pleasuring the man.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:03 AM on May 25, 2007


I vaguely remember learning about a man (more recent than the Packard case) who didn't like his wife nagging him, so he either had her lobotomized or did it himself. From that point forward she could not experience any emotions. Anyone know the details?
posted by arcticwoman at 8:05 AM on May 25, 2007


The real reason was to create a soft folded pocket of skin for pleasuring the man.

I could be wrong, but I thought human females had at least one of these naturally?
posted by Pollomacho at 8:06 AM on May 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


Those were the good old days, weren't they?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:06 AM on May 25, 2007


Phew. I was almost afraid to click these links as I didn't want it to turn out that this happened last year or something.
posted by Zinger at 8:08 AM on May 25, 2007


Let me rephrase... I thought human females had at least one of these soft pockets of skin naturally that can have the function of pleasuring a man.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:09 AM on May 25, 2007


I don't think it's just religous fanaticism as much as it can just be a deep cultural problem related to everything from just blase misogyny to financial independance issues.

My aunt was telling me the other day of a woman who had come over from India only to find out after a while that the husband is now 'not interested'. It's almost surreal. He's not dealing with the issue like an adult, he's basically saying that he wants her to 'leave the house', whatever the hell that means. He recently stopped buying milk. Wants her to pay for it. I don't remember the details of what's going on, it's not out-of-hand bad (ie. he's not beating her or anything) but it's just completely bizarre and a situation I'd lose my mind trying to put up with.

Divorce is almost unthinkable, she can't just go back to India. Even if we get beyond the familial shame of the whole 'her husband left her and she came back' thing, what'll she do there? The job market isn't so flexible that an adult woman can just pick her life back up again.

The woman's father won't look into the matter even though he's independantly wealthy. He occasionally returns calls to say ok I'll fly over in a few months to see what's going on.

She can't leave the house because apparently that means her husband can say she deserted him and thus throw a wrench in her green-card application.

You never know what to do with a situation like that. When the whole idea of raising a girl is to get her married off, what's to be done when the marriage goes sour?

It's easy to bewail casual attitudes to marriage and increasing divorce rates and pre-marital intimacy etc. etc. all the while forgetting the silent mental torture undergone by wives (and husbands) in the good old days: having to put up with a life and the stresses of childhood etc. alongside another person whom you just don't get along with, all the while putting forth a smiling we're-a-happy-family demeanour to the outside world.

One suspects that the majority of women around the world are 'virtually imprisoned' even today.
posted by Firas at 8:13 AM on May 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


I have heard that Asian women have sideways soft pockets of skin for pleasuring the man.
posted by ND¢ at 8:15 AM on May 25, 2007


Yeah, ND¢, where's my MARRIAGE SUX placard? While we're at it, what about the KIDS ARE JUST A DRAIN one?
posted by Firas at 8:16 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I could be wrong, but I thought human females had at least one of these naturally?

Just one? I have a tip for you (so to speak): You may be dating men. *Alien* men, since they apparently have no GI tract.
posted by DU at 8:18 AM on May 25, 2007


Thus the words "at least" DU.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:20 AM on May 25, 2007


Phew. I was almost afraid to click these links as I didn't want it to turn out that this happened last year or something.

It has, actually. One of the many charges against Warren Jeffs' Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints ( previously ) was that "many FLDS girls are improperly committed to mental institutions to keep them from acting on independent ideas." There was more about this in the LA Times series on the FLDS, unfortunately I can't find the link. But apparently there are some psychiatric institutions who were sympathetic to Jeffs' group.
posted by maryh at 8:21 AM on May 25, 2007


When my parents got divorced (late '60s), my mother went to open her own bank account. She had to show the bank officer her divorce papers, to prove that her husband wouldn't have to co-sign so she could get the account.

Good times.

And people wonder why one of the top items on the Gay Agenda (right after "go to the gym" and "have brunch") is "Destroy Marriage (by trying to get married)".
posted by rtha at 8:22 AM on May 25, 2007


"I vaguely remember learning about a man (more recent than the Packard case) who didn't like his wife nagging him, so he either had her lobotomized or did it himself. From that point forward she could not experience any emotions. Anyone know the details?"

Joe Kennedy had his daughter Rosemary lobotomized. Apparently being outspoken was only allowed for his sons John and Robert.
posted by eye of newt at 8:27 AM on May 25, 2007


Wait, when gays get married, which one owns the other one? You can't just have them committing each other willy-nilly.
posted by klangklangston at 8:29 AM on May 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


jonson writes "The lesson: never marry a religious fanatic."

Or a fanatic, religious or not.
Theophilus, convinced she must be insane for disagreeing with him on these religious matters
Like anybody else convinced that mere disagreement = insanity/treason/untolerable behavior , therefore deserving some kind of punishment. In this particular instance Elizabeth's behaviour likely wasn't tolerated by the husband that felt his image and authorithy was being underming by his wife behavior. It seems to me that, as many other priests, he was primarily concerned about preserving his image, insanity of her wife being an excuse and and her internment a "pious action for her good"...which also very conveniently put her away from public scrutiny.

Similar parallels can be found in other human activities, such as the employee not disagreeing with the employer openly, but openly using his own methods to obtain the goal/s one was hired for ; later he is punished for NOT doing as told, but at the same time not expelled because of his reaching the goals.

