THE BUSINESS OF BEING A WOMAN
Respect for the Creator of this world is basic among all civilized people. The longer one lives, the more thoroughly one realizes the soundness of this respect. The earth and its works are good. Most human conceptions are barred by strange inconsistencies. The man who praises the works of the Creator as all wise not infrequently treats His arrangement for carrying on the race as if it were unfit to be spoken of in polite society. Nowhere does the modern God-fearing man come nearer to sacrilege than in his attitude toward the divine plan for renewing life.
A strange mixture of sincerity and hypocrisy, self-flagellation and lust, aspiration and superstition, has gone into the making of this attitude. With the development of it we have nothing to do here. What does concern us is the effect of this profanity on the Business of Being a Woman.
The central fact of the woman’s life—Nature’s reason for her—is the child, his bearing and rearing. There is no escape from the divine order that her life must be built around this constraint, duty, or privilege, as she may please to consider it. But from the beginning to the end of life she is never permitted to treat it naturally and frankly. As a child accepting all that opens to her as a matter of course, she is steered away from it as if it were something evil. Her first essays at evasion and spying often come to her in connection with facts which are sacred and beautiful and which she is perfectly willing to accept as such if they were treated intelligently and reverently. If she could be kept from all knowledge of the procession of new life except as Nature reveals it to her, there would be reason in her treatment. But this is impossible. From babyhood she breathes the atmosphere of unnatural prejudices and misconceptions which envelop the fact.
Throughout her girlhood the atmosphere grows thicker. She finally faces the most perilous and beautiful of experiences with little more than the ideas which have come to her from the confidences of evil-minded servants, inquisitive and imaginative playmates, or the gossip she overhears in her mother’s society. Every other matter of her life, serious and commonplace, has received careful attention, but here she has been obliged to feel her way and, worst of abominations, to feel it with an inner fear that she ought not to know or seek to know.
If there were no other reason for the modern woman’s revolt against marriage, the usual attitude toward its central facts would be sufficient. The idea that celibacy for woman is “the aristocracy of the future” is soundly based if the Business of Being a Woman rests on a mystery so questionable that it cannot be frankly and truthfully explained by a girl’s mother at the moment her interest and curiosity seeks satisfaction. That she gets on as well as she does, results, of course, from the essential soundness of the girl’s nature, the armor of modesty, right instinct, and reverence with which she is endowed.