Man And Woman Allies Not Competitors
( Originally Published 1907 )
"DR. STUDEVAN," said Mr. Eaton, "what have you done with Shannon? Have you 'mingled his blood with the blood of all the just that has been shed upon the earth from the blood of Abel the just to the blood of Zacharias?' "
"No, it's not so bad as that," said Mr. O'Brien. "The Professor telephoned a little while ago that he would be late in arriving. Dr. Studevan did seem to pick up the question under discussion at the close of our last meeting and fly off with it. He got it so mixed up with prophets and apostles, with Jeanne d'Arc and the martyrs, that I don't know where we shall find it. But here is Shannon now, perhaps he has it in charge."
"No, thank God, I have nothing in charge but myself; what is it you've lost?"
"Coeducation versus the. Higher Education of Woman," said Miss Ruth. "Dr. Studevan has just been accused of having soared away with it into the clouds, and we hoped that you had rescued it and brought it back to us, as there are several phases-of the question which still need illumination."
"Oh," said Professor Shannon, "Studevan is so buried in the schoolroom and in his pedagogical theories that he fails to see what must be evident to every one else who keeps abreast of the times. The Doctor needs a training in sociology and economics and a little more con-tact with the world where adults are engaged in the struggle for existence. He would have woman remain in the schools that from time immemorial fitted her to adorn the home. He evidently does not realize that today woman is compelled to engage in many occupations that man has heretofore regarded as exclusively his own and for which he was trained in the college and university. It must be evident to all familiar with the facts in the case that the proper place for woman to receive a training for these positions is in the schools that have been developed for this purpose."
"We are still confronted with the old puzzle," said Miss Ruth. "Dr. Studevan is so impressed with the difference between the natures of man and woman that he seems unable to reconcile himself to their being trained in the same schools and subjected to the same methods; while Professor Shannon, believing that the old distinction between the occupations of the sexes has, in large measure, ceased to exist, would have both sexes educated in the same schools. It is difficult to see how the two sides of the question may be reconciled."
"There is only one side to the question," said Miss Geddes. "We were all born free and equal. Man has kept woman out of her rights long enough. In a country that grants freedom to the negro, woman can no longer be kept in subjection. If her education in the past has not fitted her to enjoy equal rights with man, she is determined that in the future she will have an education which will not only secure her an equal right to vote and to make the laws under which she, as well as man, must live, but which will secure for her an equal share of the growing wealth of the country. She distinctly refuses to be any longer handicapped by a one-sided education."
"This whole discussion," said Mr. O'Brien, "reminds me of Merrick's 'Chameleon,' which we used to recite as school boys. I still remember some of the lines: " 'Oft has it been my lot to mark A proud, conceited, talking spark, With eyes that hardly served at most To guard their master 'gainst a post; Yet round the world the blade has been, To see whatever could be seen.
'Two travelers of such a cast,
Discoursed awhile, 'mongst other matter,
"How slow its pace! and then it's hue
"Hold there," the other quick replies,
"I've seen it, sir, as well as you,
" 'Tis green, 'tis green, sir, I assure ye."
When, luckily, came by a third :
"Sirs," cries the umpire, "cease your pother,
" He said: and full before their sight
" 'Both stared; the man looked wondrous wise:
"Your chameleon story is entirely irrelevant," said Miss Geddes. "In the present in-stance we are confronted by conditions, not theories. Whether the beautiful, clinging creature of the past, of whom the poets sang, was a more ideal wife than the strong, independent woman of our own day may be left to men's discussion at their clubs and smokers, but woman must reach a conclusion and act upon it. She must enter into active competition with man in the professions, in trade, in commerce, and in all fields of human industry. She has no room for hesitation between the education that fitted her for the position which she occupied in the past and the education which is at present being given to her competitors. The advocates of segregation seem to be dreaming of conditions which have passed away forever, or else they are dishonest enough to wish to take an unfair advantage of woman by trying to induce her to enter the field of competition with a pitiably inadequate preparation."
"My dear Miss Geddes," said Dr. Studevan, "I am the last man in the world who would contribute in any way to the handicap-ping of woman in the struggle for existence.
