The fantastical project of yesterday

Two articles which support each other, but written 140 years apart. First the modern one, just from the other day: Ladies, Stop Trying to Have Sex Like Men which comes with these introductory words:

From college campuses to our nation’s boardrooms, women try to pursue sex the way men often do: no commitment necessary. And they’re getting burned.

Then there is this from 1871: Women’s Rights Women. The first few paras are amazing since, apart from the linguistic style, might have well have been written, like the article above, just the other day.

In our day, innovations march with so rapid a stride that they quite take away one’s breath. The fantastical project of yesterday, which was mentioned only to be ridiculed, is to-day the audacious reform, and will be to-morrow the accomplished fact. Such has been the history of the agitation for “women’s rights,” as they are sophistically called in this country. A few years ago this movement was the especial hobby of a few old women of both sexes, who made themselves the laughing-stock of all sane people by the annual ventilation of their crotchet. Their only recruits were a few of the unfortunates whom nature or fortune had debarred from those triumphs and enjoyments which are the natural ambition of the sex, and who adopted this agitation as the most feasible mode of expressing their spitefulness against the successful competitors. To-day the movement has assumed such dimensions that it challenges the attention of every thoughtful mind.

If we understand the claims of the Women’s Rights women, they are in substance two: that the legislation, at least, of society shall disregard all the natural distinctions of the sexes, and award the same specific rights and franchises to both in every respect; and that woman while in the married state shall be released from every species of conjugal subordination. The assimilation of the garments of the two sexes, their competition in the same industries and professions, and their common access to the same amusements and recreations, are social changes which the “strong-minded” expect to work, each one for herself, when once the obstructions of law are removed from the other points….

The advocates of these “women’s rights” may be expected to win the day, because the premises from which they argue their revolution have been irrevocably admitted by the bulk of the people.

People have been writing about “modern” women since the days of the Roman Empire. I wish everyone the best of luck in pursuing the ends they seek in that brief time we have allotted to ourselves, and I mean that with absolute sincerity. I found this quite apt, although the modern example would be to postpone marriage until well into one’s thirties while still hoping for children, but you will see what I mean.

The philosophy of the Yankee mind is precisely that of the Yankee girl who, when she asked for leave to marry at seventeen, was dissuaded by her mother that she “had married very early and had seen the folly of it.” “Yes; but, Mamma,” replied the daughter, “I want to see the folly of it for myself.”

But if you think that’s up-to-date, try this.

It may be inferred again that the present movement for women’s rights will certainly prevail from the history of its only opponent, Northern conservatism. This is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is to-day one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will to-morrow be forced upon its timidity, and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn.

Not everything works for everyone, so no matter what the fashion is, there will always be many who want something else. What seems perennial is the desire to experiment with one’s life, a very good thing but dangerous as well.

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