Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Friday, December 16, 2022

Adelaide of Burgundy, Empress, Regent, Saint

Adelaide of Burgundy, Empress and Regent of the Holy Roman Empire (died 16 December 999)

About the women in Adelaide of Burgundy's extended family--among them Adelaide's daughter-in-law, the Empress Theophanu, Adelaide's older daughter, Emma, queen of the Franks, and her younger daughter Mathilda, princess-abbess of Quedlinburg--historian Pauline Stafford writes, "A group of women played key roles in the last decade of the tenth century. . . ." They "ruled as regents for under-age males." They "met together . . . to debate important questions of succession and dynastic interralations." They were, "in every sense . . . a regiment of powerful women." (If only John Knox had known about this "monstrous" regiment!)

Nineteenth-century artist Abel Terral's 
entirely imagined portrait
of Adelaide of Burgundy

Chief among these powerful and influential women was Adelaide herself: queen, empress, regent of the empire, and saint.

The daughter of Rudolf II, king of Upper Burgundy, and Bertha of Swabia, Adelaide of Burgundy was born in the Frankish kingdom of Upper Burgundy (now Switzerland) in the year 931.

In the decade before Adelaide's birth, Rudolf had intervened in the politics of northern Italy, opposing the current ruler, Berengar I, king of Italy and emperor of the Romans. Invited by disaffected members of the nobility, Rudolf was himself crowned king of Italy in Pavia in 922. He defeated Berengar at the battle of Firenzuola d'Arda on 29 July 923, after which Rudolf ruled in both Upper Burgundy and in Italy (though he never became emperor).

But by 926, sentiment turned against him, and it was the turn of Hugh of Provence, Rudolf's former ally, to be invited by disaffected members of the nobility to intervene in Italian politics. Rudolf was eventually forced back to Upper Burgundy, while Hugh of Provence gained control in northern Italy. In 931, Hugh had his son, Lothair, crowned co-ruler of Italy, and to bolster his position, concluded a treaty with Rudolf--Rudolf gave up his claims in Italy, and Hugh ceded Provence to Rudolf. To secure their alliance, the two agreed to the marriage of Rudolf's daughter, Adelaide, to Hugh's son, Lothair.

But, surprise! After Rudolf's death in 937, his widow (and Adelaide's mother), Bertha, married Hugh of Provence. After her mother's remarriage, Adelaide was raised in Pavia, and on 12 December 947, when she was about fifteen years old, Adelaide of Burgundy was married to her step-brother, Lothair. She bore him a daughter, Emma, about a year later. With the death of Hugh of Provence (c. 948), Lothair became sole king of Italy, Adelaide his queen.

But just three years after their marriage, Lothair was dead (22 November 950), probably poisoned by Berengar II--the grandson of Berengar I. This Berengar had been actively seeking control of Italy for some time. He had fought against Hugh (who died in 947), and then against Lothair. After Lothair's death, Berengar assumed the title of king of Italy, named (and crowned) his son, Adalbert, as co-ruler, and aimed to consolidate his power in the territory by forcing the widowed Adelaide to marry his son.

A hair-raising account of Adelaide's situation is related by the tenth-century writer Hrotsvita of Gandersheim in her epic poem, Carmen de gestis Oddonis imperatoris (Poem of the Deeds of the Emperor Otto). In her words, Adelaide was "a woman illustrious in the comeliness of her queenly beauty and solicitous in affairs worthy of her character." She "possessed . . . pre-eminent natural abilities"--recognized by Lothair, who intended that the kingdom of Italy would be "ruled by the will of the eminent queen" after his death.

But because of their "vile treachery," a "certain faction of the populace, with perverted and hostile spirit," betrayed Lothair and Adelaide; after Lothair's death, they offered the kingdom instead to Berengar II, who had long "nursed" a "hatred" in his "baleful breast." Having seized the throne, he deprived Adelaide of her attendants and imprisoned her in Garda Castle. The indomitable young woman resisted, ultimately escaping her confinement--according to Hrostvita's account, Adelaide somehow managed to dig a "secret tunnel under the earth" (Hrostvita says this tunnel was dug "under the guidance of common prayer" and with the "support of the benevolent Christ").

However she managed it, by means of a secret tunnel or otherwise, Adelaide escaped from Berengar, avoided pursuit and recapture, and found refuge with Adalbert Atto, count of Canossa. When Berengar attempted to take Canossa by siege, Adelaide appealed to Otto, king of the Franks. 

