An Essay in Defence of the Female Sex/Section 3

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I have yet another Argument from Nature, which is, that the very Make and Temper of our Bodies ſhew that we were never deſign’d for Fatigue; and the Vivacity of our Wits, and Readineſs of our Invention (which are confeſs’d even by our Adverſaries) demonſtrate that we were chiefly intended for Thought, and the Exerciſe of the Mind. Whereas on the contrary it is apparent from the ſtrength and ſize of their Limbs, the Vigour and Hardineſs of their Conſtitutions, that Men were purpoſely fram’d and contriv’d for Action, and Labour. And herein the Wiſdom and Contrivance of Providence is abundantly manifeſted; for, as the one Sex is fortified with Courage and Ability to undergo the neceſſary Drudgery of providing Materials for the ſuſtenance of Life in both; ſo the other is furniſh’d with Ingenuity and Prudence for the orderly management and diſtribution of it, for the Relief and Comfort of a Family; and is over and above enrich’d with a peculiar Tenderneſs and Care requiſite to the Cheriſhing their poor helpleſs Off-ſpring. I know our Oppoſers uſually miſcall our quickneſs of Thought, Fancy and Flaſh, and chriſten their own heavineſs by the ſpecious Names of Judgment and Solidity; but it is eaſie to retort upon ’em the reproachful Ones of Dullneſs and Stupidity with more Juſtice. I ſhall purſue this Point no further, but continue firm in my Perſuasion, that Nature has not been ſo Niggardly to us, as our Adverſaries would inſinuate, till I ſee better cauſe to the contrary, then I have hitherto at any time done. Yet I am ready to yield to Conviction, whoever offers it; which I don’t ſuddenly expect.
It remains then for us to enquire, whether the Bounty of Nature be wholly neglected, or ſtifled by us, or ſo far as to make us unworthy the Company of Men? Or whether our Education (as bad as it is) be not ſufficient to make us a uſeful, nay, a neceſſary part of Society for the greateſt part of Mankind. This cauſe is ſeldom indeed urg’d againſt us by the Men, though it be the only one, that gives ’em any advantage over us in underſtanding. But it does not ſerve their Pride, there is no Honour to be gain’d by it: For a Man ought no more to value himſelf upon being Wiſer than a Woman, if he owe his Advantage to a better Education, and greater means of Information, then he ought to boaſt of his Courage, for beating a Man, when his Hands were bound.
Women induſtriouſly kept in ignorance.
Nay, it would be ſo far from Honourable to contend for preference upon this Score, that they would thereby at once argue themſelves guilty both of Tyranny, and of Fear: I think I need not have mention’d the latter; for none can be Tyrants but Cowards. For nothing makes one Party ſlaviſhly depreſs another, but their fear that they may at one time or other become Strong or Couragious enough to make themſelves equal to, if not ſuperiour to their Maſters. This is our Caſe; for Men being ſenſible as well of the Abilities of Mind in our Sex, as of the ſtrength of Body in their own, began to grow Jealous, that we, who in the Infancy of the World were their Equals and Partners in Dominion, might in proceſs of Time, by Subtlety and Stratagem, become their Superiours; and therefore began in good time to make uſe of Force (the Origine of Power) to compel us to a Subjection, Nature never meant; and made uſe of Natures liberality to them to take the benefit of her kindneſs from us. From that time they have endeavour’d to train us up altogether to Eaſe and Ignorance; as Conquerors uſe to do to thoſe, they reduce by Force, that ſo they may diſarm ’em, both of Courage and Wit; and conſequently make them tamely give up their Liberty, and abjectly ſubmit their Necks to a ſlaviſh Yoke. As the World grew more Populous, and Mens Neceſſities whetted their Inventions, ſo it increas’d their Jealouſie, and ſharpen’d their Tyranny over us, till by degrees, it came to that height of Severity, I may ſay Cruelty, it is now at in all the Eaſtern parts of the World, where the Women, like our Negroes in our Weſtern Plantations, are born ſlaves, and live Priſoners all their Lives. Nay, ſo far has this barbarous Humour prevail’d, and ſpread it ſelf, that in ſome parts of Europe, which pretend to be moſt refin’d and civiliz’d, in ſpite of Chriſtianity, and the Zeal for Religion which they ſo much affect, our Condition is not very much better.
Original of the Salique Law.
