Cinderelly, Cinderelly, night and day, it's Cinderelly.
Make the fire, fix the breakfast, wash the dishes, do the father.
Many family patriarchs soon realized that having a young woman in the house who was basically required to do whatever you told her to do was an irresistible target for grotesque sexual assault. The sons couldn't provide much in the way of protection, because they were usually either still children or off serving in the military, so the father could have his way with his daughter-in-law to his creepy old heart's content. Now, in 2015, this sounds like the kind of thing that would be all over the news as part of a shocking expose, but back then it was just a part of life that everyone was resigned to accept. Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, a Russian journalist and newspaper editor, described snokhachestvo as such: "Nowhere, it seems, except Russia, has at least one form of incest assumed the character of an almost normal everyday occurrence, designated by the appropriate technical term."
Some scholars point out that snokhachestvo evolved into a specialized form of rape culture, where the humiliated sons perpetuated the practice once they had a family of their own. And when the practice was officially condemned by the Orthodox Church, the blame fell squarely on the shoulders of the daughter-in-law who had "sinned," rather than the father-in-law who had forced her to have sex with him, because history was just awful for women. For further proof ...
Wa'ada (Classical Arabic)
Means: to bury one's infant daughter alive.
Being a parent is hard work, because children are like little parasites who take everything they can from you (time, money, natural resources) and produce nothing in return. But we love them anyway, because for all the hard work it takes to be a parent, it's the most fulfilling job in the world (and also we're evolutionarily programmed to do so).
But this was less true among the tribes of pre-Islamic Arab people. They didn't specifically hate the idea of raising children, but the thought of giving birth to a girl was so abhorrent that they devised a horrific method to avoid it, post-factum. This method was called wa'ada, and you may want to take a tiny break to go roll around in a giant pile of puppies before we continue.
Here's a full basket to get you started.
When it came time to give birth, the expectant mother retreated to a ditch and waited there for her progeny to come screaming out of her vagina. If the baby was a boy, she swaddled him up and returned proudly back to her friends and neighbors. If the child was a girl, the mother would simply leave the girl in the ditch and unceremoniously fill it with dirt, burying the baby alive on the spot and thus avoiding the nasty social consequences of having produced female offspring.
This abysmal practice continued until a certain famous women's rights activist and perpetrator of reason came along and catapulted Arabic society into modern times. We're of course talking about Muhammad, beard enthusiast and prophet extraordinaire, who had a thing or two to say about wa'ada. Well, just one thing, really, which can be paraphrased as "That's freaking crazy, please knock it off." The spread of Islam abolished the unholy practice and upgraded a woman's worth from "broodmare" to ... um, as good as one-fourth of a man, in marriage. Still, that's progress, right?
Heyer would like to thank everyone who made suggestions in the comments, especially reader Komsomoletz for finding snokhachestvo.
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