Our Androcentric Culture, or the Man-Made World, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Our Androcentric Culture, or the Man-Made World
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
5:24 h Ideas Lvl 10.38
Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an American humanist, novelist, writer of short stories, poetry and nonfiction, and a lecturer for social reform. She was a utopian feminist and served as a role model for future generations of feminists because of her unorthodox concepts and lifestyle. She has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. The Man-Made World; or, Our Androcentric Culture was published in 1911. Gilman argued that women's contributions to civilization, throughout history, have been halted because of an androcentric culture. She believed that womankind was the underdeveloped half of humanity, and improvement was necessary to prevent the deterioration of the human race. Gilman believed economic independence is the only thing that could really bring freedom for women and make them equal to men.

Our Androcentric Culture,
or the Man-Made World

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

As to Humanness

Let us begin, inoffensively, with sheep. The sheep is a beast with whichwe are all familiar, being much used in religious imagery; the commonstock of painters; a staple article of diet; one of our main sources ofclothing; and an everyday symbol of bashfulness and stupidity.

In some grazing regions the sheep is an object of terror, destroyinggrass, bush and forest by omnipresent nibbling; on the great plains,sheep-keeping frequently results in insanity, owing to the loneliness ofthe shepherd, and the monotonous appearance and behavior of the sheep.

By the poet, young sheep are preferred, the lamb gambolling gaily; unlessit be in hymns, where “all we like sheep” are repeatedly described, andmuch stress is laid upon the straying propensities of the animal.

To the scientific mind there is special interest in the sequacity ofsheep, their habit of following one another with automatic imitation. Thisinstinct, we are told, has been developed by ages of wild crowded racingon narrow ledges, along precipices, chasms, around sudden spurs andcorners, only the leader seeing when, where and how to jump. If thosebehind jumped exactly as he did, they lived. If they stopped to exerciseindependent judgment, they were pushed off and perished; they and theirjudgment with them.

All these things, and many that are similar, occur to us when we think ofsheep. They are also ewes and rams. Yes, truly; but what of it? All thathas been said was said of sheep, genus ovis, that bland beast,compound of mutton, wool, and foolishness so widely known. If we think ofthe sheep-dog (and dog-ess), the shepherd (and shepherd-ess), of theferocious sheep-eating bird of New Zealand, the Kea (and Kea-ess), allthese herd, guard, or kill the sheep, both rams and ewes alike. In regardto mutton, to wool, to general character, we think only of theirsheepishness, not at all of their ramishness or eweishness. That which isovine or bovine, canine, feline or equine, is easily recognized asdistinguishing that particular species of animal, and has no relationwhatever to the sex thereof.

Returning to our muttons, let us consider the ram, and wherein hischaracter differs from the sheep. We find he has a more quarrelsomedisposition. He paws the earth and makes a noise. He has a tendency tobutt. So has a goat — Mr. Goat. So has Mr. Buffalo, and Mr. Moose, andMr. Antelope. This tendency to plunge head foremost at an adversary — andto find any other gentleman an adversary on sight — evidently does notpertain to sheep, to genus ovis; but to any male creature withhorns.

As “function comes before organ,” we may even give a reminiscent glancedown the long path of evolution, and see how the mere act of butting — passionatelyand perpetually repeated — born of the belligerent spirit of the male — producedhorns!

The ewe, on the other hand, exhibits love and care for her little ones,gives them milk and tries to guard them. But so does a goat — Mrs.Goat. So does Mrs. Buffalo and the rest. Evidently this mother instinct isno peculiarity of genus ovis, but of any female creature.

Even the bird, though not a mammal, shows the same mother-love andmother-care, while the father bird, though not a butter, fights with beakand wing and spur. His competition is more effective through display. Thewish to please, the need to please, the overmastering necessity upon himthat he secure the favor of the female, has made the male bird blossomlike a butterfly. He blazes in gorgeous plumage, rears haughty crests andcombs, shows drooping wattles and dangling blobs such as the turkey-cockaffords; long splendid feathers for pure ornament appear upon him; what inher is a mere tail-effect becomes in him a mass of glittering drapery.

Partridge-cock, farmyard-cock, peacock, from sparrow to ostrich, observehis mien! To strut and languish; to exhibit every beauteous lure; tosacrifice ease, comfort, speed, everything — to beauty — for hersake — this is the nature of the he-bird of any species; thecharacteristic, not of the turkey, but of the cock! With drumming of loudwings, with crow and quack and bursts of glorious song, he woos his mate;displays his splendors before her; fights fiercely with his rivals. Tobutt — to strut — to make a noise — all for love’s sake; theseacts are common to the male.

We may now generalize and clearly state: That is masculine which belongsto the male — to any or all males, irrespective of species. That isfeminine which belongs to the female, to any or all females, irrespectiveof species. That is ovine, bovine, feline, canine, equine or asinine whichbelongs to that species, irrespective of sex.

In our own species all this is changed. We have been so taken up with thephenomena of masculinity and femininity, that our common humanity haslargely escaped notice. We know we are human, naturally, and are veryproud of it; but we do not consider in what our humanness consists; norhow men and women may fall short of it, or overstep its bounds, incontinual insistence upon their special differences. It is “manly” to dothis; it is “womanly” to do that; but what a human being should do underthe circumstances is not thought of.

The only time when we do recognize what we call “common humanity” is inextreme cases, matters of life and death; when either man or woman isexpected to behave as if they were also human creatures. Since the rangeof feeling and action proper to humanity, as such, is far wider than thatproper to either sex, it seems at first somewhat remarkable that we havegiven it so little recognition.

A little classification will help us here. We have certain qualities incommon with inanimate matter, such as weight, opacity, resilience. It isclear that these are not human. We have other qualities in common with allforms of life; cellular construction, for instance, the reproduction ofcells and the need of nutrition. These again are not human. We haveothers, many others, common to the higher mammals; which are notexclusively ours — are not distinctively “human.” What then are truehuman characteristics? In what way is the human species distinguished fromall other species?

Our human-ness is seen most clearly in three main lines: it is mechanical,psychical and social. Our power to make and use things is essentiallyhuman; we alone have extra-physical tools. We have added to our teeth theknife, sword, scissors, mowing machine; to our claws the spade, harrow,plough, drill, dredge. We are a protean creature, using the larger brainpower through a wide variety of changing weapons. This is one of our mainand vital distinctions. Ancient animal races are traced and known by merebones and shells, ancient human races by their buildings, tools andutensils.

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