Notes on the Intelligence of Woman

Nowhere is this better shown than in the postscript habit. Men do not, as a rule, use postscripts, and it is significant that artists and persons inclined toward the arts are much more given to postscripts than other kinds of men. One might almost say that women correspond by postscript; some of them put the subject of the letter in the post script, as the scorpion keeps his poison in his tail. I have before me letters from Case 58, with two postscripts, and one extraordinary letter from Case 11, with four postscripts and a sentence written outside the envelope. This is the apogee of superficiality. The writers have run on, seduced by irrelevance and have not been able to stop to consider in all its bearings the subject of the letter. Each postscript represents a development or qualification, which must indicate the waste by bad education of what maybe a very good mind.

I would say in passing that we should not attach undue importance to woman's physical disabilities. It is true that woman is more conscious of her body than is man. So long as he is fed, sufficiently busy, in good general health, he is normal. But woman is far more often in an unbalanced physical condition. There is a great deal to be said for the Hindu philosophical point of view, that the body needs to be just so satisfied to become imperceptible to the consciousness, as opposed to the point view of the Christian ascetics, who unfortunately carried their ideas so far that they ended by thinking more of their hair shirt than of Him for whose sake they wore it. In this sense woman is intellectually handicapped because her body obtrudes itself upon her. It is a subject of brooding and agitation. I suspect that this is largely remediable, for I am not convinced that it is woman's peculiar physical conditions that occasionally warp her intellect; it is equally possible that a warped intellect produces unsatisfactory physical conditions. Therefore, if, as I firmly believe that we can, we develop this intellect, profound changes may with time appear in these physical conditions.

IV

The further qualification of woman's intellect is in her moral attitude. I would ask the reader to divest himself of the idea that 'moral' refers only to matters of sex. Morality is the rule of conduct of each human being in his relations with other human beings, and this covers all relations. Because in some senses the morality of woman is not the morality of man, we are not entitled to say with Pope that

Woman's at best a contradiction still.

She is a contradiction. Man is a contradiction, apparently of a different kind, and that is all. Thence spring misunderstandings and sometimes dislike, as between people of different nations. I do not want to labor the point, but I would suggest that in a very minor degree the apparent difference between man and woman may be paralleled by the apparent difference between the Italian and the Swede, who, within two generations, produce very similar American children. But man, who generalizes quite as wildly as woman when he does not understand, is determined to emphasize the difference in every relation of life. For instance, it is commonly said that woman cannot keep her promise. This seems to me entirely untrue; given that as a rule woman's intellect is not sufficiently educated to enable her to find a good reason for breaking her promise, it is much more difficult for her to do so. For we are all moral creatures, and if a man must steal the crown jewels he is happier if he can discover a high motive for so doing. Man has a definite advantage where a loophole has to be found, and I have known few women capable of standing up in argument against a trained lawyer who has acquired the usual dexterity in misrepresentation.

In love and marriage, particularly, woman will keep plighted troth more closely than man; there is no male equivalent of jilt, but the male does jilt on peculiar lines; while a woman who knows that her youth, her beauty are going must bring things to a head by jilting, the male is never in a hurry, for his attractions wane so very slowly. Why should he jilt the woman? make a stir? So he just goes on. In due course she tires and releases him, when he goes to another woman. That is jilting by inches, and as regards faithfulness a pledged woman is more difficult to win away than a pledged man. (To be just, it should be said that unfaithfulness is in the eyes of most men a small matter, in the eyes of most women a serious matter.) A pledged woman will remain faithful long after love has flown; the promise is a mystic bond; none but a tall flame can hide the ashes of the dead love. And so, when Shakespeare asserts,--

Frailty, thy name is woman,

he is delivering one of the hasty judgments that abound in his solemn romanticism.

This applies in realms divorced from love,--in questions of money, such as debts or bets. Women do run up milliners' bills, but men boast of never paying their tailors. And if sometimes women do not discharge the lost bet, it is largely because a tradition of protection and patronage has laid down that women need not pay their bets. Besides, women usually pay their losses, while several men have not yet discharged their debts of honor to me. It is a matter of honesty, and I think the criminal returns for the United States would produce the same evidence as those for England and Wales. In 1913 there were tried at Assizes for offences against property 1616 men and 1292 women. The records of Quarter Sessions and of the courts of Summary Jurisdiction yield the same result, an enormous majority of male offenders,--though there be more women than men in England and Wales! And yet in the face of such official figures, of the evidence of every employer, man cherishes a belief in woman's dishonesty! One reason, no doubt, is that woman's emotional nature leads her when she is criminal to criminality of an aggravated kind. She then justifies Pope's misogynist lines:

O woman, woman! When to ill thy mind Is bent, all hell contains no fouler fiend.

Most men, however, have abandoned the case against woman's dishonesty and confine themselves to describing her as a liar, forgetting that they generally dislike the truth when it comes from a woman's lips, and always when it reflects upon their own conduct. For centuries man has asked that woman should flatter, but also that she should tell the truth: such a confusion of demands leads the impartial mind to conclusion that vanity cannot be the monopoly of the female. But it is quite true that woman does not always cherish truth so well as man. The desire for truth is intellectual, not emotional. Truth is a cold bedfellow, as might be expected of one who rose from a well. And among women cases of disinterested lying are not uncommon. Here is Case 16: An elderly woman talked at length about not having received insurance papers, and made a great disturbance. It later appeared that she had not insured. On another occasion she informed the household that her son-in-law had been cabled to from South Africa to come and visit his dying mother. It was proved that no cable had been sent.

I have a number of cases of this kind but this is the most curious. I suspect that this sort of lying is traceable to a need for romance and drama in a colorless life. It springs from the wish to create a romantic atmosphere round one's self and to increase one's personal importance. Because men hold out hands less greedy toward drama and romance they are less afflicted, they do not entirely escape, and have all observed the new importance of the man whose brother has been photographed in a newspaper or, better still, killed in a railway accident. If he has been burned in a theatre the grief his male relatives is subtly tinged with excited delight. Romance, the wage of lies, is woman's compensation for a dull life.

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