Popular Science Monthly/Volume 20/December 1881/Equality and Inequality in Sex

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search


THE sentimental pretensions put forward by a political school which holds that woman is intellectually the equal of man, give a character of actuality to the question of the comparison of the sexes. This question, which it has been the custom to treat from a metaphysical point of view, is to us purely anthropological, or rather zoological; for we propose to show by characteristic examples borrowed from the whole animal kingdom that sexuality undergoes the same evolution in all species, including the human species. The female surpasses the male in certain inferior species. The males are smaller than the females among many cephalopods, and among some cirripeds. With a few exceptions, the superiority of the females prevails among the annelids, and among certain articulates, as bees, hornets, wasps; and female butterflies are larger and heavier than males, a difference being observable even among the larva?. A like superiority of females may be observed in many fishes, as in the cyprinoids, and in reptiles. This is, however, no longer the case among the superior vertebrates. The males of birds and mammals are nearly always superior to the females.

To sum up, the two sexes, at first unequal in consequence of the superiority of the female over the male characterizing the lowest species, become equal among species a little more elevated in the animal scale, and become unequal again in consequence of the pre-eminence of the male over the female, which is observed in all the higher species. The supremacy of the female is, then, the first term of the evolution which sexuality undergoes, while the supremacy of the male is the last term. Let us now see wherein the superiority of the male is manifested.

The nutritive phenomena in birds and mammals, including the human species, are more intensive in the male than in the female. The blood is denser, redder, contains more red globules and hemiglobine (Quinquand, Korniloff), fewer white globules, and less water. M. Malassez has found a million more red globules in a cubic millimetre of man's than of woman's blood. Man eats more than woman. Public charities recognize that it costs more to feed a boy than a girl. But, though she eats less, woman is more of a gourmand (Brillat-Savarin), and eats more frequently, being oftener pressed by hunger. Women in the cities eat between-meals, like children. In asylums for the aged, where women are not allowed more meals than men, they abstract food from each meal to eat in the intervals, so as to double the number of their meals.

The respiratory phenomena of men are also stronger than those of women. The pulmonary capacity of a woman is a pint less than that of a man of the same size. The thoracic index of woman is less than that of man (Weisgerber). The man absorbs more oxygen, although he does not breathe as often. According to Quetelet, the woman, from fifteen to fifty years of age, makes one more inspiration a minute than the man. At all ages man exhales more carbonic acid than woman (Andral and Gavarret). The temperature of man is higher than that of woman. In the circulation, the pressure of the blood is stronger in the male, although the pulse is less frequent. The difference amounts to eighteen pulsations a minute in the lion, ten in cattle, twelve in sheep, and ten to fourteen in man.

The relative weight of the skeleton to the total weight of the body is less with woman; Topinard says that in the physical characters of her skeleton woman is intermediate between the infant and the masculine adult. M. Milne-Edwards has found the bones of the male a little richer in inorganic matter than those of the female, and that at thirty years the bones of the man contain more mineral matter, less organic matter, more carbonate of lime, less phosphate of lime, than those of the woman. The prevalence of the right side over the left is less with the woman (Harting). Broca has found that the clavicle of the woman is longer in proportion to the humerus; similar differences are observed between inferior and superior races.

The male individual is always larger than the female. This is observable in our domestic animals. M. Topinard fixes the average difference in height between man and woman at twelve centimetres (four and two thirds inches). Woman is also lighter than man, although she often appears larger on account of the greater development of her adipose system. Topinard says that in the whole Indo-European series woman is more prognathous than man. According to my researches the foot of woman is flatter and less arched than that of man, a fact which women of fashion try to hide by means of high heels. The female voice is always higher than that of the male, in animals and in man. Woman's voice is an octave higher than man's.

