books / reading / writing

Are Women Human? by Dorothy L. Sayers

sayers women

I nearly underlined everything in this little book. For being about 80 years old, the essays still speak to today.

I understand why some people don’t like the word ‘feminism’. It singles out the female and therefore people believe it only supports the female. By definition this is not true, but humans have a way of twisting words and ideas into the exact thing it’s not.

Sayers doesn’t call herself a feminist. In 1938, she is even concerned about the aggressive feminists and the possible damage they could cause. But by the very definition of feminism: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes (Merriam-Webster), she is one.

She mostly focused on the fact that women are individuals, just like men, and that perhaps, a woman does want to be an engineer, shouldn’t she be given that opportunity? Not all women want to be engineers (I’d be horrible at it), but neither do all men. Some men want to be teachers. Some men want to be nurses. Some men want to be politicians. And guess what, some women want those professions too.

It seems so incredibly simple, but Sayers, like her contemporary C.S.Lewis, is gifted at making often complicated issues (complicated by humans, not necessarily complicated in themselves) seem quite clear and logical. And then I assume I’ll be able to explain it next time I’m in a discussion, but I always seem to fall short.

I’d really like to have my students read this. We occasionally get into discussions about this very topic (in covering Antigone, I ask if they think Sophocles was a feminist, which I define via actual definitions and not cultural examples) and I am known (a bit) as a feminist teacher. I think these essays accurately portray what I mean when I talk about feminism and I would hope my students would read it with open minds and make their own conclusions.

But I hesitate, because the mere act of asking them to read this, reinforces the negative connotation of being a feminist teacher.

Would changing the word help? If it was called something with the root of ‘equal?’ Is that what it would take for people to see the true cause under the twisted view society has of this idea?

I’m not as smart as Sayers, but I believe I will follow in her footsteps of not using words when they’ve been misused and perverted until I state what I believe about this life. And then maybe what I hope to teach will take root.

© ecnewman, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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