The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 18/Number 108/Various Aspects of the Woman Question
VARIOUS ASPECTS OF THE WOMAN QUESTION.
Diogenes. Eve did not enter into the original plan; she was an unlucky afterthought. Listen to Milton:—
"O, why did God,
Creator wise, that peopled highest heaven
With spirits masculine. . . .?"
You observe that there are no feminine angels in heaven?
Aristippus. So much the better for us, if we have them all here.
Diogenes. For the same reason, probably, we are told that there will be neither marrying nor giving in marriage hereafter.
Aristippus. Not at all. There will be so many more women in heaven than men, that any marriage, except of the Mormon kind, would be impossible.
"O, why did God
. . . . .create at last
This novelty on earth, this fair defect
I have always wondered why.
Aristippus. You forget that it was Eve who first picked fruit from the tree of knowledge.
Diogenes. The only use she made of it was to get the idea of dress; and the primeval curse still clings to man, in the shape of milliners' bills.
Aristippus. Nevertheless we ought to be grateful to her for her enterprising spirit. Whatever her motives may have been, you must admit that her move was in the right direction. Where would we be now, had the future of the race been left to Adam alone? And if woman did turn man out of Paradise, she has done her best ever since to make it up to him. Every pretty girl one sees is a reminiscence of the garden of Eden.
"This mischief had not then befallen,
And more that shall befell, innumerable
Disturbances on earth through female snares."
It was an excellent fancy of the ancients to make woman the incarnation of original sin,—the tempter and the temptation in one,—a combination of the apple and the serpent. King David, Herod, and even the terrible Bluebeard, might have behaved well in a world without women. It is proverbial that there is no quarrel without a woman in it.
Aristippus. Because, as Steele said, there is nothing else worth quarrelling about.
Hipparchia. Admirable! You remind me of the two shepherds in a pastoral who sing in alternate strains.
"Be mine your tuneful struggle to deride."
You, Diogenes, should recollect that woman is a fact you cannot get rid of, and that the only remedy for your complaints is to improve her condition. And you, Aristippus, like a thousand other sentimental conservatives, cannot hear the suggestion that woman might do something more in this world than she is now doing without giving tongue at once: "Woman's sphere is the home,"—"Woman's mission is to be beautiful, to cheer, and to elevate." Suppose she has no home, and is old and ugly; what then? I know nothing more cheering and elevating than intelligence and efficiency; and I have never heard that either was detrimental to beauty. Is your ideal a woman who is good for nothing?—
"Bred only and completed to the taste
Of lustful appetence, to sing, to dance,
To dress and troll the tongue and roll the eye"?
Aristippus. Not at all. I believe in the old Roman notion, that woman's domestic honor and chief praise is, Domi mansit, lanam fecit,—with the qualification, that lanam shall not mean worsted-work. I understand the Scriptural word "helpmeet," as applied to wife, in the New England sense of "help." She should, above all, be a creature not too bright and good to know how to prepare and serve up human nature's daily food. I have never seen without emotion the epitaph placed by a high legal dignitary in a neighboring State on the tomb of his first wife:—
"An excellent woman and a good cook."
And when I hear an able-bodied woman in easy circumstances speak of housekeeping as too much for her strength, or "too wearing," I set her down very low on my list of contemptibles, and ask her, mentally, "What the devil then are you good for?" But you and your friends, Hipparchia, would make a world all cubes, parallelopipedons, and pyramids,—an achromatic world, peopled with wise creatures who could demonstrate the usefulness of all they did, and the economy of the processes by which they did it. As there is no place in such a world for women as we know them, you wish to create Eve over again, or rather to call forth a female Adam. I object. Man cannot live by pure mathematics alone. Imagination is a faculty of the mind, as much as reason. Now, women are the imaginative side of the human race; not only imaginative themselves, but the cause of imagination in others. I like mountains and clouds, trees, birds, and flowers,—the raw material of poetry; but to me handsome women are more pleasant than all of them,—they are little poems ready made. I like their rustling dresses, their bright, graceful ways, the "flash of swift white feet" in ball-room; even their roguish airs and childlike affectations. And if some of them do not trim their souls quite as much as their gowns, or perhaps venture into society with minds naked to the verge of indecent ignorance, then I say to these, "Talk to me only with your eyes,"—and they can be more eloquent than any Demosthenes of your New England Athens. Women are younger than men, and nearer to nature; they have more animal life and spirits and glee. Their lively, frolicsome, sunshiny chatter keeps existence from growing mouldy and stale. We have it on the authority of the wittiest of Frenchmen, that for the purposes of pleasant, every-day life, L'enjouement vaut mieux que l'esprit. If I wish to discuss a question of political economy, or of metaphysics, I can go to men; but the art of talking the men of to-day have lost. They either lecture, dispute, or twaddle. A Rabbinical story relates that twelve baskets of chit-chat fell from heaven, and that Eve secured nine while Adam was picking up the other three. Since then, Eve seems to have obtained possession of all.
