Essays - 'The Lords Of Creation'
SINCE WHEN AND WHY?
"An' there began a lang digression About the lords o' the creation."
IN HIS book entitled "Ant Communities," just issued from the Harper presses, that renowned entomologist, Dr. Henry C. McCook, expresses his wonder at the failure of the woman suffragists to use the arguments at hand from the polity of Ant Communities that make so powerfully in favor of their movement and claims. "For among ants as among other insects, Nature has built upon the female organization, and not upon the male, the most remarkable and successful examples of social life and government known to natural science: the Ant Commune, the Bee Hive, and the Hornet's Nest."
The object of this paper is to press the argument very much farther in a biological way, and to show that the dominant male of to-day, from Protozoa to Man, so far from being aboriginally and of right the lords paramount of creation, are but late parasites and usurpers upon the rights and domain of the female.
In the old Judean prophetic narrative (Gen. ii:2I-22) man, or the male element, was presented as the primary form, the original type of human nature; woman, or the female element, was secondary, simply an afterthought, made from a rib taken out of the first man.
This symbolizes picturesquely the common view, the one held practically throughout historic times, that all things centre about the male, and that the female, though necessary to the work of reproduction and continuance of the race, is otherwise an unimportant accessory, an incidental factor in the general result.
To review the facts in support of this theory, appealed to by its adherents: (a) In many of the most common animals, with which every one is more or less familiar, the males are dominant, are larger, stronger and more varied in structure and more highly ornamented. Among birds, for instance, the females are smaller, less ornamented, and the male alone possesses the power of song. Narrowing the view to the human race, we see the same set of facts even more emphasized. Women of all races are smaller and weaker, and in all lower races at least, less finely proportioned than men. Difference in size and weight of brain in man and woman, civilized or uncivilized, is quite as great as that of their general stature. Lopenard (Elements of Anthropology) gives exhaustive details of what he considers evidences of this comparative inferiority of female structure.
(b) Passing to mental qualities, De Caudolle (History of Science and Scientists) may be quoted as affirming that women are lacking in invention and in the powers of scientific discovery (before Madame Curie), her reasoning faculty less strong, general truths have little or no interest for her. Her conclusions are generally reached by intuition. There are no women Platos or Hercules.* Creative genius is low in woman compared with man. Says Francillon: "No woman ever wrote a great drama; not one of the world's great poems came from woman's hand; no great woman architects, sculptors, painters, or even musical composers. Only in one art, that of acting, has she been able to rise to any-thing approaching the level of man's achievements."
Lastly, in political affairs, she has been practically a cipher; except where hereditary descent has chanced to place a crown upon her head.
These, perhaps, are the chief points adduced in defense of the hitherto universally accepted Androcentric Theory. We close with a declaraction of the Pope, made in 1910, to a delegation of the Union of Italian Catholic Ladies:
" Woman can never be man's equal and cannot therefore enjoy equal rights. Few women would ever desire to legislate, and those who did would only be classed as eccentrics."
This is Mr. Lester F. Ward's name for his revolutionary view of the fundamental relation of the sexes. From a universal survey of organic life, the female sex is seen to be primary and all important, the male secondary and adscititious. "The Egyptians believed there were no males among vultures, and they accordingly made that bird an emblem of universal Nature."
That originally and normally all things centre about the female and that the male, though not even necessary for the continuity of the organic scheme, was finally and late in the day developed as a complementary factor by reason of the advantages, in the way of variation, to organic progress, found to accrue through the crossing of strains.
Professor Thomson, t puts the matter thus: "Life itself, all life, was in the beginning female, in so far as sex can be postulated of it at all. In human kind, Nature obviously started out on the plan of having the woman the dominant force and factor with man simply as aid. But after a time a reversal of plan was brought about and man became, and continues to-day, the dominant force."
To review the facts in support of the gynocentric theory: We must distinguish between evolution and progress. Lang holds degeneration indeed rather than progress but he also says that the race has not fallen away from any supernatural revelation made to the earliest man, but only from that much more modest altitude to which every man may raise himself.
We must first grasp clearly the relation between reproduction and fertilization. The former is fundamental and necessary to the continuity of organic life; the latter is not fundamental or original in the organic scheme of life, but an afterthought, an expedient, a device if you please, brought in at a late date and having its justification not as a necessary factor for the continuity of organic life, but for its more rapid progress and higher development by reason of the manifold variations found to arise from the crossing of strains.
Organic life, then, begins as female i. e., the fertile sex and is carried on a long distance by means of the female alone. In fact, more than half (numerically) of all known organic beings even at this late day are of this order self-fertilizing no distinct males.
