japonisme: que sera sera

04 August 2009

que sera sera

One more fact remains to be considered in its bearing upon this question [of whether the feminist movement is good or evil]. It is this, paradoxical as it may appear, that the strongest faculties of women are such as, if exercised without social or political restraint, will most surely estrange them, if not from the feelings, from the habits and associa- tions of the traditional female life.

Women are intelligent; they are not creative. Whether in their home or beyond it, their successes can only be achieved through the contact with other minds; the impulse to mental action must always come to them from without, or at least the form in which the impulse will be clothed.

That men possess the productiveness which is called genius, and women do not, is the one immutable distinction that is bound up with the intellectual idea of sex. We know that women have seldom, perhaps never, been great artists or great com- posers, and that the number of female writers who can be called great is very small as compared with the number of those who make, or have made, literature the business of their life.

We know also that they may, as far as mental qualification is concerned, make good lawyers, doctors, and financiers. Their new ambitions will instinctively turn towards these more purely intellectual and also more militant forms of activity; and therefore towards a life which, however it may lack manliness, will still, as far as it goes, be masculine.

Genius is a patent of individuality; a title to the performance of every function not barred by pre-existing duty to which it may lead the way. If women, as a race, possessed genius, their present opportunities would suffice to them ; if not, they might justly demand others.

We might have an art, a science, a legislation, which would be truly feminine — a feminine activity which might safely compete with that of man, because it would be, in the full sense of the word, supplementary to it.

But this is supposing a universe other than our own. Women, as they are now created, can be individual only in the limited existence to which circumstances have consigned them.

Within that existence they may still be greatly improved; beyond it — this is a commonplace truth, but none the less needing to be repeated — they will not be improved women; they will only be inferior men.

from The Future of English Women,
by Mrs. A. Sutherland Orr, 1878

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Blogger Jacob Russell said...

Amazing... one can only wonder what comfortable certitudes and unexamined notions we hold now that will seem as absurd and foolish in another century as this does now.

05 August, 2009 17:22  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

terrific point, jacob -- and i am so glad to see you. it will always be thus, though, don't you think?

05 August, 2009 17:45  
Blogger Yoli said...

I want the corset back. As always excellent post.

05 August, 2009 20:12  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

OMG! has it been stolen??!!

05 August, 2009 22:05  
Blogger Thomas said...

That Roger Fry is beautiful.

06 August, 2009 12:59  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

she's Nina Hamnett

06 August, 2009 14:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog, just came across it. I'm currently reading The Feminine Mystique, so this was so pertinent.

06 August, 2009 23:30  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

oh that is cool! thanks, and welcome.

i can actually remember when that book came out and changed everything. it was sort of the beginning.

i was a sophomore in high school (the first year of baby boomers) so it had great influence on this whole generation.

07 August, 2009 08:32  

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