Bakker, Feminism, and Slavery

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« on: May 07, 2013, 02:12:22 pm »
Quote from: Bakker User
Scanning through the boards, I can't find any existing threads to incorporate this into.

Anyway, sorry if you've all had your fill of this elsewhere: some have accused Bakker of sexist and, perhaps worse, unconvincing characterizations of women in his stories. He has been accused of not knowing anything about women.

It strikes me that perhaps these complaints are unreasonable from at least one angle. Namely, that Bakker is writing about particular individuals (and these are well-realized, at least) who are steeped in a cultural (Earwan) milieu totally different from modern Western whatever -so of course they'll behave in ways unexpected to us, and hold beliefs appalling to us. Plus, isn't challenging preconceptions of human psychology what Bakker's all about anyway? And doesn't speaking of "how women act" or "how men act" both beg a certain question and fall right into Bakker's trap/arms? ... Let's just take this hyper-misogynistic universe as it is for a moment (and whether that is intrinsically problematic or not, I can't say...) - how could a given female in this universe be expected to think and act? It's certainly not a universe conducive to warrior-princesses. But I've probably just committed a grave fallacy with the last couple of lines, so let's wrap it up.

Personally, being an ignoramus virtual hermit these days (see intro post), I trust Bakker to be well-acquainted enough with the cog-psych research and personal interactions to create A realistic or plausible or possible characterization, even if it's shocking in many ways.

That's all I really have to say on that front.

***

More serious, however, is this charge from one of the Larry-OF posts:

Quote
Reading the quoted passage with which you begin this post the very first thing that anybody who knows anything the condition of slavery and those who lived it is, "This guy hasn't even bothered to read the myriad slave narratives available, which make up a large part of our significant national literature." He knows nothing about being a slave.

Many slave narratives including the most 'literary' and most studied among our classics of national lit are even free, full text, online.

This guy can't be trusted about anything to do with power, gender and sex.

with respect to this passage in WLW -

Quote
A warmth climbs through her as she speaks, an unaccountable assurance, as if out of all her crazed burdens, confession is the only real encumbrance.  Secrecy mars the nature of every former slave, and she is no different.  They hoard knowledge, not for the actual power it affords, but for the taste of that power.  All this time, even before Achamian's captivity, she has been accumulating facts and suspicions.  All this time she has fooled herself the way all men fool themselves, thinking that she alone possessed the highest vantage and that she alone commanded the field.

Does Bakker's understanding of slavery seem to be lacking to any of you? She mentions the availability of slave narratives online, but I don't see how that contradicts the notion that slaves hoard secrets from their masters. It certainly sounds plausible to me, at least on the surface. Are there any specific slave-quotes from our epoch that suggest or explicitly state otherwise?

At any rate, perhaps there's a psychological difference between race-slavery and the more old-fashioned slavery depicted in TSA. And again with the cultural-milieu difference, though to repeat it here might be, I fear, a cop-out of some sort.



Anyone got better apologies for Bakker?

On a positive note, I've gotten over my former contempt for the feminist critics of Bakker. On the other hand, perhaps it's simply a sign of decreased cognitive investment in Bakker's work rather than any maturation against the biases he so often contemplates. Which is the least flattering option?  :)

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« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2013, 02:12:31 pm »
Quote from: Meyna
I can't say anything of the descriptions of slavery from primary sources and how it compares to Bakker's depictions, but the altercation with the feminists followed a script that you see in a lot of arguments. The goal of the critics was never to understand the work; the goal was to make an example of someone in an effort to "rally the troops" against an issue that, to be fair, is a big problem in a lot of ways. Once Bakker did respond, both parties had incentive to continue and were then compelled to escalate.

"But it seems to me that once you begin a gesture it's fatal not to go through with it."
-John Updike

Do not make the mistake of dismissing the actions of the initial instigators as being unintelligent or misguided (insert any Sun Tzu quote concerning deception here). It was manipulation designed to gain followers, and, quite frankly, it worked. Whether it actually ends up helping the original cause is a different issue.

