Secret Women, Part II


'Listen! There now exist in society two ways of regarding women. Some men measure the female skull and prove in that way that woman is the inferior of man; they seek out her defects in order to deride her, in order to appear original in her eyes, in order to justify their own bestiality. Others try with all their might to raise woman to their own level; they oblige her to con the three thousand five hundred species and to speak and write the same folly that they speak and write themselves.'

Likariev's face darkened.


'But I tell you that woman always has been and always will be the slave of man,' he said in a deep voice, banging on the table with his fist. 'She is soft and tender wax out of which man has always been able to fashion whatever he had a mind to. Good God! For a man's penny passion she will cut off her hair, desert her family, and die in exile. There is not one feminine principle among all of those for which she has sacrificed herself. She is a defenceless, devoted slave. I have measured no skulls, but I say this from grievous, bitter experience. The proudest, the most independent of women, if I can but succeed in communicating my passion to her, will follow me unreasoningly, unquestioningly, doing all I desire. [...]


'It is a noble, an exalted bondage!' he cried, clasping his hands. 'In that bondage lies the loftiest significance of woman's existence. Of all the terrible absurdities that filled my brain during my intercourse with women, my memory has retained, like a filter, not theories nor wise words nor philosophy, but that extraordinary submission, that wonderful compassion, that universal forgiveness -- '

Likariev clinched his hands, fixed his eyes on one spot, and with a sort of passionate tension, as if he were sucking at each word, muttered between set teeth: 'This -- this magnanimous toleration, this faithfulness unto death, this poetry of the heart -- The meaning of life lies in this uncomplaining martyrdom, in this all-pardoning love that brings light and warmth into the chaos of life --'


Chekhov, 'On the Way'