Fortunately, we have museums to remind us just how primitive we used to be, which is good because it would be easy to forget that we are descended from people who had very different values to us. Once, it was seen as the very epitome of manliness to rape and pillage. Once, it was lauded to denounce long-time associates, friends and even family to the authorities for dubious religious practices. Once, it was expected that a person must claw their way to the top by crushing those who had helped them in the past, life a desperate, merciless struggle for survival, the mark of the winner being nothing less than seeing who had collected the most stuff when they died.
Happily, the nineteen-eighties are long in the past now, and we have moved on.
These days I can, in the gentle serenity of pleasant museum surroundings, look at the exhibits and interactive displays whilst trying to avoid the enthusiastically bright-eyed history graduate just itching to tell me what the GDP of Great Britain was in the 1700s. Here, I can wile away the time reminding myself that things were not always so civil.
In this picture, for instance, the heinous attitude to women is amply demonstrated by the presence of the well preserved Scold's Bridle on the right:
|Has anyone seen my key? Yeah, it's about a foot across?|
Actually, I've just read on Wikipedia that they were used on chaps as well, so I suppose it wasn't quite as sexist as I initially thought. That's very, very surprising.
Using it on men doesn't make it any less repulsive though. The Scold's Bridle is classed as a mild form of torture and was used as punishment in workhouses until as late as the nineteenth century, which shows how primitive we were until quite recently. At least these days we use mains water and electricity to torture folk, which is far more contemporary.
Any perusal of a history book or walk through a museum of human activity will demonstrate the elaborate and ingenious ways people had of causing suffering.to one another, for whatever reason. Even those implements designed for medicine often had the opposite effect on the patient. Thought and effort has, for generations, gone into improving methods of inflicting harm on other sentient beings. It's a sad state of affairs, and a damning indictment of the state of the human mind.
Wait a minute, what's that thing on the left? Some sort of torture device intended for humiliation and degradation no doubt:
|Hand cranked vibrator. Just apply woman.|
Seriously. A hand cranked, metal vibrator.
The presence of the vibrator actually encourages warm feelings towards our predecessors. Maybe people of yore weren't constantly thinking up new methods of punishment and torture then. Not all the time anyway. It would appear that they also put their minds to betterment, and not just for themselves but for society as a whole. Occasionally, someone would invent something that made life a bit nicer, be it helping out with the tedious chore of self-love, or perhaps providing immunisation against deadly diseases. This is something we should remember when we rush to dismiss good deeds, altruism and positivity in our species as unusual, or even as an aberration. There is good stuff out there, and always has been, even if we occasionally have to look hard to find it.
The hand cranked part seems a little superfluous though. I mean, it does a deed that is generally hand cranked anyway. Presumably you'd want to warm it up a bit as well, unless you're into that kind of thing.
I'm well aware that such items were originally designed as a medical innovation to combat the hysteria that the so-called 'weaker' sex experienced, men apparently having moustaches and big hats instead of emotions, so it doesn't exactly take away the negative view of women that pervaded society in those days.
Of course, we're much more enlightened today, and the barriers between the sexes are breaking down, the age-old distinctions in jobs and duties traditionally seen as 'male' or 'female' no longer apply. Most new doctors are women. Male nurses abound. No one is surprised by a male primary school teacher or a female mechanic. My wife can nearly parallel park.
I was in a domestic kitchen recently and noticed that Seimens, who make kitchen appliances amongst other things, demonstrated their considerable grasp of modern gender politics with this model of dishwasher, named to encourage equality between the sexes, obviously:
|Made by Siemens. So . . . many . . . jokes.|
As a man, I shall continue to try and clean my dishes using a rock in the local stream. I get through so many gravy boats that way, but what's the alternative?