"The profound changes which are taking place at present in the social and economic conditions of the country are pressing very heavily on both sexes; and I believe the pressure of this change is more severe upon woman than it is upon man. All phases of education for both sexes must be readjusted so as to properly equip men and women for these new conditions. I have never advocated a continuance of educational methods for either sex which were shaped to meet conditions that have ceased to exist, but surely one may recognize this need of change in educational ideals and in educational methods with-out thereby advocating an identity of ideals or of methods in the training of pupils who differ from each other in nature, in developmental tendencies and in social functions, and who are, after all, destined to occupy different ground in the struggle for existence.
"A fundamental law of life seems to be ignored by those who talk most about competition between man and woman. The little green puddles by the roadside are crowded with living beings, but they are not all competitors. The plant forms, to which it owes its green color, live upon the carbon dioxide and nitrogenous waste matter, both of which are supplied in large measure by minute animals, while these animals in turn depend upon the oxygen and food material supplied by the plants. These creatures are allies and not competitors in the struggle for existence ; neither could long continue to live without the other. Plant competes with plant and animal with animal. Competition always presupposes an identity of function.
"Man and woman can never be competitors in any true sense of the word; they were so formed by nature as to be indispensable to each other. The competition between them is superficial and accidental. It is not surprising, of course, that confusion prevails in periods of social upheaval and violent economic change. When the atmosphere clears, woman will be found occupying a somewhat different position from that which she has occupied in the past, and man will still find abundant room to live; and the mutual helpfulness of the sexes will go on as of old.
"The readjustment of educational methods is one of the most serious problems which confront us to-day, and it should be approached with calmness and with an entire absence of partisan feeling. The conditions of the environment into which the pupils must enter on leaving school should be kept constantly in mind by those who undertake to guide the unfolding life of the pupil. The problems presented to a young woman on entering into the life of one of our cities to-day are very different from those presented to a young man. His equipment would not enable her to solve her problems. From whatever point you view the matter, whether it be from the differences of nature or the differences in the positions which they occupy in the struggle for existence, the conclusion would seem to be that the education of the sexes should be carried out along different lines. It is hard to realize how any one who understands the elemental truth that man and woman are by nature and function allies and not competitors in the struggle for existence could doubt this conclusion."
"That reminds me of a good story I once heard," said Miss Ruth, "about a little bird called the Trochilus and its partnership with the crocodile. 'The Trochilus renders two forms of service to the crocodile on the banks of the Nile; it enters his mouth and dispatches the worms and leeches which trouble him, and when the ichneumon, which is an enemy to the crocodile, approaches, the bird flies away, giving vent to a peculiar cry which apprises his friend of the danger. The only service which the crocodile renders in return is the shaking of his tail when he wishes to close his mouth, thus giving the bird warning.' "
"Well," said Mr. O'Brien, "the coeducation or rather the cooperation Herodotus illustrates in this story has at least this in its favor, that it terminates in an indissoluble union; and, all present indications to the contrary, there does seem to be something in the hidden depths of woman's nature that is not particularly averse to such combinations."
"Oh, of course," said Miss Geddes, "the women of our day should devoutly accept Emile as their gospel. I marked a passage this afternoon which should be a wellspring of consolation to us. Let me read it for you. 'On the good constitution of mothers depends that of children; on the care of woman depends the first education of men; on woman depend again their manners, their passions, their tastes, their pleasures, and even their happiness. Thus all the education of women ought to be relative to men. To please them, to be useful to them, to make themselves loved and honored by them, to bring them up when young, to care for them when grown, to counsel and console them, to render their life agreeable and sweet these are the duties of women in every age, and what they ought to learn from their childhood. So long as we do not recognize this principle, we shall miss the end, and all the precepts we give them will be of no service either for their happiness or ours.' "
"Is that idea so far wrong?" asked Dr. Studevan. "You know the Gospel tells us that we should love our enemies and do good to those who hate us and pray for those who persecute and calumniate us; and then, the likeness of his Maker is brought out in man's heart just in proportion as he learns to act from unselfish motives. In 'the ape and tiger' world and in the world of 'Frenzied Finance' self-interest rules supreme, but in the kingdom of God man finds the secret of happiness in the service of others. Now, woman being the divinest creature on earth, we are prepared to find her ready to immolate herself in every way and on all occasions. She should be grateful to man for his generosity in supplying her with abundant opportunities for the development of the divine impulses of her nature."
"Isn't it about time, Doctor," said Miss Ruth, "that woman gave man an opportunity to immolate himself on the altar of sacrifice, and thus to render himself worthy to dwell on the same plane with her? She has had a monopoly in this direction long enough. But all this does not seem to have much to do with coeducation. This is a practical age. The experiment in coeducation is being made and should we not rest the verdict on results?"
"Yes, I suppose we should," said Dr. Studevan, "but it is not the first time in the history of education that the experiment has been tried. Plato was an ardent advocate of co-education and he, too, reenforced his argument by appeals to experience. Have you a copy of Plato, Mr. O'Brien?"
"Yes. Which volume do you want?"
"The one containing the 'Laws.' Thank you: Here is the passage I have in mind :
" 'My law would apply to females as well as to males ; they shall both go through the same exercises. I assert without fear of contradiction that gymnastic and horsemanship are as suitable to women as to men. Of the truth of this I am persuaded from ancient tradition, and at the present day there are said to be myriads of women in the neighborhood of the Black Sea, called Sauromatides, who not only ride on horseback like men, but have enjoined upon them the use of bows and other weapons equally with men. And I further affirm, that if these things are possible, nothing can be more absurd than the practice which prevails in our own country of men and women not following the same pursuits with all their strength and with one mind, and thus the state, instead of being a whole, is reduced to a half, and yet has the same imposts to pay and the same toils to undergo; and what can be a greater mistake for any legislator to make? . . I should wish to say, Cleinias, as I said before, that if the possibility of these things were not sufficiently proven in fact, then there might be an objection to the argument, but the fact being as I have said, he who rejects the law must find some other ground of objection; and, failing this, our exhortation would hold good, nor will any one deny that women ought to share as far as possible in education and in other ways with men, for consider; if women do not share in their whole life with men, then they must have some other order of life. And what arrangement of life to be found anywhere is prefer-able to this community which we are now as-signing to them. Shall we prefer that which is adopted by the Thracians and many other races who use their women to till the ground and to be shepherds of their herds and flocks, and to minister to them like slaves?' "
"I never before realized," said Miss Ruth, "what an important part the Thracians took in the development of western civilization."
"Say, rather, in shaping Dr. Studevan's ideals of education," said Mr. O'Brien.
"On the contrary," said Dr. Studevan, "I want man to mind his own business and to tend his fields and flocks himself, leaving to woman occupations more suited to her nature. My ideal of education is more nearly the legitimate descendant of those held by the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians, and which Plato quotes with apparent disapproval. Here is the passage :
" 'Or shall we do as the people in our part of the world do? getting together, as the phrase is,' all our goods and chattels into one dwelling these we entrust to our women, who are the stewards of them; and who pre-side over the shuttles and the whole art of spinning. Or shall we take a middle course, as in Lacedaemon, Megillus, letting the girls share in gymnastic and music, while the grown-up women, no longer employed in spinning wool, are actively engaged in weaving the web of life, which will be no cheap or mean employment, and in the duty of serving and taking care of the household and bringing up children, in which they will observe a sort of mean, not participating in the toils of war; and if there were any necessity that they should fight for their city and families, unlike the Amazons, they would be unable to take part in archery or any other skilled use of missiles, nor could they, after the example of the goddess, carry shield or spear, or stand up nobly for their country when it was being destroyed, and strike terror into their enemies, if only because they were seen in regular or-der? Living as they do, they would never dare at all to imitate the Sauromatides, whose women, when compared with ordinary women, would appear to be like men. Let him who will praise your legislators, but I must say what I think. The legislator ought to be whole and perfect, and not half a man only; he ought not to let the female sex live softly and waste money and have no order of life, while he takes the utmost care of the male sex, and leaves half of life only blessed with happiness, when he might have made the whole state happy.' "
"The women of to-day," said Mr. Eaton, "remind one of the boy who paid a penny for a piece of pie, and after the pie was disposed of, came back crying for his penny. If they want coeducation and suffrage they should go all the way and take a hand in herding the flocks and in digging the sewers, and they should realize how it feels to become food for powder."
