When you make things up you really are not helping anyone out.
Women have had it rough historically. Really rough. But we must not forget that we must not embellish how rough they have had it otherwise we harm the struggle they face.
Let us take an example here.
If we were to say Jews were massacred by the million for being Jews due to a poisonous religious driven hatred that was endemic to Christianity during WW2 by the Nazis, it would be a genuine statement. If we were to say that Jews were massacred by Nazis because of their secret Moon Powers then we are not helping. All that happens is we raise doubts on the real issues by raising fake ones to the same standard. Someone will check your arguments.
Have you ever been reading or watching a report about a conservative man who said something so incredibly backwards that you swore he was living in the Dark Ages? Well, you’re not so very far from wrong. The Dark Ages were dark partly because education was discouraged and science was suspect, leading to some astoundingly silly things being taken for fact. Like, for example, that the heart was the seat of intelligence. Or that frogs spontaneously generated from mud. As fun as those sort of ideas are to explore, this article will be dealing with beliefs about that strange and inscrutable being: Woman.
Actually it’s because of the fall of the Centralised Roman Empire to barbarians, infighting, intrigue and a unsustainable pirate economy. Mainly the last one. Rome was heavily reliant on warfare for it’s economy. It’s legionnaires effectively conquered and looted new resources to fuel Rome. If there was no war there was no new income.
Christianity may have had a hand in the dark ages but it took too long for just Christianity to be blamed. There were other issues and a lot of it has to do with the fracture of Rome and it’s repeated sack by barbarian cultures that simply had not progressed to the point of understanding why books were rather useful.
And the Romans had some stupid beliefs too. And the vaunted Greeks and Romans thought the heart was the seat of some emotions (according to the four humours) and that the heart cooled the body by pumping air (Why? Dissected bodies don’t have any blood in the arteries). Frogs spontaneously generating from mud? That’s a pretty sensible notion if you are not aware of frog hibernation and the ability of frogs to survive under remarkable conditions by burrowing. To someone unaware of the life cycle it would appear as Water Plus Earth = Frogs.
And while a lot of stupid ideas are due to age, not all of them listed here are simply true.
Medical knowledge has become so easily obtained nowadays that it’s hard to imagine not knowing things like what the kidneys do or that penicillin kills bacteria. Heck, bacteria weren’t even known until comparatively recently. Before the 19th century, it was believed that contagious diseases spread through bad air or “seeds.” What we know today built upon discoveries of different cultures and scientists, over the growth of human civilization.
Yes. But that’s because to them it made sense. From what they knew, human faeces was unclean and caused disease. They assumed it was because of the smell.
Throughout most of history, vivisection of the human body for educational purposes was at least, frowned up and, at worst, a cardinal sin. So learning about the body was a slow process. But we did learn, so there is no excuse for anyone, least of all doctors, to be so archaic in their knowledge of the human female. As we will see, these beliefs are sometimes very ancient and so very, very wrong.
Not in every civilisation. In fact the problem was that we didn’t realise animals were so similar and so we could actually do more invasive experiments on animals.
And most doctors are not as archaic as one thinks.
Ignorance is bliss… for the Church: The ancient world was actually doing a pretty good job of discovering how our bodies work. Eastern doctors practiced Ayurveda, acupuncture and herbal medicine. Two Alexandrian surgeons, using criminals as subjects, did the first vivisections. But all of that knowledge vanished with the advent of organized Christianity, as the campaign of keeping knowledge from the people got into full swing. Keeping the masses ignorant was how the Church controlled them. One particular subject of attack were midwives: they were seen as a challenge to the authority of the Church (they were female and educated, you see) so, as much as possible, they were marginalized, even killed. With them went the only real knowledge of how women’s bodies worked. If this fear and loathing of powerful women sounds familiar, you’ve probably watched Fox News recently.
