Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

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

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mother-right;" or as we call it, the matriarchate; the father being
her assistant in the great work. The patriarchate, with its proprietary
family, changed this altogether; the woman, as the property of the man
was considered first and foremost as a means of pleasure to him; and
while she was still valued as a mother, it was in a tributary capacity.
Her children were now his; his property, as she was; the whole enginery
of the family was turned from its true use to this new one, hitherto
unknown, the service of the adult male.

To this day we are living under the influence of the proprietary
family. The duty of the wife is held to involve man-service as well
as child-service, and indeed far more; as the duty of the wife to the
husband quite transcends the duty of the mother to the child.

See for instance the English wife staying with her husband in India and
sending the children home to be brought up; because India is bad
for children. See our common law that the man decides the place of
residence; if the wife refuses to go with him to howsoever unfit a place
for her and for the little ones, such refusal on her part constitutes
"desertion" and is ground for divorce.

See again the idea that the wife must remain with the husband though a
drunkard, or diseased; regardless of the sin against the child involved
in such a relation. Public feeling on these matters is indeed changing;
but as a whole the ideals of the man-made family still obtain.

The effect of this on the woman has been inevitably to weaken and
overshadow her sense of the real purpose of the family; of the
relentless responsibilities of her duty as a mother. She is first taught
duty to her parents, with heavy religious sanction; and then duty to
her husband, similarly buttressed; but her duty to her children has been
left to instinct. She is not taught in girlhood as to her preeminent
power and duty as a mother; her young ideals are all of devotion to the
lover and husband: with only the vaguest sense of results.

The young girl is reared in what we call "innocence;" poetically
described as "bloom;" and this condition is held one of her chief
"charms." The requisite is wholly androcentric. This "innocence" does
not enable her to choose a husband wisely; she does not even know the
dangers that possibly confront her. We vaguely imagine that her father
or brother, who do know, will protect her. Unfortunately the father and
brother, under our current "double standard" of morality do not judge
the applicants as she would if she knew the nature of their offenses.

Furthermore, if her heart is set on one of them, no amount of general
advice and opposition serves to prevent her marrying him. "I love him!"
she says, sublimely. "I do not care what he has done. I will forgive
him. I will save him!"

This state of mind serves to forward the interests of the lover, but
is of no advantage to the children. We have magnified the duties of the
wife, and minified the duties of the mother; and this is inevitable in
a family relation every law and custom of which is arranged from the
masculine viewpoint.

From this same viewpoint, equally essential to the proprietary family,
comes the requirement that the woman shall serve the man. Her service
is not that of the associate and equal, as when she joins him in his
business. It is not that of a beneficial combination, as when she
practices another business and they share the profits; it is not even
that of the specialist, as the service of a tailor or barber; it is
personal service - the work of a servant.

In large generalization, the women of the world cook and wash, sweep and
dust, sew and mend, for the men.

We are so accustomed to this relation; have held it for so long to be
the "natural" relation, that it is difficult indeed to show that it is
distinctly unnatural and injurious. The father expects to be served by
the daughter, a service quite different from what he expects of the son.
This shows at once that such service is no integral part of motherhood,
or even of marriage; but is supposed to be the proper industrial
position of women, as such.

Why is this so? Why, on the face of it, given a daughter and a son,
should a form of service be expected of the one, which would be
considered ignominious by the other?

The underlying reason is this. Industry, at its base, is a feminine
function. The surplus energy of the mother does not manifest itself in
noise, or combat, or display, but in productive industry. Because of her
mother-power she became the first inventor and laborer; being in truth
the mother of all industry as well as all people.

Man's entrance upon industry is late and reluctant; as will be shown
later in treating his effect on economics. In this field of family life,
his effect was as follows:

Establishing the proprietary family at an age when the industry was
primitive and domestic; and thereafter confining the woman solely to
the domestic area, he thereby confined her to primitive industry. The
domestic industries, in the hands of women, constitute a survival of
our remotest past. Such work was "woman's work" as was all the work then
known; such work is still considered woman's work because they have been
prevented from doing any other.

The term "domestic industry" does not define a certain kind of labor,
but a certain grade of labor. Architecture was a domestic industry
once - when every savage mother set up her own tepee. To be confined
to domestic industry is no proper distinction of womanhood; it is an
historic distinction, an economic distinction, it sets a date and limit
to woman's industrial progress.

In this respect the man-made family has resulted in arresting
the development of half the field. We have a world wherein men,
industrially, live in the twentieth century; and women, industrially,
live in the first - and back of it.

