Read Are Women Human? by Dorothy L. Sayers Online


One of the first women to graduate from Oxford, Dorothy Sayers pursued her goals whether or not what she wanted to do was ordinarily understood to be "feminine." Sayers kept in mind that she was first of all a human being and aimed to be true not so much to her gender as to her humanity. The role of both men and women, in her view, was to find the work for which they wereOne of the first women to graduate from Oxford, Dorothy Sayers pursued her goals whether or not what she wanted to do was ordinarily understood to be "feminine." Sayers kept in mind that she was first of all a human being and aimed to be true not so much to her gender as to her humanity. The role of both men and women, in her view, was to find the work for which they were suited and to do it. While Sayers did not devote a great deal of time to talking or writing about feminism, she did explicitly address the issue of women's role in society in the two penetrating essays collected here. Though she wrote several decades ago, she still offers in her piquant style a sensible and conciliatory approach to ongoing gender issues....

Title : Are Women Human?
Author :
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ISBN : 9780802813848
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 48 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Are Women Human? Reviews

  • Dhanaraj Rajan
    2018-11-13 17:42

    This is a book that contains the two essays that Dorothy L. Sayers wrote on the "Women Question." It is not a well developed theory in the lines of feminist thinkers. (Sayers will be against the usage of the term 'Feminist' anyway.) It is more like a novel writer's observation of the society and her critical remarks. This is the quote from the book which is central to her arguments:"...the fundamental thing is that women are more like men than anything else in the world. They are human beings. Vir is male and Femina is female: but Homo is male and female. This is the equality claimed and the fact that is persistently evaded and denied. No matter what arguments are used, the discussion is vitiated from the start, because Man is always dealt with as both Homo and Vir, but Woman only as Femina."The society is not ready to accept the women as human beings. Sayers quotes D. H. Lawrence in this regard besides giving some interesting examples. The D. H. Lawrence quote is interesting. So I give it in full."Man is willing to accept woman as an equal, as a man in skirts, as an angel, a devil. a baby-face, a machine, an instrument, a bosom, a womb, a pair of legs, a servant, an encyclopaedia, an ideal or an obscenity; the one thing he won't accept her as is a human being, a real human being of the feminine sex."

  • Miriam
    2018-10-17 20:46

    Sayers' answer is, of course, Yes. Her point is that both men and women often argue as if women were an undifferentiated class, inherently different from men (the real humans) and necessarily possessed of a common female set of needs, desires, opinions, abilities, etc. She argues that the first prerequisite of equality is to regard all people as individuals who have different talents and preferences. These gifts, not sex, are what should determine employment and other activities. To find satisfaction in doing good work and knowing that it is wanted is human nature; therefore it cannot be feminine nature, for women are not human. It is true they die in bombardments, much like real human beings: but that we will forgive, since they clearly cannot enjoy it.

  • Trevor
    2018-11-13 14:30

    This wasn’t really what I was expecting it to be. I was expecting it to be much funnier than it turned out. It wasn’t really all that funny at all. And then I thought it might have a stronger message regarding feminism too – but even that was quite light, really. The second essay, and the one the book isn’t named after, is the better of the two. This is mostly because the second essay does some lovely inversions of gender roles – having men justify their membership of the male sex despite their working in what might be considered less than masculine occupations. I think my main problem with this is that the core message is 'we are all individuals' - and given this is our society's central mantra I find it annoying that this would be the core message of anything presented as 'astute and witty'. Sayers doesn't think of herself as a feminist as she is an individual first and foremost - I consider myself a feminist because women are disadvantaged in our society and that is something our society can do something about, but chooses not to. Where she sees society as made up of individuals, I see society as something bigger and more than the sum of those individuals and with obligations to more than individuals too.This is a very short book, 69 pages which are basically half size with large print, and even so it fits in two essays and an introduction. Like I said, it just wasn’t really what I was hoping it would be.It turns out that they are human, by the way. Hope I haven't spoilt the book for anyone...

