Let's Put This Moment For Women In A Little Historical Perspective

In the beginning, there was sexual assault.

At the dawn of recorded history, in ancient Babylon, the law of the land was something called the Hammurabi Code. It’s the thing that said “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” It also said that a woman’s sexuality was the property of her husband. Which in laymen’s terms means that he could pretty much rape her whenever he wanted.

In ancient China, even women born to nobility were considered deeply inferior to men, and poorer women could be bought and sold by their male relatives for any number reasons – up to and including selling one’s own daughter or sister to a brothel for the money. Which happened a lot.

In ancient Greece, the great philosopher Aristotle said that “man is by nature superior to the female and so the man should rule and the woman should be ruled.” Women were pretty much property there too.

In ancient Rome, things were a little bit better for women: the wealthy ones could run estates, which were kind of like the Big Corporations of the time, so… that’s progress! On the other hand, they still couldn’t vote and were still second class citizens to men.

And then came the Middle Ages, which were… well, you’ve seen “Game of Thrones.” So, you know, not great.

Things were better in some parts of the Islamic world at the time, but in a lot places, same story: Locked out of the public square, sold into marriage, once in a marriage they’re the husband’s property ― you get the idea.

And these things still go on today, in all kinds of cultures, all over the world – women at best secondary to men, and at worst men’s property.

Now, lest we think that there’s some “natural order” at work here, it’s important to note that in a few places, like certain periods in Ancient Egypt, or Ancient Mayan societies, or Native American societies, or a host of hunter gatherer societies around the world, women were not subordinate. In ancient Egypt, a woman could actually ascend to the highest office in the land and become Pharaoh, though it didn’t happen a whole lot.

But ancient Egypt was kind of a long time ago now, and the fact remains that if you were born female at almost any time in history, in almost any place, you’d have been born pretty much powerless. You’d have been property. Beaten, raped, a slave. And in many places, women still are.

In fact, in certain states within the United States, it was legal to rape your wife until 1994. People said it was a “family affair”; we shouldn’t interfere. 1994! I was alive! Most people watching this video were alive! Anybody over the age of 22! Until finally, in 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act. And it didn’t solve everything, we still have a lot more work to do, but sexual assault has significantly decreased since that time and at the very least it’s ILLEGAL.

Given this terrible history, from ancient Babylon to when I was in middle school, it would be weird if, when presented with the possibility that the single most powerful person in the world could be a woman, there wasn’t some crazy reactive pushback. It would be weird if our society, on some level, didn’t feel just a little bit uncomfortable, if deep down a lot of us - male, female and otherwise – didn’t feel just a little bit ill at ease.

So don’t believe for one minute that it’s not a big deal that the president of the United States might be a woman, or think that the fact that she’s a woman isn’t a reason to vote for her. Because for all her faults and flaws – and lord knows, she sure has them – her election will if nothing else send a message to the world, to men and women alike, to boys and to girls that there is nothing a woman cannot accomplish, there is nothing a woman cannot do, that in the 21st century women shall not be and must never be again rape-able property.

That’s why I am genuinely excited to be voting this November. That’s what I’m voting for. Because all things considered… It’s kind of historic.

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