Notes on the Intelligence of Woman

In this sense it can probably be said that no woman has ever been, an intellectual. A few may have pretensions, as, for instance, 'Vernon Lee,' Mrs. Sidney Webb, Mrs. Wharton, perhaps Mrs. Hetty Green. I do not know, for these women can be judged only by their works. The greatest women in history--Catherine of Russia, Joan of Arc, Sappho, Queen Elizabeth--appear to have been swayed largely by their passions, physical or religious. I do not suppose that this will always be the case. For reasons which I shall indicate further on in this article, I believe that woman's intellect will tend toward approximation with that, of man. But meanwhile it would be futile not to recognize that there exist to-day between man and woman some sharp intellectual divergences.

One of the sharpest lies in woman's logical faculty. This may be due to her education (which is seldom mathematical or scientific); it may proceed from a habit of mind; it may be the result of a secular withdrawal from responsibilities other than domestic. Whatever the cause it must be acknowledged that, with certain trained exceptions, woman has not of logic the same conception as man. I have devoted particular care to this issue, and have collected a number of cases where the feminine conception of logic clashes with that of man. Here are a few transcribed from my notebook:--

Case 33

My remark: 'Most people practice a religion because they are too cowardly to face the idea of annihilation.'

Case 33: 'I don't see that they are any more cowardly than you. It doesn't matter whether you have a faith or not, it will be all the same in the end.'

The reader will observe that Case 33 evades the original proposition; in her reply she ignores the set question, namely why people practice a religion.

Case 17

Votes for Women, of January 22, 1915, prints a parallel, presumably drawn by a woman, between two police-court cases. In the first a man, charged with having struck his wife, is discharged because his wife intercedes for him. In the second a woman, charged with theft, is sent to prison in spite of her husband's plea. The writer appears to think that these cases are parallel; the difference of treatment of the two offenders offends her logic. From a masculine point of view two points differentiate the cases:--

In the first case the person who may be sent to prison is the bread-winner; in the second case it is the housekeeper, which is inconvenient but less serious.

In the first case the person who intercedes, the wife, is the one who has suffered; in the second case the person who intercedes, the husband, has not suffered injury. The person who has suffered injury is the one who lost the goods.

Case 51

This case is peculiar as it consists in frequent confusion of words. The woman here instanced referred to a very ugly man as looking Semitic. She was corrected and asked whether she did not mean simian, that is, like a monkey. She said, 'Yes,' but that Semitic meant looking like a monkey. When confronted with the dictionary she was compelled to acknowledge that the two words were not the same, but persisted in calling the man Semitic, and seriously explained this by asserting that Jews look like monkeys.

Case 51, in another conversation, referred to a man who had left the Church of England for the Church of Rome as a 'pervert.' She was asked whether she did not mean 'convert.'

She said, 'No, because to become a Roman Catholic is the act of a pervert.'

As I thought that this might come from religious animus, I asked whether a Roman Catholic who entered a Protestant church was also a pervert.

Case 51 replied, 'Yes.'

Case 51 therefore assumes that any change from an original state is abnormal. The application to the charge of bad logic consists in this further test:--

I asked Case 51 whether a man originally brought up in Conservative views would be a pervert if he became a Liberal.

Case 51 replied, 'No.'

On another occasion Case 51 referred to exaggerated praise showered upon a popular hero, and said that the new papers were 'belittling' him.

I pointed out that they were doing the very contrary; that indeed they were exaggerating his prowess.

Confronted with the dictionary, and the meaning of 'belittle,' which is 'to cheapen with intent,' she insisted that 'belittling' was the correct word cause 'the result of this exaggerated praise was to make the man smaller in her own mind.' [note: The notes as to Case 51 have not an absolute bearing upon logic in general, but the reasons put forth in her defense by Case 51 are indicative of a certain kind of logic which is not masculine. I must add that Case 51 is a woman of very good education, with many general interests.--The Author]

Case 63

In the course of a discussion on the war in which Case 63 has given vent moral and religious views, she remarks, 'Thou shalt not kill.'

I: 'Then do you accept war?'

Case 63: 'War ought to be done away with.'

I (attempting to get a straight answer): 'Do you accept war?'

Case 63: 'One must defend one's self.'

Upon this follows a long argument in which I attempt to prove to Case 63 that one defends, not one's self but the nation. When in difficulties, she repeats, 'One must defend one's self.'

Presented by

Saving the Bees

Honeybees contribute more than $15 billion to the U.S. economy. A short documentary considers how desperate beekeepers are trying to keep their hives alive.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in National

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In