WOMEN IN MODERN HISTORY:

COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS AND HOW WOMEN HAVE

ATTEMPTED TO SURPASS THEM

COMMON ATTITUDES OF MEN TOWARDS WOMEN

MISOGYNY­ literally hatred, or distrust of women. The concept is as old as the Greeks who coined the term and, no doubt, a good deal older.

RELIGIO MEDICI­ a book published in 1642 that expounded Thomas Browne's attitudes.

"The whole world was made for man; but the twelfth part of man for women: man is the whole world, and the breath of God; women the rib and crooked piece of man."

*NOTE­ equality among the sexes continued to appear an eccentric notion for a long time after 1405. Forest murmurs of female emancipation are scarcely to be heard until the eighteenth century, explicit arguments in favor of it only surface in the nineteenth century. The Enlightenment did revive certain Renaissance ideas, not least that of female access to wisdom and virtue. Of greater importance was the fact that among the upper classes, influence and status depended more on birth (and wealth) than on sex.

WOMEN PROMOTERS FOR EQUALITY AND THEIR NEMESIS

LOUIS SEBASTIAN MERCIER ­ published in 1770 a utopian novel about what Paris life would be like in the year 2440:

The Bastille has been replaced by a temple dedicated to Clemency; religion is rational, and the Supreme Being is worshipped in a temple roofed with glass, through which His creation can be appreciated better than through stone arches; politics and economics are rational and just, with no one idle and no one exploited; libraries, public and private, have been expurgated, corrupted or worldly works burnt, history banned altogether. Marriage customs, too, have altered, with love the only basis for a union, dowries abolished and divorce legalized. But the fate of the women has scarcely improved. Mercier is sentimental, moralizing, and pretentious. His portrait of women in an ideal age reflects his intellectual standards, which would be those of several generations.

OLYMPE DE GOUGES­ wrote a Declaration of the Rights of Women in 1791. It came to nothing. Its author died under the guillotine two years later, not for her feminism, but for having taken the defense of the king, Louis XVI. Following are the first three articles of the preamble of the Declaration of the Rights of Women:

ARTICLE I­ Woman is born free and lives equal to man in her rights. Social distinctions can be based only on the common utility.

ARTICLE II­ The purpose of any political association is the conservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of women and man; these rights are liberty, property, security, and especially resistance to oppression.

ARTICLE III­ The principle of all sovereignty rests essentially with the nation, which is nothing but the union of women and man; no body and no individual can exercise any authority which does not come expressly from it [the nation].

PETITION DES FAMMES DU TIERS­ written in 1789 by the women of the French Revolution.

" We ask for Enlightenment and jobs, not to usurp man's authority, but to rise in their esteem and to have the means of living safe from misfortune."

EMMANEUL SIEYES­ spokesman for the third estate during the French Revolution wrote:

"Woman, at least as things now stand, children, foreigners, in short those who contribute nothing to the public establishment, should have no direct influence on the government."

MARY WOLLENSTONECRAFT wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792.

"Women are told from their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of propriety, will obtain for them the protection of man, and should they be beautiful, everything else is needless, for, at least, twenty years of their lives. Youth is the season for love in both sexes, but in those days of thoughtless enjoyment provision should be made for the more important years of life, when reflection takes the place of sensation... The woman who has been taught to please will soon find that her charms are oblique sunbeams, and that they cannot have much effect on her husband's heart when they are seen every day, when the summer is passed and gone. Will she then have sufficient native energy to look into herself for comfort, and cultivate her dormant faculties?"

A. WALKER­ wrote in 1840 Woman Physiologically Considered as to Mind, Morals, Marriage, Matrimonial Slavery, Infidelity, Divorce.

"It is evident that the man, possessing reasoning faculties, muscular power, and courage to employ it, is qualified of being a protector; the woman, being little capable of reasoning, feeble, and timid, requires protection. Under such circumstances, the man naturally governs; the woman as naturally obeys... It would be as rational to contend for man's rights to bear children, as it is to argue for woman's participation in philosophy or legislation."

JOHN STUART MILL ­ wrote The Subjection of Women in 1869.

"...We may safely assert that the knowledge which men can acquire of women, even as they have been and are, without reference to what they might be, is wretchedly imperfect and superficial, and always will be so, until women themselves have told all that they have to tell."

CHARLES DARWIN­ confirmed the conclusion that the on average the female incline to passivity, the males to activity. In his view, males are stronger, handsomer, or more emotional, because ancestral forms happened to become so in a slight degree. In other words, the reward of breeding success gradually perpetuated and perfected a casual advantage.

SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR­ wrote The Second Sex in 1949. In it he traced the role of women in societies that kept them dependent, married, pregnant, tied to children, home and men.

"Men control society, condemn women to secondary status, and prevent them from becoming autonomous individuals capable of claiming equality with them."

LETTER ON WOMEN­ written by the Catholic Church in 1988. The Church remains one of the great institutions with a say on women's image and self­image.

"Women not only continue to carry the bulk of everyday work in the parish; they are also renewing the church's traditions of feminine spirituality as a source of inspiration and growth. Women of scripture and recognized saints are important in their personal and spiritual renewal."