Mary Wollstonecraft Day - 2000
The Second Annual Political Postings Day
for Male Voices
May 1, 2000
Welcome to the second annual Mary Wollstonecraft Day! The Male Voices bulletin board is not, in general, intended as a place for political messages, social commentary, or discussion of current events. Rather, it is devoted to an exploration of the literary vision of Jane Austen. However, one important part of this study must be the context for Jane Austen's development and that context was one of radical political thought, rhetoric, and action. For that reason, we thought it might be useful--and fun--to emulate those conditions for at least one day of each year. Mary Wollstonecraft was a political radical, a feminist, a bisexual sexual-libertarian, and a contemporary of Jane Austen. Ms. Wollstonecraft was many other things that Miss Austen was not. So, this day is devoted to that other extreme and, in fact, should be considered a celebration. That is to say we devote this single day of the year to emulate Mary Wollstonecraft and express our own frustrations along with our utopian dreams. Here are the postings for this year.
I lay awake last night thinking about violins on television. I don’t see anything wrong with them. In fact, I think there should be more violins on television.
What? Oh. Never mind. Consider this instead:
On the southernmost point of British Columbia lies the sleepy little tourist attraction that is our provincial capitol, Victoria. Victoria juts way down below the invisible line that separates the rest of Canada from the United States. It should probably belong to Washington, but during the time those kinds of decisions were being made, Victoria was, and remains, much too British. It is a flowery little city surrounded on three sides by the Pacific. It is known for its parks, gardens, totem poles, and the fact that you can take high tea at the Empress Hotel under a leafy potted palm in the company of white haired little ladies and a handful of tourists.
Two years ago, in one of those charming parks by the sea, seven young ladies and a young man, all aged around 15 years, swarmed a schoolmate and beat her senseless before one of them drowned her. The trial of the last accused has just closed. This young murderess told a friend that she stood knee deep in the ocean, a foot on the victim’s neck, smoking a cigarette while the body ceased its convulsions. She will be paroled in five years.
We can add her to the list of "bullies" that have stepped over the line in the last few years. She is middle class, popular, and well-thought of by everyone who knows her. Her mother thinks she’s a wonderful girl, who perhaps needs a little more attention. Hopefully the prison guards will help out there. There are too many of these incidents, but I’m not going to consider why it happens. I just want to know if I will be able to protect my child, and I’m not sure I even know what I want to protect her from. Am I raising the kind of child that others pick on, or will she somehow grow to be the kind of creature who has the capacity, that lack of basic human decency, that will allow her to stand on someone’s neck, figuratively or otherwise? And will I have the wisdom to recognize and the strength to act on what I know?
Hopefully, the answer is a simple one. I must be accessible to my child. It is my duty to listen to her. It is my duty to hear what she doesn’t say along with what she does. But what’s more, if I want to raise the kind of child that will stand up for someone else’s rights a saviour rather than an oppressor the kid in the crowd that runs for help then I must do that myself. No hoping that someone else will take on what I know is my own responsibility. I must be a decent human being so I can show my child how it’s done. It is my duty to teach my child to love. And to keep her guard up.
And perhaps I should lobby someone for more violins on television.
Last year’s Mary Wollstonecraft Day fell just after Columbine. We watched as the grief managers and experts circled around like buzzards. Spin was in. They told us that it was not the fault of the two kids who planned and carried out the shootings. There was no fault to be assigned to law enforcement, who (it seemed to me) acted like a bunch of highly trained but overly cautious and ineffective Gilbert and Sullivan police. Soon the spinners had made it all clear. It was our fault. My fault. Your fault.
Now a year has passed and we have to face Elian. The question is: Does Mary Wollstonecraft Day cause these disasters? I would enjoy a Mary Wollstonecraft Day that was not preceded by some momentous event so I could make a reasoned presentation instead of what has come to be a yearly rant.
