What Happens When “A Woman’s Place is in the Home”?
Posted by BroadBlogs
See anything odd in this argument about why rape should be illegal?
“Women’s power to withhold or grant sexual access is an important bargaining weapon… it fosters, and is in turn bolstered by, a masculine pride in the exclusive possession of the sexual object… whose value is enhanced by sole ownership.”
How about the lack of concern about women’s suffering from violence and violation? Nope; women are instead straightforwardly called sex objects that are owned by men.
Understanding the roots of this strange view brings me to a project sponsored by CARE, a poverty-fighting group who are discrediting “The Top 10 Myths about Women” for the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. To understand what went wrong with the above explanation on rape, it helps to consider this myth: A woman’s place is in the home.
What would happen if that wish actually came true?
If women are home, they’re missing elsewhere–among professors, researchers, law schools, courts, Congresses, media, business managers and religious hierarchies. And what happens when women are largely absent in the halls of power? Consider a few scattered examples:
* Turning first to the strange thesis on rape’s illegality, consider that the article was published in the 1952-53 Yale Law Journal, when the editorial board was 95 percent men, and lacking much female perspective. And, in the 1950s women’s psychology was not studied much because male researchers focused mostly on men.
* In the Old Testament (Judges 19:22-29) depraved men pound at a door, demanding a male guest be turned out to be raped. A concubine is sent out instead, to “use and do whatever you wish.” The woman is raped and abused throughout the night. At daybreak she staggers home, falls down and dies. No one seems too upset at her suffering. The concern back then was over defiled property (the concubine). Whether you take this story as historical fact, or simply as evidence of the writer’s bias, a male-dominant power structure is in play.
* In 2009 Arizona Senator John Kyle declared to an 83% male Senate that maternity leave needn’t be mandated since “I don’t need maternity care.” Well, if a man doesn’t need it, clearly it’s not important. You have to wonder if he’d be so brazen in a Congress that was half women.
* More recently, in the current 83.6% male House of Representatives, Rep. Bobby Franklin of Georgia introduced a bill to criminalize some miscarriages. Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Pitts feels hospitals should be able to refuse to terminate pregnancies even to save a mother’s life. Others want to slash support for international family planning and reproductive health care. Or as the New York Times summed it, a war on women is being waged.
* Soon after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor exited the Supreme Court, leaving an eight men and one woman jury, the ban on “partial birth” abortion was upheld. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the sole remaining woman, noted, the ban saves no lives, but makes the procedure more dangerous for women.
We need women out in the world in places of power. Not surprisingly, women med students are pushing for abortion training at Bay Area universities (most prominently UC San Francisco and Stanford) so that women’s lives can be saved.
When women’s place is in the home, women are at the mercy of the patriarchy’s ways of seeing. And that is more than a little scary.
March is Women’s History Month
A version of this article was originally posted on the Ms. Magazine Blog on March 4, 2011
About BroadBlogsI have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.
Posted on March 6, 2011, in feminism, gender, psychology, rape and sexual assault, reproductive rights, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged a woman's place is in the home, abortion, CARE, culture, feminism, gender, psychology, rape and sexual assault, reproductive rights, sexism, sexual assault, social psychology, Top 10 Myths about Women, violence against women, women. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.