Tuesday, March 2, 2010

If Your Body's Sexed Female, Where You Can't Study or Teach

 1450 BC   Can't study or teach in Mesopotamia since females are controlled first by fathers, then by husbands and fathers-in-law, and finally by sons.

  380 BC    Can't study or teach in Greek city states where only males have independent status in society; okay, can own slaves, but since you don't know math, you can't make transactions worth more than one medimnos of barley.

  215 BC   Can't study or teach in Rome (the empire) where the Oppian law forbids female bodies from wearing multicolored clothes or holding more than half an ounce of gold or riding in a horse-drawn vehicle in or within a mile of any town or city (again the math and counting thing).

   53 AD   Can't teach men in church, the new synagogue, or the old (in Athens, Rome, Jerusalem, Corinth)

 105 AD   Can't study or teach with men, and, therefore, conclusively can't hold any legal representation, guardianship, intercession, proxy, advocacy, or prosecution in the Roman empire (period).

  415 AD   Can't study or teach in Alexandria, the most cosmopolitan intellectual city of the known Western world, especially if you're a pagan, a philosopher, a mathematician who must certainly be the cause of the dissension between two Christian men of the Church, which must, of course, recognize the meaning of your name Hypatia and strip you naked publicly while burning you at the stake alive so as to make an example for others with bodies sexed female.

 600 to 1,000 AD   Can't  study or teach in England publicly lest you be punished as “scolds.”

1220 AD   Can't study, much less teach or practice medicine, at the University of Paris.

1390 AD   Can't study or teach in university in London; therefore, of course, can't get a license to practice medicine.

1486 AD   Can't even pretend to know how to read Johann Sprenger's and Heinrich Kraemer's “Malleus maleficarum” (“Hammer of Witches”), lest you pretend to have an argument against the thesis that females, as the weaker sex, are more likely to be witches.

1680 AD   Can't study or teach or apprentice or earn money in the Paris Opéra (and, oh, uh oh, what is La Fontaine doing so publicly the next year as if she's a real ballet dancer?!)

1770 AD   Can't learn to read or to write English poetry, not if you're female, not if you're black, not if you're a slave, not if you're young, not if you're in a new colony, not if you're named Phillis Wheatley.

1782 AD   Can't study military strategy or tactics or don a uniform (at least not on a female body) in the American Revolution -- (Hey now, where's Deborah Sampson?, and who's this new recruit Robert Shurtleff in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment now fighting so well?)

1791 AD   Can't study or teach the rights of Man and of the Citizen; and therefore can't re-write any Déclaration des droits de la femme et de la citoyenne (“Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the [Female] Citizen”), as if female bodies can be citizens with rights.  Your right, you crazy Olympia de Gouges, is the guillotine

1804 AD   Can't study in Paris, not even the Napoleonic Code of France, since men can tell you at home what it says:   that women—like criminals, children, and the insane—are to be legal minors. Your husband controls your property for you, so thank him; and obey him because, should he find just cause to divorce you, he gets your children.

1820 AD   Can't study or teach in the university in Colombia.
1820 AD   Can't study or teach in a seminary in the USA (and no one's letting  Emma Willard dream publicly of opening Troy Female Seminary in New York to begin teaching a rigorous curriculum to girls).

1832 AD   Can't attend college with men east of the Mississippi River (and no one's dreaming publicly of Oberlin Collegiate Institute -- Oberlin College --  in Ohio where female bodies will be admitted with other students on an equal basis).

1840 AD   Can't study or teach or be active in international abolitionism in London, where female bodies are denied entrance to the site of  the World's Anti-Slavery Convention.

1864 AD   Can't study in university in Europe (and no one at the University of Zürich is yet dreaming, not publicly anyways, of admitting a body sexed female).

1869 AD   Still can't study in Britain in university.  But if you have a learned husband, you may now own property.

1871 AD  Can't study in Japan at any level (but who knows whether next year primary education will be for girls as well as boys).

1872 AD   Can't attend college with men west of the Mississippi River (and no one's dreaming publicly of AddRan Male and Female College --  Texas Christian University -- where female bodies will be admitted with other students on an equal basis).

1876 AD  Can't attend university in Chile (until next year).

1900 AD  Can't study medicine, even with other females, in Japan (until next century when Doctor Yoshioka Yayoi founds Japan's first medical school for women).