Otto quickly saw the advantages of a marriage with Adelaide. One contemporary source indicates that Adelaide not only appealed to Otto for assistance but sent him a marriage proposal. Hrotsvita, however, attributes Otto's interest to his recognition of Adelaide's excellent qualities (and the convenient death of Otto's first wife, Edith of England): "with frequent ponderings of heart Otto remembered the distinguished Queen Adelaide, and longed to behold the queenly countenance of her whose excellence of character he already knew."

Whatever his motivation, Otto invaded northern Italy, entered Pavia, had himself crowned king of Italy, and sent for Adelaide, who left her refuge in Canossa and joined him. They were married on 23 September 951. 

Thirteenth-century sculptures
of Otto I and Adelaide,
Meissen Cathedral
I love his worried face!
Following her marriage, Adelaide, now queen of the Franks and queen of Italy, gave birth to two sons, who did not survive. Her third child, a daughter, was Mathilda, who would eventually become abbess of Quedlinburg. 

A third son, Otto, was born in 955. In 961, after the death of his elder step-brother, Otto was recognized as his father's heir and co-ruler. On 2 February 962, Otto was crowned emperor of the Romans as Otto I, and Adelaide herself crowned as empress. Five years later, in December 967, Adelaide's son, Otto (who would succeed his father as Otto II), was crowned co-emperor

During their marriage Adelaide "acted in partnership with Otto"; since he was so often on the battlefield, Adelaide's stable position in Rome seems to have made her a reliable, accessible agent able to act on her husband's behalf, though she seems also to have been able to act independently. As Edward Schoenfeld notes in his discussion of Adelaide, "decisions regarding Italy were made only with her consent," and she "exerted considerable influence on non-Italian affairs." She was greatly interested in religious issues as well: "She promoted Cluniac monasticism and strengthened the allegiance of the German church to the emperor, playing an important role in Otto I’s distribution of ecclesiastical privileges and participating in his Italian expeditions."

The extent of her influence is documented by her appearance in contemporary diplomatic records: "Adelaide is named in royal diplomata by both her husbands; during her marriage to Otto I, she intervened in 92 out of 289 extant diplomata, 29 times in Italy, 63 in Germany."

By 972, Adelaide's son, the sixteen-year-old Otto, had married the Byzantine noblewoman Theophanu. The younger Otto had not yet reached his full majority when Otto I died on 7 March 973, though his succession was uncontested, undoubtedly because of the presence of his mother, now dowager empress. She acted briefly as regent for the young couple after their accession.

While there seems to have been some conflict between Adelaide, her son, and her daughter-in-law (Adelaide "retired" to Upper Burgundy in 978), she did act as Otto's "viceroy" in Italy, and following her son's death in December 983, whatever the issues between her and Theophanu may have been, they were put aside. Adelaide supported Theophanu as she acted as regent for her son, another Otto, who at the age of three, succeeded his father as Otto III, Holy Roman emperor.

Theophanu governed as regent until her death in 991, after which the sixty-year-old Adelaide took over the role for her grandson. Four years later, Otto III reached his majority; he was crowned emperor at Rome on 21 May 996.

By contrast, check out her face!
After resigning her regency, Adelaide focused on founding a number of religious institutions, though her political role was not yet over. After the death of her brother, Conrad I, king of Burgundy, Adelheid traveled to Burgundy to shore up support for her nephew, Rudolf III. 

She died on 16 December 999 at Selz Abbey (Alsace), which she had founded in 991. She was canonized by Pope Urban II in 1097.

I've already linked to several online sources, above. In addition, you can read letters to and from Adelaide at Epistolae: Medieval Women's Latin Letters (click here). There are only two letters from Adelaide, but quite a few written to her, including a number from her daughter, Emma, queen of the Franks. 

For an academic study comparing Adelaide of Burgundy and Matilda of Tuscany, I recommend Penelope Nash's Empress Adelheid and Countess Matilda: Medieval Female Rulership and the Foundations of European Society. (A great deal of helpful introductory material, including a detailed timeline, is available from the publisher here.)

