Sunday, April 6, 2014

Institutional Sexism

Seems to be something of a theme lately.

I've been archiving cemeteries lately, with a lot of work in Congressional Cemetery in DC.  One of the things I've been poring over for information?  Wills.  It's not the first time I've run across this, but I've finally seen it so many times I wound up shouting about it last night.

What could piss me off in a 100-200-year-old will?

"And to my beloved wife, I leave all property (home, land) for the term of her natural life, provided she does not remarry.  At the time of her death (or in the case of her marriage), all property shall be distributed as follows . . . "

In other words, you own NOTHING, woman.  You may, because I am so kind, USE what is MINE, so long as you don't move forward with your life.

Sickening.  And yet it ties in so well with that whole "women belong to their fathers until they marry, and then they belong to their husbands" thing that has so long held us down.

It goes beyond that.  Oft-times, fathers would will to the husbands of their daughters rather than to the daughters themselves!  Think about that:  your father dies, leaving your HUSBAND your family's farm. Your husband dies when you're 23, and he wills the whole mess to his cousin or brother, with you being allowed to LIVE there, so long as you, at 23 years, never marry again.

Yeah.  Let that one sink in.  Your husband's cousin gets your father's farm because you're just a woman.

To quote Louis C.K.:

"Women didn't get the vote until 1920,  That means American democracy is 94 years old. There are three people in my building older than American democracy"

When I was born, women had only been voting for 45 years.  My grandmother was born into a culture that didn't allow women representation (though it merrily taxed them).

We're complacent.  We watch the wingnuts chip away at us, and we assume that things can never go back.  I'll bet that's exactly what the women of Iran and Afghanistan thought, too.  You do know they used to wear their jeans, their short skirts, their t-shirts to university classes, driving their own cars and working pursuing their own careers, with their own apartments, bank accounts, and autonomy, right?  You did know that?


Afghanistan, 1970s and today

Don't think they won't do this to us.  Complacency is the enemy of freedom, and our freedom is still so young that it could easily be quenched.  Roe v Wade was only 40 and a smidge years ago. And states like Texas are effectively overturning it by making access impossible.  And our silence is emboldening them.  And it's not just women--take a good look at what the right is doing to poor neighborhoods, to traditionally African-American neighborhoods--disenfranchisement via "redistricting" and doing away with early voting and absentee voting.  They've got women, the poor, and "minorities" in their sights, and they WILL silence us if we let them.


On a (closely) related note, this came across my wall today:

I used to have a friend named Aziz.  Abdulaziz, in fact. He was the (married) live-in boyfriend of a friend of mine.  His wife and kids were back in Saudi while he studied engineering (and American women) in the States.  One week, his brother and sister-in-law came for a visit.  Speaking to the sister-in-law was . . . enlightening.  She strenuously defended the horrid circumstance of women in Saudi.  Used words like "honor" and "revere" and "protect."  Told me how women have a divine duty to keep men from being beasts by covering themselves from head to toe and not ever being anywhere a man might be even slightly tempted.  That MEN should be responsible for their OWN behavior was a concept so foreign she couldn't begin to grasp it.

I was reminded of nothing so much as an old Mormon neighbor of mine who strenuously defended the LDS Church's treatment of women.  She used to tell me about women's "special" purpose, how women and men are inherently different and each made with a certain set of abilities and ways of being that rendered them perfectly suited to the tasks the church deemed proper.  Women holding the priesthood?  Oh, goodness, why on earth?  That's for MEN.  Women have Relief Society!  Female Bishops?  Pshaw!  A woman is a "helpmeet" made by das deity to support and lift up her husband, to the glory of them both.

Oh, my backside.

Nothing, NOTHING better perpetuates oppression than the permission of the oppressed.   Church leadership is made up entirely of Mormon men.  Like the Union and the Knickerbocker, minus the cigars and plus the unmistakable air of divine self-satisfaction.

And before you think I'm picking on Mormons, know that many other faiths are just as bad.  I mention Mormons in particular because my neighbor was Mormon.  Had she been Catholic, we'd be talking about the College of Cardinals right now.


Worried a lot about money these days.  Hubby is hoping for a better job, but there/s the very real danger that our credit will prevent him from advancing.  The catch there is obvious--if he could get this job, we'd have EVERYTHING (that's car and student aid included) paid off in 18 months. But we can't get it paid down without the job.  And the job probably won't come through because of the debt.  

He had me in tears last night, totally by accident.  He was out in the kitchen, I was here at the computer, and we were talking about the above-mentioned wills and husbands leaving homes for their wives' USE, but not actually leaving them the property to OWN.  Hubby said, "Maybe that's what I'll do--I'll leave the car to our boy, but with the stipulation that you may USE it for as long as you live and remain single."  I laughed and asked, "Why the CAR?"  And he said, "It's not like we're ever going to have a house or anything really worth having."

And I burst into tears.  I will, in just over 11 years, be SIXTY years old.  Sixty, and I'm not ever going to have a home.  It's been a dream my whole life.  A house, a little land, just enough for a few horses and my dogs to run.  Grow some food, not have to listen to loud neighbors banging and thumping, their dogs three feet from my window, baying.  


It really does just race by you, and there are no do-overs.  

Yeah.  That's enough sad for the day.  I need to try to look at it this way: at least we haven't attended any Red Weddings.

There is that.


Speaking of which, don't forget Game of Thrones is on tonight!  Episode One of Season Four!  

An update here:  the landlord is booting us, has given us 60 days notice to vacate.  This isn't an eviction--he says we're the best tenants he's ever had, has offered a glowing reference.  But he's selling, and he needs us out so he can do that.  Which leaves us utterly screwed and possibly facing homelessness.  Truly.  So please.

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