Since I retired three years ago, I have been becoming almost as sessile as a sea squirt, sitting in front of my computer, reading not just news but comment and what people are thinking about things.  Among the ‘things’, women’s equality is very much to the front these days.

Reading not just comment articles, but the comments to these, one gets the impression that a section of the population, making capital out of their own ignorance, are digging themselves ever deeper into the belief that oppression of women started among the Hebrews.  A modicum of knowledge of the civilizations of Eurasia, past and present, should be enough to show that is not the case.  But being a very modern man, I would like to share some of my ramblings on the subject of: “whither women’s equality?”  (Not “whether”, as first typed — see first comment.)

Recently, in the Hindustan Times (Kolkata), there appeared an article featuring interviews with women lawyers.  Although each lawyer had her own priorities
on the issue of women’s oppression, these women are mostly unanimous. “I don’t believe that oppression against women is something that has just started happening. It’s always been there, continues to remain and will probably be there in the future as well,” says another.
Biologically there may well be a basis for that lawyer’s pessimism.  Near the end of 2001, I was watching a programme following a troupe of baboons whose environment had been struck by drought.  The two most dominant males had taken control of the one remaining water hole, and barred it to all others.  A female, desperate to obtain water for her baby, had sneaked in and got some water.  At this, the lead male flew into a rage, and stamped up and down destroying all access to water.  (At the end, only 6 of about 45 baboons remained, not including those two males, and the survivors dispersed to other troupes.)  Were are not the same species, but I could nevertheless only draw comparison with some present day societies.

Fortunately, the outlook for females is not totally bleak: Girl Power In The Animal Kingdom: Females Can ‘Choose’ The Sex Of Offspring says another article.

Back, though, to Homo self-styled sapiens.  At present India is very much focused on a case of a gang rape and murder.  Quoting from a recent article:
The victim, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, was attacked by five men and a juvenile on a bus they boarded on their way home from watching Life of Pi at a popular Delhi shopping mall on December 16th last year.

She was abused by the men for being out at night with a boy, and then gang-raped and attacked with an iron rod. She died two weeks later in hospital.
Four of the accused have been sentenced to death.  However, the defence lawyer for two of the convicts said:
If my daughter was having premarital sex and moving around at night with her boyfriend, I would have burned her alive. I would not let this situation happen. All parents should adopt such an attitude.
Besides the cruelty and ferocity of such a statement, there is one even deeper matter, an iniquity indeed, looking its etymology, from a Latin word meaning “unequalness, unevenness, injustice”,  from in- “not” + aequus “just, equal” .  What about the men?  As a young-ish man in the 1970s, I was already aware of the double standard, especially as it applied in societies which retained some semblance of morality. 

And maybe it is among our Hebrew friends that the first recorded inklings of equality for women appeared.  For instance:
“If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.” (Deuteronomy 22:22)
Guys (in the traditional sense) — this applies to you also.

But there are some pretty grim-looking things in the Old Testament.  One of the best known is the curse on Eve in Genesis 3:
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing
      in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be to* your husband,
      and he shall rule over you.”

*this could be translated as “for” or “against”!
But what were our Hebrew friends thinking?  What emerges to me is that they regarded male oppression as a curse, just as much as the pains of childbirth.  For example, what is one to make of the following
she was normal for young British womanhood in precisely the same sense. Her dialectic between abject submission to a violent, jealous man on the one hand, and utter drunken sluttishness on the other, is characteristic of hundreds, if not thousands, of young women whom I have seen as patients over the years, and whose behaviour is to be witnessed in every British town and city at weekends.
 . . . . .
Their girlfriends, of course, will have been [like her.  They] do not break with their criminal boyfriends because they are appalled by what they have done, or by the vileness of the acts they have committed, but because their men are absent in prison for prolonged periods, and they receive what they think are better offers elsewhere, usually from men of precisely the same type.
(link to article)

It is not only male criminals who seem to exert this power.  Some artists are notorious for their treatment of their women.  This is raised in this article about an exhibition of the work of Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter.  It starts:
There are many good reasons for not wanting to see an exhibition of Frida Kahlo’s work.
Now I am not totally in agreement with this: I quite like her work.  But the article does make some interesting points about feminism, namely that Frida Kahlo herself would make an inappropriate feminist icon, seeing as how she went along with so much abuse from her painter husband Diego Rivera.

And for another male artist who exerted such a hold, try Modigliani and His Models at the Royal Academy.  Upon his death, his mistress, eight months pregnant, jumped to her death from a window.

So, there are many pitfalls in relations between the sexes, and because of this many people who think they are thinkers want to change everything.  As a retired prison doctor writes:
The fact that some traditional two-parent families are joyless places is no reason to damn the institution wholesale - yet that is what much of bien-pensant opinion seeks to do.

And some people seem to want to go further, and abolish sex (although not copulation) by removing the distinction between men and women altogether.  The Hebrews, as one might expect, were quite strong on the distinction:
“A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”  Deuteronomy 22:5
though again note, what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Now these days we do realize, starting from the late 19th century, that not all people are constituted the same.  Not only are there those grouped together as LGBT, but there are those who are naturally camp.  Even so, should sexual difference be written out of our culture?  Last night on X-Factor USA, a young lady sang (and very nicely) the song The House of the Rising Sun.  According to the linked article, by changing the words, one can sing from either the male or the female point of view.  The best known version, from The Animals, is from the male point of view, and it was these words that the young lady sang.  This hit me with massive cognitive dissonance.

So what would you like me to say?  Am I to deduce, that since from America has come the habit of using “guys” to refer, not only to mixed company, but even to groups of girls, that America is becoming sexless?

But I always like to end on a cheerful note, so here’s a comment, last night, from Simon Cowell to five singers:  “I think you’d be a very good group — if none of you were in it”  But one second thoughts, not so cheerful.  Witty, certainly, but ...