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Contents > Author > Elizabeth Cady Stanton > The male element is a destructive force 1815- 1902
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Elizabeth Cady Stanton
The male element is a destructive force
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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.

(Speech given by Elizabeth Cady Stanton at the Women's Suffrage
Convention in Washington, D.C., in 1868).
 

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