Firas writes "he's basically saying that he wants her to 'leave the house', whatever the hell that means. He recently stopped buying milk. Wants her to pay for it. I don't remember the details of what's going on, it's not out-of-hand bad (ie. he's not beating her or anything)"

That's a form of passive aggression, not denying her the possibility of doing whatever she likes, but denying her the basic needs of life (food) and probably breaching the marriage contract , but hoping that she doesn't have the money needed to access the law and have good chances of winning. One can't imprison another person, but can condition them relatively easily : as usual you will hear the apologists of this behavior screaming that she can leave if she doesn't like , she can go find herself a job and a stream of assertion that don't consider her situation at all, it's pure rethoric.

Firas writes "One suspects that the majority of women around the world are 'virtually imprisoned' even today."

It is possible, but it also important NOT to restrict this observation to woman, as if only woman suffered from such passive aggressive hostile behaviors. It's not a gender issue at all, it's exploiting one person financial, cultural and economic developement + circumstancial conditions to force him/her into a behavior, like leaving or not leaving, asking or not asking ; usually the coverup is that of claiming the person _choosed_ that particular outcome, whereas few others would have choosen it. Much like people "choosing" to be poor, as if circumstances were entirely their faults.
posted by elpapacito at 8:39 AM on May 25, 2007


Wait, when gays get married, which one owns the other one? You can't just have them committing each other willy-nilly.

In a boy-boy couple, whoever throws more like a girl is the one who gets owned; in a girl-girl couple, whoever brings the better toolbox gets to do the owning.
posted by rtha at 8:41 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


You only need go back as far as the 50's, and probably more recently, to find cases of independent and rebellious young women, legal adults, being confined to institutions at their parents request.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:47 AM on May 25, 2007


"I have heard that Asian women have sideways soft pockets of skin for pleasuring the man."

Why, are you a harmonica player?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:51 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


StickyCarpet writes "being confined to institutions at their parents request."

Sometimes they are even sent when they are not rebellious.
posted by elpapacito at 8:53 AM on May 25, 2007


I have heard that Asian women have sideways soft pockets of skin for pleasuring the man.

Don't get the joke. Why the fuck is it that people can make fun of Asians, use them in jokes, etc, and no on ever says anything?

Or were you being ironically racist and...I don't get the joke?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:06 AM on May 25, 2007


elpapacito, I agree with your point that implicit power relationships are abused all the time outside of institutional structures allowing for it. When it comes to issues like immigration and residency the two examples that immediately come to my mind are people employed on work visas in the US (sometimes referred to as 'indentured servitude'), and foreign maids in Arab countries, who have to deal with all the BS the family they're a maid for throws at them because, hell, what else can they do?

Regarding the story about this woman, I'm almost as hesitant to tell the husband to 'suck it up; you married her' as I am to tell her 'deal with it; you married him'. It's just a sucky situation all round when 'saving face' is an issue.
posted by Firas at 9:21 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Don't get the joke. Why the fuck is it that people can make fun of Asians, use them in jokes, etc, and no on ever says anything?


I don't think he was being racist, I think he was just wondering "Why are they using their feet when they have vaginas?" in a more indirect fashion.
posted by dazed_one at 9:23 AM on May 25, 2007


I was actually attempting to be ironically racist in a humorous manner. It was a common urban legend when I was growing up that Asian women had sideways vaginas, ridiculous as it sounds. I remember a skit from SNL where Alec Baldwin's character refers to this urban legend saying:

Oh, I get the picture. I know how you all feel. [ patriotic music plays over him ] War was a rough business. Women and college boys need not apply! When we signed on for this gig, we knew it wasn't gonna be a cakewalk! We also knew we were signing up on the winning team - OUR TEAM!! Now, I don't pretend to know who these Chinese people are - I know they're small, maybe 1 or 2 feet high! I know they sound funny when they talk, I know the womenfolk have sideways vaginas! But underneath their scales, they're just like you and me. Maybe I'm crazy, maybe I can't take on a billion of them..

Anyway, that is what that was.
posted by ND¢ at 9:28 AM on May 25, 2007


I too would like an answer as to how tiny, broken, often gangrenous feet can provide a man sexual pleasure.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:52 AM on May 25, 2007


According to my Chinese friend's grandmother (who did have bound feet), the restriction and confinement aspects of that were just a cover story. The real reason was to create a soft folded pocket of skin for pleasuring the man.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:03 AM on May 25


What do restriction and confinement refer to here, the feet, or the woman? (I'm asking seriously).

Don't get the joke. Why the fuck is it that people can make fun of Asians, use them in jokes, etc, and no on ever says anything?

Because Asians are shy introverts who are too busy doing their math homework and practicing violin. (jk)

People make fun of everyone in jokes. And no one cares when anyone complains, BECAUSE IT IS JUST A JOKE.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:57 AM on May 25, 2007


You never know what to do with a situation like that. When the whole idea of raising a girl is to get her married off, what's to be done when the marriage goes sour?

Durrr. Just burn her. 'Cuz she's probably a witch.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:00 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


One suspects that the majority of women around the world are 'virtually imprisoned' even today."

They aren't "virtually imprisoned", they are actually imprisoned. C'mon, maybe it's not quite a majority of women, but a very large portion of the women in the world today are, by law, in one sense or another the property of their husbands and have little independent legal rights of their own. In some extreme cultural examples, the women are effectively slaves of their husbands. And then there's the slave trade in women, as well.

If the same thing existed racially to this degree, or anywhere at all to the same extremes, people in the developed, Western world would be protesting it on a daily basis. They don't.

To my mind, this is the most illuminating example of the simple truth that the world is still extremely sexist, even in the parts of it where people think they are not. We have a long way to go.

You only need go back as far as the 50's, and probably more recently, to find cases of independent and rebellious young women, legal adults, being confined to institutions at their parents request.

