As José Ortega y Gasset was saying:
“When in a mosaic a piece is absent, we recognize it as the hollow that stops, which of her we see is his absence; his way of being present is to be absent, therefore it is to be absent”
Because of it I have subtitled this text as “The presence of the absence”.
I will begin with a bit of history.
Inside the Mediterranean area, in the Greco-Roman world, cradle of the western civilization, the woman was a citizen of the second category, together with the slaves and the foreigners. In Greece it was the origin of the concept of city (polis), understood not only as group been ordained as peoples, buildings and spaces, but in his more wide sense of civil participation based in the use of the word – political instrument for excellence-, and that was assigning to every individual a precise function and a certain place.
The woman concerned to the domain of private (oikonomia) and it was allowed to him neither accede to the assembly nor to think in matters of public interest. It was taking part in the construction of the city and of the company, by means of his mother’s paper, since breeding of the species, cuidadora of children and of girls, sick and major persons and mantenedora of the fire of the home and of the traditions.
When the women were acceding to the public area they were doing it near the sources – where they were going to look for water to drink-, on the market – where they were buying food to consume-, in the washers or taking part in certain religious rites allowed for them. They did not have access to the gymnasium, to the forum or to the assembly and the baths were of category lower than those of the male. Only the prostitutes were acceding to the prohibited places.
“The woman does not have soul” Aristotle was saying “and his better adornment is the silence”. They could not also lift publicly his voice since the man was considered to be the civil only one of right plenary session.
Nevertheless, the public space was constituting in this epoch the essence of the city. As symbol of relation, of solidary participation and of debate between the citizenship, the Ágora Greek or the Roman Forum they were places of meeting for definition, places where there was developing dialectically the public space that gave origin to the western company.
City and company were very similar concepts, based on the education, the word and the plot reason (logos) where the woman did not have content, it was not worth being listened, as being infantile and low, staying to the margin of the city as political entity.
Exceptions confirm the rule, as the famous roman matron, Hortensia, who skipping the prearranged norm, irrumpe in the Forum to defend the peace.
Hortensia was a daughter of Quinto Hortensio and she would be a famous speaker, as his father. In 42 B.C. one declared in opposition to the imposition of a special tax for the richest matrons of Rome. After the proclamation of the second triunvirato, there was proclaimed an edict that was establishing that they had to realize an extraordinary contribution to the condition to face to military expenses. As consequence of it, the affected women went to the Forum. And sittings before the platform, Hydrangea, in representation of all of them, delivered his famous speech. A speech that constitutes a real letter of the rights and duties of the Roman woman.
“Men of Rome”, she exclaimed, “why have we to pay taxes if we do not take part in the charges, honors, military positions not, in a word, in the government for which you fight, certainly, against so baneful results?”
Along the history, the life and the relations man-to-man and women, have passed in a similar way. I do not try to do an excessive tour, though yes I would like to mention Christine de Pizan, authoress of “The City of the Ladies” in the 14th century, in full Middle Ages.
Christine de Pizan is considered to be the first professional writer of west. He was a daughter of the doctor, astrologer and counselor of the King Carlos V de Valois. Born in 1363, he married 15 years, was widowed to the 25 and devoted itself from then to the writing and to the painting to support his 3 children and his mother.
His book “The City of the Ladies” wanted to answer to “De Claris Mulieribus” by Bocaccio, summary of 104 biographies of royal or mythical women and one of many agreements of the Renaissance that they do not do but to reinforce the position subordinated of the woman of the epoch. Bocaccio says on these famous women:
“I think that his prowesses were worthy of praise, because the art is foreign to the mind of the woman”.
And he continues:
“Emulating the exploits of the former women, you will use your mind in higher facts “.
Christine de Pizan could not understand how the men could write of so devastating form against the woman, being so they owed to him nothing less than his existence. In his allegoric city “The City of the Ladies”, it offers numerous tests brings over of valuable feminine accomplishments, claims values since it are the tenderness, the solidarity or the generosity and it denounces the misogyny of the medieval epoch.
But let’s go to an epoch nearer to the current one, when the incorporation of the woman to the professional work, and therefore, to the public area, it begins in many countries. And this fact has been – possibly – one of the most revolutionary and significant factors of the modernity of the 20th century, according to the opinion of many experts.
The feminine access to the University, before vetado, was, together with the movement of liberation of the woman to obtain the vote and the equality of labor laws, the invention and popularization of the domestic appliances (that liberated her partly of the hard work of the home), as well as the possibility of possessing certain contraceptives as the pill (deciding all the children wanted to have), all of them were fundamental elements in order that the woman in the western world, little by little, out taking part actively in the collective and professional life.
The same thing has not happened in other latitudes. Still nowadays the rights of the women are under minimums in continents as Africa, certain countries like the Arabs, China and so many other places.
In West, in the places most advanced democratically speaking, at the beginning of the 20th century the women had desire of taking part and they put the means to do it. Previously, the science, the philosophy, the art, the sociology, the politics or the economy, that is to say the areas that were implying an exit of the domestic sphere, were dominated by the men. Rita Levé-Montalcini, prize Nóbel of Medicine in 1986, – expired recently with more than 100 years-, was writing in his autobiography that it titled “Praise of the Blemish”:
“It turns out unheard-of that the supposed difference of the intellectual capacities between the sexes masculine and feminine of our species, it should to the fact of which the individual has, in the first case, a chromosome X and one And, and in the second one, two chromosomes X.”
Cristina García-Rosales. Architect
Madrid. January 2014