1919 AD  Can't study as full-degree female students at the University of Oxford (not until next year).

1921 AD  Can't study or teach as members of the German Nazi Party.

1942 AD  Can't teach in college in Austria, if your name is Elise Richter, even if the rumors are you're a noted linguist; it's off to Theresienstadt  -- the Nazi concentration camp -- where you must die.

1949 AD   Can't study at Harvard Law School (not until next year).

1949 AD   Can't use your father's family's name (i.e., your "maiden" name) until next year when the U.S. Census Bureau recognizes how many females are studying and using different names.

1962 AD   Can't get tenure at Yale Law School (not until next year, Ellen Ash Peters).

1973 AD   Can't study in any U.S. service academy (until next year when the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy does its strange thing).

1974 AD   Can't be on an American jury since you can't study properly (until next year when the U.S. Supreme Court rules that females cannot be excluded from juries because of their sex).

1996 AD   Can't study in Afghanistan since the Taliban government says so; and no working outside the home either.

2007 AD   Can't teach men Hebrew in the school of theology of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (even if you're hired to be on the tenure track as Sheri Klouda was); can't study with men the new Seminary degree for females only called Homemaking.


G said...

This is really a depressing list. Can you not give any hope for the situation around 50 AD.

J. K. Gayle said...

There's always hope, isn't there Jay? Thank you for the comment.

G said...

Since you seem to have more hope than I in the writings of these messengers of the early church, could you share some reasons you find to have this hope. I am afraid I have pushed the interpretation of some of these writings too far in effort to support my egalitarian view. I have no apology for my view, but I am a bit concerned about my integrity concerning the interpretation of these writings.

J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks again for pressing me. Would you perhaps agree with me that Hélène Cixous may be on to something when she writes "écriture féminine"? Of course, she's writing this "originally" in 1975 but I think there's hope in this methodology. In other words, there's something incarnate needed when approaching a (gynophobic, misogynistic, phallogocentric) text. If "egalitarian" views are born out of anything more abstract than bodies (sexed), then I'd agree that they're suspect. No, I don't want to essentialize here or even to be mysterious. I do think a woman's perspective on a text that marginalizes her (because of her body) brings an authority to the text. Somehow (maybe subconsciously even) I think Aristotle got this when he leaves out of his canon of "rhetoric" the "art" of "listening." He wanted to deny the ones he wrote about (i.e., females) the right to read what he so (ostensibly) objectively wrote to his male-only students. Krista Ratcliffe has done some work on this in recovering "rhetorical listening." And Jacqueline Jones Royster gets at the problem in her essay, "When the First Voice You Hear is Not Your Own." When an expert (i.e., a white male) has more privilege writing about an "other" (i.e., a black female) than she herself does, then there's little hope at all. However, women through the ages, at each point in my timeline on this depressing blogpost, have not been silent. Our present-day histories of these females may have silenced them. However, even when Moses and Paul and Peter were writing to men about women - there were females there listening and reading (and writing). Some (many?, well certainly some) had hope. And then there are men (i.e., Jesus) who certainly let silenced females (i.e., mixed-race and dark-race women and prostitutes and adulteresses and daughters and sisters and mothers) speak up and speak out. These men (i.e., Jesus) allowed a recovery of texts (i.e., Genesis) by declaring things like "but it was not so from the beginning" and "whoever is without sin let him..." and so forth. That's a long answer. It's terribly complex and a tad over nuanced. But there's hope. What do you think?




G said...

Thanks again. Perhaps if we can truly see a redemptive hermeneutic as W. Webb proposes there is hope. The question remain in my mind, is Paul taking steps forward when he refers to women as his co-workers or is he sliding back when he advises that a woman submit to their head as the church submits to Christ. At least Paul had female co-workers. Jesus certainly broke some barriers in his actions towards women, but he didn't select a women to be one of his twelve. If Peter wrote the letters attributed to him that instructs wives to refer to their husband as lord, had he gone forward from his Pentecost message or was his view just inconsistent like so many complementarians who claim that women can prophecy in the church but must still be retained under one who has the right kind of organ. I just would like to see that if we can find evidence to be hopeful in the Christian scriptures that the Church would be a leader in this campaign rather than a brake.

J. K. Gayle said...

Jay, Thank you! You make us think hard and suspiciously for hope. You inspire me to start responding more fully here.