Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Feminist proof that men owned women?

In a debate on gay marriage a feminist using the name "Min of Billinudgel" decided to throw in some patriarchy theory. She claimed that until recent times marriage was based on property rights for men:

Example: a man’s goods and chat(t)els - hence the reason that widows were until recently described as chatelaines. That is, the wife and the kids were/are defined as ‘moveable property’.

Min's idea is that widows were called chatelaines, that chatelaine derives from the word chattel, and that this proves that women were/are treated in marriage as men's property.

The proper response to these kind of feminist arguments is scepticism. A little research usually proves them false.

So what is the origin of the word chatelaine? It is part of a pair: a chatelain is the male keeper of a castle, a chatelaine the female mistress of a castle (or country house). So Min's argument can't work, as the word was applied in a similar way to both men and women.

Widows were sometimes called chatelaines, but in a literary sense of a woman who found herself running a country house, e.g. "Mrs Gareth, widowed chatelaine of Poynton, is fighting to keep her house with its priceless objets d'art ..."

Why would Min want to believe that women existed as male property? It fits patriarchy theory: the belief that autonomy makes us human, that men have autonomy at the expense of women, that women are therefore not treated as fully and equally human, and that this is due to men organising society to oppress and dominate women.

It's a dismal theory in that it assumes the worst about society: that past generations of women have not had a fully human existence, that men have acted in bad faith toward women, and that institutions like marriage are based not on heterosexual love or an ideal of family life but on issues of power and gender conflict.

Min made one other contribution to the debate. Someone had suggested that if gay marriage were to be permitted because it had become socially acceptable, then so too might polygamy or incest one day gain social acceptance and therefore have to be made legal. Min replied:

The reason that a number of sexual practices are not acceptable, such as incest is because there is the element that one of the partners to the relationship would be a victim of coercion.

Likewise with polygamy. While some people might be quite happy within a polygamous relationship, there are a number of examples especially in fundamentalist religions of younger members being coerced into becoming junior wives and therefore subordinate to the senior wife - and especially the coercion element, that is in spite of the girl’s own wishes.

Obviously, very obviously the same rule of law would apply to same sex marriages - that a marriage is null and void should there be an element of coercion prior to entering into the marriage.

Min is apparently a modernist when it comes to morality. She believes that everything is moral if it is freely chosen. Therefore, the only way to legitimately oppose a practice like polygamy is to argue that it is coerced in some way.

It's not an approach that is likely to maintain any existing standard: a polygamist would merely need to display the free consent of his wives to have his marriage endorsed as moral. Min's approach to morality would not only lead to an acceptance of gay marriage, but to nearly any conceivable kind of marriage.


  1. but to nearly any conceivable kind of marriage.

    And therefore, no marriage at all, because the word "marriage" will be rendered meaningless once people start marrying their cars, or toasters, or whatever.

    Such crap these feminists go on with!

  2. Interesting post Mr. Richardson.

    Here's the entry in the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology:

    chatelain misress of a castle, etc; chains on gridle bearing articles of domestic use. xix. - F. chatelaine, fem. of chatelain lord of a castle (earlier chastelain, with var. cast-, both adopted in Eng. XIV) = Pr., Sp. castellan, It. -ano :- L. castellanus, f. castellum CASTLE (see -AN).

    chatel property XIII (in pl. chateus); movable possession; property other than real estate XVI. -OF. chatel (the repr. by catel CATTLE) = Pr. captal :- medL. capitale; see CAPITAL.

    Let's not let history get in the way of feminist historicism! Just look at that (above), the origin of the words is totally different. What morons these feminists are.

    Another post could be written about the word man - it had no gender itself and had to have the prefix weap to denote the male, and wif to denote female. That makes a mockery of the whole womyn and chairwoman nonsense.

  3. Oh, I see what you did there.

    You took one comment by someone (whether a feminist or not the thread doesn't really reveal, although she seems a sensible sort of person) which makes a mistake based on the etymology of a word. Which, if I'd had a dollar for every time I see happen, I'd be a rich person.

    And then it's extrapolated into Teh Totality of Feminism! "Such crap these feminists go on with!"

    Hey, I can play this game.

    Here's a quote from a fruitcake who believes in traditional sexual roles, just like you. And he thinks that feminism has been imposed on women by the illuminati, who are also plotting to overthrow the world... Wooooo!