What do you "earnest women" want? You have your own way in everything. I cannot take up a paper without reading something about lovely, delicate, refined females; or an item announcing that some ungallant fellow has been turned out of an omnibus because he would not offer his seat to an Irish lady, who had probably twice his muscular power and endurance.
Hipparchia. Hotel elegance, railway manners, and penny-a-liner sentiment are alike contemptible. Do you suppose that any sensible female cares for those second-hand phrases and vulgar civilities? This deference you boast of is a mere habit, worn threadbare: the feeling has died out. What does it really amount to, when, in this city, a woman, even of my age, cannot go alone to an evening lecture or to the theatre without the risk of an insult? English and French women have more liberty of action than we have, although the men do not offer them their seats on every occasion. I had rather take my chance with the crowd at a hotel ordinary, and have more independence in daily life. The time will come, I trust, when women will no longer be contented with the few empty and exaggerated compliments in which men pay them off,—"Angelic creatures!" "Poet's theme!" and so on,—stuff that springs from what Diogenes calls the spooney view of women, and only applicable to the young and handsome,—a very small minority. It is sad to see the graceless, the "gone-off," and the downright elderly smirk complacently at a few phrases which are only aimed at them in derision. The others, too, one would think, ought to care little for adulation that fades away with their good looks.
The supremacy of woman in this country is like that of the Mikado in Japan,—a sovereign sacred and irresponsible, but on condition of sitting still, and leaving the management of affairs, the real business of life, to others. It is the same theory of government with which the constitutionalists tormented the late Louis Philippe,—Le roi régne et ne gouverne pas. He was unwilling to accept such a position, and so am I. I cannot take a pride in insignificance and uselessness, although I confess with shame that most women do,—the result of which is, that we have not the kind of influence we ought to have, and that a real, hearty, genuine respect for women does not exist. In every man's heart there lurks a mild contempt for us, because of our ignorance of business, politics, and practical matters generally outside of the nursery and the milliner's shop. The best of you look upon us and our doings as grown people look at pretty children and their plays,—with a good-natured feeling of superiority, and a smile half pleasure and half pity. The truth is, that men have always despised us, from the earliest times. At first, we were mere slaves and drudges; then, playthings, if handsome and lively,—something to be brought on with the wine at a feast. Chivalry, which in newspaper rhetoric means devotion to women and respect, knew little of either, when it was alive and vigorous. The droits de bottage et de cuissage alone are enough to prove that. In our times, indeed, the savage view of woman as a slave has been softened by civilization into housekeeper and nurse; but it still lingers in every man's feelings. Woman's mission in his eyes is simply babies; to which is superadded the duty of making the father comfortable. But the high prices of living are teaching people who have never heard of Malthus or of Mill the necessity of celibacy; and women must find something else to do than to rock a cradle.
Diogenes. Yes, unlimited issues on an insufficient capital lead to ruin. That ivy clinging to the oak view of the woman question still finds a place in print; but in practice I think the oaks are getting rather tired of it They find that the graceful wreaths of the ivy draw heavily upon their substance, and they would prefer a more self-sustaining simile.
Hipparchia. So much the better. I desire to see females support themselves.
