12 greatest men in history and their horribly sexist comments

Today's discussions on gender inequality tend to isolate it from the patriarchal beliefs and institutions that have enabled bias and misogynism for centuries. Here's a list of a few of the most historic and celebrated men in every field—rulers, writers, philosophers, priests, movie makers, poets, political leaders, TV personalities—whose thoughts, opinions, and beliefs shaped modern civilization as we now know it and their view on women. If these are the guys revered in history, we wonder how deep-rooted their sexist views must be entrenched in the collective psyche of society. 

1. Martin Luther

"The words and works of God are quite clear; women were either made to be wives or prostitutes."

Martin Luther (Source: Twiter)

Hard to believe that a theologist, composer, priest who played a huge role in the Protestant Reformation can say such a thing? Here's another line sourced from a collected work on his famous quotes: Table Talk with Martin Luther.

“God created man with a broad chest, not broad hips, so that in that part of him he can be wise; but that part out of which filth comes is small. In a woman, this is reversed. That is why she has much filth and little wisdom.”

2. Aristotle

The greatest philosophers of the West along with one of greatest emperor in history. Source: Pinterest

Aristotle, the most significant figure in ancient Greek philosophy, made grand contributions to logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance, and theatre. He was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. This man, who is prided to be the teacher of Alexander the Great, also seemed to be an expert in giving marriage advice. 

"A proper wife has to be as obedient as a slave."

We wonder how strong he really aced the subject on logic, really.

3. John Wayne

John Wayne (Source: Twitter)

Remember the times when anything a man in a hat and cowboy boots says sounded cool, well, that's perhaps how this Academy Award-winning actor and filmmaker got away with a lot of things. With movies that celebrated male valor and lines that spoke of bravado, John Wayne could have been everything we needed to shake our rather stoic past with his cool moves. 

"Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway."

"Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid."

And, on women:

They have the right to work wherever they want to—as long as they have dinner ready when you're home. 

Not cool, Mr. Wayne. 

4. Freidrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, a philosopher, cultural critic, composer, poet, philologist, and Latin and Greek scholar, is considered one of the greatest thinkers of modern times. His work has had a profound influence on Western philosophy and modern intellectual history. Here's what this brilliant thinker had to say about women, though:

"When a woman has scholarly inclinations, there is something usually wrong with her sexual organs."

Freidrich Nietzsche (Source: Pinterest)

What's more worrisome? The impressive lineup of famous folks Freidrich had influenced through his works:  Sigmund Freud, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Heidegger to name just a few.

5. Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte, the first emperor of France, is regarded as one of the greatest military leaders in the history of the West. The Napoleonic Code, which forbade privileges based on birth, allowed freedom of religion, and stated that government jobs must be given to the most qualified, hinted at a more democratic viewpoint. But here's what this renowned European leader had to say about women:

"Nature intended women to be slaves. They are our property."

And we wonder how mankind has managed to fare such war and tragedy in the last couple of centuries and doesn't flinch to call it civilization.

6. Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow (Source: Pinterest)

This Canadian-American writer of Jewish origin is known for a rich bank of literary work that won some of the most prestigious awards. He was given the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts and is the only writer to win the National Book Award for Fiction three times. The celebrated writer confuses us with this quote on women.

"Women are the rails on which men run."


7. Norman Mailer

This hard-to-ignore American novelist, journalist, essayist, playwright seems to have enjoyed the reactions or the lack of it he received for his outspoken beliefs on women. Irrespective of this, the US hailed him for his literary genius, which allowed him to enjoy a combative and charming career longer than most of his contemporaries. Good work must be acknowledged irrespective of personal opinions, you think? Consider his most infamous remark that he delivered at the University of California, Berkeley.

"A little bit of rape is good for the soul."

Norman Mailer (Source: Pinterest)

When a few women reacted in the crowd, he asked "all the feminists in the audience to please hiss" and when a few of them did, he responded with "Obedient little bitches." This was the 70s, and here's what this celebrated journalist had to say about the cognitive capabilities of half the world population:

"Most women have just started to think in the last two or three years.”

8. Ernest Hemingway

Here's is a self-explanatory excerpt from Hemingway's comment to his editor, his editor, Maxwell Perkins, 1943.

