Men by Women - Vol. 2

Men by Women - Vol. 2

Men by Women - Vol. 2

Men by Women - Vol. 2

Excerpt

In 1857 an English lady published a book on how to travel in Norway as an "unprotected female." She is brief on the subject of men: "the only use of a gentleman in travelling is to look after the luggage, and we take care to have no luggage."

Most women writers have not achieved such breezy indifference to the opposite sex. The late nineteenth-century American Ella Wheeler Wilcox writes in the Ladies' Home Journal that "the most interesting study of womankind is man; it ever has been, ever will, and ever should be so." Yet, while this may express a common female position, it remains true that men as a gender—as opposed to particular types of men—are not much studied by women. And here is a great contrast, for women as a gender are constantly investigated, probed, and reviled by men. As the New Jersey suffragist Florence Guy Seabury pointed out, "The odd thing is that while all the information about women is an open secret, the truth about men has remained vague and unspoken." Women's faults and foibles are ever on male lips, yet men "would probably have succumbed at the first general description of their frailties and weaknesses, and the universal weighing and measuring of their capacities. Brutal broadsides on masculine limitations, comparable to the pronunciamentos of male antisuffragists about women, would have made them lie down from sheer dismay at the thought of living under such handicaps."

Seabury is one of a long line of women from the sixteenth-century Emilia Lanier to the present feminists who have protested the male habit of criticizing the whole sex. Such writers have attacked the habit not only for its injustice but also for its dangers to women, who have come to internalize the rebukes and see themselves as indeed the poor, weak, emotional, and irrational creatures men have imagined them to be. Although women have often protested male depictions, they have very infrequently turned the tables. Only at peak moments of feminism are men subject to the "brutal broadsides" which have always been women's lot.

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