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Concerning The Women






Part of: THIS WORLD
From: Flatland

If our highly pointed Triangles of the Soldier class are formidable, it
may be readily inferred that far more formidable are our Women. For,
if a Soldier is a wedge, a Woman is a needle; being, so to speak, ALL
point, at least at the two extremities. Add to this the power of
making herself practically invisible at will, and you will perceive
that a Female, in Flatland, is a creature by no means to be trifled
with.

But here, perhaps, some of my younger Readers may ask HOW a woman in
Flatland can make herself invisible. This ought, I think, to be
apparent without any explanation. However, a few words will make it
clear to the most unreflecting.

Place a needle on the table. Then, with your eye on the level of the
table, look at it side-ways, and you see the whole length of it; but
look at it end-ways, and you see nothing but a point, it has become
practically invisible. Just so is it with one of our Women. When her
side is turned towards us, we see her as a straight line; when the end
containing her eye or mouth--for with us these two organs are
identical--is the part that meets our eye, then we see nothing but a
highly lustrous point; but when the back is presented to our view,
then--being only sub-lustrous, and, indeed, almost as dim as an
inanimate object--her hinder extremity serves her as a kind of
Invisible Cap.

The dangers to which we are exposed from our Women must now be manifest
to the meanest capacity of Spaceland. If even the angle of a
respectable Triangle in the middle class is not without its dangers; if
to run against a Working Man involves a gash; if collision with an
Officer of the military class necessitates a serious wound; if a mere
touch from the vertex of a Private Soldier brings with it danger of
death;--what can it be to run against a woman, except absolute and
immediate destruction? And when a Woman is invisible, or visible only
as a dim sub-lustrous point, how difficult must it be, even for the
most cautious, always to avoid collision!

Many are the enactments made at different times in the different States
of Flatland, in order to minimize this peril; and in the Southern and
less temperate climates, where the force of gravitation is greater, and
human beings more liable to casual and involuntary motions, the Laws
concerning Women are naturally much more stringent. But a general view
of the Code may be obtained from the following summary:--

1. Every house shall have one entrance on the Eastern side, for the
use of Females only; by which all females shall enter "in a becoming
and respectful manner" (footnote 1) and not by the Men's or Western
door.

2. No Female shall walk in any public place without continually
keeping up her Peace-cry, under penalty of death.

3. Any Female, duly certified to be suffering from St. Vitus's Dance,
fits, chronic cold accompanied by violent sneezing, or any disease
necessitating involuntary motions, shall be instantly destroyed.

In some of the States there is an additional Law forbidding Females,
under penalty of death, from walking or standing in any public place
without moving their backs constantly from right to left so as to
indicate their presence to those behind them; other oblige a Woman,
when travelling, to be followed by one of her sons, or servants, or by
her husband; others confine Women altogether in their houses except
during the religious festivals. But it has been found by the wisest of
our Circles or Statesmen that the multiplication of restrictions on
Females tends not only to the debilitation and diminution of the race,
but also to the increase of domestic murders to such an extent that a
State loses more than it gains by a too prohibitive Code.

For whenever the temper of the Women is thus exasperated by confinement
at home or hampering regulations abroad, they are apt to vent their
spleen upon their husbands and children; and in the less temperate
climates the whole male population of a village has been sometimes
destroyed in one or two hours of a simultaneous female outbreak. Hence
the Three Laws, mentioned above, suffice for the better regulated
States, and may be accepted as a rough exemplification of our Female
Code.

After all, our principal safeguard is found, not in Legislature, but in
the interests of the Women themselves. For, although they can inflict
instantaneous death by a retrograde movement, yet unless they can at
once disengage their stinging extremity from the struggling body of
their victim, their own frail bodies are liable to be shattered.

The power of Fashion is also on our side. I pointed out that in some
less civilized States no female is suffered to stand in any public
place without swaying her back from right to left. This practice has
been universal among ladies of any pretensions to breeding in all
well-governed States, as far back as the memory of Figures can reach.
It is considered a disgrace to any state that legislation should have
to enforce what ought to be, and is in every respectable female, a
natural instinct. The rhythmical and, if I may so say, well-modulated
undulation of the back in our ladies of Circular rank is envied and
imitated by the wife of a common Equilateral, who can achieve nothing
beyond a mere monotonous swing, like the ticking of a pendulum; and the
regular tick of the Equilateral is no less admired and copied by the
wife of the progressive and aspiring Isosceles, in the females of whose
family no "back-motion" of any kind has become as yet a necessity of
life. Hence, in every family of position and consideration, "back
motion" is as prevalent as time itself; and the husbands and sons in
these households enjoy immunity at least from invisible attacks.

