Monthly Archives: June 2012

Medieval Women Took Part In And Led Violent Protests (and were treated more leniently when caught)

From the BBC :

Until now the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 is largely believed to have been led by a mob of rebel men, but new research shows women played an important role in orchestrating violence against the government.

Today people are used to the idea of women being in the military. Some are already pressing for the right to fight on the front line.

And women fighting as insurgents has been a fact of conflicts from Vietnam to Sri Lanka.

But there’s a growing feeling historians have overlooked their role in medieval rebellions like 1381’s Peasants Revolt.

On 14 June 1381, rebels dragged Lord Chancellor Simon of Sudbury from the Tower of London and brutally beheaded him. Outraged by his hated poll tax, the insurgents had stormed into London looking for him, plundering and burning buildings as they went.

It was the leader of the group who arrested Sudbury and dragged him to the chopping block, ordering that he be beheaded.

Her name was Johanna Ferrour.

So why have such violent women been apparently airbrushed from history?

So why are women like Ferrour largely hidden from popular history, yet charismatic rebel leaders such as the “mad priest” John Ball and Wat Tyler dominate in the history books?

Some historians now suggest that sexist attitudes permeated medieval history. By translating Latin court records, Sylvia Federico, Associate Professor of English at Bates College, was able to establish that women were often at the heart of the revolt.

From records held at the National Archives in Kew she discovered they did “almost everything” that men did – they incited crowds, chased their enemies and marched into London alongside the men.

“They were not shy to pick up staffs, sticks, and staves and wield them against perceived oppressors,” says Federico.

Although  the BBC article seems at pains to stress the ‘sexism’ that has led to female participation in mob violence being ignored, it only briefly mentions another type of familiar sexism :

But although women were at the heart of the violence and charged with many of the same crimes as men, Ridgard has found no records of women being executed, or punished as harshly.

A History of Feminism

Gerome pygmalion and GalateaFeminism exists as a defender of the selfish sexual and reproductive interests of aging and/or unattractive women. This is its entire raison d’etre, the reason it first came into existence with the social purity movement reformers of the 19th century, led by their harridan battle cry – ‘armed with the ballot the mothers of America will legislate morality’.

And legislate morality these pioneering feminists quickly did, even before they had won the vote. That is, they successfully lobbied for restrictions on prostitution, a rise in the age of consent from 12 to 16, or even 18, and the closing down of saloons where their husbands might mix freely with unattached young women.

To feminists, and indeed, to the vast majority of the female sex who give feminists the power to speak on their behalf, morality is little more than ensuring the reproductive and sexual interests of a post-peak fertility female who relies on heavy parental investment from a committed male partner. The extent of female desire for involvement in the political process is directly proportionate to the threat that women feel in a free sexual market.

And as that threat grows, so the ostensible power of feminism grows.

The history of feminism is the history of a female sexual trade union, growing in political power in exact correspondence with the steady loss of female sexual power caused by the continual widening of the sexual market. The opening up of the sex market, the ever increasing opportunities for men to gain access to cheap and anonymous sex, is the result of constantly emerging new technology, and itself completely out of the hands of feminists, or anybody else, to control or put a stop to.

Recently, W.F.Price at the Spearhead revealed that proto-feminists were lobbying the British government as far back as the 17th century when their sexual interests were seen as threatened by the emergence of male frequented coffee houses. This was a prelude to the social purity movements of the 19th century, described above, which feminist academics have always acknowledged as the birth pangs of the campaign for the vote.

But the vote was always seen as a means to the end of controlling male sexuality. Industrialisation had brought men out of the countryside and into the cities, working in close contact with women and girls in the new factories – girls who were no longer married off as soon as they reached puberty. Those same factories mass produced cheap condoms (bitterly opposed by feminists at the time), and men no longer had to fear syphilis – and could now enjoy the hundreds of thousands of prostitutes who flocked to the new cities to take their share of the working man’s growing income.

