Should Women Be Men?

BENGE ATLEE September 15 1934

Should Women Be Men?

BENGE ATLEE September 15 1934

Should Women Be Men?


THIS MAY NOT be the best of all possible worlds, but unquestionably it is a man’s world. Man made it—institutions, laws, economies—man continues to dominate it. “Manly” and “virile” are heroic adjectives, and to designate one “an old woman” is a major reproach. We still cry with Milton: “He for God only, she for God in him.” Even little boys suffer humiliation when left too long in girlish clothes, while little girls dress eagerly as boys. It would serve no useful purjx>se here to enquire into the psychological reasons that have brought us to look upon the male virtues as superior to the female; the attitude of mind is present and we might as well accept it. In spite of an increasing feminine freedom that has gone all the way to universal suffrage, it continues to exist and to bear down heavily on our sisters.

Is proof of this required? Then why has Canada but one woman M.P., but one Senatoress? Why do the churches still refuse to ordain female priests and jxtrsons, the courts to provide female judges only for juveniles? Why during this depression have married women been thrown ruthlessly out of jobs to make way for unemployed men? Why have single women to fight against such severe odds to gain the highest executive positions where only those of the most outstanding ability and endurance can succeed? And why do all women in business consistently receive less recompense than men for doing precisely the same work, for accepting precisely the same responsibilities? On what other grounds than a widespread belief that women are inferior; that, in fact, this is a man’s world? On none, my sisters !

That type of sentimentalist who plunges heavily on flowers on Mother’s Day—a commercial institution—will interject here that I am all wet. “We respect and honor womanhood, ’ he will protest vigorously. “We place it on a pedestal above us. The virtuous woman is God’s noblest creature.”

That, in a world where deeds have always sjx^ken louder than words, is so much boloney, and like the wind in empty spaces signifies nothing. If we really honored and respected women we would unhesitatingly put them in our high places, our Houses of Parliament, our benches, our pulpits. ; nd “ a virtuous woman is the noblest of God’s creatures, low comes it that the word “virtuous”—unless my Latin has gone cock-eyed—originally meant “manly”? No, no!

e may love our women, we may pity them, we may go ma over them in the green light of the moon, but we do no them. This thing we kid ourselves into thinking

is respect is the gilt we have manufactured out of a mushy sen imentality, and we plaster the gilt over a statue which we ee at heart to be imperfect, merely to save us the pain

of acknowledging that such inferior beings are the mothers of the race; in short, as a sop to our vanity.

Women Are Dissatisfied

"DUT THE real pr;x>f of my contention that this is a man’s world is the dissatisfactions which ambitious and intelligent women exjx;rience with regard to their lot in it. One has but to talk briefly to this tyjxi of woman to realize that the situation is thwarting her ego. If in business, she is all t;x> conscious of the insecurity and ephemerality of her status. Not only is she the first to go when jobs are being cut down, and often before men less efficient; not only is the work of her hand held at a constant discount compared to her brother’s; but she is denied all the high places in the sun. If she marries she must, in most cases, give up the career to which she has devoted earnest training and serious work and retire to the home which in a modem world has become more and more of a place in which merely to sleep and eat. She must leave in full flight a way of life for which she has ardently prepara! herself, and commence another for which she has no training and to which she has been betrayed by her biologic urge.

The intelligent and ambitious woman is dissatisfied with both careers, business as well as the home. In the one she feels that she is handicapjx'd solely because she is a woman; the other lacks the exciting and dramatic contacts of the wider world and is unable to absorb the fullness of her energies, which must find their completer outlet in the Daughters of the Empire, the Junior League, and such other activities. In any case she feels that she has traded a chance to journey to Jerusalem for a mess of potage, has yielded the diadem for the diaper.

This trading of careers is the horn of a dilemma on which all ambitious and intelligent women are tossed. Study the progression of such a one. She gfx*s to school, where she is taught the things that boys are taught to make them men. She goes to college and receives no other instruction than how to think like a man. She goes then into a man’s world to do a man’s work; she puts her shoulder strenuously to the wheel and then what? A man apjx-ars with that dewy look in his eye. Even those women who protest most valiantly that theirs is to be a solo flight may lx.’ betrayed into matrimony.

A psychological state arises out of this uncertainty that does not seem to me to have been given sufficient study by our savants, but which militates against women making their utmost contribution to the economic world. It is a sort of baffled sense of cui bono what's the use? Why struggle too hard toward Jerusalem if one may never get any farther than Bethlehem?

A woman may be quite unconscious of this feeling, or’ conscious of it, may fight against it making any difference; but always there is present this possibility of being stopped in full flight. Such a psychological state can no more help showing itself in a lack of the fullest effort, than life in a barnyard can develop wings more jx>tent than a hen’s. Not that way did eagles learn to scratch the floors of heaven.