To the same source we trace the social and educational limitations
set about women. The dominant male, holding his women as property,
and fiercely jealous of them, considering them always as _his,_ not
belonging to themselves, their children, or the world; has hedged them
in with restrictions of a thousand sorts; physical, as in the crippled
Chinese lady or the imprisoned odalisque; moral, as in the oppressive
doctrines of submission taught by all our androcentric religions;
mental, as in the enforced ignorance from which women are now so swiftly

This abnormal restriction of women has necessarily injured motherhood.
The man, free, growing in the world's growth, has mounted with the
centuries, filling an ever wider range of world activities. The
woman, bound, has not so grown; and the child is born to a progressive
fatherhood and a stationary motherhood. Thus the man-made family reacts
unfavorably upon the child. We rob our children of half their social
heredity by keeping the mother in an inferior position; however
legalized, hallowed, or ossified by time, the position of a domestic
servant is inferior.

It is for this reason that child culture is at so low a level, and for
the most part utterly unknown. Today, when the forces of education are
steadily working nearer to the cradle, a new sense is wakening of the
importance of the period of infancy, and its wiser treatment; yet those
who know of such a movement are few, and of them some are content to
earn easy praise - and pay - by belittling right progress to gratify the
prejudices of the ignorant.

The whole position is simple and clear; and easily traceable to
its root. Given a proprietary family, where the man holds the woman
primarily for his satisfaction and service - then necessarily he shuts
her up and keeps her for these purposes. Being so kept, she cannot
develop humanly, as he has, through social contact, social service, true
social life. (We may note in passing, her passionate fondness for the
child-game called "society" she has been allowed to entertain herself
withal; that poor simiacrum of real social life, in which people
decorate themselves and madly crowd together, chattering, for what is
called "entertainment.") Thus checked in social development, we have but
a low grade motherhood to offer our children; and the children, reared
in the primitive conditions thus artificially maintained, enter life
with a false perspective, not only toward men and women, but toward life
as a whole.

The child should receive in the family, full preparation for his
relation to the world at large. His whole life must be spent in the
world, serving it well or ill; and youth is the time to learn how.
But the androcentric home cannot teach him. We live to-day in a
democracy-the man-made family is a despotism. It may be a weak one; the
despot may be dethroned and overmastered by his little harem of one; but
in that case she becomes the despot - that is all. The male is esteemed
"the head of the family;" it belongs to him; he maintains it; and the
rest of the world is a wide hunting ground and battlefield wherein he
competes with other males as of old.

The girl-child, peering out, sees this forbidden field as belonging
wholly to men-kind; and her relation to it is to secure one for
herself - not only that she may love, but that she may live. He will
feed, clothe and adorn her - she will serve him; from the subjection of
the daughter to that of the wife she steps; from one home to the other,
and never enters the world at all - man's world.

The boy, on the other hand, considers the home as a place of women, an
inferior place, and longs to grow up and leave it - for the real world.
He is quite right. The error is that this great social instinct, calling
for full social exercise, exchange, service, is considered masculine,
whereas it is human, and belongs to boy and girl alike.

The child is affected first through the retarded development of his
mother, then through the arrested condition of home industry;
and further through the wrong ideals which have arisen from these
conditions. A normal home, where there was human equality between mother
and father, would have a better influence.

We must not overlook the effect of the proprietary family on the
proprietor himself. He, too, has been held back somewhat by this
reactionary force. In the process of becoming human we must learn to
recognize justice, freedom, human rights; we must learn self-control and
to think of others; have minds that grow and broaden rationally; we
must learn the broad mutual interservice and unbounded joy of social
intercourse and service. The petty despot of the man-made home is
hindered in his humanness by too much manness.

For each man to have one whole woman to cook for and wait upon him is
a poor education for democracy. The boy with a servile mother, the man
with a servile wife, cannot reach the sense of equal rights we need
to-day. Too constant consideration of the master's tastes makes the
master selfish; and the assault upon his heart direct, or through that
proverbial side-avenue, the stomach, which the dependent woman needs
must make when she wants anything, is bad for the man, as well as for

We are slowly forming a nobler type of family; the union of two, based
on love and recognized by law, maintained because of its happiness and
use. We are even now approaching a tenderness and permanence of
love, high pure enduring love; combined with the broad deep-rooted
friendliness and comradeship of equals; which promises us more happiness
in marriage than we have yet known. It will be good for all the parties
concerned - man, woman and child: and promote our general social progress

If it needs "a head" it will elect a chairman pro tem. Friendship does
not need "a head." Love does dot need "a head." Why should a family?


NOTE - The word "Androcentric" we owe to Prof. Lester F.
Ward. In his book, "Pure Sociology," Chap. 14, he describes
the Androcentric Theory of life, hitherto universally
accepted; and introduces his own "Gyneacocentric Theory."
All who are interested in the deeper scientific aspects of
this question are urged to read that chapter. Prof. Ward's
theory is to my mind the most important that has been
offered the world since the Theory of Evolution; and without
exception the most important that has ever been put forward
concerning women.