Not that it must be for a moment supposed that our Women are destitute
of affection. But unfortunately the passion of the moment
predominates, in the Frail Sex, over every other consideration. This
is, of course, a necessity arising from their unfortunate conformation.
For as they have no pretensions to an angle, being inferior in this
respect to the very lowest of the Isosceles, they are consequently
wholly devoid of brainpower, and have neither reflection, judgment nor
forethought, and hardly any memory. Hence, in their fits of fury, they
remember no claims and recognize no distinctions. I have actually
known a case where a Woman has exterminated her whole household, and
half an hour afterwards, when her rage was over and the fragments swept
away, has asked what has become of her husband and children.

Obviously then a Woman is not to be irritated as long as she is in a
position where she can turn round. When you have them in their
apartments--which are constructed with a view to denying them that
power--you can say and do what you like; for they are then wholly
impotent for mischief, and will not remember a few minutes hence the
incident for which they may be at this moment threatening you with
death, nor the promises which you may have found it necessary to make
in order to pacify their fury.

On the whole we got on pretty smoothly in our domestic relations,
except in the lower strata of the Military Classes. There the want of
tact and discretion on the part of the husbands produces at times
indescribable disasters. Relying too much on the offensive weapons of
their acute angles instead of the defensive organs of good sense and
seasonable simulations, these reckless creatures too often neglect the
prescribed construction of the women's apartments, or irritate their
wives by ill-advised expressions out of doors, which they refuse
immediately to retract. Moreover a blunt and stolid regard for literal
truth indisposes them to make those lavish promises by which the more
judicious Circle can in a moment pacify his consort. The result is
massacre; not, however, without its advantages, as it eliminates the
more brutal and troublesome of the Isosceles; and by many of our
Circles the destructiveness of the Thinner Sex is regarded as one among
many providential arrangements for suppressing redundant population,
and nipping Revolution in the bud.

Yet even in our best regulated and most approximately Circular families
I cannot say that the ideal of family life is so high as with you in
Spaceland. There is peace, in so far as the absence of slaughter may
be called by that name, but there is necessarily little harmony of
tastes or pursuits; and the cautious wisdom of the Circles has ensured
safety at the cost of domestic comfort. In every Circular or Polygonal
household it has been a habit from time immemorial--and now has become
a kind of instinct among the women of our higher classes--that the
mothers and daughters should constantly keep their eyes and mouths
towards their husband and his male friends; and for a lady in a family
of distinction to turn her back upon her husband would be regarded as a
kind of portent, involving loss of STATUS. But, as I shall soon shew,
this custom, though it has the advantage of safety, is not without
disadvantages.

In the house of the Working Man or respectable Tradesman--where the
wife is allowed to turn her back upon her husband, while pursuing her
household avocations--there are at least intervals of quiet, when the
wife is neither seen nor heard, except for the humming sound of the
continuous Peace-cry; but in the homes of the upper classes there is
too often no peace. There the voluble mouth and bright penetrating eye
are ever directed toward the Master of the household; and light itself
is not more persistent than the stream of Feminine discourse. The tact
and skill which suffice to avert a Woman's sting are unequal to the
task of stopping a Woman's mouth; and as the wife has absolutely
nothing to say, and absolutely no constraint of wit, sense, or
conscience to prevent her from saying it, not a few cynics have been
found to aver that they prefer the danger of the death-dealing but
inaudible sting to the safe sonorousness of a Woman's other end.

To my readers in Spaceland the condition of our Women may seen truly
deplorable, and so indeed it is. A Male of the lowest type of the
Isosceles may look forward to some improvement of his angle, and to the
ultimate elevation of the whole of his degraded caste; but no Woman can
entertain such hopes for her sex. "Once a Woman, always a Woman" is a
Decree of Nature; and the very Laws of Evolution seem suspended in her
disfavour. Yet at least we can admire the wise Prearrangement which
has ordained that, as they have no hopes, so they shall have no memory
to recall, and no forethought to anticipate, the miseries and
humiliations which are at once a necessity of their existence and the
basis of the constitution of Flatland.





Next: Of Our Methods Of Recognizing One Another

Previous: Concerning The Inhabitants Of Flatland



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