The suffragettes achieved the vote as a result of violence and of male Enlightenment thinking which saw women’s enfranchisement as a natural progression of other civil rights movements.

But in fact, women did not exercise their newly won franchise very differently then their husbands, and when they did vote differently, it was to vote in fascist dictatorships throughout Europe. It was not until the 1960′s, and the second wave of feminism, that women began voting significantly differently from men…

The 1960′s saw the beginning of possibly the most remarkable event in human history – the end of ‘patriarchy.’ Within the space of a generation, a social system that had endured in every corner of the globe throughout recorded history had more or less crumbled.

In every corner of the globe…except the Islamic world.

In his book The Decline of the Male, anthropologist Lionel Tiger identifies the introduction of the contraceptive pill as the trigger for this unparalleled social revolution, the ‘second wave of feminism.’ For Lionel Tiger, the pill shifted reproductive power from men to women, for men could no longer be sure as to the paternity of their offspring.

I don’t accept all of the details of Tiger’s thesis, but I agree wholeheartedly that the pill was a catalyst for the second wave of feminism

An unforeseen technological innovation had revolutionised sexual relations and, in a blind and uncontrollable way, had transformed society almost overnight.

According to most feminist thinkers (and many MRAs), the pill gave women power over men. I disagree. In fact, it was male sexuality that was liberated by the pill, and women – or at least older/unattractive women – were left dangerously exposed in the free sexual market that had suddenly been created.

Suddenly, women became active in politics. Suddenly, women demanded (and won) the right to university education, to a career, to easy divorce, to an abortion. Suddenly male politicians had to legislate according to the female vote.

The pill did not give women power over men.

The pill forced women to take power from men.

But, of course, this did not happen in the majority of Muslim societies. Under Islam, there is still no free sexual market, and thus unattractive Muslim women have no need for feminism.

The astonishing and sudden representation of women at all levels of government over the last decade may fairly be described as the Third Wave of Feminism. In just one or two decades, from having virtually zero representation in high government, the female sex has come to near dominate many of the leading democracies of the West, even in South America.

Alongside formal governmental representation, largely female dominated non-governmental pressure groups have suddenly come to hold massive sway over an increasingly powerful United Nations, as well as other international bodies such as the European Union.

Why has this astonishing Third Wave, no less extraordinary than the Second, suddenly come about? That this is the first generation of women raised as feminists no doubt has played a part but it cannot alone explain the sheer rapidity of change. Like the first and second waves of feminism, the third has been propelled by technological progress threatening the sexual interests of ordinary women.

The globalisation of society and of communications has threatened to further open up the free sexual market to an extent as great as the pill itself did.

Suddenly men had before them a whole new array of alternatives to a ‘real’ sexual relationship, from the cheap Polish hooker at the street corner, to the nubile young slut showing herself on cam from her bedroom half way across the world.

This was a brave new sexual world that an already politicised generation of middle-aged women could not tolerate for long…and certainly not entrust to men to control or put an end to.

The Future of Feminism

The future of feminism will be dictated by the same forces that have shaped its history – blind and largely uncontrollable economic and technological changes continuing to widen the free sexual market.

The further increase in mass global communications, advances in robotics, 3D and holographic porn, virtual sex, and the growing realism and popularity of male sex toys, are all rapidly coalescing into a perfect storm that will either achieve sexual and emotional independence for men…or a fourth wave of feminism even more terrible and damaging than the rest.