Yes, as well as forced hysterectomies for "promiscuity" only a few years before that.

That many want to go back to this kind of ownership is insane.

"Many", I suppose, means "no more than a few nutcases in the US". Amberglow has this fantasy that religious conservatives would all, for example, agree that a husband being able to commit his wife to an insane asylum is a past they'd like to return to.

When my parents got divorced (late '60s), my mother went to open her own bank account. She had to show the bank officer her divorce papers, to prove that her husband wouldn't have to co-sign so she could get the account.

A friend of mine who grew up in Switzerland and the US had parents, both academics, who moved to Switzerland when she was little. This was the late 60s. But her mother found that in the small Swiss town she lived in that she couldn't open her own bank account among various other things she found where, by law, she was still not allowed to act independently of her husband. As a 60s feminist scholar, not to mention an intelligent and independent adult, she could not tolerate this and eventually divorced her husband and moved back to the US.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:00 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


What does my sideways vagina have to do with women being institutionalized for talking too much?
posted by Wonderwoman at 10:07 AM on May 25, 2007


"I thought human females had at least one of these soft pockets of skin naturally that can have the function of pleasuring a man."

Certainly not the mouth or the brain. Those are often SCARY.
posted by davy at 10:13 AM on May 25, 2007


Certainly not the mouth or the brain. Those are often SCARY.

Especially when a woman uses them in combination! EEEP!
posted by Pollomacho at 10:18 AM on May 25, 2007




Despite all of the intervening comments that are completely off topic, I wanted to chime in and thank Caddis for an excellent post about a fascinating woman who I had never heard of before. I admire her strength and convictions.
posted by msali at 10:20 AM on May 25, 2007


It has, actually. One of the many charges against Warren Jeffs' Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints ( previously ) was that "many FLDS girls are improperly committed to mental institutions to keep them from acting on independent ideas." There was more about this in the LA Times series on the FLDS, unfortunately I can't find the link. But apparently there are some psychiatric institutions who were sympathetic to Jeffs' group.
posted by maryh at 11:21 AM on May 25


Mormons are very interested in psychiatry because it provides theoretical bases and remedies for problems caused by their socially imposed gender inequalities and religious emotional suppression. Guess which state has the highest per capita antidepressant use, twice as high as California and three times higher than New York.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:25 AM on May 25, 2007


Interesting reading - seemingly timely for what I recently came across in Salon -

What's Wrong With Women? (by Joss Whedon - of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame - please read before jump to conclusion about the title.)

And Joss Whedon's speech at Equality Now.
posted by eatdonuts at 10:31 AM on May 25, 2007


Theres probably a fantatical Whedonist out there trying to get his wife commited for not wanting to watch Serenity for the 18th time...
posted by Artw at 10:35 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


My ex-girlfriend, but, yeah, you're eerily accurate...
posted by kid ichorous at 11:08 AM on May 25, 2007


Whedon's rant is basically just an example of the deep disorientation that people—usually men—feel when they periodically really see just how pervasive and deeply entrenched sexism is everywhere. I rarely hear this sort of angry and disoriented rant from women. My theory about that is that women almost always really know this, all the time, in a way that men almost always don't. For a man, it's like periodically waking up in an upside-down world.

It seems a little strange to read this from someone who minored in Women's Studies in college—that's why I think in Whedon's case this is a sort of periodic re-awareness at a deep level of something that he's been working through intellectually for most of his adult life. I can't say that this is much like my own experience, though. I had that awakening and deep, angry disorientation at the beginning of my adult life when I became a feminist (and first opened my eyes and saw how women live in a different world than men do). But I've never had any similar re-awakenings that even remotely compare to what I experienced all those years ago. Instead, I have a sort of continual low-level rage and cognitive dissonance that I am always aware of and weave through my intellectualism and personality as a way of dealing with it. I wonder if having periodic, consuming outrages might be better. Or maybe it's worse. It surely mustn't be very fun.

Whedon's theories about the psychological source of sexism aren't very interesting to me. In fact, the whole impetus for looking in that direction is sort of lost on me. I guess I must be implicitly accepting the idea that sexism is more culturally self-sustaining than it is a continually reinvented thing resulting from individual psychology. At least, I hope my view is right. Whedon's view is much more pessimistic. His version will be much, much harder to fight.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:31 AM on May 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't buy Whedon's 'womb envy' idea at all (which implies that men are intimidated by women and therefore somehow rig the power structure out of paranoia) but I don't see why evolutionary psychology as an explainer of where attitudes come from precludes understanding that the attitudes are now not entirely rational.

For example my understanding is that racism, nationalism, and other us vs. them attitudes etc. are 'natural' enough impulses. You don't learn your way into them (although experience may affirm the biases), you learn your way out of them.

Surely the fact that men are stronger than women has something to do with the fact that it's women who got the raw deal. As to how biological functions led to women being easier to 'subdue' the capacity to be pregnant probably has something to do with it. Pregnant women need caretakers, and might be attached to their offspring (and thus commit to them and seek support for raising them) in a manner that men may not be. For example if you look at bonobos you have a lot casual sex going on but the male partner doesn't stick around and that's ok as far as bonobos are concerned.
posted by Firas at 11:49 AM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I rarely hear this sort of angry and disoriented rant from women. My theory about that is that women almost always really know this, all the time, in a way that men almost always don't.

I never took a women's studies course, so the articulation of Whedon's point of view was new to me.

