Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 4.djvu/41

This page has been validated.

not, the social type will inevitably be changed by increase of feminine influence.

That men and women are mentally alike, is as untrue as that they are alike bodily. Just as certainly as they have physical differences which are related to the respective parts they play in the maintenance of the race, so certainly have they psychical differences, similarly related to their respective shares in the rearing and protection of offspring. To suppose that along with the unlikenesses between their parental activities there do not go unlikenesses of mental faculties, is to suppose that here alone in all Nature there is no adjustment of special powers to special functions.[1]

Two classes of differences exist between the psychical, as between the physical, structures of men and women, which are both determined by this same fundamental need—adaptation to the paternal and maternal duties. The first set of differences is that which results

  1. The comparisons ordinarily made between the minds of men and women are faulty in many ways, of which these are the chief: Instead of comparing either the average of women with the average of men, or the élite of women with the élite of men, the common course is to compare the élite of women with the average of men. Much the same erroneous impression results as would result if the relative statures of men and women were judged by putting very tall women side by side with ordinary men. Sundry manifestations of nature in men and women are greatly perverted by existing social conventions upheld by both. There are feelings which, under our predatory régime, with its adapted standard of propriety, it is not considered manly to show; but which, contrariwise, are considered admirable in women. Hence, repressed manifestations in the one case, and exaggerated manifestations in the other; leading to mistaken estimates. The sexual sentiment comes into play to modify the behavior of men and women to one another. Respecting certain parts of their general characters, the only evidence which can be trusted is that furnished by the conduct of men to men, and of women to women, when placed in relations which exclude the personal affections. In comparing the intellectual powers of men and women, no proper distinction is made between receptive faculty and originative faculty. The two are scarcely commensurable; and the receptivity may, and frequently does, exist in high degree where there is but a low degree of originality, or entire absence of it. Perhaps, however, the most serious error usually made in drawing these comparisons is, that of overlooking the limit of normal mental power. Either sex under special stimulations is capable of manifesting powers ordinarily shown only by the other; but we are not to consider the deviations so caused as affording proper measures. Thus, to take an extreme case, the mammæ of men will, under special excitation, yield milk: there are various cases of gynæcomasty on record, and in families, infants whose mothers have died have been thus saved. But this ability to yield milk, which, when exercised, must be at the cost of masculine strength, we do not count among masculine attributes. Similarly, under special discipline, the feminine intellect will yield products higher than the intellects of most men can yield. But we are not to count this as truly feminine if it entails decreased fulfillment of the maternal functions. Only that mental energy is normally feminine which can coexist with the production and nursing of the due number of healthy children. Obviously a power of mind which, if general among the women of a society, would entail disappearance of the society, is a power not to be included in an estimate of the feminine nature as a social factor.