Since last weekend when I saw those cowboy law enforcement types go charging into that home, my blood pressure has been in a permanent state of elevation. I have had to stop watching the news on TV. Every time I turned it on there was some steely-eyed guy explaining how they had to be armed to the teeth and how it was that they had to kick in the door because, "The child could have been in danger."
My question is this: Where were those flack jacketed and helmeted, automatic weapon carrying heroes when those children were being gunned down at Columbine? There they KNEW that children were in danger and what did they do? They hung out in the parking lot and forced children running from the building to hold their hands over their heads.
It seems clear to me that we are spending way too much money training law enforcement types how to make idiotic decisions, and that our money would be far better spent sending them to logic classes. There is a time for John Wayne and there is a time for Mr. Chips, and law enforcement needs to come to some understanding of that difference.
What I have learned in the past year is this: If I am being held at gun point by some mad man, the police will gather outside my house, string two miles of yellow tape, evacuate all the neighbors for six blocks in all directions, explain to TV newsmen how dangerous the situation is and that there could be explosives hidden in the house, call in all law enforcement officers from twenty miles around, and then set up a command post. In the meantime, I’ve been dead for two hours. On the other hand if I have two library books overdue, the police will arm themselves with automatic weapons, put on the flack jackets and helmets, kick down my door, spray me with mace, handcuff me and then haul me off to jail.
WAIT! That’s not all! If we want to send a strong anti gun message, the best way to do that would be NOT to send 150 armed men to point guns at a kid at five o’clock in the morning. What is the message coming from such lunacy?: I’ll tell you what the message is: Guns solve problems.
Please do not ask that I calm down and get hold of myself. It’s too late. Maybe next year.
From the Meister: The reader can use this link to study Ray's 1999 campaign through England, In Search of Jane Austen.
Wishing to say something very sensible, but knowing not how, I have adjusted my ideas several times. I took a cue from the Meister "...to emulate Mary Wollstonecraft and express our own [political & social] frustrations along with our [political & social] utopian dreams." I submit the following in response to the postings of MW-Day in 1999, which reflected so little hope for the future of this world.
I, also, am frustrated with Man's political system, education system, economic system, and religious system as practiced by Man throughout history. The main reason for my frustration is that those systems do not appear to work very well, if at all. Our Lady acknowledged as much, evidenced in this sentence in Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth says, "The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it, and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense."
My utopian dream is to replace those systems with Ones that work. There is a Book that describes such workable systems, but, alas, those systems have never been given a decent chance.
Mary Wollstonecraft uses the words "the design of Deity" and "the grand plan of the Universe". I do wonder if she believed in a "Deity" and a "grand plan of the Universe".
Since I am a Christian of a peculiar kind, I will wait for that "design of Deity" and "the grand plan of the universe" to be worked out.
The "world" says, "You believe that, Linda, if it gives you comfort."
I reply, "Okay, I will."
"I will only add, God bless you." - Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
I have one question for every American reading this post.
When was the last time you went a full day without either breaking a law yourself or seeing someone else do so?
When was the last time you got through an entire day without speeding or running a red light? Using an illegal drug, or looking the other way when someone else did in your presence? When was the last time you actually took action when you saw a co-worker stealing from your employer?
When was the last time you refused to financially support entertainers who
have been convicted of a crime? Or a sports team whose coach managed to get yet
another one of his players off the hook for drug use, drunk driving, date rape,
or armed robbery?
When was the last time you obeyed the law because it's the right thing to do, rather than because you were certain to be caught?
We have become a nation that obeys the laws only when it's not inconvenient to do so. We have become a nation that believes each individual may pick and choose which laws pertain to him. A nation that believes that changing a bad law is too much work, so we just break it instead. A nation in which the only standard is "what injures me is a serious crime, what injures others isn't."
Why should be surprised to discover that a seventeen year old can't judge for himself which laws are important and which aren't? That children simply don't understand the difference between such "victimless" crimes as drug dealing or prostitution, and cold-blooded murder? How can we hope to raise children who respect the rights of others when we as a nation show such total contempt for the laws designed to protect those rights?
