The Harrowing of Elizabeth Fritzl: I dun tol’ you so!

May 19th, 2008, 01:50 pm

Let us begin with this section from Ephesians:

22Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Now let’s go on to Colossians:

18Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

19Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

20Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

Or check out First Peter:

5For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:

6Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

Now look at First Corintians:

10To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

Now let’s look at a bad wife or two. Try Vashti, for example:

16 Then Memucan replied in the presence of the king and the nobles, “Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. 17 For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ 18 This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.

Now, “Blame the woman” is an ancient and profitable pastime:

16Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

17And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground
for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Now, with all that in mind, allow me to refer you to a pair of articles on Josep Fritzl’s activities within the context of good, solid, Austrian culture.

The first one I found was Josef Fritzl’s fictive forebears in The Times Online(UK). Ritchie Robertson undertakes a thorough overview of the kinds of literature that Elizabeth’s fate recalls. I recommend a careful and thorough reading: Freud does make an appearance, as one would expect, but there is far, far more to the story than he.

Today, I found Heather Mallick‘s re-consideration of her call for Austria not wholly to be tarred with one broad psycotic’s brush when a reader very politely corrected her Canadian attitude thusly:

Thank you for the article, she wrote politely, but I am Austrian-German, and you are wrong. Her traditional upbringing by an authoritarian father and passive mother had scarred her as well as her own children, she said, causing one of her brothers to commit suicide and leaving the other emotionally unable to cope with life.

In both articles, look for the distinction between English/British attitudes born of class, and Austrian attitudes drawn directly from patriarchy.

We go back, as we always go back, to the above scriptures calling for submission – and the societal structures that empower, require, and coerce that submission. Regardless. We remember (as we of my generation and older should remember, and often fail) that there was, semantically, no such thing as rape in marriage legally, because – they were married. It was a husband’s right to have sex with his wife. Up through the 1970s in America.

We remember, as so many of all of us fail to remember, that wifely acceptance of husbandly fits and starts was always demanded, not least by the women who had grown old and bitter in their acceptance, wondering – as Celie of The Color Purple wondered – how these young women dare expect better conditions than their elders.

I look back to my mother’s best friend, an initially lively and intelligent woman, who underwent therapy to deal with her bitter unhappiness in her marriage.

Her husband, reluctantly but with care for his wife’s mental state, agreed with her therapist for electroshock therapy for her.

Afterwards, she was neither lively, nor intelligent, nor unhappy in her marriage.

Austria may well be a simmering hotbed of familial abuse and violence; but it is not alone, not nearly alone.

We are nowhere near enough progressed to be post-feminist.

Tuppence in the change bowl.

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