Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

The Man-Made World; or, Our Androcentric Culture online

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As for those limitations of the "feminine mind" which render her unfit
to consider the victuallage of a nation, or the justice of a tax on
sugar; it hardly seems as if the charge need be taken seriously. Yet
so able a woman as Mrs. Humphry Ward has recently advanced it in all

In her view women are capable of handling municipal, but not state
affairs. Since even this was once denied them; and since, in England,
they have had municipal suffrage for some time; it would seem as if
their abilities grew with use, as most abilities do; which is in truth
the real answer.

Most women spend their whole lives, and have spent their whole lives for
uncounted generations, in the persistent and exclusive contemplation of
their own family affairs. They are near-sighted, or near-minded, rather;
the trouble is not with the nature of their minds, but with the use of

If men as a class had been exclusively confined to the occupation of
house-service since history began, they would be similarly unlikely to
manifest an acute political intelligence.

We may agree with Tennyson that "Woman is not undeveloped man, but
diverse;" that is _women_ are not undeveloped _men;_ but the feminine
half of humanity is undeveloped human. They have exercised their
feminine functions, but not their human-functions; at least not to their
full extent.

Here appears a distinction which needs to be widely appreciated.

We are not merely male and female - all animals are that - our chief
distinction is that of race, our humanness.

Male characteristics we share with all males, bird and beast; female
characteristics we share with all females, similarly; but human
characteristics belong to _genus homo_ alone; and are possessed by both
sexes. A female horse is just as much a horse as a male of her species;
a female human being is just as human as the male of her species - or
ought to be!

In the special functions and relations of sex there is no contest, no
possible rivalry or confusion; but in the general functions of humanity
there is great misunderstanding.

Our trouble is that we have not recognized these human functions as
such; but supposed them to be exclusively masculine; and, acting under
that idea, strove to prevent women from an unnatural imitation of men.

Hence this minor theory of the limitations of the "female mind."

The mind is pre-eminently human. That degree of brain development which
distinguishes our species, is a human, not a sex characteristic.

There may be, has been, and still is, a vast difference in our treatment
of the minds of the two sexes. We have given them a different education,
different exercises, different conditions in all ways. But all these
differences are external, and their effect disappears with them.

The "female mind" has proven its identical capacity with the "male
mind," _in so far as it has been given identical conditions._ It will
take a long time, however, before conditions are so identical, for
successive generations, as to give the "female mind" a fair chance.

In the meantime, considering its traditional, educational and
associative drawbacks, the "female mind" has made a remarkably good

The field of politics is an unfortunate one in which to urge this
alleged limitation; because politics is one of the few fields in which
some women have been reared and exercised under equal conditions with

We have had queens as long as we have had kings, perhaps longer; and
history does not show the male mind, in kings, to have manifested a
numerically proportionate superiority over the female mind, in queens.
There have been more kings than queens, but have there been more good
and great ones, in proportion?

Even one practical and efficient queen is proof enough that being a
woman does not preclude political capacity. Since England has had such
an able queen for so long, and that within Mrs. Humphry Ward's personal
memory, her position seems fatuous in the extreme.

It has been advanced that great queens owed their power to the
association and advice of the noble and high-minded men who surrounded
them; and, further, that the poor showing made by many kings, was due to
the association and vice of the base and low-minded women who surrounded

This is a particularly pusillanimous claim in the first place; is not
provable in the second place; and, if it were true, opens up a very
pretty field of study in the third place. It would seem to prove, if it
proves anything, that men are not fit to be trusted with political
power on account of an alarming affinity for the worst of women; and,
conversely, that women, as commanding the assistance of the best of men,
are visibly the right rulers! Also it opens a pleasant sidelight on that
oft-recommended tool - "feminine influence."

We now come to our opening objection; that society and state, home, and
family, are best served by the present division of interests: and its
corollary, that if women enlarge that field of interest it would reduce
their usefulness in their present sphere.

The corollary is easily removed. We are now on the broad ground of
established facts; of history, recent, but still achieved.

Women have had equal political rights with men in several places, for
considerable periods of time. In Wyoming, to come near home, they have
enjoyed this status for more than a generation. Neither here nor in any
other state or country where women vote, is there the faintest proof of
injury to the home or family relation. In Wyoming, indeed, divorce has
decreased, while gaining so fast in other places.

Political knowledge, political interest, does not take up more time and
strength than any other form of mental activity; nor does it preclude a
keen efficiency in other lines; and as for the actual time required to
perform the average duties of citizenship - it is a contemptible bit of
trickery in argument, if not mere ignorance and confusion of idea, to
urge the occasional attendance on political meetings, or the annual or
bi-annual dropping of a ballot, as any interference with the management
of a house.

