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Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society
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Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society

4.38 of 5 stars 4.38  ·  rating details  ·  468 ratings  ·  59 reviews
Introduction by Mary McDermott Shideler

One of the first women to graduate from Oxford University, Dorothy Sayers pursued her goals whether or not what she wanted to do was ordinarily understood to be "feminine." Sayers did not devote a great deal of time to talking or writing about feminism, but she did explicitly address the issue of women's role in society in the two cl
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Paperback, 75 pages
Published August 6th 2005 by William B Eerdmans Publishing Co (first published November 30th 1970)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,318)
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Miriam
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 satisfa
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Trevor
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 ...more
Jonathan
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 individua
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Bronwyn
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.
Frankie
Spoiler: They are
Kim
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.
Rowena
Quite witty and thought-provoking.
Joseph R.
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 stereotyp ...more
Jen
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
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Melanti
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
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John Carter
In a way as a naive 18 year old entering University, a Mennonite Uni in California, in 1974. The height of feminism, this was in fact my first introduction to feminism as a study. It opened up the room for seeing a wider sense of Peace making and justice making that my young anabaptist soul was seeking. She pushed my culturally defined understandings of "maleness" and "femaleness" and in the end I was open to hearing the harsher words of Mary Daly, Rosemary Radford Ruether and other women theolo ...more
Ginny
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 ...more
Lynley
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 y
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Lady Jaye
I have always been impressed by Ms. Sayers, because I know of her and her influence, even though I'd never read anything about her. I picked this book up specifically because I wanted to hear what a Christian woman had to say on the subject of "feminism." I put feminism in brackets because Ms. Sayers was reluctant to describe herself as such. But her very life, actions, speeches, and books espoused a feminist position: she lived it. Her stance on feminism reminds me of Morgan Freeman's stance on ...more
Poetreehugger
A quick read, but a most profitable.
Dorothy Sayers was, among other identities, a friend of C. S. Lewis, a man whose superior mental ability and intelligence shows in his writings. Just so with Sayers. This book is a pleasure to read because of its intelligence and because it gives the reader a glimpse back to a time many of us remember quite clearly, but many more of us, younger, cannot appreciate without getting to know it somehow or other. It is humourous now to think that the issue of wearin
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Amy Weiner
The two essays by Sayers are a quick read. The long introduction by Mary McDermott Shideler bored me and I skipped about half of it until after I had read the essays.

I really liked the first Sayers essay called "Are Women Human" which appears to be from a speech given in 1938 in which she sets out to explain why she doesn't identify as a feminist. I think it is safe to say that even if she did not consider herself to be a feministe by her own definition, the reasoned argument she sets out tells
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Melissa
Sayers gained literary fame for her mysteries, which feature Lord Peter Wimsey, and her translation of Dante’s Inferno. This collection of essays looks at the role women play in society. The title essay was actually a speech Sayers’ gave at an event.

I loved the way she lays out the issue and the simplicity of the answer. She makes it clear that she doesn’t know exactly what every woman wants to do with her life, because women want the same options that men have. They want to be able to decide h
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Robin Shreeves
The two short essays in this book are very thought provoking and powerful. Written in the mid 1940s, the author Dorothy Sayers tackles the issue of how and why women are looked at as something less human than men. Her underlying premise is that men and women have the same abilities, but not all men and women are given the same knowledge so it makes it seem as if men are suited to one thing while women are suited to another. She turns that believe upside down and says that if any human who has th ...more
Lynn Joshua
"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."

Sayers reminds us that "male" and "female" are adjectives modifying the noun human. This common humanity is what Sayers was emphasizing - and how all people should be viewed as individuals within that c
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Ben
Sayers should be remembered for her excellend detective stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey, for her academic achievements at Oxford, and for the company she kept (such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien). These two short essays should not smudge her otherwise sucessful writing career. The first essay is a patronizing, sarcastic commentary on how women are of value. The second is a bitter rant on the same subject. Understandably, Sayers had something to prove of the value of women in society. This ...more
Sebah
اممم .. خفيف . رغبت بقراءته لأن عنوان الكتاب جذبني .
الأفكار التي تؤمن بها الكاتبة -و أيضا من قدمت للكتاب- كانت : "interesting". و أوافقها الرأي فيما ذهبت إليه ؛ معظمه على الأقل .
كانت قراءة ماتعة .

