Globe and Mail

The weaker sex

The Globe and Mail
Saturday, July 17, 1999

We were struck again by one of the smaller and more telling items published on our daily Century of the Millennium page, this one from The Globe of July 14, 1908:

"THE WILES OF WOMEN. Bill Favorably Reported Making a Marriage Void Into Which Male Partner Has Been Decoyed by Scents, Paints, Powders or Other Artful Practices.

"The measure provides that, if any woman, maid or widow, shall betray into matrimony any unsuspecting male subjects of this State by scents, paints, powder or perfumes, cosmetics, artificial teeth, false hair, iron stays, corsets, pads or padding, hoops or high-heeled shoes, low-cut waists, lingerie, lace, variegated, drop-stitch or rainbow hosiery or by any other deceitful means or artificial practices, the marriage upon conviction shall be null and void.

"Glenn of Whitfield, the author of the bill, has been at a summer resort recently and says the bill is needed."

Summer resorts are, of course, infamous for deceitful behaviour and may well have provoked Mr. Glenn to act after the pain of a summer romance. The poor man's guard was down on his holidays, and the scent of a woman with enhanced ruby lips was enough to do him in.

Laws against misleading advertising are still with us and might well be applied to "wiles" in romance, as well as tire stores. This being an age of equality, however, men would have to come under the provenance of the legislation. That would rule out Armani suits, after-shave colognes, gold chains, body-building and cod-pieces, not to mention pectoral implants, facelifts and hair implants. Designer sun-glasses and Roots jackets might even be enough to annul a marriage.

Mr. Glenn's bill testifies to the chronic weakness of men in the face of women who know the slightest thing about seduction. Men are doubtless just as frail today as they were in 1908, but much less willing to admit it by calling for protective legislation. Bravado and machismo, imported to North America from Latin countries after the war, trap uncounted millions of men in marriages with plain women.

Men are more to be pitied than censured. A royal commission is called for, as is a public apology from a ranking female cabinet minister. Old news is still news.

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