100 Years (Literally!) Of Gender Complaints

100 Years (Literally!) Of Gender Complaints

Men these days just aren't what they used to be. Whatever happened to courting, caring for, and protecting women?

Women these days can't hold a candle to women of past generations. They don't know how to cook or how to treat men. 

Have you heard any of these complaints recently? Your Facebook newsfeed probably has at least one gender-based complaint posted right now, either blatant or slyly disguised as a joke.

But y'all, these protests have been ongoing for over a hundred years. A number so large and significant that it has it's own latin moniker: century. 

Let's journey back in time to get a sense of what a century feels like. 100 years ago...

·     Women couldn't vote
·     The first stone of the Lincoln memorial was laid
·     The first stop sign was posted
·     Billie Holiday was born
·     Taxes didn't exist
·     America was comprised of 49 states
·     Air-conditioning was 15 years away from being invented
·     Pizza wasn't a popular food at all

There was no color tv or sound in movies. Computers didn't exist and the first commercial flight had only taken place one year prior in 1914. The word "networking" hadn't been coined and there was no such thing as "social media anxiety disorder."

It was so long ago, yet one thing certainly connects us to the past: gripes about the opposite sex.  

One of my favorite blogs, The Art of Manliness (TAOM), digs deep into decades-old publishing to uncover the nature of the complaints and put it all into context. They go as far back as the 1800s.

TAOM are as thorough researchers as they are entertaining, so it's worth reading the article. The blog's target audience is male, so although the article focuses on men's complaints, they uncover women's thoughts on their counterparts. And to be clear, women weren't impressed. For example, the ladies’ major beefs were with men's:

"Self-conceit (“their cool self-satisfaction and expectation of worship without any effort to make themselves particularly admirable or worthy of worship”), selfishness, a lack of respect for women, using women only for pleasure and amusement, a lack of refinement and manners, and especially a lack of courage and ambition."

Sound familiar?

The fellas spoke to the worst faults in women of the day:

"Thoughtlessness, a disregard of the feelings of others, so weak and dependent that they incur the risk of becoming a living embodiment of the wicked proverb, ‘So good that they are good for nothing', or the reverse of this, the tendency in young women to be independent, self-reliant, appearing not to need protection and shelter."

Can you relate?

It's hard to believe that these bellyaches only emerged with the published word. I imagine within cultures where gender traditionally plays a role in community and family constructs, rumbles between sexes are long-standing. 

If you find yourself upset about the lack of chivalry or the existence of "real men" or "real women," this article may give you some things to consider. 

It inspires me to continue being a teacher, instead of a complainer. Teach people (with respect and humility) how to treat me, instead of complaining that they haven't been raised right. And happily separate myself from those who aren't teachable, willing to learn, or are troubled students.

It reminds me to not engage in projecting my thoughts about one, two, or fifteen individuals onto an entire gender that makes up roughly 3,477,829,638 people who inhabit the earth.

Further, it's worth noting that the same men and women of yesteryear who are idealized in the 21st century as "real" are the same men and women who were criticized by their counterparts. Not that those criticisms are convictions, but it makes me suspect that if we had a time machine to go back and experience dating in those decades, we'd still complain.

Last, reading the historical documents that TAOM retrieved reinforces my thought that gender-bashing is a futile exercise. If complaints have been racking up for a centennial and public condemnation hasn't broken any patterns, then the most constructive actions we can take are:

1) Evaluate ourselves to discover if our complaints are legitimate or if our experiences are reflecting our choices and/or our personal limitations.

2) Support individuals, especially those sharing our romantic space, in learning how to deal with integrity, how to communicate beyond texting, and the importance of not abusing kindness and generosity.

The Art of Manliness comes to this conclusion:

"It’s kind of liberating and comforting to know that one is not living in some uniquely terrible time, with burdens unfaced by past generations of men. That men and women sometimes butt heads then comes to be seen not as some insurmountable problem of the modern age, but as something inherent to the human condition and perfectly navigable...plenty of folks in every age have made a happy, successful go of relationships. Plenty of relationships have failed over the centuries too, of course."


The Art of Manliness | excerpt from


It often seems that men and women have never before held such a low opinion of the opposite sex. Women complain that there are no more real men out there, that today’s generation of males are akin to a tribe of rude, crude, lost little boys, who won’t commit and are drifting through life. Men lament that modern women are the worst crop of females the world has ever seen — that on a whole they’re flighty, crass, and prickly, and come in two equally unpalatable flavors: angry social justice warrior and entitled princess.

Have women and men really devolved from a past golden age, when ladies were ladies and men were men?

While the Art of Manliness has a nostalgic bent both in our aesthetics and in the way we often draw lessons from history, because we spend so much time researching that history, few know as well as we do what was and was not in fact true about the past. In particular, as a collector of old books, ephemera, and vintage men’s magazines, I’ve gotten a unique look at how men actually used to feel about women back in the day. And the truth of the matter is that there’s never been a time when men haven’t complained about women (and women haven’t complained about men).

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Photo credit: Kristian Niemi via CC Flickr