Jane Anger: gynocentrism in 1589

The following quotes written by ‘Jane Anger’, sixteenth century female English author on the subject of men’s imperfections – PW.

Untitled“Wee are contrary to men, because they are contrarie to that which is good: because they are spurblind, they cannot see into our natures, and we too well (though we had but halfe an eie) into their conditions, because they are so bad: our behaviours alter daily, because mens vertues decay hourely. If Hesiodus had with equity as well looked into the life of man, as he did presisely search out the qualities of us women, he would have said, that if a woman trust unto a man, it shal fare as well with her, as if she had a waight of a thousand pounds tied about her neck, and then cast into the bottomles seas: for by men are we confounded though they by us are sometimes crossed.

Our tongues are light, because earnest in reprooving mens filthy vices, and our good counsel is termed nipping injurie, in that it accordes not with their foolish fancies. Our boldnesse rash, for giving Noddies nipping answeres, our dispositions naughtie, for not agreeing with their vilde mindes, and our furie dangerous, because it will not beare with their knavish behaviours. If our frownes be so terrible, and our anger so deadly, men are too foolish in offering occasions of hatred, which shunned, a terrible death is prevented.

There is a continuall deadly hatred betweene the wilde boare and tame hounds, I would there were the like betwixt women and men unles they amend their maners, for so strength should predominate, where now flattery and dissimulation hath the upper hand. The Lion rageth when he is hungrie, but man raileth when he is glutted. The Tyger is robbed of her young ones, when she is ranging abroad, but men rob women of their honour undeservedlye under their noses. The Viper stormeth when his taile is trodden on, & may not we fret when al our bodie is a footstoole to their vild lust: their unreasonable mindes which knowe not what reason is, make them nothing better then bruit beastes.”

“The creation of man and woman at the first, hee being formed In principio of drosse and filthy clay, did so remaine until God saw that in him his workmanship was good, and therfore by the transformation of the dust which was loathsome unto flesh, it became purified. Then lacking a help for him, GOD making woman of mans fleshe, that she might bee purer then he, doth evidently showe, how far we women are more excellent then men.

Our bodies are fruitefull, wherby the world encreaseth, and our care wonderful, by which man is preserved. From woman sprang mans salvation. A woman was the first that beleeved, & a woman likewise the first that repented of sin. In women is onely true Fidelity: (except in her) there is constancie, and without her no Huswifery. In the time of their sicknes we cannot be wanted, & when they are in health we for them are most necessary. They are comforted by our means: they nourished by the meats we dresse: their bodies freed from diseases by our cleanlines, which otherwise would surfeit unreasonably through their own noisomnes. Without our care they lie in their beds as dogs in litter, & goe like lowsie Mackarell swimming in the heat of sommer.

They love to go hansomly in their apparel, and rejoice in the pride thereof, yet who is the cause of it, but our carefulnes, to see that every thing about them be curious. Our virginitie makes us vertuous, our conditions curteous, & our chastitie maketh our truenesse of love manifest. They confesse we are necessarie, but they would have us likewise evil. That they cannot want us I grant: yet evill I denie: except onely in the respect of man, who (hating all good things, is onely desirous of that which is ill, through whose desire, in estimation of conceit we are made ill.

But least some shuld snarle on me, barking out this reason: that none is good but God, and therfore women are ill. I must yeeld that in that respect we are il, & affirm that men are no better, seeing we are so necessarie unto them. It is most certain, that if we be il, they are worse: for Malum malo additum efficit malum peius: & they that use il worse then it shold be, are worse then the il. And therefore if they wil correct Magnificat, they must first learn the signification therof. That we are liberal, they wil not deny sithence that many of them have (ex confessio) received more kindnes in one day at our hands, then they can repay in a whole yeare: & some have so glutted themselves with our liberality as they cry No more. But if they shal avow that women are fooles, we may safely give them the lie: for my selfe have heard some of them confesse that we have more wisdome then need is, & therfore no fooles: & they lesse then they shold have, & therfore fooles.

It hath bene affirmed by some of their sex, that to shun a shower of rain, & to know the way to our husbands bed is wisedome sufficient for us women: but in this yeare of 88, men are grown so fantastical, that unles we can make them fooles, we are accounted unwise. And now (seeing I speake to none but to you which are of mine owne Sex,) give me leave like a scoller to proove our wisdome more excellent then theirs, though I never knew what sophistry ment.

Ther is no wisdome but it comes by grace, this is a principle, & Contra principium non est disputandum: but grace was first given to a woman, because to our lady: which premises conclude that women are wise. Now Primum est optimum, & therefore women are wiser then men. That we are more witty which comes by nature, it cannot better be prooved, then that by our answers, men are often droven to Non plus, & if their talk be of worldly affaires, with our resolutions they must either rest satisfied, or proove themselves fooles in the end.”