Something Must he Done

VXTLLL, HERE we have the eaglet thrust into the barnW yard and her wings clip|>ed henlike. What's wrong with the barnyard? What’s wrong with the home that ambitious and intelligent women should !>• dissatisfied with its labors? Ambition calls to women as it docs to men to make a contribution that will influence the widest ix>ssib!e circle of humanity. There is in all of us this insistent urge to let our light shine lx*fore men. But the light that shines in a home is a light hidden Ix tween four walls if you like, under a bushel. If ambitious women are to remain content in the home they must subjugate this most human desire to excel before a whole world a tiling obviously imjxmible. Thus dissatisfaction; thus the envies of the hen watching the eagle.

For those women, then, whose homes jx*r force absorb practically all their energies there is this sense of restriction. Women of the better-to-do classes, however, are not required to devote their entire time to home and children. They are able to hire, and do hire, help in the care of both. 'Eliis tyjx; of woman, often the liest educated, has time on her hands in itself a jxitent breeder of dissatisfaction. She may go out into the economic world and take a job with her menfolk and spinster sisters. She may become a novelist, a painter, a musician. This group is a small one; a very small one. The vast majority of semi-leisured married women have, as available outlets to their starved egos and unrequited ambitions, very little else but the Junior League sort of thing.

Or they can eschew ambition and drown themselves with the majority, the disenchanted, in a bridge-playing, teaor cocktail-drinking, gossiping existence that represents a complete surrender to the jxnvers of darkness. Many accept this alternative, not lx-cause they desire it but because they are forced to it through sheer lack of other ojiportunity; and in any case it is the easiest way. But even in her social life a woman moves in a restricted and somewhat bleak circle, unanimated by any profounder dynamic than a desire to kill time. Perhaps men’s social contacts are no different in kind. Men also sit and gossip at their clubs over alcohol and tea and cards. But their gossip has a more dynamic underflow, is so often concerned with their business, the community’s business, with jxjlitics and economics; their social contacts are so often built on an economic necessity that lends them reality.

Here, then, is the situation in which modern woman finds Continued on page 49

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herself. Those who, with or without a home of their own, are out in the man’s world holding down a man’s job, are at a disadvantage because of their sex. Those who, remaining at home, seek an outlet in the philanthropic clubs, become at the best mere amateurs at life. Those who give themselves up frankly to the petty social round become killers of time, death-seekers. Those whose energies are entirely taken up with the household duty have the sense of being drudges. And, finally, all the band of married women, with the exception of that small group that is working in a man’s world and even some of these, are economically dependent on a man. In a state of society where money alone brings a real sense of independence, they have no money of their own; their work is without wage. Is this enough? Is there no higher and securer destiny available to intelligence that can be as powerful and penetrating as those of the male?

I cannot believe that intelligent women will continue to tolerate a situation that thwarts ambition, that denies economic independence and leaves them in an inferior position. Some solution of the problem must be found. This muddle of laissez faire, this abhorrent stewpot of indecision and lack of purpose, must give way to a purposive philosophy of life that will frankly place women on a plane of complete equality with men. Somewhere woman must find a soulsatisfying sphere of endeavor; somehow she must accomplish independence.

Rut where?

Russian and German Ideals

THERE are at present two divergent opinions as to woman’s place in the world. We have on the one hand Herr Hitler with his slogan, Kirche, Küche, Kinder. Handsome Adolf, by means of propaganda and economic persuasion, would turn back the hands of the clock and drive woman into the home again. The ideal Nazi woman is a prolific and healthy mother, a good cook and housekeeper, and a bulwark of the new Germano-Christian religion. Thus, say the bearers of the swastika shall women satisfy their egos.

Then there is the Russian ideal. The Communist has encouraged his womenfolk to get out into the economic world and take on a definite job of work; the new Russian woman must play as vital a part in building up the socialist state as the man. On farm and in factory she works side by side with her mate and enjoys equal remuneration. In the local soviet her opinion is as good as his. Provision has been made that the greatest stumbling block to this scheme, maternity, shall carry with it no economic disability. She is paid when, being with child, she can no longer work, and is so paid until she is fit to work again. When that time arrives she finds provided the factory and farm crèche, where her baby can be cared for while she is at her job. The factory restaurant relieves her of the burden of preparing meals.