Aristippus. Don't say female again, Hipparchia! I hate the word used in that sense, as much as Swift hated the word bowels. It is a term of natural history. A mare is a female; so is a cow, and so is a female dog. It would be curious to analyze the feeling that led euphuistic donkeys to choose it as a compromise word between lady and woman.
Hipparchia. They must have been male donkeys. All the terms of reproach you apply to us when you forget your chivalry manners, such as witch, shrew, termagant, slut, and so on, were all originally made by men for men,—at least so Archdeacon Trench tells us. You have gradually shuffled them off upon us; and worse yet, when you wish to describe in two words a pompous, prosing, dull-witted man, you call him an old woman. This is not just. Old women always have some imagination; and their gossip does not pretend to be the highest wisdom, which makes a great difference.
Diogenes. True! The elderly male fossil of the Silurian age,—the age of mollusks,—whose habitat is some still-water club, or public reading-room, where he babbles of the morning's news, is a thousand times more tiresome than any loquacious elderly lady. We excel in this as in everything. We beat you at your own weapons. Sewing seems to be instinctive with women; yet tailors tell me that they are obliged to give out their best work to men.
Hipparchia. Dress and want of method are two radical weaknesses women must extirpate if they ever hope to rise from their present secondary position. Their dress is the outward and visible sign of it,—the livery of their lower condition. Everything about it is absurd, from the spurious waterfall pinned to the back of their heads down to the train that sweeps the muddy pavement. Their hair is infested with beads, bits of lace and of ribbons, or mock jewelry. A bonnet is an epitome of fag-ends. The poor crazy creatures in the asylum, who pick up any rag, or wisp of straw, or scrap of tin, they may find, and wear it proudly upon their frocks, are not a whit more absurd.
Diogenes. Women go to and fro like that funny little crab we saw lately in Aquaria, who adorns his head and shoulders with bits of sea-weed, or any other stuff within his reach, and paddles about his tank self-satisfied and ridiculous. Women must and will trim, as spiders spin webs, and bees make honeycombs. They even trim bathing-dresses: one would think that nothing could redeem them from their hideousness. But they obey a law of their being. The special aptitudes of the lower animals are brought into play when no other reason can be given than the necessity for discharging an accumulation of the inward energy,—a saying of the physico-psychologists that is verified in this instance.
Hipparchia. A man's raiment is of plain color and of good, strong material,—ugly if you please, but durable and serviceable; but a woman puts on textures that cost hundreds of dollars and that a drop of water may ruin. Then fashions change daily. The bonnet idolized yesterday is offered up without a sigh if it refuses to adopt the new shape,—cast into the flames, or thrown to wild Biddies to be worn to pieces.
Diogenes. The great M. Comte, with whose works you, Hipparchia, are no doubt familiar, divides philosophy into the three stages of Theological, Metaphysical, and Positive. This general theorem he completes by particular applications,—to costume among others. In this he distinguishes the three stages of Tattooing (including paint), Frippery, and Clothes. Man has reached the third stage, he says; woman is in the second, and not entirely out of the first.
Hipparchia. Everything about a woman's dress is uncomfortable. Everything is pinned on and false. There is nothing real but the trouble and the expense; and women whose love of appearances exceeds their incomes must work hard with their own needles. But they undergo it all without a murmur,—I may say, with pleasure.
Diogenes. "For 't is their nature to," as I remarked just now. Women are compounds of plain-sewing and make-believe, daughters of Sham and of Hem. I consider dress an epidemic disease,—a moral cholera that originates in the worst quarters of Paris. Every ship that comes from those regions is infected with French trollopism, and should be quarantined and fumigated until every trace of the contagious novelty has been expurgated.
Hipparchia. Could a stranger, ignorant of our customs, suppose it possible that beings capable of reason would habitually go out of a winter evening less clad by half than during the day? I say nothing of the propriety or good taste of this fashion. When Eve ate of the apple, she knew she was naked. I have often thought, as I looked at her dancing daughters, that another bite would be of service to them: it might open their eyes to their uncovered condition.
Diogenes. Let us put that reform down among those we mean to carry out last; unless, indeed, the neck of age commits the fault, then, I confess, I should like to complain to the Board of Health and have the nuisance abated. There is nothing sadder than to look at dressy old things, who have reached the frozen latitudes beyond fifty, and who persist in appearing in the airy costume of the tropics. They appear to think, as Goldsmith says, that they can conceal their age by exposing their persons.
