Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gender-benders

Sometimes I don't know whether I'm reading ancient medical theory, or current politics. In both, women are seen as essentially a uterus, and valued for their childbearing properties. LOVE THAT!

The differences: in ancient texts, doctors were more concerned with the pregnant mother's life than the embryo's, which isn't the case in America anymore, now that doctors are trying to withhold information about life-threatening illnesses during pregnancy if treatment would necessitate abortion.
The issue back then was not the holy Sanctity of Life but the father's property: a potentially boy-producing woman was worth more than a baby of unknown gender who might or might not survive. The Hippocratics didn't bother to treat babies often. Then again, all the abortion methods they knew were as dangerous as a coathanger, so the prohibition against abortion was really also a case of not killing the mother.
Also, here's a fun difference. In ancient medical texts, women who did not have babies frequently enough (i.e. were not subject to husbands) were subject to all kinds of illnesses, hysteria for one, but also virilization i.e. TURNING INTO MEN which was potentially fatal. I don't think we believe that nowadays, but things are changing so fast I'm not sure.
Consider the following Hippocratic text:

In Abdera, PhaĆ«thusa the wife of Pytheas, who kept at home, having born children in the preceding time, when her husband was exiled stopped menstruating for a long time. Afterwards pains and reddening in the joints. When that happened her body was masculinized and grew hairy all over, she grew a beard, her voice became harsh, and though we did everything we could to bring forth menses they did not come, but she died after surviving a short time. The same thing happened to Nanno, Gorgippus’ wife, in Thasos. All the physicians I met thought that there was one hope of feminizing her, if normal menstruation occurred. But in her case, too, it was not possible, though we did everything, but she died quickly. (epidemics 6.8.30).


SO, gentle readers, what is going on in the early church is that there were all these "widows who were not really widows" i.e. they were celibate, single women, seeking to live like the widows did, with privileges of going out of the house and even (gasp) teaching. The risk that they would turn into men was running high. For one, they were acting like men, even if they didn't go so far as Thecla (see 2:40) to actually dress like men. GENDERBENDERS! SCANDAL! So the author of 1 Timothy wants to shut them up and turn them back into obedient wives, so he prescribes salvation by childbearing.

I'm really happy that I live in the modern world and not in the ancient, because with irregular menstruation throughout my teenage years, I certainly would have been "cured" of this "malady" by an early marriage and swift entry into motherhood. I would probably have five kids already, the oldest ready to be married herself. And that's not my choice, I'd rather read and write and preach and all kinds of other intellectual pursuits formerly reserved for men. I'm happy to live in the modern world... I just can't wait until the rest of my country catches up to the times.

Monday, April 2, 2012

How to write a thesis

For a year I tried to write a thesis while I had a job, and I did about a minute of thesis work a day. Losing that job meant winning the thesis, which is now my sole delight both day and night and so I spend most of my time thinking up new ways to motivate myself.
My topic is (of course) every woman's favorite Bible verse, "She shall be saved by childbearing" from the wonderful 1st epistle to Timothy. I'm looking at childbirth through ancient medical texts, which means I get to read about a lot of menstrual blood and bile and phlegm and primitive means of contraception (jump up and down seven times after intercourse, then sneeze). Fun stuff, I tell you. MOTIVATION IS KEY. So here are the top ten motivating methods, tested and tried, they work.

1) Give yourself all day (duh)

2) Don't give yourself all day!! Within the constraints of actually giving yourself all day, you have to convince yourself you don't have all day. Set deadlines. As much as I hate 2-hour parking limits, they work wonderfully because you simply must WORK FASTER before you have to leave, and it's not some makebelieve deadline, you're actually threatened by Lovely Rita Meter Maid who is going to fine you an arm and a leg, and it would be hard to write your thesis without your arm.

3) Along the lines of the above. Make a pie and put it in the oven and you have to get an hour's worth of work done before you're allowed to get up and get the pie, and if you work too slowly the pie will burn.

4) Uninstall Angry Birds.

5) Make a list of all the pieces you can work on without using the internet, and leave your laptop at home.

6) Leave facebook and blogs and pinterest at home without leaving the laptop at home - use the library of a school you don't attend, because they sure as heck won't let you on the internet there. Or write in a cafe where they charge for internet. Who charges for internet these days??!? Gaylord's on Piedmont, that's who.

7) Hit prime writing velocity by allowing yourself to include phrases such as "the shit hits the fan here" and "THIS IS A (*#&@)*ing STUPID IDEA but they believed it" and promise to edit them out later.

8) Don't try to write for more than four hours at a time. Take a nice long break, and a nap. Then write from midnight to 2 AM and sleep in the next morning, you can do that because Thesis is your only master, and Thesis knows no curfew.

9) By now you probably need to uninstall Angry Birds again.

10) Create motivational boards on Pinterest such as: when i finish my thesis i shall reward myself by cooking and eating absolutely everything that looks good on pinterest and tell yourself stories about how wonderful life will be when Thesis is finished, filed, published, on the NYT bestseller list, going on book tours, etc, maybe Jon Stewart will want to interview me.... SNAP! GET BACK TO WORK!