Todd was, in part, terrified of being dependent on a woman who might repudiate him or absorb him as a horse leech absorbed blood. But at the beginning of Woman's Rights Todd partly agreed with his hypothetical, feminist adversary. She wanted woman to be "far more independent of him [man] than he ever was or can be of woman." Man always would be more dependent on woman, and the explanation lay in woman's "own deep instincts," by which Todd meant her reproductive and nurturing power. "Our mothers train us and we owe everything to them." He went on to say that wives assume similar comprehensive power so that men are equally "indebted" to them (demonstrating that he saw wives as mothers): "no man is ashamed to say he is indebted to his wife for his happiness, his influence, and his character, if there is anything noble in him." This is a remarkable if familiar rhetoric, given that the great mass of Todd's work was devoted to the principle of independent male autonomy, avoiding debts and overexpenditures of every kind. The fact that women were felt to be a persistently explosive threat to the survival and prosperity of men explains the well-known and otherwise perplexing coexistence of an ideology of male self-sufficiency with that of woman's power over men's lives. The insistent assertion of the need for total autonomy was an impassioned reaction to that fear of total dependence that broke through in Todd's confession that he owed everything to his mother. Todd felt he could be swallowed up by woman, and it was perhaps as a defensive reversal of that fantasy that according to his own admission, he "swallowed up" the life of his wife. 1
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: The Horrors of the Half-Known Life: Male Attitudes toward Women and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century America. Contributors: G. J. Barker-Benfield - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 215.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.