I'll make special note, too, of the edition of Hrotsvita's Deeds of the Emperor Otto, from which I've quoted, above. The English translation is by Sister Mary Bernardine Bergman, her Ph.D. dissertation (St. Louis University, 1942) published in 1943 by the Sisters of St. Benedict of Covington, Kentucky.

By the way, over the centuries, the abbey Adelaide founded suffered from a "millenial flood" (in 1307), was rebuilt, secularized (1481), Protestant-ized (1571), re-converted to Catholicism (1684), dissolved (1692), set on fire by Austrian troops (1793), rebuilt and "recreated" (1801), restored for the "anniversary" of Adelaide's death (1899), almost destroyed in World War II, and restored again in 1958.

Detail from sculpture,
Meissen Cathedral.
She looks like she'd be so much fun!

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

More Bad News on Maternal Mortality (Back to the Future, Part 18)

The  "U.S. Maternal Mortality Crisis" (The Commonwealth Fund Report, 14 December 2022), Back to the Future, Part 18 

A few days ago, the Commonwealth Fund published a new report on the status of maternal mortality in the United States. Dated 1 December 2022, the comparative study, authored by Munira Z. Gunja, Evan D. Gumas, and Reginald D. Williams II, had a shocking, but not surprising, title: "The U.S. Maternal Mortality Crisis Continues to Worsen: An International Comparison." 

I say "shocking" for obvious reasons. I say "not surprising," because maternal mortality rates in the U.S. have long been exceedingly bad. As Gunja, Gumas, and Williams note, "The maternal mortality rate in the United States has for many years exceeded that of other high-income countries. Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show rates worsening around the world in recent years, as well as a widening gap between the U.S. and its peer nations."* 

Despite the urgency of the findings, I put off writing about the report--it was too depressing. But, today, the Commonwealth Fund has issued an even more urgent report, "The U.S. Maternal Health Divide: The Limited Maternal Health Services and Worse Outcomes of States Proposing New Abortion Restrictions."**

Together, these two publications present a devastating healthcare reality for women in the United States. 

Just one chart from the Commonwealth's "U.S. Maternal Mortality Crisis" is eye-opening: 

And, as the authors of the study note, "Data show that the maternal mortality rate in the United States — more than three times the rate in most other high-income countries — is getting worse, and the rate for Black women is nearly three times higher than for white women."

As for the "health divide" for women living in the U.S.? It will surprise no one that maternal (and infant) health is far worse in states where abortion has been made illegal or so seriously restricted that it may as well be illegal: "Compared to states where abortion is accessible, states that have banned, are planning to ban, or have otherwise restricted abortion have fewer maternity care providers; more maternity care 'deserts'; higher rates of maternal mortality and infant death, especially among women of color; higher overall death rates for women of reproductive age; and greater racial inequities across their health care systems."

Moreover, "Making abortion illegal makes pregnancy and childbirth more dangerous; it also threatens the health and lives of all women of reproductive age."

Because of course it does. So much for the "we value every single precious life" forced-birth crowd. What a load of crap.

*For data, see this CDC report on maternal mortality rates in 2021. And for earlier discussions of maternal and infant mortality rates in the United States in this blog, click "Global Gender Report" in the labels, below.

**The Commonwealth Fund report is authored by Eugene Declercq, Ruby Barnard-Mayers, and Laurie Zephyrin, Kay Johnson

Update: Here's more on maternal health, if you can stand it, from Axios.

Update, 16 December 2022: And still more, from the Washington Post, "Can Politics Kill You?" No mystery--the answer to that question is yes. The majority of the piece is about the way COVID has taken a heavy toll on Republicans and conservatives, but there's this:
With abortion services no longer legal nationwide, university researchers have estimated that maternal deaths could increase by up to 25 to 30 percent, worsening the nation’s maternal mortality and morbidity crisis. Americans live shorter lives than people in peer nations, in part because it is the worst place among high-income countries to give birth.

Update, 17 December 2022: And even more, from the Texas Tribune's Eleanor Klibanoff, "Why Are Pregnancy and Childbirth Killing So Many Black Women in Texas?" (click here). Here's just a bit:

A decade ago, when Texas first formed the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Review Committee, Black women were twice as likely as white women, and four times as likely as Hispanic women, to die from pregnancy and childbirth.

Those disparities haven’t improved, according to the committee’s latest report, published Thursday.