And even in France, a Country that treats our Sex with more Reſpect than moſt do, We are by the Salique Law excluded from Soveraign Power. The French are an ingenious People, and the Contrivers of that Law knew well enough, that We were no leſs capable of Reigning, and Governing well, than themſelves; but they were ſuſpicious, that if the Regal Power ſhou’d fall often into the hands of Women, they would favour their own Sex, and might in time reſtore ’em to their Primitive Liberty and Equality with the Men, and ſo break the neck of that unreaſonable Authority they ſo much affect over us; and therefore made this Law to prevent it. The Hiſtorians indeed tell us other Reaſons, but they can’t agree among themſelves, and as Men are Parties againſt us, and therefore their Evidence may juſtly be rejected. To ſay the truth Madam, I can’t tell how to prove all this from Ancient Records, for if any Hiſtories were anciently written by Women, Time, and the Malice of Men have effectually conſpir’d to ſuppreſs ’em; and it is not reaſonable to think that Men ſhou’d tranſmit, or ſuffer to be tranſmitted to Poſterity, any thing that might ſhew the weakneſs and illegallity of their Title to a Power they ſtill exerciſe ſo arbitrarily, and are ſo fond of. But ſince daily Experience ſhews, and their own Hiſtories tell us, how earneſtly they endeavour, and what they act, and ſuffer to put the ſame Trick upon one another, ’tis natural to ſuppoſe they took the ſame meaſures with us at firſt, which now they have effected, like the Rebels in our laſt Civil Wars, when they had brought the Royal Party under, they fall together by the Ears about the Dividend.
Amazons; why they rejected the Society of Men.
The Sacred Hiſtory takes no notice of any ſuch Authority they had before the Flood, and their Own confeſs that whole Nations have rejected it ſince, and not ſuffer’d a Man to live amongſt them, which cou’d be for no other Reaſon, than their Tyranny. For upon leſs provocation the Women wou’d never have been ſo fooliſh, as to deprive themſelves of the benefit of that Eaſe and Security, which a good agreement with their Men might have afforded ’em. ’Tis true the ſame Hiſtories tell us, that there were whole Countries where were none but Men, which border’d upon ’em. But this makes ſtill for us; for it ſhews that the Conditions of their Society were nor ſo eaſie, as to engage their Women to ſtay amongſt em; but as liberty preſented it ſelf, they withdrew and retired to the Amazons: But ſince our Sex can hardly boaſt of ſo great Privileges, and ſo eaſie a Servitude any where as in England, I cut this ungrateful Digreſſion ſhort in acknowledgment; tho’ Fetters of Gold are ſtill Fetters, and the ſofteſt Lining can never make ’em ſo eaſy, as Liberty.
You will excuſe, I know Madam, this ſhort, but neceſſary Digreſſion. I call it neceſſary, becauſe it ſhews a probable Reaſon, why We are at this time in ſuch ſubjection to them, without leſſening the Opinion of our Senſe, or Natural Capacities, either at preſent, or for the time paſt; beſide that it briefly lays open without any Scandal to our Sex, why our Improvements are at preſent ſo diſproportion’d to thoſe of Men. I wou’d not have any of our little, unthinking Adverſaries triumph at my allowing a diſproportion between the Improvements of our Sex and theirs; and I am ſure thoſe of ’em that are ingenious Men, will ſee no reaſon for it from what I have ſaid.
Character of a Pedant.
