Monday, January 20, 2003

The Intimate Journal of Henri Amiel: August 8, 1876

August 8, 1876

Woman is loving but passive, receiving the idea and the spark, but without the gift of self-electrification. Virility alone originates things spontaneously and is an origin, a punctum saliens [salient point] . Thus the feminine principle is subordinate, it comes afterwards and in the second place. Man is by nature the master in art. legislation, science, industry; woman is the pupil, disciple, servant, imitator. Chivalrous courtesy dissembles this in vain, for there is no equity between the sexes. They are indispensable one to another, but one is the leader and the other led. The ram is the master of the ewe; the reverse would be an aberration and monstrosity. The pride of the American women will bring about a reaction; for whatever these ladies are they owe to man. If the latter wearies of his generosity and leaves them to their own merits, the expiatory plunge will oblige them to measure the immensity of their ingrati- tude.

Nature has willed the subordination of woman. Civilized man dignifies his companion, submits willingly to grace, sweetness, frailty, creates for her the right to protection, gives her a privi- leged place. But the condition is such that, if she denies the bene- faction and claims to have earned what has been given to her and to be indebted to no one, her benefactor may bring this course to an abrupt end.

The illusion consists in this: superiority constitutes a moral duty on the part of the superior towards the inferior, but inferiority does not constitute any legal right on the part of the inferior over the superior. Generosity is beautiful and noble, but it is optional; the cripple who demands that he should he carried dispels one's desire to aid him. Man enjoys protecting woman, but when woman imperatively summons him to serve and protect her, he whom an entreaty would have softened loses his inclination at once.

By substituting the legal sphere for the moral sphere, the eman- cipation of women will desiccate society, as legal charity destroys real charity, as love by command would sterilise the marriage-bed. --In asking more than civil equality and economic equality, women are playing a dangerous game. Equality in services will be demanded of them, and this will serve them right.

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