The Domestication of Women

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Just about everything in a patriarchal system is designed to domesticate women. The men in power are afraid of what would happen if we were allowed to run free. And women have bought into the program. Because we have forgotten, or have never experienced, what it meant to be undomesticated. No, let me say it clearly: we have given up our right to be wild.

wild-womenBeing wild means being able to do whatever we want. It means following our true nature. It means not bending to the will of any other person, male or female. It means looking the way we want to look, regardless of what men or other women say about it. It means retaining control over our own bodies. It means not having to ask anyone else’s permission to do anything.

We have lived for so long as domesticated beings that we have forgotten what it means to be undomesticated. And once domesticated, it is hard to reverse the process. The restrictions that keep us in the house and at man’s side are powerful and ingrained in us from birth. Little boys are allowed–even expected–to be rambunctious. They can play freely in their male clothes. Girls have to wear dresses and skirts and risk being made fun of if their underpants show. But the true wild woman can wear dresses if she wants to and still play freely because she doesn’t care what little boys say. So what if her underpants show?

All people in a society are domesticated to some extent. If they weren’t, there would be lawlessness and chaos. But men retain vestiges of being free by being the ones who have the power. If you don’t have control, you’re not free. And it should be obvious that women have only limited power. They are given the right to do what they want as long as they do it in their cages. They are not to stray too far from home and from the pursuits that men have decided are appropriate. Thus the lionness can no longer hunt for prey; after all, she’s given everything she needs by her keepers.

Women think they are privileged that they don’t have to hunt for food or protect their young from predators on their own. They silence their longings for freedom by thinking of the compensations they receive for not having it. As long as they and their young are sheltered, fed and clothed, they’re not about to challenge the way things are. But the whole system falls apart when women begin to realize that the concessions they make aren’t worth it.

Some women don’t mind being kept like a pet. But somewhere inside them they know what they’ve given up in return. And whether they realize it or not, their innate nature is going to be at war with their domesticated nature. They’ll feel moments of resentment when the men in their lives tell them how to dress, how to act, how to spend their time. They may try to squash those feelings, but they won’t completely go away. And eventually they either rebel or become bitter.

Think about your own life: what would you do if there were no restrictions and expectations? What did you dream of when you were a very little girl, before you bought into the messages that you had to be good and quiet and stay in the background? You may protest that you’ve never wanted anything more than to be a wife and a mother, or to work in a helping profession, or to have a home to take care of. That’s not the point. Have you been able to have those things on your own terms? Or have you had to shoehorn your feet into shoes that don’t quite fit because they were made for somebody else? Have you been able to raise your children the way you think is best or are you always having to do it “his” way? Are you able to make a living wage in that noble helping profession? Are you living the way you really want to live, or are you always dancing to another’s tune?

Are you happy being domesticated? Or do you want to run free?

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

6 thoughts on “The Domestication of Women”

  1. Women should never allow this sort of behavior . There is a self worth that a person should have. Men are equally capable of doing all these things. The more they are required to learn such skills they will start to do more. It depends on parents at home. If such skills are not taught at home then schools should offer courses from a small age. Sewing , cooking classes ,electrical skills are good subjects for both men and women.

    1. You make a good point that women shouldn’t allow these things to be done to them. But unfortunately some pressures are so subtle and have been in place for so long that women don’t even realize that they have a right to demand better treatment.

      As a feminist, I try to promote the idea that it’s not that men are always wrong and women always right, but that both sexes would be better off if we were all treated equally.

      Thanks for your comments!

  2. Projecting out problems onto men is to easy, it’s far more complicated then that.

    I read in an article, that woman have become our own worst enemy. We check up on each other: is her home nice and clean? How is she dressed? Has she gained weight?

    I’m a great fan of a dedicated photographer, Jacob Holdt, who has taken pictures of people in America for the last 30 years, especially the afroamericans and other marginalized groups.

    And he has observed, that when a group of people have been oppressed for too long, it be black people, natives or woman, they start turning on themselves, and eachother.

    It’s like a malice living within us…I’we been wondering lately, if alle woman are, more or less conciously, raised with low selfesteem, and “self faith” – so that we constantly have to overcompensate, and that that in it self makes us a kind of slaves to the world around us? I know it all to well from my self, I always have to do a little better, work a little longer.

    1. Great comments! People without power tend to pick on those who are even more powerless than they are. And we have many tricks for making sure that others are more powerless, like putting each other down. We seem to think that there’s only so much power to go around, so we have to grab it for ourselves before someone else gets it. We also let others influence how we feel about ourselves. If we feel disliked or disrespected, we figure they must have valid reasons and we end up believing that we deserve to be treated badly. Then we strike out at ourselves and others like us, instead of being able to stand up to our detractors and defend ourselves.

      I really like what you wrote about overcompensation making us slaves to the world around us. That is so true! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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