When a woman wants me to do anything, I always insist on knowing why

“When a woman wants me to do anything, I always insist on knowing why. The oftener you make them rummage their own minds for a reason, the more manageable you will find them in all the relations of life. It isn’t their fault (poor wretches) that they act first, and think afterwards; it’s the fault of the fools who humour them.”

The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins, 1868

How’s that for good ol’ unreconstructed sexism? No way a writer would get away with that today. Then again, I’m reminded of what Jack Nicholson’s character says in the movie As Good as it Gets when a young female receptionist can’t resist asking him:

Receptionist: How do you write women so well?

Nicholson: I think of a man and I take away reason and accountability.

As Good As It Gets

The reason Nicholson does get away with it is, of course, that it’s the character’s opinion, not Nicholson’s or the screenwriter’s. So it’s as much a criticism of sexism as it is a promotion of it. But, given the speed with which language management and political correctness have been infiltrating every aspect of the mainstream media and education system, it can’t be long before we have a new generation that lacks the necessary understanding of subtlety and nuance to be able to tell the difference.

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