In 2020, pregnant Black women were twice as likely to experience critical health issues like hemorrhage, preeclampsia and sepsis. While complications from obstetric hemorrhage declined overall in Texas in recent years, Black women saw an increase of nearly 10%.

Update, 19 March 2023: In a piece titled "US Maternal Death Rate Rose Sharply in 2021 . . . and Experts Worry the Problem Is Getting Worse, CNN reports on the new data just released by the National Center for Health Statistics (see the link in *, above). According to the CDC's Center for Health Statistics, "The number of women who died of maternal causes in the United States rose to 1,205 in 2021. . . . That’s a sharp increase from years earlier: 658 in 2018, 754 in 2019 and 861 in 2020." Check out the report--the graphs will stun you.

And CNN refers to the Commonwealth Fund's report (discussed above), published at the end of 2022: "The US has the highest maternal death rate of any developed nation."

Are we all ready for those "We're Number One" bullshit cheers we here so often? All that "greatest country in the world" claptrap? Yeah, I thought so . . . 

Update, 19 July 2023: Here is Veronica Gillispie-Bell's heartbreaking New York Times op-ed, "More Mothers Are Dying. It Doesn't Have to Be This Way." Gillispie-Bell links to the 3 July "Trends in State-Level Maternal Mortality by Racial and Ethnic Group in the United States" (JAMA 330, no. 1 [2023]: 52-61; for the online abstract, click here.)

Update, 12 September 2023: For ways to address the problem of maternal mortality, see Mara Gay's NYT opinion piece, "America Already Knows How to Make Childbirth Safer" (click here).

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Galla Placidia, "the Last Roman Empress"

Galla Placidia, queen of the Visigoths, empress of Rome, regent of the empire (died 27 November 450)

Galla Placidia, the woman who would become queen of the Goths, then empress of the western Roman empire, and ultimately regent of the empire, was the granddaughter, daughter, sister, and mother of emperors of Rome.

Her father was Theodosius I, "the Great," a Roman soldier who rose through the ranks and eventually became emperor, ruling from 379 to his death in 395. 

A gold tremissis, 5th century,
Galla Placidia
Placidia's mother was Emperor Theodosius's second wife, Galla, the daughter of Valentinian I, who had become emperor in 364--Valentinian had split the Roman empire, ruling the western part himself until his death in 375, and appointing his brother, Valens, as emperor in the east. So, Placida is also the great niece of an emperor.

Placidia's half brothers, born to Flavia Flacilla, the first wife of Theodosius, were Arcadius and Honorius. After the death of Theodosius in 395, both men became emperor, Arcadius in the East, Honorius in the West. 

Placidia was born during the last decade of the fourth century, her life and career spanning what her biographer Joyce Salisbury calls "the twilight of the empire." (While we have come to think that the "fall of the Roman Empire" occurred in the fifth century, what "fell" then was the western part of the empire--in the east, the empire persisted until 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Turks.) 

Although the year of her birth is not known, Theodosius and Galla were married in 386 or 387, and a son, Gratian, was born in 388. Galla died giving birth to a son in 394, thus providing the few years between 388 and 394 as the time for Placidia's birth. (Theodosius was campaigning in Italia between 388 and 391, while Galla remained in Constantinople--their separation may indicate more about the possible year of Placidia's birth.)

After the death of her mother in Constantinople, Placidia may have been summoned to Milan; whether she was there at the death of her father in 395 isn't certain. But she seems to have spent some time in Ravenna, at the court of her half-brother Honorius. The military commander Stilicho was guardian of the underage Honorius, while Placidia was in the care of Stilicho's wife, Serena, who was Placidia's cousin. Placidia seems also to have been supposed to marry Eucherius, the son of Stilicho and Serena.

Under Serena's guardianship, Placidia resided in Rome while Stilicho campaigned against the Franks, Vandals, and Goths, among other would-be invaders, but he was ultimately brought down by his own troops, who mutinied in 408. Suspicious of Stilicho's intentions, Honorius ordered his execution. 

Meanwhile, under Alaric, the Goths invaded the Italian peninsula and began a siege of Rome, which was sacked in August 410. During the siege, Serena was accused of conspiring with Alaric and, with Placidia's consent, Serena was executed in 409. The exact circumstances surrounding Placidia's "consent" are not clear, and contemporary accounts differ.