Among the many paradoxes which we find in human life is our low average
standard of health and beauty, compared with our power and knowledge.
All creatures suffer from conflict with the elements; from enemies
without and within - the prowling devourers of the forest, and "the
terror that walketh in darkness" and attacks the body from inside, in
hidden millions.

Among wild animals generally, there is a certain standard of excellence;
if you shoot a bear or a bird, it is a fair sample of the species; you
do not say, "O what an ugly one!" or "This must have been an invalid!"

Where we have domesticated any animal, and interfered with its natural
habits, illness has followed; the dog is said to have the most diseases
second to man; the horse comes next; but the wild ones put us to
shame by their superior health and the beauty that belongs to right

In our long ages of blind infancy we assume that sickness was a
visitation frown the gods; some still believe this, holding it to be a
special prerogative of divinity to afflict us in this way. We speak of
"the ills that flesh is heir to" as if the inheritance was entailed and
inalienable. Only of late years, after much study and long struggle with
this old belief which made us submit to sickness as a blow from the hand
of God, we are beginning to learn something of the many causes of our
many diseases, and how to remove some of them.

It is still true, however, that almost every one of us is to some degree
abnormal; the features asymmetrical, the vision defective, the digestion
unreliable, the nervous system erratic - we are but a job lot even in
what we call "good health"; and are subject to a burden of pain
and premature death that would make life hideous if it were not so
ridiculously unnecessary.

As to beauty - we do not think of expecting it save in the rarely
exceptional case. Look at the faces - the figures - in any crowd you meet;
compare the average man or the average woman with the normal type of
human beauty as given us in picture and statue; and consider if there is
not some general cause for so general a condition of ugliness.

Moreover, leaving our defective bodies concealed by garments; what are
those garments, as conducive to health and beauty? Is the practical
ugliness of our men's attire, and the impractical absurdity of our
women's, any contribution to human beauty? Look at our houses - are they
beautiful? Even the houses of the rich?

We do not even know that we ought to live in a world of overflowing
loveliness; and that our contribution to it should be the loveliest of
all. We are so sodden in the dull ugliness of our interiors, so used
to calling a tame weary low-toned color scheme "good taste," that only
children dare frankly yearn for Beauty - and they are speedily educated
out of it.

The reasons specially given for our low standards of health and beauty
are ignorance, poverty, and the evil effects of special trades. The Man
with the Hoe becomes brother to the ox because of over-much hoeing; the
housepainter is lead-poisoned because of his painting; books have been
written to show the injurious influence of nearly all our industries
upon workers.

These causes are sound as far as they go; but do not cover the whole

The farmer may be muscle-bound and stooping from his labor; but that
does not account for his dyspepsia or his rheumatism.

Then we allege poverty as covering all. Poverty does cover a good deal.
But when we find even a half-fed savage better developed than a well
paid cashier; and a poor peasant woman a more vigorous mother than the
idle wife of a rich man, poverty is not enough.

Then we say ignorance explains it. But there are most learned professors
who are ugly and asthmathic; there are even doctors who can boast no
beauty and but moderate health; there are some of the petted children of
the wealthy, upon whom every care is lavished from birth, and who still
are ill to look at and worse to marry.

All these special causes are admitted, given their due share in
lowering our standards, but there is another far more universal in its
application and its effects. Let us look back on our little ancestors
the beasts, and see what keeps them so true to type.

The type itself set by that balance of conditions and forces we call
"natural selection." As the environment changes they must be adapted to
it, if they cannot so adapt themselves they die. Those who live are, by
living, proven capable of maintaining themselves. Every creature which
has remained on earth, while so many less effective kinds died out,
remains as a conqueror. The speed of the deer - the constant use of
speed - is what keeps it alive and makes it healthy and beautiful. The
varied activities of the life of a leopard are what have developed the
sinuous gracile strength we so admire. It is what the creature does for
its living, its daily life-long exercise which makes it what it is.

But there is another great natural force which works steadily to
keep all animals up to the race standard; that is sexual selection.
Throughout nature the male is the variant, as we have already noted.
His energy finds vent not only in that profuse output of decorative
appendages Ward defines as "masculine efflorescence" but in variations
not decorative, not useful or desirable at all.

The female, on the other hand, varies much less, remaining nearer the
race type; and her function is to select among these varying males
the specimens most valuable to the race. In the intense masculine
competition the victor must necessarily be stronger than his fellows;
he is first proven equal to his environment by having lived to grow
up, then more than equal to his fellows by overcoming them. This higher
grade of selection also develops not only the characteristics necessary
to make a living; but secondary ones, often of a purely aesthetic
nature, which make much of what we call beauty. Between the two, all who
live must be up to a certain grade, and those who become parents must be
above it; a masterly arrangement surely!

