Mark Twain Listens to a Woman on the Phone

I recently read an NPR piece about the book Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us, in which researchers determined that the most universally annoying thing ever is listening to someone talk on a phone. When I came across this reprint on The Atlantic from Mark Twain in 1880, I realized that this has been the situation since the advent of telephonic communication.
I consider that a conversation by telephone—when you are simply sitting by and not taking any part in that conversation—is one of the solemnest curiosities of this modern life. Yesterday I was writing a deep article on a sublime philosophical subject while such a conversation was going on in the room.

Read the rest at The Atlantic. Link

Image credit: Bettmann / Corbis

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Jesus man, I don't know when to keep quiet. I'm barring myself from Neatorama for the rest of the day. Gotta read this book instead... The Unconscious Civilization.
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I'm a fair admirer of Mark Twain who pamphleteered for women's rights and the emancipation of slaves. Never-the-less Twain seems to be of the opinion that women, although being the 'gentler' sex, aren't so sweet on the telephone.

I'm completely on-board with Twain regarding the liberation of women to vote and such like, however, I will not buy-into the modern fabulation that men and women are entirely equal, either genetically or in adulthood after years of socialization. And even less so in the latter.

The propensity of women to release their suffering like a geyser has been remarked upon since time immemorial. Whereas men have the duty to internalize suffering and stand tall in the fact of it, woman is encouraged to pout, moan, whine, cry and scream. Kierkegaard relates:

"The weaker sex can wail and scream etc.; this is perhaps why the woman suffers much less than the silent, enclosed man. In this context one could be tempted to say that woman is the stronger sex, for if it is strength to defend oneself against suffering, then woman defends herself far better than man.

But the main point is this: it is strength to be able to accept suffering, to be able to enter into suffering, to bear up under it; and it is weakness to ward off suffering by every means possible. Woman's weakness lies in the very fact that she immediately has entreaties, tears, and sighs at her disposal to ward off suffering; her weakness is simply her propensity to wail and scream and thus mitigate her suffering. Man's strength is that he has no means of defence, no way to mitigate suffering; therefore his strength - yes, it is a paradox - his strength makes him suffer more than the weaker sex. It is paradoxical, but no more paradoxical than something equally true, that it takes health to become ill; there are sickly people who lack the health to become ill."

But this may be caught up in social mores of the past. Though such tendencies of men and women are reported in all cultures across the globe with some minor role reversal in various societies. The claim that women are utterly incapable of enduring suffering without telling someone else about it is also described in the writings of contemporary philosopher David Quinn whose Exposition of Woman states woman will never become enlightened because she cannot bear to face reality, the suffering is too intense and she must retreat to fantasy, fabulation and delusion.

While I may not agree with Kierkegaard or Quinn, here is what I found interesting. If I present this argument to women, which I have on several occasions, their reaction is entirely what Kierkegaard said it was, they feel offended and use all kinds of sobbing and tears to rally support for their victimhood and banish the mean man who insults her. They don't seem to think of it in the disinterested critical sense of "Hmm, maybe it is true." and this simple thought would actually prove it false.

After some thought I realized the kernal of truth in this might be more fundamental and reformulated the strategy. I found that men or women, if I told them they were victims of egotism would react in much the same way; they would be offended and promptly engage in all kinds of tactics for shutting me up or proving me wrong, all of which are proof that I'm right if they could only see it. One who was wise to what egotism is in this way would have to respond "Yes, I am." Because the truth is we are all egotists, despite it being a negatively charged term. In-fact is the presumed negativity that triggers the offense from the ego. So the ego gets riled up at the claim that it exists, because if it did exist that would be a hit to the ego.

It is very clever and so doesn't only affect women or affect women more profoundly but is somewhat cultural, and so I still notice a difference in the way men and women treat it. Women are likely to argue from popularity and say "I hope you enjoy being lonely with an attitude like that." whereas men are more likely to argue from sex "You must not be getting any." And a keen eye can see that both of these statements are attacks on one's comparative self-worth within some ocntingent domain. They are slaves and expect I will be too, but men and women are generally slaves to different domains and live out their slavery in different ways, women cry, men fight. But they are both slaves of egotism. Whereas Kierkegaard and Quinn seem to think Woman's egotism is more profound and inescapable. So I guess I'm not sure how much I agree with Twain's take of the woman or women about this phone call.
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