Category Archives: MHRM

Feminism, sex-differences and chivalry

On which side should the men’s movement focus its activism — on the similarities or differences between the sexes?

The thinkers among us will stay abreast of both sides of the argument, however in the realm of activism most will take up a position one way or the other to make their point.

Arguments for sameness or difference rest on a more fundamental dyad, the biological and cultural – topics that have been tackled extensively in manosphere discussion circles, though I’m not sure we have gained good mileage from them in the fight against gynocentrism.

Regardless of whether we fixate on biological imperatives, or on the biology-shaping power of culture, the gender war rages on unchecked.

So just for a moment, let’s partition-out the hard scientific discussions of biology vs. culture, and pay more attention to the rhetorical leverage points of sexual politics – to those emotive generalizations about sameness/difference. All feminist reasoning, all female privilege, and all misandry start from there.

Departing from the usual MRA emphasis on differences, real and significant biological ones, this article will make a case for focusing on the similarities, on the things men and women have in common as the most effective basis for tackling gynocentrism. Emphasizing only differences between the sexes, as old-school MRAs and new MGTOW like to do, will not reach the goal of defeating feminist propaganda and the anti-male culture created by same. Let’s look at some rationale for this move.

Difference Feminism as the order of the day

I am here going to chart three changes within socialist feminism over the last fifteen years. It has, I argue, moved in large part from androgyny to gender difference, and from Marxism or revolutionary socialism towards an accommodation with, if reform of, the political and social system we know now. [Socialist Feminism: From Androgyny to Gynocentrism, Equality to Difference – 1995]

In this quote, feminist Judith Evans makes an observation many are familiar with; that today’s feminism is more concerned with promoting sexual differences than androgyny. While obvious to astute observers, I will argue that feminist ideology and feminist activism has not traveled in a linear fashion from androgyny to gynocentrism as Evans suggests, but more accurately has always enjoyed it both ways.

Ernest B. Bax observed this fact well over a century ago:

Modern Feminism would fain achieve the feat of eating its cake and having it too. When political and economic rights are in question, such as involve gain and social standing, the assumption of inferiority magically disappears before the strident assertion of the dogma of the equality of woman with man – her mental and moral equality certainly! When, however, the question is of a different character – for example, for the relieving of some vile female criminal of the penalty of her misdeeds-then Sentimental Feminism comes into play, then the whole plaidoyer is based on the chivalric sentiment of deference and consideration for poor, weak woman.” [Chapter V: The “Chivalry” Fake, in The Fraud of Feminism 1913]

Feminists only claim equality with men in so far as it has agreeable consequences for women. And this applies all along the line… I would advise woman’s-righters to choose the one side or the other. If they stick to the weakness of woman physically as ground for woman’s privileges and immunities, let them give up prating of equality otherwise. If they contend for equality let it at least be an even equality all round. [‘Female Suffrage’ – in Social Democrat, Vol.8, no.9, pp.533-545 1904].

The bulk of the advocates of woman’s rights are simply working, not for equality, but for female ascendency. It is all very well to say they repudiate chivalry. They are ready enough to invoke it politically when they want to get a law passed in their favour – while socially, to my certain knowledge, many of them claim it as a right every whit as much as ordinary women. [‘No Misogyny But True Equality’ – in To-day, pp.115-121 1887]

Reading through Bax’s articles it’s clear that feminists argued in both directions, especially enjoying the difference narrative, proving that sentimental appeals to sex-difference were the approach that gained women the most. Why?

Because differences, especially those implying weakness and vulnerability, evoke chivalry.

And chivalry brings goodies!

Meme juxtaposes equalist vs difference arguments: indicates difference is the stronger social power

Meme juxtaposes equalist vs difference arguments: indicates difference is the stronger social power

MRAs need to catch up with this fact and realize that whenever we promote difference, be it biological or cultural in origin, we play into feminist word-games and provide them with the basis for arguing chivalric treatment for women.

Commentaries on men and women’s different natures and the corollary of why men and women should be treated differently (read special treatments for women) appear throughout history. The claims are that men and women are different due to cultural training (e.g. men are trained in patriarchy and violence; women in softness and subservience), or they are biologically different (e.g. men are testosterone poisoned, and women give birth and need special help), thus, we must discriminate to better serve those differences, say feminists.

Whenever old school MRAs thrash their swords around yelling “WE ARE BIOLOGICALLY DIFFERENT!!” they play right into the rhetoric and remedies of feminists. In fact, many of the more prominent stars in the MRM specialize in promoting difference, arguing for biological differences over culturally implanted ones, and not realizing that they end up with a conclusion of difference that gets exploited equally by feminists – it matters not whether the difference is of cultural or biological origin.

Conversely, when we discuss that men and women have a massive overlapping area of shared humanity – the discussion changes to one of equal value, concern and empathy for men.

Males and females, for example, are both among the homeless, both are among the mentally ill, both can be poor or disabled. Men and women equally experience all emotions- jealousy, pride, elation, fear, anxiety, depression, or joy, and they equally suffer heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, broken bones, malaria or the common cold. Both suffer the impact of environmental degradation and pollution, and so on.

Despite that massive area of overlap, you can already read the “difference” argument being exploited by protofeminist Modesta Pozzo in the year 1590;

Don’t we see that men’s rightful task is to go out to work and wear themselves out trying to accumulate wealth, as though they were our factors or stewards, so that we can remain at home like the lady of the house directing their work and enjoying the profit of their labors? That, if you like, is the reason why men are naturally stronger and more robust than us — they need to be, so they can put up with the hard labor they must endure in our service.” [The Worth of Women: their Nobility and Superiority to Men – 1590]

And it doesn’t stop with Pozzo. The same language can be seen by virtually all feminist writers from her day to the present, including revered feminist philosophers like Julia Kristeva or Iris M. Young, through to the “difference feminists” of today. The historical lineup, all milking difference, is unbroken.

Take for instance the language of popular “equity” feminist Christina Hoff-Sommers who, while helpfully deconstructing many feminist myths, is happy to promote sex-differences as a basis for seeking chivalry for women.

Sommers demonstrates the sex-differences perspective in an interview with Emily Esfahani Smith. “Chivalry is grounded in a fundamental reality that defines the relationship between the sexes,” explains Sommers, “and given that most men are physically stronger than most women, men can overpower women at any time to get what they want.” “If women give up on chivalry, it will be gone,” says Sommers, and “If boys can get away with being boorish, they will, happily. Women will pay the price.”1

The historical benefit to women of the difference argument has far outweighed the sameness argument because difference enlists the traditions of damselling, white knighting, and romantic chivalry. The sameness argument fails to tap into those medieval powers and thus affords far less reach for gynocentric tentacles.

* * *

Feminists are among the most rigid enforcers of gender stereotypes on the planet – all while championing “varieties of masculinities/femininities” which “don’t fit the binary.” However, those varieties are something they tend to spout for window dressing, in passing, before going on to enforce strict gender stereotypes in most everything they say.

