Are women inferior to men?

Of course not, but you wouldn’t always know it based on how we act.

There are 13 females and 5 males in my Victorian literature class. During our discussion yesterday called “The Place of Women in Society,” 13 student comments were from males, and 6 were from females. I kept a tally.

If that’s not ironic enough, one the readings for class was from Sarah Stickney Ellis’s The Daughters of England: Their Position in Society, Character and Responsibilities (1842). Here’s the second paragraph:

“As women, then, the first thing of importance is to be content to be inferior to men–inferior in mental power, in the same proportion that you are inferior in bodily strength. Facility of movement, aptitude, and grace, the bodily frame of woman may possess in a higher degree than that of man; just as in the softer touches of mental and spiritual beauty her character may present a lovelier page than his.”

A prominent female writer, living in the most powerful country in the world at the time, telling other women they’re biologically inferior to men. You can’t make this stuff up.

My impromptu study doesn’t prove anything about the state of gender equality, but science is on my side: study after study support the idea that women speak less in meetings, raise their hands less in class, and get interrupted by men significantly more often than men interrupt men. Researchers speculate that men have an unconscious bias to steal power from women.

The second assigned reading yesterday was from Harriet Taylor, another prominent Victorian writer. This is from the final paragraph of The Enfranchisement of Women (1851):

“When, however, we ask why the existence of one-half the species should be merely ancillary to that of the other–why each woman should be a mere appendage to a man, allowed to have no interests of her own, that there may be nothing to compete in her mind with his interests and his pleasure; the only reason which can be given is, that men like it.”

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