Concerning The Women

: 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


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


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


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


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.