Agency for captives represents a subject that is not often discussed. There has been a common agreement for the rights of every human being and yet history repeats itself in presenting the opposite. These specific cases of both agency in captivity and the lack thereof proved that differentiating treatments were involved.
Captives should be able to have agency because it’s a fundamental human right to have such; however, if even allowed any agency, it’s important that there is still some sense of cooperation. In Mary Rowlandson’s captivity episode, as she wrote in “Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mary Rowlandson”, she not only presented in great detail her experience as a captive, but also the role she took upon herself to play in the Native American tribe. She played a role, a large one at that, in the tribe and she carried herself as if she had basic rights. As a female capture, the odds of having any amount of agency is very low. Women were looked upon as valuable property and it has been such a way all throughout history. A woman’s important roles involved providing children, working at home, and help tend to the rest camp. Specifically, the circumstances for Mary Rowlandson were, in a way, unlike the ordinary treatment. She not only tended to the master of the tribe, but she also made clothes and shoes and helped cook.
She acted as if she herself were a member of this tribe. For example, Mary had “a spoonful of meal” that was given to her and when she left, “somebody stole it, but put five Indian corns in the room of it”. The fact that she has access to food daily is already a blessing and lucky. However, Mary decided to act as if she owned the food herself and she had the authority to reserve any property that was not rightfully hers. As far as the details written by James F. Brooks in “‘This Evil Extends Especially to the Feminine Sex’: Captivity and Identity in New Mexico, 1700-1846”, he describes several cases regarding the treatment of female captures. For example, captive women were “sexually used” and constantly sent to different camps that involved a workload. He also continued to describe the dissimilar treatments between the genders.
Women were treated as property and had no liberty to stand for themselves. Meanwhile, the men and children were simply “accepted into Apache life”. Since women were considered much more valuable with the ability to bear children, not only were they more likely to experience captivity, but their treatment was simply dehumanizing. There was no safety guarantee for captive women and they were unquestionably corrupted the most of anyone. In contrast to Mary Rowlandson’s experience, these women had not even a chance at sovereignty. In conclusion, as far as human rights go, captives should have access to agency.
In fact, captivity shouldn’t be an issue at all. While it is nearly impossible to change that, it is perhaps more manageable to allow some principle human rights such as freedom of speech, freedom from slavery and torture, etc. Specifically, for women to be treated as valuable and important as they actually are and have proven to be such in continuing humanity.
While opportunities agency for captives should be presented, it will, however, not always be an option. Any person has the authority to do with themselves as they please, but at the same time there are situations in which cooperativeness is safer. Agency is a well-deserved privilege to oneself that should’ve been and should always be an option for captivity victims.