"Your inference is hardly fair," said Professor Shannon. "An education and an apprenticeship to a trade are two quite different things, and there is really no one in our midst to-day, not even the most extreme advocate of woman's rights, who would want women to become locomotive engineers and miners, or who would have them seek employment in smelters or rolling mills. Besides, the question of coeducation versus segregation is concerned only with secondary and higher education, whose end is fullness of life and culture rather than immediate preparation for those occupations that demand physical strength and powers of endurance. Plato was speaking of primitive times and primitive conditions; life has grown far too complex at present to permit of the realization of his ideals in all their details. All that he should be held responsible for is his main thought and that is clearly in favor of coeducation."
"Are you quite sure," said Dr. Studevan, "that Plato is not here treating us to some of his delicious sarcasm? Or is it to be supposed that he was so wanting in appreciation of the Athens of Pericles that he would seriously hold up the Sauromatides and the Amazons as models to be copied by the women of Greece? I wonder if it has become the fashion among sociologists to refer to the Athens of Pericles and Plato as 'primitive.' Poor Plato, had he lived fifty years later his distinguished pupil would undoubtedly have acquainted him with some of the fundamental concepts of life which would have saved him from falling into such grievous error on the subject of coeducation.
"But it is really strange, living in the home of Phidias and feasting his eyes daily on the marvels that came from the chisel of Praxiteles, that Plato could have so completely missed the meaning of symmetry as not to know that man and woman being symmetrical parts of one whole cannot be substituted one for the other. Of course Plato is not to be blamed for his failure to grasp the fundamental life principle that all progress is dependent upon progressive differentiation of structure and specialization of function. If this great central truth of modern biology had gleamed ever so faintly on the horizon of Greek thought, Plato would never have lent himself to the Sauromatides and the Amazons in their struggles to obliterate the lines of difference along which nature seeks to develop the sexes."
"Would it be troubling you too much, Doctor," said Mr. Eaton, "to translate all that into plain English?"
"Why, how cruel of you, Mr. Eaton," said Miss Geddes, "to ask the Doctor to come out of the mists of biological phrases in which he so loves to dwell, and in which he is seen to such advantage this evening against the iridescent background of Greek culture."
"On the contrary, my dear Miss Geddes, it always gives me a thrill of genuine pleasure to expose to your discerning eye the innermost core of my thoughts dressed in the most trans-parent language at my command. The two thoughts which Plato would seem to have missed and which are among the truths most familiar to all students of nature are these: first, symmetrical parts of a body are related to each other in the same way that an object is related to its mirrored reflection; there is the closest resemblance between them in one way and yet they are irreconcilably different. I am frequently made aware of this truth when, in my hurry in the morning, I get my right foot into my left shoe, and still I have always believed that my feet were mates. Now, man and woman are related to each other in their conscious life in somewhat the same way. It requires two to round out and complete human consciousness.
"Plato seems to have been moved by purely utilitarian motives, as if he were wont to frequent 'Dollardom' instead of the Acropolis. He was evidently anxious to keep down the taxes while adding to the number of warriors, but if I were a woman I would never forgive him for hinting that if women were seen in order they 'would strike terror into their enemies.' The poor fellow must have been carrying in his memory a vivid picture of Xantippe in some of her unlovely moods.
"The second thought that seems to have offended by its biological mist or its Greek iridescence has been explained in so many ways that it really has come to be a common-place. But it might be illustrated in this way: the integument of an earthworm serves both as a protection against foreign substances and as an organ of respiration. Now, the tougher it is, the better it performs the first of these functions, and the more delicate it is, the bet-ter it performs the latter, and since both of these functions must be performed by one and the same structure, they are both performed badly. The crayfish and the lobster solve this problem in another way. Their bodies are encased in hard outer coverings which give efficient protection. A small portion of the outer surface of these creatures is rendered exceedingly delicate and is protected under a fold of the carapace, where it is able to discharge efficiently the function of respiration. The analogy here to the function of man and woman in the social organism is suggestive. Man has become hardened and toughened and is thus enabled to sustain the shock of contact with the outer world; while woman, protected in the home, has developed all the finer traits of culture, of delicacy, of tact and of sweetness, without which life would be poor indeed for all of us."