Passing now to the higher orders where fertilization is accomplished by a separate male organism, we can see in numberless instances how Nature still clings to her original plan of making the female most important. To take but one instance from the plant world, the common Hemp: the male plant leads a short life, sheds its pollen (in fact, its only useful function), turns yellow and sere, withers and dies. The female continues to grow taller and stronger, be it observed, and it is only from this robust and vigorous female plant that the hemp of commerce is obtained.
Darwin gives many remarkable examples of female superiority in relation to the male. Take this one from his "Life and Letters:"
"The unisexual cirripede has in each of her two valves a little pocket, in each of which she keeps a little husband, to be let out of their prisons as occasion requires."
He speaks of another case in which, though the cirripede was a true hermaphrodite, yet she carried about with her, safely secluded, no less than seven tiny little complementary males or husbands.
Female superiority is especially striking in the spider family; the female generally gigantic in size relatively, and may often be seen to seize and devour entire the tiny male fertilizer. Professor Howard gives a graphic description of similar action in the case of a female Mantis or Praying Insect. He placed a male mantis in a jar where he had a female in captivity. She first bit off the male's left front tarsus and consumed his tibia and femur; next she gnawed out his left eye. It was at this stage, strange to say, that the male first began his efforts to mate. But she proceeded to eat up his right front leg, then she entirely decapitated him, devouring his head and gnawing into his thorax. Not until this stage did she resign herself to his efforts at mating; which, though in this, to say the least, fragmentary condition, he actually accomplished.
These are but samples of practically the relation of the sexes among invertebrates.
Passing to the vertebrates, in one species of lower vertebrates, Agassiz says: "I found the females averaging fully five times the size of the males; male fishes commonly the smaller. Trout fishermen are well aware of this. Even among birds there are some large families, e. g., the Hawk, if I mistake not, the Owls, also, in which the female is almost universally the larger and finer bird." In falconry, only females take the name of Falcons, as being the most courageous and powerful.
Coming to mankind, notwithstanding the universally recognized dominance and superiority of the male in human society to-day, there are facts, and a vast array of them, that go to show how persistently Nature struggles to keep to or to recover her original plan of female dominance.
Morphologically, men are more unstable than women, and this unstability expresses itself also in the mental sphere, in the two instances of genius and insanity, both occurring much more frequently in men than in women. Mortality is also much higher among insane men than among insane women. Anatomical anomalies, such as cleft palate, hare-lip, supernumerary digits, are more frequent in males. Strange to say, supernumerary mammae or nipples were found, as the result of nearly 4,000 examinations, four times as frequent in men as in women.
As a result of the combination of statistics from the hospitals in Glascow, Edinburgh, and Paris, in the case of similar amputations performed upon men and women, Professor Thomson informs us that there were about ten percent. less deaths from the operations of the same kind in the case of women than in the case of men. There is a vast consensus of testimony that women, whether on the surgeon's table or the dentist's chair, bear pain with greater fortitude than men. It seems also a well-attested fact that under the same circumstances the female body offers greater resistance to disease in general than the male. The excess of mortality among male children at and shortly after birth is a striking testimony in the same direction.
Lombroso points out the interesting fact that on the average women are longer lived than men. Out of 459 cases of well-authenticated centenarians, which he collected, 271 were women and only 188 were men.
The facts of organic life then (plant and animal) combine to show that the female constitutes the original and main trunk, descending essentially unchanged from the asexual or presexual condition; that the male was added at a late stage in life history for the sole purpose of securing, by crossing of strains, more rapid variation, and consequently the possibility of higher development; that the male began as a simple parasitic fertilizer, and only after incalculable ages became an independent or separate organism; and that throughout nearly or quite the whole of the invertebrates, and to a considerable extent among vertebrates, the male has remained an inferior creature.
How then are we to explain the fact that the male, primarily and normally an inconspicuous and insignificant afterthought of Nature, a mere fertilizing organ attached to the female, or a minute organism detached from her and whose sole function was fertilization for the sake of variation how are we to account for the fact that in the higher existing organism, including especially the human race, the male has attained an unquestioned superiority of development and dominance over the female? The first answer is, sexual selection, on the part of the female. Darwin, as is well known, has investigated and established this fact with immense patience, accuracy, and insight. This principle applies practically to the whole range of animal life. In brief, the female selects from her suitors those having the qualities she prefers, choosing the largest and finest specimens. The qualities of bodily strength, courage, tenacity of purpose, and so forth, being inherited by the offspring chiefly in the male line; as it is well known the laws of heredity generally secure the predominance of the qualities of the male parent in the male children.