  • Jonathan
    2018-10-16 16:35

    This book comprises three essays -- an introduction by Mary McDermott Shideler, then Sayers' own "Are Women Human?" and "The Human-Not-Quite-Human."The first of Sayers' essays is a 1938 address to a women's society. In it, Sayers explained why she was not pleased with some contemporary trends in feminism. It would be unfortunate, Sayers argued, if the women's movement made the same mistake that men had been making -- to treat women as a class with a single collective end rather than as individuals with unique ends.The second essay, on the other hand, rebuked Christian churches for failing so often to treat women as equal individuals. In rich sardonic tones, Sayers described what men's lives might be like if they were collectively trivialized as women had been: "if [a man's life] were unrelentingly assessed in terms of his maleness; if everything he wore, said, or did had to be justified by reference to female approval; if he were compelled to regard himself, day in day out, not as a member of society, but merely [...] as a virile member of society. If the centre of his dress-consciousness were the cod-piece, his education directed to making him a spirited lover and meek paterfamilias; his interests held to be natural only in so far as they were sexual. If from school and lecture-room, Press and pulpit, he heard the persistent outpouring of a shrill and scolding voice, bidding him remember his biological function."

  • Amy
    2018-11-13 22:45

    I picked up Are Women Human? by Dorothy L. Sayers expecting a rather lengthy and involved discussion on feminism that I would need to re-read several times to fully grasp. Instead I got a volume of barely 75 pages composed of two essays and an introduction so full of common sense that it hardly took any time to read at all. Though groundbreaking as one of the first females to graduates from Oxford and well-known for her work as a writer of fiction and academia, Sayers did not have much to say about feminism. In fact, I would say this volume fulfills more our need (as readers) to have her say something than her need, or even desire, (as an author) to say anything about what it means to be a woman. The essays were originally published with several others by Sayers in 1947. While they are somewhat dated, they remain quite relevant today. Many of the issues women struggled with then apply to both men and women today. Sayers’s main point is primarily that men and women have more in common than not and that each should be allowed to find the role that suits them best. If a woman is good at business, she should do it because that is what she was made to do. However, if a woman desires to have a family and be a traditional housewife, that too should be regarded as good because that is what she is meant to do. The same standards apply to men and women equally. She gets a bit more snarky in the second essay, “The Human-Not-Quite-Human,” but her point remains the same. One of my favorite parts comes from her discussion of women wearing “trousers.” While this isn’t controversial today, I think this passage illustrates her style, and humor, well: “Let me give one simple illustration of the difference between the right and the wrong kind of feminism. Let us take this terrible business…of the women who go about in trousers. We are asked: ‘Why do you want to go about in trousers? They are extremely unbecoming to most of you. You only do it to copy the men.’ To this we may very properly reply: ‘It is true that they are unbecoming. Even on men they are remarkably unattractive. But, as you men have discovered for yourselves, they are comfortable, they do not get in the way of one’s activities like skirts and they protect the wearer from draughts about the ankles. As a human being, I like comfort and dislike draughts. If the trousers do not attract you, so much the worse; for the moment I do not want to attract you. I want to enjoy myself as a human being, and why not?”

  • Bronwyn
    2018-11-08 19:28

    The "I'm not a feminist but..." thing is quite old, apparently (not that I'm surprised). If this isn't a feminist work though I don't know what is. Such wonderful writings that are still a bit ahead of their time in many ways. The second essay was better and really resonated with me. The first was still very good, but a bit weaker. Really excellent work. Now to read her fiction.

  • Rowena
    2018-10-24 15:49

    Quite witty and thought-provoking.

  • Frankie
    2018-11-11 18:29

    Spoiler: They are

  • Joseph R.
    2018-10-16 14:42

    This book has two essays by Dorothy L. Sayers on the role of women in society. Her position is rather straightforward. Men and women are human beings first and foremost, their gender does not constitute a radical divide between them. Women have just as many and as diverse skills and interests as men; pigeonholing women as "the weaker sex" or as "domestic goddesses" does a great disservice to actual individuals who may be more physically fit or less domestically inclined than the common stereotype. And there's the problem. People get so wrapped up in arguing about the issue that they fall back on stereotypes and sound bites to present their position, when a deeper understanding and a more fully developed argument is required. Treating people as individuals is more important and more sensible than treating them strictly as class-members with monolithic tastes and abilities. Her arguments are quite persuasive.The essays are also fun to read. Sayers' style is no-nonsense and laced with nice humor and colorful examples. This book is an enjoyable, quick, and valuable read.Sample Quote:There is a fundamental difference between men and women, but it is not the only fundamental difference in the world. There is a sense in which my charwoman and I have more in common that either of us with, say, Mr. Bernard Shaw; on the other hand, in a discussion about art and literature, Mr. Shaw and I should probably find we had more fundamental interests in common than either of us had with my charwoman. I grant that, even so, he and I should disagree ferociously about the eating of meat--but that is not a difference between the sexes--on that point, the later Mr. G. K. Chesterton would have sided with me against the representative of his own sex. Then there are points on which I, and many of my own generation of both sexes, should find ourselves heartily in agreement; but on which the rising generation of young men and women would find us too incomprehensibly stupid for words. A difference of age is as fundamental as a difference of sex; and so is a difference of nationality. All categories, if they are insisted upon beyond the immediate purpose which they serve, breed class antagonism and disruption in the state, and that is why they are dangerous. [pp. 45-46]