After having granted ſo great a diſparity as I have already done in the cuſtomary Education, and advantagious Liberties of the Sexes, ’twere Nonſenſe to maintain, that our Society is generally and upon all accounts as Beneficial, Improving and Entertaining, as that of Men. He muſt be a very ſhallow Fellow, that reſorts to, and frequents us in hopes by our means to make himſelf conſiderable, as a Schollar, a Methematician, a Philoſopher, or a States-man. Theſe Arts and Sciences are the reſult only of much Study and great Experience; and without one at leaſt of ’em are no more to be acquir’d by the Compnay of Men, however celebrated for any or all of them, than by ours. But there are other Quallifications, which are as indiſpenſably neceſſary to a Gentleman, or any Man that wou’d appear to Advantage in the World, which are attainable only by Company, and Converſation, and chiefly by ours. Nor can the greateſt part of Mankind, of what Quallity ſoever, boaſt much of the uſe they make, or the benefit they reap from theſe acknowledg’d Advantages. So that Schollars only, and ſome few of the more thinking Gentlemen, and Men of Buſineſs, have any juſt claim to ’em. And of theſe the firſt generally fall ſhort enough ſome other way to make the Ballance even. For Schollars, though by their acquaintance with Books, and converſing much with Old Authors, they may know perfectly the Senſe of the Learned Dead, and be perfect Maſters of the Wiſdom, be throughly inform’d of the State, and nicely skill’d in the Policies of Ages long ſince paſt, yet by their retir’d and unactive Life, their neglect of Buſineſs, and conſtant Converſation with Antiquity, they are ſuch Strangers to, and ſo ignorant of the Domeſtick Affairs and manners of their own Country and Times, that they appear like the Ghoſts of Old Romans rais’d by Magick. Talk to them of the Aſſyrian, or Perſſian Monarchies, the Grecians or Roman Common-wealths. They anſwer like Oracles, they are ſuch finiſh’d State-men, that we ſhou’d ſcarce take ’em to have been leſs then Confidents of Semiramis, Tutours to Cyrus the Great, old Cronies of Solin and Lycurgus, or Privy Councellours at leaſt to the Twelve Cæſars ſucceſſively; but engage them in a Diſcourſe that concerns the preſent Times, and their Native Country, and they hardly ſpeak the Language of it, and know ſo little of the affairs of it, that as much might reaſonably be expected from an animated Egyptian Mummy. They are very much diſturbed to ſee a Fold or a Plait amiſs in the Picture of an Old Roman Gown, yet take no notice that their own are thredbare out at the Elbows, or Ragged, and ſuffer more if Priſcian’s Head be broken than if it were their own. They are excellent Guides, and can direct you to every Ally, and turning in old Rome; yet loſe their way at home in their own Pariſh. They are mighty admirers of the Wit and Eloquence of the Ancients; yet had they liv’d in the time of Cicero, and Cæſar wou’d have treated them with as much ſupercilious Pride, and diſreſpect as they do now with Reverence. They are great hunters of ancient Manuſcripts, and have in great Veneration any thing, that has ſcap’d the Teeth of Time and Rats, and if Age have obliterated the Characters, ’tis the more valuable for not being legible. But if by chance they can pick out one Word, they rate it higher than the whole Author in Print, and wou’d give more for one Proverb of Solomons under his own Hand, than for all his Wiſdom. Theſe Superſtitious, bigotted Idolaters of time paſt, are Children in their underſtanding all their lives; for they hang ſo inceſſantly upon the leading Strings of Authority, that their Judgments like the Limbs of ſome Indian Penitents, become altogether crampt and motionleſs for want of uſe
Character of a Country Squire.
But as theſe Men, will hardly be reckon’d much ſuperiour to us upon the account of their Learning or Improvements, ſo neither will I ſuppoſe another ſort diametrically oppoſite to theſe in their Humors and Opinions: I mean thoſe whoſe Anceſtors have been wiſe and provident, and rais’d Eſtates by their Ingenuity and Induſtry, and given all their Poſterity after ’em Means, and Leiſure to be Fools. Theſe are generally ſent to School in their Minority, and were they kept there till they came to Years of Diſcretion, might moſt of ’em ſtay, till they cou’d tuck their Beards into their Girdles before they left carrying a Satchel. In conformity to Cuſtom, and the Faſhion, they are ſent early to ſerve an Apprenticeſhip to Letters, and for eight or nine years are whipt up and down through two or three Counties from School to School; when being arriv&rssquo;d at Sixteen, or Seventeen Years of Age, and having made the uſual Tour of Latin, and Greek Authors, they are call’d Home to be made Gentlemen. As ſoon as the young Squire has got out of the Houſe of Bondage, ſhaken off the awe of Birch, and begins to feel himſelf at Liberty, he conſiders that he is now Learned enough, (and ’tis ten to one but his Friends are wiſe enough to be of his Opinion) and thinks it high time to ſhake off the barbarous Acquaintance he contracted, with thoſe crabbed, vexatious, obſcure Fellows, that gave him ſo much trouble and ſmart at School, Companions by no means fit for a Gentleman, that writ only to torment and perplex poor Boys, and exerciſe the tyranny of Pedants and School-maſters. Theſe prudent reſolutions taken up by his Horſes, Dogs and Hawks (eſpecially if his Reſidence be in the Country) and the more ſenſeleſs Animals that tend ’em. His Groom, his Huntſman, and his Falconer are his Tutors, and his walk is from the Stable to the Dog-kennel, and the reverſe of it. His diverſion is drudgery, and he is higheſt ſatiſfaction when he is moſt tir’d. He wearies you in the Morning with his Sport, in the Afternoon with the noiſie Repetion and Drink, and the whole Day with Fatigue and Confuſion. His Entertainment is ſtale Beer, and the Hiſtory of his Dogs and Horſes, in which he gives you the Pedigree of every one with all the exactneſs of a Herald; and if you be very much in his good Graces, ’tis odds, but he makes you the Compliment of a Puppy of one of his favourite Bitches, which you muſt take with abundance of Acknowledgments of his Civillity, or elſe he takes you for a ſtupid, as well as an ill bred Fellow. He is very conſtant at all Clubs and Meetings of the Country Gentlemen, where he will ſuffer nothing to be talk’d or hear’d of but his Jades, his Curs, and his Kites. Upon theſe he rings perpetual Changes, and treſpaſſes as much upon the patience of the Company in the Tavern, as upon their Encloſures in the Field, and is leaſt impertinent, when moſt drunk.
