Whether the Superiority of the Men over the Women be not founded on something more solid than Custom and Prejudice
from Man Superior to Woman, or A Vindication of Mans Natural Right of Sovereign Authority over the Woman, by a Gentleman, London 1739, Chapter I (pp. 8-14)
It cannot be denied that the ingenious Lady, whom I have to contend with, is, for a Woman, no despicable Adversary. The cause indeed she has undertaken to defend is none of the best. But bad as it is, she has been cautious though to make use of all the Means practicable to render her Arguments, in the Support of it, . unanswerable. She could not, without a Degree of Blindness, possibly overlook the irrefutable Authority of a Practice founded upon a prescriptíon as ancient as human Nature. She knew that the Superiority of Man over Woman was no Novelty to either Sex ever since Adam's Time ; and therefore imagined, as well she might, that it could be no easy Matter to invert this Disposition of Things, so venerable from the single, Consideration of its Antiquity, without removing the Obstacle which Custom put in her Way, by lessening the Regard which the most considerate are inclined to pay to it. This she has endeavoured to do, but how ? Why truly by enumerating some few Instances, in which Mankind of both Sexes have been led into Error by a blind Prejudice in Favour of habitual Ignorance, and not of practical positive Custom : And those too Instances of a particular Nature, and in which all Men were not concerned, as the Disbelief of the Antipodes, the supposed Spirits of Machinery, and the fancied Machinery of Carteian animals. Whereas to convince us that Custom is never to be regarded, she should have influenced me to one Custom as universal with Relation to Place and Time, as that of Woman's Subjection to Man, in which Mankind had confessibly found themselves in Error.
As this is part her Skill to do, it is plain she has run beyond her Mark, and contrary to her Design established an Argument in Favour of Man's Authority over Woman on the very Principle of Custom, whïch she with so much Industry and Artifice laboured to undermine. For it cannot without Reason be doubted but that Mankind being rational Creatures and therefore not only directed, but even of themselves inclined, to do nothing without Reason, they must have consulted Reason for the Introduction of such Practices as have been universally received by both Sexes in all Places, and at all Times: Insomuch that it is impossible for any in their Senses to conceive that, right Reason and Prudence had no Band in restablishing the Customs, which both oblige us to conform to, and which we cannot deviate from without breaking in upon Order and Decency.
Of this Nature is the Custom, if Sophia chooses to call it so, which directs the Women to be subject to sanctions and to submissive to the Heaven derived Authority of their natural Sovereign Man : A Custom, which, whether right or wrong, must so nearly concern every Individual of human Nature, that neither Sex could be supposed so indifferent to their Happiness, as not to consult Reason before they established or rejected it. And therefore, since both Sexes from their Creation unanimously established this Practice and handed it down, thro' all Ages to our own, it is the Height of Temerity to impute the Power of the Men over the Women to inconsiderate Custom, or to any Cause inferior to Reason and Prudence.
Have not the Women ever been and are they not at this present Time, in every Country, in absolute Subjection to the Men, and wholly dependent on them for all Things, as equal with the latter ? It will not do, to quote upon the Virago Tribe of Scythia : For let it be consider'd, that it can be no Wonder that the Women should not be subject to Men in a Nation wholly made up of such Women as the most ignoble of our sex at that Time scorn'd to rule over. Nor let anyone affirm, if Truth will permit, that the women were ever treated in any other Nation made up of both Sexes, upon a better Footing than inferior Subjects ; fit at best only to be the upper Servants in their Families.
This is the Light in which they have always been viewed here in England ; the Place in the World where the Fair Sex is the most regarded, and perhaps deserves most to be so. And every one knows, how much worse they are looked upon in other Countries where they are esteemed absolute Slaves. In China they are confined to see no one but their Husbands and Children ; and have their Feet kept small on Purpose to prevent 'their gaddintg: In Turkey they are pamper'd Prisoners at best Almost throughout Asia, Africa and America W ives are but Housemaids for Life : In most Parts of Europe indeed they are treated a little more gently ; tho' the Difference is but little in Italy, and scaree dicernible in Spain. In a Word they are every where employed in nothigg but what is low and servile. Their highest Dignities are lìmited to Housewifery, and their common Use is to be kept for Breeders. In England alone it is that they are rais'd to the Office of Dissipators of our more intense Thoughts, amusing Lullers of our Care and Application, and a kìnd of Under Companions to us, when Reason is disposed to relax. Nor is it easy to comprehend how it is possible to raise them higher, with any Shew of reason, consîderîng their natural Incapacity for every Thing above the Sphere they actually move in. So that however the Men might be disposed, and ~ whatever Endeavour they might make use of, to alter the present Disposition of Matters with Regard to the Faír-Srx, it is absolutely impossible to fsucceed in it.