Here is where, during the period of our human history, we in our newborn
consciousness and imperfect knowledge, have grievously interfered with
the laws of nature. The ancient proprietary family, treating the woman
as a slave, keeping her a prisoner and subject to the will of her
master, cut her off at once from the exercise of those activities which
alone develop and maintain the race type.

Take the one simple quality of speed. We are a creature built for speed,
a free swift graceful animal; and among savages this is still seen - the
capacity for running, mile after mile, hour after hour. Running is as
natural a gait for _genus homo_ as for _genus cervus._ Now suppose among
deer, the doe was prohibited from running; the stag continuing free on
the mountain; the doe living in caves and pens, unequal to any exercise.
The effect on the species would be, inevitably, to reduce its speed.

In this way, by keeping women to one small range of duties, and in most
cases housebound, we have interfered with natural selection and its
resultant health and beauty. It can easily be seen what the effect on
the race would have been if all men had been veiled and swathed, hidden
in harems, kept to the tent or house, and confined to the activities
of a house-servant. Our stalwart laborers, our proud soldiers, our
athletes, would never have appeared under such circumstances. The
confinement to the house alone, cutting women off from sunshine and air,
is by itself an injury; and the range of occupation allowed them is not
such as to develop a high standard of either health or beauty. Thus we
have cut off half the race from the strengthening influence of natural
selection, and so lowered our race-standards in large degree.

This alone, however, would not have hid such mischievous effects but
for our further blunder in completely reversing nature's order of
sexual selection. It is quite possible that even under confinement and
restriction women could have kept up the race level, passably, through
this great function of selection; but here is the great fundamental
error of the Androcentric Culture. Assuming to be the possessor of
women, their owner and master, able at will to give, buy and sell, or do
with as he pleases, man became the selector.

It seems a simple change; and in those early days, wholly ignorant of
natural laws, there was no suspicion that any mischief would result. In
the light of modern knowledge, however, the case is clear. The woman was
deprived of the beneficent action of natural selection, and the man
was then, by his own act, freed from the stern but elevating effect of
sexual selection. Nothing was required of the woman by natural selection
save such capacity as should please her master; nothing was required
of the man by sexual selection save power to take by force, or buy, a

It does not take a very high standard of feminine intelligence,
strength, skill, health, or beauty to be a houseservant, or even a
housekeeper; witness the average.

It does not take a very high standard of masculine, intelligence,
strength, skill, health or beauty to maintain a woman in that
capacity - witness average.

Here at the very root of our physiological process, at the beginning
of life, we have perverted the order of nature, and are suffering the

It has been held by some that man as the selector has developed beauty,
more beauty than we had before; and we point to the charms of our women
as compared with those of the squaw. The answer to this is that the
squaw belongs to a decadent race; that she too is subject to the man,
that the comparison to have weight should be made between our women and
the women of the matriarchate - an obvious impossibility. We have not on
earth women in a state of normal freedom and full development; but we
have enough difference in their placing to learn that human strength and
beauty grows with woman's freedom and activity.

The second answer is that much of what man calls beauty in woman is not
human beauty at all, but gross overdevelopment of certain points which
appeal to him as a male. The excessive fatness, previously referred to,
is a case in point; that being considered beauty in a woman which is
in reality an element of weakness, inefficiency and ill-health. The
relatively small size of women, deliberately preferred, steadfastly
chosen, and so built into the race, is a blow at real human progress in
every particular. In our upward journey we should and do grow larger,
leaving far behind us our dwarfish progenitors. Yet the male, in his
unnatural position as selector, preferring for reasons both practical
and sentimental, to have "his woman" smaller than himself, has
deliberately striven to lower the standard of size in the race. We used
to read in the novels of the last generation, "He was a magnificent
specimen of manhood" - "Her golden head reached scarcely to his
shoulder" - "She was a fairy creature - the tiniest of her sex." Thus we
have mated, and yet expected that by some hocus pocus the boys would all
"take after their father," and the girls, their mother. In his
efforts to improve the breed of other animals, man has never tried
to deliberately cross the large and small and expect to keep up the
standard of size.

As a male he is appealed to by the ultra-feminine, and has given small
thought to effects on the race. He was not designed to do the selecting.
Under his fostering care we have bred a race of women who are physically
weak enough to be handed about like invalids; or mentally weak enough
to pretend they are - and to like it. We have made women who respond so
perfectly to the force which made them, that they attach all their idea
of beauty to those characteristics which attract men; sometimes humanly
ugly without even knowing it.

For instance, our long restriction to house-limits, the heavy
limitations of our clothing, and the heavier ones of traditional
decorum, have made women disproportionately short-legged. This is a
particularly undignified and injurious characteristic, bred in women
and inherited by men, most seen among those races which keep their women
most closely. Yet when one woman escapes the tendency and appears with

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Online LibraryCharlotte Perkins GilmanThe Man-Made World; or, Our Androcentric Culture → online text (page 2 of 11)