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« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2013, 02:12:51 pm »
Quote from: Curethan
Indeed. 

The argument lacks any evidence that such depictions reinforce negative attitudes. 
Even the censorship campaigners of the 90's had some kind of case to present when condemning popular art.

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« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2013, 02:12:55 pm »
Quote from: Auriga
Meyna's post is basically right.

The crowd who criticized Bakker over misogynism never really intended to analyze and pick apart Bakker's work in a serious way - it was more about yelling "misogynist poo-poo head" as loud as possible, and create an Issue of the Day.

The stupidest thing Bakker did was to acknowledge these people at all. They feed off attention, like all other internet-activists.

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« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2013, 02:13:01 pm »
Quote from: bbaztek
My experience with internet social justice warriors is they are often as venemous and vitriolic as the people they are trying to denounce. It's like the kid who keeps getting swirlies in middle school so he learns karate and puts the bully in the hospital, and then starts attacking anyone who looks at him funny. It's not unheard of for victimized people to lash out but if you're gonna just continue to filter everything in the world through your myopic views and only feed the anger and hatred inside you then you are doing nothing but continuing to perpetuate the cycle of anger/victimization

edit: i want to add that I've learned a lot from feminist posters on different forums and I try to remain as conscious as possible of how I regard women, but sooner or later you need to move past the venom

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« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2013, 02:13:07 pm »
Quote from: Auriga
Quote from: bbaztek
My experience with internet social justice warriors is they are often as venemous and vitriolic as the people they are trying to denounce. It's like the kid who keeps getting swirlies in middle school so he learns karate and puts the bully in the hospital, and then starts attacking anyone who looks at him funny.

Internet-warriors are hardly a poor victimized group, nor is it a trauma from bullying that motivates them. The majority of them are just bored people who lead rather safe and uninteresting lives without many actual problems, and so feel the need to create problems.

Most of the internet-crusaders who screeched that "BaKkEr H@tEs WYmmIn, OMG" weren't bullying victims lashing out against their bullies. This isn't the impression that I got at all. From my experience with internet-activists, the odds that they've been targets of real-life abuse are pretty slim.

Quote
The goal of the critics was never to understand the work; the goal was to make an example of someone in an effort to "rally the troops" against an issue that, to be fair, is a big problem in a lot of ways.

Yeah. No better way of combating misogyny than by internet-crusading against an obscure fantasy author. Totally.

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« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2013, 02:13:14 pm »
Quote from: Ajokli
Funny, I was reading slave narratives not too long ago and ran into this.

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mesn&fileName=041/mesn041.db&recNum=54&itemLink=D?mesnbib:2:./temp/~ammem_sRsD::

I'm as abolitionist as anyone but I would counter that they don't know a thing about slavery and/or the Reconstruction either.

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« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2013, 02:13:20 pm »
Quote from: bbaztek
Quote from: Auriga
Quote from: bbaztek
My experience with internet social justice warriors is they are often as venemous and vitriolic as the people they are trying to denounce. It's like the kid who keeps getting swirlies in middle school so he learns karate and puts the bully in the hospital, and then starts attacking anyone who looks at him funny.

Internet-warriors are hardly a poor victimized group, nor is it a trauma from bullying that motivates them. The majority of them are just bored people who lead rather safe and uninteresting lives without many actual problems, and so feel the need to create problems.

Most of the internet-crusaders who screeched that "BaKkEr H@tEs WYmmIn, OMG" weren't bullying victims lashing out against their bullies. This isn't the impression that I got at all. From my experience with internet-activists, the odds that they've been targets of real-life abuse are pretty slim.

Well, I think we're both half right. My reasoning is the kind of vitriol I've seen can only come from bullied, victimized people. People in pain. As an outlet for a frustrated life, making people more aware of how society treats and objectifies women is certainly a noble endeavor. More power to them. Shit, I like rap music, I'd have to be a special kind of thick not to see where they're coming from. But, calling everything misogyny at the drop of the hat because it doesn't immediately gel with your views is as damaging to your cause and only alienates men who would have been more than happy to help you otherwise. Hatred doesn't cure hatred. Pretty much every holy person in history has said this, and the sooner these people realize it, the sooner they can do some real good outside of their special blogosphere echo chambers.

