Throughout the ages, men of repute -- good, or
otherwise -- have addressed the question, “What is
woman?” Their answers stand in stark contrast to the
findings of science and to the obvious dictates of common
Torn by conflicting values, or
incongruous feelings, men of immortal fame, or infamy, are
revealed as mortal, all too mortal. Whenever the topic
turns to women, brilliant thinkers become illogical; great
philosophers, small-minded; and sensitive poets,
unfeeling. Indeed, hatred of or condescension toward women
unite completely unrelated historical personalities such
as Aristotle, Napoleon, and Freud.
How could so many highly intelligent men
be so singularly unintelligent in their views on women? We
leave that for the reader to decide. But in this sense,
this collection is not just about women, but also about
men. To be sure, celebrated men
appear from time to time to take up women’s cause. Often
they are unlikely champions: introverted thinkers,
bohemian artists, sardonic cynics, and bomb throwing
revolutionaries. Disparate in every other way, they
nevertheless are ideologically united in outrage at man’s
injustice to woman. One can hardly imagine stranger
compatriots than John Stuart Mill, the gentle saint of
British liberalism of the Victorian age, and the urbane
and acerbic American intellectual H. L. Mencken, for
instance, and yet they both denounced the injustice
routinely visited on women with equal vehemence.
Sometimes these apparent
champions turn out to be more unbelievable than unlikely.
The consummate revolutionaries, Karl Marx and Friedrich
Engels, for example, both sympathetically describe women
as victims of a poisonous blend of male oppression and
industrial capitalism; and both advocate their liberation.
Yet in private Marx also bitterly complains about his
wife’s nagging, wishes his newborn daughter male,
impregnates his housekeeper and persuades Engels to take
The German poet Friedrich
Schlegel once observed, “Women are treated
as unjustly in poetry as in life. If they are feminine,
they are not ideal, and if ideal, not feminine.”
This collection of quotations bears witness to the
trenchancy of this comment.
Gary Clabaugh, Ed.D.
Professor of Education, La Salle University
Leo Rudnytzky, Ph. D.
Professor Emeritus of Foreign
Languages and Literature, La Salle University
“Man has quite enough
in this life to find out his own individual calling,
without being forced to decide where every woman
belongs.” -- Elizabeth Cady