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Saturday, May 19, 2007

On the State of Being a Woman

Gothic Cathedral, Barcelona. Photo Credit
Having recently read a novel (yes, I read those too) about medieval Barcelona in the midst of the Inquisition (a Spanish book called La Catedral del Mar), I was struck by my horror about the plight of women (even noble women, and women of wealthy familes) and feudal subjects. Obviously none of it was new to me, but I rarely read books about that particular historical period…I find it repugnant…more so because I assume I would most certainly have been burned at the stake in those years…and it also makes me hugely impatient with the terrifyingly closed and loathsome mentality of the Europe of that era.

When we compare the sordid squalor and dirt of a frighteningly narrrow-minded medieval Europe to the pristine baths and saunas of pre-Christian Roman towns, such as Baelo Claudia mentioned in my April 29, 2007 post or life in Greece and Macedonia, Egypt, and Arabian cultures, one can not help but ask how it was possible for medieval Europe as such to have slid into a downward spiral of such magnitude…and I refer not only to hygiene, of course, but also to discourse, investigation, and parameters of intelligent thought.

At any rate, the book describes in vivid detail many dreadful aspects of the absolute dependence and subservience of the female of the species to men, as well as the absolute dependence and subservience of the feudal subject to his lord and liege. Unless such a woman (especially those that had no access via their families to any of the ill-distributed wealth) or feudal subject had a very strong and what we would now call proactive character, which would have helped them possibly find some small ways of better dealing with their plight, their lives would have consisted of utter poverty, misery, and submissiveness. I am almost tempted to compare their lives with those of the modern Chinese women I discussed in the May 17 post Freedom, Chinese Women, and Suicide who in their desperation to leave untenable lifestyles, choose suicide.

How far we have come in our First World countries of the West! Not just women and equality, not just freedom for all rather than feudalism and forced allegiance to a feudal lord, not just produce and merchandise-laden stores, rather than eking out a miserable existence on barren land, not just education and job possibilities for all, not just freedom of religious thought, not just the pill to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and sexual freedom for those who wish it, not just modern medicine rather than the butchery we’ve all witnessed often enough via the imagination of modern movie producers – more than all of this, where we may have taken the greatest strides, is in the possibility for us to gain - to achieve - our inner freedom and growth as individuals and human beings, rather than to be products of mass thought and action…here is where we most differ from our medieval cousins. Our possibilities are endless, the sky truly is the limit, and only we ourselves stand in our own way of however far we wish to go.

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