Women, cows, horses and pigs; all of them mammals, all of them breeders, the latter three when female, as is woman a female person–the etymology of the word ‘woman’ sets in motion what happens when we discuss her–she is thus in the back of our minds, a modified person. A man is person in himself a person. What then must we do better to understand more? Now, it is not simply the matter of her modification in our diction first and then and perhaps lastly in how we think of her, that is prime for discussion. There is further dissatisfaction with the language we use to describe her, define her, confined her–all the articulation about her, surrounding her, to her, for her, et cetera, et cetera, has been managed against her.
A woman, for a more specific instance, is, as she has been for millenia, transformed by marriage. The institution, as it has been constituted by custom, ceremony, contract and diction, has in-formed the shape women are to take or assume in society. By way of matrimony, a woman goes from person to female, from being a modified person to being other than a person, being only a sexual object or container to be filled, thus, we could assume the logic would extend to being fulfilled, no?
Diction is everything in our ceremonies. The word woman is from the Anglo-Saxon wif man which means, literally, female person; the Anglo-Saxon word man meant what we mean by person (the word person, from the Latin persona, translates mask, giving rise to a better understanding of the word personality). Man was person; wif man was a female person, a modified man. The word man subsequently came to mean what we mean by the word ‘man,’ the fruits of patriarchy extend to semantics and the ascription of meaning. Yes, a woman goes from woman to female in marriage; you could not have missed the current word wife in the Old English wif. So, before marriage, a woman is a person; once more, modified by the Old English adjective for female, wif.
Modified by patriarchy she is, but nonetheless, before marriage, she is a person, woman. After marriage, however, she becomes a wife, primarily so–if not entirely so. Thus, the modified human person woman, becomes a female without personhood. She loses her personhood for the overarching role of breeder. All females are designated as females in relation to the biological function of breeding, which is why the man becomes husband, as in animal husbandry, the manger of the breeding, the manager of the brood bred by the female. This transformation has also been the way of the world around the world for all women irrespective of culture or civilization.
Even here in these United States, a woman goes from personhood before marriage, to breeder of her brood afterwards, going from woman to wife, the bride whose ring symbolizes the bridal bit or the ring through the nose of the mare. All traditional marriages have been such: woman is wife as soon as she takes her vows–we have removed ‘obey’ from the avowals a woman speaks, but the greatest rhetorical leverage against women as persons is in the diction of the ceremony itself.
Man and wife; person and female; the etymologies are clear–we reject the study of etymology as we have the study of philology. Never mind what husband and wife might infer inside our half-baked attempts to invest new meaning into our ceremonies. This wife, now female, in this sense of her “obligation and duty to carry on,” to hold up the family, which is why she is expected in most maters that concern both husband and wife, to lie down. The once enforced missionary position was a reinforcement of woman’s subservient and submissive role.
Birth comes from the Old English to carry. Woman becomes pack-animal, or a subsumes in her entirety the vessel that is her womb. She becomes a womb. This has been and remains an is now in most traditional societies where woman is a lesser man, a modified man. In these societies, man is the prime being, the prototypal person. So then, let me reiterate: a woman, once a person, becomes then a wife, a female, one that is in effect, if not by design, a surrogate for breeding a man’s brood.
Now, all birth is an act of surrogacy within the marriage contract; a woman, traditionally, has been the surrogate for the man’s brood. It is not until very late in our history that we accept woman as person with rights to her brood. But just how progressive we are in the world can be noted by how a country supposedly as advanced as China has the most forced abortions in the world when the fetus is female, and has the highest incidence of sexual slavery on earth, not to mention a rate of at least 500 women a day committing suicide. This is our world.
Infertility is still grounds for divorce. Extending this ground to stand on to women does not extract it from being embedded in patriarchy, a rule against woman’s personhood. Yes, a woman loses her personhood by the very words we use that cannot be removed from their etymology, nor can they be voided of the residue of meaning they have carried for millennia. A woman has bargained her personhood, if you will, by becoming 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, then, not a form of prostitution as the Romantics and the Modernists both insisted it was? This could be why traditional married women are the most savage in their critiques of prostitution–traditionally, it is women who make the most vocal opponents to porstitution, and often not because prostitution is a form of oppression for women, but because it offends traditional marriage–if you can believe that.
So then, to reiterate, wife means female, as in female cow, female horse, female pig, or female dog. We do know where this is heading: female Homo-Sapiens.
We are one of many species of animals in the world, but is that what we want from our humanity? The distinction of female is in her potential or actual status as breeder; this is what is currently offensive when young men refer to women as females–and no amount of somersaults to explain ethnic, racial or class culture or heritage in America can explain away the dehumanizing referencing by young men calling women females. .
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 have said before. We cannot 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. If you wonder how we continue to slip and falter on issues like abortion rights and gay marriage, look to how we speak. Look carefully at what persists in our diction, our common parlance.