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Excerpts from the Staats-Lexikon: "Relations between the Sexes" (1845-1848)

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All of history shows that in this case the voice of nature does not speak in a way readily understood by all, and that at least habit and human passion have falsified its voice through so many generations. It shows how the violence and lust for dominion by stronger men have oppressed weaker women, preserving throughout these same millennia a far greater legal inequality than the free, civilized nations now declare to be just and acceptable. At the same time, the kind of legal equalities most recently demanded – also by such intelligent men as Bentham, St. Simon, Fourier, and by revolutionary women like Harriet Martineau – strike many others as unreasonable and harmful to women themselves. Is it possible that these individual men and women are merely ahead of their time? Shall the further progress of civilization truly lead us to the point where we give up the subordination of woman to man, and thus also the solidity of the marital bond and true family life, and that in place of women’s femininity, chastity, and modesty, we regard the equal, direct participation in our public electoral and parliamentary assemblies and in offices of the state, in fact in all male undertakings and struggles, including warfare, as their highest honor and good? Or should we instead praise the conditions of the ancients and follow Herr Vollgraff in regarding our more estimable life as an obstacle to true freedom? Is not female royalty that is accepted among the most educated nations, this concession of the highest of all male political rights which has been found to hold no disadvantages, proof that until now only prejudice or despotism on the one side, debasement on the other side, have stood in the way of full legal equality? And finally, are the enemies of a free social system that is grounded in consent and contract, the likes of Haller and Bonald, truly right in asserting that this system invalidates itself by excluding the political participation and complete political equality of women? Of course, those ultra-democratic supporters of political equality use this view to support their theory. If one considers the degree to which familiarity with existing conditions, prejudices, and the interests of the stronger have here, as everywhere in despotic and aristocratic conditions, tainted the judgement of even the best scholars, the decision about these legal relationships will demand for this reason alone the most unbiased examination possible. All the more so since the great reforming drive today also addresses this relationship and often overlooks the proper conditions and limits. It would also be unseemly for us men, and in many ways disadvantageous, to leave even the appearance that the existing conditions continue merely through the despotism and selfishness of men. In any case, though, in the end only a definition that proceeds from the right reasons can give us – even if we could not grant full equality of rights – the proper kind and right measure of restrictions, eliminate unnecessary and hence unjust inequality, remove the doubts regarding the general theory of state, and guide legislation about transgressions with respect to relations between the sexes in the right way.

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