I say, let's return to an attitude of respect for the law. Leave 10
minutes earlier instead of speeding. If a law is wrong or unfair, let's
change it. If we see a crime committed, let's take action. Don't
spend your hard-earned money lining the pockets of criminals masquerading as
popular entertainers and/or athletes. Don't entertain criminals (even your
friends) in your home. Show today's children that the proper attitude
toward law-breakers is contempt and social ostracism. Let's let children
grow up a little before forcing them into the sort of complex moral decisions
the entire race has been struggling with for the last ten thousand
I know the title of my posting may sound a bit harsh, but Elian does not belong in this country. This feeling does not come from any kind of prejudice, but from the opinion that Elian deserves the chance to grow up with his father and little brother. When I think back to when I was six years old, still in first grade, I realize that there is no way I could have survived without my parents. Elian has already lost his mother - does he really deserve to lose his father as well? His cousins may love and care for him, but in my opinion, Elian is just another way for them to make a quick buck. Has anyone investigated how much money they've made off this child in the short time he's been with them? I suspect that the contributions to Elian's "defense" can be counted in the hundreds of thousands. Besides that, who wouldn't enjoy having their fifteen minutes of fame, no matter what the circumstances or cost? Perhaps Elian would be freer here in the USA, but he probably would not be happier. Just look at how quickly he has adjusted to being back with his father! Besides all of that, what gives Elian the right to be treated differently than any other Cuban who was caught trying to enter the United States before he crossed the border? Being younger than the rest of them should not be justification to give him a special dispensation to stay. If Elian's father were dead or did not want him back, that would be a different story. His Miami relatives would probably be the only family he has left.
The Fear in Their Eyes
By Heather Bxxxxx
I walked to school with my friend,
I saw the fear in his eyes and I wondered why.
I walked through the halls,
I saw the fear in their eyes.
I walked passed the teams,
I saw the fear in their eyes.
I saw the gun shots, and the screaming began,
I saw the fear in their eyes.
I saw our school colors mixed with red and shuddered.
I looked into his eyes,
I saw anger and depression
I froze and someone pulled me under the table,
I realized it was my brother.
I saw the fear in his eyes and felt the fear in my heart.
I heard a noise, the next thing I knew my brother was on the floor.
I tried to scream, but I could not.
I heard the words of sorrow and the sounds of silence,
I saw the tears in their eyes
The library, the cafeteria,
Remind us of tragedy.
Pictures on the walls
Remind us of those lost to us.
Remind of us those troubled students,
Who I now hate
The boys and their song,
Remind me of that day.
Reminds me of that day
The room down the hall,
Reminds me of my dear brother
Reminds me of
The love of pleasure, fostered by the whole tendency of their education, gives a trifling turn to the conduct of women in most circumstances; for example, they are anxious about secondary things; and, on the watch for adventures instead of being occupied by duties.
A man, when he undertakes a journey, has, in general, the end in view; a woman thinks more of the incidental occurrences, the strange things that may possibly occur on the road; the impression she may make on her fellow-travelers; and, above all, she is anxiously intent on the care of the finery that she carries with her, which is more than ever a part of herself, when going to figure on a new scene; when, to use an apt French turn of expression, she is going to produce a sensation. Can dignity of mind exist with such trivial cares?
In short, women, in general, as well as the rich of both sexes, have acquired all the follies and vices of civilization, and missed the useful fruit. Their senses are inflamed, and their understandings neglected, consequently they become the prey of their senses, delicately termed sensibility, and are blown about by every momentary gust of feeling. Ever restless and anxious, their over-exercised sensibility not only renders them uncomfortable themselves, but troublesome, to use a soft phrase, to others. When they should reason, their conduct is unstable, and their opinions are wavering--not the wavering produced by deliberation or progressive views, but by contradictory emotions.
