For the sake of argument

Why does everybody pick on women?

September 12 1959
For the sake of argument

Why does everybody pick on women?

September 12 1959

Why does everybody pick on women?

For the sake of argument


A number of years ago, when I and the world were young, there used to be a song called You Gotta Stop Kicking My Dog Around.

Now the world and I are older, and these days the dogs are doing all right. But women are taking a terrible licking. Every time you turn around or pick up something to read, somebody is putting the knock on the girls.

In any women's magazine—outside of the articles telling you how to stuif prunes with yogurt or yogurt with prunes, how to turn the old marble mantelpiece in your attic into an earring stand; outside of the patterns for chemises and the new wonder diets and the stories about lady movie stars who come to Falling-Down Acres and find their old boy friend happier with his dowdy wife than he would be with their glamorous selves — there is only one message. The message is: “Ladies, you are a dead loss."

A long list of faults

It seems that ladies do not do good in their intimate relationships with their husbands, they do horribly with their offspring, they are pretty miserable citizens, their hair needs fixing, they stick out too far behind and not enough in front, they don't stand up straight, they serve tiresome meals and their elbows need retreading. Also and especially, they are not fulfilling their challenging new role in modern society.

They are getting only passing grades in togetherness in one magazine. and they are displaying a shameful lack of inner sufficiency in another. A man's magazine has got into the act by retaining a hairy-chested mother-hater to tell them they've got twenty-four hours to get out of town.

In the newspapers there are columns crying that the trouble with ladies is tney find it hard to bait a hook or else they are failing in their duties as enfranchised citizens

of the nation. There was even a recent column by a lady saying that everybody read the Kinsey report on men but why didn't anybody bother to read the Kinsey report on women and. in effect, that it was time for all good ladies to summon up the shade of Emmeline Pankhurst and handcuff themselves to the gates of some handy government building.

TV, when it isn't busy giving people a thousand dollars for knowing the name of George Washington’s horse, hollers at women.

Ministers tell women they are behind hand in their spiritual duties, rabbis want to know why the mikvah attendance has fallen off and. for all I know, in between Allahs the muezzin is telling them to put their veils back on.

Even the cocktail party has been riddled by this subversion. Instead of charming little groups of somebody else s wives and somebody else s husbands getting genteely crocked and spilling canapés and going for walks in the garden to do a little friendly middle-aged necking. or gentlemen following hostesses into kitchens to help mix another batch of booze and if possible trap them between the swinging door and the sink and kiss them somewhat, today's cocktail party has become a little symposium. The ladies gather at one end to discuss the raising of children, petition-signing and plans for the League of Women Voters’ bird walk, and the men gather at the other end to tell big lies about their secretaries and the hostess on the airplane and to wonder whatever happened to the girl they married whom they met at a party like this one.

That girl spoke in quiet tones and wore a dress with little hows on it. and she did not talk of woman s inability to adapt to her new place in society, torn as she is between her old role in a patriarchy and her new-won role as the intellectual, political and sociological equal of her continued on page 44


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For the sake of argument continued from page 8

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“Women have good manners, but they have no ethics — they’ll do anything to gain their ends”

mate. Instead, she talked of how clever the man was, how witty, how charming, how she wasn’t doing anything after the party and loved guitar music. Somehow or other that girl has got lost in the scuffle over ‘‘the American woman’s function in a changing modern world.”

If all the screaming and shouting and jumping up and down were doing women or anybody else any good, I would hold my peace. The trouble is that the barrage of criticism isn't accomplishing anything except to make the ladies thoroughly miserable, and when ladies arc miserable, men are miserable too.

Why ladies put up with all this I have no idea, except that ladies in general put up with more nonsense and discomfort and abuse for longer periods of time than any other animal except the female porcupine. They even tolerate clothes that have no pockets and that fasten in the back.

Things have come to such a horrible pass that it is time for a member of the Girl-Lovers Marching and Saying There, There Society to stand up and say a few words for the defense.

