By Rod Van Mechelen
The Ascent of Woman
1989 Bellevue, Wash. - During the Victorian era, and with men's help, women climbed onto the infamous pedestal of courtly love. The result was an "explosive increase in prostitution, an epidemic spread of venereal disease, and a morbid taste for masochism." (Sex in History, Reay Tannahill, p 347) In response to this, to "set society to rights," women demanded, and got, the vote.
These were the early feminists. Punctilious, prudish, self-righteous and pure, they were as much cause as cure for the vice and intemperance that dismayed them so. It wasn't that they ascended the pedestal unassisted, for men were as culpable in this as they. (Sex in History, Reay Tannahill, p 349) Nor did all men consider women inferiors. While women entreated one another to treat "their husbands as a cross between God and Sir Galahad" (Sex in History, Reay Tannahill, p 349), there were men arguing in favor of women's superiority over man:
(Johann Jakob) Bachofen denied man's "natural" superiority over women, and claimed, with a wealth of historical and anthropological detail, that when humanity was still close to nature and maternity the only recognizable parental relationship, women had ruled, but that when the spirit conquered man took over. ... Only when agriculture developed, allowing even a small family to become self-sufficient through ownership of private property, did monogamy become the rule and woman subordinate to man. -- Sex in History, Reay Tannahill, p 352 - 353
For the early feminists, this became an article of faith in their criticism of women's role in society. And among many, this sexist attitude still persists.
While unbiased observers know better than to believe either sex is superior to the other, many accept without question that men are solely responsible for humanity's wars. This may be mistaken, however, because it ignores the importance of war to the women's movement.
Rod Van Mechelen