The Destructive Male Speech

I urge a sixteenth amendment, because 'manhood suffrage,' or a man's government, is civil, religious,
and social disorganization. The male element is a destructive force, stern, selfish, aggrandizing, loving
war, violence, conquest, acquisition, breeding in the material and moral world alike discord, disorder,
disease, and death. See what a record of blood and cruelty the pages of history reveal! Through what
slavery, slaughter, and sacrifice, through what inquisitions and imprisonments, pains and persecutions,
black codes and gloomy creeds, the soul of humanity has struggled for the centuries, while mercy has
veiled her face and all hearts have been dead alike to love and hope!

The male element has held high carnival thus far; it has fairly run riot from the beginning, overpowering the feminine element everywhere, crushing out all the diviner qualities in human nature, until we know
but little of true manhood and womanhood, of the latter comparatively nothing, for it has scarce been
recognized as a power until within the last century. Society is but the reflection of man himself,
untempered by woman's thought; the hard iron rule we feel alike in the church, the state, and the home.
No one need wonder at the disorganization, at the fragmentary condition of everything, when we
remember that man, who represents but half a complete being, with but half an idea on every subject,
has undertaken the absolute control of all sublunary matters.

People object to the demands of those whom they choose to call the strong-minded, because they say
'the right of suffrage will make the women masculine.' That is just the difficulty in which we are involved
today. Though disfranchised, we have few women in the best sense; we have simply so many reflections,
varieties, and dilutions of the masculine gender. The strong, natural characteristics of womanhood are
repressed and ignored in dependence, for so long as man feeds woman she will try to please the giver
and adapt herself to his condition. To keep a foothold in society, woman must be as near like man as
possible, reflect his ideas, opinions, virtues, motives, prejudices, and vices. She must respect his statutes,
though they strip her of every inalienable right, and conflict with that higher law written by the finger of
God on her own soul.

She must look at everything from its dollar-and-cent point of view, or she is a mere romancer. She must
accept things as they are and make the best of them. To mourn over the miseries of others, the poverty
of the poor, their hardships in jails, prisons, asylums, the horrors of war, cruelty, and brutality in every
form, all this would be mere sentimentalizing. To protest against the intrigue, bribery, and corruption of
public life, to desire that her sons might follow some business that did not involve lying, cheating, and a
hard, grinding selfishness, would be arrant nonsense.

In this way man has been molding woman to his ideas by direct and positive influences, while she, if
not a negation, has used indirect means to control him, and in most cases developed the very characteristics both in him and herself that needed repression. And now man himself stands appalled
at the results of his own excesses, and mourns in bitterness that falsehood, selfishness, and violence
are the law of life. The need of this hour is not territory, gold mines, railroads, or specie payments but
a new evangel of womanhood, to exalt purity, virtue, morality, true religion, to lift man up into the
higher realms of thought and action.

We ask woman's enfranchisement, as the first step toward the recognition of that essential element in
government that can only secure the health, strength, and prosperity of the nation. Whatever is done
to lift woman to her true position will help to usher in a new day of peace and perfection for the race.
In speaking of the masculine element, I do not wish to be understood to say that all men are hard,
selfish, and brutal, for many of the most beautiful spirits the world has known have been clothed
with manhood; but I refer to those characteristics, though often marked in woman, that distinguish
what is called the stronger sex. For example, the love of acquisition and conquest, the very pioneers
of civilization, when expended on the earth, the sea, the elements, the riches and forces of nature, are
powers of destruction when used to subjugate one man to another or to sacrifice nations to ambition.
Here that great conservator of woman's love, if permitted to assert itself, as it naturally would in
freedom against oppression, violence, and war, would hold all these destructive forces in check, for
woman knows the cost of life better than man does, and not with her consent would one drop of blood
ever be shed, one life sacrificed in vain.

With violence and disturbance in the natural world, we see a constant effort to maintain an equilibrium
of forces. Nature, like a loving mother, is ever trying to keep land and sea, mountain and valley, each
in its place, to hush the angry winds and waves, balance the extremes of heat and cold, of rain and
drought, that peace, harmony, and beauty may reign supreme. There is a striking analogy between
matter and mind, and the present disorganization of society warns us that in the dethronement of
woman we have let loose the elements of violence and ruin that she only has the power to curb. If the
civilization of the age calls for an extension of the suffrage, surely a government of the most virtuous
educated men and women would better represent the whole and protect the interests of all than could
the representation of either sex alone.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton - 1868

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The History Place.  3 April 2002.

Source For Background and Animation:
Animation.  Bugs.  3 April 2002.
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Background.  Tile 17.  16 March 2002.
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