Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book Review: Women and Economics

Women and Economics’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is a book (1898) aimed at ‘urging upon woman a new sense…of measureless importance as makers of men’. To begin with, the book assumes that matters affecting the humans are similar in nature to those affecting all other forms of life. Whether it is climate, environment, or more importantly what one does for a living, the effect is felt uniformly across all species. However humans show some peculiarity, like, it is the only species where the female depends on the male for food. Also, the relationship between members of the species is more of an economic one, which assumes significance in identifying the domains of each. Still another peculiarity could be easily seen in the prevalence of rather tumultuous activities of pair selection etc, leading to procreation, which many a time show even an economic dimension. Whereas when it comes to all other species, such activities progress in quite a peaceful manner. Thereafter the book examines the human approach to training their young. The presence of differing patterns for the male and the female, also unlike all other forms of life, as well as its motivations, is then discussed.
In short, as the author point out, we have one half of our race being trained to look for help from the other half for any and every activity that can’t be termed autonomous. And we have been happily continuing with this as our natural style of living. With the growth of civilization, female became more and more helpless and needing a male presence in all her efforts. Thus we have one half of our race producing what both halves consume. The consuming half is expected to show certain degree of dependence on the other half, and when this expectation extends to affairs other than the economic, especially the sexual ones, tumultuous become, the man woman relationship. Though the book identifies some of the incongruities of human society, it stops short of ascribing a valid reason. The author deserves rich accolades for identifying the existence of a great divide between man and woman that can’t be explained away as part of the natural proclivity of genders.
I feel very happy and vindicated, all the peculiarities in the living style of the male and female as discussed in my book, ‘The Unsure Male’ with its gender dependence, were seen as early as in nineteenth century! Ms Gilman’s book gives sexual differences between men and women an economic dimension, but my book places a sexual dimension to the differing economic interests (and every other difference!). Now I also wonder, are my wild predictions going to be true?

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