Some MRAs miss the fact that most feminists today are difference feminists or cultural feminists – feminists who believe first and foremost in reinforcing real or perceived differences between men and women. Many of us labor under the assumption that feminists promote a polymorphous perverse (androgynous) identity — which they never did with any consistency.

And for feminists it doesn’t matter if the differences are of biological origin (many feminists subscribe to Evolutionary psychology) or the result of cultural conditioning – selling any differences of sexed behavior allows them to argue for special treatments for women and harsh treatment for men, regardless of whether the differences are congenital or cultural.

As men’s rights activists, we would do well to emphasize the biological/behavioral overlap between the sexes – that we all feel emotions, all think, fall in love, catch a common cold, and seek intimate human bonds – and with that we can defeat calls for preferential treatments of women arising from differences. Let’s move on from the task of defeating ‘feminist androgyny,’ which appears to be an activism dead-end.

This article contends that some MRAs place the focus on differences between men and women and that that approach is an activism cul-de-sac. But before adopting the alternative strategy of highlighting male and female behavioral similarities, we need first to observe how feminists have used the difference narrative to their advantage; only then will we see the urgency.

So next time you see an argument for difference or sameness, stop and ask yourself who stands the greatest chance of benefiting from it. And if you are advocating for difference, ask yourself if you are helping to promote men’s human rights or instead promoting a return to the good-ol-days of strictly demarcated gender roles.

Notes:

[1] Emily Esfahani Smith, ‘Let’s Give Chivalry Another Chance’ The Atlantic, Dec 10 2012
For more on Hoff-Sommers’ views on chivalry, see “The Acculturated Podcast: Ladies and Gentlemen”

Feature image by Steven Lilley

Women’s and Men’s Rights (1875)

The following short article, entitled Women’s and Men’s Rights, appeared in the 1875 volume Historic and literary miscellany, by G.M.D. Bloss. – PW

* * *

THERE have recently been Women’s Rights conventions in New York and Boston. The general drift of the proceedings was to show the wrongs of woman under the laws of society at present constituted. There were plenty of facts to show that in many instances women, at the present time, were ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-sheltered; that their employment was not remunerative in many cases, and that under their afflictions they were driven often to live a life of vice and crime.

All this will be freely admitted and universally regretted. But, and the question may be asked with emphasis, are these wrongs peculiar to women? Do they alone suffer them? Is there a discrimination against the sex? We unhesitatingly answer in the negative. Would man–yea, would man, who is endowed with that wonderful right of suffrage, which in the eyes of these reformers is the great cure for all the grievances of the sex, not be enabled to find as serious cause of complaint as those made by his female associate?

How many men of ability and intelligence, willing to work, are trodden down in the battle of life? How many are scantily fed, miserably clad, and barely sheltered, who labor with assiduity from the rising to the setting sun? To the ill requital of man’s labor, in hundreds and thousands of instances, may be attributed woman’s calamities.

For one woman who is driven by destitution to sin and shame, there are probably ten men. If one sex more than the other has the right to be restive under society as it is now constituted, it is the male. He makes the laws, it is true, but who derive the greatest benefit from them? In cases at law and equity, where the two sexes are antagonistic, who is generally the loser? Women are seldom convicted of criminal offenses, where men would be certain to suffer the penalty. They always, or nearly always, succeed before a jury of men, in civil cases.

In most of the States they can hold property in their own name, and while in the position of a fem-covert– their property is exempt from execution, even upon their own contracts. They are exempt from all military and jury duty, and from many other labors of serious import, which fall upon the males alone. They receive all the courtesies of society. They are the first at the feasts, and all the reserved seats everywhere are for them.

The state in which we live is very far from being perfection; men and women are joint sufferers by a false and ill-regulated condition of society. There is no antagonism between them, and they are enemies of both man and woman who desire to create the impression that either sex is enjoying rights at the other’s expense, or suffer infliction for the other’s benefit. They are our partners in the great trials and misfortunes which an All-wise Creator has imposed upon all the sons and daughters of Adam, and from which there is no escape by either this side of the grave.

Whatever improvements and reforms of modern society are demanded, should be in the name of both, and for both, instead of one. “A Men’s Rights Convention,” to redress the wrongs of the men alone, leaving the females alone where they are, would be selfish and ungrateful. Scarcely less so are those of the strong-minded woman, who has no eye and no compassion for the sufferings of any but her own sex.
 

Feature image by Michael Coghlan

Men’s Rights Convention of 1851

In 1851 the following article was penned by Chericot in Godey’s Lady’s Book, a United States magazine for women published in Philadelphia. The article entitled Men’s Rights Convention was designed to mock proceedings of men’s rights conference held at Independence Hall. Did the conference really take place? My bet is that it did, and the article was an attempt to distort proceedings and dissuade MHRA’s from holding future conferences. – PW

002

MEN’S RIGHTS CONVENTION – SEPTEMBER 20th 1851

EXTRAORDINARY PROCEEDINGS, EXCITING SCENES, AND CURIOUS SPEECHES .
FROM OUR OWN REPORTER, CHERICOT.

Yesterday, at 10 o’clock in the forenoon, an immense mass meeting of gentlemen from all parts of the country was held at Independence Hall. It was convened upon notices to that effect, which were issued directly after the late extraordinary and treasonable Female Convention at Massachusetts, and which, being distributed among the principal cities in the Union, had resulted in the collection of an enthusiastic crowd of gentlemen of all grades, trades, and politics, one common danger uniting them, in the effort to repel the proposed feminine aggression of their rights.

On taking- a survey of the meeting, one thing struck us very forcibly—the uneasy and restless anxiety that characterized the demeanor of most of the men; the slightest noise caused a general sensation; and, in one instance, the shrill cry of a fishwoman threw a gentleman into hysterics, which he explained, on his recovery, to have resulted from his mistaking it for the voice of his wife.

When the excitement had, in some measure, subsided, the meeting was called to order by Mr. Wumenheyter, of New York, who said, the first business being the choice of a president, he moved that Mr. H. P. Husband, of Maryland, be appointed.

Brass Blackstone, of Philadelphia, seconded the motion, which was unanimously adopted.

After the vice presidents and secretaries were duly chosen, and a business committee appointed to draw up resolutions expressive of the sense-of tho meeting, the president addressed the convention as follows:—

“The object which has called this great assemblage together is one which not only concerns mankind in general, but Americans in particular. This is emphatically a land of liberty — liberty which, achieved by the exertions of our forefathers, has commanded the respect of the tyrannical governments of the Old World, and resisted all unhallowed attempts to subvert it. This liberty, gentlemen, is threatened with destruction: by the establishment, within the very bounds of this republic, of a despotism that has no parallel in ancient or modern history. Yes, there is a conspiracy afoot in the very midst of us, which, should it succeed in it aspiring aims, will annihilate us as men, and convert us into mere household appendages to that rebellious sex who, after having for years shown a disposition to encroach on some of our rights and privileges, now boldly assert a claim to all. Patience; gentlemen, is no longer a virtue; stem determination and resolute action alone can put down this ambitious usurpation and re-establish our authority on its legitimate basis.

