Why Some Men Want to Control Women’s
With over seven
billion people on the planet, why should a small group of conservative men
worry so much and spend so much money to influence people and to change state
laws in order to control whether women can decide to be pregnant or not?
I have a strong
feeling that the women who support limiting women’s access to medical abortions
have no idea about their gender’s history or why our culture still projects a
bias in favor of all things masculine, and still views women as less valuable, so needing to be controlled,
humans had no real understanding that sexual intercourse created pregnancy.[i]
Ample evidence, such as the fact that there are more female figurines from
pre-history that exhibit amplified sexual parts than there are male ones,
suggests that early humans found child birth magical, so that they probably
believed women were also magical, or at least more highly spiritually connected
to Mother Earth (who also regularly gave birth). Great arguments have been made
that the first divine “creator” believed in by humanity had direct ties to this
magical quality of giving birth—of creating life out of seemingly nothingness.
Human beings understood the importance of the mother, extending that role to
their divinities in various forms of Mother Goddesses. We still reference Mother Earth or Mother Nature, which also reflects our ancestral religious beliefs.
suppressed or outright denied, ample anthropological and archeological evidence
supports the fact that most early clans were matriarchal. Even at the time
period often called “contact,” the Iroquois Confederacy was run by the clan
mothers, who selected the men who traveled to the confederacy council meetings
to protect each clan’s interests in the overall confederacy. Women owned the
land, and lived communally in long houses, which daughters inherited to pass on
to their own children. The only thing men owned were their weapons and their
clothes. The Cherokee, who had female sachem or chiefs long before Wilma
Mankiller took on that role, report that their ancestors laughed when some of
the first Europeans asked to meet with their leader because, when the Europeans
were taken to their leader—a woman—they refused to meet with her, insisting on
meeting with the “head man.” The Cherokee laughed because the Europeans were
too daft to recognize a leader when they saw one.
Many scholars argue
for the existence of a Mother Goddess and the supposed divinity of women by
analyzing myths from various cultures. Donna Rosenberg, in her World Mythology
points out that, in the myth of the Enuma Elish[ii]
the god Marduk’s victory over his mother, Tiamat, “represents that of a new
male-dominated patriarchal religion over a female-dominated matriarchal religion
in which Tiamat was the Great Goddess or Mother Goddess” (4). In order to
justify this matricide, the creators of this new masculine-oriented myth had to
make Tiamat seem evil. Like Shiva, the Hindu god of creation, Tiamat’s ability
to destroy that which she had made was inflated in the new patriarchal views,
to justify the supreme male god’s dominance. Readers should note, however, that
Tiamat’s original role as “the deep”[iii]
salt waters had enabled her to work with her husband, Apsu, who personified the
sweet (fresh) waters to create the heavens and the earth. In Marduk’s
mythologer’s revision, however, Marduk splits his mother in half, using half of
her body to create the stars, and turning “the other half…into the earth” (Rosenberg
Sarah B. Pomeroy examines similar “divine evolution,” as Hesiod apparently
thought of it, although probably not in those terms, (2) in Goddesses,
Whores, Wives, and Slaves. For Hesiod, who was already living in a patriarchally
dominated culture, “the divine progression from female-dominated generations,
characterized by natural, earthy emotional qualities, to the superior and
rational monarchy of Olympian Zeus” was a natural course of events (Pomeroy 2).
As Pomeroy notes, Zeus is the Greek god who “denies power to females, even
taking away their sole claim to consideration as bearers of children when he
gives birth to Athena through his head and to Dionysus from his thigh” (2). In
fact, Greek goddesses were various levels of incompletely realized women, in
order to make them less dominant than the male gods, who are allowed every
freedom possible, especially sexually. All we have to do is note the number of
goddesses on Olympus who remain “virgins”:
Three of the five
Olympian goddesses are virgins. Athena is warrior, judge, and giver of wisdom,
but she is masculinized and denied sexual activity and motherhood. Artemis is
huntress and warrior, but also a virgin. Hestia is respected as an old maid.
The two nonvirginal goddesses come off no better: Aphrodite is pure sexual
love, exercised with a pronounced irresponsibility. Hera is wife, mother, and
powerful queen, but she must remain faithful and suffer the promiscuity of her
husband. (Pomeroy 8)
Pomeroy points out that these idealized goddesses were a way for Greek
men to control real women’s behavior[iv]
because “a fully realized female tends to engender anxiety in the insecure male”
(8). Can you imagine a woman who is a warrior, judge, huntress, mother, wife,
midwife, sex kitten? Sounds exciting, doesn’t she? Every woman on the planet has the
ability to be all those things, if she wants to.
