Martin Luther, the catalyst of the Reformation. Of 95 Theses fame. His opinions shaped our culture, so let's take a look at some other opinions he put into writing...
Note: I make no claims of content neutrality. My interpretation is included, and I do comment on some of his opinions. Mostly the crazy ones.
The Natural Place of Women
Each bolded headline is a section name from Martin Luther's thesis, The Natural Place of Women, from What Luther Says. The work is dated 1457 - 1459.
Woman's Greatest Honor--The Mother of All the Living
Luther's argument in this section is that God named Eve as mother, thereby setting the true distinction of womanhood. Luther notes that if God says that woman's motherhood is to be praised, we should look over her frailties.
The Natural Caretaker of Infants
Here, Luther states that the whole body of a woman is formed to care for infants. He notes that it is beautiful to see a young girl cradling an infant in her arms. The contrast, then, is the awkwardness with which men perform the same gestures. Luther's point is that this is natural, biological, innate to our creation. In other words, Martin Luther says that women are the natural caretakers of children, and that men are incapable of the same.
Woman Unexcelled--if She Stays in Her Sphere
Men, Luther says, are commanded to rule over wives and families. If women refuse to acknowledge this and rule over their husbands, she is working contrary to her nature and is evil.
He continues, stating that women were not made to rule, and cites a common example of women as rulers--the Amazons. He states that they must be fables, and while he may or may not be correct, he also lists the Ethiopian queen Candace, and states that having her as a ruler is "stupid of them (the Ethiopians)." Women were created for the benefit and use of men, so we should all stick to the roles that we were created for.
How Women Reveal Their Predetermined Domain
Women's knowledge of the domestic sphere makes them a perfect fit for domestic work, according to Luther. He claims that women are born with this knowledge, while men must train and practice to gain efficacy. In contrast, men are innately political, and have the ability to speak soundly on such matters, rather than "confusedly and absurdly" as women do.
Here, it is glaring that Luther is failing to acknowledge socialization--women are (or were), in fact, trained for the kitchen while men were allowed to study matters of politics. However, Luther's belief is that these social structures were constructed with divine influence, so perhaps this is not an adequate refutation.
Singing the Praise of Woman
Women are to be praised, because, without them, men would be doomed to be fornicators. "Without women marriage would be impossible." Thus, men must take a wife so that they can have a sexual outlet. Also, women are compassionate, so they can understand this failing (failure to control one's self, sexually or otherwise, has been a tremendous sin according to early Christian writers. St. Augustine wrote that lust and desire are results of Original Sin and thus all sexual desire is sinful).
Woman Rather Desires to Be Loved
Whereas men have this lustful quality of desire that is nearly uncontrollable, women are actually the objects of affection, rather than affectionate beings. They do not desire men so much as desire to be desired. Women should be loved, while men do love.
Woman Cannot but Attract Man
Luther continues that there is no way for man to forsake his natural desire of woman. This desire is as plain as eating and drinking. Luther accounts for this because men are created inside the flesh of women, and are unable to ever fully separate from them. (Freud?)
What Is Marriage?
Marriage is an institution created by God as a union between a man and a woman, for the purpose of having children, or at the very least, preventing the sin of fornication. Oh, and "living to the glory of God." (He tacks that on to the end.)
Marriage Is Not a Religious Relation
Marriage is a civic matter, and should only be interfered with by the church during ethical crises. (Ok.)
Marriage Is Essentially a Secular Affair
Marriage, then, is subject to secular government, just as material needs are managed such as housing and food. Luther notes that there were several imperial decrees about marital matters. Jesus and the Apostles, he states, were generally uninterested in "such matters."
The Importance and Seriousness of Marriage
This section notes the importance of marriage and the family as a social institution, though not in those words. God has constructed them so that men and women will bear children and raise them to God's glory. Luther, then, would protect marriage for a man and a woman, because of this educational component. No longer does he call the institution secular, it is "a matter of divine seriousness."
This Estate is a Biological and Moral Necessity
Morally, everyone has to get married. Luther says that God created all people to fit to this standard, with the exceptions only of those who can remain chaste outside marriage--he calls this chastity a supernatural gift. Men of this period truly believed it wasn't possible for them to control their sexual urges. Again, marriage, then, is a tool by which women are given over their husbands to be ruled and to be used as an outlet for sexual urges. (The moral rule of marriage is that it is the only way to prevent sex outside marriage, fornication.) This argument is far from establishing any sort of personhood for women, which is typical of the time period.
Try Reconciliation before Divorce
Because marriage is so necessary, Luther states that it should be preserved if at all possible. He provides a way out in the case of adultery, if it can be publicly proven. However, the institution is still more important than the individual case--he argues that six months or a year should pass before a divorce takes place, and that the number of divorces should be limited in a given year.
Give Penitent Another Chance.
If one partner cheats--he does not specify which--the other should forgive if the offender are truly remorseful. Forgiveness is great, but if it's taken for granted, that is a worse sin. If such is the case, divorce is good.
The Woman Should Love, Honor, and Obey
Luther states: "A woman should either be subjected to her husband or should not marry." Be dominated, or don't get married. (How many of our mothers pledged to love, honor, and obey?)
Beware of "Sowing Wild Oats" before Marriage
Here, Luther is concerned about folks who are fornicators in their youth but plan on becoming good in the future. Such is not likely the case. Abstinence only!
Scripture Plainly Condemns Fornication
The Bible says don't have sex outside marriage. To do so is sin. Mortal sin.
Legal Prostitution--Opposed and Brothels Do Not Remedy Immoral Conditions
To any person who would legalize prostitution--renounce your Christianity, you're a heathen. So says Luther. Citing Biblical references, he states that God is against prostitution and that it is sinful to indulge in it (sex outside marriage), nor does the legalization of prostitution help decrease the problem.
Some would argue that having legal prostitution houses would prevent rape and also prevent the high society women from getting laid before marriage. Luther is diametrically opposed to this argument--God says prostitution is bad, so it's bad. Unequivocably.
Homosexuality Is Inhuman, Satanic
Directly excerpted: "The vice of the Sodomites is an unparalleled enormity. It departs from the natural passion and desire, planted into nature by God, according to which the male has a passionate desire for the female. Sodomy craves what is entirely contrary to nature. Whence comes this perversion? Without a doubt it comes from the devil. After a man has once turned aside from the fear of God, the devil puts such great pressure upon his nature that he extinguishes the fire of natural desire and stirs up another, which is contrary to nature..."
Well, that settles that, then.
The last two sections of the thesis are words to the wise:
Beware in a World of Unchasteness and Maintaining Purity Is a Constant Struggle
Overall, Luther's argument, while perhaps supported by doctrine, would be viewed as misogynistic by our modern day culture. "Love, honor, and obey" has been changed to "love, honor, and cherish" in the majority of marriage vows, and women seem to have found their way out of the kitchens and nurseries to a large extent.
It's food for thought.