Female intuiton
Posted: 07 February 2018 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I wondered how far back the concept and indeed phrase went.OED turned up a solitary 1958 cite for woman’s intuition under Sherlock Holmesing from a book by Angus Wilson (
1958 A. Wilson Middle Age of Mrs Eliot i. 89 All this woman’s intuition is just a lot of Sherlock Holmesing.) and for female intuition a 1992 quote from an A. Myers translation of Dostoevsky’s Idiot, ("1992 A. Myers tr. F. Dostoevsky Idiot iv. 534 It was this last that Varya had divined with her unerring female intuition.") Any further light on origins?

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Posted: 07 February 2018 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Using Google Books I find a citation from 1850 for “female intuition”, 1858 for “feminine intuition”, 1856 for “woman’s intuition”, 1866 for “women’s intuition”.  (Dates verified.)

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Posted: 07 February 2018 02:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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That’s a huge leap back, Intuition specifically associated with women was certainly a thing in the 19th century. I always thought it rather ungallant to associate the process with women as it’s insight that bypasses ratiocination and comes directly from the senses. I suppose it could be seen as a back-handed compliment but I have a feeling, an intuition if you will, that we’ll be hearing less and less of female intuition as the years go by.

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Posted: 07 February 2018 11:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It was certainly a cliche in the early years of the 20th century. In 1913 the young Rebecca West wrote regularly for the Clarion, a socialist weekly newspaper. In her blistering review of a book entitled The Nature of Woman by one Dr Lionel Tayler, who apparently asserted that ‘Woman is a bad reasoner at best, but she is a good intuitionist if her powers of mind are given free and healthful scope’ , she retorted:

This meaningless chatter about intuition is due to the duplicity of women. When one tells a fool something and the fool wants to know how one knows it, and one cannot be bothered explaining one’s mental processes, one alludes mysteriously to ‘feminine intuition’. It is a social ruse, like telling the parlourmaid to say ‘not at home’.

I still remember reading my father’s copy of Mad magazine some time in the 1960s in which was a three-frame cartoon strip that went as follows:

- Husband and wife come home, sit and remove their outdoor shoes.

- As they sit, wife remarks (I paraphrase: 50-odd years is a long time) ‘Sally and Stevie are home. Jack’s not back from school yet. Jane has brought the Wilkinson twins back for cookies.’ Husband replies ‘Wow! How can you possibly know all that?’

- They go into the house. The last frame shows us the now-empty hall on the floor of which is a row of children’s footwear of different kinds and sizes, over which floats the wife’s speech bubble: ‘Oh, just feminine intuition...’

I was very small at the time, and that was the first time I had ever consciously encountered the concept of ‘feminine intuition’; looking back, I think it has informed my perception of the phrase ever since.

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Posted: 08 February 2018 01:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I have a personal experience and familiarity with female intuition. They always knew when I lied and they always sensed my indiscretions; transgressions of which I am not proud.

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Posted: 08 February 2018 05:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Female intuition is definitely not a thing in medieval literature. It sounds like it is something that Shakespeare would have mused on at some point, but I can’t think of an example. (There are lots of twentieth-century critics discussing the intuition of Will’s female characters, but from what I see it’s all reading the concept into the plays as opposed to something that comes out of the text itself.)

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Posted: 08 February 2018 06:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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1992 quote from an A. Myers translation of Dostoevsky’s Idiot, ("1992 A. Myers tr. F. Dostoevsky Idiot iv. 534 It was this last that Varya had divined with her unerring female intuition.")

I was curious what the Russian said; it turns out to be “Последнее-то и угадала Варвара Ардалионовна своим верным женским инстинктом,” and that last phrase “женским инстинктом” is literally “female instinct.” It first occurs in literary Russian in the 1860s, in Pomyalovsky’s Мещанское счастье (Bourgeois happiness, 1860), Krestovsky’s Панургово стадо (Panurge’s flock, 1869), and Dostoevsky’s Idiot (1869); the phrase “женской интуицией,” which literally corresponds to the English, first occurs after WWII and I suspect is borrowed from abroad.

I have a personal experience and familiarity with female intuition. They always knew when I lied

No, you have a personal experience with people who know when you lie.  That’s just plain intuition (or knowledge of humanity), and to associate it with women in particular is straight-up sexism.  I guarantee you there are women who don’t in fact know when you lie, unless you’re a really bad liar, in which case everybody knows when you lie.

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Posted: 08 February 2018 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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No, you have a personal experience with people who know when you lie.

That’s a misguided opinion, because you have no idea with whom I’ve had personal experiences. Besides, I wasn’t referring to lying in general; I was referring specifically to a female and male relationship, and within that purview I think women might have a keener intuitive sense than that of men.

That’s just plain intuition (or knowledge of humanity), and to associate it with women in particular is straight-up sexism. 

That’s an overstatement; there is absolutely nothing sexist with that association, it is not denigrating or discriminatory.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201107/women-s-intuition-myth-or-reality

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Posted: 08 February 2018 01:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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That’s a misguided opinion, because you have no idea with whom I’ve had personal experiences.