I also recognize that some of these people are bored and empty, like you said, so they take that out on neurotypicals or whatever the buzz word is now. I also realize reducing a subset of like-minded human beings to "these people" and trying to paint them one way or another is also a reflection of my own bias. Either way, these are extremely complex issues and the only we can get out of the woods is with a little understanding and compassion.

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« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2013, 02:13:26 pm »
Quote from: lockesnow
The problem wasn't that Bakker's women were unrealistic.  Epic fantasy tends to have unrealistic.

The problem was that Bakker said he was deliberately doing a different thing and people decided he didn't achieve it and took him to task for it.

I believe some were very upset because they continually stated there were heaps of historical evidence that women were not existing only in the roles Bakker was using and Bakker not having women outside of the roles he choose was part of Bakker's failure/sin etc etc.

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« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2013, 02:13:32 pm »
Quote from: Callan S.
Well, what you have is the hidden appeal to authority - Larry seems to say that unless you've read those texts about slaves lives, you are not permitted to write about them. I don't know if someone else told him this (in which case this unnamed other person is claiming authority over what one must have read in advance) or whether Larry just made that requirement up himself, in which case he is, inutterally, claiming authority over what one must have read before one can write on the subject.

That's even assuming Scott hasn't read any of the texts.

Anyway, it's a closed circle - who here has read one of the texts on a slaves life? No, no one? Okay, none of you are qualified to talk about it? Everyone go get your coats and the last one out switches off the light!

It's a beautiful sleight of hand, really - they distract you with the 'he doesn't understand' part, while installing the notion of their speaking from authority into the speach patterns you will have to use to engage the idea that 'he doesn't understand'. They've already got you internalising they have an authority. Like a clever chess move, you've got to admire that! I presume it's purely instinctual rather than conciously made move, but still!

I think I partly agree with Meyna - I think some are looking to build their own cult and simply pick out easy victims to make their cult woop around. But I think others both genuinely believe they are dealing with an issue, yet at the same time they are building a cult following in doing so and as much as it feels good, it instills a bias.

But finally, what if you ran an experiment where you somehow tested sexist attitudes (and more importantly, sexist actions) of readers before reading, then again after reading the books and found those sexist actions actually increased? It might be possible? Even if someone is gathering a cult following around such a notion, it wouldn't make the notion incorrect.

Of course, the hard to swollow pill there is having a disproval method against ones own prefered theory, while the other side has no disproval method and simply raves they are right. It's like making yourself vulnerable in front of a pack of howling wolves.

Quote from: bbaztek
It's like the kid who keeps getting swirlies in middle school so he learns karate and puts the bully in the hospital, and then starts attacking anyone who looks at him funny. It's not unheard of for victimized people to lash out
Bit off topic of me, and ignoring the 'look at him funny' part for now, then what reaction is warranted that isn't just lashing out?

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« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2013, 02:13:39 pm »
Quote from: bbaztek
Quote from: Callan S.
Quote from: bbaztek
It's like the kid who keeps getting swirlies in middle school so he learns karate and puts the bully in the hospital, and then starts attacking anyone who looks at him funny. It's not unheard of for victimized people to lash out
Bit off topic of me, and ignoring the 'look at him funny' part for now, then what reaction is warranted that isn't just lashing out?

Lashing out is fine. I'm not sitting here and trying to tell victims what they can or can't do. It's just that sooner or later, you have to move out of that hate-filled state of mind for your own mental wellbeing or you risk becoming a participant in the cycle of hatred and prejudice you are railing against.

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« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2013, 02:13:46 pm »
Quote from: Bakker User
Interesting replies, but must always remember to avoid becoming sealed into an echo chamber.

If the critics haven't been seriously analyzing Bakker's work to establish a stance, then I invite everyone with affinity to textual analysis to do so here, if any one can stomach it.