One realizes, of course, that the philosophy underlying these two attempts to designate woman’s part in the nation’s life has been effected by the economic conditions in those two countries. In Germany there are millions of unemployed men who can be given work by driving women back to the home; in Russia there are not enough men, or women either, to do the work that waits urgently to be done. Nevertheless these are the only two clear-cut solutions that have presented themselves, the only solutions that do not represent muddle and laissez fane, and it behooves us to examine them more closely.

Hitler’s scheme, as it is being worked out, is frankly and disastrously reactionary. To force women back to the traditional home sphere and leave them there with the church, the kitchen and the child, is nothing more

nor less than a savage repudiation of the freedom they have earned at so great a sacrifice in the last hundred years. If it is to prove satisfactory to womankind, a yeast must work within it to break its narrow bounds and widen tremendously its interest and achievement.

What kind of a yeast and how? In what ways can church, kitchen and child be expanded into a world pregnant with possibilities for the ambitious ego, as the world in which men work?

Let’s take the church first. If religion is to be peculiarly women’s sphere, woman must find a more vital place in organized Christianity; she must come either to dominate it or to share domination on equal terms. In other words, she must achieve the j priesthood and the pulpit. In such an event, she could unquestionably find the same satisfying outlet to her ego that men do in the same activity.

If the kitchen is to become a satisfactory sphere of work, it must be revolutionized to a much greater extent than I suspect Handsome Adolf and his bachelor associates have visualized. The activities of the home must be brought into line with modern industry and have applied to them modem industrial methods. Take the matter of food, for instance. It is not only stultifying to ambition but grossly uneconomic that a million women should prepare food over a million stoves. But it is worse than that. Under the present haphazard methods of instruction, the art of domestic cooking is largely a matter of hit and miss, and the socalled good cook is likely to commit all sorts of dietetic crimes with her pastry that melts in the mouth, her sauces that whip the gastric glands to wild and reckless overproduction. Thus the increase in appendicitis, gallstones, gastric ulcers, gastro-intestinal cancer. The art of cooking needs to have applied to it the same thing that the factory applied to the automobile before it can become an efficient thing of beauty. But that means expanding the kitchen to great central cooking establishments where the expert dietitian shall vie with the expert gastronomist. It means that your meals must be delivered like your milk, ready for use.

In the same way, every other activity of the home might become industrialized and the perquisite of specialists. Consider the matter of heating. In such a Northern country as Canada this is being done at present in an absurdly archaic fashion. Every house a furnace; every cellar a coalbin; many wives the slave to a shovel for seven or eight months out of the year. Why shouldn’t houses be heated as they are lighted—from central plants—so that one has only to set a thermostat and turn a switch to provide comfort in any atmosphpheric exigency? Or consider the matter of liousing. Leaving aside altogether our slums which cry to heaven for attention, even the average run-of -nine home is an architectural travesty, its ventilation a joke. A whole world of research must yet be accomplished before we can live in decency, with the work of keeping a house clean and healthy minimized to the very' lowest possible daily 1 effort.

Mother Love is Not Enough

AND, FINALLY, children. It is my considered and honest opinion that the | average woman is totally unfit to bring ¡ up children. Why should she be fit? She was educated in school and college to be a man, she went out into the world and worked like a man—where was there time or opportunity to learn to bring up her young? Do you hire anybody off the street to make and tend y'our garden? Or service your automobile? Ör train your racehorse? Yet we permit any woman with a marriage license to mother and tend children !

Nor is the argument valid that mother

love makes up for lack of training. A man may love racehorses and raise also-rans; he may dote on flowers and make blooms in his garden nothing more than dandelions. If the stupidities of the human race, that have brought us to our present world situation where wars await around even' comer, where millions have neither work to do nor f(K)d enough to eat show no abatement; if insanity, criminality and venereal diseases are on the increase, it is largely because the children of the human race are being badly : nurtured, are being badly educated. If the i care of children is to be a woman’s work, so also should the education of children. Are women satisfied with our schools? Can they remain complacent in the face of these dilapidated and bleak buildings where for the most part youth gets its instruction— their overcrowded classrooms, their lack of proper playing grounds, their depressing pedagogics? Are they satisfied with a system of education that graduates boys and girls ignorant of the very fundamentals of the ; social and economic fabric within which they must move and have their being?

It is apparent, therefore, that, accepting Herr Hitler’s Nazi dictum, women might find a by no means negligible world awaiting their efforts in Kirche, Küche und Kinder; they might find therein labor as soul-satisfying, as ego-challenging, as any a man can find in his world. But we must be practical. All very well to paint a glowing canvas of possibilities, but what are the hard, cold facts? These—that under Herr Hitler’s

rule, woman is being forced willy-nilly back to a situation from which she struggled to gain freedom; that the situation provides no economic independence; that it cannot but strike her, when it is thoroughly understood. as a retrograde step.

