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The roots of gay oppression – International Socialism

But women in Athens did not constitute one homogeneous group. Some women had far greater freedom of movement and influence in this male dominated society. Aspasia, the great politician and general Pericles' mistress in the fifth century BC, is especially well known. She was a , that is a citizen's permanent mistress, more or less an equivalent to the courtesan in later French society. Many of the were well versed in poetry, music and social conditions in general. In the men's world, they could participate in debates from which a woman citizen was completely cut off. On the other hand, perhaps with a few exceptions, the had foregone the possibility of bringing legitimate heirs into the world and become part of a normal household. Many have pointed out that the borderline with prostitution proper was blurred and that the status as hetaera was not a true alternative for Athenian women of middle-class families.

boys and women also openly courted girls in Sparta, ..

In 465 BC Xerxes was assassinated in the royal bedchamber by a conspiracy led by Artabanus, Megabyzus, and the eunuch chamberlain Aspamitres. Artabanus was able to persuade 18-year-old Artaxerxes that his older brother Darius, who hated Xerxes for seducing his wife, had killed their father, causing Artaxerxes to murder his brother Darius. When Artabanus tried to get rid of Artaxerxes, he was betrayed by Megabyzus and killed after wounding the young King. The eunuch Aspamitres was tortured to death. Hystaspis, another brother of the new King, revolted in Bactria and was defeated by Artaxerxes, who then made sure that all his brothers were killed. Artaxerxes ruled the Persian empire for forty years, collecting annual taxes that totaled about 10,000 talents plus nearly half as much again from India. Little value from this ever went back to the satrapies that provided it except in payment to imperial soldiers from their countries. Taxes were so heavy that many had to borrow money at 40% interest until they were ruined and lost their land to the original owners, who were also being taxed. Many revolts resulted from this oppression.

As an outside observer and participant in the social game, it is quite easy to work out kinship and relate to it. It is much more difficult and very frustrating to operate within the various systems and grades of friendships As an outsider, one is totally devoid of the cultural understanding needed in order to manoeuvre, and feels like a pawn in a contradictory game, the rules of which one does not always know, apart from the fact that the friendships are as important a part of life as is kinship. From an outsider's point of view, both kinship and friendship may appear as a strait-jacket curtailing the individual's freedom of action. They should, however be regarded as normative rules or very general guidelines for conduct (Bailey 1980, 3 ff., see also Knudsen 1989, 312 ff). An intelligent "player" knows exactly how to exploit and bend the normative rules to attain his or hers pragmatic end without being disqualified by society.What is expected of the individual and his behaviour is not static but rather determined by the actual situation just as in our own culture. A few episodes may illustrate this point. In the neighbouring village a group of women were shoeing an ox, the indispensable traction force in fanning. The sight did not surprise me, as women make up a very large part of the labour resources in agriculture, not just in processing. But men do not talk about it. Officially, in the male sphere and in relation to outsiders, agriculture is masculine work. When I wanted to photograph the situation, the scene changed completely. Three men were called and they are the ones that are caught in the photograph (also Gould 1980, 49) Another time I walked back from the teahouse at dusk with one of my male acquaintances. One of the large ovens in which women from many families bake bread to last several days, stood in front of his house. That evening a lot of activity was under way, led by a very confident lady, my friend's wife, whom I had met previously. We sat down on the periphery of the group of women and children. After having exchanged the usual pleasantries, I asked her how many children she had. She replied that she had given birth to six children but that it had been hard work. The husband felt that it was time for him to appear on the scene. With a leer, he explained that it had been hard work for him too and accompanied the statement with a vulgar gesture. He should not have done that. He had to leave the arena in a rain of pebbles to the great amusement of the other women. Clearly this was the women's space just like the mountain pasture. Here things were done according to their rules. On the occasions when I was lucky enough to experience the baking of bread alone among the women, I was struck by the great frankness that characterised their conversation. Men's prowess, also on a sexual level, was discussed. My host's wife was teasingly asked what she did when her husband was away now that I was part of the family. I have never experienced similar conversations in the teahouse or among men.As mentioned earlier, both men and women regard the house or home as the women's only province, but as the episodes described above show, things are not all that simple. The house is not a static materialistic entity defined by its outer walls. The household arena changes geographically depending on the situation, i.e. the specific occasion and the people present. The men sleep and eat in the house, but apart from that they spend a major part of their time with other men in the centre of the village. Early in the morning, when they have left the house and congregated in the village square with its kahve and shops, "house" denotes all of the geographical area in which ordinary habitation is placed. Alley-ways, streets, common ovens, all become the natural place for women and children to congregate. Men only use a few major streets, even if short cuts are available. They do not stop by unless it is absolutely vital and then make things as short and businesslike as is possible. One of my experiences was when one of my friends refused to accompany me into a house where something I wanted a closer look at was taking place. To my repeated question as to why he would not come, he at last answered: Only women are present and I know none of them. In quantitative terms, the women dominate 75 per cent of the village. To be "in thehouse" often only means to be away from the village square and surrounding alley-ways. The same is true in the non-industrialised parts of Diyarbakir. The men's space is the central area with the bazaar, public buildings, mosques, teahouses and eating-places together with the broader of the streets, which lead into the town centre from the residential areas. The remainder of the town belongs to the women. Settling down here is not all that difficult once one has learned the rules in the village.If strangers, who are not defined as kinsmen or part of one of the family's closer network of friends, come to visit the boundaries move. The main room in the house where the meal is served becomes a male arena. After having served the meal, which the women very often already have helped themselves to during the cooking, they retreat to the adjoining rooms and do not join in the conversation with the exception of the oldest woman who on this occasion represents the women of the house. To outsiders it may look as if the house is divided into a male and a female section. To a certain extent this is true in this particular situation. Everything depends on the occasion and not least the position of the guest in relation to the host family. Opening and closing doors make the house a very flexible and elastic entity which may be adjusted to suit present needs. On larger festive occasions, such as weddings and religious festivals, the yard of the house is divided into two spheres in the same way. Men and women sit in separate groups and eat separately. If dancing occurs, men dance with men and women dance with women, often in a provocative chain. Flirting and courting between young men and women is extensive but conducted in a controlled fashion.Henny Harald Hansen's description of Kurdish villages in Iraq and the house's place as the women's arena adds yet another aspect. She narrates how a woman, after having asked permission of the man of the house, "the nominal head of the extended family", visited some family in a neighbouring village. The visit was extended to include some other villages and she came home later than agreed: (Hansen 1958, 217 f )