Equally unclear is what happens next: Placidia is married to Alaric's successor, Athaulf, now king of the Visigoths. Well, the marriage itself is clear enough--Placidia was taken to Gaul, and in 414, she was married "in a Roman wedding ceremony" to Athaulf in Narbonne. 

What is not clear is, once again, the context of Placidia's situation--Placidia was variously said to have been "captured" or "abducted" or taken hostage by Alaric in 410, but then again she may have been traded to Alaric by Honorius as part of some kind of deal. In any case, Alaric died in Italy not long after the sack of Rome, and by 412, Placidia was in Gaul.

As for the marriage. According to some sources, Honorius refused to consent to any marriage between Placidia and Athaulf, but Placidia herself "fell in love" with Athaulf and married him. Other sources attribute the match not to love but to power and politics: the marriage took place only after Athaulf captured and killed two rivals claiming Honorius's title as emperor, who then rewarded Athaulf with the alliance. Or maybe it was Placida herself who negotiated the treaty between the two men.
Gold solidus,
Constantinople, 423-29, 
Galla Placida

Whether Placidia is the reason for Athaulf's alliance with Honorius or a prize for Athaulf's dispensing of the rivals to Honorius's imperial title, the marriage did not last long. By 415, Athaulf was assassinated. Athaulf's six children by his first wife were killed, but Placidia, once more a captive, survived. (Placidia was childless. She had given birth to a son, named Theodosius after her father, shortly after her marriage, but the boy had died a few months later.) 

By 416, Placidia was returned to Honorius by Athaulf's successor, Wallia, as part of a peace negotiation. (According to at least one account, the desperate Goths exchanged their imperial "hostage" for food, but another claims that the Goths held onto Placidia until they received a sizeable payment for their hostage in grain.) 

Although she seems to have wished to remain a widow, Placidia was soon compelled by her brother to marry Constantius, the Roman general to whom Wallia had surrendered in 417. She gave birth to two children, a daughter, Justa Grata Honoria (b. c. 418), and a son, Valentinian (b. 2 July 419). 

On 2 September 421, the childless Honorius named Constantius co-ruler of Rome, but he died just months later, on 2 September. The widowed Galla Placidia, who had been proclaimed augusta when her husband had been given the title augustus, was at first criticized for being scandalously close to her brother. But however close their relationship, scandalous or not, might have been, by 422 Placidia and her children were in Constantinople with her nephew, Theodosius II. Honorius may have been fearful of Placidia's influence with the Goths and sent her to Constantinople or, fearful of her half-brother, Placidia may have fled, finding safety with her nephew. Accounts differ.

Galla Placidia Augusta remained in Constantinople with her two children until the death of Honorius in 423. Before Theodosius could name a successor emperor in the west, a usurper had claimed the title. After the usurping Joannes was defeated in 425, Placidia's six-year-old son, Valentinian, was proclaimed augustus, with Placidia serving as his regent.

Despite the rivalries among the influential generals Flavius Aetius and Bonifacius, Placidia's regency lasted for twelve years, until Valentinian reached his age of majority in 437. Although her power was diminished by Aetius's military and political success and her son's independence, she remained an influential figure in imperial politics until her death. 

Galla Placidia is buried in Rome, where she died on on 27 November 450. 

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia,

Beyond her political role, Placidia was devoted to her faith. She and Constantius played an active role in the papal succession crisis of 418, and she called together a synod of African bishops. (Two of her letters about this synod survive; for analysis of them, click here.) An orthodox Catholic, she was "vigorous in opposition" to the heresies of Pelagianism and Manicheism. She was also involved in the building of several churches in Rome and Ravenna, including the so-called Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, notable for its incredible mosaics. (I've linked here to the Wikipedia entry--it is the best overview available online.) 

There are two excellent recent biographies, Joyce Salisbury's Rome's Christian Empress: Galla Placidia Rules at the Twilight of the Empire and Hagith Sivan's Galla Placidia: The Last Roman Empress--I've used Sivan's subtitle here in the title of my post.

But there are also some excellent online sources. I particularly recommend the entry in Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia (available here) and the entry from Roman Emperors: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Rulers and their Families (available here).

And, given my on-going bitching about the Encyclopedia Britannica and its lack of women, I should note that there is at least a teeny tiny entry for Aelia Galla Placida. It mentions nothing at all about her role as regent. 

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Ballot Drop Boxes? Oh, hell no! Baby Drop Boxes? Yeah, baby!

When Women Became No Longer Equal, Part 10: Drop Boxes for Ballots? No. Drop Boxes for Babies? Yes.

As we approach the 2022 mid-terms, Republicans continue their efforts to limit access to voting, and one of their favorite targets is the ballot drop box. Not to be confused with a drop box of which they entirely approve, a baby drop box. 

Or, to put it more simply, a drop box for ballots? Ohmygod, NO! That's not a safe place to leave a paper ballot. A drop box for babies? Yay, of course! That's a perfect place to leave a  baby. 

Isn't this great?
A baby drop box!
(Joseph C. Garza,
Tribune Star)
Mind you, ballot drop boxes are nothing new. More than twenty years ago--in 2000--the state of Oregon became the first state to eliminate traditional polling places entirely and to rely exclusively on mail-in ballots, the new system including drop boxes in addition to post boxes. 

In Washington state, where I live, I haven't had to line up on Election Day to cast a vote at a polling place since 2011, when an all-mail ballot system was adopted. I usually just returned my ballot in the mail, but on a couple of occasions, I didn't have a stamp, so I used a drop box, located at the public library just a few blocks from my house. 

And, then, after 2018, I didn't need to find postage any more. I could slip my completed ballot into the mail for my letter carrier to pick up, but if I completed the ballot on Election Day and wanted to make sure my vote counted, I could still deposit it in a drop box.

Mail-in voting--along with the convenience of ballot drop boxes--has proven to be popular and trouble-free. The widespread availability of ballots drop boxes has also improved voter turn-out
As data from Washington state show, more people chose to use drop boxes in every single election in almost every county in the state to a record high of 73% in 2020. Election clerks in Utah similarly observed that drop boxes grew more popular every year. Notably, Republican- and Democratic-led states alike used them for years without controversy.
But making it easy for voters to vote? Obviously Republicans decided they had to shut that down right away, even in the midst of a global pandemic. And so, with increasing fervor and fever-induced tales of fraud, they've done their best to eliminate ballot drop boxes entirely. 

It was Donald Trump (who else?) who stoked the rage against ballot drop boxes with a tweet (just one in a series of violations before he was banned from Twitter . . . ):

Tweet reproduced from The Verge

Right on cue, the Republican Secretary of State in Ohio reduced the number of ballot drop boxes to one in each county, and required that box to be located at the county board of elections. This "contentious order" was reissued in 2021, and the same limited access to ballot boxes is still in place for the 2022 elections.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott followed, issuing a similar decree limiting each county to one drop box, an order that was challenged in both state and federal court but ultimately upheld "by the all Republican" Texas Supreme Court. One drop box per county, regardless of whether the county is populated by 64 people (Loving County) or 5.7 million people (Harris County). Seems fair, right?

In Tennessee, the Secretary of State testified before a U.S. Senate committee that "drop boxes could enable people to violate a state law against collecting ballots," while in Missouri, the Secretary of State decided against using drop boxes--boxes that had already been purchased--because "we didn't want to confuse voters." (I find drop boxes very confusing, don't you?)

The Trump campaign brought suit in Pennsylvania to stop the use of drop boxes in the fall of 2020, and then when that suit was thrown out of court, decided to videotape voters who were dropping off ballots at drop boxes (nothing wrong with a little intimidation, right?) and then threatened to sue again. A similar lawsuit was filed in Michigan. The court decided against the plaintiffs and then denied a request for an appeal. 

Not to be outdone, Republicans also filed a suit to eliminate drop boxes in the state of Wisconsin. Just weeks ago, in July 2022, after much legal wrangling, the Wisconsin Supreme Court weighed in--drop boxes are illegal.

Iowa’s new law restricts drop boxes to a single box at the office of the county election commissioner that will be inaccessible when the office is closed. Florida’s Senate Bill 90 restricts drop boxes to early vote locations and requires them to be monitored in person at all times. . . . [N]oted conspiracy theorist and Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers (R) has prefiled a bill in Arizona that restricts both drive-thru voting and drop boxes in a state with a long history of voting by mail and even has a permanent absentee voter list open to all voters. In Georgia, Republicans decided the restrictions they enacted last year didn’t go far enough and the Senate president has introduced a new bill that would ban drop boxes completely. Even in Utah, Republicans are cooling on drop boxes, with a group organizing to put an initiative on the ballot in 2022 that would eliminate mail voting entirely and drop boxes with it.


Just to be clear. This is dangerous and crazy: 

This will not keep a ballot safe.
(A King County, WA ballot drop box, King County Elections.)

But this is great:

This is perfect for a baby.
(An Indiana baby drop-box.)

Yes, this is the perfect solution for American women who are now second-class citizens, who are now no longer fully human, no longer rational and autonomous beings who are entitled to make decisions about their own lives--women who are living under the new forced-birth regime. 

A baby box is the Judge Amy Coney Barrett-approved solution for all those women who have been denied the ability to control their own lives. Don't want to endure a forced pregnancy? What's the big deal? A few months of effort and you can just give birth and dump your unwanted newborn into a "safe haven" baby drop box, then continue on your way to Starbucks or the nail salon. Problem solved. The baby box is perfectly safe! The baby box is perfectly secure! And it's totally "private"--unlike ballot drop boxes, baby drop boxes are not under 24-hour surveillance!

 It also helps to alleviate one of Judge Samuel Alito's big worries, a shortage in the "domestic supply of infants"! Don't want to have a baby? Well, that's too bad, have one any way, then pop it into a baby drop box, and do your part to help meet the demand! (For Alito's worry about the "domestic supply of infants," see page 34, note 46 of Dobbs v. Jackson. the opinion he authored.)

A medieval baby box, 
ruota degli espositi ["wheel of the exposed"]
Ospedale Santo Spirito,

I might add here that, if ballot drop boxes are nothing new, neither are baby drop boxes. 

In his history of infant abandonment, The Kindness of Strangers: The Abandonment of Chidlren in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance, the late historian John Boswell explains how the subject first came to his attention:

While collecting information about early Christian sexual mores for a previous study, I came across the argument by several prominent theologians of the early church about why men should not visit brothels or have recourse to prostitutes because in doing so they might unwittingly commit incest with a child they had abandoned. "How many fathers," asked Clement of Alexandria, "forgetting the children they abandoned, unknowingly have sexual relations with a son who is a prostitute or a daughter become a harlot?" "Those who use the services [of prostitutes,]" Justin Martyr warned, "may well commit incest with a child, a relative, or a sibling."  
At first I was stunned by how peculiar and oblique an argument this was . . . but in the end I found even more surprising the implication that the writers' contemporaries abandoned children so commonly that a given father was likely to encounter his own child in a brothel? Was this possible? . . . I never imagined that [the abandonment of infants] was a widespread or common practice, and certainly had not thought that Christians abandoned babies.
Something to think about in this brave new Republican world, isn't it? You can't get an abortion, so you use a handy baby drop box. Who knows where--and when and how--you might run into this child again? Not that either of you will know your paths have crossed--for more than a decade, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has opposed the use of baby boxes, which "contravenes the right of the child to be known and cared for by his or her parents":
UN officials argue that baby hatches violate key parts of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which says children must be able to identify their parents and even if separated from them the state has a "duty to respect the child's right to maintain personal relations with his or her parent. . . . "

No worries about any inconvenient meet-ups, right? 

Another medieval baby drop box,
Ospedale degli Innocenti,

So, as a woman, you may no longer be equal in the United States, and you may discover that it is increasingly difficult to find a ballot drop box near you, but with any luck at all, there is a baby drop box conveniently located right around the corner!

Are we living in the best of times, or what?

As a note: I've posted this as part of a post-Dobbs series, "When Women Became No Longer Equal," but given the medieval foundling wheel precedent for baby boxes, I might just as well have posted it under an earlier, equally disgruntled, series, "Back to the Future." (To read more posts in either series, click the label, below.)


Saturday, July 30, 2022

Hey, What's Wrong with a Little Domestic Violence? Amiright?

When Women Became No Longer Equal, Part 9: Nothing Wrong with a Little Domestic Violence, right?

It's all the fault of those pesky women, isn't it? Always wanting to be treated as if they are human beings. Those damn women are the reason things have gone to shit. At least according to the repugnant J.D. Vance, a misogynist who is hoping to be able to lord it over women as a U.S. Senator, representing the state of Ohio (or, maybe, the men of Ohio).