British Feminists Role in the Reform of Age of Consent Laws in Colonial India

From : The Legacy of Colonialism: Law and
Women’s Rights in India (Varsha Chitnis and Danaya Wright)

IV. Reforms in Age of Consent Law

One of the legal reforms in India that most clearly followed upon the efforts of British reformers was “age of consent” law—law governing the age at which adolescents can legally consent to sexual intercourse.  Nineteenth century age of consent laws in England and India arose in the context of prostitution and child marriage, respectively, which were social issues directly linked to Victorian notions of domesticity and sexual restraint. The different cultural contexts, however, show how a concept as simple as age of consent takes on multiple meanings when different groups are vying for control over sexuality and for the power to define the appropriate contours of the family.
In England, prostitution threatened the sanctity of the middle-class home and the Victorian wife’s hold on reproduction. In India, the child-bride, an upper-caste
phenomenon, brought colonial norms of sexual restraint and family structure into conflict with native claims over the right to define the private realm of the
family. In the end, however, British women cared most about age of consent, because both prostitution and the child-bride threatened their power to define
the parameters of sexual access.
In the summer of 1885, William T. Stead of the Pall Mall Gazette published an exposé on the foreign trafficking of women and the entrapment of children into prostitution—one of the most successful pieces of scandal
journalism published in nineteenth century Britain.  In The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon, Snead recounted the purchase, for five pounds, of young rural virgins for sale to satisfy the lusts of the decadent aristocratic class.
Judith Walkowitz explains: The series had an electrifying effect on public opinion: []By the third
installment mobs were rioting at the Pall Mall Gazette offices . . . . An enormous public demonstration was held in Hyde Park (estimated at 250,000) to demand the passage of legislation raising the age of consent for girls from thirteen to sixteen. Reformers of all shades were represented on
the dozen or so demonstration platforms. For one brief moment, feminists and personal-rights advocates joined with Anglican bishops and socialists to protest the aristocratic corruption of young innocents.
The Maiden Tribute was inspired by Josephine Butler, who had been fighting the Contagious Diseases Acts, and Catherine Booth of the Salvation Army. Together they had been unsuccessful in getting Parliament to deal
constructively with prostitution.  In their reform pamphlets and rhetoric, they focused heavily on the sexual victimization of women, and they were uncomfortable with assertions of female sexual agency.  As Walkowitz
explains, “[s]hifting the cultural image of the prostitute to the innocent child victim encouraged new, more repressive, political initiatives over sex.”
Victorian reformers were consistently conflicted in their attitudes toward female sexuality, and The Maiden Tribute provided a broad cultural discourse in which to critique male sexual license, upper class privileges, and the failings
of an unresponsive Parliament without really addressing women’s sexual agency. The exposé mobilized the population behind the issues of “white
slavery” and aristocratic license in a way that reformers, lawmakers, and journalists could not have imagined before that summer.

Notably, the core of their concern was the male predator, generally the aristocratic male, whose
open access to working-class girls was a time-honored prerogative.  For many, prostitution was seen as a social disease caused by economic woes among the
rural peasantry who became vulnerable to the licentious decadence of the ruling elite.  The solution was to raise the age of consent for sexual intercourse from
thirteen to sixteen, to reduce the victimization of girls who were believed to have little or no control over their sexual conduct.
There can be no doubt that the uproar over The Maiden Tribute played a role in the reform movement in India to change the age of consent there as well. In 1891, an Age of Consent Bill was introduced to raise the age of consent from
ten to twelve.  The bill was spurred by the publication of a rather heinous case involving the death of a child-bride of ten or eleven who was killed by a brutal
sexual encounter with her thirty-five year old husband, another image of male sexual license run amok.  The Age of Consent Bill, however, created strong opposition from the native population because it ultimately interfered with the
rights of the native male over his wife.
Because the politics of colonial masculinity had constructed an autonomous sphere for indigenous masculinity—the private sphere of the home and family—colonial rulers were caught between the demands of native males
to keep out of the Indian home and the demands of British feminists to save Indian women. To counter the claim that they were interfering in the private realm of the Indian family, the colonial and reform authorities maintained that
the Age of Consent Bill was not about age of marriage, but rather about an age at which sexual intercourse is appropriate.  Supposedly, the colonial state was
not interfering in the autonomous Indian family but was, instead, protecting young girls from sexual acts that could be physically harmful.  But as the
indigenous populations quickly pointed out, sexual intercourse within marriage  is not rape. If the age of consent was raised without changing the age of
marriage, the state was introducing the possibility of marital rape within Indian families at a time when England itself did not recognize the crime.
It was not an accident that the debate over age of consent in India formed around the issue of marriage, while in England it formed around prostitution.  And clearly, the concern was not for the welfare of the child-bride in India as legislation against child marriage was not passed until 1929, nearly forty years later.  The issue that gripped the English imagination was aristocratic male
license, while the underlying issue in India was colonial interference in the sexual relations of a husband and his child-bride.
Age of consent arose in the context of prostitution in England because prostitution threatened efforts to curb sexual excess—a task taken on by Victorian wives, clergy, and middle-class men who equated sexual restraint
with moral and civil superiority. These groups generally linked social stability with domestic stability, which they defined as compliance with norms of sexual
restraint. Men and women were expected to postpone sexual intimacy until marriage and then to limit it to procreative purposes, overcoming their desires by channeling their energies into other arenas such as: work, church, or
charitable endeavors. Child marriage was not considered a problem because the vast majority of couples married in their twenties, and it was the Fleet marriage or elopement that captured the British imagination.  Arranged marriages, while not unheard of, were certainly criticized in the literature of the day.