The earliest medicine would have been practiced by pre-historic man. We have specific evidence of trepanning being practiced and this is a surgical procedure indicating that at some point our neandrathal ancestors cut up humans to find out how they worked. Otherwise they wouldn’t know that being bashed in the head with a club can be treated with a hole in the head. They may not have had the best grasp of this but the grasp they had was solid enough.
Why on Earth would Ayurveda, Accupuncture and Herbal Medicine vanish due to the advent of western Christianity? As for midwifery being under attack under the guise of witch craft?
It’s actually a rather weird problem. You see, witches were not distinguished by gender. As many men were accused as women and ironically most were acquitted. Midwives of the period were NOT female and educated but just female. What they knew about delivery and what we know is frankly miles apart. And they were highly incorrect on a lot of things. A midwife of the time was just someone who helped deliver a child. They were not the specialised nurse midwives of today nor were they ever related to the Ob/Gyn. They were birth assistants.
We like to think that Medieval Europe was one big witch hunt but the reality was a lot more boring. Men and women were accused and usually found not guilty and everyone went home and said sorry. Very few were ever executed.
One reason conservative men are okay with rape: As far back as the second century it was believed that a woman’s “seed” was necessary for reproduction, and that if a woman did not achieve an orgasm during sexual intercourse, there could be no “seed” produced and, hence, no pregnancy. While this had some clear advantages for women, it is demonstrably untrue and it has left a lingering belief that pregnancy cannot result from rape. This idea was put forward most recently by Todd Akin. You knew it was backward, but probably not that it was that backward!
I do not think this is the case.
The problem is we have a group of individuals spreading lies about birth control and abortions. So it is easier to say “The Female Body Has an Anti-Rape Setting” than to accept that in these cases are suitable for abortion. It’s easier to flog this nonsense to kids who don’t know better and for whom this makes sense if you remember this goes hand in hand with “intelligent design” and a “kind god” who doesn’t stop rapes but who does stop the pregnancy…
From woman-centered to male-centered, just the way they like it: Most ancient societies were matrilineal, passing titles and properties down through the female line. Because the role of the male was not understood then, there was no other way to be certain of who you were related to save through one’s mother. In those days, women instigated relationships, married who they liked and divorced them at will. They decided when to have another child, holding it off by nursing one child for up to several years. Once men discovered that they had a hand (so to speak) in procreation, they began to flip how society worked. In patriarchal societies, women are treated as lesser beings, their female functions – what made them women – were demonized and vilified. Just ask Rush Limbaugh.
Only a handful of societies were matriarchal. The majority of major civilisations were male dominated and while different groups had varying levels of freedom of women, most had women as inferior to men.
Historical accuracy is important, simply portraying Christianity as the source of all evil doesn’t help fight the real problems we have now.
Men became more important to the fetus: Men, it was now taught, gave the child its soul with his seed. Women were nothing more than the fertile field in which he sowed it. To this end, women were considered the gatekeepers of “morality,” and it fell to them to keep suitors at bay. Rather than making men responsible for exercising self-control, women were expected to be modest and never lead a man on. That her very presence was considered to be a seduction was her problem. We see this attitude, still, in the rape-friendly atmosphere that is so prevalent in our country. Blame the victim is still, sadly, the default setting for most conservative men like Bill O’Reilly.
That’s more to do with Victorian Morals which considered men as wicked and sinful but women as pure and so they had to control the men’s base urges.
And remember. This is prior to the invention of microscopy and discovery of DNA so people just assumed sperm contained a tiny baby.
Women must feel an emotional connection to enjoy sex: There is a persistent myth that women – but not men – must be in an emotionally fulfilling relationship in order to enjoy sex. Even though this has been scientifically disproved with regularity, this idea that women and men are inherently different in regards to sex and love refuses to die. Part of this myth is that women are “naturally monogamous.” One has only to look back to those ancient societies to see that this is false. But conservative men want it to be true so they cling to and keep repeating the myth, maybe hoping that if they say it enough it will suddenly be true. The idea here, is to discourage women from enjoying casual sex while freeing men to stick it wherever they want, whenever they want.
