Monday, October 19, 2009

More Progress Needed For Women

All Women Are Hypatia's Daughters !

Who or what was Hypatia? A new drug? An ailment caused by the Asian flu? A bug from Bolivia?

It turns out Hypatia was not a "thing" but a woman. But not just any woman. She was a teacher in a time when women did not dare teach men. The truth is every great man of history had a wife or woman giving him clues and solutions without credit.

Her detractors said Hypatia was not like a woman, she was too intelligent to be a woman. She was brilliant, having studied writers like Euclid and Archimedes, famous men of letters.

Many philosophers, professors and politicians came from abroad to hear her words at the School of Alexandria. She was outspoken against having "blind faith." She counseled people to doubt and to question things. One of the world's finest storytellers, Edurado Galeano, quotes her saying, "Defend your right to think. Thinking wrongly is better than not thinking at all."

Her critics were all men. Women were to stay home. In old China, a husband might call his wife, "nei ren," meaning the inside-the-house person.

Although Hypatia had a grand following, the intimated men called her a witch and a sorcerer, the Christians of Alexandria called her a heretic.

So on a March day in 415 A.D., the mob attacked her carriage, stripped her naked, stabbed and beat her as they dragged her through the city streets. What was left of her was made into a bonfire in a public square.

It was a man's world long before that fifth century story. For the 3,000 years of recorded history woman has been considered inferior to the mighty male. Used by men for gratifying sex, raising babies, janitorial duty and to cook.

Women didn't make laws or write history. Jesus tried to lift the status of women, but like much of his message, that did not sink in with the men. Prophet Mohammed's followers remembered that he once said that paradise is filled with the poor and hell is filled with women.

It took nearly 150 years for females to be allowed to vote in the United States. Few men stood up for Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony and other women in the woman's suffrage movement.

Few have dared to challenge such an unjust culture. Around the globe today, one in three women is abused. Everything is a woman's fault. This is remarkably true with Afghan women, were some call the country "a man's world, a woman's hell." Another ancient saying, still observed by some: "Hang up your lash where your woman can see it."

We have come a long way from the time of Hypatia, but there is much more to be done in educating males to a world of justice and peace for the very ones who brought them into the world.

Granted, not all men are abusive. One of the most distressing aspects of women and child abuse is how prevalent it is on the domestic scene. Why do husbands abuse, verbally or physically, those they once claimed to love? Those working in women's shelters tell how the women resemble having been through a war zone. They have a form of post traumatic syndrome.

Violent home situations can get help. There are places in our city where professionals are anxious to give advice and a safe place for the abused. The internet has the Abused Women's Advocacy Project (; also For the abused, leaving is complex and confusing, see:

(Hypatia's story was shared by Edurado Galeno, one of Latin America's greatest writers, in his new book "Mirrors, Stories of Almost Everyone" English translation by Mark Fried).

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