FFS! What is this – 1832?

March 2009:

For sale: nagging wife, very high maintenance

A British man fed up with his wife’s complaints has advertised her for sale – and received a number of offers.  “Nagging Wife. No Tax, No MOT (ministry of transport test). Very high maintenance – some rust,” wrote Gary Bates, 38, in a small ad in British classifieds magazine Trade-It, more usually used to buy and sell cars or household goods.

Mr Bates, a self-employed builder from Gloucestershire, south-west England, snapped after his wife Donna got on his nerves while she was watching television and decided to place the ad as a joke.  “She was nagging me for doing something small, while she was watching some rubbish on TV,” he said.  “So I just thought I’d put an ad in to get rid of her. I didn’t think anyone would ring up, but I’ve had at least nine or 10 people calling about her. It’s gone mad.  “There was no-one I knew – just people asking, ‘Is she still available?'”  The couple only married last year, and Mr Bates said his 40-year-old wife – whom he advertised in the magazine’s Free to Collect section, along with some of his fishing tackle – initially gave him “a bit of an ear-bashing”.  But he said: “She’s seen the funny side of it now though.

So hilarious, much fun was had by all.   (Update: Ohh even funnier!  He’s not the only one to pull this stunt!) We are after all mocking a not too distant historical reality.  Women were property at the disposal of men, their lives literally dependent upon the kindness of the males around them.  From nineteenth century England there is over 200 recorded instances of men putting women in bridles and taking them down to the local market place and selling them, in scenes that would not have been so different to the opening of Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge.  And this happened in Australia too.

Australia 1832:

WIFE FOR SALE

Gentlemen, I have to offer to your notice my wife, Mary Anne Thompson otherwise Williams, whom I mean to sell to the highest and fairest bidder. Gentlemen, it is her wish as well as mine to part forever. She has been to me only a born serpent. I therefore offer her with all perfections and imperfections, for the sum of fifty shillings.


After waiting about an hour, Thompson knocked down the lot to one Henry Mears, for twenty shillings and a Newfoundland dog; they then parted in perfectly good temper – Mears and the woman going one way, Thompson and the dog the other.


Quoted from THE ANNUAL REGISTER for 1832.

And don’t even get me started on the very real problem of the global trafficking of women and children.  But by all means put your wife up for sale on ebay, and let’s all have a giggle ‘cos we’re so enlightened and it’s ohh so funny threatening to sell nagging, high maintainence spouses who don’t know the proper wifely attitude, oh and while we’re at it why don’t we send the little wife to see Bettina Arndt for some advice on how to save the ailing marriage.

Thats me in the corner losing my religion

So as I said in my last post in relation to this story, ‘there goes the last lingering threats of my Catholicism’.  Of course the Catholic Church has a history of being criticised by feminists, but before writing the whole institution off as completely worthless, I should make it plain that it was through the Church that I came to my feminism.  I think that I mentioned elsewhere that I had a happy childhood, and my education in the local catholic schools was a big part of that, as was Sunday school and church.  Church lent a happy rhythm to the week, and I loved the ritual of the Catholic service.  I remember singing hymns loudly and proudly and when I made my first communion I was one of four students chosen to stand with the Priest explaining to the congregation why the service was like the Last Supper.  I enjoyed my faith, it was a source of comfort to have a belief in a God of love, to have a friend in Jesus.  I remember praying fervently as child during times of distress and when I was quite small I even toyed with the idea of becoming a nun (until a friend of mine laughed, but she would laugh –  she was the daughter of a Presbyterian Minister and they don’t believe in nuns).  I was such a devout little girl.  So what happened?  When did I start ‘losing my religion?’

During my teens I started to realise that life wasn’t as black and white as I had thought.  I was involved for a number of years with a youth group which gave me very clear insights into the human element of religion.  The power plays, the jockeying for leadership, the righteous judging of who was committed enough, I began to see that shared faith or a common belief isn’t enough to unite a disparate group.  Some of the group were committed young Catholics and were trying to help other teens with their faiths, others were committed young adults trying to meet other teens, most of us I suspect were both.  In that time I experienced deep spiritual moments and deep human hurts.  It was in this that I got a sense of how deeply humans can scar one another without even meaning to.  But that’s not why I lost my faith.

