Don't wanna fight with no-one
But you piss me off
You keep pushing, pushing
You best step of the gas" [girl]
"All bets are off, fuck you
You taste like toxic poison
I wash my hands of you."
Garbage - Why Don't You Come Over?
A recurring centerpiece of feminist propaganda is the timelessness and pervasiveness of male oppression, the preconception that misogyny is men's default setting and the world was a hell-hole for women until modern feminists rode in on their white unicorns to save the day, that men always kept all the good stuff for themselves while depriving their be-boobered better halves and every man in history has been a rapist and wife-beater. Y-tey's keepin you down, yo!
Well, certainly the world was a hell-hole. Certainly, also, women were derided as weaker and inept compared to men in many cultures, especially once Judaic religiously-prescribed patriarchy was imported to Europe and through the Middle-East through its offshoots of Christianity and Islam. Certainly, also, the one-sided view of this situation as purposeful oppression of women by men as distinct social classes is so adorably simplistic that one should expect it to be heard only in school-yard chants.
Take for instance The Gest of Robyn Hode and Robin's enumeration of acceptable targets for his band's highway robberies, which I described in greater detail in my last post. Peasants and homesteaders are strictly hands-off, common warriors assessed on a case by case basis to determine if they're "good fellows" while the parasitic upper echelons of law enforcement and religious oversight are always in Robin's crosshairs. Yes, you can put crosshairs on a bow.* Shut up.
The feminist reaction to such passages will tend toward the painfully predictable. There, you see, you see!?! None of those groups include women, it's all about men and their dick-measuring and putting women down as worthless, in fact the whole poem must've been written for the express purpose of excluding women from it!
Well, yes, women are excluded from that list, not implicitly but quite explicitly, several lines before the breakdown into beat-down categories even begins.
"Robyn loued Oure der Lady; For dout of dydly synne, Wolde he neuer do compani harme That any woman was in."
For fear of sinning against the Virgin Mary, Robin would... not rob women? Not attack women? Never hit a girl? Up the ante. Never attack any group that contained at least one woman, any woman! Done. Period. Don't just leave women alone, but don't you go anywhere near women with the rough stuff! Note by the way that he's not particularly worried about dydly-synning against Geebus by attacking men.
Now, it's highly doubtful that whatever historical cut-throat inspired the Robin Hood myth would have stuck to such a rule, just as given human nature it's doubtful that he actually gave to the poor (though taking from the rich remains a safe bet) but the point is the figure of Robin as an idealized hero of the people, a paragon of virtue. Good men in the culture which spawned this myth protect women, unequivocally, before other men are even considered. This is the standard by which men measured themselves.
There is of course a valid argument to be made that such imagery, in repetition, can become a means of underscoring women's weakness and dependence on men, and of course if you fixate on this conclusion alone the world certainly looks very oppressive to the double-exxers. However, you have to dedicate yourself to some pretty fancy mental gymnastics to avoid the much more obvious explicit issues which should be considered before attempting to divine implicit meanings. Reading between the lines is wonderful, but reading the lines themselves should probably also remain a priority. Let's remember the topic of conversation here is robbery. Highway robbery, what with the pokin' people with pointy things and leaving them to bleed to death in a ditch, that sort of thing.
From the vantage point of a central-heated 21st century Women's Studies lecture hall it's quite easy to single out the male/female dynamic and conveniently ignore greater context. That oppressive male protectiveness hemming women into the homestead stemmed from very real causes. The world really was a hellhole. Working outside the home didn't mean "Office Space" paper-pushing but chopping your foot off with a hoe after digging from dawn to dusk. Conflict resolution came in club, axe and knife form. Walking any road meant running into various robbin' hoods who, let's be realistic here, weren't picky about who they took from, and never gave. To say the world was a much more dangerous place is a monstrous understatement. "Hic sunt leones" proved more often than not quite literally true - and sharks and snakes and plagues to boot. If you survive all that, have fun getting conscripted. Unless you're female.
One of the more comical feminist topics in the '90s was the attempt to change the word "women" to "womyn" because so often when referring to the feminine in the English language (and others) the word used is merely derived from the masculine form. So here's one that's not: widower comes from widow. We all know who outlived whom, and still does.
Before we assume that Robin Hood's protectiveness, along with the rest of the chivalry of courtly romances and the damsels in distress of folk tales, is merely a sinister cover for implicit derogation, denigration and devaluation of women, let's admit what it more obviously reveals: the unending, all-pervasive and crippling paranoia of every human society in history that its women might be in danger. Inter-tribal conflicts are won, as a rule, by sheer numbers, and it's the availability of womb space which determines how much cannon fodder the ruling classes can throw at each other, how many workers they can work to death or have tortured to death as examples. We are all descended from tribal units which, among other things, out-bred their competition, which protected and coddled women and used men as disposable active representatives of their family units, as ablative armor for the tribe's women and children. It's been our core evolutionary stable strategy as a pre-sentient species. Keep women producing offspring. Sacrifice men.
It is this paranoia which feminists exploit, our predisposition to panic when being accused of somehow harming or endangering women so that we simply genuflect to beg penance instead of critically analyzing the claim. Feminists will gladly decry the plight of such-and-such noblewoman who didn't get to be queen because she was usurped by her younger male brother or cousin while ignoring the thousands upon thousands of men she sacrificed in her war of succession. We live in constant fear of finding that we did some compani harme which contained a woman, that we have dydly synned against Oure der Lady. Before we can even reach the verses distinguishing social class, this primal fear rules our preconceptions.
Yet this is not 12th-century England. Though we arguably find ourselves in a survival situation as a species, it is not one which our protective instincts can recognize and with seven and a half billion naked apes cluttering the planet certainly not one which has to be addressed by privileging our breeding stock of females. Our chivalry, just like our machismo, is outdated and misplaced. Feminism, like any dogmatic, propagandistic system of unanalyzed belief, will always cherry-pick and fabricate whatever arguments support the orthodoxy of its self-justifying core tenets. It will always promote women and attack men, no matter the relevant standing of the two.
If it's equality you want, though, then we'd have to admit that though our culture has historically put women down, this wrong occupied a sphere of much greater wrongs in which men as a rule had it at least as bad. We have to admit that with equal rights should come equal dangers and burdens, that violence against women is not intrinsically worse than violence against men and deserves no special standing, that men should not be pushed into hazardous professions and every warfront should contain as many women as men in the front line. Type "college gender ratio" into a search engine and within the first five hits you'll already start running into articles decrying the poor dating market for educated women. As men get pushed out of higher education our first concern, our first thought of ramifications, is how this might inconvenience women's instinct to marry money. Because, you see, that social ill did some compani harme that a woman was in.
That's just the tip of the iceberg.
* You can also put a bow on crosshairs.
P.S. I am amused that Robin's chivalry is couched in piety vis-a-vis the Virgin Mary, as whenever you run into actual identifiable misogyny it's usually the result of religious control of mating rituals. Ah, but that's a topic for another day.