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True or False
Q: In Medieval Europe married women enjoyed more rights than unmarried women.
False. Unmarried adolescent girls and widows were able to own property and enter into business in the private sector. It was only when they married that women gave up their rights, merging with their husband, and losing power to his gain. Granted, we’re talking nobility here, and noble women married earlier. Class and economics have been around since the earth cooled. But once the husband kicked the bucket, the widow was able to re-enter the business sphere and generally stayed a widow.
So, what can we take away from this? It sucked being a poor woman in medieval Europe? Sure. But even 600-1000 years ago women saw the difference between their rights as an individual, and their rights in marriage.
Feminism is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” The word “feminism” wasn’t coined until the 1800’s but the concept has been around much longer than that. Life during European, Roman, Greek, Islamic wartime is tough. The winners survive, and make the rules. Mostly men fought, killed, and got to make those rules. If going into labor was revered as much as killing people I doubt the word Feminism would even exist.
Women gain freedom in childbirth
Ding-ding-ding. True, well sort of. Before pregnancy was considered a medical condition, and only doctors (read: men) could deliver babies, you called the midwife. When a woman became a midwife, she was granted the freedom of tending to the laboring mother. The midwife is the one with the “freedom.” She enjoyed certain amount of time away from the household, she received some respect and even power in the community. Unfortunately, when overseeing a magical act of a delivery gone wrong the midwives were often accused of witchcraft.
A large part of feminist rhetoric is aimed at a woman’s right over her own body. Reproductive and contraceptive rights were obviously in the forefront of this year’s elections. The definition of rape and the results thereafter were also at great debate. Men and women loudly voiced their opinions proving that one doesn’t have to be a woman to believe a woman has rights over her own body. But Feminism isn’t only about the sexual rights of women. It can include the rights of the LGBT community, a stand on pornography (both for and against), opinions on prostitution and trafficking. It concerns a woman’s health rights, and rights regarding sexual harassment and abuse. Feminism does not have to include man:bad, woman:good any more than religion has to include fire and brimstone. But just like radical religious zealots there are radical feminists. Unfortunately when most people hear the word “feminist” they envision the radical, woman-only type.
78 year old feminist, Gloria Steinem has retired
False. OK, that was a lay-up. At the 40th anniversary of Ms. Magazine, Steinem made a very insightful point. She said, “...All great social justice movements must last something like a century if they are to be really deeply absorbed into the culture and understood to be normal and natural.”
The Industrial Age (1750-1850) eventually led to the fight for workers’ rights. The current attitude of the majority is that workers are entitled to proper pay for proper work, time off, enforcement of child labor laws, and safe working conditions. Unfortunately, this fight still takes place but usually because people try to skirt the laws that were established to uphold what was believed to be normal and natural. Women’s rights, civil rights, LGBT rights are still considered young movements in comparison.
Feminism today is generally more inclusive. Color, nationality, religion, and class encompass the push for equal representation for women. Recent electoral history proves there are still examples of laws oppressing women. But Feminism today is not only about the law. It's about changing the thought process that says men have superiority over women (read: equality). It challenges the notion that women don’t know enough to govern their bodies. It urges recognition of the influence of women in art, literature, music and architecture without encouraging separation.
The hurdle we must get over in understanding Feminism is not assuming that women are fighting to usurp power but to be included in it: equally. But if Gloria is right, we still have another 60 years before we are close.
One organization GetLusty has supported in the past is WORD: Women Organized to Resist and Defend. They're a liberal organization that here in Chicago, nationally and international have organized grassroots protests in support of women's reproductive rights. They're pretty awesome and completely volunteer run (only starting mid-2012, they've done quite a bit so far).
Speaking of feminist sex, have you 'Liked' GetLusty on Facebook yet? We're giving away a Tiani 2 to a lucky 'Liker' by December 1st. We're also on Pinterest and Tumblr, as well as Twitter @getlusty. What?! You're on those platforms and aren't in tune with our awesome content? Have amazing sex. Get lusty.
Lynn Olejniczak is a native Chicagoan who loves her city and everything it has to offer. She spent 10 years as a NASDAQ trader in Chicago and New York in the 90's, then went back to college when "the rules changed and I realized no one was going to pay me lots of money to swear at them anymore."
She loves good food, and a perfectly poured Guinness at any Irish pub in the city. Her Beastie Boys CD's rest comfortably next to her Misfits vinyl, and she believes Underground Garage is the best radio program known to humankind. Armed with degrees in History, and a love of Urban Planning, Lynn is currently writing and researching a book on the 80's Chicago bar scene. Get in touch with Lynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.