It is doubtless for this Reason that the wisest of Lawgivers, in founding their Common Wealths, have never once established any Thing in Favour of an Equality between both Scxes Their Laws, on the contrary, have tended only to confirm the Woman in an entire Subjection to the Men. The Generality of the Learned of all Ages have advanced many Things to the Disadvantage of Woman : But not one has ever thought of adding the least Privilege to those we have in general agreed to allow them. Nay the Wife of all Times and Places are so unanimous in the Establishment of the ,men's Sovcrcignty over Women, that one should be apt to imagine they had conspired together ; but for the evidcnt Impossibility, that so many Persons of different Ages, distant Climes, and opposìtc Interests, unknown to each other, should be able to ,combine with one another. Whence ít, is plain to a Demonstration, that the State of Subordination, which Woman is in to Man, must have been dictated at least by Reason and Prudence.
This.alone might suffice to Shew how greatly the Lady my Antagoñist is overseen in imputing the Power of our Sex over her own to blind Custom and inconsiderate Prejudice. But what will confirm it Still more, is the universal Ease with which the . Women of all Ages have supported this their Condition. The general Content with which they submit is a plain Proof, that they look upon Submission as a natural Duty they owe to us ; and that, conscious of the Legalness of our Authority, they pass the same judgment on their Dependency as every Man does. Insomuch that both Sexes appear convinced that their Souls are as different as their Bodies, and that there ought to be as great Dìstinction between the two Sexes in all the Functions of Life as there is in that of instrumentally producing it. All which consider'd, no Woman in her Senses can doubt of the Subjection of that Sex to ours being dilated at least by the Laws of Nature, and Reason. .
But as Sophia seems not to have any Disregard for Religion, ít will not be a difficult Matter I presume, to convince her that the divine Providence had a special positive Hand in fixing Women in their present State of Subjection: Let her but look into the third Chapter of Genesis, and she will there find that Man has his Charter of Superiority from God's own Mouth. For appealing to Eve he tells her, Thy .Desire shall be to thy Husband, and he shall rule over tbee. St. Paul in many Places confirms this Charter to them in the repeated Precepts he gives to Women to be subject to them ; but particularly in the fifth Chapter to the Ephesians he says: Wives subject yourselves unto your own Husbands as to our Lord; for the Husband is the Head of the wife
And to shew the justice of this Law in another Place he gives a substantial Reason for it, to wit, that the MAN is not, óf the,WOMAN, but the Wo MAN of the MAN. In which last Words he, plainly alludes to the Manner and Occasion of their Crea tion ; which if rightly consider'd will put past~all Dispute; how much the Woman is inferior to the Man from the very Source of their Being. Almighty God, we are told, created Man, a good, noble and intelligent Creature, to lord it over this vast Universe ; and therefore created him last, that nothing might be wanting to his W ishes from the .Minute of his Production. But having him . of the Dust of the Earth, that he might have some thing in. common with the Creatures he was made to command, the Lord found that All too strong for the Perfection he designed to give him : And therefore extracted from the rest; of his Body, what ever he found of mean, imperfect, and favouring too much of the Animal, and confined it to a single Rib; which had. undoubtedly been annihilated but for tbe Wisdom of this all powerful Contriver, which is capable of assigning a Use to the most useless Things in themselves. The Creator then, loth to destroy, any Thing however despicable in itself, which had any Relation to this his favourite Creature, and knowing that Man was as yet unprovded with a proper Vehicle to convey down his Being to Pofterity, took from him this Rib,'this Sink of his Defects, and shaped it into Woman, little concerned about any Perfections in the Soil but such as immediately tend to the Produftion of that nbble ,Fruit for which'it was faved from Reprobation. It is true indeed' to invite Mankind to make the Ufe' of" this pretty Expletive of Nature, for'which it was defign'd, he made it fair ; but then like all other beautiful Veffels he left it frail, and full of Foibles, as he first found it when he ridded Adam's noble Com? I 4. Ci~mpofition of it. Such then 'is ~'oman traced up to her Origin : .
Her Ill is but a Show, .Rather than fodid Virtue ; all but a Rib, Crooked by Nature. Ob ! why did God, Creator wife, that peopled higbeJt Heaven TVith Spirits majculàne, create at laJ# This 'Novelty ón Earth ! this fair Defeat Of Nature! ated not .fill the World at once ;Vtth Men, .as Angels, without ,Feminine, Or find force olher Ray to generate Mankind.
But here wve are loft; and have no other Refuge from the Doubts of human Imbecillity than the unfearchable Wifdom' of him who had it in his Power of the fame Lump to make one heJfel to Honour, end the other unto Difhonour. God had his Reafons, tho' to us incomprehenfible : His Wifdom knew it right to .do the Thing he did, aAd therefore not to tempt, Man to wuhftattd his'WiI1, he çonîtslted him rot: No,
Heav,'x took him ,/leeping when he Woman made,
Hard Mug been. waking he had ne'er, consented.
But I'll dwell no longer on an Argument which has too much Truth in it not to give fume Pain to the .xnoit ínfenfible. among thofe fair Mifchiefs, shish furnifh the: Matter of it: Let it fuffice that I have (hewn how?much inferior to us they art, from their Creation, if confidered ín themfelves, And now I fhall proceed to examine a little farther :,with So pbia. CHAP.
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