“These firebrands on our domestic hearths must be extinguished, or the sparks, lighting into a flame, will consume us.”

Here the sensation produced by Mr. Husband’s fiery eloquence was so intense that groans and sobs resounded from all parts of the building, and the gentleman was so overcome by his own flights of fancy that it was some time before he could proceed.

“I have, in the relations of husband, son, and brother, stood aloof. I have borne, with dignity and Spartan fortitude, the assumption, by my female relatives, of those garments which, from time immemorial, have been our rightful badge, trusting that the breach into which they were throwing themselves would prove of such an ‘imminent and deadly’ nature as to deprive them of any desire to go further. But late events have opened my eyes to the treasonable nature of their designs, and to the danger of the mine on which we have been heedlessly treading; and, regardless alike of family ties and possible consequences, I have boldly sounded the alarm which has brought us together this day. This terrible danger I discovered by chance, having picked up —in my own room, gentlemen— a letter addressed to my wife by a female friend. I will, gentlemen, read a passage from this incendiary production, premising that the preceding paragraphs, after giving an account of the late meeting at Worcester, refer to the female millennium about to commence:—

“Now then, my dear,
We’ll smoke and cheer and drink our lager beer;
We’ll have our latch-keys, stay out late at nights;
And boldly we’ll assert our female rights;
While conquered men, our erewhile tyrant foes,
Shall stay at home and wear our cast-off clothes,
Nurse babies, scold the servants, get our dinners;
‘Tis all that they are fit for, wretched sinners!”

“Imagine my feelings on finding treason a t work in my domestic sanctuary — at detecting the wife of my bosom in a plot against my peace!”

Here Mr. Husband was so overpowered by his emotions that he was compelled to pause for a few moments, ere he recovered his voice. Deep sympathy was manifested by the audience.

“I would now repeat the necessity of prompt action, for which I doubt not the wisdom and intelligence of this assembly will be found sufficient. Our business now is to find a remedy for the evil. Let us therefore, in a bold and uncompromising manner, address ourselves to the duties before us.”

While awaiting the action of the business committee, the following letters were read from distinguished gentlemen who had been invited to attend the meeting:—

Mr. Webster stated that the onerous nature of his diplomatic duties prevented his accepting the invitation extended to him. Had it, however, been in his power to do so, he should still have declined it, as the handsome manner in which the ladies had defended him in his native State obliged him to remain remain neuter in the conflict between the great contending parties. He would remark, in conclusion, that, devoted as he was to the Union, faithful as he had ever been in maintaining the Constitution, he had no sympathy with anything tending to infringe the conditions of the matrimonial compact, and therefore solemnly recommended that both parties should meet and conclude a treaty of peace.

Mr. Clay regretted his necessary attendance on Congress precluded his presence at this important meeting; for, faithful to his great principle, he should have endeavored to suggest such a compromise as should reconcile all parties. But he trusted that an amiable spirit would pervade their proceedings, and unity and concord be the result.

Mr. Horace Mann repeated Jus determination of not siding with either party. He referred again to the book he was writing, which he thought would satisfy both sides.

Mr. Buckeye, of Ohio, wrote to excuse his attendance, as the duties of the pork-killing season required his attention; and Mrs. Buckeye’s absence at a Socialist meeting, in the interior of the State, prevented his leaving home.

Mr. Wumenheyter, chairman of the committee, now rose to say that their report was ready. He
then read the following resolutions:—

Resolved, That a crisis has arrived in our domestic relations that admits of no temporizing measures, but requires us openly to insist on those rights so boldly and outrageously assailed by that weaker portion of humanity, whose duty it is to be satisfied with the inferior position assigned them by nature, and to yield in all things to man.

Resolved, That an unblushing claim has not only been made on our clothes, but on all our masculine privileges; and as this evil has resulted, in the first place, from the impunity with which the women have put their hands in our pockets, and as it will end only in the usurpation of our business, and of our sole right to the ballot-box, it becomes necessary for us to impress upon this rebellious sex our united determination to resist their aggressions.

Resolved, That this effort becomes imperatively necessary when we consider the treacherous nature of women, and remember that, should they succeed in their attempt, we shall meet no mercy at their hands. Universal decapitation of the men, and an Amazonian form of government will undoubtedly be
the result.

Resolved, That, while we shall use our lawful and united authority to put down this revolt, we will show clemency to the culprits, and, tempering justice with mercy, render their punishment as light as may be consistent with our own safety.

These resolutions were ordered to be laid on the table for discussion.

Mr. Wumenheyter said he wished particularly for the attention of the audience while he offered a few remarks on these resolutions. “ He was,” he said “proud to call himself a New Yorker. His city was the greatest in the world. It had a great canal, a great line, of steamships, a great many railroads, a great many bankB, and”——

Here a voice from the crowd exclaimed, “ And a great many other humbugs!” Mr. W. was, for a moment, disconcerted; but, resuming his remarks, he said—

“I do not regard this rude interruption. I shall still assert the superiority of my State to all others; and, at the same time, acknowledge that, with all our talents and business enterprise, we cannot manage the women. I confess that, in our great State, the attempt on our privileges was first made ; but I can also assure this convention that we shall be the first to defend those privileges. I have been so unhappy as to have had three wives, but, fortunately, have buried them all; and I can assert, from personal experience, that

‘Woman, woman, whether lean or fat, is
In face an angel, and in soul a cat!’

A spirit of philanthropy urges me to warn you against the female snares which my fatal destiny has inflicted on me, and from which I am therefore desirous to save others, as my several wives were so many different forms of evil, and I suffered intensely in consequence. I hope my misery will deter others from such experiments. If I rescue one wretch from the horrors of matrimony, my purpose will be answered, and my past sufferings forgotten.”

Mr. W. urged the adoption of immediate and relentless measures, and trusted that some available remedy might be suggested for the evil that was in their midst.

Cotte Bettie, Esq., from Delaware, said, “I fully agree with the gentleman from New York in his views on this terrible crisis. I am as proud of my State as he can be of his. I am not ashamed to call myself one of the Blue Hen’s Chickens.’ Delawarians are true blue — they always were, and always will be blue. They were the first to rally at freedom’s call, and would not now be found wanting. While he thus obeyed his instructions in proffering their aid, he must at the same time, assure this assembly that it was very advisable for them to keep their proceedings as secret as possible, lest a premature disclosure should put the women on their guard.”

