In his time the prolific and wide-ranging American writer Philip Wylie (1902 – 71), admired for his science-fiction writing, including Gladiator (1930), which partially inspired the creation of ‘ Superman’, When Worlds Collide (1933) , which inspired Flash Gordon, his social satire, and prescient warnings of nuclear and ecological disaster, was charged by some of his detractors with misogyny—something his daughter denied, but his contributions to the laddish erotic miscellany of 1935, The Bedroom Companion, show that the allegations were largely justified.
In ‘thirties America the slump resulted in many enlightened and educated women joining the workforce. Their presence as vociferous elements in society were seen as a threat to some men and as a result their claims of equality were often ridiculed. In ‘ An Essay on what a young girl ought and ought not to know on these days ‘ Wylie voiced the opinion of many men of his generation who resented the ways in which the fledgling women’s movement was challenging the Patriarchy.
‘ Modern women is obviously out of gear. Almost daily one of her unhappy numbers is murdered by a husband or a lover. Hourly, a representative of her baffled group throws herself into the streets of one of our cities. She clogs the corridors of our mental hospitals. Escaping assassination, suicide and insanity, she fills the newspapers with her ridiculous exploits, turns marriage into a bitter jape for cartoonists and movie producers to exploit, gluts the radio with her clacking, dynamites the birth rate, creates a nauseous and neurotic literature for herself, and, in her immense unhappiness, makes the who world at once a billboard and a consuming funnel for her pinheaded propaganda. The American matriarchy is a soprano scream so shrill and sick that any basso contralto is lost in it, and a man has to go about with his eyes shut, his nose held, and a padlock on his libido…’
Not content with a vicious character assassination of many of his fellow Americans, Wylie then went on to make a case for the impossibility of women being equal to men.
‘…man and woman are different; he can no more bear a baby than she can conceive a bridge…Woman’s place is not merely in the home—it is in the home in bed—in the bed of her husband, of her lover, in childbed. Within those limited dominions she has a certain supremacy. Within the boundaries of controlled emotion, she is exalted. But in the objective-creative world, towards which she is being directed today, she is a suffering anomaly or a grotesque farce. That fact is plainly self-evident, but it cannot be stamped into the brains of the multitude… ‘ Continue reading