Ladies, come to your senses. The reason they keep on hollering at you and w ill continue to keep on hollering at you is that they have misunderstood the whole nature of women. They have put you and you helped ¡hem — into fields of activity which you are essentially unequipped to handle and then they knock you for not doing well what, in fact, you should not be doing at all.

For one thing, ladies were never meant to be in offices. They behave in a way that men never have the single-mindedness and lack of conscience to behave. Then when the going gets rough, they get all feminine and unfair. Women, basically, have no ethics. They have good manners, but the abstract notions of justice and fair play are not for them. They are concerned with ends, not means, and they will do anything to gain ends. The businesses they dominate, like cosmetics, are notorious for idea-stealing, enormous markups, bloody competition and terrified employees. Women are so mean to their secretaries that it is painful to behold. They are mean because they know perfectly well that the best way to become a lady boss is to start out as a secretary. and they know that their secretaries know it.

I he worst thing about women in offices is that they learn to be good old Charlie, saying the words and drinking like one of the boys, picking up tabs and padding expense accounts and staying late in the office on the new account until men figure they're tile same as men. Then comes the day when men learn once again — and in any place but an office, this is a delight — that women are not the same. They get tired and cry and instead of being good old Charlie, they turn into poor Penelope. But next day or next week they cut out your heart and hand it to you on a well-typed memo.

Another thing ladies were never meant to be is chefs. They wee meant to be ccoks. I he more that ladies fool around with hante cuisine — which is not meant for homes but for expensive restaurants — the more nasty little cottage industries will spring up to sell them left-handed egg whisks and powdered cardamom seeds, the more of a slop their kitchens

will become, and as we get more women able to almost make hollandaise sauce, the fewer women we get able to make Parker House rolls.

Ladies are, in some instances, meant to be in the entertainment world. They

are meant to sing and dance and take a chance, to show their pretty dimpled knees and project their pretty pear-shaped tones, to pretend that they are queens and dairy maids and mothers and virgins and Bootsie Tintangle. the toast of New-

port. They are meant in some instances to say how Jack Dalton is a cad, they are meant to toy with the affections of counts and dukes and earls, they are meant to say, "Kiss me, my fool,” and "Yes, darling” and, in the first act, "NO." They

are meant to wear all manner of weird clothes, like enormous towers of feathers and a few beads, like Dutch caps and Spanish shawls, like grass skirts when they are saying. "Me Nubi, me good girl," or "Me Tondelayo, watch yourself at all times." In a word, some ladies are meant to be in the theatre — but there is not room for all of them.

AU ladies, however, were — and for my dough, still are — meant to look delicious, smell good, have low voices (mostly devoted to telling a man he is a prince on this earth), raise kids and

run a house. Running a house is a lost art. I do not mean the comic-strip bit. the pipe and the slippers. 1 mean not housekeeping but homemaking, which has to do with dignity and grace and good manners, with comfort and a certain degree of controlled opulence, all the things which are disappearing from the earth while ladies devote their energies to being fashion co-ordinators and expediters, executive secretaries and just plain executives.

Ladies are much too valuable to be wasted on these things. Any male can

preside over a meeting of other males to decide whether to package floor wax in a yellowcan or a blue bottle. Any male can afford to spend two and a half days concluding that it is more important to tell people it's the filter that counts, not the tobacco that's being filtered through the filter.

But only a woman can — and look like a smash when she is through — feed the cat and put her out. feed the dog and put him out where he can't get at the cat. make French dressing and remember to coddle an egg for the salad, construct an

apple pie. get three children fed ami out from underfoot, do her nails, tell you what a tremendous martini you make, remember that Frank's wife is named Hazel and is supposed to be congratulated for being elected president of the P.T.A.. manage to get into the kitchen and back again w ith a hot coffee pot and her dress slipping off her shoulder and still bypass Terry Hannigan, the unleashed wolf of suburbia, and. by all that's holy, enjoy herself and give pleasure to her guests.