C. Colesworth Pinokney, from South Carolina, remarked, “Had any one told him ft few months since that he should be meeting in amity with his northern brethren, he should have indignantly denied the possibility of such an act. He did not intend now, however, to allude to the difference of opinion that prevailed between the South and North; the several States of Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina, that had appointed him a delegate to this convention, having empowered him to bury all sectional causes of discord in oblivion, and to unite energetically with the representatives of other States in putting down, this terrible conspiracy. He had come prepared, then, to assure them of the cordial co-operation of the Southern States in any action that might be taken in the crusade against women. He would only remark that there should be no delay either in their resolves or execution—‘if ’twere done, ’twere well ’twere done quickly.’ With this end in view, he recommended bringing before the present Session of Congress a fugitive women bill, by which every man might be empowered to reclaim and punish a runaway or rebellious wife.”

Mr. Jonathan Whittle, from Massachusetts, “Guessed that there needn’t be much talk about the matter. Wimmen’s place was tu hum, and it was man’s business to keep em there. Pritty much all they was fit for was to dry innions, make squash pies, and get a fellow a good dinner on Thanks-givin’. He calkerlated that if each indiwiddiwel present had the spunk he orter havo, he could manage his wimmen himself, without anybody to help him. Yankees knew a leetle somethin’ besides makin’ wooden nutmegs, mushmellion, and cowcumber seeds, and they didn’t want anybody to come there and tell ’em how to do: they’d better stay tu hum, and take care of their own affairs;”

Here Mr. Whittle was called to order from all parts of the house, and sat down in a state of high indignation, wiping his face with a blue cotton handkerchief.

George Washington Patrick Henry John Randolph Powhatan, Esq., from Virginia, said, “I regret the irritable state of feeling which seems to sway the gentleman from New England. I wonder at his assertion of our Yankee brethren’s ability to manage their women, when the fact is notorious that Mr. Whittle*s native State was the scene chosen for the outbreak of the rebellion. Belonging, as I do, to one of the first families in Virginia, descended in a direct line from Pocahontas on one side, and Richard Coeur de Lion on tho other, collaterally related to the Virgin Queen and a far-off connection of the present British sovereign, I know nothing of those menial duties which Mr. Whittle thinks properly distinguish the female sphere. I cannot, nor can any one associated with me, be supposed to know anything of such menial avocations. In Virginia, nothing is required of the fair sex but to give orders to their servants, and that sufficiently occupies their time. I feel proud to assert my belief that no lady from that State is mixed up in this sad affair; but, knowing the danger of bad- example, I cannot answer for the future, and am therefore ready to give my counsel both a8 to prevention and cure. I know the female character well enough to assure this meeting that opposition will but add fuel to the flame. In short, my advice is—

‘Let them alone and they’ll come home,
And leave their whims behind them.’ ”

Dr. Singleman, a middle-aged gentleman, from Vermont, thought the gentleman from Virginia mistaken in his opinion that the let-alone system was the best treatment for the epidemic raging among them. Acute diseases required active remedies. When the pulse of tho domestic frame was disordered, every member of tho body suffered, and depiction should be freely resorted to, and the constitution restored to a healthy state, or he would not answer for tho consequences. His idea — which he advanced with some hesitation, for, being a bachelor, he knew little of the sex — was that every man should try the effect of the three popular systems of medicine on his female relatives, and he would venture to promise the revolt would noon be quelled. A course of bleeding, leeching, and cupping, with blisters to their heads, and sinapisms on their feet, aided by hydropathic douche and plunge baths, and accompanied with homoeopathic quantities of nourishment, would tame the greatest shrew that ever lived.”

Mr. Easyled, of Tennessee, said, “ There is an old provorb about bachelors’ wives being well managed—

‘As for my wife,
I would you had her spirit in such another:
Were the third of the world yours, with a snaffle
You may pace easy, bu t not such a wife.’

The measures that the learned physician proposes are easily suggested; but, I would ask, where is the man in this assembly who would have tho nerve to try them ? There is another old proverb that says, when you sup with a certain personage you should use a long apron; and, in this case, that precaution is very necessary. It was best to let the ladies have their own way. To quote the immortal bard again—

‘Should all despair
That have revolted wives, tho tenth of mankind
Would hang themselves.’

He would inform all present, from his own sad experience, that

‘He’s a fool who thinks, by force or skill,
To turn the current of a woman’s will;
For when she will, she will, you may depend on’t,
And when she won’t, she won’t, and there’s an end on’t.’”

Mr. Hoosier, from Indiana, u Didn’t want to ‘front nobody, but he.reckoned Mr. Whittle had said about the only sensible things he’d heerd that day, and them was his sentiments exactly. There was plenty for wimmen to do in the cabin, with mindin’ the children and keepin’ the pot a bilin’, and out of it with takin care of the cattle and the farm, while the men was hard at work shootin’ and fishin’. Corn-dodgers and cracklins was wimmen’s business, and just about as much, he reckoned, as they’d sense for. He, for one, didn’t feel afeerd of any of ’em.”

General Boanerges Bluster, from Kentucky, said, “He disagreed very much with Mr. Hoosier. He once heerd a Methodist minister tell what Heaven was like, and, after talkin’ a great deal about it, he said, ‘In short, brethren, it’s a Kentucky of a place!’ He reckoned, when he said that, he forgot the wimmen. In their State, where females was three-quarters bacon, and t’other quarter hominy, they was dangerous critters. General, as he was, of the milishy, and holdin’ a great many offices under government, he had to mind his wife, who was big enough to lick three of him. Last ‘lection he was candidate for Congress; and, just as he was makin’ a stump speech to his constichents, and was tollin’ ’em what a great soldier he was, and how he’d fou’t the Ingins under Harrison, and would be sure to stand up for their rights, ’cause he wa’n’t afeerd of nothin’, his woman walked up to him right cool, and, takin’ him off the platform, said to the people, This man’s a fool. I know it, ’cause I’m his wife. Ho an’t fit for nothin’ but to mind the house and take care of the children, while I go visitin’. I can’t spare him; and you must ‘lect the other candidate.’ He expected he felt about as mean as dog-pie, and sneaked off as soon as ho could; and everybody hurrahed for Mrs. Bluster, and said she should go to Congress. And, ever since, she’d done nothin’ but snub him, and had gone off to the wimmen’s meetin’ in spite of him; and ’twas her that said woman was better than man, ’cause he was made out of the raw materi’l, and she was made out of the manerfected;’ and he only hoped she wouldn’t find out where he was, or there’d be an orful time of it.”

Mr. Sucker, from Illinois, remarked, “ That it wa’n’t with his own will he was at this here meetin’; but, bein” lected, he had to come; and, as it was the season for shootin’ prairie hens, he wanted to be off agin. He didn’t want to make words himself, and hoped that other people would be short and sweet in what they had to say. As to Mrs. Sucker, she hadn’t the spirit of a mouse now, and, if she ever had, which he didn’t know, the fever and ager had shuck it all out of her. He reckoned about the best way he could tell ’em of, was to send all the wimmen where they’d catch it, and, if it didn’t end ’em, it would mend ’em.”