  • Patty
    2018-10-23 21:47

    "The first thing that strikes the careless observer is that women are unlike men. They are 'the opposite sex' - (though why 'opposite' I do not know; what is the 'neighboring sex'?). But the fundamental thing is that women are more like men than anything else in the world. They are human beings. Vir is male and Femina is female: but Homo is male and female." p. 53I very much enjoyed the Peter Wimsey mysteries, especially after Harriet Vane appeared on the scene. I listened to them long before social media started helping me track my reading. I had read that Sayers had written some essays about women and religion, but it took a course in Women and Christianity to get me to read these feminist essays.I will read these again and probably again. Sayers reminds me of how far women have come and how far we have to go. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. These essays were originally published in 1947. World War II had ended and apparently men were worrying about women in trousers. Trousers! At least we don't have that debate anymore.However, women are still considered the opposite sex. We are still making less money for the same work. When a profession becomes "pink-collared" the salary goes down for everyone, but especially women. Much of what Sayers is concerned about in these few pages is still a problem. When will all human accept that all humans should be treated humanely and with love and compassion? Some days it seems hopeless.With any luck my mom will borrow my copy and we will have the opportunity to talk about Sayers' thoughts about women and men. We will enjoy our discussion because Sayers writes clearly and with humor - attributes that all essays need. If you have not ever read anything by Sayers, start with the mysteries, they are so much fun. However, if you have any interest in the human condition, pick up these essays and see if you can answer Sayers' question: Are Women Human?

  • Lynley
    2018-10-21 18:40

    Dorothy Sayers is my kind of feminist. She will not be hedged in by any side; not by the radical feminists, not by the "conservative" women reacting against feminism, and certainly not by any man. She decries the absurd notions of feminine nature as another creature: "Men have asked distractedly, '[What] on earth do women want?' I do not know that women, as women, want anything in particular, but as human beings they want, my good men, what you want yourselves." Some favorite quotes: "[He] was yet occasionally visited with shattering glimpses of the obvious." " Poor little married gentleman, nourished upon generalisations--and convinced that if his wife does not fit into the category of 'a woman' there must be something wrong? Perhaps she resents being dumped into the same category as all the typical women of the comic stories. If so, she has my sympathy. A woman--not an individual person disliking perhaps to be reminded of the remorseless flowing by of the years and the advance of old age-- but 'a' woman, displaying the conventional sentimentalities attributed to her unfortunate and ridiculous sex.""Indeed, it is my experience with both men and women are fundamentally human, and that there is very little mystery about either sex, except the exasperating mysteriousness of human beings in general.""Man dresses as he chooses, and women to please him; and if woman says she ever does otherwise, he knows better, for she is not human and may not give evidence on her own behalf."

  • Joy Schultz
    2018-11-14 14:26

    The only problem I have with this book is that it is so short. Astute and witty essays, yes, but there are merely two of them (albeit with an excellent introduction)! If the questions hadn't been more fully fleshed out in Gaudy Night, I might despair.Sayers treats the matter concisely: what do we do with women? Well, we treat them as humans, first of all, and a great deal of nonsense drops out automatically. The second essay, "The Human-Not-Quite-Human," notes that "Man is always dealt with as both Homo and Vir, but Woman only as Femina" - that is, everything she does is viewed not through the lens of Personhood, but Womanhood. Her brilliant sketch of a world wherein Man was treated solely as Vir ends with "If, after a few centuries of this kind of treatment, the male was a little self-conscious, a little on the defensive, and a little bewildered about what was required of him, I should not blame him. If he presented the world with a major social problem, I should scarcely be surprised. It would be more surprising if he retained any rag of sanity and self-respect." Just so.

  • Kim
    2018-10-23 18:48

    Great stuff! Dorothy L Sayers claimed not to be a feminist. However, if a feminist is a person who believes that women and men should have equal rights, then Sayers was definitely one. These writings exemplify Sayers: pithy, witty, seriously smart and still relevant 70 years down the track.

  • Miss Clark
    2018-11-10 18:41

    4 -4.5 starsSuperb. Highly recommend it. Page 21 particularly!

