'WHICH SEX WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BE?
I once heard a Frenchman say, 'My wife could do without me, but I couldn't do without her;' but, as a rule, the Frenchman who has had the good fortune of marrying an intelligent wife becomes so dependent on her, so much under her influence, that no general rule should be drawn from the remark. When a man and wife have lived happily together, I find, from my personal observations, that when one has gone, it is generally the woman who can better do without the man than the reverse.
Of course, the question is very complex, and one which I would rather ask than answer. If sexes could do one without the other, and resolved to do it for fifty years, the world would put up its shutters. May not the question resolve itself into the following: Of old bachelors and old maids, which are the happier?
Even this question is not a fair one, because it must be admitted that society, which is very lenient over the peccadilloes of unmarried men, frowns unmercifully over those of unmarried women. Shall we then say, Of old bachelors and old maids, who have led monachal lives, which have been the happier, and would be the more ready to decline matrimony if the opportunity were again offered to them? Now, can you answer the question more easily? Well, if you can, I can't, and if you have anything to say on the subject I shall be glad to hear it.
Personally, I think the question practically amounts to this: Which would you rather be, a man or a woman?
Now, this is a question which my readers will find difficulty in answering, and even in speaking about, with authority, as each of them has only had the experiences of one sex.
Before answering it, we must indeed talk it over with some very intimate and trustworthy friends of the other sex, and compare their sentiments and sensations with our own. We must recall to our minds all the observations which we have made on the lives of men and women whom we have known. Let us not follow the example of the woman who would be a man 'because men are free,' and the man who would be a woman 'because women are admired,' for the reason that all men are not free, and women are far from being all admired.
I have interviewed on the subject many men and many women, and I have found an enormous majority of women who would elect to be men, and only a very small minority of men who would elect to be women. Conclusion: most people would elect to be men.
I am a man, and if I were to be born again and asked to make a choice, I would elect to be a man; but the reason may be that I possess many failings of which I am aware, and also a few qualities which the most imperfect of us must necessarily possess who are not absolute objects of perdition.
For let us say at once that sex suits character.
I love freedom and hate conventionalities; I am a man of action, and must always be up and doing. I do not believe that I am in any way tyrannical, yet I like to lead and have my own way. If the position of first fiddle is engaged, I decline to form part of the orchestra. Most of these characteristics are failings, perhaps even faults, but I possess them, and I cannot help possessing them, and they naturally induce me to prefer being a man.
I have made my confession, let my readers make theirs instead of taking me to task. I hate to feel protected, to be petted, but I would love to protect and pet a beloved one, whom I would think weaker than myself. I am a born fighter, and I don't care for smooth paths, unless I can make them smooth myself for my own use and also for the use of those who walk through life by my side.
But, leaving aside personal characteristics which would lead me to elect to be a man, there are many reasons which would cause me to make that choice quite independent of my character. Nature has given women beauty of face and figure, but there she stopped, and to make her pay for that gift she has handicapped her in every possible way.
And when I consider that there are in this world more ugly women than beautiful ones, and that an ugly woman is the abomination of desolation, an anomaly, a freak, I altogether fail to see why ninety women out of a hundred should return thanks for being women. I have no hesitation in saying that the woman who is not beautiful has no raison d'etre, and that only a few beautiful women are happy to be alive after they are forty.
Women have terrible grievances, many of which society and legislation (that is to say, in the second case, man) ought to redress. But the greatest grievances of women are, to my mind, against nature. These grievances cannot and will never be redressed.
In love woman has an unfair position. She gets old when a man of the same age remains young. In every race she is handicapped out of any chance of winning or even getting a dead heat. For these reasons especially I should elect to be a man.
Ah, what a pity we cannot decide our fate in every phase of life! in which case I would elect to be a beautiful woman from twenty to thirty, a brilliant officer from thirty to forty, a celebrated painter from forty to fifty, a famous poet or novelist from fifty to sixty, Prime Minister of England or President of the United States from sixty to seventy, and a Cardinal for the rest of my life.'
O'Rell, Max 'Rambles in Womanland', Chatto & Windus, 1903.