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Are Women Human? Penetrating, Sensible, and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society Paperback – August 6, 2005
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From the Inside Flap
Central to Sayers's reflections is the conviction that both men and women are first of all human beings and must be regarded as essentially much more alike than different. We are to be true not so much to our sex as to our humanity. The proper role of both men and women, in her view, is to find the work for which they are suited and to do it.
Though written several decades ago, these essays still offer in Sayers's piquant style a sensible and conciliatory approach to ongoing gender issues.
More About the Author
Born in Oxford, England, Sayers, whose father was a reverend, grew up in the Bluntisham rectory and won a scholarship to Oxford University where she studied modern languages and worked at the publishing house Blackwell's, which published her first book of poetry in 1916.
Years later, working as an advertising copywriter, Sayers began work on Whose Body?, a mystery novel featuring dapper detective Lord Peter Wimsey. Over the next two decades, Sayers published ten more Wimsey novels and several short stories, crafting a character whose complexity was unusual for the mystery novels of the time.
In 1936, Sayers brought Lord Peter Wimsey to the stage in a production of Busman's Honeymoon, a story which she would publish as a novel the following year. The play was so successful that she gave up mystery writing to focus on the stage, producing a series of religious works culminating in The Man Born to Be King (1941) a radio drama about the life of Jesus.
She also wrote theological essays and criticism during and after World War II, and in 1949 published the first volume of a translation of Dante's Divine Comedy (which she considered to be her best work).
Dorothy Sayers died of a heart attack in 1957.
Top Customer Reviews
Sayers will be, naturally, as the creator of the
urbane, noble sleuth, Lord Peter Wimsey. If
you've read the Peter Wimsey novels in order, you may have noticed that Sayers invested more and more humanity and depth in him as the series progressed.
Since she revealed so much depth as a mystery novelist, I decided to try her out as an essayist. "Are Women Human?" is a slight pamphlet with an introduction and two essays which can be read in one sitting. As you finish the last page you will find yourself wondering why so little has changed in the last sixty years!
Sayers applied intelligence and humor (excuse me, humour) to her seemingly rhetorical question "Are Women Human?". Her answer, like most wise answers, is simple. Beyond the obvious "of course", Sayers posits that "male" and "female" are only adjectives modifying the noun human. Therefore, humanity is the common denominator, and each human should be judged on the person's individual merits -- creative, lethargic, witty or plodding. Whatever the case may be.
This is a book that should be required reading for every high school student -- young people who are in the process of sorting out all kinds of identity issues. It may not be too late for most adults to benefit from this little gem, either!<P
The gist of Sayers' argument is captured in a quote she takes from DH Lawrence: "Man is willing to accept woman as an equal, as a man in skirts, as an angel, a devil, a baby-face, an instrument, a bosom, a womb, a pair of legs, a servant, an encyclopedia, an ideal or an obscenity; the one thing he won't accept her as is a human being, a real human being of the feminine sex." Such was her radically simple argument, that women be acknowledged as human beings, and only subsequently labeled as a subset of human beings qualified by biology, culture, ethnicity, age, economics, nationality, and so on.
Sayers also made an observation about the Gospels. Women, she noted, were "the first at the Cradle and the last at the Cross." The many women who appear in the gospels, says Sayers, "had never known a man like Jesus--there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as 'The women, God help us!' or 'The ladies, God bless them!Read more ›
Introduction by Mary McDermott Shideler
"Are Women Human?"
Dorothy Sayers, perhaps most famous for her detective novels, possessed a delightful wit and piercing discernment. This booklet contains a mere 47 pages, but the content inspires many moments of introspection afterwards.
I have seen her points from these essays excerpted most often in a feminist context, and this is unfortunate. As her reflections are primarily on the essence of humanity, and a defense of woman as belonging to that unique group, men would benefit as well as women in digesting her insights.
Sayers speaks to the dangers of "classing" women, whether in the historical repressive context, or the aggressive feminist movements. She talks about the importance and necessity of work, as it pertains to both the male and female. She gives lucid background on the myth of "women's work," while chastising the modern church for propagating an unfounded role distinction, and much more.
Despite the original copyright on the work being 1947, Sayers' essays are extremely relevant today, and more needed than ever. It is my desire to see a reprint that makes this work more accessible, but in the meantime, it is well worth the market price.
Sayers outlines her views on `women as human' in a manner that makes her reader smile and even laugh out loud. By cleverly reversing the stereotypical view of males and females, Miss Sayers uses her wit to point out the silliness of such stereotypes by making us laugh at the picture of man forced to view himself in terms of his maleness:
"...if everything he wore, said or did had to be justified by reference to female approval; if he were compelled to regard himself...not as a member of society, but merely as a virile member of society. If the center of his dress consciousness were the cod-piece, his education directed to making him a spirited lover and meek paterfamilias; his interests to be held natural only in so far as they were sexual. If from school and lecture room, Press and pulpit, he heard the persistent outpouring of a shrill and scolding voice, bidding him remember his biological function. If he were vexed by continual advice how to add a rough male touch to his typing, how to be learned without losing his masculine appeal, how to combine chemical research with seduction...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Just wonderful. I had to stop and check original dates on the essays, they read like they were written yesterday. Real food for thought here, highly recommended.Published 6 months ago by Cedarlila
Only the use of language is a little dated. It is still a spot-on takedown of the ridiculous rules of gender distinction and segregation that limit opportunities for both sexes in... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Spud's Place
Dorothy Sayers is an outstanding researcher and authority on the challenges and roles of women in society. She does a nice job of providing insights in a way that is factual. Read morePublished 19 months ago by James C. Rice
The title certainly catches your mind! the conclusion is, of course, in the affirmative. Her comments on "womens' work" alone justify owning and re-reading this slim... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Daniel L Elsner
This book has two essays by Dorothy L. Sayers on the role of women in society. Her position is rather straightforward. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Joseph M. Reninger
Dorothy L. Sayers states Jesus' treatment of women so eloquently and objectively. There is a unique relationship Jesus had with women, and as much as some sects of religion try to... Read morePublished on September 25, 2013 by KDunc
This is a quick read - I read it the very evening I received it. I think she would be a little more progessive if she had lived in a later period, but I think that it was pretty... Read morePublished on August 4, 2013 by Karen
Even in 1938, she knew. Dorothy Sayers has given us two very provocative essays on her thoughts about humanism as opposed to feminism. Read morePublished on July 7, 2013 by propertius