I’m certainly not a misogynist – quite the opposite in fact – but I must admit to have given little thought as to why women have historically been treated as second or even third-class citizens. There is this discrimination which occurs in all societies, civilised or primitive, ancient or modern – witness the struggle women have had even in the western world, to be accepted as equals in the work-place, in business generally, and in politics.
Men have always distrusted women, perhaps have even been a little afraid of them, and so have obstructed any move towards female emancipation, giving reasons that, in these more enlightened times, sound foolishly patronising, or even insulting.
“Women are not equipped mentally to compete equally with men.” Or, even sillier: “They are delicate creatures who must be protected.”
Women, perhaps because they are less physically strong and muscular than men, have traditionally been relegated to child-bearing – a female mystery that causes men to shy away – or as serving wenches for the masculine half of humanity.
This attitude lingers on in most male-dominated religions. Nuns are permitted to teach and to do charity work, but if you go into a cathedral almost anywhere in the Christian world, who do you see cleaning floors and polishing brasses? Certainly not the male clergy.
There is scarcely a religion in the world, be it Christian, Muslim or Jewish, that allows women to celebrate holy rites, although in the Anglican Church there have been moves to allow this break-through. Even so, the traditionalists have fought, and are fighting, tooth and nail against the ordination of women, and as for them becoming Bishops….well…!
Many religions tend to imply, or at least hint, that women are creatures of the Devil, sent by Satan to tempt men into sin. Some go even further, accusing women who demonstrate any sign of wanting emancipation, of actively serving the forces of evil.
Not surprisingly, bearing in mind this required subservience of women, the devil is almost always male with one exception as far as I know, in the Museo de Semana Santa in Orihuela, where you will find ‘La Diablesa’, a Devil with breasts!
Go back through the ages, and what do you find? Witches depicted as evil old women, hags who work black magic and raise demons. On the other hand, wizards, being male, are generally benign and avuncular. Even in the modern tale of ‘The Wizard of OZ’, the witches are hag-like wicked women, whilst the wizard is shown as a mildly hapless, but basically kind, man.
Stories for children by the Brothers Grimm and others, often include an evil-minded Wicked Stepmother who sometimes moonlights as a witch – but how often does one come across a Wicked Stepfather?
When we were small, my sister and I were convinced that our mother was a witch. She always knew what we were up to, and even what we were planning, and as far as we were concerned it was either witchcraft or telepathy – both equally scary. Women reading this will probably laugh because they know, as I do now, that mothers, simply because they are women, have this built-in arcane talent that scares the pants off us poor men!
Women are different, and I thank God for it.
By Jim Collins