The women in Othello are synonymous with Venetian societal standards. Only three women are characters in Othello: Desdemona, Emilia and Bianca but the roles these women play give the reader an idea of how women were portrayed, not only in Shakespeare's Othello but in society in general.
Women were viewed merely as possessions. After the Duke allows Desdemona to accompany Othello to Cyprus, Othello says 'To my conveyance I assign my wife' (I.3.283), this statement implies that Desdemona and a possession to be transported and guarded. The first Senators phrase 'use Desdemona well' (I.3.288) may suggest he hopes Othello will look after Desdemona, but is more likely to support the the expectations Venetian women had in the 1600s. They were meant to be wives and to obey their husbands. Furthermore the act of marriage was described as a purchase, as seen in Act II when Othello says to Desdemona 'The purchase made, the fruits are to ensue' (II.3.8-9), A woman is purchased by her husband and in turn is expected to fulfill his desires as payment for the privilege of being married to him.
Iago who seeks revenge on Othello for his assumption that Emilia and Othello had an affair wishes to be 'evened with him, wife for wife' (II.1.290) The women are only objects to be used by Iago to further his desire for revenge and therefore perfectly demonstrates the idea that women are possessions inferior to men.
Since women are possessions and are supposed to obey their husbands every command, one could assume that women were also weak and submissive, Desdemona is seen as the epitome of the downtrodden woman by some modern day feminists, and there is a sufficient amount of evidence to support this claim. Desdemona herself states 'I am obedient' (III.3.89) and she continues to obey Othello from the beginning all the way to her death, where she remains true to Othello, even knowing he murdered her. Undoubtedly a stronger character, Emilia has also accepted her role in society. At the end of the play while revealing Iago's plan she states 'Tis proper I obey him, but not now' (V.2.195). Although she has just betrayed Iago,she still feels the need to explains her reasoning for not obeying him. Bianca is also a victim of the role society has set for women. She feels obligated by the standards of society to be circumstanced or to' put up with'. It was natural for women to be feminine and to obey the men of the society and it was unnatural for them to do anything of the contrary. this concept was widely believed and understood by Shakespeare's audience. Modern feminist disagree and say it is not natural for a woman to be feminine, however the women in Othello are pre-feminism and only seem to compound the ideologies of 'feminism' through their actions and behavior.
One should not assume that the women of Othello do not question the authority of men at all. Emilia, at the end of Act IV as she's talking to Desdemona explains that women are no different physically than men: