Story type: Essay
A fair correspondent–has the phrase an old-time sound?–thinks we should pay more attention to men. In a revolutionary time, when great questions are in issue, minor matters, which may nevertheless be very important, are apt to escape the consideration they deserve. We share our correspondent’s interest in men, but must plead the pressure of circumstances. When there are so many Woman’s Journals devoted to the wants and aspirations of women alone, it is perhaps time to think of having a Man’s journal, which should try to keep his head above-water in the struggle for social supremacy. When almost every number of the leading periodicals has a paper about Woman–written probably by a woman –Woman Today, Woman Yesterday, Woman Tomorrow; when the inquiry is daily made in the press as to what is expected of woman, and the new requirements laid upon her by reason of her opportunities, her entrance into various occupations, her education–the impartial observer is likely to be confused, if he is not swept away by the rising tide of femininity in modern life.
But this very superiority of interest in the future of women is a warning to man to look about him, and see where in this tide he is going to land, if he will float or go ashore, and what will be his character and his position in the new social order. It will not do for him to sit on the stump of one of his prerogatives that woman has felled, and say with Brahma, “They reckon ill who leave me out,” for in the day of the Subjection of Man it may be little consolation that he is left in.
It must be confessed that man has had a long inning. Perhaps it is true that he owed this to his physical strength, and that he will only keep it hereafter by intellectual superiority, by the dominance of mind. And how in this generation is he equipping himself for the future? He is the money-making animal. That is beyond dispute. Never before were there such business men as this generation can show–Napoleons of finance, Alexanders of adventure, Shakespeares of speculation, Porsons of accumulation. He is great in his field, but is he leaving the intellectual province to woman? Does he read as much as she does? Is he becoming anything but a newspaper-made person? Is his mind getting to be like the newspaper? Speaking generally of the mass of business men–and the mass are business men in this country–have they any habit of reading books? They have clubs, to be sure, but of what sort? With the exception of a conversation club here and there, and a literary club, more or less perfunctory, are they not mostly social clubs for comfort and idle lounging, many of them known, as other workmen are, by their “chips”? What sort of a book would a member make out of “Chips from my Workshop”? Do the young men, to any extent, join in Browning clubs and Shakespeare clubs and Dante clubs? Do they meet for the study of history, of authors, of literary periods, for reading, and discussing what they read? Do they in concert dig in the encyclopaedias, and write papers about the correlation of forces, and about Savonarola, and about the Three Kings? In fact, what sort of a hand would the Three Kings suggest to them? In the large cities the women’s clubs, pursuing literature, art, languages, botany, history, geography, geology, mythology, are innumerable. And there is hardly a village in the land that has not from one to six clubs of young girls who meet once a week for some intellectual purpose. What are the young men of the villages and the cities doing meantime? How are they preparing to meet socially these young ladies who are cultivating their minds? Are they adapting themselves to the new conditions? Or are they counting, as they always have done, on the adaptability of women, on the facility with which the members of the bright sex can interest themselves in base-ball and the speed of horses and the chances of the “street”? Is it comfortable for the young man, when the talk is about the last notable book, or the philosophy of the popular poet or novelist, to feel that laughing eyes are sounding his ignorance?
Man is a noble creation, and he has fine and sturdy qualities which command the admiration of the other sex, but how will it be when that sex, by reason of superior acquirements, is able to look down on him intellectually? It used to be said that women are what men wish to have them, that they endeavored to be the kind of women who would win masculine admiration. How will it be if women have determined to make themselves what it pleases them to be, and to cultivate their powers in the expectation of pleasing men, if they indulge any such expectation, by their higher qualities only? This is not a fanciful possibility. It is one that young men will do well to ponder. It is easy to ridicule the literary and economic and historical societies, and the naive courage with which young women in them attack the gravest problems, and to say that they are only a passing fashion, like decorative art and a mode of dress. But a fashion is not to be underestimated; and when a fashion continues and spreads like this one, it is significant of a great change going on in society. And it is to be noticed that this fashion is accompanied by other phenomena as interesting. There is scarcely an occupation, once confined almost exclusively to men, in which women are not now conspicuous. Never before were there so many women who are superior musicians, performers themselves and organizers of musical societies; never before so many women who can draw well; never so many who are successful in literature, who write stories, translate, compile, and are acceptable workers in magazines and in publishing houses; and never before were so many women reading good books, and thinking about them, and talking about them, and trying to apply the lessons in them to the problems of their own lives, which are seen not to end with marriage. A great deal of this activity, crude much of it, is on the intellectual side, and must tell strongly by-and-by in the position of women. And the young men will take notice that it is the intellectual force that must dominate in life.