It is proven, by years on years of established experience, that women
can enjoy full political equality and use their power, without in the
least ceasing to be contented and efficient wives and mothers, cooks and

What really horrifies the popular mind at the thought of women in
politics, is the picture of woman as a "practical politician;" giving
her time to it as a business, and making money by it, in questionable,
or unquestionable, ways; and, further, as a politician in office, as
sheriff, alderman, senator, judge.

The popular mind becomes suffused with horror at the first idea, and
scarcely less so at the second. It pictures blushing girlhood on
the Bench; tender motherhood in the Senate; the housewife turned
"ward-heeler;" and becomes quite sick in contemplation of these

No educated mind, practical mind, no mind able and willing to use its
faculties, need be misled for a moment by these sophistries.

There is absolutely no evidence that women as a class will rush into
"practical politics." Where they have voted longest they do not manifest
this dread result. Neither is there any proof that they will all desire
to hold office; or that any considerable portion of them will; or that,
if they did, they would get it.

We seem unconsciously to assume that when women begin to vote, men will
stop; or that the women will outnumber the men; also that, outnumbering
them, they will be completely united in their vote; and, still further,
that so outnumbering and uniting, they will solidly vote for a ticket
composed wholly of women candidates.

Does anyone seriously imagine this to be likely?

This may be stated with assurance; if ever we do see a clever,
designing, flirtatious, man-twisting woman; or a pretty, charming,
irresistable young girl, elected to office - it will not be by the votes
of women!

Where women are elected to office, by the votes of both men and women,
they are of suitable age and abilities, and do their work well. They
have already greatly improved some of the conditions of local politics,
and the legislation they advocate is of a beneficial character.

What is the true relation of women to the state?

It is precisely identical with that of men. Their forms of service may
vary, but their duty, their interest, their responsibility, is the same.

Here are the people on earth, half of them women, all of them her
children. It is her earth as much as his; the people are their people,
the state their state; compounded of them all, in due relation.

As the father and mother, together; shelter, guard, teach and provide
for their children in the home; so should all fathers and mothers,
together; shelter, guard, teach and provide for their common children,
the community.

The state is no mystery; no taboo place of masculine secrecy; it is
simply us.

Democracy is but a half-grown child as yet, one of twins? Its boy-half
is a struggling thing, with "the diseases of babyhood"; its girl-half
has hardly begun to take notice.

As human creatures we have precisely the same duty and privilege,
interest, and power in the state; sharing its protection, its
advantages, and its services. As women we have a different relation.

Here indeed we will admit, and glory in, our "diversity." The "eternal
womanly" is a far more useful thing in the state than the "eternal

To be woman means to be mother. To be mother means to give love,
defense, nourishment, care, instruction. Too long, far too long has
motherhood neglected its real social duties, its duties to humanity at
large. Even in her position of retarded industrial development, as the
housekeeper and houseworker of the world, woman has a contribution of
special value to the state.

As the loving mother, the patient teacher, the tender nurse, the wise
provider and care-taker, she can serve the state, and the state needs
her service.


The forest of Truth, on the subject of industry and economics, is
difficult to see on account of the trees.

We have so many Facts on this subject; so many Opinions; so many
Traditions and Habits; and the pressure of Immediate Conclusions is so
intense upon us all; that it is not easy to form a clear space in one's
mind and consider the field fairly.

Possibly the present treatment of the subject will appeal most to the
minds of those who know least about it; such as the Average Woman.
To her, Industry is a daylong and lifelong duty, as well as a natural
impulse; and economics means going without things. To such untrained
but also unprejudiced minds it should be easy to show the main facts on
these lines.

Let us dispose of Economics first, as having a solemn scientific

Physical Economics treats of the internal affairs of the body; the whole
machinery and how it works; all organs, members, functions; each last
and littlest capillary and leucocyte, are parts of that "economy."

Nature's "economy" is not in the least "economical." The waste of life,
the waste of material, the waste of time and effort, are prodigious, yet
she achieves her end as we see.

Domestic Economics covers the whole care and government of the
household; the maintenance of peace, health, order, and morality; the
care and nourishment of children as far as done at home; the entire
management of the home, as well as the spending and saving of money; are
included in it. Saving is the least and poorest part of it; especially
as in mere abstinence from needed things; most especially when this
abstinence is mainly "Mother's." How best to spend; time, strength,
love, care, labor, knowledge, and money - this should be the main study
in Domestic Economics.

Social, or, as they are used to call it, Political Economics, covers
a larger, but not essentially different field. A family consists of
people, and the Mother is their natural manager. Society consists of
people - _the same people_ - only more of them. All the people, who are
members of Society, are also members of families - except some incubated
orphans maybe. Social Economics covers the whole care and management of
the people, the maintenance of peace and health and order and morality;
the care of children, as far as done out of the home; as well as the
spending and saving of the public money - all these are included in it.