The muscular system of the male is better developed and more vigorous than that of the female. This may be observed in wild and domestic animals. The muscular force of a woman from twenty-five to thirty years of age, measured in the dynamometer, is a third less than that of a man of the same age. The movements of man are more precise than those of woman. Thus men make the best pianists. The skull of the male is more voluminous than that of the female (Sömmering, Parchappe, Broca, Morselli). Huschke estimates the difference in Europeans at two hundred and twenty cubic centimetre-. Dr. Weisbach makes the relative measurement as 1,000 to 878; Morselli, 100 to 85. The shape of the skull also varies with the sex, thai of the man being lower and longer than that of the woman. The brain of the male is heavier than that of the female, in a proportion for man fixed by Broca at 1,323 to 1,210 grammes (4634 to 4213 ounces). Parchappe makes the difference as 109·34 to 100, Broca; Rudolph, and Wagner, as 111 to 100; Huschke, as 112 to 100; Meyner, as 100 to 90. That this difference in weight does not depend upon the relatively smaller size of woman is shown by the statement of Parchappe, that while the stature of woman is to that of man as 927 to 1,000, the relative weight of the brains of the two sexes is as 909 to 1,000. M. Le Bon has found, on comparing the average weight of the brains of seventeen men of about five feet in height with that of the brains of seventeen women of corresponding size, a difference of one hundred and seventy-two grammes (six and one quarter ounces) in favor of the masculine brain. Diagrams of the feminine brains of different races show that even in the most intelligent populations, as among contemporary Parisians, the skulls of a notable proportion of women more nearly approach the volume of the skulls of certain gorillas than that of the better developed skulls of the male sex.

Other differences between the brains of the two sexes relate to the conformation. According to Broca, Wagner, and Huschke, and Wight, of New York, the frontal lobes, the seat of the highest intellectual faculties, are less developed in woman than in man. The occipital lobes, the seat of the sentiments, are more voluminous in woman. According to Professor Wagner, the brain of woman as a whole is always in a more or less embryonic condition. Huschke says that woman is only a child in growth, and belies her infantine type no more by her brain than by the other parts of her body. Some anatomists allege that the right side of the brain is superior in women and the left side in men; hence women pass to the left and men to the right. I have observed that man performs certain motions, as those of striking and buttoning the clothes, centrifugally, and woman centripetally—another sign of inferiority in woman.

The differences in the relative prominence of the lobes of the brain may explain why woman is more given to the life of the heart and man to that of the mind, a point in which all authors are agreed.

The question of the relative morality of the sexes has been debated by thousands of authors. Without going over their ground, we will endeavor to show what light has been cast upon it by recent facts in demography. Women incontestably commit a smaller proportion of crimes against persons than men. Quetelet suggests that they are more restrained by shame and modesty, by their condition of dependence, their more retired habits, and their physical weakness. When they do thus offend, they are more apt to adopt poisoning, the weapon of cowards. It is universally admitted, again, that woman is more devout and more charitable than man. Her charity is, however, it may be said, often narrow and intolerant, and exercised for the sake of proselytism.

We now come to the consideration of the intellectual faculties. The male is more intelligent than the female in all the superior species. Trainers of trick-dogs prefer males. Regarding the human species, all known systems of legislation recognize an intellectual inferiority of the female sex to the male, and treat woman as a minor not able to take care of herself, and needing a guide and tutor. The allotment of this position to woman has been determined chiefly by her levity and frivolity, and the Roman law constantly invokes fragilitatem sexus in justification of its statutes. The partisans of equality meet this fact by alleging that the laws have sacrificed woman because they were made by men. Moralists have also noticed that women are merrier, more changeable, and more capricious than men; they are likewise more heedless and less circumspect. All philosophers and moralists admit that women are more superstitious, more prepossessed, more imitative, and more addicted to routine, more talkative, and more timid, than men. Some men of science also hold that women are less intelligent than men. Broca says they are a little less so. Darwin remarks that men go further than women in all that they undertake where profound thought, reason, imagination, or the application of the senses and the hands are concerned, and that if we should draw up a list of the dozen men and a similar list of the dozen women most distinguished in poetry, painting, sculpture, science, and philosophy, the two lists would bear no comparison. We might also cite the opinion of manufacturers and merchants who, employing both sexes, have been able to compare their faculties. All those whom we have consulted think women are more assiduous but less intelligent than men. In printing offices, for example, women work minutely, mechanically, without knowing very well what they are doing. They succeed well in reprint, which does not exact intelligence, and poorly in manuscript.