Hipparchia. Their case is hopeless, I fear: we must teach sounder ideas on all these subjects to the young.
Aristippus. You have tried it already. Did not a wise woman come from the West preaching to her sisters that one of their lost rights was, to dress like men? What did Bloomerism amount to? A few forlorn creatures shortened their petticoats a few inches, adopted most of the ugly in a man's attire with none of the practical, and retained the follies of a woman's dress without the taste. Their shoes were neither stouter nor larger. They wore a thing on their heads more unsightly than a bonnet, and no better a protection against sun or rain. They made their jackets and their trouserettes of the same flimsy stuffs as before, and sprinkled an unusual quantity of incongruous and unsuitable trimmings over all. Luckily they have disappeared, and now are probably devoting their energies to some other right that does less violence to woman's nature. Do you suppose that you will be listened to when you preach from the text, "Take no thought for your body what ye shall put on"? How many lady free-thinkers in fashionable doctrines do you know? I see a superfluous ribbon even in your cap, Hipparchia; and, if I mistake not, your magisterial skirts are expanded by a wirework cage.
Diogenes. Men say knowledge is power; women think dress is power. Look at a woman who is certain that she is well dressed,—"the correct thing,"—how she walks along with stately steps, head well up, parasol held with two fingers at the present, and skirts expanding luxuriantly behind her,—proud, self-satisfied, conscious of being stared at and admired. She feels like the just man made perfect,—who knows that he has done his duty, and that the by-standers also know it and respect him for it. Dress overgrows and smothers every other feeling in a woman's heart. Love, marriage, children, religion, the death of friends, are regarded as affording new and various opportunities for dress. The becoming is the greatest good. For finery and fashion women risk comfort, health, life, even reputation. What matter ignorance, ill-breeding, ill-nature, if she dress well? A camel's-hair shawl, like charity, will cover a multitude of sins. On the other hand, though she speak French and German, and understand all onomies and ologies, and the mysteries of housekeeping, and is treasurer of Dorcas societies, crèches, and dispensaries, and have not style, it profiteth her nothing. On this great question women never have a misgiving. You may find creatures so lost as to be castaways from fashion, but they believe in it. The scepticism of the age has left this subject untouched.
Hipparchia. The same amount of thought and labor applied to useful subjects would make them all that I desire them to be. A thorough reform in the education of woman is necessary for this. What is their education now? Even the girls of the richer class get next to none. They are taught to say "How d' ye do" in two languages, and to irritate the nervous system of their relations for some hours every day with a piano,—the most gigantic, useless, and expensive instrument of torture ever invented. These for serious work. A little drawing, worsted-work, and catechism are added as accomplishments; and then at eighteen—the age when a boy really begins his training—their education is completed, they are told; and they are turned into the world to devote their time and talents to trimmings, novels, and idle tittle-tattle.
Aristippus. There can be no objection to good gossip, or even to a little scandal, when its teeth have been drawn. If the noblest study of mankind is man, surely his sayings and doings cannot be improper subjects for conversation.
Hipparchia. Education is not the teaching of this thing or that. It is the training of the mind for the work of daily life. The few women of fortune who pride themselves on their cleverness get a parrot-like acquaintance with the contents of books, enunciate charmingly, and are very learned on the syntax and spelling of an invitation to dinner; but of the great topics of the day, political, social, economical, financial, scientific, mechanical, theological, they are utterly ignorant and careless. I know some brilliant exceptions, who show what women might be if they chose.
The consequence of no education, no thought, no practical experiences, and no real responsibility is, that, whenever moral questions are disconnected with feeling, a woman's moral standard is lower than a man's. Truth, rare in both sexes, is very rare in women; not that they love truth less, but that usually they love exaggeration more,—truth is so often commonplace and tiresome; they dress it up to hide its nakedness.
Aristippus. What does it matter? We all understand them when they say "Splendid!" "Shocking!" "Awful!" "Glorious!" in describing a walk or a tea-party. We believe in the vivacity of their impressions, if not in the accuracy of the terms they use. And besides, there are many things pleasant to listen to, even though we know them to be false.
