As women, we study and learn about the work of great men, knowing that they are revered by society, regardless of their hatred for us or violence done to us. Greatness has traditionally been reserved for men, granted by other men. Oppressing women has been considered a minor offense, and one not worth condemnation, or at times, even mentioning. They were allowed to shine brighter, thanks to diminishing half of humanity.
If half the world had not been held back, would we have progressed more rapidly?
The following is a list of quotes and evidence of misogyny by men who are considered historically great, as well as a few contemporary behemoths of their field. There is a pressing need to re-evaluate what merits greatness, in order to form a society that accurately reflects the variety of voices contained. Men should no longer be the sole authorities on who is deserving of greatness, and perhaps, such men may not have risen to greatness if women had been allowed to take equal part in education and law.
The intent is not to discredit their work, but to serve as a reminder that even the greatest men were just men. They were elevated for their impact on society, a society which ignored and even encouraged disparaging women. And we must never forget that these men also contributed negatively to society, especially to women's place in it, with their constant reassertion of superiority — which reads mores like fear, overcompensation, or womb envy — and which color the whole of our cultural canvas. As activist, author and feminist bell hooks says, “Art is presented as politically neutral as though it is not shaped by a reality of domination.”
We don't have to imagine the backlash that occurs when women demand equality. Yet consider if the roles were reversed, and a woman proclaimed herself as superior to men. Since women so rarely assert themselves as superior, I've decided to invert quotes from men who patriarchal society considers great. At first, I meant to list only their actual misogynistic quotes. But I became so frustrated by the litany of hatred towards women by men who are considered great, regardless of their abhorrent views, that I decided to turn them on their head.
The question is not, "Can you separate a sexist from his work?" but, "Should you?" We ought to acknowledge that a large portion of men who have been traditionally credited with shaping our society were deplorable towards women in words and actions, in order to work towards a future where those who influence our culture do so in a more equitable way.
If you’d like to see a change in the classic canon, you can sign this petition by the Curriculum Campaign asking for more female authors in the UK’s English curriculum.
"..as regards the sexes, the female is by nature superior and the male inferior, the female ruler and the male subject. And the same must necessarily apply to all mankind."
"The male is as it were a deformed female."
"The female gender is far superior to the male in just about every sphere."
"Men are apt to seduce women into making irrational political decisions."
"Women are by nature merely indifferent to one another; but men are by nature enemies."
"The women depend on the men only on account of their desires; the men on the women both on account of their desires and their necessities: women could subsist better without us than we could without them."
"The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shown by woman’s attaining a higher eminence, in whatever she takes up, than can man—whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands. If two lists were made of the most eminent women and men in poetry, painting, sculpture, music (inclusive both of composition and performance), history, science, and philosophy, with half-a-dozen names under each subject, the two lists would not bear comparison. We may also infer... that if women are capable of a decided pre-eminence over men in many subjects, the average of mental power in woman must be above that of man."
"There are only a half dozen women of letters (and no men) worth printing."
"Abolishing rape is good for a woman’s soul."
"Men oppose change, receive passively, and add nothing of their own."
"The man loves to play woman against woman, and if he is in a position to do it there is not one who will not resist. The female, for all her bravado and exploration, is the loyal one, the one who generally feels love. The male is skilled at betrayal and torture and damnation. Never envy a woman his man. Behind it all lays a living hell."
"A man ruined Zelda [Fitzgerald]. It wasn’t just Zelda ruining herself. But why couldn’t she have told him to go to hell? Because he was sick. It’s being sick makes them act so bloody awful usually and it’s because they’re sick you can’t treat them as you should. The first great gift for a woman is to be healthy and the second, maybe greater, is to fall [in love] with healthy men. You can always trade one healthy man in on another. But start with a sick man and see where you get. Sick in the head or sick anywhere. But sick anywhere and in a little while they are sick in the head. If you leave a man, though, you probably ought to shoot him. It would save enough trouble in the end even if they hanged you."
"Everything in man is a riddle, and everything in man hath one solution—it is called ejaculation."
"When a man turns to scholarship there is usually something wrong with his sexual apparatus."
"The following is a contractual list of conditions Einstein's wife, Mileva Maric, forced him to sign before agreeing to marry him.
A. You will make sure:
1. that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
2. that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;
3. that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.
B. You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Specifically, You will forego:
1. my sitting at home with you;
2. my going out or traveling with you.
C. You will obey the following points in your relations with me:
1. you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way;
2. you will stop talking to me if I request it;
3. you will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it.
D. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior."
Honoré de Balzac
"A woman ought not to marry without having studied anatomy and dissected at least one man...A woman should weaken the will and strength of a husband by tiring him out under the load of constant work, so that he has no energy left to cause trouble...Never allow him to drink water alone. If you do, you are lost."
"There are only two types of men — gods, and doormats."
"I'm a man who likes women... I beg you to degrade me... Please spit in my mouth."
"My woman used to be cruel / She beat me and kept me apart from the things that I love / Man she was mean but she's changing her scene / And she's doing the best that she can."
"Trying to level the genders is purely idiotic. Aiming for male equality is a great pity."
More from BUST
Confronting My Attacker: BUST True Story
This Radical Female Bike Brigade Is Taking L.A. By Storm
The Forgotten Women Of The Black Panther Party
Myra Pearson is a freelance writer and poet from Blacksburg, Virginia. She resides in Seoul, Korea, where she teaches at Duksung Woman's University. he is the editor of Period Magazine, a non-profit zine for women in the literary and visual arts. Her poetry has been published in various literary journals and her first book of poems is forthcoming. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.