Chapter 6: The Intimately Oppressed
*Have you heard of these women? Anne Hutchinson or Molly Pitcher aka “Dirty Kate” ?

Please, somebody respond to this post, to these pages of the reading. Talk about how things are now and how they've evolved and how they ought to evolve from here forward. Talk about how we are still working within the same belief system, talk about how these belief systems that annihilated the Native peoples of this land and have a warped sense of sharing and conserving and respect, talk about how they are still engrained in us. Where do you see them? Where do they exist inside of you? Where do they exist in the structure of our society and of our economy. Where are they still embedded into the messages we receiving/sending?  Where, in what parts of your life, in what parts of society are we free from this belief system that created laws that revolved around creating subservience on one end and supremacy on the other? Are there any? Or are we still rebelling against them, responding to them, breaking away from them or trying to rework them...in that case, we are not free, are we? We are still in relationship with them. (Is it like trying to make a dysfunctional relationship work?) How can we cast them off, purge ourselves of them, all together, once and for all? What does that even mean? What would it look like? How would it feel?

“Women in the Plains Indian tribes of the Midwest did not have farming duties but had a very important place in the tribe as healers, herbalists, and sometimes holy people who gave advice. When bands lost their male leaders, women would become chieftains. Women learned to shoot small bows, and they carried knives, because among the Sioux a woman was supposed to be able to defend herself against attack.

The puberty ceremony of the Sioux was such as to give pride to a young Sioux maiden:

Walk the good road, my daughter, and the buffalo herds wide and dark as cloud shadows moving over the prairie will follow you... . Be dutiful, respectful, gentle and modest, my daughter. And proud walking. If the pride and the virtue of the women are lost, the spring will come but the buffalo trails will turn to grass. Be strong, with the warm, strong heart of the earth. No people goes down until their women are weak and dishonored. . ..”

The native cultures were considered savage, uncivilized, barbaric, shameful...With the near death, by genocide, of the native cultures, came the near death of their way of life;  their sensibilities, their respect for women, for the earth and all life upon it, and the domination of the European aristocratic sensibilities.

An example of those sensibilities around women:

Advice to a Daughter, a best selling pocket guide book published in London and widely read in the American colonies.:

You must first lay it down for a Foundation in general, That there is Inequality in Sexes, and that for the better Oeconomy of the World; the Men, who were to be the Law-givers, had the larger share of Reason bestow’d upon them, by which means your Sex is the better prepare’d for the Compliance that is necessary for the performance of those Duties which seem’d to be most properly assign’d to it...Your Sex wanteth our Reason for your Conduct, and out Strength for your Protection: Ours wanteth your Gentleness to soften and to entertain us...”

This is an account (from Chapter 1) of the treatment of women in Indian Society when Columbus and his conquistadores arrived. Described by Bartolome de Las Casas, a young Catholic priest and the chief source of information about what happened on the islands after Columbus came:

Marriage laws are non-existent; men and women alike choose their mates and leave them as they please, without offense, jealousy or anger. They multiply in great abundance; pregnant women work to the last minute and give birth almost painlessly; up the next day, they bathe in the river and are as clean and healthy as before giving birth. If they tire of their men, they give themselves abortions with herbs that force stillbirths, covering their shameful parts with leaves or cotton cloth; although on the whole, Indian men and women look upon total nakedness with as much casualness as we look upon a man’s head or at his hands.

And with the efforts and laws that came into affect to subjugate certain parts of the population (beginning with the Indians); protect the elite from losing their status and to protect their economic interests, so came the laws to control women.

“For a woman to have a child out of wedlock was a crime, and colonial court records are full of cases of women being arraigned for "bastardy"-the father of the child untouched by the law and on the loose. A colonial periodical of 1747 reproduced a speech "of Miss Polly Baker before a Court of Judicature, at Connecticut near Boston in New England; where she was prosecuted the fifth time for having a Bastard Child."

May it please the honourable bench to indulge me in a few words: I am a poor, unhappy woman, who have no money to fee lawyers to plead for me.. .. This is the fifth time, gentlemen, that I have been dragg'd before your court on the same account; twice I have paid heavy fines, and twice have been brought to publick punishment, for want of money to pay those fines. This may have been agreeable to the laws, and I don't dispute it; but since laws are sometimes unreasonable in themselves, and therefore repealed; and others bear too hard on the subject in particular circumstances ... I take the liberty to say, that I think this law, by which I am punished, both unreasonable in itself, and particularly severe with regard to me... . Abstracted from the law, I cannot conceive ... what the nature of my offense is. I have brought five fine children into the world, at the risque of my life; I have maintained them well by my own industry, without burdening the township, and would have done it better, if it had not been for the heavy charges and fines I have paid.. . . nor has anyone the least cause of complaint against me, unless, perhaps, the ministers of justice, because Ihave had children without being married, by which they missed a wedding fee. But can this be a fault of mine? .. .

What must poor young women do, whom customs and nature forbid to solicit the men, and who cannot force themselves upon husbands, when the laws take no care to provide them any, and yet severely punish them if they do their duty without them; the duty of the first and great command of nature and nature's God, increase and multiply; a duty from the steady performance of which nothing has been able to deter me, but for its sake I have hazarded the loss of the publick esteem, and have frequently endured pub-lick disgrace and punishment; and therefore ought, in my humble opinion, instead of a whipping, to have a statue erected to my memory.”

“The father's position in the family was expressed in The Spectator, an influential periodical in America and England: "Nothing is more gratifying to the mind of man than power or dominion; and ... as I am the father of a family ... I am perpetually taken up in giving out orders, in prescribing duties, in hearing parties, in administering justice, and in distributing rewards and punishments.... In short, sir, I look upon my family as a patriarchal sovereignty in which I am myself both king and priest."”

Frightening. And alienating (for a man and a woman). And mind boggling.




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