Dorothy Sayers and Feminism

The first thing Mrs. Sayers asserts is that she is not only not a feminist but she is also strongly opposed to the movement as it was at the time of her speech recorded in this book  (1938).  When questioned by the Women’s Society about this assertion, she said, “… under present conditions, an aggressive feminism might do more harm than good.”  I wonder what she’d say about today’s feminism.


Her collection of essays could easily be summed up by stating that a person’s worth or identity should’t be automatically assumed to be understood based upon their gender.  Feminism today is all about elevating women to the highest level of existence merely because they are women.  It is a form of reverse discrimination that makes any attempt to take it seriously ludicrous.  The double standard is often justified by assertions of “historical evidence of double standards for men an women” but that is a weak argument at best.  A history of cruelty toward male children doesn’t mean that we now must be cruel to female children as a balance.


Mrs. Sayers argues that sweeping statements such as “A woman is as good as a man” are as meaningful as “a Frenchman is as good as a Kafir.”  As good for what?  This is the material question.  She goes on to demonstrate that one may be better than another at specific tasks but does agree that in the eyes of their Creator, both are equally “good.”


She asserts that what we should mean is that women are just as ordinary human beings as men are.  Each individual person his or her own preferences, tastes, and the like.  She isn’t so idealistic as to encourage the wholesale dismissal of all stereotypes.  As repugnant as they can be at the wrong time or when they most definitely do not apply, the fact is, they exist because there is enough substance behind them to create them in the first place.  There wouldn’t be stereotypes about “jolly chubby men” or “tempermental artists” if enough of them didn’t exist to make it seem like a universal truth.  Does that mean there aren’t  irritable men with beer bellies or actresses with ice in their veins?  Well obviously there are both.  However, I must admit, those that I know who are heavily involved in the theater on a regular basis tend to be high strung and tempermental and I know many many more cheerful and jovial chubby men than rotund men who are easily irritated.


I love this quote:


“What is irritating and unreasonable to assume is that all one’s tastes and preferences have to be conditioned by the class (or sex?) to which one belongs.”