I will say this though, because the corollary to your comment that women almost always know this it that women actually have no idea how men think about women on the fundamental psychological level. Everything that comes up in sexism discussions, sexual shame and oppression, objectification, etc. are the civilized manifestations of what goes on underneath. These are the mechanisms men put in place for the purpose of containing men, not women. The mechanisms certainly oppress women, I'm not arguing with that. But that is not their primary purpose.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:59 AM on May 25, 2007


Please don't take this wrong, I find inflicting one's will on others is abhorrent, but it is the basis of human civilization. Human beings became masters of the world when they learned to do this: wash my clothes or I will beat the crap out of you.
posted by tgyg at 12:40 PM on May 25, 2007


Everything that comes up in sexism discussions, sexual shame and oppression, objectification, etc. are the civilized manifestations of what goes on underneath. These are the mechanisms men put in place for the purpose of containing men, not women. The mechanisms certainly oppress women, I'm not arguing with that. But that is not their primary purpose.

What on earth are you talking about, pastabagel?

I find inflicting one's will on others is abhorrent, but it is the basis of human civilization. Human beings became masters of the world when they learned to do this: wash my clothes or I will beat the crap out of you.

The basis of civilization is thsi: wash my clothes, and I'll take the older kids and gather enough roots and nuts for all of us to eat well tonight while we tell stories around the fire.

Whether slavery is a determining factor in every organized society before the industrial revolution I'll leave for others to explore.
posted by jokeefe at 12:55 PM on May 25, 2007


Yeah, tgyg, that's a pretty strange assertion. I don't know of any organism whose social behavior is based entirely on fear of direct assault. As for humans, we evolved trade & specialization a long time ago. A very very long time ago.
posted by Firas at 1:00 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't know of any organism whose social behavior is based entirely on fear of direct assault. ...

And thus my assertion that Humans are rather unique in this. Also, I wouldn't use the word 'entirely'. We have evolved many subtle forms of threat that don't require actual physical violence. And also, I do think that most men/women relations are (mostly) cooperative, even 'back in the day'. Like Pastabagel said, oppressioin in human beings more important as a male-male form of interaction than male-female.
posted by tgyg at 1:16 PM on May 25, 2007


I'm still not sure what your point is. You're essentially making a two-pronged Rousseauian argument (a. no human is really free b. thus animals are better off). I'm not convinced of either, but I'm not sure what your conception of (a) even entails. We're all working within constraints. So what? Not all constraint is an imposition of will, and the form of constraint that is an imposition of will is not a requirement for civilization.
posted by Firas at 1:23 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wait when you say 'like Pastabagel said' I read it as referring to what elpapacita said. Without that misreading I'm even less certain of what you're saying. Maybe you and/or Pastabagel should be less coy and describe what you're actually talking about.
posted by Firas at 1:32 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


My point is, Firas, is that the fact that humans have learned to work together is dependent upon the fact that a certain percentage of humans 'make' other people obey them. Nowadays we call them managers.
posted by tgyg at 1:34 PM on May 25, 2007


That's circular. You're saying that we cooperate (ie. are civilized) because of compulsion. But the only reason we do feel compelled is because cooperation benefits us in a way that non-cooperation doesn't. You make a choice to come under a manager's purview. So it's civilization happening because of an individual actor's decision, not because anyone forced that individual to do anything.

I've also lost the connection here between this issue and the topic in question. But I don't mean to get all up in your face, I'm sure your point has substance to it, I'm just procrastinating :)
posted by Firas at 1:45 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Firas: Surely the fact that men are stronger than women has something to do with the fact that it's women who got the raw deal.

Bwah ha ha ha. Remind all the men out there never to get into a wrestling match with a woman -- y'all may have the upper body strength but we will end you when it comes to a good thigh-based scissorlock. So I guess it depends on what kind of physical matchup you're talking here. OK, TMI, moving on...

I rarely hear this sort of angry and disoriented rant from women. My theory about that is that women almost always really know this, all the time, in a way that men almost always don't.

Uh huh. Read the responses to Whedon's post or anything similar on any of the major feminist websites -- they generally boil down to "well, DUH."

I will say this though, because the corollary to your comment that women almost always know this it that women actually have no idea how men think about women on the fundamental psychological level.

I will agree with that, for sure. Hell, it fuels an entire industry -- the Cosmo-Industrial Complex, as I like to call it. I remember, back in the day, Sassy (aka The Mag That Made My Generation Think Seriously About Feminism. No, Really) did an article where they lined up women in various outfits ranging from white t-shirt and jeans (normal jeans, not the coin-slot lowriders we have today) to 4" heels and tight, short, low-cut dress.

Then they asked men of all ages and descriptions to rank and rate the women on various things. Surprisingly -- or, I should say, surprising to the Cosmo-Industrial Complex -- the highest-ranked, most positive, overall best rankings came to the girl in the "normal" jeans and t-shirt getup. In other words, they liked the girl who wasn't trying too hard best. But the poor brainwashed souls who think men want to see them in those heels and short short skirts every single day, the ones who won't be seen out of the bathroom, let alone the house, without full makeup... well, yeah. They have no idea what men are really thinking. And that's just on the surface level. Let's not even get into the "don't let them know you're smart" thing...

Bringing it back to the original post, the good (sarcasm) reverend seems to have been more shocked and pissed off about being embarassed by his wife in public than anything. He just used the prevailing laws of the day to assuage his poor wounded dignity.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:55 PM on May 25, 2007


I'm not being coy, I'm just trying to avoid writing a comment dissertation.

These are the mechanisms men put in place for the purpose of containing men, not women. The mechanisms certainly oppress women, I'm not arguing with that.