Is it likely that, having yielded to force, she will have the strength to break the bonds of what in this case will look like slavery, to achieve the widespread possibilities I have briefly outlined above? Or is she not more likely to develop the mentality of a slave and cease gazing at a sky into which site can no longer fly because of clipped 1 wings? I las the fire of Prometheus ever come out of the slave mind? No; if women are to do anything soul-satisfying with church, home and children, they must turn to those of their own free will, recognizing ! here a full outlet for their intelligences, their ! ambitions.

Women Can Do Men’s Work

WHICH LEAVES us with the second possibility : that woman must find her wider satisfactions by thrusting herself farther and farther into a man’s world, by becoming more and more of a man. There I are currents in the great stream of history j which we call trends. They are the stuff that I evolution is made of. They give direction, and progress is only possible by moving with them. When woman achieved her first I freedom by breaking away from the home,

I she gave her destiny a trend. She cast a die.

! It boots nothing to sigh because she could not find that freedom within the home and,

I staying there, expand its horizons to the ! width of her ambitions. As well regret, while I thinking on gangsterism, jazz and the more tawdry side of Hollywood, that Columbus sailed west. Woman found herself by coming out of the home: she is not likely to go back. She has tasted the heady wine of this masculine world, she has pitted her intelliigence against man’s and found the conflict la dynamic one. It is illogical to believe that she will be satisfied with any other world.

And it’s no use for us to pooh-pooh the idea that she can become as manlike as her brothers. Our Victorian great-grandpapas pooh-poohed her first faltering steps in this same direction. How could that swooning, crinolined creature ever stand even the rigors of school-teaching, let alone more masculine labors? But swooning, being a feminine peculiarity, was sloughed off. Crinolines, likewise a trapping of femininity, were replaced by a simplicity of attire more

nearly male. Women found that the more j masculine they became, the more nearly they achieved the economic guerdon of freedom. It carried them from the schoolroom to the office, from the office to the factory. It bore them up from menial to executive position. It opened a way for them into the professions. Until now they are everywhere, fighting desperately for higher and higher rungs on the social and business ladder.

They have found only one outstandingly feminine trait of real use—that patience which they were forced to develop in their long slavery. For the rest, it has paid them to adopt masculine attitudes and philosophies. Even they will agree that the woman who, in factory or office, persists in remaining feminine is a disruptive influence; that the intrusion of femininity disturbs and muddies the great masculine tide on which they move. If all must work for a better world, men must not be disturbed, or women annoyed, by the flaunting of flashy curves and provocative side-play.

But one great disability still dogs our sisters -their physiological function. When the time comes for the ambitious working woman to have a baby, it still means a long, perhaps permanent, interruption of her labors in the economic sphere. Even if, after getting her family on its way, she wishes to return to the latter, she finds that those who were her contemporaries have gone far beyond her, that she must take her place with a younger, more aggressively buoyant crowd, whose mores are not hers.

The New Tendency

BUT IF SHE could wrest from this man’s world a further concession! If it could be arranged that she might retire from the arena for a matter of months instead of years to have her baby and lose nothing in such retirement! If it could be arranged that by day her children were looked after by those more capable than herself because of long training, and could have them at the end of the day to mother and love! If she could hire specialists to run her home ! And if, with all this, she were economically independent of any man—what then? In achieving this last concession, would she not have overcome finally the last feminine disadvantage that differentiates her from man, and to that extent have become entirely manlike?

No one, I maintain, studying the position of women in the economic life of this j continent, can deny that this tendency is | already showing itself. The present compromise which a business or professional woman makes in the face of the problem is only a stage in its solution. The trend is in but a single direction, and we cannot disregard it. It is surely a stupid anomaly that a woman should dedicate the first twenty-five or thirty years of her life to an economic career and then, breaking that off suddenly, start on a totally new calling for which she is in no way prepared.

The compromise must go! Woman, for better or worse, is out in the world carving a place for herself alongside her brothers. Since it is a man’s world and regulated by man-made rules, she can only be a success in it by becoming manlike. There is no halfway arrangement that can bring satisfaction to her ego. She must be able to feel that she is serving to the fullest degree that Good toward which humanity has always yearned and stumbled ; she must feel that she can be a light among men, that eternity alone j lies beyond the scope of her ambition. In such an environment alone lies satisfaction in its widest sense. And again I must repeat it is a masculine environment. For so long as the adjectives “manly” and "virile” connote something superior in human thought, and so long as the adjective “feminine” connotes something frail and inferior, so long will woman suffer in her ego, so long, will she walk restlessly and with grievance in a world where the major crowns rest on masculine brow’s.

Should women be men?