Though I have to say I liked that early TPB-post on the Writerly Fallacies - interpretation is wholly personal and the writer can only introduce manipulations directed at a particular audience, not enforce a preferred interpretation, etc. So I can see where some of the fem-blog arguments were coming from, I suppose - but only as from shallow or incomplete (of the books) readings. We all have our biases; we all make knee-jerk judgements. So I'll have to cordially disagree on these terms, ladies (this is rhetorical and not directed at any specific person here or elsewhere), and hope you can reconsider after giving the PoN and its commentary a thorough reading, as surely you can't be qualified otherwise to expound on what are or aren't its attributes. Finally, don't forget that your readings aren't necessarily prescriptive or final. Something something...

Quote from: lockesnow
I believe some were very upset because they continually stated there were heaps of historical evidence that women were not existing only in the roles Bakker was using and Bakker not having women outside of the roles he choose was part of Bakker's failure/sin etc etc.

Ah yes, I'd heard that as well. While it certainly destroys any argument from historical accuracy for Bakker's content, I figure my take on the culture-thing could avert it. Of course, then one would have to ask what conditions caused such a hypermisogynistic culture to arise, when economic participation by if not full political enfranchisement of women could probably be expected in most cases, as was historically the case...Hmm, maybe if Bakker had developed a less anti-egalitarian society prior to the effect of the 1st Apocalypse? Or would that have been an unnecessary distraction/detracted from his themes?

As for Bakker trying a new thing - exaggerating human biases and 'distasteful characteristics' is one of the means through which he expresses his ideas, right?

In Disciple of Dog, for instance, the protagonist's rampant sexism/chauvinism is supposed to emphasize the way everyone - and everyone - has become utterly dehumanized in his eyes as just a repetitive set of facial expressions and pleasurable fuck-holes. And pleasure doesn't get old, for Disciple...

Quote from: Ajokli
Funny, I was reading slave narratives not too long ago and ran into this.

http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=mesn&fileName=041/mesn041.db&recNum=54&itemLink=D?mesnbib:2:./temp/~ammem_sRsD::

I'm as abolitionist as anyone but I would counter that they don't know a thing about slavery and/or the Reconstruction either.

Thanks for that. E.g. Old-Akka's slaves, then.

Quote from: Callan S.
Well, what you have is the hidden appeal to authority - Larry seems to say that unless you've read those texts about slaves lives, you are not permitted to write about them. I don't know if someone else told him this (in which case this unnamed other person is claiming authority over what one must have read in advance) or whether Larry just made that requirement up himself, in which case he is, inutterally, claiming authority over what one must have read before one can write on the subject.

That's even assuming Scott hasn't read any of the texts.

Anyway, it's a closed circle - who here has read one of the texts on a slaves life? No, no one? Okay, none of you are qualified to talk about it? Everyone go get your coats and the last one out switches off the light!

It's a beautiful sleight of hand, really - they distract you with the 'he doesn't understand' part, while installing the notion of their speaking from authority into the speach patterns you will have to use to engage the idea that 'he doesn't understand'. They've already got you internalising they have an authority. Like a clever chess move, you've got to admire that! I presume it's purely instinctual rather than conciously made move, but still!

I think I partly agree with Meyna - I think some are looking to build their own cult and simply pick out easy victims to make their cult woop around. But I think others both genuinely believe they are dealing with an issue, yet at the same time they are building a cult following in doing so and as much as it feels good, it instills a bias.

But finally, what if you ran an experiment where you somehow tested sexist attitudes (and more importantly, sexist actions) of readers before reading, then again after reading the books and found those sexist actions actually increased? It might be possible? Even if someone is gathering a cult following around such a notion, it wouldn't make the notion incorrect.

Of course, the hard to swollow pill there is having a disproval method against ones own prefered theory, while the other side has no disproval method and simply raves they are right. It's like making yourself vulnerable in front of a pack of howling wolves.

