What Happens When “A Woman’s Place is in the Home”?

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.

Georgia Platts

March is Women’s History Month

A version of this article was originally posted on the Ms. Magazine Blog on March 4, 2011

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About BroadBlogs

I 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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Jennifer Barry

    I think most women would agree that we need to continue forward with seeking positions of authority, higher education jobs, and demanding equality in healthcare, etc. What I don’t always see amongst us women, is the actual support in achieving these things. It is easy to stand back and watch others make waves, protest, demand, and even be publicly ridiculed for daring to take or seek a previously male dominated position, whether it be in our own work place, religious institution, or in the media. But it’s even harder to be that person who takes the risk in doing it. I’m not saying every single woman has to get out there and compete for the highest paying careers, positions, etc., but it sure would be nice if every single woman encouraged, supported, and accepted those who do.

  2. Darlene Pizzitlolo student

    I think a few men in our government are ploting to get women out of the work place and get them out of government then they can take women back to the 1950s where women have no crited or right, I believe that republican men are on the march to do away with all programs for women in the disguise of budget cuts, watch see.

  3. Darlene Pizzitolo student

    If women stay at home men will take total control of the work place and they will take control of the government. Then men will change laws to punish women and make new laws to punish women, I believe men want women to stay out of high government positions, so women need to go for high government position to stop them .

  4. Vita Castañeda-Morgan

    I absolutely agree! Women need to be in places of power, because they are most likely to make things better for women everywhere. I would try to make this argument for men, but as we have seen throughout history men tend to watch out for themselves and let women suffer the consequences. All the examples that you have posted support the fact that women need to be in charge for women to get ahead.

  5. Emma Betancourt

    Yes! We do need MORE women higher up in power! It is so sad what women go through. I mean there is a lot of pressure for men, but women! It’s beyond ridiculous! Everything is so man-viewed, even now. We have come so far but have to go even further if we truly want to be equal. I mean, I guess we are all equal.. but maybe SOME are more equal then others!

    • True, even today women have to fight for their rights and to be treated equal to men. If the woman’s place is in the Home to raise her children and build a home; then the man’s place is to ensure his family is financialy secure, protected, and is able to provide FOR his family without having issues. Women are more capable to balance work, family, and everyday tasks then men and thus should not be downgraded. Women along side men work and manage in addition to managing their children and dealing with all other areas of their life. So, no, the womens place is NOT at home unless she wants to be only a homemaker.

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