"When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies."
Women have such a wonderful power of secreting adjectives that they cannot speak the truth when they try. There is no moral obliquity in the case. It is psychical incapacity.
Hipparchia. Ambition in a man is the resolution to become powerful, useful, great, rich. A woman means by ambition the desire to shine in the society she belongs to, or perhaps to work her way into a set she considers better. And honor and virtue are, I think, used in a different sense.
Diogenes. Yes; the meaning is very much "localized."
Hipparchia. I admit that women have caught from the men a little of the dissatisfied, dyspeptic philosophy of this generation. But the men do not know what they want, and the ideas of the women are still more vague. They only know that they would like a change of some kind. Their imaginations are not contented with the commonplaces of every-day life. They long for more excitement, and to get it are willing, as Punch has it,
"To do or suffer ere they die
They know not what, they care not why."
But the "mission" must be exotic, meteoric, dazzling. Home missions present as little attraction as bonnets that do not come from Paris. The little opportunities for doing good that spring up about their feet are neglected. I know so many of those gifted, enthusiastic transcendental natures, at least in their own opinion, who cannot condescend to the meaner duties of life,—such as being faithful to their husbands, taking care of their children, and making themselves agreeable to their relatives.
Then really "earnest" women, who mean to be useful to their fellow-creatures, often do as much harm as good for the want of practical sense. Their dear little foundlings all die of measles, diphtheria, or scarlet-fever. They give their pet paupers a regular allowance, which supplies them bountifully with tobacco and grog. They quack pauperism, and increase the malady instead of curing it, because impulses of weakness miscalled feelings are consulted, instead of the hard, dry details of eleemosynary science; for science it is,—a branch of political economy. Benevolence like this is only another form of the love for excitement. Women will never take the trouble to consider the principle of things.
Diogenes. I have read somewhere a definition of woman,—"An unreasoning animal that pokes the fire on top."
Aristippus. Diogenes was converted to this hopeless condition of infidelity by a little French treatise, Le Mal qu'on dit des Femmes. I give him over to it. His doctrine, like unwholesome food, carries its punishment with it. But you, Hipparchia, have pulled woman to pieces for a purpose; and I should like to know on what practicable principle you propose to make her over again.
Hipparchia. Some one said wittily,—I think it was Mrs. Howe,—"Man carves his destiny; woman is helped to hers." Women have been kept so long in this state of dependence, that their characters have become dwarfed. The thirst for excitement that drives them restless from one amusement to another, and which finds relief in the extravagances of dress,—this passionate devotion to the frivolous and the absurd,—spring from the want of a reasonable employment for mind and body. My great principle is to exchange their passive condition for an active one. I would establish schools, where girls may receive a thorough education, such as is given to boys. In these schools, I should insist upon mathematical training as earnestly as Plato in his Republic. Women must be made to feel the magical power that numbers have in regulating the mind. Once get them really to believe that twice two make four, and can never make more or less,—once bring them to feel that a foot always means twelve inches, and that correct measurement is indispensable, even for seamstresses and cooks,—and the spirit of accuracy which now passes all their understanding will be with them and remain with them forever. Next, I should insist that the employments now monopolized by men should be thrown open to women. Why should we be excluded from all the well-paid trades and professions? Why should we not hold office, "commissioned, paid, and uniformed by the state"? Do you think it fair to limit us to scrubbing and plain-sewing as the only means of earning a livelihood?
Aristippus. I admit that many occupations for which women are admirably calculated are carried on by men, and I hope that some day a more manly public opinion will make all such persons as ridiculous as a male seamstress is now. I do not envy the feelings of men who can invent, manufacture or sell baby-jumpers, dress elevators, hoop-skirts, or those cosmetics I see "indorsed by pure and high-toned females." But when you and your friend seek the positions of "night-patrols or inspectors of police," you run into ultraism, the parent of all isms; but, luckily a parent like Saturn, who destroys its offspring.