In the Islamic world, and in the third world, and in rural europe until the second world war women covered up, some places more and some places less, but they covered up. The reason they are required to cover up is simple, and is offered by an Islamic authority than mandates the practice today - it's to protect women from being raped. That isn't a joke or a rationalization.

Unless overwhelming social control, laws, and cultural mores are brought to bear, men will pursue women for sex. In these places the men are largely uneducated if not totally illiterate, and there is little in the way of police authority. They are aggressive and massively hormonal. If a woman walked down the street dressed provocatively, she'd get assaulted because the men have no impulse control. The men in charge know that the men have no impulse control despite the fact that their religion mandates it, the government doesn't have the resources for an obvious police presence, but they can require women to cover up. The danger is not that women's sexuality is so powerful that it must be contained, it's an acknowledgment that men at their basest can be incredibly impulsive and violent, so the authority does what it can to prevent arousing those impulses.

The number one searched for term on the internet in Pakistan is 'sex'. Apparently there's an unspoken but widespread homosexual underground in the Arab world - "women are for babies, men are for pleasure" etc. This is a surprise considering how much the religion and culture seems to oppress gays. But you can't suppress biology.

And isn't just there. Recall the "wilding" incidents in New York. Consider how many women have stories of ex-boyfriends becoming stalkers or acting creepy shortly after a break-up.

The womb-envy argument makes no sense because it requires over-intellectualizing a base instinct. Most men are glad not to have to go through childbirth, a menstrual cycle etc. Having womb envy would require thinking about babies as creation, magical etc, which is not natural. Animals don't have womb envy. And humans are little more than animals when you strip the culture away.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:59 PM on May 25, 2007


I'm speculating, Firas. As to how this fits in with the topic at hand, I think your average human being is predisposed (genetically) to take a certain pleasure in taking advantage of other human beings. It's not (just) a learned behavior, it has evolved in humans because it gives us an advantage both as individuals and as a species (in competition with the Neanderthals perhaps).

It's sad that human beings are often a'holes (such as Elizabeth Packard's husband), but it is also part and partial of the human race.
posted by tgyg at 2:07 PM on May 25, 2007


Jesus Christ, pastabagel, I'm speechless. I don't even know where to start.

To save myself an aneurism, and because it's a lovely Friday evening, I'm getting the hell out of this thread right now. I'm going to go home, hang out with my son and his girlfriend, and generally enjoy my life.

I'll leave the takedown to others. I don't even think I could muster, past my rage, the ability to type in coherent sentences should I try to address this post of yours.
posted by jokeefe at 2:10 PM on May 25, 2007


I'm not aware that I said anything controversial, so I'd appreciate a little insight in that regard.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:12 PM on May 25, 2007


(You just called Muslims little more than animals, Pastabagel, would be my guess.)
posted by tgyg at 2:17 PM on May 25, 2007


bitter girl I'm a big fan of thigh-based locks but not sure that's relevant here. From what I know, when you look in social organization of organisms for the dominating 'class'/sex/etc., the dominating class is usually bigger or otherwise more capable of physical domination, whether we're talking insects or apes. I could be wrong.

Good points Pastabagel (I don't think they're outrageous, just described in a manner that seriously caricatures Arabs, who Pakistanis aren't, and by the way sex is the highest searched-for term all over the world), but I think a feminist stance would argue that:

women sex objects → therefore women are hidden away so they're not abused

Is just piling dysfunction on dysfunction. But I'm not sure that idea is even true. If indeed 'sexual shame' is in place to protect women, why is it that the shame is then directed at women rather than men?

Feminism is a diverse ideology of course but I don't think the concept of women as 'sex targets' is a problem itself. I think you'd want to step out of the context altogether and say look, women and men are sexual beings, fine. In other words, the pro-feminist stance isn't:

women sex objects & men can't control themselves → therefore women are hidden away so they're not abused → later when men can control themselves women can come into the light

It's:

women sex objects → INSERT FEMINISM HERE

The argument that reducing women to a shadow within a society is done out of respect for women or for their protection is a rhetorical stance I'm familiar with but it's bollocks, quite frankly, because the range in which women are restricted is well beyond desexualization.
posted by Firas at 2:30 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


(You just called Muslims little more than animals, Pastabagel, would be my guess.)
posted by tgyg at 5:17 PM on May 25


No, I called all humans animals. Because, shockingly, humans are animals. We are a species of primate, aren't we?

The first line of my post made it clear that I wasn't singling muslims out. But it is the largest culture currently maintaining the practice of covering women that offers any explanation for doing so.

Why do you think in the West we have expressions like "dressing modestly"? Why do women in rural Europe still wear headscarves?

Where do you think the defense in US rape cases into the 1980s of "she was asking for it" came from? It comes from the implied but universally understood notion that most men can't control their sexual impulses.

Is this really news to you?
posted by Pastabagel at 2:36 PM on May 25, 2007


Your argument is familiar to me, Pastabagel. I offered my comment as a possible explanation for jokeefe's reaction to your post.
posted by tgyg at 2:40 PM on May 25, 2007


Ok, I see. I sort of hope jokeefe comes back to this thread, because I certainly didn't mean to offend or anger anyone with that comment.

when I want to offend and anger someone, it's done unambiguously
posted by Pastabagel at 2:42 PM on May 25, 2007


The reason they are required to cover up is simple, and is offered by an Islamic authority than mandates the practice today - it's to protect women from being raped. That isn't a joke or a rationalization.

Let me offer this: It's not to protect them from rape - it's to control their access to sex itself. There's a massive distinction here.