I’ve always felt that there is something deeply wrong with society’s treatment of women and there has long been a burning sense of justice in my heart.  Gender Studies at uni gave some formal understanding of the system of the patriarchy that we are swimming in, but I was still attracted to the Church, even though it was becoming increasingly clear that the Church was thoroughly patriarchal and not going to change anytime soon.  Women weren’t going to be ordained so why stay in a church that limited women’s expressions of faith in a way that it did not limit men’s?  I thought for a time that it would be ‘easier to burn the castle down from within’.  So I stayed in the Church, and got married in the Church.  The Catholic Church, to my mind, has a strong sense of social justice and this aspect of the Church is something I’ve always loved and has in part shaped me.

It was history, finally that caused me to walk away.  Through my studies I have learned that the Bible is not the cut and dried document that I had believed it to be.  Different threads of interpretation run through the Bible, and it is a compilation of many authors and editors and translators and long forgotten oral traditions. There an environmental ethic in there, if you look past the ‘new heaven and new earth’ of Revelation (if there’s going to be a new earth than it doesn’t matter what we do to this one).  There’s a feminist message (Jesus praised Mary over her sister Martha for scriptural learning, befriended a Samaritan woman, saved an adulterous women, etc) too if you overlook Paul’s letters.  Just as the Bible is far from being a homogeneous document so the Church is not homogeneous.   I realised that  major theological decisions were made by a bunch of men coming together and arbitrarily deciding ‘stuff’ and making it ecclesiastical law.  Thousands of people have died because of differing interpretations of pure conjecture.  Books and people put to the flame for heterodoxy.  So when it finally occurred to me that my childhood beliefs were the result of closed doors power plays by political bishops of ages long gone, well these things stopped making sense to me.  The trinity, transubstantiation, the unbroken status of Mary’s hymen, tricky answers to questions that should not have been asked.

I learnt about the architects of the Church, the Early Church Fathers, men like, Augustine (pictured), Jerome, Philo, Tertullian and Thomas Aquinas who each had their own twisted version of Aristotelian logic that they brought to the Church.  These men shaped the Catholic Church and imprinted their misogynistic mindset upon the developing theology.  Understanding the humanity of those that shaped the Church is what has compelled me to walk away.  When people take seriously the notion that women are ‘the devil’s gateway’ (Tertullian) and use that understanding as the basis for a theological stance how can that institution ever be reformed – with the founding epistemology so deeply ingrained with dualistic and misogynist beliefs about the world.

Not sure what I believe anymore, but I do know this, as I work it out I won’t be trying to foist it on anyone else.  Maybe reading about other ways to be Catholic has made me pause to think about my relationship to the Church, or maybe I’m just fed up with the tragic injustice of it, but I’m going to come back to the topic and post about the Church’s teaching on sexuality shortly.

Happy International Women’s Day

It would be a happy day indeed if we no longer needed an International Women’s Day, but alas, much misogyny/violence/discrimination abounds.   This year the theme of IWD is Women and men united to end violence against women and girls.  Here’s some tip of the iceberg stuff topical for IWD, I’ll start locally and go international.

From the ABC:

Unions are highlighting pay differences between the sexes ahead of International Women’s Day.  The ACTU says Australian women on average earn 16 per cent less than men, but that it varies between states.  ACTU president Sharon Burrow says Victorian women earn 14 per cent less than men, while in Western Australia women earn 28 per cent less because of the mining boom.  Ms Burrow says the gap will widen as the economic slowdown continues.  “We’re seeing women, young people simply being told their hours are being cut or in fact they’re not required anymore,” she said.  “That will simply add to the income disparity for women – we’re very concerned that the pay gap will simply widen as a result of the global financial crisis.”

The Catholic Church continues a grand tradition of misogynistic legality.

Brazil’s influential Catholic Church raged against an abortion carried out on a nine-year-old girl who had been pregnant with twins after allegedly being raped by her stepfather.  An archbishop for the northern region where the termination was conducted, Father Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, said the church was excommunicating all those responsible for the abortion: the medical team and the girl’s mother.  The operation – carried out because of doctors’ fears the slender girl might die if she carried the foetuses to term – was a crime in the eyes of the church, he said.  “God’s law is above any human law. So when a human law… is contrary to God’s law, this human law has no value,” [said] archbishop Cardoso.  “The adults who approved, who carried out this abortion, will be excommunicated,” said the archbishop for the Recife region.