In the evolution of tastes and ideas, woman marches about a century behind man. One might say that she is in the course of going through the phases that we have passed in arts, letters, science, and philosophy. The artistic and literary paths which man is abandoning for the scientific road are now taken possession of by the female sex. According to the librarians and the directors of reading-rooms, while the men are interested in the study of history, philosophy, and science, the women are still inquiring for novels. It is, however, just to add that Europe and America possess a few doctresses, and that a day will perhaps come when scientific careers will be disputed by women. We are not authorized to conclude, from the fact that they have not yet figured as inventors, that they will always be incapable of discovering anything. The future only can tell whether woman is simply an imitator, or whether she is a creator in the same sense as man.

It results as a whole from this parallel between the sexes that, among the superior species, the male excels the female not only in the intensity of the nutritive phenomena, but also in muscular force and intellectual development; because man, more strongly nourished than woman, fabricates more force than she, he is correspondingly stronger in physical and intellectual qualities than she. It may he added that more biological differences are found between the males than between the females of the same race. If, for example, we take ten Crèvecœur cocks, we shall find that they differ much more from each other in size and the development of the locomotive organs than ten hens of the same variety. So, in the human species, regarding the stature, color of hah', muscular strength, voice, tastes, ideas, and even handwriting, we shall find a great resemblance among women and a great diversity among men. Although, as we have seen, man excels woman among the European races, this is not the case in certain inferior races, where the feminine sex is more vigorous and more intelligent than the masculine. The women are equal or superior among certain African tribes—as in Dahomey, where they are the soldiers and have a higher official rank—among some of the hill tribes of India, among the Pueblos of North America, in Kamtchatka according to Meiners, among some Afghan tribes in Java, and among the Morotokos of South America. The Patagonian women, according to De Rochas, are almost as large and as brave as the men, and a woman is chief; and when in an inferior race the man surpasses the woman, his pre-eminence is always less than it is among the superior races. This is shown by different anthropologists to be the case with reference to the length of the radius (Broca), the dimensions of the shoulder-blades (Dr. Livon), and the general stature. The two sexes are of the same size among the Bushmen and the Patagonians (De Rochas). The difference in favor of the man among the Europeans averages eighty-six millimetres according to Quetelet, and twelve centimetres according to M. Topinard (4·68 inches). A similar diversity in differences of cranial capacity is indicated by the measurements of Broca, and by the observations of M. Huschke and Mr. J. B. Davis, that the difference in this respect in favor of the man increases as the race is more elevated. The same rule is applied to the general external aspect by M. Primer Bey, whose conclusion is supported by his own observations of the Druses and those of M. G. Pouchet among the Arabs of Upper Nubia. We need not go as far as this, for some anthropologists tell us that the difference is less noticeable between Russian than between French men and women.

What we have noticed relative to living inferior tribes is equally observed among ancient inferior races. Some of the peoples of antiquity were governed by women, of whom Semiramis, Dido, Athalia, Cleopatra, Zenobia, etc., are examples. Diodorus speaks of the equality of the sexes among the ancient Scythians. According to the Roman historians, the Teutonic, Cimbrian, and Gallic women fought with as much courage as the men. Among some of the Pelasgian peoples and the Ibero-Ligurians, women decided concerning war and peace. The physical and intellectual predominance of the men was, on the other hand, considerable among the Greeks and Romans. The pre-eminence of the men of the higher races grows at a rate corresponding with the progress of evolution. According to Broca's investigations, the superiority of the man's cranial capacity is fifty per cent, more among the French in general, and a hundred and twenty-one per cent, more among the Parisians, than it was in the Cro-Magnon race. Very curiously, the cranial capacity of the prehistoric women was greater than that of the women of to-day. It appears demonstrated, says Broca, that the women participating more actively in the labors of the men had at the same time a more considerable cranial capacity than in our days. Zametti, of Sardinia, and Le Bon announce the same view on this point, and Le Bon says that the difference in the average cranial capacity of modern Parisian men and women is nearly double what is observed between the masculine and feminine skulls of Egypt.

Thus the superiority of women appears everywhere among ancient and modern inferior races, but is never observed among superior races, which are, on the contrary, always characterized by the pre-eminence of the man. Whether we regard species or races, we see evolution constantly advancing from the supremacy of the female to that of the male.

