Benjamin Franklin – Silence Dogood, No. 5

In the 5th of the Silence Dogood letters, Ben hits a topic head on. The topic of this letter is the difference between the Male and Female Vices. An individual sends a letter to the Courant telling Mrs. Dogood to “begin with your own sex first; let the first volley of your resentments be directed against Female Vice”. I don’t know if the letter he is responding to is also fictitious like the pen name he is using, or if someone really did write to the Courant. But for him to attack the equality of sexes in 1722 is pretty bold.

There are a couple of points that he makes as Silence Dogood that I would like to point out. He claims that most of the vices that females have are because of males or perpetuated by males. He says this about Idleness of Women.

“Men are commonly complaining how hard they are forc’d to labour, only to maintain their Wives in Pomp and Idleness, yet if you go among the Women, you will learn, that they have always more Work upon their Hands than they are able to do; and that a Woman’s Work is never done, &c.”

He then concludes the letter with the following statement:

“Upon the whole, I conclude, that it will be impossible to lash any Vice, of which the Men are not equally guilty with the Women, and consequently deserve an equal (if not a greater) Share in the Censure. However, I exhort both to amend, where both are culpable, otherwise they may expect to be severely handled”

I believe his main point is that Men and Women are equal and that it is impossible to blame one or the other for any vice. And that if you are to say they are not equal, then the Men are responsible for causing the division.