It irritates me immensely when I read how, according to certain feminist ‘scholars’, men have supposedly crapped all over human history. The underlying theme is generally one featuring the systematic oppression of women set against a backdrop of endless testosterone-fuelled wars … and how much different and better the world would be were women calling all the shots.
I’m no historian, but I understand that there are more than a few holes in the feminist version of history, see for example, ‘European Queens waged more wars than kings‘.
Consider the documents listed below, as another example. Are they evidence of a disgraceful white male hedgemony? Hateful artifacts of toxic masculinity? Or high points of human civilisation of which we can all be proud?
The Holy Bible The bible that we know today is believed to represent the fruits of approximately forty male authors.
The Magna Carta (UK, 1215) The content of the Magna Carta was drafted by Archbishop Stephen Langton and the most powerful Barons of England.
The English Bill of Rights (UK, 1689) The Bill of Rights was a collectively authored document. Since it was based on the Declaration of Rights, authorship can be attributed to the Convention Parliament, which was the first parliament convened following the arrival of William of Orange in England. The Convention Parliament comprised members who had been in Charles II’s last Parliament, which he had dissolved in 1681.
The Declaration of Independence (USA, 1776) Although we know Thomas Jefferson as the true author, the Second Continental Congress initially appointed five people to draw up a declaration. The committee included Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was then given the task of writing a draft for the Declaration of Independence.
The Constitution (USA, 1788) The Constitution was written in the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by delegates from 12 states. It created a federal system with a national government composed of 3 separated powers, and included both reserved and concurrent powers of states. The president of the Constitutional Convention, the body that framed the new government, was George Washington, though James Madison is known as the “Father of the Constitution” because of his great contributions to the formation of the new government. Gouverneur Morris wrote the Constitution’s final language.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (France, 1789) Passed by France’s National Constituent Assembly in August 1789, the Declaration is a fundamental document of the French Revolution and in the history of human and civil rights. The Declaration was directly influenced by Thomas Jefferson, working with General Lafayette, who introduced it. Influenced also by the doctrine of “natural right”, the rights of man are held to be universal: valid at all times and in every place, pertaining to human nature itself. It became the basis for a nation of free individuals protected equally by law. The Declaration was a core statement of the values of the French Revolution and had a major impact on the development of freedom and democracy in Europe and worldwide.
The Bill of Rights (USA, 1791) Written by James Madison in response to calls from several states for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties, the Bill of Rights lists specific prohibitions on governmental power. The Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason, strongly influenced Madison.
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln (USA, 1863). The Gettysburg Address is perhaps the most famous speech in American history. Given by President Lincoln at the dedication of the Gettysburg national cemetery on November 19, 1863, the speech initially met with a mixed reception (the anti-Lincoln Chicago Times wrote, “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dish-watery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States”), but it has since become universally acclaimed as distilling the essence of the Civil War into a handful of sentences.
The Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln (USA, 1863). The document proclaimed all slaves in Confederate-held areas “perpetually” free, and fundamentally altered the nature of the Civil War by making the abolition of slavery a primary Union war aim. The document, as it only applied to areas not under federal control, has been criticized for being a stop-gap or temporary measure, but recently — especially given the 150th anniversary of the Proclamation — it has enjoyed a renewed reputation as one of the most radical documents in American history.
The Marshall Plan speech by George Marshall (USA, 1947). When George Marshall gave the commencement address for Harvard University on June 5, 1947, he outlined a policy that would rebuild war-torn Europe. The Marshall Plan speech “set in motion a chain of events that resulted in the greatest foreign aid program in history,” wrote a reader, and for that alone it merits nomination, but, as another reader wrote, the result of that program would be to “usher in one of the greatest periods of prosperity in modern history.”
The ‘I have a dream’ speech by Martin Luther King (USA, 1963) The “I Have a Dream” speech, ranked by scholars as the greatest speech of the twentieth century remains iconic to this very day. The most famous part of the speech, where King describes his dream, was largely improvised on the spot.
And what literature might feminists hold up in return? Perhaps gems like:
The SCUM Manifesto (USA, 1967) “The SCUM Manifesto is a radical feminist manifesto by Valerie Solanas, published in 1967. It argues that men have ruined the world, and that it is up to women to fix it. To achieve this goal, it suggests the formation of SCUM, an organization dedicated to overthrowing society and eliminating the male sex.”
The term “SCUM” appeared on the cover of the first edition from Olympia Press as “S.C.U.M.” and was said to stand for “Society for Cutting Up Men”. Solanas objected, insisting that it was not an acronym, although the expanded term appeared in a Village Voice ad she had written in 1967. Solanas held a series of recruitment meetings for SCUM at the Chelsea Hotel where she lived, but a decade later insisted that the organization was “just a literary device” and never really existed. The Manifesto was little-known until Solanas attempted to kill Andy Warhol in 1968.
All I am saying here is how about we give credit where credit is due and build upon, rather than seek to diminish, the outstanding contributions made by our forebears.
Women can, and should, join with men in creating a better world for our children. By the same token it is in no way contradictory for me to state that I am not prepared to sit down and bear passive witness to feminists leading us into a glorious new age of … hmm … sexism, narcissism and profanity?
3 thoughts on “A dozen of western culture’s most historic documents (Feminism v Patriarchy)”
I generally admire your work but I don’t think that this piece belongs in your collection. Your position is more likely to win support from both men and women if you maintain a focus on equality of rights and opportunities as suggested by your URL. This material can be perceived as an argument for male superiority and risks all of your good work being dismissed as being motivated by thinly veiled misogyny.
It would be disappointing to see your goals compromised by an article that may appear incongruent with your general position which has tended to avoid generating men vs women polarization.
Thank you for your thoughtful response. I also had some reservations and since receiving your feedback I have amended the post, and will give it further thought over coming days. The original version was meant to be somewhat ‘tongue-in-cheek’, but as you’ve pointed out it did provide scope for alternative (negative) interpretations.