I asked: “Why generalise? Why judge of all women from Ariadne alone? The very struggle of women for education and sexual equality, which I look upon as a struggle for justice, precludes any hypothesis of a retrograde movement.”
But Shamohin scarcely listened to me and he smiled distrustfully. He was a passionate, convinced misogynist, and it was impossible to alter his convictions.
“Oh, nonsense!” he interrupted. “When once a woman sees in me, not a man, not an equal, but a male, and her one anxiety all her life is to attract me—that is, to take possession of me—how can one talk of their rights? Oh, don’t you believe them; they are very, very cunning! We men make a great stir about their emancipation, but they don’t care about their emancipation at all, they only pretend to care about it; they are horribly cunning things, horribly cunning!”
I began to feel sleepy and weary of discussion. I turned over with my face to the wall.
“Yes,” I heard as I fell asleep—“yes, and it’s our education that’s at fault, sir. In our towns, the whole education and bringing up of women in its essence tends to develop her into the human beast —that is, to make her attractive to the male and able to vanquish him. Yes, indeed”—Shamohiri sighed—“little girls ought to be taught and brought up with boys, so that they might be always together. A woman ought to be trained so that she may be able, like a man, to recognise when she’s wrong, or she always thinks she’s in the right. Instil into a little girl from her cradle that a man is not first of all a cavalier or a possible lover, but her neighbour, her equal in everything. Train her to think logically, to generalise, and do not assure her that her brain weighs less than a man’s and that therefore she can be indifferent to the sciences, to the arts, to the tasks of culture in general. The apprentice to the shoemaker or the house painter has a brain of smaller size than the grown-up man too, yet he works, suffers, takes his part in the general struggle for existence. We must give up our attitude to the physiological aspect, too—to pregnancy and childbirth, seeing that in the first place women don’t have babies every month; secondly, not all women have babies; and, thirdly, a normal countrywoman works in the fields up to the day of her confinement and it does her no harm. Then there ought to be absolute equality in everyday life. If a man gives a lady his chair or picks up the handkerchief she has dropped, let her repay him in the same way. I have no objection if a girl of good family helps me to put on my coat or hands me a glass of water—”
I heard no more, for I fell asleep.
Next morning when we were approaching Sevastopol, it was damp, unpleasant weather; the ship rocked. Shamohin sat on deck with me, brooding and silent. When the bell rang for tea, men with their coat-collars turned up and ladies with pale, sleepy faces began going below; a young and very beautiful lady, the one who had been so angry with the Customs officers at Volotchisk, stopped before Shamohin and said with the expression of a naughty, fretful child: