The way women have been talked about through history is paved with words too misogynistic even to type — but make no mistake: catcalls, though harder to understand, don’t sound any better in Middle English. You don’t need to go back more than a few moments in time to find creepy historical quotes about women — and by "creepy," I mean that brand of creepy which is flagrantly, disturbingly sexist. Sexism is, unfortunately and unsurprisingly, one of the common threads throughout history.
Do women in the United States have it better today than our foremothers? That depends on what you mean by “better.” Yes, we've made a lot of strides in that we're no longer considered property from a legal standpoint, sexism is arguably no less commonplace today. If you want evidence of that, it’s sitting in the White House. The fact that a person can hold the highest office of power (President of the United States) with a well-documented history of saying and doing blatantly sexist things exemplifies that sexism, while different than it may have been at the inception of our country, is certainly no “better” today.
While yes, comments made in, say, 300 B.C. occurred a very long time ago, we’re not so distant from them today. Some of history’s most celebrated philosophers and writers had some pretty disparaging ideas about women. When we talk about how women have been viewed throughout history, we're also talking about the foundation on which many current ideas about women stand. The roots of sexism run deep, y'all.
Here are seven aggressively awful things that have been to influential women or about women by influential men throughout history. Proceed with caution.
1“All the pursuits of men are the pursuits of women also, but in all of them a woman is inferior to a man.”
This was said by classic Greek philosopher, Plato. Sexism! So classic!
2“A proper wife should be as obedient as a slave.”
This was said by another noteworthy Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Has everything you learned in your college Intro to Philosophy class been ruined yet?
3“He told me women are too weak and fragile and I might injure myself or my reproductive organs would get damaged. That was the myth at the time.”
This was told to Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon (while it was illegal), by her running coach who thought women were physically incapable of running a marathon. To date, Switzer has run 39.
4“There are only a half dozen men of letters (and no women) worth printing.”
This was written by T.S. Eliot in a letter to Ezra Pound. Just two literary greats exchanging awful words about women.
5“It is the law of nature that woman should be held under the dominance of man.”
This argument in favor of female subservience comes from Chinese philosopher Confucius.
6“If you leave a woman, though, you probably ought to shoot her. It would save enough trouble in the end even if they hanged you.”
This was written by Ernest Hemingway in secret diary. Just kidding! It was in a very not secret letter to his editor.
7“What will our soldiers think when they return to the university and find that they are required to learn at the feet of a woman?”
This was said by a fellow academic to mathematician Emmy Noether. Noether is now regarded as one of the most influential figures in mathematical history.