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LAce Posted Monday, February 25th, 2008
The Wise Woman
Beate Sigriddaughter

There is a well-documented phenomenon that women don’t like to ask for things. (Men don’t either, for that matter, just think about how they’d rather pay a prostitute or make it part of unwritten rules in a marriage contract than having to ask, but that’s neither here nor there.)

I am a woman, and, true to form, I do not like to ask. Which makes it very convenient for Corporate America to ignore me when it comes to pay raises and other equitable treatment. Thirty years of mentioning it left and right, to the extent that nobody wants to hear it anymore, didn’t change the fact that women still make seventy cents or thereabouts to each man’s dollar. I imagine men and their occasional hench-women rubbing their greedy hands behind my back, cackling their nasty little litany: All she has to do is ask, but we know she won’t. Why should we volunteer what’s fair, when all she has to do is ask, even though we know she won’t?

This became serious enough in my life that I started studying the underlying fears and why they were so ingrained. Among other things, I came across this true but much neglected story.

Once there was a bishop who was very ill. None of the dozens of learned doctors he summoned, all male already in those days, were able to help him. He nearly despaired of his life, but he knew of a woman in a nearby village who was well-versed in herbal lore. He summoned her as a last resort. She cured him. But when she asked him for payment for her services, he didn’t like to part with good money, so he accused her of being a witch and had her burned at the stake.

One day, trying to collude in bemoaning, in their safe absence, the fact that men mostly try to cheat women and keep them down, I told this story to a friend over salmon and tofu at our favorite Japanese lunch spot.

“That was pretty stupid of him, wasn’t it?” she said. “What if he became ill again?”

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by Judy Cabito on Tuesday, February 26th, 2008 at 1:07 PM
Ha! Brings to mind the 'plague' and I wonder if it had been the result of a neglected woman. :)

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