The same appears to take place in respect to age. Girls grow faster than boys till they are seventeen, after which the man keeps on growing and the woman remains at a stand-still. So, in the intellectual point, teachers in mixed schools observe that girls hold the first rank till they are twelve years old, and a lower rank afterward. Woman is, therefore, physically, intellectually, and morally, more precocious than man. Buff on believes that this difference bears a relation to the more solid development of the tissues of men; but precocity itself, according to the investigations I have reported to the Société de Biologie, is a character of inferiority—for it is always followed by an arrest of development observable among all females of animals and of men. As a rule, man differs from woman more at the age of maturity than during youth or old age, in such a manner that the maximum of masculine pre-eminence corresponds with the climax of his evolution.

Whether we consider the organism in general or the several organs separately, we shall find that the differences, null during fetal life and slight at birth, go on increasing till they reach their sum at adult age, then diminish during old age. This is the case in respect to stature, where, according to Quetelet and M. Topinard, the difference of one centimetre at birth grows to one of twelve centimetres at maturity, after which a tendency to return to equality manifests itself; it is so in case of the difference in weight, which increases from three hundred and fifty grammes (or about twelve and one-sixth ounces) at birth to five, eight, or eleven kilogrammes (twelve and a half to twenty-seven pounds), according to different authors, at maturity, and falls off again with advancing age. The heads of boys measure a centimetre (four tenths of an inch) more at birth than those of girls (Liharzic). The difference increases by reason of the girl's head ceasing to grow much earlier than the man's. The difference in favor of the male in the weight of the brain about triples itself in the course of the first twenty years, and amounts, according to Broca, to seven per cent, between twenty-one and thirty years, to eleven per cent, between thirty-one and forty, then falls to ten per cent, between forty-one and fifty, and to eight per cent, between fifty-one and sixty years. After sixty years the weight diminishes, and the man's brain loses eighty-four grammes (three ounces), and the woman's fifty-nine grammes (about two and a half ounces) from the mean weight it attained at maturity. These anatomical differences bring on intellectual and moral differences that explain why in higher societies the two sexes, after sharing each other's sports in infancy, become separated during the age of maturity, and become again more alike in old age. The same facts are established in regard to the general aspect. Till the time of puberty, says M. Topinard, the skeletons hardly differ appreciably, the features are rather feminine. The man begins to be traceable only at puberty. At about forty-five years the distinctions begin to attenuate, and the sexes end by resembling each other in advanced age, when, however, the characteristics are rather masculine.

The same is the case in respect to the nutritive phenomena, to the amount of carbonic acid produced, to the volume of the lungs, to the quantity of salt in the blood, and to the pulse.

We gather from this review that the female sex surpasses the male in certain points during the first twelve years; then the male gains upon the female and acquires a pre-eminence that increases till the age of maturity, after which it falls off during old age. This pre-eminence is parallel with the progress of evolution, for its maximum corresponds with the apogee of evolution, which, we know, occurs at between forty and fifty years.

The pre-eminence of man over woman is more considerable in the case of large than of small persons. M. Verneau says that the differences in the size of the pelvis of the two sexes vary according to the general stature. The pre-eminence is greater among the inhabitants of the cities than with countrymen, among Parisians than among provincials. Broca assigns a difference of one hundred and fifty cubic centimetres in cranial capacity between French men and women in general, and of two hundred and twenty-one cubic centimetres between Parisians. M. Primer Bey having remarked that among non-civilized races the women have masculine forms approaching that of a man, adds that the same phenomenon exists, although in a smaller degree, among the "inferior classes" of civilized races. It is easy to observe in our cities how much more the men differ from the women among the richer than among the poorer classes. And it is often the case in the latter classes that the woman is more intelligent than the man who has been brutalized by manual labor and drink. The advocates of Paris who are accustomed to plead for the workmen have remarked that the women are able to put their cases much better than their husbands, and often say to the latter, "Send me your wife."

