Things You Shouldn’t Have To Say In 2016: Women Are Not Property | Vol. 3 / No. 16.4

These are not women | Photo: Dave Shafer, CC BY 2.0
These are not women | Photo: Dave Shafer, CC BY 2.0

Look, I don’t get into religion that often on this site. If people want to believe in invisible dragons in their garage, they’re welcome to. I even think there are some pragmatic reasons to do so at times, and if doing so makes you treat other human beings with more dignity and respect, then great: go to. But every now and then I feel the need to explain the converse: if your religion is acting as an excuse for you to treat others as less than you treat yourself, then you simply can’t be entrusted with it and need to knock it off. Try learning to play a musical instrument, or taking up daily exercise, or literally doing anything else with your time and energy other than using religion as a way to reinforce your own ideas of “natural hierarchy.”

It’s fine, really. It’s not their fault. There are plenty of people around the world who can’t have a square of chocolate without eating a pound of the stuff. We’re hard-wired for excess. Some people can have a little religion, and that’s great for them, but some of them just need to stop. Like Vaughn Ohlman, a member of the profoundly racist and antiegalitarian fundamentalist Christian movement calling itself “Quiverfull.”

If you haven’t heard of the “Quiverfull” fundie movement, here’s the basic gist, briefly dramatized:

[White man gets on stage: “This is terrifying! There are people that have other religions, and they’re breeding! Better turn women into non-stop Christian fundie baby-making machines before it’s too late!”]

I’m not kidding. This is a direct quote from one Quiverfull Pastor Colin Campbell as cited over at No Longer Quivering, a website by Vickie Garrison, a woman who left the movement in 2008:

“The Islamics [sic] are having 8.1 member families, average and every one of them when they reach the age of eighteen will have a vote. Already in good old England there are cities that are now becoming more Islamic than English.

Can you imagine England becoming an Islamic state?”

The solution is, of course, out-breeding “the Islamics.” Which is why Vaughn Ohlman, over at his fundie website “Let Them Marry,” has been circulating this little bit of… precious thinking.

Girls are objects, owned by their fathers and given to boys.
Girls are objects, owned by their fathers and given to boys | Image: Let Them Marry

You see, Mr. Ohlman saw another meme going about facebook that said the following (also in the shape of a tree, but by god there was so much jpeg I just couldn’t reproduce it here):

“Girls are like apples on trees. The best ones are at the top of the tree. The boys don’t want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead they just get the rotten apples from the ground that aren’t as good, but easy. So the apples at the top think something is wrong with them, when in reality, they’re amazing. They just have to wait for the right boy to come along, the one who’s brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree.”

This is awful for a wide variety of reasons. It denies any agency at all to young women, who are literally objectified as fruit for “boys” to reach for. It shames women who enter a relationship “easily” as “rotten” fruit. It praises young women who don’t enter into relationships under what I can only assume is some bizarre idea of sexual purity (come on, that’s what it’s saying, right?). But these are not the problems Ohlman has with it.

No, “the real problem today, however, is not that some fruit on the tree is being passed over for the “easy”, “low-hanging fruit”. No, the real problem is that vast quantities of this fruit are past their prime, are past ripeness. This is why so many have now fallen to the ground and are beginning to rot, sometimes becoming prey to less worthy suitors.”

Wait, what? Women aren’t getting married young enough?

“Now, I do not mean to make unmarried women feel bad for their present stations, but I do want to be honest and realistic about what is going on today. Even so, let me be clear that I do not largely place the blame upon the women themselves. There is plenty of blame to go around elsewhere.”

Elsewhere like–wait I get it, now: like their fathers for not giving them to men sooner:

it is not up to the boy to be “brave enough to climb all the way to the top”, not up to him to come along and “woo” the girl. More importantly, it would be considered theft for a boy to come over (especially uninvited and without paying) to an apple orchard and begin picking fruit on his own. Likewise, it may be considered another type of “theft” for a young man to become physically intimate with a girl or even to begin to stir her heart as an illegitimate suitor—that is, without the father’s express permission and guidance. When you go apple-picking, the farmer shows you how to pick them and gives you the necessary tools to do so. It is up to the farmer to know his fruit. It is up to the father to know his children and understand that it is his responsibility to be diligent in giving away his daughters in marriage (in particular, to a man of God in the Church) when she is “ripe”, when she is of age.” [emphasis my own]

Look, Mr. Ohlman. I can’t believe I have to say this in 2016, but here we go: Women aren’t apples. They aren’t things or property. They don’t belong to their fathers and they can’t ever be “given” to men. They do not become “ripe” or “rotten.” They do not require the supervision of a “farmer.” They are human beings with a right to self-determination, equal in dignity, respect, and intelligence to men.

Women are people, Mr. Ohlman, not possessions. That is what was wrong with the original meme. And it’s still wrong with your meme.

Hold on, maybe I can say it in a way you’ll understand:

Image: Kelly | Text: Richard Ford Burley, Thiis Week In Tomorrow
Image: Kelly | Text: Richard Ford Burley, This Week In Tomorrow

How about that? Are we clear now?


Richard Ford Burley is a writer and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.