Sure, Vance wants all those demanding womenfolk "to have opportunities . . . to have choices," really, he does, but while that's all fine and good and he's perfectly okay with it, really, he is, still, you gotta agree with him when he says that "women and boys in the womb" (huh????) obviously should have greater rights to "opportunity" and "choices" than those full-grown female human beings. In other words, he's forced birth all the way. 

For women (or girls, like the 10-year-old Ohio child who had to go to Indiana for her necessary reproductive care), Vance is just full of sympathy--every pregnancy, without exception, is just a wonderful "opportunity," he declares. A woman whose pregnancy is the result of incest--or a little girl whose pregnancy is caused by rape--well, they should take advantage of these wonderful opportunities. They shouldn't be able to have an abortion, just because their pregnancies might be a bit "inconvenient" for them. (Again, his words.)

Abortion is "slavery," he proclaims. Women's loss of their fundamental rights is really an "amazing victory!" he cheers. Up is down! Black is white!

And another damn thing women have tried to ruin is marriage. Because, you know, if women have rights, if they are actual, real, human beings with thoughts, feelings, and the freedom to make decisions for themselves, well, they can just decide to end a bad marriage. (Or maybe not get married in the first place, but Vance doesn't even consider that horror.)

At Pacifica Christian High School (I'm not sure if he was speaking to high-school students, but I sure as hell hope not), as part of an event billed as part of "The Great Conversation Series" (here's the announcement), Vance weighed in, offering an astonishing and benighted view of marriage: 
Culturally, something has clearly shifted. I think it’s easy but also probably true to blame the sexual revolution of the 1960s. My grandparents had an incredibly chaotic marriage in a lot of ways, but they never got divorced, right? They were together to the end, ’til death do us part. That was a really important thing to my grandmother and my grandfather. That was clearly not true by the 70s or 80s. And I think that probably, I was personally and a lot of kids in my community, who grew up in my generation, personally suffered from the fact that a lot of moms and dads saw marriage as a basic contract, right? Like any other business deal, once it becomes no longer good for one of the parties or both of the parties, you just dissolve it and go onto a new business relationship. But that recognition that marriage was sacred I think was a really powerful thing that held a lot of families together. And when it disappeared, unfortunately I think a lot of kids suffered. . . .

His grandmother and grandfather's marriage? As Vance detailed in his fantasy "memoir," Hillbilly Elegy, his grandparents tried their best to kill one another. 'Til "death do us part" indeed. 

As for deciding to end a marriage? To consider that "one of the parties" (always have to be "moms and dads," right?) might decide a marriage "no longer good"? Stick it out no matter what! Vance insists. (Or, I suppose, until one partner kills the other.)

And while Vance gestures toward the notion that "dads" as well as "moms" who might find a marriage needs to end, look again--the real blame is to be found in "the sexual revolution of the 1960s." Guess who was liberated as a result of that revolution . . . 

So what's his advice? Here's the thing that has caused an uproar since Vance's comments, recorded in September 2021, were published by Vice this week: 

This is one of the great tricks that I think the sexual revolution pulled on the American populace, which is the idea that like, ‘well, OK, these marriages were fundamentally, you know, they were maybe even violent [emphasis added], but certainly they were unhappy. And so getting rid of them and making it easier for people to shift spouses like they change their underwear, that’s going to make people happier in the long term. . . .

Sure, J.D., what's wrong with a little domestic violence? Gotta stay on brand . . . 

Meanwhile, may I remind you: 
  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, etc. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. This includes a range of behaviors (e.g. slapping, shoving, pushing) and in some cases might not be considered "domestic violence."
  • 1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner. Data is unavailable on male victims.
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
  • On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.
  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.
  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
  • Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.
  • 19% of domestic violence involves a weapon.
  • Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior.
  • Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.

 (These numbers are from the National Coalition against Domestic Violence; for full statistics, click here.)

I've written about this topic before (click here and here and here and here and even here, with another asshole whining about when marriage and women were "sacred"). It never goes away.

And let's not forget. The Violence against Women's Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994. The law was expanded and improved in reauthorizations of 2000, 2005, and 2013. Republican opposition to reauthorization of the VAWA delayed its authorization--yeah, those guys again. The act was finally reauthorized in March 2022, but it could never manage to get support from Republicans, much less a vote, in the U.S. Senate. It was finally passed as part of an omnibus appropriations package

The video of Vance's remarks is widely available online, but I refuse to embed it or link to it here. You can find it if you must.