Are Women Human?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Are Women Human?
by Dorothy L. Sayers

Sayers gained literary fame for her mysteries, which feature Lord Peter Wimsey, and her translation of Dante’s Inferno. This collection of essays looks at the role women play in society. The title essay was actually a speech Sayers’ gave at an event.

I loved the way she lays out the issue and the simplicity of the answer. She makes it clear that she doesn’t know exactly what every woman wants to do with her life, because women want the same options that men have. They want to be able to decide how to live their own lives, nothing more.

I really enjoyed this collection (esp. the title piece) because Sayers never sounds preachy or condescending. She’s just expressing her opinion and stating that women don’t deserve special treatment, but they do deserve equal treatment. This is exactly how I feel. I don’t want different (aka lower) standards for a woman to be able to qualify for a field. If a woman wants to be a firefighter she should have to fulfill the same physical requirements as a man who would want to. It’s not about being “fair” to someone of a smaller size, it’s about being able to lift the equipment and carry someone out of a burning building.

I think Sayers represents this idea well. She thinks, as I do, that any woman should be allowed to be work towards whatever goal or profession she desires, but that doesn’t mean that every woman will want the same thing.

Here are a few good lines…

“What we must not do is to argue that the occasional appearance of a female mechanical genius proves that all women would be mechanical geniuses if they were educated. They would not.”

“Men have asked from the beginning of time, ‘what do women want?’ I do not know that women, as women, want anything in particular, but as human beings they want, my good men, exactly what you want yourselves: interesting occupation, reasonable freedom for their pleasures, and a sufficient emotional outlet. What form the occupation, the pleasures and the emotion may take, depends entirely upon the individual."


Shannon (Giraffe Days) said...

Sounds like a great book - and one that will stay timely because I think a lot of people - women included - have a skewed idea of what women's rights are all about. I love the quote at the end, that's exactly my sentiments too!

Sonia said...

This looks like a great read. I love reading essays at the moment. I'll be hunting this one down. Thanks.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Shannon – She makes such wonderful observations and she does it in a way that isn’t preachy, it’s just common sense.

Sonia – Enjoy!

Mumsy said...

You know, I question how far we have come since Sayers wrote this...I feel there is still a strong cultural sense that men are the norm for humanity, and women are somehow the slightly-less-human exception.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Mumsy - It's true, but that's one of the reasons the book was so good, it was still very relevant, which is sad.