WASHINGTON, May 22, 2016 — May 19, 2016, was not a good day for womankind. Oklahoma legislators presented a bill to the governor making doctors who perform abortions subject to felony charges, and the famous Muirfield Club in England declared that it would not be admitting lady members.
Oklahoma’s Gov. Mary Fallin, an anti-abortion Republican, vetoed the bill on May 20, stating, “This bill is so ambiguous and so vague that doctors cannot be certain what medical circumstances would be considered ‘necessary to preserve the life of the mother.’” Across the pond, the organizers of the British Open banned Muirfield from hosting their golf tournament.
The Oklahoma legislators and Muirfield’s board figuratively slapped, belittled and degraded womankind through their actions.
Women are often victims, suffering physical abuse and beatings, and legal, social, political and business injustices as well. Despite America’s status as a civilized country, the degradation persists in too many quarters. That it continues at all, anywhere, is a disgrace.
Studies have shown that one-third of all women suffer domestic violence at some point. Despite this alarming fact, today’s media still exploit violence against women.
Society accepts advertising that portrays women as seducers; they are also depicted as submissive, silenced and victimized. Women are valued less than men in business, and when they do the same work as men, they are often paid less.
Women were not allowed to vote in the United States until 1920. The country has yet to elect a woman president. Women are vastly underrepresented in elective offices across the nation. In 2015, they occupied less than 20 percent of the seats in the House and 20 percent in the Senate. Five states have female governors, while 24 states have never had a female governor. Nationwide, women constitute less than 25 percent elected state officials.
Look at the historical record:
- The story of Adam and Eve as reported (by men) blames Eve for the first sin.
- Women have often been less “valuable” to society. Their role was to bear and raise children. These time-consuming roles took them out of the work of the day and away from the work of government.
- Domestic violence against women was legal in the west until the last century and is still legal in many countries today. In the United States, although illegal, domestic violence is too often tacitly accepted.
- Violence has been used as a tool of control. Given the status of legal chattel or not-responsible adults, women could be treated like children. A man’s right to castigate and physically discipline his wife and children were codified in various civil and religious laws.
- The Code of Hammurabi (1800 B.C.) decreed that a wife was subservient to her husband and that he could punish her for any transgression.
- Greek philosophy, adopted by Christians, held women inferior to men by nature. Plato (427 -347 BC) wrote, “it is only males who are created directly by the gods and are given souls.” Aristotle (384-322-BC) considered women to be “defective” human beings. “Her inability to produce semen is her deficiency. Only the man is a full human being. By nature the male is higher, the female is lower, and the male rules and the female is ruled.”
- The Roman Code of Paterfamilias (father rules the family) declared that if a man discovered his wife committing adultery, he could put her to death. But conversely, she could not lay a finger upon him “nor does the law allow it.” Roman law, which became the basis for the church’s laws, gave women a lower status than men in society. Women had lesser rights in their homes and in society.
- Medieval canon law encouraged that wifely disobedience be punished publicly.
- Theologians copied the Greek and Roman anti-female views into their philosophy and dogma.
- Renaissance France (late 1400s to 1600s) made some progress. Laws were passed to reduce fatal wife beatings, but they still authorized “blows, thumps, kicks or punches on the back, which did not leave any marks.” A later law gave men the right to beat their wives so long as death did not follow.
- English common law in the 1700s allowed husbands to beat their wives with a whip or rattan to enforce domestic discipline.
- American courts upheld a man’s right to punish his wife with violence until 1871. In 1910, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a wife had no claim or action for an assault and battery because “it would open up the doors of the courts to accusations of all sorts of one spouse against the other.”
- In 1977, California required that wives prove more injury than commonly needed to establish assault and battery charges in order to prosecute their husbands.
Today, criminal sexual assault and battery laws, rape laws, fear and “wanting to move on” concerns often inhibit women from pursuing prosecution against their attackers. When their attackers are celebrities—politicians, entertainers and athletes—it is often even harder for women to secure justice.
The phenomenon of celebrity men assaulting women is clearly accepted by the public, as evidenced by the continued applause and wealth directed at them.
A short list of these celebrity criminals includes Bill Cosby, Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, Dennis Rodman, James Brown, Christian Slater, Darryl Stawberry, OJ Simpson, Ike Turner and NFL player Ray Rice who in 2014 was seen knocking out his fiancé in an elevator and dragging her out by her feet.
Zeba Blay, writing in the Huffington Post, notes:
Celebrity culture caters almost entirely to men, from the objectification of women to the fetishization of male wealth and power. The power of the male celebrity, then, lies in a culture designed to applaud and protect these men, to keep their power intact but silencing those who threaten it.
When we don’t hold these men accountable, when we prop them up on pedestals with awards and accolades and lots of money, we’re saying that this is OK. Legal punishment is one thing, but it’s hard to reconcile some of these men’s alleged actions with the cultural punishment (or lack thereof) they receive.
Harm can also be done with words, and women have certainly been subjected to verbal degradation. Sexist remarks abound and reinforce the male-dominated attitude of many. In 2007, Don Imus, a radio announcer, called the Rutgers University’s women’s basketball team (eight African Americans and two white players) “nappy-headed ho’s.”
Former Republican Congressman Todd Akin in 2012: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Acknowledgment is given to all of the people and organizations fighting to create a world where women are treated as the equals they are.
Donna Summer: “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Amen.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website.
His book “The 8 Critical Things Your Auto Accident Attorney Won’t Tell You” can be instantly downloaded, for free, on his website: http://www.samakowlaw.com/book.