Chapter 2

Arguments Adduced from Reason 

Against the Subjection of Women


   I shall introduce this part of the subject by a quotation from an excellent author. He indeed is talking of reason in religious matters, for I wish not to pervert, but to apply what so exactly fits; indeed so exactly, that we have only to apply it without altering a single word. “In the tumultuous scenes of life the voice of Reason is too weak to be heard, or too difficult to be understood. In the indulgent anarchy of fancy, her language is too simple or too severe to persuade; but where authority bears sway, she is enjoined compliance or reduced to silence. Thus we see in one quarter she is stared at as a stranger, in another she alarms as an enemy, and in the third she is treated as a slave. Here indeed her case is at the worst. She may familiarize herself to the sensual man, she may be reconciled to the visionary, but with authority she can come to no composition. And yet it is against this last foe to Reason that the following sheets are chiefly directed.” [28] 

          They are indeed directed to you, oh man! clothed with authority of your own assuming, and clothed with the strength to maintain what you have assumed. You maintain it by the same law by which the strong oppresses the weak, and the rich the poor; and by which the great and powerful, crush the friendless, and him who has none to help him. At least this is what women suppose to be the real state of the case. I would therefore earnestly wish to persuade you at all events, to examine if all this is true or not; – if you maintain your empire by force alone; or if it is founded on the eternal and immutable laws of nature, and supported by justice and reason. If, after a fair examination, this last case is really found to be the true one; women have then only to remain as contented as possible, under the circumstances in which it may have pleased Providence to place them. But while they are persuaded as they are now, that they deserve a better fate; and that it is to man alone to whom they owe their humiliating state in society; they will repay by their folly, – in which only they are permitted to be pre-eminent, – the imputed injustice of man. [29]

          Now that I am fairly afloat, I begin to tremble at my own temerity; for against a host of foes, against man’s apparent consequence, against the accumulated prejudice of ages! – Insect of a day! – what am I? 

          This only I have to plead for my presumption, that I think, – most seriously think, – that I am pleading the cause of the men, more, if possible, than that of the women. For your own sakes therefore, and in support of that character you assume of superior rationality; in the name of every thing that is candid, open, and generous; be persuaded to consider the matter in a fair point of view, as you would any other subject of equal importance; and be not contented with “securely reposing under the cool and venerable shade of authority,” but come forth and look Reason boldly in the face. To be sure this requires some resolution, and most of you would rather face a cannon, or see a spectre; but take courage, for though she will speak some dreadful truths to your consciences, yet you must agree at last, if you bring [30] not the fiend Prejudice in your train. If however you come thus accompanied, you may be very aptly compared, to a man who going to be reconciled to his wife, should bring the mistress along with him, who had been the cause of their separation; and in whose company the Cara Sposa would have as bad a chance; as dignified, unbending, conscious Reason; with the dear, – deluding, – long-loved, – long-cherished, – convenient Prejudice. 

         It is necessary to make some attempt at arrangement and method in pursuing my subject; and I shall therefore divide this part of it under the following heads, viz. 

          The erroneous ideas which men have formed, of the characters and abilities of women. – What men would have women to be. – What women are. – And, what women ought to be. – All of which, as they present stand, I take to be essentially and necessarily different from each other. [31]