This sexual selection bringing about not only increase of bodily strength and stature, but increase of brain mass and increase of natural faculty, enabled the male by his superior wit and sagacity to employ his superior strength in the gradual subjugation of the female, taking from her in part and gradually what had been the secret of her supremacy, viz., her perfect freedom in choosing her mate.
But here, majora canere, sexual selection is the only important principle at work in the domain of animal life up to mankind. At that point, however, we must take account of another factor, a factor peculiar to the human race, and of supreme importance in explaining the present relation of the human sexes. The recognition and elaboration of this factor or principle, be it said, is the chief claim of Mr. Ward to originality. The factor of which we speak was the discovery of paternity.
At some point quite early in the protosocial stage it began to dawn slowly upon the growing intellect of man that a casual relation existed between mating with the female and reproduction or the birth of children. It was this simple act of ratiocination on the part of the male, this discovery of paternity, which litererally revolutionized the whole social system. For the first time the man, the male, began to perceive that he, too, had a part in the continuance of the race; that the children were in part his and not wholly the woman's (an idea that had never entered his head before). To emphasize his partnership in the children, there arose at the very earliest stage that singular custom, observed in America, Asia, and Europe, for which so many explanations have been given. We refer to "Couvade " the custom of the man going to bed with the newborn babe while the wife and mother nurses and tends the reputed father and goes about her usual duties. Even to-day instances are found in Russian Baltic provinces. and in the little island of Marken, in the Zuyder Zee.
Here we may quote Professor Letourneau:
"For a long time it was not even suspected that the man had any-thing to do with the pregnancy of the woman. When the suspicion strengthened to conviction, then the ridiculous ceremonies of the 'Couvade' were invented, by which the man emphasized his paternity and sought also to draw upon himself, in part at least, the malevolence of the evil spirits to whom were due the pains of parturition on the part of the mother."
The "Couvade," then, was the first step toward Fatherhood and the Patriarchate. The discovery of paternity completed the subjection of woman universal throughout historic times. It seems the irony of evolution that man, acquiring his superior strength and sagacity solely through the female selection, should use that strength and sagacity for the domination and terrible subjection of the innocent and unconscious authoress of those very gifts and acquirements.
Here we think we come upon the explanation of the strange fact that the majority of male writers of books in all past ages, when 'they touch upon woman, seem to be animated with feelings of suspicion and horror for the female sex. "We hate whom we have injured."
The growing sense of unjust usurpation and ingratitude could only be allayed by aspersing, ridiculing, and defaming the subject and enslaved woman. Not only Oriental literature, ancient sacred books and books of law, but largely the literature of Greece and Rome, almost all that was written during the Middle Ages down even to the seventeenth century, teem with epithets, slurs, flings, and open condemnation of women as creatures in general vile, hateful, spiteful, malicious, sensual, irreclaimably prone to make league with the devil.
"It is difficult to understand why Christian ethics should be considered the cause of woman's emancipation, when we know that for more than fifteen centuries woman was the mere chattel of her husband in Christian Europe. To those who contend she was anything more we would commend a careful consideration of the 'Garde de Chastite,' a practice the bare mention of which is enough to stupefy the minds of moral men and women of to-day. Why did the gentlemen of medieval Europe enforce this unspeakably abominable practice upon the wives of their bosoms? Was it because Christian ethics had been proclaimed in Europe for more than a thousand years? Or was it not rather because Christian ethics had no effect whatever upon the condition of woman?"
"Women, on account of their inherent impurity, must not receive the Eucharist into their naked hands." Lecky's "History of European Morals," p. 338.
The horrors of witchcraft were beyond doubt the normal fruit of this perverse conception of woman. Take as a sample this extract from a book written at the close of the fifteenth century, a book called the "Witchhammer," formally approved, be it said, by Pope Innocent VIII:
"Woman has no moderation of evil. Solomon himself, tempted by them to idolatry, has given true testimony to their inherent evilness of nature."
So also has the holy Chrysostom: "What is woman," saith he, "but an enemy of friendship, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a constantly flowing source of tears, a wicked work of Nature covered with a shining varnish?"
Thus first, woman, entering into a compact with the devil, set an example which her daughters, the witches, have always been eager to follow. The very word for woman (femina) means "wanting in faith," for "fe" means "faith"; "minus" means less. Made from a crooked rib, her entire nature is inclined more to vice than to virtue. They are worse than the devil, for the devil sins only against the Creator; but the woman, as witch, sins both against Creator and Redeemer.