And, of course, the Vatican backs the Bishop.  Now might be the time to announce that there goes the lasting lingering threat of my Catholicism.  Where is the compassion for the poor girl who could have died if she carried the twins to term?  Where is the excommunication/denunciation of the creep who raped and abused her?  God didn’t cause this pregnancy her stepfather did and the pontificating judgment should be directed at him and not at those trying to save the girl’s life.

Iraqi women lack basic services and widows, in particular, have no support

In Indian women are campaigning against the violence and patriarchal control aimed at them.

Poster from Pink Chaddis campaign seeking to end mob violence against women

Poster from 'Pink Chaddis' campaign seeking to end mob violence against women

From the horrific to the ridiculous –  from here, I discover that there is a 75 000 strong petition on facebook to get pole dancing included as an Olympic sport for the 2012 games.  FFS.

In other news, and this is trivial in comparison to what the women in countries such as Indian and Iraq are facing, but Barbie turns fifty tomorrow, and still looks as young and perky as ever.  Thus we see (and remember we are barely scratching the surface here) a continuum of issues faced by women, running the gamut from economic disadvantage, to intense struggle for survival and to live unmolested, right through to ideological struggles against a culture that emphasises women’s passive and ornamental sexuality at the expense of all else.  *sigh*

Note to Bettina Arndt

But built into that was also this assumption that you had to have desire in order to feel aroused, and therefore if you don’t have desire, you can’t proceed. And I’m arguing if the put the canoe in the water and start paddling, everything will be alright, provided the woman is receptive to that, provided the woman can get her head into the right place and be willing to put the canoe in the water.

Stop recycling your crap advice.  No really.  Just stop.  After reading your article in the SMH I was all set to write a long critique of your distorted views about marital relationships, but I found I didn’t have to.  It turns out that you have been peddling this particular piece for nearly two years.  Bluemilk’s already picked it apart with a heartful critique of your twisted logic.

You started the ball rolling in July 28 2007, when you were seeking participants in your ‘research’.  I don’t know that I can call what you’ve produced research, as you knew what you wanted to see before you even read the diaries entries which purportedly showed you the current bedroom crisis.  But it didn’t really did it?  Your mind was already made up with your sample size of one, and the things you said in 2007 and the example you used were exactly the same as your recent post-research sound bites.

2007:

Even on days he didn’t approach her, Amy says she was nervous. “He’d be snoring loudly and I’d still lie there worrying that the hand was going to come creeping over.”It’s now almost 30 years since Amy lay rigid in bed, dreading the creeping hand.

She’d got it all wrong, Amy now realises. As we all have had it wrong. The assumption that women need to want sex to enjoy it has been a really damaging idea that has wreaked havoc in relationships for the past 40 years.

2009:

A woman, 54, from Hobart spent the first 10 years of her marriage fighting about sex, always nervous about an unwanted advance. “He’d be snoring loudly and I’d still lie there worrying that the hand was going to come creeping over.”

“The notion that women have to want sex to enjoy it has been a really misguided idea that has caused havoc in relationships over the last 40 years.”

With the right approach from a loving partner, if women were willing to be receptive “and allow themselves to relax … they would enjoy it”, she said.

Anyway read Bluemilk’s critique and also read Helen’s Pringle’s take in Newmatilda.

Pringle calls Arndt out on some of the ridiculous comments she made on Lateline on Monday night.  (Arndt had been endorsing Jugde Bonner’s 1993 comments about ‘rougher than usual handling’ in regards to a martial rape and assault case).

For the rightly-criticised Justice Bollen in 1993, it was legitimate for a man to press his “needs” aggressively against a woman who says no. Bettina Arndt in 2009 actually goes further. For Arndt, it is a “wifely duty” for a woman to yield to her husband’s “needs”.

Also (besides the whole ‘yield to your man’ philosophy based on really dodgy research) I hate it when people seize on a legitmate human relationship problem, in this case mismatched libidos, and turn it into a battle of the genders.  Not everything in this world is men versus women, and stop blaming the big bad bogey that is feminism for every marital problem in the western world.

Update (March 7th 2009): fuckpoliteness has put together a page where you can find links to several excellent take downs of Arndt’s drivel.  These critiques are great and restored my faith in humanity after Arndt dinted it so.