Friday, 19 December 2008

Friday Feminist - Cicely Hamilton

Cross posted

Marriage being to them not only a trade, but a necessity, it must follow as the night the day that the acquirement of certain characteristics – the characteristics required by an average man in an average wife – has been rendered inevitable for women in general. There have, of course, always been certain exceptional men who have admired and desired certain exceptional and eccentric qualities in their wives; but in estimating a girl's chances of pleasing – on which depended her chances of success or a comfortable livelihood – these exceptions, naturally, were taken into but small account, and no specialization in their tastes and desires was allowed for in her training. The aim and object of that training was to make her approximate to the standard of womanhood set up by the largest number of men; since the more widely she was admired the better were her chances of striking a satisfactory bargain. The taste and requirements of the average man of her class having been definitely ascertained, her training and education was carried on on the principle of cultivating those qualities which he was likely to admire, and repressing with an iron hand those qualities to which he was likely to take objection; in short, she was fitted for her trade by the discouragement of individuality and eccentricity and the persistent moulding of her whole nature into the form which the ordinary husband would desire it to take. Her education, unlike her brothers', was not directed towards self-development and the bringing out of natural capabilities, but towards pleasing some one else – was not for her own benefit, but for that of another person.

Cicely Hamilton, Marriage as a trade, 1909

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