A few weeks ago, one of my favorite bloggers told a tale of some women she knows wishing they lived in Jane Austen or Victorian times, when men were "gentlemen". She scoffed at this ignorant viewpoint, and so do I. Wearing rose-colored glasses when viewing the history of the treatment of women may make the past look romantic, but it's incredibly inaccurate. I decided to post about this topic myself rather than leave an annoyingly long comment on her post.
Husband and I have discussed this a lot recently. We concluded that the din of complaints about our current state of affairs is a bit louder than it needs to be. Are there things about our culture/government/economy that need tweaking these days? Of course. But when we complain about these things, we are often failing to recognize just how good we have it. Injustice and fear have been facts of life for thousands of years. But back in the day, instead of worrying about the injustice of social programs or fearing credit card payments, people were worrying about the injustice of tyrannical leadership and worrying about their town being pillaged and burned. The injustice that humans have inflicted upon each other throughout history is horrifying. I am especially disturbed when I think of the historical suffering of women, usually at the hands of men. I'm not just thinking about the unfulfilled 1950s housewife or the stifled, weak Victorian lady on a pedestal whom some ill-informed women envy. I'm thinking about the ancient Roman armies that always came equipped with a harem of sex slaves. I'm thinking about the women who were raped and abused, often by their own husbands, while everyone perceived it as business-as-usual or else blamed the woman (granted this still happens today, but it's much less widespread . . . I hope). I'm thinking about the religious leaders who taught that women don't have souls and the philosophers who taught that women are incomplete forms of men. Of innocent virgins brutally sacrificed to pagan gods, of women whose children were slaughtered at the command of rulers, of the millions of women who lived as slaves, whose life was not their own, but belonged to someone else.
Add in the many women who were goaded to marry for monetary or political purposes, whose talents weren't recognized due to their sex, who had no method of birth control and constantly risked pregnancy and thereby death, who were molded into the unrelenting stereotype of frailness, daintiness, and illogicality. History sounds pretty bleak for women. Would you really like to be Elizabeth Bennett, who was subject to a sexist contract that would render her homeless upon her father's death? Or Juliet, whose parents were pressuring her to marry a smarmy man at thirteen years of age (okay, I suppose few people actually want to be Juliet; she was kind of an idiot)?
We can fantasize about living in another time all we want, but I would rather live now than at any other time, when the status of women is almost equal to that of men. People complain about the world but, at least in my culture, 2011 is a time of incredible decency and safety and respect. It fills me with gratitude. I am so grateful that God did not send me to Earth at a different time. I probably would have been lynched for being a witch (for my sinister handedness alone), thrown into a mental institution (which were hell-holes themselves back in the day), or would have become some sort of mass murderer (the misogyny would have gotten to me eventually). I'm perfectly happy to live in 2011, without the Mr. Darcys, the knights in shining armor, and the theory of wandering womb syndrome.