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Permalink to original version of “Women are dogs: important truth in disparaging women” Women are dogs: important truth in disparaging women

Declaring that women are dogs is a common sort of disparagement of women today. Such disparagement has a long history. It’s typically associated with condemning women’s strong, independent sexuality. For example, the late-twelfth-century Latin text De amore (On love) declares:

Even after they have reflected long on a man or have enjoyed his rewards, as soon as they see another they long for his embraces, becoming forgetful of and ungrateful for the services obtained from their former lover. Such women as these wish to indulge their lust with every man they see. Their love is like that of a shameless dog, or rather they are, I think, to be compared with donkeys, for they are affected solely by that natural urge which puts women on a level with the rest of the animal kingdom. [1]

Thinkers throughout history have declared that “reason” distinguishes humans from all other animals.[2] Many animals have a large, complex repertoire of behaviors. They pursue easily understandable interests (food, security, reproduction) in ways that rapidly adapt to specific circumstances. Do animals reason? Describing the distinctiveness of (human) reason has been a highly successful job-creation scheme for philosophers. In today’s common-sense reality of human-created artifacts (intricately cooked meals, movies, airplanes, spaceships, etc.), humans are obviously very special animals.

Although very special animals, humans are animals. Lack of appreciation for that reality has been pervasive in elite thought throughout history. For example, De amore declares:

Who could doubt that she who chose the consolation of the upper part is to be preferred to her who chose the lower? So far as the consolations of the lower part is concerned, we are in no sense separated from the brute animals, nature himself having joined us to them in this respect. But the consolations of the upper part have been granted particularly to human nature and denied to all other animals by nature himself. So she who chose the lower part should be rejected from love as unworthy, like a dog, and the one who chose the upper part should be accepted, as embracing her nature. [3]

Humans can forgo sexual activity. Humans can also fast for a time, eat limited portions of healthful food, or gorge themselves on junk food and become grotesquely obese. None of these facts change the reality of human nature. Separating a woman’s head from her genitals destroys her life. Much more terrible than women being dogs are women’s dismembered, bleeding body parts.

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[1] Andreas Capellanus, De amore 1.5.7-8, from Latin trans. Walsh (1982) p. 41. Reference to a dog as a woman’s best friend occurs in twelfth-century Latin literature. Understanding of a dog as woman’s best friend seems unrelated to the claim that women are dogs. At least in medieval European understanding, referring to women as dogs would be less disparaging than referring to women as cats. Any symbolic relation between dog and Doug is purely coincidental.

[2] Aristotle was particularly influential in developing understanding of humans as the rational animal. See, e.g. De anima III, Nicomachean Ethics I.13.

[3] De amore 1.6.536-7, trans. Walsh (1982) p. 201.

[image] Dog. Thanks to Soggydan Benenovitch for sharing her photo.


Walsh, P.G., trans. 1982. Andreas Capellanus on love {De amore}. London: Duckworth.

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