  • Dave
    2018-10-24 16:31

    Two terrific essays by Sayers with a great intro by Mary McDermott Shideler, who fully appreciates them and their continued importance. "Are Women Human?" itself is a tour-de-force: the best and most fun expression of her view of men and women, and her appreciation of letting people be who they are. I dog-eared almost all the pages and wish I'd written it myself. "The Human-Not-Quite-Human" is an expansion which brings in a touch of her view of the Church, but has a great imagining of a world where a man is assessed in terms of his maleness as women (STILL) are assessed in terms of their femininity: He would be edified by solemn discussions about "Should Men Serve in Drapery Establishments?" and acrimonious ones about "Tea-Drinking Men"; by cross-shots of public affairs "from the masculine angle," and by irritable correspondence about men who expose their anatomy on beaches...think about nothing but women, pretend an unnatural indifference to women, exploit their sex to get jobs, lower the tone of the office by their sexless appearance, and generally fail to please a public opinion which demands the incompatible. And at dinner parties he would hear the wheedling, unctuous, predatory female voice demand: "And why should you trouble your handsome little head about politics?(That "wheedling, unctuous, predatory" is genius writing BTW)Two points that stand out higher: 1) Why should women be expected to do anything (have or not have children, work, be creative, value love over achievement) as a class? If they are not interested in it, they shouldn't do it. If they are, that's what they should do. 2) To assume that women belong in the home rearing children because that's their traditional role misses the fact that men over time have taken things that women traditionally did (managing households, weaving, brewing, baking, catering, gardening, etc.) and removed them from the home to industrialize them. Does this mean that men do them better? Some humans do some things better than other humans, but not because of their sex.I'm saying all of this much less well than she does. Read this book.

  • Jamie
    2018-10-24 19:29

    Razor sharp wit, full review later.

  • Shannon
    2018-11-12 20:27

    Dorothy Sayers, you are very smart and very sensible and I just adore you. Sayers main premise in these two short essays is simply that women are humans first and foremost (not a mysterious "other") and they want precisely want all humans want -- "interesting occupation, reasonable freedom for their pleasures, and a sufficient emotional outlet. What form the occupation, the pleasures and the emotion may take, depends entirely upon the individual." In the second essay, "The Human-Not-Quite-Human," she spends a good bit of time playing with the absurdity of gender roles -- inverting them as they now stand to make her case. I found this delightful and copied a large chunk of it here:"Probably no man has ever troubled to imagine how strange his life would appear to himself if it were unrelentingly assessed in terms of his maleness; if everything he wore, said, or did had to be justified by reference to female approval; if he were compelled to regard himself, day in day out, not as a member of society, but merely as a virile member of society. If the centre of his dress-consciousness were the cod-piece, his education directed to making him a spirited lover and meek paterfamilias ... His newspaper would assist him with a "Men's Corner," telling him how, by the expenditure of a good deal of money and a couple of hours a day, he could attract the girls and retain his wife's affection; and when he had succeeded in capturing a mate, his name would be taken from him, and society would present him with a special titled to proclaim his achievement. People would write books called, 'History of the Male,' or 'Males of the Bible,' or 'The Psychology of the Male,' and he would be regaled daily with headlines, such as 'Gentleman-Doctor's Discovery.' ..."

  • Ginny
    2018-10-23 20:51

    Directness, clarity and razor wit characterize these two short essays, by Dorothy Sayers (a C. S. Lewis' friend and contemporary, best known for her series of detective novels). With "feminists" and "feminism" making a fresh appearance in the Church, I believe a revival of Sayers writing is timely! Particularly, since these essays should appeal to both sides of the aisle. Though the work is dated, in that Sayers is dealing with her contemporary issues, the reader may (or may not) be surprised to realize that while society has changed around us, very little has changed in the Church (or at least large segments of the American church) in terms of the perception of women.This isn't a defense or attack on feminism in the Church, but rather a larger view of how our culture has arrived at it's current (and admittedly, restrictive) view of women. Sayers sarcastically poses the question "Are Women Human?" and then proceeds to show us how we have in fact, created a special sub-class that strips women of their humanity, dignity and purpose. It's a quick read, and really a must for women (and men)!"“We are much too much inclined in these days to divide people into permanent categories, forgetting that a category only exists for its special purpose and must be forgotten as soon as that purpose is served.” D Sayers

  • Jen
    2018-10-24 18:50

    Genius. Bits are outdated and other bits are ahead of our time. Would that I treat men as humans as well. HILARIOUS. totally worth the hour it takes to read it.One point she makes that I love- One cannot ask for a "women's point of view" but one can ask a woman of her special knowledge of a particular situation. That special knowledge cannot be guaranteed to be agreed to by all women.She mainly speaks against over generalizing groups of people and for the individualisation of the human.There is a long paragraph that's hilarious about how men might feel if people spoke to them the way they speak to some women. I appreciate the special emphasis on finding one's employment and doing it well.She also states that a bad reason for doing something is "just because the men do it" ...No, the reason one should wish to do something is because one wants to of their own impetus.(Maybe I loved this book b/c it drives me nuts when people overgeneralize. Read it. Do it. And if you have problems with any group, sex, race, class of people just insert them in the title, "Are ______ Human?"