Men and women, in a variety of cultural contexts, are denied the ability to express and engage in consensual sex. You yourself noted the undercurrent of homosexuality in Arabic culture - I'm sure you're also familiar with the austere punishments meted out to men who openly pursue homosexual relationships. Heterosexual relationships that are not sanctified by marriage are also subject to punishment; if a woman and a man pursue an entirely consensual relationship without the approval of their families, clans, and the like, they risk transgressing all kinds of familial and community taboos. These restrictions apply to both men and women, but for women, it's often a garb or veil or some other sort of ritualized fig leaf that enforces her modesty, that completely obscures her sexual identity.

Sex is, in so much of the world and of history, always a threesome - the community at large always insists on being the third person in the room, and they have to give consent.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:21 PM on May 25, 2007


most men can't control their sexual impulses

Pastabagel, your comments are usually very sharp, so it kindof throws me that you'd argue this. This statement is like the bullseye of a Venn diagram of the Victorians, radical fringe Feminists, and ascetic religions. It's at least 3 flavors of wrong.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:30 PM on May 25, 2007


(Or maybe I misread you - are you claiming that this is a common assumption, irrespective of its truth or falsehood?)
posted by kid ichorous at 3:34 PM on May 25, 2007


Pastabagel's statement isn't just wrong, it's offensively stupid.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:20 PM on May 25, 2007


Why do women in rural Europe still wear headscarves?

Becuase it's cold?

Pastabgel: The reason they are required to cover up is simple, and is offered by an Islamic authority than mandates the practice today - it's to protect women from being raped. That isn't a joke or a rationalization.

Kid Ichorous: Let me offer this: It's not to protect them from rape - it's to control their access to sex itself. There's a massive distinction here.


You guys it was BOTH. BOTH reasons can exist simultaneously. They do.

And men CAN control their sexual impulses. I'm doing it right now. As far as you can tell.

We have to be taught how. Just like how to find food and nearly everything else we do.

There was a time men were taught that women were property. Any unclaimed woman was your property. And if you felt like fucking her you did. You only had to worry what her father or brothers might do. There are still many places on the planet that are like this. Far too many.

A woman's access to freely associate was limited, her sexuality was oppressed and she was property to be protected from competitive or unauthorized males. To control reproduction is a fundamental and important power. Men were taught to do it by oppressing women.


That many want to go back to this kind of ownership is insane.


No it's not insane. It makes perfect sense to enslave those weaker than you so you can exploit their labor. It's simply morally reprehensible. Let's not falsely comfort our selves believing that they are not acting coldly rational.
posted by tkchrist at 4:20 PM on May 25, 2007


You guys it was BOTH. BOTH reasons can exist simultaneously. They do.

TK, that's fair, but protection is a funny word, and there's a difference between protection and a protection racket. If your "protection" is mandatory, and if you engage in what you're supposedly protecting against, it's probably a racket. And that would be a fair analogy for the straitjacketing of a woman or man into preposterous codes of conduct that repress consensual behavior, and then punishing them with the rape and violence you're supposedly shielding them from.

Here's my opinion on it: I don't believe that women need special laws or mores shielding them from sex, nor do I believe that men require discriminatory legal practices to rein in the male libido. I don't believe that without these laws, society will collapse into some neolithic rape fantasy in which women become little more than chattel. I do believe that this fear underpins much of the rhetoric from misogynistic cultures and the most rabid feminists alike - both of whom seem equally interested in putting women and men into tidy little boxes.
posted by kid ichorous at 4:58 PM on May 25, 2007


(BTW, I was using a hypothetical "you" above, not referring to you, TK, or anyone else.)
posted by kid ichorous at 5:00 PM on May 25, 2007


I think you'll be a bit surprised at how much police presence there is in 'Arab' societies Pastabagel, but I have another counterfactual for your idea (besides the 'if sex shame is to protect women why is the breach blamed on the woman rather than the man'):

If men in certain societies can't restrain themselves from violating women, and men in other societies can, isn't that just straight proof of the idea that the probability of rape is predicted by social constructs?
posted by Firas at 5:10 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


EB, re your friend's Mom and Switzerland - 1971: Swiss women get the vote. Hard to believe it was that recent, but true.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:24 PM on May 25, 2007


oh, and thanks for a great post, caddis. Fascinating stuff to read - what a strong woman.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:26 PM on May 25, 2007


Why do women in rural Europe still wear headscarves?
Becuase it's cold?


They (older women) wear them in rural Greece and Italy. In the summer. When it's hot. Younger women pretty much never wear them anymore, but they did prior to the war.

And men CAN control their sexual impulses. I'm doing it right now. As far as you can tell.
We have to be taught how.


Did anyone read what I wrote, or was the font invisible?

Unless overwhelming social control, laws, and cultural mores are brought to bear, men will pursue women for sex.

You are educated. You have lived your life in a country of laws where the law made its presence felt. Furthermore you are raised in an environment where the culture, the mores, your religion, etc have taught you to control your impulses from very early on. You are an example of what I said is the case.

most men can't control their sexual impulses

Pastabagel, your comments are usually very sharp, so it kindof throws me that you'd argue this. This statement is like the bullseye of a Venn diagram of the Victorians, radical fringe Feminists, and ascetic religions. It's at least 3 flavors of wrong.
posted by kid ichorous at 6:30 PM on May 25


Thanks for the compliment, and my point is that it's is a common assumption and has been since the dawn of time. What else does "boys will be boys" mean? Furthermore, even in enlightened America and Europe, sex still sells right? Is there a single product in America that hasn't been sold with an attractive woman next to it? They sell cars and boats with bikini models.

