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Benjamin Franklin…A Misogynist? Essay

You asked us to read “Old Mistresses Apologue” to see how Benjamin Franklin begins as a solemn friend and adviser to a young man but soon reveals himself as a hedonistic lecher, then after reading you asked if we see any signs of a misogynist in Benjamin Franklin’s letter. To begin I looked up the word misogynist to get a better understanding of what it meant. According to Webster’s Dictionary, misogynist means a hatred of or hostility toward women, a women hater. After reading Benjamin Franklin’s letter, it was hard to see Mr. Franklin as a women hater. I find him being finicky about his women preferring older to younger women being almost discriminatory towards younger women in general, but not actually a women hater. If anything, he has good things to say about women as a whole.

In the very first paragraph of his letter, Benjamin Franklin says great things of women in the state of union with a man. First, he states that “It is the Man and Woman united that make the compleat human Being.” [sic] Those are powerful word to say if you are a women hater. He also states in the same paragraph that man would be of less value if they were not married and they are incomplete without their better half. Hence his words, “A single Man has not nearly the Value he would have in that State of Union. He is an incomplete Animal. He resembles that odd Half of a Pair of Scissars.” [sic]

Beginning after the first paragraph Benjamin Franklin begins stating increasingly how he would prefer an older woman to a younger one saying; “you should prefer old Women to young ones.” [sic] Then he proceeds to explain why he believes this theory with eight different reasons.

The very first point, Franklin explains that older women are better because they are smarter, more experienced and can hold a conversation that is more interesting than that of a younger women.

In his second point, he explains how when women get older they can do more for you and take better care of you. He even states that “there is hardly a thing as an old woman who is not a good Woman.” [sic] Therefore, if Benjamin Franklin was a misogynist I hardly think he would have stated that women were even good in any right.

Benjamin Franklin’s fourth point explains how older women are less likely to stray and if they did it would be more accepted by an older woman than a younger one. Since older women are so willing to take care of younger man and help to shape his values and manners. This can be seen best in this line, “Because thro’ more Experience, they are more prudent and discreet in conducting an Intrigue to prevent Suspicion.” [sic]

Now in Benjamin Franklin’s fifth point I see him saying something that can be seen as misogynist comment, “and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know and old from a young one. And as in the dark all Cats are grey.” [sic] That comment to me can be taken as an insult to women, I don’t think that everything below the “girdle” or waist is what makes all women young and old alike, but I do see Franklin’s point.

Now lastly, my favorite comment had to have been in his eighth point when he states that older women are better to marry than young ones because, “They are so grateful!!” That comment in it self should be an indication that Benjamin Franklin was not a misogynist, he may have said one or two things that can be taken that way. Nevertheless, Franklin seems to like women in general he definitely had more nice things to say about women than anything else, almost as though he couldn’t be without a woman.

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