Captain Salt, of Nantucket, a veteran tar in a blue roundabout and glazed hat, rose, coolly took his quid out of his month, and, depositing it in his pocket, made the following short and pithy remarks: I an’t a reg’lar delergate to this here meetin’, soe-in’ as I’m pretty nearly all the time afloat; but, bein’ as I’m ashore just now, I thought I’d come and see how things was a purceedin’. I know all about whales, and have a pretty good notion of a vessel, but I don’t know nothin’ about a woman. Hows’ever, I’ve heerd them as did say she was like a ship, ’cause her riggin’ cost more than her hull. If so be that’s the case, why she’s easy manoovered. Keep a tight lookout for squalls, and, when you soe’em cornin’, reef your sails, scud before the storm, and, if she ‘s bent on goin’ down, take to the boats and leave her.”

Captain Salt sat down amid shouts of applause, with a very red face after his unwonted exertions, and an earnest request for a glass of grog; but, none being At hand, he contented himself with his quid.

Patrick O’Dougherty, of St. Louis, got up and said, “Jontlemen, this is my first appearance before the public since I left off being an Irishman, and became a native of this country, and I hope yees will excuse all blunders. I needn’t tell this enlightened meetin’ that, both as an Irishman and ‘Merikin, I love the purty cratures of wimmen, and, faith, I’m sorry they’ve got themselves in such a mess. St. Pathrick knows that, ‘with my friend and pitcher,’ my little Cruiskeen Lawn, and my Molly Astore, I could live all alone in a desert by myself, without any trouble; and sure never a one of me knows why ye can’t manage yeer wives. Trate ’em like an Irish pig : drive ’em the way you don’t want ’em to go, and they’ll take the right track in spite of you.”

Here Mr. O’Dougherty was interrupted by a considerable bustle in the hall. There was a great disturbance, and many gentlemen looked pale and anxious; but the excitement was allayed by the appearance of an Indian chief in his war paint, who stalked solemnly up to the platform, and spoke as follows:—

“My nation was once a great nation in the lands near the setting sun. It is now a poor, small tribe, that has sold its hunting-grounds to the Great Father, at Washington, for blankets and corn, and have sent me to have a talk with him. Waw-tu-nobow-te-ma-tu is a brave; his white brothers call him Big Bulldog, and know that he has many wives. While he smoked the calumet of peace with his Father, in the Grand Lodge at Washington, a little bird sung in his ear that bis white brothers had trouble in the wigwam with their squaws, and he has come to help them, for his heart feels heavy for them. Let my white brothers keep their women at work, hoeing corn, pounding hominy, drying venison, and minding papooses, and let them have but little to eat, and they will give them no more trouble. If they do, let my brothers take their scalps. I have said.” And, whirling his tomahawk over his head, Waw-tu-no-bow-te-ma-tu gave a shrill war-whoop, and, bounding off the platform, disappeared in the crowd.

Brass Blackstone, from the city of Brotherly Love, remarked, that he had listened with attention to the proceedings, and had heard with delight the eloquent speeches delivered on this interesting occasion. It was with the modest timidity so characteristic of a Philadelphia lawyer, that he should offer a few remarks on the subject that occupied them; and he hoped it would not be considered presumptuous in him if his views should differ from those hitherto advanced in the assemblage of talent and influence, with whom it was his high privilege this day to be associated. He had deeply sympathized with all the orators it had been his good fortune to hear on this exciting subject: he had, in turn, been thrilled with the surpassing eloquence of Mr. Husband, the resolute determination of Mr. Wumenheyter, the patriotism of Pinckney, the easy indifference of Mr. Whittle, the dignified hautour of Mr. Powhatan, the professional talent of Dr. Single-man, the commendable meekness of Mr. Easyled, the heroic submission of General Bluster, the laconic sense of Mr. Sucker, the maritime beauty of Captain Salt’s similes, the enthusiasm of Mr. O’Dougherty, and the sententious wisdom of Big Bulldog. For himself, he had always been, and should ever continue to be, an ardent admirer of the fair sex. He was proud to say that his mother was a woman—that his native city was distinguished for its devotion to the fairer part of creation. Now York might boast of its canals, its railroads, its banks, and its steamships, but Philadelphia gloried in its women. He could lay his band on his heart, and proudly assert that even this rebellion had not estranged his feelings—

‘Woman, with all thy faults, I love thee still!’

lie could even say, with the Irish bard—

‘Sweet book, unlike the books of art,
Whose errors are thy fairest part:
In thee, the dear errata column
Is the best page in all the volume.’

With these feelings, he was present on this occasion to interpose his humble abilities between them and danger. He acknowledged that his clients bad not evinced their usual sagacity in risking their quiet, but powerful influence over man, by endeavoring to grasp ‘what would not enrich themselves, but make us poor indeed. Why they had done so, was a question more easily asked than answered, and he should therefore not attempt to solve the enigma. It was his business to implore that nothing should be rashly attempted on this delicate occasion which might result in wounding the feelings of his fair clients. He would assure them a little skillful management would be more effectual than open demonstrations of hostility; and, should the suggestion he was about to offer prove successful, he asked no better reward, as a man and a lawyer, than the friendship of the sex. In his opinion,

‘Fee simple and a simple fee,
And all the fees in tall,
Are nothing when compared to the«v
Thou best of fees-—fe-male.’

Not to detain them longer in suspense, he advised that the gentlemen should fill their houses with looking-glasses, and give the ladies time for reflection

Mr. Blackstone received much applause for his suggestion; and Mr. Bowieknife, of Texas, who succeeded him, said, “I so fully agree with the gentleman from Philadelphia in his love for the sex, and in all the sentiments he has advanced, that I will only add, should the measure he has recommended fail to make peace, I hope all the ladies will come to Texas. We have hearts and arms for all of them.

‘If all other States reject ’em,
Ours will freely, gladly take ’em.’ ”

Mr. Placer, from California, remarked, “That ho was for no half-way measures. It was his opinion that all tho women ought to be seized and sent to California; it was a new country, and tho minors wanted wives. When they were once there, he thought they could be managed. Judge Lynch was an active man. Show them that there was only the difference of a letter between altar and halter, and, if they would not marry, why let them hang!”

Mr. J. P. Husband said, “lie had listened with astonishment to the proceedings of the day. He really thought that, for all tho good that had been done or suggested, gentlemen might as well have staid at home. He had a few words still to offer on the subject, which he hoped they would hear with patience. Among other things, he had prepared a list of all tho bad women who had ever existed.” Hero Mr. Wumenheyter remarked, “That he must remind the gentleman time was precious; and, as all women who had ever existed were bad, Mr. Husband had better mention only the worst of them, among whom he must not forget his (Mr. W.’s) throe wives.”