Girls who have been thus weakly educated are often cruelly left by their parents without any provision, and, of course, are dependent on not only the reason, but the bounty of their brothers. In this equivocal humiliating situation, a docile female may remain with a tolerable degree of comfort. But when the brother marries--a probable circumstance--from being considered as the mistress of the family, she is viewed with averted looks as an intruder, an unnecessary burden on the benevolence of the master of the house and his new partner.
The wife, a cold-hearted narrow-minded woman--this not an unfair supposition, for the present mode of education does not tend to enlarge the heart any more than the understanding--is jealous of the little kindness which her husband shows to his relations; and her sensibility not rising to humanity, she is displeased at seeing the property of her children lavished on a helpless sister.
These are matters of fact, which have come under my eye again and again. The consequence is obvious, the wife has recourse to cunning to undermine the habitual affection which she is afraid openly to oppose; and neither tears nor caresses are spared until the spy is worked out of her home, and thrown on the world, unprepared for its difficulties; or sent, as a great effort of generosity, with a small stipend, and an uncultivated mind, into joyless solitude.
The case would have been very different, had the two women been differently educated.
From the Meister: Thank you for your interesting posting. It reminds me of a novel I once read - will read. Actually, that novel will not be published for another twenty years.
Some husbands are imperious, and some wives perverse. And though the wisdom or virtue of one can rarely make many happy, the folly or vice of one may often make many miserable as it is always easier to do evil than good. Some might think, "If such be the general effect of marriage, I shall, for the future, think it dangerous to join my life with that of another, lest I be unhappy by my partner's fault." I have met many who live single for that reason; but I never found their prudence to raise my envy. They dream away their time without friendship, without fondness, and are driven to rid themselves of the day, for which they have no use, by childish amusements or vicious delights. They act as beings under the constant sense of some human frailty, that fills their minds with rancour and their tongues with censur. They are peevish at home and malevolent abroad. And, as the outlaws of nature, make it their business and their pleasure to disturb that society that debars them from its privileges. To live without feeling or exciting sympathy, to be fortunate without adding to the felicity of others, or afflicted without the balm of pity, is a state more gloomy than solitude: it is not a retreat but rather an exclusion from mankind. Marriage has many pains, but the single life has no pleasures.
It seems that the more we inquire on this matter, the less we can resolve. This throws a darker gloom on the prospects for the future. Marriage is evidently the dictate of nature; men and women are made to be the companions of each other, and therefore I am persuaded that marriage might be one of the means of happiness. And yet, I know not whether marriage instead be more than one of the innumerable modes of human misery. When I see and reckon the various forms of connubial infelicity, the unexpected causes of lasting discord, the diversities of temper, the oppositions of opinion, the rude collisions of contrary desire where both are urged by passionate impulses, the obstinate contests of disagreeing virtues, where both are supported by consciousness of good intention, I am sometimes disposed to think with the severer observers of most nations that marriage is rather permitted than approved, and that none, except by the instigation of passion too much indulged, would entangle themselves with these indissoluble compacts.
Some might say that the incommodites of a single life are, in a great measure, necessary and certain, while those of the conjugal state accidental and avoidable. However, we cannot flatter ourselves that prudence and benevolence necessarily will make marriage happy. The general folly of mankind is the cause of general complaint.
This is the common process of marriage. A youth and maiden meeting by chance, or brought together by artiface, exchange glances, reciprocate civilities, go home, and dream of each other. Having little to divert attention, or diversify thought, they find themselves uneasy when they are apart, and therefore conclude that they shall be happy together. They marry, and discover what nothing but voluntary blindness had before concealed. They end by wearing out life in altercations and then they charge nature with cruelty. What can be expected but disappintment and repentance from a choice made in the immaturity of youth, in the ardour of desire, without judgment, without foresight, and without inquiry after conformity of opinions, similarity of manners, rectitude of judgment, or purity of sentiment.