Quote from: bbaztek
It's like the kid who keeps getting swirlies in middle school so he learns karate and puts the bully in the hospital, and then starts attacking anyone who looks at him funny. It's not unheard of for victimized people to lash out
Bit off topic of me, and ignoring the 'look at him funny' part for now, then what reaction is warranted that isn't just lashing out?

Oh sorry, I should have made clear: it wasn't Larry who made the comment, but a commentator under the handle "Foxessa", who from the several posts of hers I read in [url]this blog entry seemed at least a little formidable.

http://ofblog.blogspot.com/2012/04/few-thoughts-regarding-tempests.html

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« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2013, 02:13:52 pm »
Quote from: Callan S.
I have to say I kind of dislike the 'you need to read it thoroughly' approach, primarily because there are so many books I don't want to read myself - not thoroughly. It's what you spend your life on - and it's kind of like saying one should spend more time with Hitler than ones own children. Maybe you do and he turns out to be Hitleur and not Hitler, a kind of goovy hipster who is cool. But the prospect of spending ones lifespan there...

There should be a quicker method I think, than saying 'no, dedicate several dozen hours to this before you can talk'. I mean, it's what they are doing with the 'read the slave texts' thing.

I don't know what the quicker method is - I'm too lazy to hash out an idea for it right now, I'll admit! So ya got me there!

Quote
While it certainly destroys any argument from historical accuracy for Bakker's content
WHY?

Seriously, how many books are there where some dude leaves a farm and becomes king - okay, lets look at history, how many freakin' times does that happen over the average population? Not alot!

This is real selective bias - when the subject is happy a go-go bootstrapping, sure, it's fine! When it involves looking at the sort of sex slavery which not only happened in the past, but still goes on in the third world and even some places in the first world (many places, depending on your definition and opinion of porn), suddenly it's unrealistic?

Books look at edge cases. People are biases toward accepting happy edge cases and rejecting unhappy edge cases. More so if they are actually relavant to RL society.

Quote
Of course, then one would have to ask what conditions caused such a hypermisogynistic culture to arise, when economic participation by if not full political enfranchisement of women could probably be expected in most cases, as was historically the case
Maybe I'm on a rant here, so take the above and below with salt, but: Isn't it obvious the subjugation of women IS economic participation? The economy rides on the back of put upon women? It still does - except now you have stay at home dads as well putting effort into bringing up children for free so the system and it's masters can profit from them.

I mean, how is economic participation/full political enfranchisement 'historically the case'?

When did women get the vote? The middle ages? Before the birth of Jesus?

What is this 'as was historically the case'?

As said, I'm trying to get at the argument, but if in my rant it seems I'm aiming for you, I'm not, I really want to get at the argument.

Quote
Oh sorry, I should have made clear: it wasn't Larry who made the comment, but a commentator under the handle "Foxessa", who from the several posts of hers I read in this blog entry seemed at least a little formidable.
Well, I hadn't gotten my torch and pitchfork out to hunt Larry with, so it's okay - it applies to whom it applies to.

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« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2013, 02:13:59 pm »
Quote from: Callan S.
Quote from: bbaztek
Quote from: Callan S.
Quote from: bbaztek
It's like the kid who keeps getting swirlies in middle school so he learns karate and puts the bully in the hospital, and then starts attacking anyone who looks at him funny. It's not unheard of for victimized people to lash out
Bit off topic of me, and ignoring the 'look at him funny' part for now, then what reaction is warranted that isn't just lashing out?

Lashing out is fine. I'm not sitting here and trying to tell victims what they can or can't do. It's just that sooner or later, you have to move out of that hate-filled state of mind for your own mental wellbeing or you risk becoming a participant in the cycle of hatred and prejudice you are railing against.
Well I guess it's the hard question of when sooner or later arrives? Anyway, I'm being off topic!

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« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2013, 02:14:05 pm »
Quote from: Bakker User
Quote from: Callan S.
I have to say I kind of dislike the 'you need to read it thoroughly' approach, primarily because there are so many books I don't want to read myself - not thoroughly. It's what you spend your life on - and it's kind of like saying one should spend more time with Hitler than ones own children. Maybe you do and he turns out to be Hitleur and not Hitler, a kind of goovy hipster who is cool. But the prospect of spending ones lifespan there...

