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By now you've no doubt heard that conservatives thought that a reporter's satirical question was real:  A reporter sarcastically asks if Hagel spoke in front of [insert fictional terrorist-like sounding organization] group.  The rumor then spread to the point where a sitting U.S. Senator was asking if Hagel had spoken to a group that didn't exist.

It turns out that conservatives, the group that wants to repeal the 20th century, is falling for 17th century satire.  The biggest joke is that the satirist from 300 years ago is still laughing because these guys haven't figured it out the joke yet.

There is a semi-popular 300 year old document circulated on the internet called the The Women's Petition Against Coffee from 1674.  It is a vulgar and playful petition written by "anonymous" on behalf of all women, asking the king to ban coffee houses in Britain.

There is a semi-popular 300 year old document circulated on the internet called the The Women's Petition Against Coffee from 1674.  It is a vulgar and playful petition written by "anonymous" on behalf of all women, asking the king to ban coffee houses in Britain.

Conservatives have taken this document and ran with it to promote the narrative of "a group of proto-feminists" oppressing men.(seriously, read the comments on the linked blog if you want to read some "enlighted" opinions).  Or as this guy suggests "proto-feminists were lobbying the British government as far back as the 17th century when their sexual interests were seen as threatened by the emergence of male frequented coffee houses."

Someone should tell them they were male-frequented because women were banned.

Women were generally banned from coffeehouses in England and France, but in Germany women frequented them. In a well-known engraving, circa 1700, of a Parisian coffeehouse, gentlemen hang their hats on pegs and sit at long communal tables strewn with papers and writing implements. Coffeepots are ranged at an open fire, with a hanging cauldron of boiling water. The only woman present serves coffee in tall cups from a canopied booth.
But the crown jewel of this freak out comes from an anti-feminist woman who (in her youtube video) uses the coffee house petition to claim that her sex has always controlled men and that is why they have to eliminate or "invade" male-only gatherings.

The punchline of course is that the petition was satirical, not an actual movement.  You can read it here.  I'll quote real experts who can explain it better than me.  First James Hoffman, a "coffee expert":

Sadly most of them miss completely that it is a piece of satire, and not a genuine petition. Though it is written to resemble one there are a number of “small” clues, but I think many writers prefered to imagine a London in the 1670′s full of double-entendre’s and cheap puns.

¶Aside from the cruder sections there are complaints that the men will “usurp on our Prerogative of Tatling” and “half a doozen of them will out-babble and equal number of us at Gossipping“. The pamphlet claims that though men talk of politics, and essential put the world to right, they never actually do anything about it. However, these genuine satirical points are seemingly lost under the barrage of complaints:

The pamphlet is a lot of fun. Prayers that “That they no more run the hazard of being Cuckol’d by Dildo’s” are entertaining, but it is time people stopped wheeling out a little comedy smut and pretending that it is something of historical importance.

And now Markman Ellis, a REAL historian.
They have titles like The Women’s Petition against Coffee, The Maiden’s Complaint Against Coffee, or The Coffee-House Discovered. In the Maiden’s Complaint (1663), there is a scene in which two young servant women, Dorothy and Jane, discuss the effect the coffee-house has on their boyfriends, complaining that they spend so much time there drinking coffee and gossiping about politics that the men have no energy or time left for courtship. As Dorothy says, since ‘our Toby […] drank Coffee, he is no more like the man he was, than an apple’s like an Oyster’, to which Jane replies, ‘I believe the Devil first invented this liquour, on purpose to plague our Sex’. They both lament their fate — in particular, that they will have no chance to lose their virginity. Dorothy says that rather than give herself up to a man who drinks coffee, she may as well ‘wrap my Maiden-head in my smock, and fling it into the Ocean to be bugger’d to death by young Lobsters’.

These texts were used by Victorian historians, and subsequently by others in the twentieth century, as evidence for what coffee-house-going was like. And there may be some truth in these depictions — it is true that women were not expected to be in the coffee-house, and Dorothy and Jane are standing outside it, lamenting the fact that it is full of men inside. But this is obviously complicated evidence of an experience, because it is satirical, because of its interest in using low and vulgar language. It uses these satirical modes of the mock petition or complaint, different forms of the genres of authority that they burlesque and travesty.

So we know it's satirical from the style of the critiques, that these mock petitions were common, and a real petition to the King probably wouldn't contain such "low and vulgar language".  In other words, conservatives trying to smear feminists by saying they have a man-hating or man-controlling ideology have been duped by a 17th century humorist.

If that's not enough, let's take a look at this from another angle.  Let's look at what life was like for married women in 17th century England.

In seventeenth-century England, marriage and sexual morals played a far more important social role than nowadays. A family centered around a married couple represented the basic social, economic and political unit. In the Stuart period, a husband’s “rule” over his wife, children and servants was seen as an analogy to the king’s reign over his people—a manifestation of a hierarchy constituted by God. A woman was regarded as the ‘weaker vessel’ (a phrase taken from the New Testament)—a creature physically, intellectually, morally and even spiritually inferior to a man; therefore, the man had a right to dominate her (Fraser 1981: 1).
Because men dominated the family they were allowed to:
In the seventeenth century, the Lord Chief Justice of England, Sir Matthew Hale (1609 -1676)wrote that the common law permitted the physical discipline of wives and that husbands had immunity from prosecution if they raped their wives (Historia Placitorum Coronae, Hale, 1736  @ pp 472-474 ). He also said wives, servants, apprentices and children could be subject to ‘moderate correction’ even if such discipline caused death.

In 1860 the Lord Chief Justice of England Sir Alexander Coburn expressed the same law in his judgment in R v Hopley (1860) 2 F & F 20), but did not acknowledge Hale or appear to have referred to any precedent. He simply said it was the law of England. Providing no precedent is an omission we need to investigate further.

Also, the rights of a woman to act independent was ended as soon as she married.
In 18th century English law, females were bound by the laws of coverture. Under coverture, the husband and wife were one person (the entirety) and that one person was the husband in the eyes of the common law. Therefore, as to her personal and property rights, the wife's legal existence was suspended during the marriage and merged into that of the husband. She lost the capacity to contract for herself, or to sue or be sued, without joining the husband as plaintiff or defendant. The husband was entitled to all of the wife's personal property and "choses in action" (lawsuits), and in turn, the husband became liable for all torts committed by the wife, whether before or after marriage
So I have two points here.  First of all, it would've been impossible for married women to actually petition the King with these pamphlets because they wouldn't be allowed to purchase the paper or contract printers to write the petition without their husband's approval.  Second, even if women of the time could've gotten THAT organized, don't ya think they would've done something about legal beatings and rapes that their husbands were entitled to?

And even if it wasn't satirical, would we really concentrate on those mean-old women trying to take away men's coffee while women were legally beaten by their husbands?  Well I guess so, because all those laws preventing women from buying, selling, working, and allowing men to rape and beat, it was really a double-secret way for women to control their husbands.

The funny thing is, I've never really considered myself a feminist, but the stupidity of these self-proclaimed "anti-feminist" people and their messed up values is enough to drive me in the other direction.

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