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unlaw1a
New-York Tribune, June 3, 1869. The soi-disant unwritten law (which we were talking about a few posts back) got written about a lot. I’ve run across some entertainingly bananas editorials on the subject. Dunno anything about this Canadian precedent, but it’s nice to know that libertines were fair game in the Great White North(s) as well. And how wonderful too to see the racial nuances of the UL so forthrightly addressed by our editorialist.

The notion of men acting as murderous proxies for women too timid to pull the trigger is an interesting ideological fig leaf. The UL was brought into being by angry husbands defending their patriarchal prerogatives. But it sounds much nicer from a late-Victorian perspective if you position the killing as a gallant gesture on the wronged woman’s behalf. Plus it papers over the disturbing possibility that the wife would rather see her husband than her lover dead.

Anyway, if the woman remains the primary avenger even when her male proxy pulls the trigger, she’s operating at a level of agency hard to reconcile with premises underlying patriarchal stewardship over ye weaker sex. If women can order hits, by what right can they be denied the vote?
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Anyway, as crazy as all this socially sanctioned homicide seems today, it looks like civilization itself compared the “honor killings” still rampant today in the Middle East and South Asia. At least the avenging family members were targeting the outside party and not their own wives, sisters or daughters.

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