There should be a quicker method I think, than saying 'no, dedicate several dozen hours to this before you can talk'. I mean, it's what they are doing with the 'read the slave texts' thing.

I don't know what the quicker method is - I'm too lazy to hash out an idea for it right now, I'll admit! So ya got me there!

Quote
While it certainly destroys any argument from historical accuracy for Bakker's content
WHY?

Seriously, how many books are there where some dude leaves a farm and becomes king - okay, lets look at history, how many freakin' times does that happen over the average population? Not alot!

This is real selective bias - when the subject is happy a go-go bootstrapping, sure, it's fine! When it involves looking at the sort of sex slavery which not only happened in the past, but still goes on in the third world and even some places in the first world (many places, depending on your definition and opinion of porn), suddenly it's unrealistic?

Books look at edge cases. People are biases toward accepting happy edge cases and rejecting unhappy edge cases. More so if they are actually relavant to RL society.

Quote
Of course, then one would have to ask what conditions caused such a hypermisogynistic culture to arise, when economic participation by if not full political enfranchisement of women could probably be expected in most cases, as was historically the case
Maybe I'm on a rant here, so take the above and below with salt, but: Isn't it obvious the subjugation of women IS economic participation? The economy rides on the back of put upon women? It still does - except now you have stay at home dads as well putting effort into bringing up children for free so the system and it's masters can profit from them.

I mean, how is economic participation/full political enfranchisement 'historically the case'?

When did women get the vote? The middle ages? Before the birth of Jesus?

What is this 'as was historically the case'?

As said, I'm trying to get at the argument, but if in my rant it seems I'm aiming for you, I'm not, I really want to get at the argument.

Quote
Oh sorry, I should have made clear: it wasn't Larry who made the comment, but a commentator under the handle "Foxessa", who from the several posts of hers I read in this blog entry seemed at least a little formidable.
Well, I hadn't gotten my torch and pitchfork out to hunt Larry with, so it's okay - it applies to whom it applies to.

1. Well, perhaps. On one hand, it shouldn't be necessary to read the whole work before being able to comment on it. On the other, surely one can not claim to have a total thematic mastery of the book - deeper than anyone else's - when one has only read the 5-page prologue!

2. That's fiction, then - fiction that pretends to historical accuracy is another genre entirely, right? All this is just in reference to the critic's position in opposition to the apologist argument that Bakker's depictions of women in society are historically accurate.

3. Well, OK. I can only go shallowly here, but I'll try. By the way, I said "if not full political enfranchisement" which is to say that women had an economic role besides that of prostitute or sex-slave while not almost ever being seen as politically even close to the equals of men.

But certainly, throughout history women have held many vital economic roles. Women were doing heavy agricultural work, small-time manufacturing, etc. In Egypt (though this is a somewhat special case) women could unilaterally divorce their husbands and own private property - that is, strike up contracts on their own initiative. Usually they had to get men to sign for them, but that's only because despite this economic privilege nearly all women were still totally illiterate.  :D

AFAIK the modern concept of gender roles - that is, occupations from which women should specifically be excluded because they are not correctly constituted (so note that I'm not referring to gender roles in general but this specific manifestation) - only arose during the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution. The core of the argument around historicity, is then, that back in the day, society wasn't so heavily restrictive on the forms of female economic participation; women just did whatever was needed to be done, because there wasn't the luxury of allowing/restricting them to always sit cooped up in the house, caring for children, or servicing their horny male masters.

Summary: It's not really accurate to say that women in the ancient or medieval worlds were always only sex-slaves, prostitutes, or child-carers.

Despite this, I do think it should be acknowledged that pretty much everywhere (in the old Europe/near East), women were up to the 20th c. seen as politically subordinate to males, etc.; though to varying degrees, it was always there.

Is that all clear and satisfying?