Mr. Husband was so disconcerted at this interruption, that he forgot what he had to say, and could only remember that bis list begun with Eve, and ended with the present generation. “I see clearly, gentlemen,” continued he, that no one enters so warmly into this subject as myself. Well, be it so. I am ready to fall a martyr in such a cause; find I here solemnly declare that no obstacle shall induce me to swerve from the path that duty marks out for me to follow. I will make every endeavor to extirpate this vile heresy among tho women. I will immolate myself on tho altar of my country. I will sacrifice my domestic affections on its shrine —Mrs. Husband herself”——

“Here I am, my dear 1” said a sharp voice, and a small, thin, vinegar-faced lady entered the room, and walked up to the platform, at the head of a numerous procession of females. “My love,” continued she, “it is late; I am afraid you will take cold. Hadn’t you better come home?”

“If you think so, my dear, certainly,” replied Mr. Husband, turning pale, and trembling so he could scarcely stand, perceiving which, his wife affectionately offered him her arm. Mr. Easyled meekly obeyed an imperative gesture from Mrs. Easyled, and Mrs. Bluster picked up the general, who had fainted, and carried him out in her arms.

Exeunt omnes, in wild confusion.

Godeys-1890

Feature image of Independence Hall from Wikipedia Commons.

Nathanson and Young on gynocentric feminism

Excerpts from the Nathanson and Young Misandry Trilogy

Legalizing mis

“Feminist calls for equality, or even equity, sound at first like nothing other than calls for justice. Lurking just below the surface, though, is often the call for gynocentrism. Whatever its underlying motivation, gynocentrism has already been institutionalized, either directly or indirectly, in laws or interpretations of them, constitutional amendments or interpretations of them, and bureaucracies at every level of government. The rhetoric has functioned like that of motherhood. Who would ever oppose that in public? Equality is not only the legitimate expression of egalitarian feminism, therefore, but also the ideal front for ideological feminism. Not only are students exposed to gynocentric indoctrination, but so are legislators, judges, bureaucrats, corporate managers, and employees.” [p. 116]

“Systemic gynocentric bias has led to more than a demand for quotas, usually known as “targets.” It has led also to a demand for social and cultural revolution. Ideological feminists measure progress according to a “female standard” and in view of “female knowledge.” Ideological feminists denounce equality of opportunity, insisting on equality of result. Ignoring the fact that the former has been greatly modified over the past thirty years to suit women, they claim that modifying it has prevented a critique of what they believe is the “phallocentricity” of knowledge. Women have nothing to learn or gain, in other words, from the experience of men.” [p. 116]

“[Gynocentrism] is a worldview based on the implicit or explicit belief that the world revolves around women. It is therefore the counterpart of androcentrism, a worldview based on the implicit or explicit belief that the world revolves around men. Our point was that gynocentrism has become de rigueur behind the scenes in law courts and government bureaucracies, which has resulted in systemic discrimination against men. “ [p. 309]

“Misandry and gynocentrism are not necessarily linked at all. People can be preoccupied with their own needs and interests without denying those of other people, much less hating them…. But wait. Even though misandry is not an inherent feature of gynocentrism, it is an inherent possibility (just as misogyny is an inherent possibility of androcentrism). If the world revolves around women, then it follows that nonwomen –which is to say, men- are irrelevant except for the purposes of sexual pleasure or reproduction. All it takes to produce misandry is the ideological proposition that “they” are not merely irrelevant, but inadequate or evil.” [p. 310]

Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, Legalizing Misandry, 2006
______________

“Gynocentrism is a form of essentialism – as distinct from scholarship or political activity on behalf of women- to the extent that it focuses on the innate virtues of women. But this worldview is explicitly misandric too, because it not only ignores the needs and problems of men but also attacks men. Misandry is a form of dualism that focuses on the innate vices of men. In this moral or even ontological hierarchy , women are at the top and men are at the bottom.” [p. 58]

Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson, Sanctifying Misandry, 2010

Feminism: gynocentric or egalitarian?

Editor’s note: The pollowing post appeared on the ‘Alas‘ blog in 2009 and is repeated here as a qualifier of the difference between gynocentric and egalitarian feminism. The definition is a good first attempt to capture the essence of something which is pervasive within feminism. It is hypothetically possible to eschew all of the gynocentric criteria, while still being a feminist recognised by other feminists, though their number, if they exist, must be very small indeed.

Feminism: gynocentric or egalitarian?
By Ballgame (2009)

Superiority of women

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clear up what I’m guessing is probably a common misconception about the terms, “gynocentric feminist” and “egalitarian feminist.” The terms are not intended as descriptions of the particular feminist’s focus of discussion or activism. A woman could be focused entirely on preserving women’s right to access abortion … and be an egalitarian feminist. A man could be focused on male bonding a la Robert Bly and yet still be a gynocentric feminist.

The terms actually get at the principles of the feminist in question. If a feminist believes that men are universally privileged by gender and women are not, or that women have inherently superior insights into questions of gender than men, or that women are entitled to define the terms of gender discussions and that men must ‘check their privilege’ before entering into those discussions (and women don’t have to check theirs), or believes that men oppressing other men is an example of men ‘oppressing themselves’ (or other similar ‘men are Borg’ type notions), or has a habit of vilifying reasonable and respectful critics of feminist misandry, then that person is a gynocentric feminist.

If, on the other hand, a feminist believes that both men and women are oppressed by gender, and believes that everyone struggling against gender oppression deserves respect (regardless of which gender’s oppression they’re working against), then that person would more likely be an egalitarian feminist. (I say “more likely” because I’m tired and I suspect my ‘egalitarian’ definition here is probably pretty incomplete.)

Gynocentrism and its Discontents

by Hugh Ristik (2007)

Woman_at_a_Mirror__1907
 

Feminism and gynocentrism

 

Feminism focuses on women. It focuses on women’s perspectives, interests, rights, and victimization. In other words, it is gynocentric (literally, “woman-centered”). And there is nothing inherently wrong with that. That being said, there are ways in which gynocentrism can go horribly wrong.

I am starting a series of posts on gynocentrism from the premise that feminism is gynocentric, either by the definitions that feminists give, or by their works. If the gynocentric nature of feminism isn’t obvious to everyone, then I’m happy to back up.

Types of gynocentrism

Feminism didn’t invent gynocentrism. There is a heavily gynocentric tinge to some versions of paternalism and conservative attitudes that focus on protecting women. Feminism, however, took gynocentrism to a new level. Feminists not only focused on women’s victimization, they also focus on women’s perspective and experience. (One possible exception is postmodern versions of feminism that explicitly deny the meaningfulness of the category “Woman.” Aside from finding these versions of feminism to play dishonest semantic games, my intuition is that they engage in their own covert forms of gynocentrism.)

In What Good is Gynocentrism, I argued that feminist gynocentrism isn’t inherently unjust, and that it can have the side-effect of benefitting men. In this post, I discuss how the ways that feminists’ focus on women’s interests can be problematic. There is a short distance between focusing on women’s interests, and marginalizing men’s interests. Feminists often step over this line. As Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young argue, “even though misandry is not an inherent feature of gynocentrism, it is an inherent possibility.”1

I’m not saying that all, or necessary most feminists step over the line; I make no speculation about the proportion of feminists who fall into misandric versions of gynocentrism. I’m more interested in criticizing those versions when they appear.