Hipparchia. Marriage is now to women what all trades and professions are to men. Spinsters are supposed to have no chance in life,—neither liberty of action nor of ideas. Hence, rather than not marry at all, a woman will marry anybody; and, like Shenstone's Gratia,
"Choose to attend a monkey here
Before an ape below."
This prejudice is almost as strong and as absurd as the Mormon notion that a woman cannot get to heaven unless she is sealed to some saint. It has driven hundreds of women, who might have been happy single, into a slavery for life from which there is no relief. A husband, if he find that the connubial paradise he dreamed of turns out to be the other place, has the world all before him where to choose; but the lady is "cabined, cribbed,—confined" possibly: it is in the course of things. But when new fields of employment are thrown open to women, those who cannot marry, or who do not wish to marry, will lead useful and pleasant lives, and cease to be "superfluous existences,—inartistic figures, crowding the canvas of life without adequate effect." But all our reforms centre in one great point, on which our eyes are hopefully fixed,—I mean, the right to vote. Give women a vote, and at once they will take a direct interest in the business of life. They will have something to think of, and something to do. It will be the best form of education. Mr. Lecky, in his interesting, though perhaps rather windy, "History of Rationalism," has a passage that expresses my opinion and my hope. "If the suffrage should ever be granted to women, it would probably, after two or three generations, effect a complete revolution in their habits of thought, which, by acting upon the first period of education, would influence the whole course of opinion." Mr. Mill, it is well known, is warmly in favor of it. He has been abundantly sneered at in England for this crotchet, as they call it,—although it is not easy to see why it should be ridiculous for women to vote in a country governed by a queen.
Aristippus. In this I am with you. I have always thought it absurd that the ignorant Irishman who drives the carriage of a rich widow should have a voice in the government of the country, and that the employer, whose money enables him to live, should have none. In Austria, women who hold real property in their own right have the right to vote. I would go a step further, and give the suffrage to every independent, self-supporting widow or single woman. Wives I would exclude,—not from the fear of adding to the stock subjects of domestic disputation,—the usual reason given,—but because they are not independent. The same reason should apply to daughters residing under the paternal roof. And, in all fairness, I would extend my rule to men. I would make, not a property, but an independence qualification. A man who lives on a dollar a day, if he owns it or earns it, should vote; but the son who depends upon a rich father for support, and the pauper who lives upon public charity, should not vote. Socially, both are minors. We might even say, that, financially, both are unweaned. Why should they not be minors politically? This plan would really be manhood suffrage.
Hipparchia. Justice and wisdom are both upon our side. We must eventually succeed; and then the emancipation of woman will be complete, and her equality with man established. The resolution passed in our Convention, "that a just government and a true church are alike opposed to class and caste, whether the privileged order be feudal baron, British lord, or American white male," ought to be true, and will be true at a future day.
Diogenes. Vigorously expressed! The feudal baron, indeed, is an extinct species, and was hardly worth mentioning, unless to adorn your rhetoric and point your resolution. But let me tell you that the white male can show an older and a better patent of nobility than the British lord with whom you associate him. Is it not recorded in Genesis, that Adam was created first, and Eve from him?—a copy only, you observe; and a copy never comes up to the original. As Dryden has it:—
"He to God's image, she to his, was made;
So farther from the fount the stream at random strayed."
And in the same inspired history we read: "Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee."
Hipparchia. Nonsense! I thought that the argument from Scripture had died out with slavery polemics. You forget that every Eve has not an Adam. On what ground do you ask a single woman to occupy an inferior position? I admit that the married may sometimes do so with propriety.
Aristippus. On the ground of an inferiority, and of infirmities absolutely incurable. Between the female man of your theories and the real male man there is a great gulf you cannot pass over. A negro is a man,—we can imagine him a brother; but no effort of philanthropic self-abnegation can work the same miracle for a woman. When you preach the natural equality of the sexes, you injure your cause. The facts are too strong and too visible for you. A man can rest his claim to superiority on brute force, if on nothing else; and force is, after all, the ultimate basis of all government. I do not mean to underrate the cleverness of women. The first man was overreached by Eve; and the last woman will probably turn the head of the laggard who brings up the rear of the human race. If a wife is only half of the scissors, as Franklin suggests, she is often the half with the point. But feminine ability is not of the ruling kind. You dance, for instance, better than men, if the gymnastic capers of acrobats and tumblers can be called dancing at all; but you cannot wield a sledge-hammer as vigorously, and your excellent performances, numerous in literature, rarer in art, and still more rare in science, seem to me to be mostly of the dancing rather than of the sledge-hammer order.
