Women, cows, horses and pigs are all of them mammals, as I too am a mammal, a male mammal, a male homo sapiens as women are female homo sapiens as pigs are not homo sapiens, nor are horses or cows, all of them references for women, although I have left out the most common among them. The male homo sapiens’s most common reference for female homo sapiens, when limited imagination is at the fore–dog? The female of canines being a bitch. All of the above, female, thus all of them then breeders, the latter three when female, as is a woman, a female person, the person who breeds, all about how the etymology of the word ‘woman’ sets in motion what she is, what she does, what we think about her when we do not actually think about her, and there is motion herein . . . fires too, the narrow sphere of being cannot contain us, or her.
A woman transforms from person to female in marriage–what’s that? I hear many of you ask, What are you talking about? Yes, before marriage, she is wif man, or female person, what the two words translate–and I know you’re about to say, what are you talking about? Yes, man in Anglo-Saxon meant what we mean by the word ‘person,’ never mind that ‘person’ comes from the latin persona, which meant “mask.” After marriage, she becomes a wife, note the anglo-salon wif, which does not mean what we think we mean by ‘wife,’ but what we mean by female, as in female cow, female horse, female dog? She loses her personhood in marriage. She goes from modified personhood in being a female person before marriage to becoming a wife, contractually a breeder in as much as she is restricted to being a female under the management of her husband, as in the science of animal husbandry. So much the better for those who advocate for traditional marriage?
This transformation has been the way of the world for women irrespective of culture or civilization–we really are not that far from Atwood’s handmaidens, are we? And just watch the frenzy this bait causes among conservatives who have knees for brains.
Now, here in our contemporary America, we do have to ask ourselves just what we mean by civilization–and all civilizing impulses must move toward greater freedom otherwise they diminish the civilization at its best inclination. We are not nearly as free as we imagine ourselves to be, nor nearly as free as we could be, and I am tired of the comparisons with countries in the Third World, if we can say that anymore; that is, in order to be able to think we are the people on earth with the greatest liberty, it seems we must make comparisons with Third World Countries. Yes, even here in these United States, a woman goes from personhood before marriage, to breeder of her brood afterwards, going from woman to wife, as we say: Now I pronounce you Man and Wife.
Again, the etymology of ‘wife’ is the Anglo-Saxon wif which means female–man and his female, which means what, we could ask naively? What it means is simply what femaleness means firstly and lastly: what do all females have in common–breeding. Children as brood; woman as wife thus brood mare; the animal that the husband manages in her production.
Should I be thankful that I don’t live in China, where nearly 500 women a day kill themselves; are American women supposed to feel better about becoming wives just because women’s lives in other places are worse? Having a better human rights record than Rwanada is not in itself something to be proud of, no. Being thankful that she does not live in Saudi Arabia, is not how we want to judge the strides we are making toward universal liberty.
All traditional marriages have been such where woman is wife as soon as she takes her vows. We have removed ‘obey’ from the vows, but the greatest rhetorical leverage against women as persons is in the diction of the ceremony itself. Man and wife means person and female in its etymology. This wife, now female, in this sense of her “obligation and duty to carry on,” becomes a pack-animal, or a vessel (as in most traditional societies where woman is a lesser man, a modified man, a man being the prime being, the prototypal person). Birth means to carry in Anglo Saxon, not gestate–but gestate is what she does, not only carry . . . and I am not as opposed to metaphors as it seems herein at the moment.
Woman become wife is a surrogate for breeding a man’s brood. She loses her personhood, her womanhood, if you will, to become a breeder in trade for financial security, or so the traditional arrangement went in spite of propaganda to the contrary spoken vehemently by men. How is traditional marriage not a form of prostitution, then? This could be why traditional married women are the most savage in their critiques of prostitution.
Wife alone means female, as I have said, repetition becomes motif (as I have also said time and again, over and over, another motif on making motifs) . . . So, in female cow, female horse, female pig, or female dog . . . and we do know where this is heading, as above, but is this not what the Priest or Rabbi have always been saying in English when they marry couples right up to this day. The distinction of female is in her potential or actual status as breeder–we have said this already, but we must reiterate that this displaces any previous status she had as even a modified human. All wives are expected to carry on, which is what she does when she performs her wifely duty number one, having babies. Birth again is a verb in Anglo-Saxon, and it means to carry. Everything born has been carried, woman become wife become pack animal breeder.
We do not learn from language because we disrespect language, and we show our disrespect for language because we cannot honor erudition in language. However, language tells us everything, or so I’ve said before . . . and I do not intend to indulge fallacies that others have sought to avoid, but no word is entirely free of its etymology . . . and there is a collective linguistic unconscious in native and other speakers of a language, and a words etymology, its semantic evolution is residually present in every words use, they are there in the archaeology of words . . . We can’t escape the power of language, the influence of our etymology is present. Woman is person before marriage; after marriage she traditionally becomes just another female mammal. Do you wonder how we stall on our way to re-covering our lost humanity each time it slips? Look to how we speak.
Wives, all of them, mammals, is the best we have to offer in our referencing woman.