Friday, 2 January 2009

Friday Feminist - Cicely Hamilton (3)

Cross posted

Success in the marriage-market demanded certain qualifications; and, as a matter of economic and social necessity, if those qualifications were lacking, their counterfeit presentment was assumed. When helplessness and fragility were the fashion amongst wives, the girl child who was naturally as plucky as her brothers was schooled into an affected and false timidity. Men were understood to admire and reverence the maternal instinct in women; so the girl who had no especial interest in children affected a mechanical delight in, petted, fondled and made much of them. (I myself have seen this done on more than one occasion; of course in the presence of men.) And – worst and most treacherous insincerity of all – since men were understood to dislike clever women, the girl who had brains, capacity, intellect, sought to conceal, denied possession of them, that her future husband might enjoy, unchallenged, the pleasurable conviction of her mental inferiority to himself.

Of all the wrongs that have been inflicted upon woman there has been none like unto this – the enforced arrest of her mental growth – and none which bears more bitter and eloquent testimony to the complete and essential servility of her position. For her, the eleventh commandment was an insult – "Thou shalt not think"; and the most iniquitous condition of her marriage bargain this – that her husband, from the height of his self-satisfaction, should be permitted to esteem her a fool.

Cicely Hamilton, Marriage as a trade, 1909

1 comment:

Anna said...

Do women still play dumb to get on better with men all these years later? Until I was in my twenties, I used to have dumb conversations with males because I assumed they wouldn't share my interests. Awkward!