The Psychology of Women: a Study by M. Finot

W. T. Stead (The Review of Reviews, vol. XLIV, July, 1911, p. 55

M. Jean Finot contributes to the two June numbers of La Revue an article on the Psychology of woman.


He begins by remarking that most writers on women make the mistake of accepting the portraits of their ancestors for those of the women of to-day. They forget that times have changed and women also. Only the psychologists have not changed. Forced outside the home, women in their struggle with more violent elements have acquired many virtues hitherto foreign to them. M. Finot shows how opinions concerning the impressionability of women vary, and how the most opposite reasons are given to prove that it would be dangerous for women to have equal rights—there is no mention of duties—with men. While some fear that immoderate ardour and the nerves might affect the judgment of women, others are equally afraid of women's social activity—because of the conservatism of their nature. Whether women love social conservation, or are the slaves of it, these doubters, like the anti-suffragists, fear that women will paralyse the march of progress.


Morally women are the result of the conditions which make up their life rather than of any sort of innate femininity. They be more sensitive than men. They laugh, cry, enjoy, suffer, fear, love, with more marked facility perhaps, and according to circumstances it may be that while they can be sublime in pity and goodness, they can also be more cruel. At the same time with Christianity there were revealed the qualities which had lain dormant in primitive and savage women, in a sort of apotheosis, both touching and imposing, of all the altruistic virtues of which the human is capable. Women were the revivifying soul of all the institutions we owe to Christianity, and the number of women martyrs to devotion, pity, and heroic deeds for the suffering is absolutely incalculable.


But the more intolerable the position of women the more degrading is it from the moral point of view. In order to please women have been driven to dissimulate; but after all this is less serious in its consequences for the evolution of the species than much of the dissimulation of men. Is not the whole of public life founded and kept up by men based on a lie? The armed peace, the supreme invention of men, is in reality nothing but a gigantic lie. In the relations of the social classes, in the principles of government and justice, everywhere indeed corrupt the atmosphere in which we live. Men's lies are more intense, more vast, and more important, exceeding in quality and quantity any of the so-called lies of women.


But though women have often violated their real nature to adapt themselves to the tastes of their masters, there is salvation by moral adaptation, and two or three generations will often suffice to undo the work of a score of centuries. With a change in education and social position women will regain their veracity, and it is this change which we see going on to-day. The smallest modification of their intellectual and moral conditions enables women to recover with surprising quickness the qualities which have gone astray during the centuries of their abnormal life. The immense progress already realised by women in our day gives us the most radiant hopes for her future; and as the salvation of men depends above all on the enlargement of the life of women, let us put our trust in the lucky star which is presiding over our human destinies.


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Owen Mulpetre, BA (Hons) MPhil