They do this because as much as you don't objectify women, your natural instinctive impulse is to look at the woman. You are wired to look.

Don't believe me? It's Friday night. Go to any city street in America or Europe and watch the eyes of any man on the street when an attractive woman passes by. I'm not suggesting that those men are thinking of raping the woman. I actually don't even think they are thinking of sex. But they all watch because they cant help it. They may be on the phone and not even pause while they talk.

Maybe I overstated things when I said "most". But here's the thing. If there are a hundred men on a street in Kabul and a bikini clad woman walks buy, it only takes one man to lack impulse control and make is unsafe for that woman.

So I'll revise my argument. Absent cultural programming and the apprehension of the imminent application of the law in the minds of people, the number of men who would lack sexual impulse control exceeds the threshold beyond which it is not safe for any woman to dress provocatively in that environment.

In other words, if X% of the male population would misbehave, then it isn't safe for any woman on any street becasue the likelihood is that 1 of those X% would be on any given street at any given time. My contention is that X could probably be a single digit number.

I'm not saying this is good, or acceptable, or that women should be forced to cover up, I am not rationalizing these laws or justifying them. I am suggesting that these rules evolved over time based on some practical necessity to maintain social order absent a central authority.
posted by Pastabagel at 5:28 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


While we're at it, what about the KIDS ARE JUST A DRAIN one?

I have a plaque someone gave me, sez "Having kids is like being pecked to death by a duck." Until I had kids, I wouldn't have found that funny.
posted by davejay at 5:31 PM on May 25, 2007


Pastabagel, you're defending something entirely different from what you've been claiming. And again even if it were true, mandating sexual modesty is a tiny teensy bit of the ways women are discriminated against, and is not particularly high on many people's list. Surely writing a book won't cause anyone to get raped right? Then why are women educated less? If walking around in a Burka solved the problem you're referring to, why do less women have career opportunities? Etc. etc. etc.
posted by Firas at 5:43 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel writes "I'm not saying this is good, or acceptable, or that women should be forced to cover up, I am not rationalizing these laws or justifying them. I am suggesting that these rules evolved over time based on some practical necessity to maintain social order absent a central authority."

I don't see it as self-evident. I see a pervasive fear of sexuality going back a long way, and mostly male-dominated cultures. Perhaps men comforted and continue to comfort themselves thinking they are subjugating women in order to protect them. Of course they are full of shit. Maybe repression does protect some women from otherwise being assaulted, though I would need to see some evidence in order to be convinced, but in societies which severely subjugate women, they have little to no legal rights and freedoms and can be raped or assaulted, and even be forced to take the blame for it by their families and the legal system. It's true that it's a biological drive for dominance, but it's not something that is outside our control.

I live in an area with a traditional latino culture going back 400 years. There is misogyny, but many women here are not going to take that kind of shit, and it has been slowly fading away over the last several decades. There is a woman here whose husband used to abuse her badly. She shot and killed him, and her family threatened to kill her (some family feuds go back a long way and are not easily forgotten). So she turned her house into a fortress, with guard dogs and concertina wire on a chain link fence. Years later, she's still living there, but she had to fight for every inch of what she's got. Still, I could never hope to change the way her husband's family feels about her. I'm pretty sure this would be going on with or without "central authority."
posted by krinklyfig at 7:15 PM on May 25, 2007


krinklyfig writes "She shot and killed him, and her family threatened to kill her"

... his family threatened to kill her ...
posted by krinklyfig at 7:17 PM on May 25, 2007


(besides the 'if sex shame is to protect women why is the breach blamed on the woman rather than the man'):

Because the perception is that women can control it by covering up. The assumption there is that men can't control it, so how could you blame someone for something that can't be controlled.

Surely writing a book won't cause anyone to get raped right? Then why are women educated less? Then why are women educated less? If walking around in a Burka solved the problem you're referring to, why do less women have career opportunities? Etc. etc. etc.

This is a very good point, and I have to admit that I didn't think this all the way through (hey, I admitted I never studied this, so I'm at a disadvantage to those who've thought about this). MY comments were framed primarily as a response to Whedon's article's discussion of why women's sexuality is a cause for concern.

My guess about why the rest of the discrimination takes place is related to what someone said above about agrarian societies needing offspring to do work. In this context, women become a valuable asset becasue they can produce laborers as boys or women who can be married off to others.

I note that non-agricultural primitive cultures (that still exist) appear not to have these sexual hangups or widespread female oppression. So the appearance of agriculture in human history probably has something to do with the reduction of women to property, with led to the general objectification.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:26 PM on May 25, 2007


It's true that it's a biological drive for dominance, but it's not something that is outside our control.

Okay, now I think I understand why everyone is so shocked by what I wrote. Yes, of course in 2007 it is completely ridiculous and abhorrent for any culture anywhere on earth to continue to operate like this. Among other things, mass communication enables the transmission of social control on a far more effective and efficient basis.

In the 15th century the situation was different. However many cultures in the world, including many arab and asian cultures still operate like it's the 15th century.

I see a pervasive fear of sexuality going back a long way, and mostly male-dominated cultures.

See my comment above about agricultural societies contributing to or directly leading to this result. As I read back over the thread with this thought, I wonder if any anthro folks or women's studies people could shed any light on whether the thesis of controlling women as controlling the means of production has any merit.

I live in an area with a traditional latino culture going back 400 years. There is misogyny, but many women here are not going to take that kind of shit, and it has been slowly fading away over the last several decades.

