The being who, for most men, is the source of the most lively, and even, be it said, to the shame of philosophical delights, the most lasting joys; the being towards or for whom all their efforts tend for whom and by whom fortunes are made and lost; for whom, but especially by whom, artists and poets compose their most delicate jewels; from whom flow the most enervating pleasures and the most enriching sufferings -- woman, in a word, is not, for the artist in general... only the female of the human species. She is rather a divinity, a star.
A woman cannot do the thing she ought, which means whatever perfect thing she can, in life, in art, in science, but she fears to let the perfect action take her part and rest there: she must prove what she can do before she does it, -- prate of woman's rights, of woman's mission, woman's function, till the men (who are prating, too, on their side) cry, A woman's function plainly is... to talk. Poor souls, they are very reasonably vexed!
Women are most fascinating between the ages of thirty-five and forty, after they have won a few races and know how to pace themselves. Since few women ever pass forty, maximum fascination can continue indefinitely.
It is not women's fault if we are so tender. It is in the nature of the lives we live. And further, it would be a terrible catastrophe if men had to live men's lives and women's also. Which is precisely what has happened today -- to women.
There is simply no dignified way for a woman to live alone. Oh, she can get along financially perhaps (though not nearly as well as a man), but emotionally she is never left in peace. Her friends, her family, her fellow workers never let her forget that her husbandlessness, her childlessness -- her selfishness, in short -- is a reproach to the American way of life.
Growing up female in America. What a liability! You grew up with your ears full of cosmetic ads, love songs, advice columns, whoreoscopes, Hollywood gossip, and moral dilemmas on the level of TV soap operas. What litanies the advertisers of the good life chanted at you! What curious catechisms!
The clich? that women, more consistently than men, turn inward for sustenance seems to mean, in practice, that women have richly defined the ways in which imagination creates possibility; possibility that society denies.
So it is naturally with the male and the female; the one is superior, the other inferior; the one governs, the other is governed; and the same rule must necessarily hold good with respect to all mankind.
But as to women, who can penetrate the real sufferings of their she condition? Man's very sympathy with their estate has much of selfishness and more suspicion. Their love, their virtue, beauty, education, but form good housekeepers, to breed a nation.
A woman should say: Have I made him happy? Is he satisfied? Does he love me more than he loved me before? Is he likely to go to bed with another woman? If he does, then it's the wife's fault because she is not trying to make him happy.
A man of sense only trifles with them, plays with them, humors and flatters them, as he does with a sprightly and forward child; but he neither consults them about, nor trusts them with, serious matters.
The woman is the home. That's where she used to be, and that's where she still is. You might ask me, What if a man tries to be part of the home -- will the woman let him? I answer yes. Because then he becomes one of the children.
Given the cultural barriers to intersex conversation, the amazing thing is that we would even expect women and men to have anything to say to each other for more than ten minutes at a stretch. The barriers are ancient -- perhaps rooted, as some paleontologist may soon discover, in the contrast between the occasional guttural utterances exchanged in male hunting bands and the extended discussions characteristic of female food-gathering groups.
Upscale young men seem to go for the kind of woman who plays with a full deck of credit cards, who won't cry when she's knocked to the ground while trying to board the six o clock Eastern shuttle, and whose schedule doesn't allow for a sexual encounter lasting more than twelve minutes.