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The Equality of the Sexes

The masculine and feminine elements, exactly equal and balancing each other, are as essential to the maintenance of the equilibrium of the universe as positive and negative electricity or the centripetal and centrifugal forces, the laws of attraction which bind together all we know of this planet whereon we dwell and of the system in which we revolve."
—Elizabeth Cady Stanton
The inequality of the sexes in the human race is a disastrous anomaly in creation due to the artificial barriers against the full and free development of woman's moral and mental powers."
—Emily P. Collins

No one can dispute the fact that the position of woman has changed very decidedly in the English-speaking countries of the world, in the past twenty-five years. While many will declare that she has gained materially in all things which go toward a more advanced civilization, there are others who look upon the changes with disfavor, not to say antagonism, unfavorable opinions coming at times from quarters least expected. Nikola Tesla, in an article in The Century, deplores the condition arising from the new order of things.

Society life, modern education and pursuits of women, tending to draw them away from their household duties and make men out of them, must needs detract from the elevating ideal they represent, diminish the artistic creative power, and cause sterility and a general weakening of the race.

It is singular how advanced a mind may be in one direction and how behind the times in another. The statement made by Tesla in his otherwise remarkable article seems born of a prejudice coming from the belief in man's superiority over woman. Notwithstanding my great admiration for the writer, I must say this statement is weak in the extreme, if not absolutely false. One naturally expects a judicial utterance from a scientific mind that is supposed to weigh the evidence in the case. In viewing any subject from an impartial standpoint, one must look beyond the present conditions and consider the case in all its bearings.

Suppose great wrong and injustice are found; in the righting of those wrongs, in abolishing the injustice, there must inevitably follow a certain amount of friction and discord until society has readjusted itself to the new conditions. And the more complex the wrongs the greater will be the temporary disturbance of social conditions; but the final outcome is no less sure and no less to be desired. The onlooker who sees nothing except that which has taken place on the surface, and compares that with previous conditions, may find apparent reason for believing the old order of things better than the new. Nevertheless, in the most highly civilized countries, women enjoy the greatest amount of freedom. Would the United States or England care to go back and take lessons from Turkey or Persia in regard to women? Are the women of England and America any the less womanly because of their greater freedom and their consequent greater intelligence? If, therefore, we acknowledge a little liberty as a good thing, why should not more of it be still better?

The Master said, "The truth shall make you free." Was this freedom meant for man alone, or was woman to have some share in it?

The Declaration of Independence affirms that all are born free and equal. If there is any truth in this statement, why should men turn later and repudiate it, denying to women equality and the same rights and privileges that men enjoy. No, gentlemen. The day is certainly coming when no right or privilege looked upon by man as his sole prerogative shall not be as fully and freely enjoyed by woman. Some day in a free country right not might shall prevail. In the meantime, unrest and controversy must engender friction and disorder until the new order becomes thoroughly established.

But should the social friction of a generation be allowed to stand in the way when we are trying to work out the highest welfare of the human race? In the larger freedom which has come to woman there can be nothing which in the end will prove in any way detrimental to the well-being of the race. The highest development on any plane of life is attained only when there is perfect freedom. Resistance offered to freedom of natural thought and action in the life of man hinders and dwarfs growth and brings about abnormal conditions of mind and body. And that which in any way retards the highest development of woman interferes to exactly the same degree with the natural growth and development of man. The sinner and the one sinned against are both made to suffer because of the violation of the law of growth.

The conservative mind considers any innovation which sets aside the old order of things as being contrary to the law of orderly progression; but if the opinions of the conservative mind were considered as final there would be neither growth nor development, simply stagnation—inaction—death.

Let us point out a few instances in which the new order of things is preferable to the old, and which will in the end prove beneficial to men and women alike. Not only this, but it will have a very decided effect on the generations to come. Just a word as to former conditions and the belief still retained in the minds of many people of the present day.

The Bible student will quote the Apostle Paul to make good the old order; the scientific mind will dwell on the physical limitations and put forward the thought that the principal office of woman is the reproduction of the race; while the mind that is neither Biblical nor scientific will try to show that there have been but few great women in original or creative thought in the world, and therefore a great woman is an abnormal production of Nature. All this is on a par with nine-tenths of the reasoning that is now in vogue in opposition to the continued advancement and freedom of woman. But these arguments, and a thousand more like them, would not be sufficient to justify the slavery of woman from time immemorial to the present, for we cannot in all truth and candor say that woman has been, or is, free. Granting that a greater degree of freedom has come to her, we still contend that nothing short of absolute equality of the sexes will fulfil the eternal law of right.

