Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book Review: Are Women Human? by Dorothy L. Sayers

Are Women Human? by Dorothy L. Sayers

This book has two essays by Dorothy L. Sayers on the role of women in society. Her position is rather straightforward. Men and women are human beings first and foremost, their gender does not constitute a radical divide between them. Women have just as many and as diverse skills and interests as men; pigeonholing women as "the weaker sex" or as "domestic goddesses" does a great disservice to actual individuals who may be more physically fit or less domestically inclined than the common stereotype. And there's the problem. People get so wrapped up in arguing about the issue that they fall back on stereotypes and sound bites to present their position, when a deeper understanding and a more fully developed argument is required. Treating people as individuals is more important and more sensible than treating them strictly as class-members with monolithic tastes and abilities. Her arguments are quite persuasive.

The essays are also fun to read. Sayers' style is no-nonsense and laced with nice humor and colorful examples. This book is an enjoyable, quick, and valuable read.

Sample Quote:
There is a fundamental difference between men and women, but it is not the only fundamental difference in the world. There is a sense in which my charwoman and I have more in common that either of us with, say, Mr. Bernard Shaw; on the other hand, in a discussion about art and literature, Mr. Shaw and I should probably find we had more fundamental interests in common than either of us had with my charwoman. I grant that, even so, he and I should disagree ferociously about the eating of meat--but that is not a difference between the sexes--on that point, the later Mr. G. K. Chesterton would have sided with me against the representative of his own sex. Then there are points on which I, and many of my own generation of both sexes, should find ourselves heartily in agreement; but on which the rising generation of young men and women would find us too incomprehensibly stupid for words. A difference of age is as fundamental as a difference of sex; and so is a difference of nationality. All categories, if they are insisted upon beyond the immediate purpose which they serve, breed class antagonism and disruption in the state, and that is why they are dangerous. [pp. 45-46]

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