How could gynocentrism go wrong?

Gynocentrism, as practiced by feminism2, entails a focus on women’s experiences, rights, needs, and victimization. That is because women have experienced—and currently experience—violations of their rights, denial of their human needs, and victimization at the hands of males, of each other, and of society.

Once feminist women figured out all the ways that women were getting the short end of the stick, they were justifiably pissed off. They concluded that they were oppressed, and that men were privileged. Many feminists went even further, and saw men as the “oppressor class” towards women. The ways in which men were getting the short end of the stick were typically not considered.

The odious “comparative suffering” argument

And here is where gynocentrism started going wrong. These feminist women were correct to identify victimization, denial of rights, and oppression of women. The mistake was in concluding that in general, men were “less” disadvantaged in society than women, simply because men weren’t necessarily disadvantaged in the ways that women were. This conclusion presupposes some metric or scale on which women’s disadvantages weigh heavier.

However, to weigh one thing against another, you need to know the weight of both. Yet feminists only had an idea of the weight of women’s victimization. Since, as part of gynocentrism, they examined only women’s experiences, and not men’s experiences, they had no idea of what disadvantages, harms, and violations of rights that men were experiencing. This ignorance did not stop those feminists. They placed women’s oppression on one side of the scale, watched the balance tip, and concluded that women’s oppression weighed heavier. Men’s oppression never made it onto the scale.

Nathanson and Young have called this attitude “comparative suffering,” and indepedently, Daran called it the “Odious Comparison.”

Dualism

Through their gynocentric lens, feminists figured out that women were suffering, and that the agents of that suffering were often male. Yet some of these feminists committed two fallacies. The first fallacy was to assume that if men were oppressors under the gender system, they could not be oppressed by it. The second fallacy was to paint men in general as victimizers and abusers of women. The attitude towards men became very dualistic; as Nathanson and Young argue:

The worldview of ideological feminism, like that of both Marxism and National Socialism—our analogies are between ways of thinking, not between specific ideas—is profoundly dualistic. In effect, “we” (women) are good, “they” (men) are evil. Or, to use the prevalent lingo, “we” are victims, “they” are oppressors.”3

The focus of feminism

In this way, gynocentrism slid into the tendencies for some feminists to focus on the experience, needs, and victimization of women, along with the oppressiveness, privileges, violence, and sexism of men. Simultaneously, this type of feminist discourse ignored or downplayed the experience, needs, and victimization of men, along with the oppressiveness, privileges, violence, and sexism of women.

But what is wrong with this focus? The experience of women is important. Women are victimized in society (regardless of agreement with specific feminist claims of victimization). Men do have (some) unjust privileges over women. Some men victimize women. Since all of that is true, what could be the problem with pointing it out?

The answer is that there isn’t one. The problem is not inherently with the gynocentric focus of feminism. The root of the problem is the content of feminism, which causes the gynocentric focus of feminism to become a problem.

————————

  1. Nathanson, P., & Young, K. (2006). Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, p. 310.[]
  2. By “feminism,” I mean feminists who don’t identify themselves as “equity feminists,” “egalitarian feminists,” or “individualist feminists.” These dissident feminists tend to not be gynocentric, and have fundamentally different philosophical and epistemological assumptions to other feminists. Mainstream feminists tend to dispute that dissident feminists are really feminists, which only underscores how gynocentric mainstream feminism is.[]
  3. Nathanson, P., & Young, K. (2006). Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Cultureen. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, p. xii.[]

Editor’s note: The first two sections above “Feminism and gynocentrism” and “Types of gynocentrism” are from the author’s longer piece What Good is Gynocentrism, and serve here as an abridged preamble to his article Gynocentrism and its Discontents. [I was unable to find a contact email for the author, but he is welcome to contact me if he has any concerns about the above reproduction]

MGTOW: 12th century style

Middle Ages Europe is widely considered the birthplace of ‘protofeminism’ – the forerunner to modern feminism. At that time a chaplain named Andreas Capellanus, whom we might consider the first antifeminist and ‘MGTOW’ of the period, wrote a book describing the escalating problem of female avarice, manipulativeness, narcissism, underserved sense of entitlement, and hypergamy. Interestingly, Andreas links all these problems with the birth of courtly love – the subject of his book – and recommends all men learn to reject romantic relationships with women and “trample under your foot all of its rules.”

While the piece is written in anger at the emerging gynocentric culture, it contains truths that echo much of what MGTOW are reacting to today – in particular the world’s encouragement, protection and enforcement of female hypergamy. The following is an excerpt from Capellanus’ amazing work. PW
 

The Art of Courtly Love
By Andreas Capellanus (1174)

Andeas_bookThe mutual love which you seek in women you cannot find, for no woman ever loved a man or could bind herself to a lover in the mutual bonds of love. For a woman’s desire is to get rich through love, but not to give her lover the solaces that please him. Nobody ought to wonder at this, because it is natural. According to the nature of their sex all women are spotted with the vice of a grasping and avaricious disposition, and they are always alert and devoted to the search for money or profit. I have travelled through a great many parts of the world, and although I made careful inquiries I could never find a man who would say that he had discovered a woman who, if a thing was not offered to her, would not demand it insistently and would not hold off from falling in love unless she got rich gifts in one way or another. But even though you have given a woman innumerable presents, if she discovers that you are less attentive about giving her things than you used to be, or if she learns that you have lost your money, she will treat like a perfect stranger who has come from some other country, and everything you do will bore her or annoy her. You cannot find a woman who will love you so much or be so constant to you that if somebody else comes to her and offers her presents she will be faithful to her love.

Women have so much avarice that generous gifts break down all the barriers of their virtue. If you come with open hands, no women will let you go away without that which you seek; while if you don’t promise to give them a great deal, you needn’t come to them and ask for anything. Even if you are distinguished by royal honors, but bring no gifts with you, you will get absolutely nothing from them; you will be turned away from their doors in shame. Because of their avarice all women are thieves, and we say they carry purses. You cannot find a woman of such lofty station or blessed with such honor or wealth that an offer of money will not break down her virtue, and there is no man, no matter how disgraced and low-born he is, who cannot seduce her if he has great wealth. This is so because no woman ever has enough money – just as no drunkard ever thinks he has had enough to drink. Even if the whole earth and sea were turned to gold, they could hardly satisfy that avarice of a woman.

Furthermore, not only is every woman by nature a miser, but she is also envious and a slanderer of other women, greedy, a slave to her belly, inconstant, fickle in her speech, disobedient and impatient of restraint, spotted with the sin of pride and desirous of vainglory, a liar, a drunkard, a babbler, no keeper of secrets, too much given to wantonness, prone to every evil, and never loving any man in her heart.