Again. No. Most of the major civilisations had either monogamy or polygamy. Polyandry was a relative rarity. And again, ancient civilisations were pretty good but they were not as advanced as we seem to wish them to be.
Ignorance of the female body was the norm: Until the 18th century, the process of pregnancy, including conception and childbirth, was surrounded with some pretty stupid ideas when seen through today’s lens. First of all, women were seen as inferior: in every aspect, men were naturally better. Women were “cold” whereas men were “warm,” which was viewed as the better way to be. Women were considered to be so cold that they could not extrude a penis, which would instead inverse itself to become a vagina.
Yes but that still is the norm if you consider what the zenith of female knowledge is today. I am sure most women know less about their biology than many men who are Obs/Gyns. And this theory seems rather weird and unlikely to be true. Women have always been regarded as “warm, caring and nurturing”. Roles of “motherhood” rather than the cold indifference of masculinity.
And we men don’t extrude our penises… They don’t work that way….
Understanding of the uterus was next to nil: The uterus was believed to wander around the body, becoming quite vexed if it were not used for its proper purpose which was, of course, childbearing (but not sexual pleasure, NEVER that). It was even thought to have two (or more) chambers: cold ones where females gestated and warm ones where the males grew. Conception was known to arise from intercourse, but the mechanics of it were unknown for a relatively long time. The man’s seed, as previously mentioned, was what gave a child its soul. But it was on the woman to grow the child – if she miscarried or the child was stillborn, it was never even considered that the man might be to blame. As the Rh factor was unknown until the 20th century, there are hundreds of generations of women who were falsely blamed for these occurrences. In some circles, they still are. After all, a man that can’t conceive isn’t a “man” in our society. To be fair, this isn’t strictly a left/right problem but the right is more concerned with “manliness.”
On the contrary. Many people have cut open female cadavers even in early History to find out how they worked.
No one was going to Plato for Medical Advice and despite our assumptions about Medieval Medicine it was basically stuck in Galenic Rite and only really improved with the arrival of the works of Avicenna (Ibn-Sina) who spoke about medical experimentation. A lot of the problems of early medicine was the treatment of the old works as sacred in western Europe.
The Rh factor is hardly the man’s fault. I mean it’s just genetic incompatibility. It’s a dominant allele manifesting itself in a mother who carries antibodies against that specific phenotype. It’s bad luck and claiming men are to blame, we are making the same mistake. No one’s to blame with regards to this. It is just “bad luck”. You may as well look to assign blame for a Down’s Syndrome child or Cystic Fibrosis.
Do modern conservative men believe in magic?: As we learned earlier, it was believed that men gave the fetus its soul with his semen, which brings up an interesting theory about the conservative antipathy towards abortion. Ancient men thought that anything that had been a part of him could be used to practice dark magic against him. Hair, fingernails, spittle, urine and, yes, semen, were considered to have a psychic link to their owners. Sympathetic magic used these personal items to cause harm to the owner. The current underlying fear of abortion may very well be a vestige of this primitive belief. It also has thnoe delightful bonus feature of painting women as predatory, even on a subconscious level.
No… They believe in religion but not “this stuff”.
During the Dark Ages, and ever since then, women were considered property: They were defined by their relationships to men (flipping the ancient matrilineal code on its head). Their father, husband or even brother could make demands of her and she was bound to obey. Most marriages were arranged, even in the lower classes. A wife had no separate legal status apart from her being married to her husband. Women, with few exceptions, could not participate in public life, politics or the justice system (unless she was the accused). A woman was pretty much expected to stay at home, keep house and have kids. Especially the latter, as the interpretation of Genesis 3:16 (and other parts of that book) was that women were compelled to have as many children as they could, even at the cost of her or the children’s welfare. This is still the way some men feel.
Genesis pre-dates the Dark Ages.
