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Are Women Human? Penetrating, Sensible, and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society Paperback – August 6, 2005

4.8 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The New York Times Book Review "Forthright and commonsensical. Christianity Today Offers pointed and witty arguments for treating women as individuals, not as a homogeneous class."

From the Inside Flap

One of the first women to graduate from Oxford University, Dorothy Sayers pursued her goals whether or not what she wanted to do was ordinarily understood to be "feminine." Sayers did not devote a great deal of time to talking or writing about feminism, but she did explicitly address the issue of women's role in society in the two classic essays collected here.

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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 75 pages
  • Publisher: Eerdmans; New edition edition (August 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802829961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802829962
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.2 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Your first association with the name Dorothy
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
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Format: Paperback
Are women human? That's the stark question the British writer Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) posed in two short essays written in 1938, and originally published in 1947 in a collection of her essays called Unpopular Opinions. She had more than an academic interest in the question. When she finished Somerville College, Oxford, with first class honors in modern languages in 1915, they didn't yet grant degrees to women.

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!
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Format: Paperback
Containing Two Essays excerpted from Unpopular Opinions, Dorothy L. Sayers

Introduction by Mary McDermott Shideler

"Are Women Human?"

"The Human-Not-Quite-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.
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Although Dorothy Sayers broke with tradition by being one of the first woman to graduate from Oxford, she did not self identify as a feminist. She claimed, "...the time for "feminism," in the old fashioned sense of the word had gone past," adding, "an aggressive feminism might do more harm than good."(21) Instead of waving placards and shouting slogans, she simply expressed a worldview that held women as human beings, and lived a life that was true, not to her gender, but to humanity. Miss Sayer believed that God created both men and women with gifts and talents suitable to specific work and it is the role of the individual to find the work that matches their makeup.
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...
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