When men pride themselves on intellectual development, do they realize that a development of heart is quite as important as a development of head? Is not he who has developed both head and heart a more complete man than the one who has developed only the intellect? And if this is true of a man is it not equally true of a woman? It would be true of woman today if the advantages so freely given to the men had not been withheld from her. In spite of opposition and all the disadvantages women labor under, they are insisting on rights and privileges denied them in the past. In this they are not always successful. The chivalry of many of our college undergraduates is far from what it might be. Coeducation is frowned upon by nearly .all young men in college who are yet in their adolescence, and who have not yet lived out the savagery of bygone ages; but why the heads of colleges and universities should be dictated to by the students is more difficult to explain, save on the ground that many college men, through having formed the habit of drawing their opinions from the subconscious mind—the storehouse of accumulated knowledge—are sometimes prone to see the vital questions of the day in the light of past conditions, therefore in only a partial way, because of the automatic action of their minds.

It is pitiful to see the lack of manliness exhibited by men in conceding to women educational privileges in common with themselves. One of our denominational universities, which had previously granted certain educational advantages to women, curtailed these advantages at the behest of the male students who did not care to have their sisters take rank as high as themselves. No fault was found, or could be found, with the standard of scholarship. In fact, when both sexes come together and equal chances are given to both, women acquire and assimilate knowledge quite as readily as do men. That the faculty of a great college should give way to the prejudices of a lot of undeveloped, conceited young men shows both mental and moral weakness; but how can one expect better results when boys see their fathers dictate to their mothers as to what they shall and shall not do? Yes, the world is more civilized than it was when a man could give a woman a bill of divorcement if she cooked him a poor dinner, but it has advanced little, if any, beyond the "goods and chattels" stage, when a man owned his wife and it was her bounden duty to obey him, right or wrong. The world needs more truth and with it more freedom for women.

In the higher freedom of life there will be no dictation either on the part of men or women, there will be that perfect cooperation which will make for the harmony of the whole life. There is but one law for male and female, and both must be judged by that law. A woman, spiritually, mentally, and physically, in the common order of things, will be the equal of the man. She is not the equal of man now, because she is surrounded by many and grievous limitations which make equality impossible. Many of these limitations have been set by man; some are of her own making. But she is beginning to realize that independence of thought and independence of action are indispensable to her happiness and well-being. She is also showing in many and varied ways her ability to compete successfully with man in spite of the injustice done her by the refusal on the part of her employers to pay her equal wages for equal work.

In a study of the history of the nations we find that those who have become the most highly civilized have had the greatest personal liberty.

To the people who think that women need no greater rights than they have, and who prate about man as being the natural protector of woman, one might say, Why does he not protect her by paying her equal wages with man in positions where she is equally competent? No, the natural-protection argument is not sufficient in a world where selfishness is still the mode of power. When throughout our whole country laws are made that are as just to women as they are to men, it will be because women have helped to make such laws, only a woman best understands the needs of a woman, and should have a say in the making of laws.

That woman is gradually coming into her own and taking her rightful place is evidenced in many ways.

Recently Japan threw open its doors of higher education to women, claiming that the nations which hold their women in subjection and deny them the educational advantages granted their men become weak and powerless, citing Turkey and other Eastern countries as proof of the truth of this statement.

The well-being of the race can only become an accomplished fact when men and women are able to enter into and appreciate one another's thoughts and feelings. The readjustments which have taken place are bringing to man the truer development of his inmost feelings, and to woman is coming that which has been denied her so long: the capacity to think as clearly and reason as logically as her brother man.

These two conditions are always the essentials of perfect equality.

Many people are asking whether the new order of things is not going to play havoc with the domestic relations and home life; whether the rearing and caring for children will not be seriously endangered. It is also contended by some that the mingling of men and women on an equal footing, as students and bread-winners, takes away from womanly refinement and delicacy of feeling, and blunts her intuition and finer sensibilities. Another question might be asked which would offset this: How much more will man profit through such contact? Would not the gain to humanity as a whole be greater than the loss?

With equality, too, will come the true comradeship, the real, mutual, helpfulness that must bring good to both. A woman under such circumstances could never become the mere plaything of a man. She would take her rightful place for the first time in history, and from then on change would follow change; each one bringing something better to the world. The home life must of necessity be benefited, for woman, far from losing her love nature, through being free, should become more independent and self-reliant, better equipped for living a truer, fuller life. There would be less probability of her marrying solely that she might have a home.

Men have often wondered why women have been so harsh in their judgment and condemnation of one of their own sex who leaves the path of virtue, and also why they so easily forgive men who have violated every code of morality. Without going into an exhaustive analysis of the different causes of this attitude, two seem to stand preeminent: First, because of her higher intuitive development, woman realizes to a fuller degree than does man the innate purity of the inner life, and the ideal relationship which should exist between man and woman. Anything which does violence to that ideal shocks her finer sensibilities. In the second instance, man's thought of possession—and this attitude held to through the ages—and that woman should keep her life pure and spotless, has acted on the mind of woman in the nature of a suggestion.

