“From her comes all the race of womankind, the deadly female race and tribe of wives who live with mortal men and bring them harm.” Upon reading this last sentence of Zaidman’s article, in which she references the description of Zeus’s “lovely curse”, the hair on the back on my neck stood up; I felt I had read the epitomical description of evil.
Of course, it was just the ancient rendition of women, but still, it got me thinking.
I have never actually heard the term “race” in referring to women before this reference in this article. At first, it made me angry. The more I thought about it, however, the more intrigued I became. Can we define women as a race? Divide the genders once and for all and settle all further disputes as simply outside the opposite gender’s jurisdiction?
The term “race” has several definitions in and of itself, and is defined on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as follows:
- a: a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock
b: a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics
- a: an actually or potentially interbreeding group within a species; also: a taxonomic category (as a subspecies) representing such a group
c: a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits
And one more from dictionary.reference.com: “A human population partially isolated reproductively from other populations, whose members share a greater degree of physical and genetic similarity with one another than with other humans.”
Obviously, women cannot mate with one another and produce viable offspring, which is a key biological definition of a “species”. However, I am not arguing that women be labeled their own species. Thus aside from the “interbreeding” part in the Merriam-Webster definition, a race is described as a “taxonomic category” such as a “subspecies”, and women are indeed a vital half of the species Homo sapiens-sapiens.
Once the interbreeding part is cast out, the definition of race seems more concerned with crucial physical/genetic characteristics and habits, such as Merriam-Webster 2) b: a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits or characteristics; and 2) c: a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits. Finally, I included the dictionary.com definition because it gets slightly more descriptive: “A human population partially isolated reproductively from other populations, whose members share a greater degree of physical and genetic similarity with one another than with other humans.”
The term race is obviously hard to pin down, and some would even argue it is out-dated for its connotation as stripping some populations of their dignity and rights. I am not saying that women and men be defined by their own “races”, but I do think it is an intriguing issue to think about. Women and men are not only vastly physically and genetically different, but emotionally and psychologically as well. In fact, there is not much really in common between the two genders at all, besides the basic fundamentals that make us part of our own species as humans. Different “races” of humankind have always defined themselves with or against an “other”, as women and men often do. The bickering Greeks united to defend their many states against their “other”, being the Persians. Thus in the quote mentioned in the beginning of this essay, the author condemns woman as the “deadly female race and tribe of wives” that was put on this earth to make men miserable. Men strive to make themselves the better in this comparison of “us vs. them”, but women are obviously not innocent either, for the feminist movement inevitably turned on men to blame them for the woman’s plight! So if blaming doesn’t work, and “separate but equal” surely doesn’t work, what will?
Another point to offer up in this debate of woman as race is that these similar interests/habits/characteristics defining race as seen above is that races such things could be defined as culture. I think that women definitely have their own culture. Whether or not this designates woman as a race will be up for debate. But the fact remains that the two genders are vastly different, and it is time both genders start not only recognizing that, but embracing it as well.