Ernest Hemingway (Source: Flipboard)

"You can always trade one healthy woman in on another. But start with a sick woman and see where you get. If they locked up all the women who were crazy—but why speculate—I’ve known goddamned good ones; but take as good a woman as Pauline—a hell of a wonderful woman—and once she turns mean. Although, of course, it is your own actions that turn her mean. Mine I mean. Not yours. Anyway, let’s leave the subject. If you leave a woman, though, you probably ought to shoot her. It would save enough trouble in the end even if they hanged you."

9. TS Eliot

T.S. Elliot (Source: Pinterest)

This essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic is considered "one of the twentieth century's major poets". The man who is claimed to be "not only a great sorcerer of words but as the very key keeper of the language" didn't seem to share much enthusiasm when he came to know that members of the female gender (Virginia Woolf) were taking to writing.

"There are only a half dozen men of letters (and no women) worth printing."

10. Pat Robertson

Considering the kind of ugly statements that we have allowed to slip past decades and centuries without as much as a blink, it's no wonder feminism is construed to be perceived as a reactionary, angry, man-hating movement. Anyone rallying for basic human rights and equality is likely to be treated with contempt because men with vested interests can't seem to wrap their head around simple facts.

Pat Robertson (Source: Pinterest)

This American media mogul and executive chairman was once a Southern Baptist minister who advocated conservative Christian ideals. He is one of richest guys in the industry, now serving as chancellor and CEO of Regent University and chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network. Here's one guy who sums it up the misconceptions of feminism in one statement. 

"Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians."

Good going, Mr. Pat (Btw, Mr. Pat is Robertson's horse who refused to be a winner despite making his race-enthusiast owner shell out a whopping $520,000.) 

9. Kurt Vonnegut

This ex-military man went on to make the horrors of war a plot for one of his nest novels, Slaughterhouse-five. His career spanned nearly 50 years and his works were included in schools for students to read. Here's what this talented gentleman had to say about beautiful women.

Kurt Vonnegut (Source: Wikipedia)

"Educating a beautiful woman is like pouring honey into a fine Swiss watch; everything stops."

Interestingly, his book was pulled out from schools; not because of his extremely wise views on education and women, but because it has too many profanities on every page. Who would have thought?

10. Ted Turner

The Founder of CNN, one of the largest networks in the US, including Cartoon Network that feeds our kids every day without supervision, seems to have figured out the best way to get rid of unwanted issues. 

Ted Turner (Source: Twitter)

"Henry VIII didn't get divorced; he just had his wives' head chopped off when he got tired of them. That's a good way to get rid of a woman—no alimony."

11. Charles Bukowski

This German-American poet, novelist, and short-story writer won many fans through his charming, yet fuss-free take on the reality of urban life. His writing was largely influenced by the social, cultural, and economic setting of his home city of Los Angeles.

As much as it hurts to know that someone we greatly admire would have such low views of us, we can't help wonder if it's deep personal angst that made this near-cult-hero state this in a letter in 1971. Whatever be the case, you lost us at the very first line, Mr. Bukoswki. 

Charles Bukowski (Source: Twitter)

"[D]on’t wait for the good woman. She doesn’t exist. There are women who can make you feel more with their bodies and their souls but these are the exact women who will turn the knife into you right in front of the crowd. Of course, I expect this, but the knife still cuts. The female loves to play man against man, and if she is in a position to do it there is not one who will not resist. The male, for all his bravado and exploration, is the loyal one, the one who generally feels love. The female is skilled at betrayal. and torture and damnation. Never envy a man his lady. Behind it all lays a living hell."

Here's one that's off the list because it deserves a special place of honor in the history of male leaders. 

12. Donald Trump

You can do anything (to women). — Donald Trump (Source: Pinterest)

"You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything....Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything."

No comments on this one. But it doesn't seem any different from Clayton Williams' remark:

"If rape is inevitable, just relax and enjoy it."

If you're one of those who believe gender inequality should not be prioritized over other more-pressing issues the world is facing, here's what you're missing. The fundamental evil that underlies all other evils (poverty, racism, hate crime, wars, global warming, unequal opportunities, terrorism) is the belief that domination of one group over the other is acceptable. And guess where children first pick this domination and who is responsible for normalizing domination and inequality by making it appear unimportant and silly?

Check out this impressive read that emphasizes the link between gender inequality and all other social evils. Source: Pinterest

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About Author

Keerthana Panneer


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