Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mental Health Mondays: Ongoing Influence of Past Comments

At the end of this post I’ve included a list of quotes taken from Charles’ E. Bressler’s book “Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice.” They are a collection that he placed within the surrounding of feminist criticism. When I was reading through these quotes, most stated by well-known authors, it made me wonder how much the statements that individuals made in the past impact women in today’s present-tense.

Do you think that women, particularly women who are establishing a career or passion in writing (as that is who most of the quotes are directed at) continue to feel the affects of these negative words? Or do you think that “what’s past is past”
How much do the statements of the past, even if made hundreds of years ago, continue to affect the state of our mental health today?
What do you think? Take a look at the quotes I’ve listed…maybe focus on one or two. Do you think you are still influenced by these words, or are they a thing of the past that we simply shrug off?

Take a look at some of these....

"Do not let a woman with a sexy rump deceive you with wheedling and coaxing words; she is after your barn. The man who trusts a woman trusts a deceiver."
- Hesoid, poet 8th century BCE (...p.s. "sexy rump" and "8th century BCE" , yes you read correctly.)

"Plato thanks the gods for two blessings: that he had not been born a slave and that he had not been born a woman."
- Plato (c. 427-c.347 BCE)

"The male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules and the other is ruled. Woman “is matter, waiting to be formed by the active male principle…Man consequently plays a major part in reproduction; the woman is merely the passive incubator of his seed.” (People actually BELIEVED this!!!!! It was thought to be scientific fact! Wtf?!??!!)
- Aristotle (384-322 BCE)

"Frailty, thy name is woman."
- Shakespeare (1564-6116)

"Mary Wollstonecraft is a hyena in petticoats”
- Horace Walpole, author of one of the earliest Gothic novels

"Nature intended women to be our slaves...They are our property…what a mad idea to demand equality for women!"
- Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

"Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life, and it ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure will she have for it, even any…recreation"
- Robert Southey, poet laureate (1774-1843)

"Women writers are a “damned mob of scribbling women” who only write anything worth reading if the devil is in them."
- Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)

"The woman author does not exist. She is a contradiction in terms. The role of the woman in letters is the same as in manufacturing; she is of use when genius is no longer required."
- Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865)

"Jane Austen is entirely impossible to read. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death."
- Mark Twain (1835-1910)

"Feminism is a political mistake. Feminism is a mistake made by women’s intellect, a mistake which her instinct will recognize."
- Valentine de Saint-Point (1875-1953)

"Educating a woman is like pouring honey over a fine Swiss watch. It stops working."
- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922- )

With love and hopes of forward-motion,



  1. Ouch, I can't believe Kurt Vonnegut said that!

    To be fair, I'm sure the Mark Twain comment was taken out of context or just interpreted rather radically - he was a supporter of suffrage + equal rights for women (for most of his life, anyways, he reportedly said some pretty asinine things in his youth) and I doubt he'd say something like that in all seriousness.

    "To win freedom always involves hard fighting. I believe in women doing what they deem necessary to secure their rights."

    In an interview in the Chicago Tribune in 1909.

  2. I personally wouldn't mind being compared to a hyena. They're cute and cuddly when they're not angry and trying to rip your throat out.

    As for how it affects me; I couldn't care less about what Napolean said because he's megolomaniacal psycho. As for the others, I just have to laugh and go 'oh yeah? Well if you're talking about me mister, you're sorely mistaken'.

    The only real way these quotes have affected me is that I have just lost a lot of respect for some of these people, namely Plato and Aristotle, whom I always thought of as wise, forward-thinking, open-minded guys.

  3. et tu, Kurt Vonnegut?

    It makes me so angry, the stigma against female writers. It's no secret that the likes of Mary Shelley and the Bronte Sisters all had to publish under fake names at one point, but did you know the whole reason J.K. Rowling billed herself as J.K. instead of Joanne was because her publishers thought a female name attached to a book would not draw in a large enough audience? The sad thing is there was probably some truth in that - works by male authors are seen as universal, works by female authors are usually billed as "chick lit" or romances, even when they're not (I take it personally when people dismiss Wuthering Heights as a sappy romance when it is so obviously not).

  4. May I also point out that anybody who refers to himself in the third person probably isn't someone whose opinion of us should matter *coughcough*Plato*coughcough* LOL