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Pub: Sydney Morning Herald

Pubdate: 29-Apr-2010

Edition: First

Section: News and Features

Subsection: Opinion

Page: 15

Wordcount: 735

Wicked women make the earth move



A senior Iranian cleric says women and girls who dress provocatively cause earthquakes. “When promiscuity spreads, earthquakes increase,” declares Hojatoleslam Kazim Sadeghi, in a YouTube clip. To be frank, on the evidence, I think he’s right.

Consider Kalgoorlie, its pink-and-white sheds-of-ill-repute lined up like coconut ice along Hay Street. Kalgoorlie was asking to be shook, and that its quake was a mere size five is straight commercial luck, miner outsourcing having shrunk the promiscuity business over recent years. They should be grateful.

Women in the Iranian city of Bam, by contrast, where a 2003 earthquake killed thousands, must have worn nothing but their pearls for years. And what about Sichuan? Baja? Concepcion? Bad, bad, bad. I tell you. Cherchez la femme.

But why limit gyno-devilry to earthquakes? What about volcanoes? Those Icelandic harpies must have been risking some very personal frostbite to command so sulphurous a response.

Interestingly, American clerics seem to be of similar mind. The late televangelist Jerry Falwell blamed the September 11 attacks on feminists, abortionists, pagans and gays, while Pat Robertson put January’s earthquake in Haiti down to Haitians’ “pact [with] the devil. They said, ‘we will serve you if you get us free from the French’. True story … [and] ever since they have been cursed.” Mad as.

But voodoo, like magma, is never far from the surface. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible mixed Barbadian witchery, puritan Christianity, teen hysteria, paganism and repressed desire into a terrifying, toxic soup. And although it was a 17th century tale, the ingredients are evidently still with us. Still bubbling.

And my, how that soup does splash about the kitchen. The urge to blame women for everything, but especially for nature’s mischief, persists. As Miller mused, “the Salem folk believed that the virgin forest was the Devil’s last preserve … we have inherited this belief.” John Proctor is Miller’s central victim, but that old women’s weirdness lights the fire.

Blogger “Celeb Jihad” on the Tiger Woods affair: “I blame Oprah and her feminist ilk for filling women’s heads with a lot of nonsense about equality. The [Koran] is pretty clear about a woman’s place. She is a baby factory that must maintain her usefulness by cooking and cleaning, less she be cast out into the desert for a younger, firmer model … I think it is pretty obvious that [his wife] Elin has failed in her marital duties. If this country was civilised and just like the glorious nation of Afghanistan, Tiger would be able to return Elin to her father with nothing but the clothes on her back.”

It has to be a hoax, right? But people think like this. At a slightly more white-collar level, Michael Noer wrote on in 2006: “Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don’t marry a woman with a career.”

But female-baiting, like female circumcision, is no male preserve. Dr Laura Schlessinger is one of America’s most successful shock jocks whose celebrity rests on her construction of every kind of unhappiness – in man, woman and child – as gynogenic. She writes books like The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands and In Praise of the Stay at Home Mom (title says all) and famously blamed NY governor Eliot Spitzer’s infidelity on his wife.

From Pandora to Scarlett O’Hara to Kiely Williams, (whose song, by the way, isn’t even about rape), woman makes mayhem through her sexuality. Even, or perhaps especially, when it’s male sexuality that’s the problem – as with Spitzer, Woods and Sadeghi, all the way back to Adam. Even then, female sexuality gets the blame. Why? Why are humanity’s evils habitually sheeted home to women?

It’s fear, fear of fecundity. Woman is the mother. Nature is the mother. So Nature and woman are one, equally needed, mysterious, uncontrollable. It’s primitive man’s worst nightmare: being bound by need to something you can’t control. Love her if you will, therefore, but at all costs, dominate.

The women of Iran (and this makes Sadeghi a closet feminist) need to know this. When their knees begin to ache, they need only threaten exposure of ankle or earlobe to summon nature’s daemons.

But they should also know this. If you want to go down as the baddest thing in history, never choose a name like Eyjafjallajokull, even for its onomatopoeia. Choose something posterity can pronounce like, say, Eve.


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