Changes in family structure and some shifts in the economic roles of
women, plus ambivalent Protestant promptings about women that emphasized the
family context but urged affection and respect between wives and husbands,
touched off new gender tensions in Western society by the 17th century. Some
of these tensions showed in witchcraft trials, so disproportionately directed
against women. Other tensions showed in open debate about women's relationship
to men, in which new male hostility toward women not content with a docile wifeliness vied with new claims of virtue and prowess by some women. Men, I say, may live without women, but women cannot live without men: for Venus, whose beauty was excellent fair, yet when she needed man's help, she took Vulcan, a clubfooted Smith. For women have a thousand ways to entice thee and ten thousand ways to
deceive thee and all such fools as are suitors unto them: some they keep in
hand with promises, and some they feed with flattery, and some they delay with
dalliances, and some they please with kisses. They lay out the folds of their
hair to entangle men into their love; betwixt their breasts is the vale of
destruction; and in their beds there is hell, sorrow, and repentance. Eagles eat not men till they are dead, but women devour them alive. Now to show we are no such despised matter as you would seem to make us,
come to our first Creation, when man was made of the mere dust of the earth.
The woman had her being from the best part of his body, the Rib next to his
heart, which difference even in our complexions may be easily decided. Man is
of a dull, earthy, and melancholy aspect, having shallows in his face and a
very forest upon his Chin, when our soft and smooth Cheeks are a true
representation of a delectable garden of intermixed Roses and Lilies. Man might consider that women were not created to be their slaves or vassals; for as they had not their Original out of his head (thereby to
command him), so it was not out of his foot to be trod upon, but in a medium out of his side to be his fellow feeler, his equal, and companion.
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