    (As a bonus, while Min makes a mistake in the etymology of Chatelaine, this guy can't spell Albatross.)

    Such crap these traditionalists go on with!

    See how easy that was? ;-)

    Hey, I like this game. I can find as many our-of-context quotes as you can. Ya want to throw another one out there?

  4. Helen, I didn't quote Min out of context. She believes that women were and are treated as moveable property and she gave some false evidence to support this view.

    In my post I tried to explain why someone would so readily hold to such a dismal view of the past - I argued that it fits in with patriarchy theory.

    Helen, it's all too common for feminists to support their point of view with false evidence.

    Here are some examples of false claims I have had to recently correct:

    a) That domestic violence is the largest killer of Australian women aged 18 to 40.
    b) That the "rule of thumb" refers to a law which allowed men to beat their wives with a cane of a certain size.
    c) That until the 1970s women had no access to education and could not publish under their own names.

    The problem is not just that these claims are wrong, but that they should have been treated with considerable scepticism to begin with. Why would intelligent women give credence to such unlikely claims? And why must they be corrected by traditionalists like myself - where are the wiser feminists keen to maintain the credibility of the movement through self-correction?

    As I said, I believe that patriarchy theory sets up a false understanding of how society operates, which then makes such claims seem more credible than they really are.

  5. You'll be pushing shit uphill restoring the patriarchy Mark, if you don't even believe it exists. ;-)

  6. I believe Helen's charming game started by emulating me, Mark. You, unlike myself, are the the very soul of intelligent, temperate, carefully reasoned wit. Therefore, you do not have to explain yourself to Helen. I do.

    You'll be pushing shit uphill restoring the patriarchy Mark, if you don't even believe it exists.

    You see, Helen, while your comment, charmingly, is all tongue-in-cheek and evryfink, you do not seem to understand that Mark is not actually interested in "restoring patriarchy." He is, however, (as may be plainly seen from his numerous entries) very interested in how to make life good for families and little children.

    You see, Mark's observations are firmly rooted in reality. He observes such phenomena as mother-child bonding, the desire of large numbers of women who wish to have babies, the desrire of a very large number of women who wish to eschew full-time careers to be at home with their children at least most of the time, and a rather incorrigible set of women (including Yours Truly) who wish to eschew a career altogether (in spite of Uni Qualifications) in order to care for their children full-time and in some cases, home-educate them. Mark notices other phenomena, such that some men, in reasonably large numbers, still wish to marry and have families, that children have an obvious need for the love of both a mother and father and family stability, and that human beings are not - as a plain matter of fact - completely independent. On the contrary, he observes that people are actually interdependent.

    He then goes and asks himself such questions as, "what then, is the optimal situation for the majority of human beings to live in?" and "what is the best situation for children to grow up in?" and the like. From these questions and observations, he forms some not unreasonable conclusions, such that traditional marriage (ie one man to one woman, to the exclusion of all others, 'til one of 'em kicks the bucket) is the best arrangements for most people, especially those aspiring to have babies, or even just aspiring to love and be loved by someone.

    This, I submit, is a perfectly reasonable thesis, based on observable phenomena.

  7. Further, Mark's reasonable thesis is routinely rejected by those who espouse such bizarre ideas as that:

    1. Women, whose main aim in life is to marry and have babies, lack ambition. (How keeping a family intact in this day and age can be seen as "unambitious," I am at a loss to know. Likewise I am at a loss to know why ambition per se should be laudable for anyone, whether male or female).

    2. Women who stay at home to care for their own children, who have sprung forth from their own wombs, are "pampered, glazed fem-bots, who get high on homemaking" (Maureen Dowd) and "mentally ill" (Jessie Bernard). They are also adding to other women's woes by not working for money (somehow) and are, therefore not only selfish, but even demented. (Sorry, can't remember the name of the retarded woman who wrote this).

    So, Helen, I'm afraid I have lost almost all respect for feminism and maintain, that it is indeed an enormous pile of crap.

    Yours sincerely &c.

  8. lyl, thanks for your comments. I'll add something of my own when I get a chance.

  9. A correction:

    1. Women, whose main aim in life is to marry and have babies, lack ambition.

    I meant, that "those women, whose main aim in life is to marry and have babies, lack ambition." I did not mean that all women hve such a main aim.