Charlotte Perkins Gilman on Feminist Ideals

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Surely, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a woman ahead of her time. From her brief description of feminist ideals, written in 1916, we can see that on the whole, women have not progressed nearly as much as we’d like to think. Though in this brief essay she speaks to a purely heterosexual paradigm, many of her thoughts still ring true.

Feminism, really, is the social awakening of the women of all the world. Women are going through, in a century or so, swiftly, and in large measure voluntarily, the same steps of social progress which men have been struggling through in hundreds of thousands of years.

We have to thank men for all the loving kindness, the wise helpfulness, the justice and generosity which have been given to women; and we have to blame men for a long black record of rank injustice, cruelty, and the most violent and unfair opposition to every step of woman’s upward progress.

A woman who holds the wholly ignorant, helpless, and subordinate position so common a century ago, is now the conspicuous one.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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The female is the race-type — not the male. The male is the sex-type, especially, and then human — as far as his masculinity allows. His being a male hinders his being human more than her being a female does. A more feminine world means a better world, cleaner, safer, healthier, better taught.

The essential duty of the female a such is to exercise careful selection in choosing a father for her children. This requires freedom, and knowledge. Women will always love men. They always have, even with the kind of men the past has given them, even with the kind of treatment they have had to bear. With that in mind need we double that they will love the wiser, nobler mean who are coming?

People who are happily mated do not talk, write, or sing about it all the time. Feminism, step by step, makes possible closer union, deeper attachment between men and women, because it develops in the women the broader human characteristics; it means comradeship, friendship, a larger love.

— Originally Published in The Atlanta Constitution, December, 1916

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