Frailty Thy Name is Woman

“Frailty thy name is woman.” When the henpecked, exhausted husband hears this statement, a picture comes to mind of a stout, solid woman with a ready temper and readier tongue which specializes in pouring forth a barrage of invectives, and he sighs with disillusionment and says, “The sages have not known life in it's true colours.” When the rigid, conservative politician, longing for the return of the old order, hears the words ‘frail’ and ‘fragile’ in connection with women, he is reminded of those suffragettes who valiantly faced torture, abuse, and mockery to achieve their rights and ceaselessly campaigned and canvassed till they gained their goal. He reflects gloomily that things have come to such a pass that man cannot call even his vote his own. His soul has been requisitioned long ago but now the time has come when he must exercise his vote according to sweet will of his better half. Charm has become a necessary qualification for a candidate if he wants to win female voters and, through them, their husband’s votes. ‘Woman is not at all frail, not at all frail,’ he explodes.

When the poet sing about the liquid brilliance of her eyes and the dazzling sweetness of her smile, they do not take into consideration the young and beautiful female who surveys you up and down, calculates your bank balance, and lays out plans to entangle you in her net with keen instincts of a merciless huntress. The poet sings in blissful ignorance.

The gentlemen who regard the fair sex as weak and unprotected are the victims of monstrous delusion. Except in the most barbaric societies no man uses his strong fist to strike a woman. Her very weakness is her strength. When a girl’s air of helpless dear arouses the protective instincts of a man the egoist, he comes forward as a gallant champion to defend her. This wave of sentimental recklessness is in reality a mark of colossal folly. It would turn him into a bankrupt, if it were applied by him in the field of business. Actually a woman’s strength is stupendous. No man can endure the throes of  childbirth which has fallen to the lot of women, nor has he the patient forbearance needed for bringing up the children and managing the house.

Much has been written about a woman’s weakness about pretty things, for her love of admiration and praise. A woman’s heart thrills with the allure of soft min, glittering diamonds and rubies and emeralds, expensive scents and satins. Wrapped in the soft folds of silk and chiffon, she is carried away to a world of her own… a world of beauty and happiness, of warmth and glow, an idealistic world. There is not only an ardent worship of beauty itself. Admiration, praise, compliments and craving for flattery are all absorbed in a vast ocean of self adoration which is as strong in a woman as is egoism in a man. If all this is taken to be a weakness rather than a fundamental quality, its not for men to say so because they enrich themselves the most by catering to this craving.

A woman’s so called vanity is the livelihood of many men by being the numerous flourishing industries such as cosmetics, fashionable clothes, hairdressing, jewelry and so on. Men cannot condemn it as a weakness on the one hand and encourage it on the other by subtle advertisement and large scale manufacture.

As for frailty in the sense of inconstancy with which Hamlet accuses his mother, why a woman remain faithful to the dead to the point of rejecting the living, is incomprehensible. Life with its irresistible force beacons; it had to be lived and the dead could best be left alone or at the most lock away in the heart. Shakespeare’s disciples have discovered so many psychological reasons to justify Hamlet’s conduct. They can surely advance one or two equally convincing reasons to justify the mother’s behaviour.

The barbaric institution of ‘Suttee’ among the orthodox Hindus was the outcome of woman’s faithfulness to the dead. The abolition of this inhuman custom was hailed as  a reform. As for constancy to the living, the frequent complaint is not for inconstancy but of too much constancy. In this age of jealousy and desire for monopolizing love, most of the wives cling so tenaciously to their husbands that they practically allow them no time to themselves. They not only encroach upon their freedom but occasionally become veritable mill-stones round their necks.

Some gentlemen who are physically present in this world but spiritually live in the age of Shakespeare condemn the modern girl for not being a frail, delicate model of femininity as a girl of the past. They speak decisively of her bold, free gait, her load of make up, her frequent meddling in politics and claiming equality with men of her frightfully unfeminine clothes like the slacks. But they seem to forget how Rosalind, Viola and Portia went about flirting in male attire. However, the truth is that modern girl is an intelligent, free human being able to take care of herself, inspired with forward looking ideals and much more interested in the events of the world than in the state of her health and physique as her delicate doll-like great grandmother was. She had completely rejected the sentimental myth of frailty which represents a woman in such a gross manner.