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

Though postulating fundamental differences between the sexes, the author of the following Staats-Lexikon entry on "Relations between the sexes" advocates some degree of legal equality between men and women. Nonetheless, the author emphasizes that men, described as vigorous and rational, are better suited to work in public and participate in political life, whereas women, characterized as passive, emotional, and family-oriented, should only enter into public life as charity workers, petitioners, and spectators of parliamentary proceedings.

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Relations between the sexes, women, their legal and political position in society, benefits of the law and legal guardians (Geschlechtsbeistände) for women, women’s associations, and transgressions with respect to relations between the sexes. – I. Unquestionably the most general and most important relationship of human society, and the most difficult for any legal and political theory, is that between the sexes. This mysterious, basic relationship is the ever-new vital source for all of society, for the physical and moral education or miseducation of the members of society in each new generation. It must be defined justly and wisely, it must be morally pure and healthy if society itself is to be or remain such. If the oriental empires – and especially the Mohammedan ones – had been excellent in every other respect, their enslavement of women and their polygamy would have never permitted a lasting higher culture and development, never true freedom within them, nor will they allow this in the future. Despotism is deeply and broadly rooted through these practices. Even if the magnificent powers of the Greeks, all their political wisdom and education, had been twice as great in every other respect: given their definition of relations between the sexes, which was at the very least a partial form of slavery, denied the rights of women, and ruled out a decent family life, they were never able to sustain the freedom and power of their states in the long term. Yet what is more difficult to define than this, the most important and most profound relationship of creation? Our modern Christian theory of the state, more perfect in natural law, no longer subordinates – as did Greek and Roman theory – humanity to the state, the human being to the citizen. Instead, it makes human rights the foundation of civic law, that is, it establishes the equality of the latter on the equality of the former. And yet nature herself established such manifold inequality between man and woman, such great differences in their life tasks and their powers, and also in their legal relationships. Where, then, do we find and draw the correct dividing line between these differences, one that does not harm either one of the sexes, one that does justice to both of them and to the common well-being of society?

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