Are Women Human?

dorothy_sayers

‘In reaction against the age-old slogan, “woman is the weaker vessel,” or the still more offensive, “woman is a divine creature,” we have, I think, allowed ourselves to drift into asserting that “a woman is as good as a man,” without always pausing to think what exactly we mean by that.

What, I feel, we ought to mean is something so obvious that it is apt to escape attention altogether, viz: (…) that a woman is just as much an ordinary human being as a man, with the same individual preferences, and with just as much right to the tastes and preferences of an individual.

What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person.’

That is what she wrote a long time ago.

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Yes, people are different, fundamentally and radically different, and people are the same, fundamentally same.

It’s called Temperament.  People are born different and the same.

“It is extraordinarily entertaining to watch the historians of the past … entangling themselves in what they were pleased to call the “problem” of Queen Elizabeth [I].

They invented the most complicated and astonishing reasons both for her success as a sovereign and for her tortuous matrimonial policy. She was the tool of Burleigh, she was the tool of Leicester, she was the fool of Essex; she was diseased, she was deformed, she was a man in disguise. She was a mystery, and must have some extraordinary solution.

Only recently has it occurred to a few enlightened people that the solution might be quite simple after all. She might be one of the rare people were born into the right job and put that job first.” — Dorothy Sayers

Dorothy Leigh Sayers (13 June 1893 – 17 December 1957) was a renowned English crime writer, poet, playwright, essayist, translator and Christian humanist. She was also a student of classical and modern languages. She is best known for her mysteries, a series of novels and short stories set between World War I and World War II that feature English aristocrat and amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, that remain popular to this day. However, Sayers herself considered her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy to be her best work. She is also known for her plays, literary criticism and essays. [Wikipedia, revised]

Dorothy Sayers a Mentoring Idealist, a Contending Counselor:

“Some Idealists hold certain contentions that they put forth dramatically whenever the occasion requires or permits them to do so. Even so they make sure that their ways and means conform to regional norms, wishing, as they do, to sanction in a benevolent way…the Diplomatic Contender.

Counselors are like their Mentor twins, the Educators, in that both are directive, the one giving advice, the other directives.”— [Personology pages 174-5]

dorothy sayers the child

“Although we often succeed in teaching our pupils “subjects,” we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning. It is as though we had taught a child, mechanically and by rule of thumb, to play “The Harmonious Blacksmith” upon the piano, but had never taught them the scale or how to read music; so that, having memorized “The Harmonious Blacksmith,” they still had not the faintest notion how to proceed from that to tackle “The Last Rose of Summer.”

[Dorothy Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning]

Diplomatic Contenders are beyond compare as Counselors. Advisement is the side of diplomatic mediation that focuses on helping people to realise their potentials, and both kinds of enterprising Idealists have an unusually strong desire to contribute to the wellfaring and wellbeing of others and genuinely enjoy mentoring their companions toward greater personal fulfillment. [Personology, page 176]

Why do I say, “as though”? In certain of the arts and crafts, we sometimes do precisely this—requiring a child to “express himself” in paint before we teach him how to handle the colors and the brush. There is a school of thought which believes this to be the right way to set about the job. But observe: it is not the way in which a trained craftsman will go about to teach himself a new medium.”

[Dorothy Sayers, The Lost Tools of Learning]

Incidently, reknowned child’s author, J K Rowling (Harry Potter fame), also a Counselor Idealist cites and enjoys Sayer as a literary role model, while having through her own life enjoyed reading Sayer’s ‘whodunnit’ novels:

A friend of C S Lewis, (also a Counselor Idealist), Dorothy Sayers differed over the reason to write:

Dorothy L. Sayers believed strongly that one should not write mainly to please one’s audience. Certainly, audiences have needs, and many of her works were commissioned for particular populations or organizations. However, Sayers would generally write on something only if she found herself passionate about a given topic and thought she might have something to say about it—not just because someone asked her to write on that topic.

On this point, C.S. Lewis disagreed with Sayers. He often wrote for people who wanted an article on a particular subject written by a popular author because he felt a pastoral obligation to them.
…and not their only disagreement:
Sayers also disagreed with C.S. Lewis on the matter of women’s ordination. He wrote to her asking that she take a public stand against it (this defense of tradition needed to be written by a woman, he reasoned).  Instead, Sayers suggested she would be an “uneasy ally” for him because she did not see any theological reason why women should not be priests. She distinguished between whether a man or a woman should be “cast for the part” of “playing” Christ in the mass (it made the most dramatic sense for it to be a man, of course) and whether a man or a woman could represent Christ to humanity. Because Christ was the representative of all humanity, not simply, male humanity she believed either a woman or a man could reflect that representation.
Sayers’ influence did not cease upon her death in 1957. Theater companies continue to produce her plays, English professors include her Dante translation in their syllabi, mystery fans still read about Lord Peter and Harriett, and hundreds of classical schools around the world owe their existence to Sayers’ small essay “The Lost Tools of Learning.”
A thriving Dorothy L. Sayers Society meets yearly, mining her work in ever-greater detail. Perhaps most significantly, many of Sayers’ theological contributions keep returning to print.
It had been 1938 when she was invited to address a women’s group; her speech “Are Women Human?” was ahead of her time and probably more than a little shocking.
This address, along with an essay called “The Human Not-Quite-Human,” was published in a slim-but-powerful volume.
Sayers asserted that there is no such thing as a man’s job or a woman’s job, but that people should pursue vocations for which they are passionate and gifted. She challenged a culture that tended to define men’s interests and human interests synonymously, while holding women apart as some sort of special species, not-quite-human.
dorothy-sayers-with-skull

0 thoughts on “Are Women Human?”

  1. 1938! I bet that rocked a few stodgy brains!!!! Go Dorothy Sayers. Loved her thoughts re education too. A woman ahead of her era indeed. Some would argue we may not have progressed much further than ’38 in some areas also. Great Counselor Idealist and vision.

    1. In my theatre studies, one of the plays we studied was Dorothy Sayer’s ‘The Man Born to Be King’, it was quite controversial when originally broadcast due to it’s sensitive at that time, religious subject, Jesus being played by a mere human. It’s an interesting play if you get the chance to see, I recommend doing so.

  2. What I thought was interesting was Lewis’ obituary. In it Lewis praised Sayer’s mysteries by saying that mysteries are a highly civilized literary form with their demands on intellect and presumption of rule of law. Lewis didn’t like mysteries himself but he didn’t disdain them.
    In some ways Lewis was a defender of the dignity of genre fiction and defending the dignity of mysteries went with defending that of speculative which was his genre.

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