This great business of Social Economics is at present little understood
and most poorly managed, for this reason; we approach it from an
individual point of view; seeking not so much to do our share in the
common service, as to get our personal profit from the common wealth.
Where the whole family labors together to harvest fruit and store it for
the winter, we have legitimate Domestic Economics: but where one member
takes and hides a lot for himself, to the exclusion of the others, we
have no Domestic Economics at all - merely individual selfishness.

In Social Economics we have a large, but simple problem. Here is the
earth, our farm. Here are the people, who own the earth. How can the
most advantage to the most people be obtained from the earth with the
least labor? That is the problem of Social Economics.

Looking at the world as if you held it in your hands to study and
discuss, what do we find at present?

We find people living too thickly for health and comfort in some places,
and too thinly for others; we find most people working too hard and too
long at honest labor; some people working with damaging intensity at
dishonest labor; and a few wretched paupers among the rich and poor,
degenerate idlers who do not work at all, the scum and the dregs of

All this is bad economics. We do not get the comfort out of life we
easily could; and work far too hard for what we do get. Moreover, there
is no peace, no settled security. No man is sure of his living, no
matter how hard he works, a thousand things may occur to deprive him of
his job, or his income. In our time there is great excitement along this
line of study; and more than one proposition is advanced whereby we
may improve, most notably instanced in the world-covering advance of

In our present study the principal fact to be exhibited is the influence
of a male culture upon Social Economics and Industry.

Industry, as a department of Social Economics, is little understood.
Heretofore we have viewed this field from several wholly erroneous
positions. From the Hebrew (and wholly androcentric) religious teaching,
we have regarded labor as a curse.

Nothing could be more absurdly false. Labor is not merely a means of
supporting human life - it _is_ human life. Imagine a race of beings
living without labor! They must be the rudest savages.

Human work consists in specialized industry and the exchange of its
products; and without it is no civilization. As industry develops,
civilization develops; peace expands; wealth increases; science and art
help on the splendid total. Productive industry, and its concomitant of
distributive industry cover the major field of human life.

If our industry was normal, what should we see?

A world full of healthy, happy people; each busily engaged in what he
or she most enjoys doing. Normal Specialization, like all our
voluntary processes, is accompanied by keen pleasure; and any check or
interruption to it gives pain and injury. Whosoever works at what he
loves is well and happy. Whoso works at what he does not love is ill and
miserable. It is very bad economics to force unwilling industry. That is
the weakness of slave labor; and of wage labor also where there is not
full industrial education and freedom of choice.

Under normal conditions we should see well developed, well trained
specialists happily engaged in the work they most enjoyed; for
reasonable hours (any work, or play either, becomes injurious if done
too long); and as a consequence the whole output of the world would be
vastly improved, not only in quantity but in quality.

Plain are the melancholy facts of what we do see. Following that pitiful
conception of labor as a curse, comes the very old and androcentric
habit of despising it as belonging to women, and then to slaves.

As a matter of fact industry is in its origin feminine; that is,
maternal. It is the overflowing fountain of mother-love and mother-power
which first prompts the human race to labor; and for long ages men
performed no productive industry at all; being merely hunters and

It is this lack of natural instinct for labor in the male of our
species, together with the ideas and opinions based on that lack, and
voiced by him in his many writings, religious and other, which have
given to the world its false estimate of this great function, human
work. That which is our very life, our greatest joy, our road to all
advancement, we have scorned and oppressed; so that "working people,"
the "working classes," "having to work," etc., are to this day spoken of
with contempt. Perhaps drones speak so among themselves of the "working

Normally, widening out from the mother's careful and generous service
in the family, to careful, generous service in the world, we should find
labor freely given, with love and pride.

Abnormally, crushed under the burden of androcentric scorn and
prejudice, we have labor grudgingly produced under pressure of
necessity; labor of slaves under fear of the whip, or of wage-slaves,
one step higher, under fear of want. Long ages wherein hunting and
fighting were the only manly occupations, have left their heavy impress.
The predacious instinct and the combative instinct weigh down and
disfigure our economic development. What Veblen calls "the instinct of
workmanship" grows on, slowly and irresistably; but the malign features
of our industrial life are distinctively androcentric: the desire to
get, of the hunter; interfering with the desire to give, of the mother;
the desire to overcome an antagonist - originally masculine, interfering
with the desire to serve and benefit - originally feminine.

Let the reader keep in mind that as human beings, men are able to
over-live their masculine natures and do noble service to the world;
also that as human beings they are today far more highly developed than
women, and doing far more for the world. The point here brought out is
that as males their unchecked supremacy has resulted in the abnormal
predominance of masculine impulses in our human processes; and that this
predominance has been largely injurious.

