By Chet Yarbrough
Written by: Jack Holland
Narrated by: Cameron Stewart
A woman’s rights have been a moving target since the beginning of time; or at least since the beginning of recorded “history”. Jack Holland tracks “The World’s Oldest Prejudice”, misogyny (a human prejudice against women). Holland’s conflation of the horrors of Nazism with societal misogyny is hyperbolic. However, the truth of women’s domination, abuse, and murder by men is solid when Holland recounts the evidence of government practices, religious doctrines, philosophical treatises, science errors, and corroborated historical events.
As far back as the oldest laws of government written by a Sumerian King in 2,050 BC, women have been singled out with human rights’ violations. An example is the King’s law that particularly applies to women who speak insolently. They are to have their mouths scoured with salt; i.e. a law applying only to women slaves. Of course the law begs the question of why women are slaves.
All major religions are patriarchal. Each has a history of misogyny that lives through to today. Beginning with the book of Genesis in the Christian Bible, women come from man; not as a singular human being but as an adjunct of man, a mere rib. In Genesis 3:16, women are burdened and subservient to men from the beginning. “Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”. In the Ten Commandments, wives are property to men.
Holland cites Apostle Paul as a harbinger of doom for women. His doctrinal preaching perpetuates misogyny. Apostle Paul implies women are seductresses because of men’s earthly desires. Men are advised to focus on the spiritual to avoid sin and assure their passage to heaven. By separating humanity and spirituality, Holland argues Apostle Paul implies women and bodily pleasure are a principal source of sin. Female genital mutilation is condoned in view of this misbegotten human bodily sin.
In the Torah (Jewish doctrine), women are unclean twice as long for birthing daughters rather than sons. Further, the Torah explains that women who are raped in the city should be stoned to death, and if raped in the country, required to marry their rapist. The fault for being raped is assigned to women rather than men. Some conservative Jewish sects pray to God that they are not given daughters; additionally, they thank God for not being born a woman.
In the Qur’an (Islam’s holy book), women are less valuable and inferior to men. In paragraph 4:34 “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other.”
In Islam’s Sharia law, women are generally guilty of their own rape and are to be stoned to death or whipped. There are exceptions but proof is an onerous exercise in futility. As witnesses to rape, Holland notes a victim must find 4 men to corroborate a woman’s testimony or she is considered untruthful, guilty, and subject to punishment or death.
Sharia law denies women the right to an education. Just as the American south feared education of slaves, the Islamic religion fears the education of women. With education, women are bound to seek a better life with more freedom and less domination.
Holland reaches back to ancient Greek philosophers to note that both Plato and Aristotle believe women are afflicted with natural defectiveness. To Plato, that defect is implied in “The Republic” when children are to be taken from their mothers to be educated by the state; independent of a mother’s influence. To Plato, women’s defect is in his concept of forms. Women have no soul or essence that allows for perfect form. Women are mere vessels for the birth of children that come from an essence provided by the sperm of men. Aristotle argues women are subject to men and are, at best, “deformed males”.
Holland notes later philosophers like Schopenhauer and Nietzsche carry misogyny forward. Schopenhauer argues that women have meagre reasoning ability. To Schopenhauer, women’s lack of reason and abundant sensuality cause chaos and disruption. Nietzsche has a similar view of women. Nietzsche views women as vixens that need to be controlled; not helpmates, independent humans, or equals to men.
Science luminaries also feed the misogynist credo. Darwin suggests women are not as fully evolved as men. Freud creates myths of penis envy and mental dysfunction from normal female physiological conditions.
Holland also addresses the misconception of the “blank slate” in science as noted by Stephen Pinker, a modern-day psychologist. Fifty percent of who we are, male or female, is determined by genetics. We are not blank slates. There are common genetic inheritances that interact with the environment as we mature. However, each human reacts to incidents in the world in their own unique way. Human beings, whether male or female, react differently to the same incidents based, in part, on their genetic inheritance.
Women and men are different but equal based on a combination of nature and nurture. A truth in science is that the energy producers of life (mitochondrial DNA) come solely from mothers, not fathers. This is quite a contrast to Aristotle’s theory of women as mere vessels of birth. It is a surprise that there are not more misandrists than misogynists.
Holland recounts several horrific misogynistic events from history and modern times. A major event in the 15th to 18th century were the witch trials. Tens of thousands of accused witches were tortured and burned at the stake in Europe. The most famous in America were the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts. An estimated 80 women were tried in New England with 20 executed and 5 who die in prison.
Though witch trials and executions are in the past, modern-day Middle East and Eastern countries have trials for women that are raped, tortured, and mutilated for failing to follow religious and cultural norms established by male dominated governments.
Holland delves into the rise of Nazism and suggests the idea of the super race contributes to misogynist beliefs. To some extent that may be true but Hitler’s primary objective is to create a straw man for the ills of Germany. The straw man became the Jews; i.e. the alleged source of all that is wrong with the world. Nazism had much less to do with belief that women are the inferior of men. As Holland points out, Hitler was widely supported by German women.
Hitler’s asexual revolution had little to do with the degradation of women but more to do with the myth of the “other” that is meant to roil and consolidate the masses in defense of a new order. Sexual allure and male domination of women is the least of Hitler’s interests. Experiments on women in concentration camps is a predilection of demented Nazi doctors; not principally because of misogyny, but for belief in a final solution that will create a super race.
Hitler’s relevance to the subject of misogyny is in the creation of the “other”. To a misogynist the “other” is women; i.e. the misogynist is he who succumbs to the fiction of male superiority. To the misogynist, women become the source of men’s problems rather than helpmates or equals.
Misogyny is a cancer in the body politic. Regulated freedom and equal opportunity are its cure. The diversity of human life demands equal opportunity for all. This does not mean everyone is equal but that each should be able to achieve what they are capable of achieving. Regulated freedom is a necessity because human beings are motivated by money, power, and prestige; each of which can lead to greed, corruption, and hubris. All human beings are subject to the same vices. All men and women should have an equal right to say yes or no. Holland’s point is that women do not have the same rights as men because of centuries of cultural bias.