Why Not Same-sex Marriage? (V of X)
B) What is Woman?
So, keeping that in mind, let’s examine the next stumbling block we find when reviewing the possible cornerstones of past civilizations: the passage of time. We’re talking here about approximately three millennia of cultural changes.
Even within one particular culture there is a huge amount of change, as can be shown by the Roman Republic sliding into the Roman Empire, and then fading away. Concepts, societies, rituals — inevitably, they all change. Thus, writings of one era don’t necessarily reflect the views of another era, even within the same culture.
This is relevant because we’re now going to look at a concept: Woman. You may think this odd, but consider what a woman is today in the US. She’s considered an adult, able to own property, pick her own friends and life partners, bear children or follow a religion only if she wishes to, marry or divorce on her own recognizance — she is responsible for herself.
Athens & Rome
This attitude is historically relatively new among the cultures we’re examining, however. In Athens women were considered literally to be children all their lives. They belonged to their fathers as children, and were given as property to their new husbands. The man was conventionally a decade or two older than the woman, so as to more easily overpower her mentally and physically.
If only children could be got some other way without the female sex! If women didn’t exist, human life would be rid of all its miseries.
Any property she might have inherited from her father went automatically to her husband, to use as he wished — including her. She was usually only allowed out, heavily veiled, to witness sacred ceremonies performed by the male-controlled clergy. She had little to no rights.
Rome was a bit kinder, in that women were allowed education, could go out occasionally, and could own property if they were widows. Also, at some point during Rome’s rule, it became socially acceptable to publicly express affection for your wife. Since the Roman home was the center of social life, and women were the moral center of the home, they had access to a far more mentally stimulating intellectual life. On the other hand, men were absolute masters of their homes and property, and women still counted as property.
Christianity & medieval Europe
Christianity doesn’t do anything to elevate the status of women, despite Jesus’ teachings. It was Paul who has been interpreted as saying women should be subject to their husbands just as their husbands are subject to God, and men haven’t let women forget that first part. Curiously, men seem to have conveniently forgotten the second part, of course.
 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God…  For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.  For man is not from woman, but woman from man.  Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.
— 1 Corinthians 11
Thus, due to stuff like this, throughout medieval Europe we have the same sorry condition held in place due to religious conditioning. Women are chattel because some male preacher — who never even met Jesus — said so.
Finally we end up in the US. Only recently, like in the last few decades, have women made any progress at all in being considered adults responsible for themselves rather than just more possessions. It’s a battle which has to be vigilantly re-fought every decade or so, too, each time some insecure, atavistic politician feels the need to drum up some votes. Previous to now, women were still mostly considered property, legally akin to children and slaves.
Woman is given us to bear children. She is our property… She is our possession, as the fruit tree is that of the gardener.
— Napoleon Bonaparte