So why do some people want to limit women’s
rights? Why are they afraid of recognizing that we are equal to men?
According to Evelyn
Reed in Woman’s Evolution
, the Romans followed the Greeks in their
misogyny, but pushed the practice even further by deciding that women did not
have a role in the creation of children at all. Just as Zeus took over the power
of procreation, the men of Rome believed they were inserting homunculi—miniature
adults who just had to grow--into their sex partners (Reed 430). Reed very
carefully documents the changes in our understanding of family units from the
earliest matriarchal clans, where children and property both descended through
the mother’s line[v]
through changes in perception so that gifts to a woman’s family prior to marriage
shifted from being seen as outright “gifts” to being perceived as a “bride
price,” with which a man paid a woman to bear his children. Whereas originally
men were only on the periphery of the family unit, seen as a visitor, but not as
a blood relative of the children, after human beings learned that men, too,
participated in begetting children, men sought to “own” those children and the
woman or women producing them, so women were forcefully transformed over the millennia from being the
heads of households and whole clans to being chattel and mere vessels for men’s
progeny (Reed 430-432).
Do American men
still see children as their property? Do Americans view women as less than equal to men in order to justify controlling women's bodies?
When it has been
convenient for the men, such as during slavery when they did not want the
children they fathered on their slaves to compete with their “legitimate”
children for inheritance, men have seen children as belonging solely to their
mothers. From the Roman era to the Victorian era, however, if a woman wanted a divorce, the husband
automatically obtained the right to keep the children.
Slowly over the
last century, more women have won the right to keep their children in divorce
courts, so much so that many men complain that divorce laws are now skewed in
favor of the mothers.
Could it be that these
same men want to force the women they impregnate to bear their offspring,
whether the woman is ready, willing, or able to do so, so that they push for
anti-abortion laws so vehemently?
If that is the
case, some will argue, then why are there so many “deadbeat” dads who refuse to
pony up the money necessary to ensure their children are healthy, well-fed, and
Perhaps there is a
larger social agenda that we cannot quite make out yet pushing the conservative
males (and females who support them) to funnel so much time, energy, and money
into opposing a woman’s right to choose whether or not to be pregnant.
But we still have to ask why so many religious conservatives dare to use their religious views to dictate to the rest of us how to live? We live in a democracy--at least that's what we tell the rest of the world--but how can that be when so many seek so stridently to control women's rights?
Could it be that
these ultra conservative men and women, like ancient Greek men, still fear fully realized women who are
capable of making their own decisions and of living life the way they choose?
Sarah B. Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity.
New York: Schocken Books, 1975. Print.
Evelyn. Woman’s Evolution: from Matriarchal Clan to Patriarchal Family. New
York: Pathfinder Press, 1975. Print.
Donna. World Mythology, 3rd ed. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Publishing
Group. 1999. Print
Think about it. Would you know sex caused pregnancy, if someone had not told
The Enuma Elish
is one of the earliest known written myths about creation, and
probably dates back to at least 1900 BCE (Rosenberg 3).
Tiamat was originally the goddess of the deep salt waters, but later is
envisioned as a terrifying dragon or serpent. Both of her images appear in
the Christian Bible in the book of Genesis: the Judeo-Christian god “moves across the face of the deep,” which
exists before he becomes conscious, and it is a serpent, long associated with
women because of the fact that when they shed their skins they appear to give
birth to themselves, who convinces Eve to take from and eat of the forbidden
fruit. Tiamat, it would seem, symbolized both the mysteries
of creation and of the evils of temptation, but we should note the clearly sexual act alluded to in the first reference which enables the Christian god to create the earth, and the fear of sex (snakes are also phallic symbols) initiated by women in the latter reference.
Such stereotypical behavior surely engendered what is now considered the “Madonna/Whore”
syndrome—where people view women as either mothers, prostitutes, or naïve virgins.
Even ancient Egyptians still followed this matriarchal practice. In the First
Egyptian Dynasty, approximately 3150 BCE to 2900 BCE, two of the pharaohs were
clearly women, Djer/Djet and Merneith. Most people abuse the term "pharoah," implying it means "king," but like many American Indian terms for "chief," no gender is implied. The tradition of only allowing pharaohs to
rule who were related to or were royal females lasted for several dynasties,
and all pharaohs claimed to be blessed by or a beloved of Ma’at, the original Mother
Goddess for the Egyptians.
Labels: ancient Greece, Aphrodite, Artemis, Athena, chattel, children, conservatives, Dionysus, divorce, Enuma Elish, Hera, homunculus, Marduk, ownership, Pomeroy, Reed, Rosenberg, Tiamat, Zeus