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A New Atmosphere by Gail Hamilton

Should not wish to think ignobly


There

is a foolish subservience, an ostentatious and superficial chivalry, an undignified and slavish deference to whims which silly women demand and sillier men grant. Yet even this is not so much the fault of the weak women as of the strong men, who surround women with the atmosphere which naturally creates such weakness. But women have a right, and it is their duty to expect, to claim, to exact if you please, a constancy, spirituality, devotion, as great as their own. Where God makes no distinction of sex in his demands upon mankind, His creatures should not make distinctions. "Men are different from women," is the conclusion of the whole matter at female debating-societies, and the all-sufficient excuse for every short-coming or over-coming; but the Apostles and Prophets find therein no warrant for a violation of moral law, no guaranty for immunity from punishment, no escape from the obligations to unselfish and righteous living. Nowhere does the Saviour of the world proclaim to men a liberty in selfishness or sin. His kingdom will never come, nor his will be done on earth as it is done in heaven, so long as men are permitted to take out indulgences. If they do it ignorantly, not knowing the true character and claims of womanhood, nor consequently of manhood, they should be taught. If they think a wife's chief duty is to economize her husband's fortunes, or to minister to his physical comforts, they should be speedily freed from the illusion. If they suppose knowledge to be ill-adapted
to the female constitution, and harmless only when administered homoeopathically, they should be quietly undeceived. If they have been so trained that marriage is to them but unholy ground whereon is found no place for modesty, chastity, delicacy, reverence, how shall they ever unlearn the bad lesson but through pure womanly teaching?

But women fear to take this attitude. There are many indeed who have become so demoralized that they do not know there is any such attitude to take; but there are others who do see it, and shrink from assuming it. Women whose courage and fortitude are indescribable, who will brave pain and fatigue and all definite physical obstacles in their path, will bow down their heads like a bulrush with fear of that indefinable thing which may be called social disapprobation. Through cowardice, they are traitors to their own sex, and impediments to the other. One cannot find it in his heart to blame them harshly. The weakness has so many palliations, it is so natural a growth of their wickedly arranged circumstances, as to disarm rebuke and move scarcely more than pity; but it is none the less a fact, lamentable and disastrous. Women who know and lament the erroneous notions and the guilty actions of men concerning woman, and the culpable relations of men to women, will endeavor to hold back the opinions of a woman when they go against the current. They will admit the force of all her objections, the justice of every remonstrance, but will assure her that opposition will be of no avail. She will accomplish nothing, but--and here lies the real bugbear--but she will make men almost afraid of her!

I would that men were not only almost, but altogether afraid of every woman! I would that men should hold woman in such knightly fear that they should never dare to approach her, matron or maid, save with clean hands and a pure heart; never dare to lift up their souls to vanity nor swear deceitfully; never dare to insult her presence with words of flattery, insincerity, coarseness, sensuality, mercenary self-seeking, or any other form of dishonor. I would that woman were herself so noble and wise, her approbation so unquestionably the reward of merit, that a man should not dare to think ignobly lest his ignoble thought flower into word or act before her eyes; should not wish to think ignobly, since it removed him to such a distance from her, and wrought in him so sad an unlikeness to her; should not be able to think ignobly, being interpenetrated with the celestial fragrance which is her native air. I would have the heathen cloud-divinity which inwraps her with a factitious light, only to hide her real features from mortal gaze, torn utterly away, that men may see in her the fullest presentation possible to earth of the god-like in humanity. So powerfully does the Most High stand ready to work in her to will and to do of his good pleasure, that she may be to man a living revelation, Emanuel, God with us.


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