But success would be your ruin. If you could establish the complete equality you long for, your relative inferiority would become so manifest as to be humiliating. In most of the vocations of men, women would be as ridiculous, morally, as they are physically in men's clothes. If a woman is nothing but a smaller man, the savage contempt for the sex is logical. Place two races together, of which the one is weaker, less energetic, less pugnacious than the other; and the result will inevitably be that the strong and the fierce will make the mild and the feeble do all their hard work. The barbarous ages would return again. We should sit by, like the Indian, smoking the pipe of laziness, while you were furnishing us with board, lodging, clothes, and tobacco. The Amazons, the earliest known advocates of women's rights, saw this point clearly; and consequently excluded men altogether from their communities, except at their yearly camp-meetings. Men worship women for their gentleness, affection, imagination, refinement,—for the fond, cosey, nestling way they have with them,—for their femininity (in one awkward word), the contrast and complement to the masculine character. There is a sex in soul quite as much as in body. In the mythology, no god falls in love with Minerva. A mannish woman only attracts a feminine man. A woman's power lies in her petticoats, as Samson's strength lay in his hair. Cut them off, and you leave her at the mercy of every brutal Philistine, who now dares not be rude to her because she is sacred. Do you not see that, instead of gaining something, you will lose all?—sink into fifth-rate mannikins, with fewer opportunities,—boys in petticoats?
Diogenes. And we be obliged to set our amorous eclogues to the tune of Formosus Pastor Corydon?
Aristippus. I might quote a suggestive remark from Pepys's Diary, namely, that the only female animal which gives a name to both sexes is the goose. But, seriously, your chances of success are not brilliant,—at least for the present. There are two kinds of women, both of them excellent; but almost as distinct as diamonds and black lead, which are both pure carbon;—one is made to be admired, the other to be useful. The girl who wakes the poet's sigh is a very different creature from the girl who makes his soup. You have read of the loves of the Angels with the daughters of the Antediluvians. I sometimes think that the diamonds can claim descent from the high-bred race that sprang from those aristocratic relations. The late Monsieur Balzac, who handled this subject with ingenuity, was struck by this difference. He divided woman into two classes: woman, and the female of the order Mammalia, genus Bimanis, species Homo. In his essays he overlooks altogether the second class. But in it you must seek your disciples. The heaven-descended sisters will not go with you. You may try to make them useful and self-supporting; but you will lose your pains. They have only to show themselves, to receive the attention and applause that a man of genius must work a lifetime to earn. Their world is at their feet. Wealth, power, gratified vanity, are theirs without an effort. Madame de Staël said she would willingly give all her fame for one season of the reign of a youthful beauty. She, it is true, was a woman; but David Hume, a keen observer, and moderate in his statements, noticed that even a "little miss, dressed in a new gown for a dancing-school ball, receives as complete enjoyment as the greatest orator who triumphs in the splendor of his eloquence, while he governs the passions and resolutions of a numerous assembly." You ask them to give up these pleasures and these triumphs, and to abdicate their thrones,—to become implements instead of ornaments, and to help to bring down the high price of labor in the present scarcity of laborers; and you offer them in exchange the right to wear trousers, to drive an omnibus, or to wear a policeman's uniform! Do you think that they will listen to you? No,—not even the respectable members of the second class. The Cinderellas with no glass slippers and no protecting fairy might join with you, if they did not look up to the first class as their rulers and models. They feel instinctively that the glory of the Angelidæ illuminates even them; and they all, or almost all, have a faint yet abiding and comforting hope that some unheard-of miracle, or yet undiscovered cosmetic, may place them among the blessed.
You cannot, my dear Hipparchia, by any process of teaching, not even by magazine-articles, make a canary-bird into a useful barn-door fowl. It will wear yellow feathers, and it will sing and nibble at sugar.
This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.