Now woman is a miser, because there isn’t a wickedness in the world that men can think of that she will not boldly indulge in for the sake of money, and, even if she has an abundance she will not help anyone who is in need. You can more easily scratch a diamond with your fingernail than you can by any human ingenuity get a woman to consent to giving you any of her savings. Just as Epicurus believed that the highest good lay in serving the belly, so a woman thinks that the only things worth while in this world are riches and holding on to what she has. You can’t find any woman so simple and foolish that she is unable to look out for her own property with a greedy tenacity, and with great mental subtlety get hold of the possessions of someone else. Indeed, even a simple woman is more careful about selling a single hen than the wisest lawyer is in deeding away a great castle. Furthermore, no woman is ever so violently in love with a man that she will not devote all her efforts to using up his property. You will find that this rule never fails and admits of no exceptions.

That every woman is envious is also found to be a general rule, because a woman is always consumed with jealousy over another woman’s beauty, and she loses all her pleasure in what she has. Even if she knows that it is the beauty of her own daughter that is being praised, she can hardly avoid being tortured by hidden envy. Even the neediness and the great poverty of the neighbour women seem to her abundant in wealth and riches, so that we think of the old proverb which says, “the crop in the neighbour’s field is always more fertile, and your neighbour’s cow has a larger udder,” seems to refer to the female sex without question. It can hardly come to pass that one woman will praise the good character or the beauty of another, and if she should happen to do so, the next minute she adds some qualification that undoes all she has said in her praise.

And so it follows that woman is a slanderer, because slander can only spring from envy and hate. That is a rule that women do not want to break; she prefers to keep it unbroken. It is not easy to find a woman whose tongue can ever spare anybody or who can keep from words of detraction. Every woman thinks that by running down others she adds to her own praise and increases her own reputation – a fact which shows very clearly to everybody that women have very little sense. For all men agree to hold it as a general rule that words of dispraise only hurt the person who utters them, and they detract from the esteem in which he is held; but no woman on this account keeps from speaking evil and attacking the reputation of good people, and so I think we can insist that no woman is really wise. Qualities that a wise man has are wholly foreign to a woman, because she believes, without thinking, everything she hears, and she is very free about insisting on being praised, and she does a great many other unwise things which it would be tedious for me to enumerate.

The feminine sex is also commonly tainted by arrogance, for a woman, when incited by that, cannot keep her keep her tongue or her hands from crimes or abuse, but in her anger she commits all sorts of outrages. Moreover, if anybody tries to restrain an angry woman, he will tire himself out with a vain labor, for you cannot keep her from her evil designs or soften her arrogance of soul. Any woman is incited to wrath by a mild enough remark of little significance and indeed at times by nothing at all; and her arrogance grows to tremendous proportions; and as far as I can recall no one ever saw a woman who could restrain it.

Commons_image_MedievalFurthermore every woman seems to despise all other women – a thing which we know comes from pride. No person could despise another unless he looked down upon him because of pride. Besides, every woman, not only a young one but even the old and decrepit, strives with all her might to exalt her own beauty; this can come only from pride, as the wise man said very clearly when he said, “There is arrogance in everybody and pride follows beauty.” Therefore it is perfectly clear that women can never have perfectly good characters, because, as they say, “A remarkable character is soiled by an admixture of pride.”

Every woman is also loud-mouthed, since no one of them can keep her tongue from abuses, and even if she loses a single egg she will keep up a clamor all day like a barking dog, and she will disturb the whole neighbourhood over a trifle. When she is with other women, no one of them will give the others a chance to speak, but each always tries to be the one to say whatever is to be said and to keep on talking longer than the rest; and neither her tongue nor her spirit ever gets tired of talking. A woman will boldly contradict everything you say, and she can never agree with anything, but she always tries to give her opinion on every subject.

No woman is attached to her lover or bound to her husband with such pure devotion that she will not accept another lover, especially if a rich one comes along, which shows the wantonness as well as the great avarice of a woman. There isn’t a woman in this world so constant and so bound by pledges that, if a lover of pleasures comes along and with skill and persistence invites her to the joys of love, she will reject his entreaties – at any rate if he does a good deal of urging. No woman is an exception to this rule either. So you can see what we ought to think of a woman who is in fortunate circumstances and is blessed with an honourable lover or the finest of husbands, and yet lusts after some other man. But that is precisely what women do who are too much troubled with wantonness.

Indeed, a woman does not love a man with her whole heart, because there is not one of them who keeps faith with her husband or her lover; when another man comes along, you will find that her faithfulness wavers. For a woman cannot refuse gold or silver or any other gifts that are offered her, nor can she on that account deny the solaces of her body when they are asked for. But since the woman knows that nothing so distresses her lover as to have her grant these to some other man, you can see how much affection she has for a man when, out of greed for gold or silver, she will give herself to a stranger or a foreigner and has no shame about upsetting her lover so completely and shattering the jewel of her own good faith. Moreover, no woman has such strong bond of affection for a lover that if he ceases to woo her with presents she will not become luke-warm about her customary solaces and quickly become like a stranger to him.

Avoid love and trample under foot all of its rules:

It doesn’t seem proper, therefore, for any prudent man to fall in love with any woman, because she never keeps faith with any man. Everybody knows that she ought to be spurned for the innumerable weighty reasons already given. Therefore it is not advisable, my respected friend, for you to waste your days on love, which for all the reasons already given we agree ought to be condemned. For if it deprives you of the grace of the Heavenly King, and costs you every real friend, and it takes away all the honors of this world as well as every breath of praiseworthy reputation, and greedily swallows up all your wealth, and is followed by every sort of evil. As has already been said, why should you, like a fool, seek for love, or what good can you get from it that will repay you for all these disadvantages? That which above all you seek in love – the joy of having your love returned – you can never obtain, as we have already shown, no matter how hard you try, because no woman ever returns a man’s love. Therefore if you will examine carefully all the things that go to make up love, you will see clearly that there are conclusive reasons why a man is bound to avoid it with all his might and to trample under foot all its rules.

If you will study carefully this little treatise of ours and understand it completely and practice what it teaches, you will see clearly that no man ought to mis-spend his days in the pleasures of love. If you abstain from it, the Heavenly King will be more favorably disposed toward you in every respect, and you will be worthy to have all prosperous success in this world and to fulfill all praiseworthy deeds and the honorable desires of your heart, and in the world to come to have glory and life everlasting.

Source

The Art of Courtly Love, by Andreas Capellanus, written in 1174, Translated by John Parry in 1941; Excerpt is from pp. 200-211

Box 1

● The image above shows a golden casket from the Middle Ages depicting scenes of servile male behaviour typical of the emerging culture of courtly love. Such objects were given to women as gifts by men seeking to impress. (Note the woman standing with hands on hips in a position of authority, and the man in blue being led around by a yoke or leash in a position of subservience).