And arranged marriages are not detrimental if society is geared towards it. If women and men look for arranged marriages then it is not a horrid thing. What’s bad is FORCED arranged marriages.
Again this is another point that exists because of the belief that women were once universally considered equal or were dominant which is rarely the case.
Misogyny was taught by the Church: The Church was, in fact, the source of most of the misogyny that went on until very recently – unless you’re a certain kind of conservative man, then it’s still going on. Priests told women that they should be under their husband’s foot, acquiescing to him in all matters. She could not initiate sex but she could never deny it to her husband. She could never accuse her husband of rape even if he used violence and forced her to have sex. It was believed that, because of the frequent physical abuse, a woman could never really love her husband. In a way, women were sex slaves, no matter who they were or their social status. Young, single girls and widows were the only women who were exempt from this subjugation. For most women, though, her body was not her own.
Which doesn’t explain the misogyny of other religious groups who had little to no contact with the Church.
And Misogyny existed, it was why it was codified into the Bible in the first place. Because people at the time didn’t think it was a bad thing.
Women’s children didn’t belong to them: They were even told that their children were God’s and not really hers. Is it any wonder, then, that unwanted babies were left by the thousands at Church-run hospitals and foundling homes? And what do you think they did with those babies? They killed them. The death rates at foundling homes were as high as 90%. But that was okay – as long as it was men who were making that decision. It is still this way with conservatives. They may not be doing the deed with their own hands, but they are certainly doing it with their policies.
Because at the time these were the few places that these children could be left because the Church ran them.
They didn’t “kill them”. They just had poor sanitation and no money to spend on these children with little to no reason to care for their welfare. The nuns and priests who may have joined may have been idealistic but charity work grinds you down you know. You stop caring after a while.
The thing is at the time mortality rates were really that high. Particularly in unwanted babies because the unwanted baby has to be weaned onto cow’s milk rather than breast milk and so loses the maternal protection.
Women should suffer: The Church also taught that women sinned more than men, so her suffering was deserved. She should be unhappy and bring forth children in pain. The latter was one reason Victorian and Edwardian doctors refused to give women ether or chloroform when they became available: God said that women should suffer, so no remedy for her pain was offered. Today’s conservative men heap humiliation on the pain, forcing women to have unnecessary procedures and treating them like children who must have their decisions made for them. That’s actually how women used to be classified for legal purposes: right there with minors and idiots. And that’s how certain men still see women.
The bloody Queen used Chloroform to deliver. As in Queen Victoria. The woman who gave the world “Victorian”.
Actually the main reason why doctors were loathe to give Chloroform was that it prolonged labour and increased both maternal and infant mortality. Morphine was especially bad for new born babies too. Now if a few quacks back then didn’t want to use the drug for religious reasons, that doesn’t mean doctors didn’t. It was widely used until they realised it wasn’t helping deliveries progress.
This notion is simply untrue. One of the first uses for Chloroform was for pain relief in child birth but it was abandoned due to a lack of control of toxicity and difficulty in delivery. An ether soaked rag is not a titred delivery system and many people died using it. Doctors were loathe to use such a system especially when the mother’s consciousness is needed for a per-vaginal delivery.
Instead it and Ether became the gold standard for emergency deliveries via C-Section and allowed surgeons to SAVE women’s lives during C-Sections. That’s right. C-Sections were once the ultimate sacrifice. A dying mother would undergo the procedure to save the infant. Now it turned out that doctors could deliver difficult babies via this safely thanks to the advent of real painkillers.
I am afraid this is just false.
Even today, we know that the usage of painkillers extends labour. Now this isn’t a problem in the era of ventous (suction) delivery and forceps but we also don’t give a general anaesthetic. The drug of choice for deliveries is a spinal anaesthetic which paralyses women from the waist down and is specifically given so that they can still bear down during contractions to aid delivery without the pain.
Like I said. The truth about the treatment of women historically is far worse than the lies we can make up or the urban legends.