I saw the most amusing historical movie during a film marathon last night and I just couldn’t abstain from writing about it today as it depicts a period marked by one incredible invention all women, especially the lonely depressed ladies with cats, should prize enormously: after the sewing machine, the fan, the toaster, and the teakettle, roll the red carpet for the electric vibrator, a domestic tool no house must lack precisely in our kind of society!

We modern humans tend to have this awfully prejudiced impression that old Victorians lived in utter prudishness, chastity and by the abstinent canons religion shallowly imposed, genuine saints from the Bible who repressed any vice in favor of atonement. No, really. With this type of intuition you’d lose the lottery for the happy people of the 19th century were, be prepared, the epitome of elegant depravity, pleasure centers concealed by crinoline dresses and in full-length trousers better than presently as they could effortlessly keep the appearances unharmed within these superficial perimeters.

So the Victorians gambled, cultivated vanity and fornicated galore in their perfectly and seldom not that perfectly screened intimacy, men freer than women who sought to emancipate nonetheless, gaining same privileges their sex rivals boasted to have at their fancy Club meetings (while the docile wives tended the household affairs). No wonder half the female population of London was diagnosed with hysteria, a wrongly interpreted mind disease majorly provoked by sexual frustration at widows and young ardent spouses of puritans or homosexuals who had to be treated in private “cabinets” with vaginal massage… by hand.

It’s this most amusing scene in the film recommended above which depicts gorgeously how such a curing session proceeded, where and what was the doctor’s position. You can imagine it was terribly wearing for the fellow, not to mention a tad distressing and gross in the case of Methuselah patients spreading…

Thank Gos someone was witty enough to invent the electrified version and create a very useful vibrator the women could take home thus spearing one’s time and hand-ache. Mr. Mortimer Granville and his wealthy scientific friend Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe fathered the first object of this kind in the 1880’s with a huge success the movie celebrates nicely under Tanya Wexler’s direction.

The suffragettes, especially, were tremendously happy with this innovation for how would have they resisted rejecting intercourse if the vibrator wasn’t there to support their cause?

Poor Arabian women?

January 29, 2012

How we, cosmopolite, liberal Europeans, with pronounced anti-sexist views and very democratic in behavior (really?), love to pity our Islamic sisters, the poor veiled ladies obviously maltreated by their husbands, oppressed by their discriminatory culture which, in addition, breeds mass-terrorist! We feel so superior, so falsely advanced and philanthropic, if we sustain their “cause” or, after reading the tragic memoir of one struggling Arabian wife, deeply involve in “aid Muslim women” organizations with the strongest sense of self-importance! It’s our duty to support them and actively participate in their externally imposed adaptation to the modern values. We made a mean of boasting with our humanitarian actions from it!


And I don’t state that encouraging emancipation is, though majorly artificial, something blameworthy (after all, help’s inevitably welcomed), but it’s wrong to treat Arabian women as being clearly inferior. Not to say it’s another form of the unfairness we claim to want to diminish.

We, sophisticated, unprejudiced lads, seem to have forgotten the funny contrast between our histories. Bet you don’t expect what I’m about to tell.

While the fancy, highly “cultivated” European dame of the Early Meddle Ages was spending her time doing oh-so-complicated things like this…

woman in the middle ages

…and, if aristocratic enough, this…

women spinning

…the poor Muslim gals had to settle on easier jobs, fitted for their limited capacities, like, I don’t know, patronizing world’s first University?

When the erudition of the female population was badly seen by Christiandom and women had to be satisfied with mere basic knowledge so they could remain the docile, plain brides men desired, Fatima al-Fihri (died 880), nicknamed Oum al Banine (meaning “the mother of the children”) founded the oldest academic degree-granting University existing today, the University of Qarawiyyin, in Morocco. Daughter of a wealthy businessman, Mohamed al-Fihri, she invested the money inherited from her father to build gathering locations for scholars. Her sister, Mariam, is said to have been responsible for the construction of the Al-Andalus (Andalusian) mosque in Fes.

university of qairawan

This was late 9th century, almost 200 to 400 years before the birth of our more educated Hildegard of Bingen (1097- 1179) and Christine de Pizan (1363- 1430).

The 10th century doesn’t disappoint either: around 950, Miriam al-Ijli al-Astrulabi hand-crafted intricate astrolabes, a premature type of global/ Sun/ Moon/ planets/ stars positioning system, which was an impressive deed for the epoch.


It’s sad, though, there’s not much information about these two, at least not in accessible language, ’cause it would be great to learn more of their lives and accomplishments. Personally, I discovered Miriam and Fatima’s vague stories from an informative exposition-program I stumbled across in Istanbul. It was called “1001 Inventions”  (if you need further details) and introduced to the public a list of the chief Islamic scientists, astronomers, doctors, architects, mathematicians, etc, amongst whom were our admirable ladies.

fatima-at exposition

miriam- at exposition


Summing up: it’s very nice to help and sponsor Muslim women to speak-up, claim their God-given rights, liberate or whatever, yet you should bear in mind that they’re far from being pathetic and poor, on the contrary: they have a legacy we can’t brag with.

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