There is not a man in the world who can do that.

I had a girl friend once whose father communicated to her and to me a piece of folk wisdom that I have treasured even since for its cogency, literary style and that sense of saying something so well once that it need never be phrased again in any other way. It was his definition of dirt: "Matter out of place." he said; "hair on butter, butter on hair."

I here is not one thing wrong with ladies today, despite all this geschrei in the public print, except that they arc matter out of place. They have ceased to operate in the field for which nature has so clearly and appealingly designed them.

Ladies can have babies. Men cannot. To make up for this appalling lack, men have constructed society, bridges, international war. painting, the Spenserian stanza, mink-covered bottle openers, sculpture, bop. automobiles with fins on them, the parliamentary system, fish lures, fluorescent lighting, penicillin, the trapeze dress, color television, striped toothpaste and nuclear explosions. All this is nothing but male envy. What it stems from is the desire to create, and clearly no one who could create a human being would search further.

Ladies have, for some obscure reason, searched further, but the results have been nothing to gladden the heart. There is no art or industry created by a lady that is near enough first rate to threaten any loss to the world if they ceased attempting to produce them. About as good as the ladies get in writing is Jane Austen. About as good as the ladies gel in painting is Marie Laurencin. The music is negligible, the sculpture largely nonexistent, I don't know of any ladies who have built bridges or tunnels The only lady scientists known to me are Lise Meitner and Madame Curie, and it is well known in science, as opposed to art. that if one scientist doesn't fetch it. another will.

It would be no great loss if the ladies got out of the laboratories and studios to concentrate on their specialty. Ladies should have babies, not because it is all they are fit for but because it is what they are fit for. When it comes to creating babies, they are better at it than anyone else. But in order to have babies, a lady has to be certain things. She has to be able to look nice, to drape her body well, to arrange her hair becomingly and to develop the art of human communication with some benighted man who spends his days producing a stove that plays Tenderly when the roast is done.

I want to make it clear that I am not off on a Km he. Kirke, Kinder kick. The fact that a woman is at her very best in a home does not mean that she has to be stupid there. It isn't even desirable. The fact of the matter is that Nubi and Tondelayo must have been the greatest bores in the world. But I know many thoroughly educated ladies who are wonderful wives, mothers and. if they will forgive the expression, homemakers. I for one happen to be in possession of a wife who is superbly educated. She states, and I cannot fault the statement, that she

secs no reason why knowing some medieval history should make her a worse cook.

It does not. And it is nice to have a girl around the house who not only knows how to use eyebrow pencil and be polite to people I should be polite to, who cooks a smashing suki-yaki and firstrate chocolate soufflé, but also knows a good deal about Shakespeare, a lot about Jefferson, reads Spanish and is teaching herself Latin. The kids like her too.

But she did not get this way in an office. My point is that ladies who do not need to work, for financial reasons, shoudn't. I know that there are women who have to work because they are unmarried. divorced, widowed or for one reason or another unable to survive without working, there are also ladies whose kids are grown and who would like to do something exciting or interesting or profitable. I wish all of these ladies well.

The ones 1 do not like are the ones who work because they wish to prove

their superiority to their husbands, who would rather work in an office to earn money to pay ignorant women to raise their children for them, who work because they feel that it is degrading to be a mother and wife and homemaker.

But the ladies I really like, the ladies most men like and long for. have more important things to do. Almost any lady¡ can do them if she works at it and ignores all the people who are telling her she ought to be doing something else. She must create, in the centre of a world that is busily engaged in blowing the world to hell, a haven in which things are so well ordered that man, bent on self-destruction. will be impelled to do the only thing that animals are clearly designed to do: see that the breed survives. In a world in which the wind is rising, the better the nest, the safer the fledglings.

This is a very big job for ladies to do. But I have no doubt that ladies can do it if everybody will just stop hollering at them. And besides, they smell so good, if