  • Melanti
    2018-10-22 22:36

    If you've read her Lord Peter Wimsey series, you might be expecting this to be funny - but it isn't.It's two essays on feminism - though Sayers says she's not a feminist - mostly because she differs slightly the focus of her ideas.Her point is that you can't compare women and men directly even to say they're equal or can do the same jobs because there's obviously differences between the two genders otherwise there wouldn't be separate genders.Instead, her focus is mostly on comparing individuals on particular issues rather than demographic groups as a whole.

  • Gargi Sharma
    2018-10-20 21:50

    I think I just found my favourite book. Pushes down To Kill a Mockingbird, Persepolis and Night a step lower.Detailed review coming soon.

  • Ellen
    2018-10-19 17:51


  • Carmen
    2018-10-14 15:44

    This book contains two essays of Dorothy Sayers. Though it was published in 1970, the essays were written in the 1930s.I admit I found the introduction rather boring, it could probably be skipped without losing much.Sayers doesn't subscribe to being a feminist. I won't say she is. But her essays certainly encapsulate the essence of gender equality. Ultimately, she writes that instead of consider a person a man/woman, consider than an individual with unique experiences and desires. Consider them as a human.She focuses on 'work' for many of her comparisons (probably relevant to the time it was written; particularly that women were working while men were away at war). She points out that while, yes, there are differences between men and women as a whole; she says work should be given to whomever is best at it. This doesn't mean, 'men are strong, they are laborers', but that if there is a job and there is a person who is best at it, it should be given to them regardless of gender (or race, socio-economic status, etc).She chastises women who do things just because a man does them. And instead, believes that women should do anything if it makes sense to do so, not to prove that they are as good as a man. She refers to pants in this section; saying not to wear pants just because men wear pants, but wear pants because they are sensible and comfortable clothing.She makes many other interesting points, but I don't want to turn this into an essay. Both the essays in this book are pretty short, and worth a read if you have the opportunity to do so. The essays are not research based, but more opinion based from her observations as a woman in her time. While things have changed in the many years since it was written, the essence of her point still stands.

  • Rebecca
    2018-11-02 19:27

    I'd already read the first essay in this book "Are Women Human?" and loved it. Then you get to the second essay, and her wit burns like Beatrice's comments in Much Ado About Nothing. I love these essays. She has so much to say, and she says it so well. If you want to know what's wrong with the current feminist movement, look no further than these essays.

  • Mary
    2018-11-09 19:37

    What a delight to read this book! There's really no excuse to give it a try as it is so very short. I agreed with everything that Sayers said (of course - it's Dorothy Sayers!!!!) and felt as though she'd put my own thoughts into phrases that I could never even dream of concocting. Love, love, love is all I have for this.

  • Abigail Reed
    2018-11-12 21:49

    My first nonfiction Sayers book, this exceeded my expectations. I felt like I was listening to Harriet Vane (from the Whimsey novels). All the wit and wonderfully crafted wording that I have come to love in her fiction is here to supreme effect. I will be reading everything by Sayers that I can get my delicate feminine hands on.

  • Mary Grace
    2018-10-14 19:44

    Interesting discussion of women and men as humans. I especially appreciate how Sayers says that people should be treated as individuals (though she writes with more nuance than myself, of course). A lot of her points are quite valid, but I did not find the essays the most encapsulating.

  • Katelyn
    2018-11-09 17:40

    Sayers is the champion of common sense, succinct language, and powerful argument. I 100% recommend this short book to one and all—especially to those folks who mistakenly uphold and enforce "public" and "private" spheres for men and women, respectively, in the name of Christianity.

  • Anita
    2018-11-01 20:51

    Small but mighty; two essays written in the 1930's that should be required reading for every man woman & child today.

  • Erin
    2018-10-24 14:40

    Quick, easy read about feminism. I found some sections difficult to follow as it was written in the early 1900s. However, many of the struggles for women have not changed since then.