مما اقتبسته من الكتاب :

"We cannot live or think effectively without classifying our experiences, but always we must ask whether the categories we are using are adequate for the problem we are considering."


"In working we become our true selves and know ourselves and each other truly."

"They who do lov
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Jenn
For every woman that is struggling to figure out her place between working, children, spousal, & individual interests, these two essays really hit home. Although Sayers is writing over 50 years ago, things have changed drastically little despite the feminist movement (perhaps too aggressive, according to her). I felt as though she addresses all of the major concerns I have including the novel idea that women "staying home" today have very little stimulating work to do as opposed to years ago ...more
Tina
Jun 11, 2008 Tina rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Maurine, Maggie
Recommended to Tina by: Maurine
I preferred the "Are Women Human?" speech to the "The Human-Not-Quite-Human" essay solely because I found it more compelling. The second of her essays seemed a bit more bitter. It focused more on the lesser treatment of women, as opposed to looking at what it means to be an "ordinary human being" like the first essay. I find both relevent to today, though--I think we're still asking, or at least confronted with/familiar with, some of the same questions (nearly 70 years later).

I've never read any
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Sarah
Excellent! Witty and thought provoking! Still relevant 75 years later.

"'What,' men have asked distractedly from the beginning of time, '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, exactly what you want for yourselves: interesting occupation, reasonable freedom for their pleasures, and sufficient emotional outlet. What form the occupation, the pleasures, and the emotion may take, depends entirely upon
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viktor palenyy
who know that so much good sense could be packed into such a small booklet. A much needed message lies herein
Carol Peters
Published in 1947, still germane, still astounding how women choose to be less than.
DJ Dycus
Sayers' style is easy to read, but her ideas are very powerful. The are both simple and profound.
Anja Murez

Dorothy L. Sayers argues that every human ought to be accepted first as a person in his/her own right, with sex considered only when relevant. She had a very personal work-philosophy (saying that all she wanted in Paradise was time, space and tranquillity to work), and always stressed that it didn’t matter what kind of job you did, providing it was your job. Sex is mostly irrelevant to decide if a human being is fit for a job – and ...
Read the full review on my Blog: http://altorientalistik.word
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Kathryn
Very witty. Most sensible. I agree with it 100%.
Anna Katharine
This rather slim volume contains two essays Sayers wrote when asked to comment on contemporary feminism, which frankly didn't interest her much- she voices support for nurturing the traits and talents of the individual, whether society deems them to be gender-appropriate or not. I appreciated her arguments, and laughed aloud several times- especially when she lashes out against men disparaging women in "trousers," and points out how very silly men look in them, too! Thoroughly enjoyable, and a v ...more
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Dorothy Leigh Sayers (Oxford, 13 June 1893 – Witham, 17 December 1957) was a renowned British author, translator, student of classical and modern languages, and Christian humanist.

Dorothy L. Sayers is best known for her mysteries, a series of novels and short stories set between World War I and World War II that feature English aristocrat and amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. However, Sayers herse
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More about Dorothy L. Sayers...
Whose Body?  (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #1) Strong Poison (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #6) Unnatural Death (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #3) Murder Must Advertise  (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #10) Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries, #12)

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“A man once asked me ... how I managed in my books to write such natural conversation between men when they were by themselves. Was I, by any chance, a member of a large, mixed family with a lot of male friends? I replied that, on the contrary, I was an only child and had practically never seen or spoken to any men of my own age till I was about twenty-five. "Well," said the man, "I shouldn't have expected a woman (meaning me) to have been able to make it so convincing." I replied that I had coped with this difficult problem by making my men talk, as far as possible, like ordinary human beings. This aspect of the matter seemed to surprise the other speaker; he said no more, but took it away to chew it over. One of these days it may quite likely occur to him that women, as well as men, when left to themselves, talk very much like human beings also.” 234 likes
“In reaction against the age-old slogan, "woman is the weaker vessel," or the still more offensive, "woman is a divine creature," we have, I think, allowed ourselves to drift into asserting that "a woman is as good as a man," without always pausing to think what exactly we mean by that. What, I feel, we ought to mean is something so obvious that it is apt to escape attention altogether, viz: (...) that a woman is just as much an ordinary human being as a man, with the same individual preferences, and with just as much right to the tastes and preferences of an individual. What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person.” 98 likes
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