The Thinking 

A Mind of One’s Own

September 14, 2009


In response to last week’s posts on Virginia Woolf, which begin here, Melissa, who is the mother of nine children, writes:

Years ago in college I had to read Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and also in the same course Elizabeth Spellman’s Inessential Woman. Spellman’s thesis was that since we can speak of expressions of womanhood as being different in different times and places, the modern, Western ideas of what being a woman is are not essential characteristics. According to Spellman, when we say that women lack womanly qualities, and suggest that they then fail to be women, we are making a false argument since these traits are inconsistent over time and space, and therefore accidental. Instinctively I felt it was wrong, but could not suggest that in class. I needed this “Philosophy of Race, Sex, and Gender” course to graduate.

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Amazons or Athletes?

September 14, 2009


Karen Wilson writes in response to the post on Serena Williams:

You write: “I find even the normal demeanour and appearance of many women athletes disturbing.”

That’s because most (and probably all) of them are on drugs. Contrast this picture of Virginia Wade with the recent photos of Serena:


You can see that the muscles are much smaller and the whole appearance much more feminine. Tennis looks more like an art with Virginia Wade than the physical contest it has become with Serena. Virginia looked natural and un-enhanced chemically. She even looked as though she was enjoying herself.

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The Sound of a Man

September 14, 2009


A man’s voice, especially a baritone or a bass, seems to emanate from a barrel. It is deeper and more resonant than a woman’s and represents one of the most striking differences between male and female. Women have favored deep-voiced men over the course of eons, ensuring survival of this sexual trait. There is no question about this: The male voice projects more authority than a woman’s. But, does this vocal difference matter in everyday life?

I say it does. It matters not just in relations between the sexes, but to family life as well. Together with the feminine sound, it creates an aural environment that is complete. Children who grow up without men in their homes miss what Lydia Sherman calls the “sound of reassurance.”  

The male voice also matters in politics and leadership. A woman cannot project the same commanding tone when she speaks. A woman’s voice rarely inspires fear. It is never thunderous. A female platoon commander needs to work hard to keep from sounding shrill. Sound matters.

Lydia, of Home Living, writes:

We are caring for a 95-year-old woman named “Nanny” who is my son-in-law’s grandmother. During this time I noticed something interesting. She becomes quite anxious if her grandson (almost 40) is not sitting beside or talking to her. I wondered if the sound of a man’s voice is very comforting to her. I talk to my own father, and when I hear his voice, it is like the world settles down for me. There is something very, very important in a man’s voice.

It is not good that children are raised only around women, and not around the male voice. I was thinking more and more about that male voice and how important it is.  I felt it while watching the movie, The Bostonians. The main male character was almost the only male voice of any importance, and when he spoke, the words were never trivial.  I know such a man in his 80’s. His conversation is never trite. His words are loaded. He never speaks without imparting a truth. His voice is deep.  My son-in-law’s voice is deep, and almost grave. Yet, he sings in a tenor voice.

President Teddy Roosevelt had a high-pitched voice when speaking, and yet he was “rough and ready,” and very masculine. But generally the man’s voice is so different from a woman’s. There is nothing like a Daddy’s voice, even if he is a distant person (as many of them seemed in the old days). It is a sound of reassurance. 


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