His grand Buſineſs is to make an Aſſignation for a Horſe Race, or a Hunting Match, and nothing diſcompoſes him ſo much as a Diſappointment. Thus accompliſh’d, and finiſh’d for a Gentleman, he enters the Civil Liſts, and holds the Scale of Juſtice with as much Blindneſs as ſhe is ſaid to do. From hence forward his Worſhip becomes as formidable to the Ale-Houſes, as he was before Familiar; he ſizes an Ale Pot, and takes the dimenſions of Bread with great Dexterity and Sagacity. He is the terrour of all the Deer and Poultry Stealers in the Neighbourhood, and is ſo implacable a Perſecutor of Poachers, that he keeps a Regiſter of all the Dogs and Guns in the Hundred, and is the Scare-Beggar of the Pariſh. Short Pots, and unjuſtifiable Dogs and Nets, furniſh him with ſufficient matter of Preſentments, to carry him once a Quarter to the Seſſions; where he ſays little, Eats and Drinks much, and after Dinner, Hunts over the laſt Chace, and ſo rides Worſhipfully Drunk home again. At home he Exerciſes his Authority in granting his Letters Pattents to Petitioners for erecting Shovel Board Tables, and Ginger Bread Stalls. If he happen to live near any little Borough, or Corporation, that ſends Burgeſſes to Parliament, he may become ambitious and ſue for the Honour of being made their Repreſentative. Henceforward he grows Popular, bows to, and treats the Mob all around him; and whether there be any in his Diſcourſe or not, there is good Senſe, in his Kitchin and his Cellar, which is more agreeable and edifying. If he be ſo happy as to out-tap his Competitour, and Drink his Neighbours in an Opinion of his Sobriety, he is choſen, and up he comes to that Honourable Aſſembly, where he ſhews his Wiſdom beſt by his Silence, and ſerves his Country moſt in his abſence.
I give you theſe two Characters, Madam, as irreconcileable as Water and Oyl, to ſhew that Men may, and do often Baffle and Fruſtrate the Effects of a liberal Education, as well by Induſtry as Negligence. ’Tis hard to ſay, which of theſe two is the more Sottiſh; the firſt is ſuch an Admirer of Letters, that he thinks it a diſparagement to his Learning to talk what other Men underſtand, and will ſcarce believe that two, and two, make four, under a Demonſtration from Euclid, or a Quotation of Ariſtotle: The latter has ſuch a fear of Pedantry always before his Eyes, that he thinks it a Scandal to his good Breeding and Gentility to talk Senſe, or write true Engliſh; and has ſuch a contemptible Notion of his paſt Education, that he thinks the Roman Poets good for nothing but to teach Boys to cap Verſes. For my part I think the Learned, and Unlearned Blockhead pretty equal; for ’tis all one to me, whether a Man talk Nonſenſe, or unintelligable Senſe, I am diverted and edified alike by either; the one enjoys himſelf leſs, but ſuffers his Friends to do it more; the other enjoys himſelf and his own Humour enough, but will let no body elſe do it in his Company. Thus, Madam, I have ſet them before you, and ſhall leave you to determine a Point, which I cannot.