Not long ago, I was shopping a used bookstore in Sacramento with my eldest daughter, a woman who has taught me a great deal about the struggles women have in this world, struggles that are often invisible to people of my particular gender.
On a bargain rack, we found a book bearing the title "The 'Natural Inferiority' of Women: Outrageous Pronouncements by Misguided Males." It's a compilation of quotes published in 1991, quotes providing readers with a short course in misogyny from an array of people, places, and periods.
Since we are now led by a man who asserts that "no one has more respect for women" than he, it seemed like a good time to share a little of the history of sneering and disregard for women left behind by a variety of men.
Since we are now led by a man who asserts that "no one has more respect for women" than he, and who also brags about his sneaky history of bursting into dressing rooms where teenage girls are in various stages of nakedness, it seemed like a good time to share a little of the history of sneering and disregard for women left behind by a variety of men, all of them providing justification for the domination and/or subjugation of something like half the world's people.
As a species, we are all made poorer by such ongoing and pernicious prejudice, a system of belief so ubiquitous and so seldom questioned, even by women, that it goes unquestioned by far too many, even men who think themselves to be utterly devoid of sexist attitudes, values, or political views.
Here, for instance, is Mick Jagger, a guy from my very own oh-so-enlightened generation, a bunch presumed to be more liberated on such matters than those who came before. "What do women need money for?" Mick wondered, posing the time-honored fallacy that men will always provide for women, especially the young and sexually alluring ones, sparing them the necessity of providing for themselves, a concept the above-referenced Donald Trump surely shares.
And here is Pat Buchanan, right-wing gargoyle, all-purpose bigot, and Nixon speechwriter, offering his wisdom on the subject of equal pay for equal work. "The truth is," Buchanan wrote, "women's income, on average, will always be a fraction of men's, as long as America remains free."
If we want a little multiculturalism and diversity with our sexism, how about this, from Confucius, who believed that "It is the law of nature that women should be held under the dominance of man." Or how about this Hindu proverb stating the belief that "educating a woman is like handing a knife to a monkey." If, however, you like your proverbs a bit more WASP-y, you might prefer this more broader view of broads from jolly ol' England: "Men have many faults, women only two:/Everything they say, and everything they do." Echoing such attitudes, Sir Francis Bacon wrote: "The husband hath by law power and dominion over his wife, and may keep her by force…and may beat her, but not in a violent or cruel manner."
Non-violent and non-cruel beatings? Neat trick, that. And so considerate. Women, however, may not understand. It’s a guy thing, I guess, one I surely knew about growing up in a working class neighborhood in Illinois, a place where guys sometimes beat their wives and referred to it as a "tune up," a place that had a law on the books back when Abe Lincoln was practicing law there, an edict that made it legal for "married women" to be detained in the [mental] hospital at the request of the husband…without the evidence of insanity required in other cases."
More recently, the dependably execrable Jerry Falwell told his gullible followers that ""Feminists and all these radical gals--most of them are failures. They've blown it. Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house. Most of these feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. They blew it, and they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. That's their problem."
That was 1989, from a guy who posed as a "man of God." A decade earlier, Evel Knievel, daredevil motorcyclist and masochist, had this to say. "Women's libbers are a pain in the ass. I treat women the way I always did, except I treat the women's libbers different: if I catch one, I try and screw her a little harder. They're still plenty of women around, thank Christ, who are happy to be part of the life of a good man, and who'll take care of their end of it. A woman's place is in the bedroom and in the kitchen and taking care of the kids….You find one that's happy, she won't be out looking for a job."
A couple of years before Knievel shared his enlightened attitudes, Henry Miller, literary lion, had rung in with his own brand of condescension toward women, saying: "I don't like the women's liberation movement. It's harmful for women to become immersed in politics, just another way for women to imitate men, and women will wind up being hurt by it. I don't know why the women's liberation movement dislikes me so. Women have been a definite influence on my life. I adore women as a whole. I enjoy them as a breed, like a dog. They're another species you become endeared to. I don't mean that derogatorily, but in an admiring sense, like someone would appreciate a fine breed of horse."
Or try this notion from the iconic Muhammed Ali, who may have been joking when he said: "People ask me how many children I have and I say 'one boy and seven mistakes.'" If he was joking, it probably didn't seem particularly funny or reassuring to those seven daughters.
I'm running out of space, but surely not running out of examples of men thinking badly. Here's a Roman philosopher, Gaius Petronicus, man 'splainin' gender differences back when Jesus was a baby. "Women," he opined, "are one and all a set of vultures."
Maybe that was because they never needed money, as the lead singer for the Rolling Stones postulated, forcing them to seek sustenance by preying on men.
Like vultures, ya know.