Over the last couple of days, Misha’s been insisting on me making a blanket cave for her to sleep in. She likes to pick random inconvenient times, like when I’m asleep, or about to grab the computer and start typing. I could tell her no, but snuggling with a warm kitty is not to be turned down. I mean, honestly, look at how adorable she is.
She’s actually preventing me from avoiding research, because that’s pretty much all I can do when I’m having to make a cave roof with one arm. I might be able to type, but it would be slow and complicated. And I have a 19th century MRAnt to dissect.
So I’ve spent a good portion of the day reading about feminism and marriage law in Victorian England, and it’s full of sad stories of people who made bad matches and were trapped in them. In most ways, the laws made it impossible for married people to divorce. Men could have their affairs with impunity, but women could be cast off for the slightest infidelity. They were stuck without an outlet. They were non-entities as far as the law was concerned. All of their money and property were controlled by their husbands, unless some other male relative set up a special trust for them. They couldn’t get custody of their kids. They couldn’t sign contracts. They couldn’t leave without risking being dragged back by court order. They had no good career prospects. They couldn’t vote. They were virtual property, and they had very few ways to try to improve their lives.
And the arguments I see offered against the women and men who tried to change that are remarkably similar to some of the arguments used today. The thinking of the men and women who tried to maintain the status quo is nearly the same as those who fight progress today.
Knowing how these battles were fought is helpful to our battles for equality today. We can avoid reinventing the wheel, and learn ways to break out of the old molds. We also get to meet some brilliant women. I’ll introduce you to them once my research is done.
Well, I will when the kitty is occupied elsewhere. She’s almost 21. What she wants, she usually gets. I may believe that women and men should be equal in law and in practice, but when it comes to cats and humans, I’m sure most of us know what the actual balance of power is, and who owns whom. (Hint for those not owned by cats: the felid is sovereign.)
While you wait, read this excellent and brief introduction to English laws concerning women by the incomparable Barbara Leigh Smith. Then be damned glad you are not stuck in Victorian England as a woman.
Now, since you will need a bonus kitten after realizing how shitty things were for most women (and poor men) in dear old England, here is a picture of Luna being extra-adorable.