Okay, but 200 years ago they probably did take it, because they had no choice. This are changing rapidly now because everyone's culture is everywhere.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:34 PM on May 25, 2007


I think one of the interesting subtexts of this discussion, for me, is the similarity in thinking between those who would put women into a special, protected class, and those who oppress them. Both see them as an inherently weaker species that cannot share in society without special rules and restrictions and protocols, and I imagine it's very commonplace for the people who push for these agendas to think they're benefiting women in the process.

Statistically speaking, it's less safe for me to walk down an unlit street in my city than the average woman. However, what if we imagine women as a whole as so frail that they can be assaulted and violated by the unchecked Gaze of a Male, or his thoughts? What if we imagine that they're so fragile that their suffering - physical or emotional - is worth that of a man's tenfold, and that extreme measures must be taken to prevent it? What if we deny that they can ever give meaningful consent to sex we don't approve of?

It's a short leap, and this average woman is now being told how to dress "modestly," told that she cannot walk unescorted, told that she cannot ever have consensual sex unless a third party approves - either a patriarchal clan or Andrea Dworkin, take your pick - and suddenly we have people on opposite sides of the political spectrum agreeing that she cannot make up her own damn mind like everyone else.
posted by kid ichorous at 7:41 PM on May 25, 2007


Wow, I’m astounded by the seemingly pervasive Hobbesian view of society and how women’s existence is explained within civilization here – from what I gather is written by the majority of men. It’s a fearful thing, even when tempered by pockets of positive argumentative discourse.

This is particularly interesting reading for me - avec un vagin - to see this played out. Tell you what, I’m popping the popcorn right now.

I find it abhorrent that someone would throw out the apologetic view that women are forced to wear ‘modest’ clothing for their own protection from the ever-mercenary looming ‘manly’ compulsion. Why not force men to wear chastity belts instead? This notion is sibling to a misogynistic husband or father who commits a woman to an asylum for mood swings or chatting too much, a woman “ruining” herself with education, or the Supreme Court declaring that women shouldn’t get a medical procedure because they might “regret” it later (*cough*). If women need to be protected by the world at large, indeed enforced upon regardless of their own capacity for thought, then it is to see women as a marginalized entity and no better than slave, child or troublesome cattle.

But it’s so much sinister than that, and it is in essence defamatory to the male and male capacity as a whole. Men, these social norms portray you all as rakes, rapists and false-self-righteous fanatics, incapable of compassion, empathy and unbiased reason. If I was a man, I’d be seriously insulted to be so underrated.
posted by eatdonuts at 8:15 PM on May 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think one of the interesting subtexts of this discussion, for me, is the similarity in thinking between those who would put women into a special, protected class, and those who oppress them.

See: The Collector, by John Fowles.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:16 PM on May 25, 2007


Waves to krinklyfig, fellow New Mexican.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:28 PM on May 25, 2007


1971: Swiss women get the vote. Hard to believe it was that recent, but true.

That is kind of shocking really.

I posted this in part because I saw the play from which the main link comes. If you are in the Princeton area I highly recommend it. My wife and I went with no idea what we were to see. We have a subscription and sometimes we just arrive and take it as it comes. We had no idea it was based on a true story (having gotten our programs too late to really read them). After the first act, in which Theophilus has Elizabeth kidnapped and thrown in the asylum and her acts of defiance make it appear that she will never leave, like some of the other women who are there in similar circumstances, we almost decided not to stay. Bleak, powerful, depressing. That a husband had the power to declare his wife insane and have her taken away, potentially forever, well that is pretty scary stuff, even scarier that some did it. This story resonates today as in many ways the conditions for women have not really improved that much, but at least in most of Western society they are not legally or even effectively property. Woe be the woman who dares speak out though. ("Bitch!") I know a lot of smart and powerful women, and almost every one of them, if not every one, has been restrained in success by the mere fact of her gender. The ones who really made it, they are in careers where value is easily measured, like sales, soliciting multimillion dollar donations from Princeton alums, litigation - yet even in these competitive jobs, the process of getting there is filled with discrimination for all these unbelievably capable women.
posted by caddis at 9:09 PM on May 25, 2007


But it’s so much sinister than that, and it is in essence defamatory to the male and male capacity as a whole. Men, these social norms portray you all as rakes, rapists and false-self-righteous fanatics, incapable of compassion, empathy and unbiased reason. If I was a man, I’d be seriously insulted to be so underrated.

Exactly. It's hard to believe that folks are always saying feminists hate men. Feminists respect men and believe they have just as much self-control, compassion, and empathy as women and are therefore perfectly capable of not forcing sex upon other people. How much you must loathe your fellow man to say that only oppressing women can keep him from being a rapist.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:37 AM on May 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


On our Pasadena [California] Confidential crime history tour, the audience always gasps when we roll through Lake and Del Mar and I point out the former site of the home where, in 1895, H. G. C. Gordon kept his wife in a cage in their sitting room.

A reporter visited the home and described the seemingly mad woman in her old wrapper and brown wool socks as she sat on her cot eating supper. He also described her cage: ten feet high, eight feet long and three wide, with blinds that could be let down on the outside, wood on three sides, and extra-strength chicken coop wire on the top and front.

When Mrs. Gordon was upset, she banged her head on the walls, paced, or simply curled up immobile on her filthy bedding. When she misbehaved, her food was withheld.

Mr. Gordon had recently taken his wife out of an asylum, telling the commissioners he wanted to travel with her. The truth seemed to be that he thought he could keep her at home cheaper, which he likely could.
posted by Scram at 4:59 AM on May 28, 2007


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