As it happens, the distinctly feminine or maternal impulses are far more
nearly in line with human progress than are those of the male; which
makes her exclusion from human functions the more mischievous.

Our current teachings in the infant science of Political Economy are
naively masculine. They assume as unquestionable that "the economic man"
will never do anything unless he has to; will only do it to escape pain
or attain pleasure; and will, inevitably, take all he can get, and do
all he can to outwit, overcome, and if necessary destroy his antagonist.

Always the antagonist; to the male mind an antagonist is essential to
progress, to all achievement. He has planted that root-thought in all
the human world; from that old hideous idea of Satan, "The Adversary,"
down to the competitor in business, or the boy at the head of the class,
to be superseded by another.

Therefore, even in science, "the struggle for existence" is the dominant
law - to the male mind, with the "survival of the fittest" and "the
elimination of the unfit."

Therefore in industry and economics we find always and everywhere the
antagonist; the necessity for somebody or something to be overcome - else
why make an effort? If you have not the incentive of reward, or the
incentive of combat, why work? "Competition is the life of trade."

Thus the Economic Man.

But how about the Economic Woman?

To the androcentric mind she does not exist. Women are females, and
that's all; their working abilities are limited to personal service.

That it would be possible to develop industry to far greater heights,
and to find in social economics a simple and beneficial process for the
promotion of human life and prosperity, under any other impulse than
these two, Desire and Combat, is hard indeed to recognize - for the "male

So absolutely interwoven are our existing concepts of maleness and
humanness, so sure are we that men are people and women only females,
that the claim of equal weight and dignity in human affairs of the
feminine instincts and methods is scouted as absurd. We find existing
industry almost wholly in male hands; find it done as men do it; assume
that that is the way it must be done.

When women suggest that it could be done differently, their proposal is
waved aside - they are "only women" - their ideas are "womanish."

Agreed. So are men "only men," their ideas are "mannish"; and of the two
the women are more vitally human than the men.

The female is the race-type - the man the variant.

The female, as a race-type, having the female processes besides;
best performs the race processes. The male, however, has with great
difficulty developed them, always heavily handicapped by his maleness;
being in origin essentially a creature of sex, and so dominated almost
exclusively by sex impulses.

The human instinct of mutual service is checked by the masculine
instinct of combat; the human tendency to specialize in labor, to
rejoicingly pour force in lines of specialized expression, is checked
by the predacious instinct, which will exert itself for reward; and
disfigured by the masculine instinct of self-expression, which is an
entirely different thing from the great human outpouring of world force.

Great men, the world's teachers and leaders, are great in humanness;
mere maleness does not make for greatness unless it be in warfare - a
disadvantageous glory! Great women also must be great in humanness; but
their female instincts are not so subversive of human progress as are
the instincts of the male. To be a teacher and leader, to love and
serve, to guard and guide and help, are well in line with motherhood.

"Are they not also in line with fatherhood?" will be asked; and, "Are
not the father's paternal instincts masculine?"

No, they are not; they differ in no way from the maternal, in so far as
they are beneficial. Parental functions of the higher sort, of the human
sort, are identical. The father can give his children many advantages
which the mother can not; but that is due to his superiority as a human
being. He possesses far more knowledge and power in the world, the human
world; he himself is more developed in human powers and processes; and
is therefore able to do much for his children which the mother can not;
but this is in no way due to his masculinity. It is in this development
of human powers in man, through fatherhood, that we may read the
explanation of our short period of androcentric culture.

So thorough and complete a reversal of previous relation, such
continuance of what appears in every way an unnatural position, must
have had some justification in racial advantages, or it could not have
endured. This is its justification; the establishment of humanness in
the male; he being led into it, along natural lines, by the exercise of
previously existing desires.

In a male culture the attracting forces must inevitably have been, we
have seen, Desire and Combat. These masculine forces, acting upon
human processes, while necessary to the uplifting of the man, have been
anything but uplifting to civilization. A sex which thinks, feels and
acts in terms of combat is difficult to harmonize in the smooth bonds
of human relationship; that they have succeeded so well is a beautiful
testimony to the superior power of race tendency over sex tendency.
Uniting and organizing, crudely and temporarily, for the common hunt;
and then, with progressive elaboration, for the common fight; they are
now using the same tactics - and the same desires, unfortunately - in
common work.

Union, organization, complex interservice, are the essential processes
of a growing society; in them, in the ever-increasing discharge of power
along widening lines of action, is the joy and health of social life.
But so far men combine in order to better combat; the mutual service
held incidental to the common end of conquest and plunder.

In spite of this the overmastering power of humanness is now developing
among modern men immense organizations of a wholly beneficial character,

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Online LibraryCharlotte Perkins GilmanThe Man-Made World; or, Our Androcentric Culture → online text (page 10 of 11)