Perhaps all these evils may be avoided by that deliberation and delay which prudence prescribes to irrevocable choice. In the variety and joyfulness of youthful pleasures, life may be well enough supported without the help of a partner. Longer time will increase experience, and wider views will allow better opportunities of inquiry and selection. One advantage of this approach, at least, will be certain; parents will be visibly older than the children.
On the other hand, late marriages are not emminantly happy. It is dangerous for a man and a woman to make their union, at a time when opinions are fixed, and habits are established; when friendships have been contracted on both sides, when life has been planned into method, and the mind has long enjoyed the contemplation of its own prospects. I mean, it is scarcely possible that two travelling through the world under the conduct of chance, should have both been directed to the same path. And, it will often happen that neither will quit the track which custom has made pleasing. When the desultory levity of youth has settled into the regularity of maturity, it is soon succeeded by pride ashamed to yield, or obstinacy ready and delighted to contend. And even though mutual esteem produces mutual desire to please, time itself, as it renders unchangeable the external mien, determines likewise the direction of passions, and gives an inflexible rigidity to the manners. Long customs are not easily broken: he that attempts to change the course of his own life, very often labours in vain; and how shall we do that for others which we are seldom able to do for ourselves?
A rivalry of parents with children might proceed from an early marriage. The son is eager to enjoy the world before the father is willing to forsake it, and there is hardly room at once for two generations. The daughter begins to bloom before the mother can be content to fade, and neither can forbear to wish for the absence of the other. Those that marry at an advanced age, will probably escape the encroachments of their children; but in dimunition of this advantage, they will be likely to leave the children, ignorant and helpless, to a guardian's mercy: or, if that should not happen, they must at least go out of the world before they see those whom they love best either wise or great. From their children, if they have less to fear, they have less also to hope, and they lose without compensation, the joys of early love and the convenience of manners pliant and minds susceptible of new impressions, for imparting the values and understanding of the parents to the children.
I suspect it will be found that those that marry late are best pleased with their children, and those who marry early with their partners. However, it is the union of these two affections that would produce all that could be wished. Perhaps there is a time of life when marriage would unite them, a time neither too early for the father, nor too late for the husband. On the other hand, it is said that no man can taste the fruits of autumn while he is delighting his scent with the flowers of the spring: no man can, at the same time, fill his cup from the source and from the mouth of the Nile.
From the Meister: I know that you are even more depressed than usual - what with the recent death of your mother and all - but I cannot help but try to temper your posting a bit. Jane Austen will not even be born for another sixteen years (you will never know her), but it is interesting to compare and to contrast her views with yours. I predict that she will write this conversation for two of her characters:'... Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance. If the dispositions of the parties are ever so well known to each other, or ever so similar beforehand, it does not advance their felicity in the least. They always continue to grow sufficiently unlike afterwards to have their share of vexation; and it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.' 'You make me laugh, Charlotte, but it is not sound. You know it is not sound, and you would never act in this way yourself.'
In that same novel, I seem to think that a young woman will be closely questioned by an older family member about an unwise romance; I think the young woman will reply this way:'... In short my dear aunt, I should be very sorry to be the means of making any of you unhappy; but since we see every day that where there is affection young people are seldom withheld by immediate want of fortune, from entering into engagements with each other, how can I promise to be wiser than so many of my fellow creatures, if I am tempted, or how am I even to know that it will be wisdom to resist? All I can promise you, therefore, is not to be in a hurry. ... In short I will do my best. ... But really, and upon my honor, I will try to do what I think to be wisest; and now, I hope you are satisfied.'
It is interesting that Austen will often make the bride very young, but the husband older - sometimes eight or even sixteen years older. I wonder if this is not a recipe for avoiding all of the stumbling blocks you describe?
Read a brief comparison of Jane Austen's nature and biography with that of Mary Wollstonecraft
Read a short description of other women writers in Jane Austen's time.
Here is a link to Mary Wollstonecraft day - 1999
Here is a link to Mary Wollstonecraft day - 2001
Here is a link to Mary Wollstonecraft day - 2002
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