The biological considerations we have adduced explain to us why the two sexes tend to diverge from each other as we proceed from the lower to the higher classes. Both sexes among peasants and working people having nearly the same moral and intellectual faculties, they can sympathize with each other, and have no reason for becoming estranged. It is different among the intelligent classes, where the two sexes, in consequence of the increasing pre-eminence of man, not having the same ideas, the same sentiments, nor the same tastes, can not understand each other, and form separate coteries. Moralists have long taken notice of the separation, which is of force in the family and in the meetings of men and of women, which seem to be increasing from year to year.

According to M. Le Bon's researches, the different social classes should be ranked by their cranial capacity as follows: literary and scientific men, middle-class men (bourgeois), nobles, servants, peasants. The separation of which we speak widens as we rise from the peasant to the man of science, passing the servant, the noble, and the middle-class man. It appears, then, like the pre-eminence of man over woman, to be measured proportionately to the cranial capacity and the development of intelligence.

It might be thought that the physical and intellectual inferiority of woman is a consequence of her muscles and brain being less exercised than those of man. This is not correct. As to bodily strength, it readily appears in the circus, where the two sexes receive the same physical education, that the boy is always more vigorous than the girl, and constantly maintains his superiority over her. Some difficult feats which the men perform regularly are forbidden to the women. The view that the intellectual superiority of man and inferiority of woman are due to differences in education is likewise not just. In former ages, when the mass of the people were groping in ignorance, neither sex was better instructed than the other; and now, in the France of to-day, there are still six hundred thousand children of both sexes who never set foot in a school, and receive absolutely no education. We can, then, say with Professor Bischoff, of Munich, that "women have suffered no other hindrances to the exercise and evolution of their brains and their intellect than those that are derived from their constitution and their faculties of development." The pretense that woman never receives the same education as man is, moreover, false. Female pupils receive precisely the same musical instruction at the music-schools as male pupils. How comes it then that, although there are incomparably more women than men following music as a profession, women furnish good performers but no composers? The same observation is applicable to painting and the culinary art. Why is it that, while all the men who devote themselves to the latter art become good cooks, there are among the thousands of women who exercise it as a profession so few of the first quality?

We have already seen that in mixed schools, where children of both sexes receive precisely the same education till they are fifteen years old, the girls at first are ahead by virtue of their natural precocity, but, on passing twelve years, fall behind the boys. The arrest in the development that takes place in woman at about this time is the real cause of the growing pre-eminence of man, who continues to develop till an advanced age. If the girl begins thus to fall behind the boy at a certain point after having enjoyed the same training, it must be that her inferiority is real, and can not be ascribed to a difference in education that does not exist.

Thus equality in the instruction of individuals of the two sexes, the equal working of the brain, instead of re-establishing equality between them, increases the pre-eminence of the males, and this explains why woman is less perfectible than man. The equality of the sexes dreamed of by the philosophers is, then, not near being realized. On the contrary, that equality which existed among the primitive races, and still exists among some savages, is tending more and more to disappear with the progress of civilization. The pre-eminence of man over woman, which is a product of the evolution of individuals and races, is rather increased by instruction, the effect of which, far from re-establishing the equality of the sexes, is to assure definitively the supremacy of man.

It would be interesting to investigate the effect of the environment on the differences between the sexes. I am inclined to believe that the differences diminish as we go south. In Italy, for example, according to statistics covering a period of fourteen years, published by the Minister of Agriculture, the excess in the height of men over women falls from forty-two millimetres (1·63 inch) in the northern provinces to twenty-nine millimetres (1·13 inch) in the southern provinces. According to Broca, women are more nearly of the same size as men in mountainous than in flat countries. To summarize our argument, the pre-eminence of the female sex over the male, occurring only in certain inferior species and races, and in children of the superior races, marks an inferior degree of evolution. The same may be said of equality of the sexes, which is observable only among individuals little advanced in evolution: inferior races and species, youth, aged persons, and the lower classes. On the contrary, the pre-eminence of the male over the female represents a superior phase of evolution, for it characterizes superior species and races, the adult age, and the higher classes. In the moral as in the physical point of view, evolution appears to me, then, to advance from the pre-eminence of the female sex to that of the male sex; equality of the sexes would thus be a stage in the natural transition between the two opposite phases of evolution.