If this suggestion had been an unselfish one, doubtless it would have been of untold benefit to her, but because it was rooted and grounded in selfishness it resulted in a standard of judgment wherein the good became perverted by a lack of charity and an unforgiving spirit. The standard of judgment she formed for her own sex is not applied impartially to the other sex. Again, suggestion is responsible for this other standard. Man's belief in his own superiority, and his independence and selfishness in consulting his own pleasures and personal desires, tended to establish a condition of mind that might be summed up by the saying, "The king can do no wrong." This condition of mind would change of necessity when woman brought reason and logic to bear on the subject. She would certainly deal as impartially with one sex as the other. She would recognize the one law as applying to both. The law of God is alike for all people; He is no respecter of persons. The sun shines on the just and the unjust; He sendeth His rain on the good and on the evil. Why, then, should not a woman be equal with man under the law of man? Why should she be tried by any law, in the making of which she has had no part? Is man so much wiser, that he cannot err? Is his judgment infallible? No. There should be one law for rich and poor and one law for men and women, and all should have some say in the making of law, so that all may be equally protected under it.

She would be in a position to use her best judgment and marry the man of her choice, one whom she both loved and respected.

Without doubt the loveless marriage is responsible for more of the miseries and social evils than any other cause. Some, with Tolstoy, say, "than all other causes." One of the natural outcomes of the loveless marriage is race-suicide. This must be self-evident to any thinking person. Just the reverse of this would prove true with the woman who loves her husband; she will not be content without children. The harmonious relationship between husband and wife is more fully assured and the home life more complete and rounded out with children. The mutual giving of love and respect tends to make her a more intelligent and capable mother.

The fruit of a true union between men and women must eventually make a paradise of this earth. The world needs this at-one-ment between men and women far more than anything else. From it will come a higher civilization, one in which the "brotherhood of man" will be realized in fact. Freedom must be realized by every child of God before he can come to the true understanding of his relations to God and man.

It is a well-known fact that only as different parts of the body are used are they strengthened, and if any part is left in idleness it becomes only a question of time when weakness ensues. That which is true of the body is equally true of the mind. Only as every mental faculty is used in a rightful way does that faculty become strengthened and perfected. In the past, women have not used their mental faculties to any marked degree, but have accepted their thoughts and opinions ready-made from the lords of creation. How could woman show forth her innate greatness when debarred from creative thought action? Could anybody of men ever become great who lived simply in thoughts and ideas of others? Latent talents and possibilities only disclose themselves when each faculty is used to the extent of its present capacity. The race, without doubt, has been greatly retarded in its development because of the failure to see the necessity for the intellectual development of woman. Let us trace the good which will result from the higher development of woman.

It strengthens the mind to think and reason for oneself, and it brings greater self-reliance and greater independence of thought and action; and these tend also to free the mind from superstitious fears which produce harmful effects to both mind and body. The many and varied positions now filled by women require so much greater activity than has ever been needed in her employment in the past, that the supply of human energy is thereby vastly increased, and strength, not weakness, is the result. We do not as yet see fully how great a factor it will prove in human development, because attention is centered rather on the change and the more external side of the question.

The prophets of evil will find before many years that they have made many miscalculations; that the very things which they prophesied would bring evil to the race have really conferred the greatest benefits; that with the development of the intellectual side of woman, she is better fitted to rear and care for a family; that she is able to impart knowledge to her children which she has gained by her individual efforts and experience. Instead of accepting St. Paul's advice, when he said that if a woman would know anything let her ask her husband, she will be able to speak out of the fullness of her own mental experience, wherein she has thought out as carefully and as logically the many problems of existence as has her brother man.

At the present, men do not lay marked stress upon the power of woman to think and reason, claiming that she is moved solely by her emotions, and jumps to conclusions. But with a greater development of her intellect will come also a far higher respect for her feelings, and a decided gain will come to mankind through the recognition of the fact that it takes both thought and feeling to perfect the life. The truer development of man will come when this so-called womanly quality of feeling has much greater scope in his life than now.

It would be possible to go on indefinitely enumerating the advantages which would flow from a new womanhood wherein quite as much benefit would come to man as to woman. A perfect equality between man and woman should be the watchword of the day, and the one who succeeds in doing anything to further the cause becomes a benefactor to humanity. It is with gladness that the awakened soul should herald the morning of the new day in which is proclaimed for both sexes liberty, equality, and fraternity.

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Charles Brodie Patterson

  • Canadian New Thought author
  • Born in Nova Scotia in 1854 and died on June, 22nd 1917

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