So the eloquent Bossuet: "Let women consider their origin they are after all only a supernumerary bone with no beauty but what is outward and evanescent."
So Napoleon the Great: "Woman is our property, even as the tree is the property of the gardener. The husband should have absolute power over the wife."
Schopenhauer says that women are essentially childish, frivolous, short-sighted; in a word, big children all their life long. Perjury comes so natural to them that it is questionable whether they should be sworn at all.
But it remained for the last decade to produce the work which, for scurrility, revolting defamation, and insanity of rage against woman, surpasses all ever written aforetime. We refer to the ponderous book by Weiniger, a young German, entitled, "Sex and Character," translated into English last year. We forbear to make even a simple quotation.
Let us recapitulate:
1. All organisms, unicellular or multicellular, are capable not only of nutrition proper, but of that form of nutrition which goes beyond the individual and carries the process into another individual; which we call reproduction.
2. The manifest advantage of crossing strains and infusing into life elements that come from outside. The organism was seized upon by natural selection and a process was inaugurated that is called fertilization. This took place first through an organ belonging to the organism itself (hermaphroditism), then by the detachment of this organ and its development into an independent but miniature organism totally unlike the primary one, being, in fact, but a miniature sac. If we look no further than to second causes, we may say, then, that not the Creator originally, but the female herself, by sexual selection, "created man in her own image"; and from a shapeless sac gradually developed him into an independent form after the general likeness of the original or female organism.
Brain development in man, in consequence of female selection, led to man's recognition of his paternity and joint partnership with woman in the offspring. This discovery produced a pro-found social revolution, overthrew the authority of woman by destroying her hitherto supreme characteristic the power of selection in mating and finally reduced her to utter subjection.
The stage of Matriarchy, thus fatally undermined, passed away, and was succeeded by Patriarchy. The advance of society producing a leisure class resulted in a high aesthetic sense in man and led him to a widespread system of male sexual selection. This also tended to strengthen the fetters of woman's subjection; for while it produced the types of beauty and grace generally characteristic of woman, it tended distinctly and directly to dwarf her stature, sap her strength, contract her brain, and enfeeble her mind.
Throughout, then, the historic period, woman has been powerfully discriminated against and held down by custom, law, literature, and public opinion. Only in the last one hundred years or so, and in the most advanced nations, has some slight relief from her long thralldom been accorded her. But the vast downward curve of woman's degradation (to use the words of Mr. Ward has passed its "nadir," and the ordinates have begun to shorten as the curve tends upward. In confirmation of this, we give a splendid tribute quoted by Ellis from Professor Mason's article in the American Antiquarian for 1889:
"We must now recognize how much of the material art and science, by virtue of which the race has risen from the lowest barbarism to the highest culture, is due to the thinking brain and laboring hand of woman. The Mother (and not the Man) was the first Poet, and the first Priest; the first food-bringer, weaver, skin-dresser, potter, artist, linguist, founder of society, and patron of religion. For in these forms of human activity man has simply followed the elder woman."
And today woman seems rapidly coming to her own again in all the fields of human activity. Says President McFarland, of the American Civic Association:
"I do not know of a live and successful movement for social betterment anywhere in the United States which has not either originated in the brain of some God-inspired woman, or been forwarded to active value by a body of such women. I have seen failures in many cases where men alone undertook these movements, but I do not know of a complete failure in any case in which the women handled the movement."
A curious commentary on Lord Byron's words, quoted with approval by Schopenhauer: "Woman's intellectual limitations are such that they should never be allowed to interest them-selves in either poetry or politics; their reading should be confined to books of piety and cookery."
Choate, in a recent address: "There are more than a thousand women to-day practising law in this country; thirty-seven years ago there were none. Now thirty-four states admit women to the bar."
The United States Census of 1900 gives the number of women engaged in the various branches of business as follows:
Of 303 breadwinning occupations, women are in all but nine. Verily, in the words of Ellis, feminization in the proper sense of that term feminization of our social life in all its parts is one of the marked tendencies of our modern, complex civilization.
All tends toward the approximation of equality between man and woman again, after untold centuries of artificial separation and divergence.
In the words with which Goethe closed his "Faust" lies a biological verity not usually suspected by those who quote it, a verity fulfilling itself before our eyes today:
Margaret: Father, I am thine! Do thou deliver me! Mephistopheles: Ah, now she is judged!
Voice from above: No; now she is saved!
Mephistopheles [to Faust]: Come thou with me, to the nether world.
( Originally Published 1914 )
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