It was the prostitute, however, that most threatened the English wife’s control over her husband’s sexuality.
Most English women accepted the sexual double standard and separate spheres, so marriage for them was not problematic. But everything about Indian child marriage was wrong to Victorian women and men. The brides were too young; the marriages were arranged without regard to the wishes of the woman; and her vulnerability made it unlikely that she would be able to stand up to her older husband if he should demand forced or unnatural sex acts.
While Victorians had their own issues with sexuality, pedophilia and rape crossed a line that most felt comfortable drawing, and the Indian child marriage looked an awful lot like both. In many ways, therefore, British men and women
simply wanted to protect these young girls from the same kind of sexual license they feared in The Maiden Tribute. But that was much more difficult when it came in the form of legitimate marriage and accepted socio-religious customs.
By raising the age of consent by a mere two years, from ten to twelve, the colonial authorities appeared to be taking action when, in reality, they did very little to protect young girls. But as with age of consent reforms in England, the
law ultimately forced a wedge into the absolute dominion of men over women by asserting that women should not be forced into marriage or sexual relations and should have some say in their domestic lives.
From the perspective of the colonial rulers, interference in Indian family and religious principles was to be avoided so long as those principles did not enrage the British public, as sati, child-brides, and polygamy did. They also
did not want widows or single women falling on the welfare of the parish or the state because women generally were to be under the dominion of a man. So, as far as the colonial rulers were concerned, they had little to gain and much to
lose by interfering too much in the Indian family and marriage. Similarly, native elites had much to gain by retaining control over the Indian family and
marriage, particularly by retaining control over women’s sexuality and property. Between these two groups of men, therefore, there was little incentive to upset the cultural norms, and it is not surprising, therefore, that it
took another forty years before child marriages were outlawed.
British feminists, on the other hand, were deeply concerned about the infection of the British family from diseased prostitutes and sexual promiscuity, controlled in part by the Contagious Diseases Acts and age of consent laws. In
order to maintain their own domestic control and status as moral superiors, they needed to enforce Victorian norms of the nuclear family and sexual restraint.
They focused on the prostitute at home because it was the prostitute who infected their husbands, who then brought the disease into the sanctity of their English homes. The threat of venereal disease was a constant image in the
feminist press of the Victorian period.

In India, however, the threat of sexual perversity pervaded marriage itself and gave rise to fears that male expectations about pedophilia and rape would make their way northward to threaten British marriages. The feminists focused in Britain on prostitution and in India on marriages because both threatened the Victorian marriage at home. While neither English men nor Indian men felt a great incentive to interfere with the regulation and examination of prostitutes under the Contagious Diseases Acts, the age of consent for sexual intercourse, or the age of marriage, these laws all threatened to weaken British women’s control over the family sphere and the moral boundaries of sexual behavior by infiltrating the sanctity of the British home.