I don’t know and I don’t care; my statement applies in general.  It’s fine to say “this one woman I knew had a remarkable insight into my character”; it’s not fine to talk about “female intuition” and say “they always know” as if all women were interchangeable.  But I should clarify that I’m not saying you personally are an evil sexist; sexism in in the air we breathe, it’s all around us from the day we’re born, and it’s virtually impossible to avoid expressing it despite one’s best intentions.  I’m just suggesting you avoid this particular example of it.

Besides, I wasn’t referring to lying in general; I was referring specifically to a female and male relationship, and within that purview I think women might have a keener intuitive sense than that of men.

Any given woman in “a female and male relationship” is likely to have insight into the male, sure; again, it’s the generalization to “women” and calling it “intuitive” that’s the problem.

That’s an overstatement; there is absolutely nothing sexist with that association, it is not denigrating or discriminatory.

We’ll just have to agree to disagree, but I am amused that you cite “Ronald E Riggio Ph.D., Cutting-Edge Leadership” as your go-to expert.  In any case, he writes:

Where does this ability to read emotions come from? It has been suggested that it is mainly due to social power. Women, who have been historically lower in social power, spend more time observing and scrutinizing those in power (i.e., men, and powerful women), and become more attuned to their nonverbal cues.

Sure, that makes sense.  But again, that’s not “intuition,” it’s the result of experience, just like my skill at editing.

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Posted: 08 February 2018 07:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Women’s intuition may or may not be real. I don’t care. But the fact is that millions of people - including women - believe in it. There’s no sense in getting worked up into some kind of PC lather if belief in it doesn’t fit some preconceived notion of modern sociology.

And none of this has anything to do with etymology.

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Posted: 08 February 2018 09:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Bayaker - 08 February 2018 07:27 PM

Women’s intuition may or may not be real. I don’t care. But the fact is that millions of people - including women - believe in it. There’s no sense in getting worked up into some kind of PC lather if belief in it doesn’t fit some preconceived notion of modern sociology.

And none of this has anything to do with etymology.

I concur.

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Posted: 09 February 2018 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Women’s intuition may or may not be real. I don’t care. But the fact is that millions of people - including women - believe in it. There’s no sense in getting worked up into some kind of PC lather if belief in it doesn’t fit some preconceived notion of modern sociology.

Millions of people believe in all sorts of harmful things, and pushing back against them is not “some kind of PC lather,” it’s trying to make the world a better place.  I am not going to be silent when I see such things promulgated publicly.

And none of this has anything to do with etymology.

Very true, and Logophile shouldn’t have made his derailing comment about women.  But he did, and I responded.

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Posted: 09 February 2018 07:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Thank you for checking the Russian original, lh, I was hoping you’d bring your expertise in that field into play.

BTW I brought up Thread Review for this reply and noticed that Dr Techie’s post, the second in the thread, had been omitted. (It’s still visible if you go to the thread itself.) Weird. Checking with other threads I see that the review is merely a sample of the thread rather than the whole thing. I’m not sure whether I just never noticed before or I had noticed and forgotten.

[ Edited: 09 February 2018 07:28 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 09 February 2018 09:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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languagehat - 09 February 2018 06:33 AM

Women’s intuition may or may not be real. I don’t care. But the fact is that millions of people - including women - believe in it. There’s no sense in getting worked up into some kind of PC lather if belief in it doesn’t fit some preconceived notion of modern sociology.

Millions of people believe in all sorts of harmful things, and pushing back against them is not “some kind of PC lather,” it’s trying to make the world a better place.  I am not going to be silent when I see such things promulgated publicly.

And none of this has anything to do with etymology.

Very true, and Logophile shouldn’t have made his derailing comment about women.  But he did, and I responded.

+1

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Posted: 11 February 2018 01:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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In her 1909 book Marriage as a Trade, the English suffragist Cicely Hamilton was in no doubt at all as to the social function of the concept of female intuition, and had thoughts too about why woman might appear to men intuitive in social and domestic matters:

.. men, in every class, have taken a pleasure in the dependence and subjection of their womenfolk, and lest their power over them should be undermined, have refused to their womenfolk the right to think for themselves. The essential cruelty of that refusal they disguised from themselves by explaining that women could not think even if they tried.  ....

This disbelief in the existence of reasoning powers in woman is still, it seems to me, a very real thing – at least, I have run up against it a good many times in the course of my life, and I do not suppose that I am an exception in that respect. And the really interesting thing about this contemptuous attitude of mind is that it has led to the adoption, by those who maintain it, of a very curious subterfuge. It is, of course, quite impossible to deny that a woman’s mind does go through certain processes which control and inspire her actions and conclusions – sometimes very swiftly and effectively; but to these mental processes, which in men are called reason, they give, in woman, the title of intuition.

Now the word “intuition”, when used in connection with woman, conveys to the average male mind a meaning closely akin to that of the word instinct – as opposed to reason. (In this insistence on the instinctive character of our mental processes the average man is, of course, quite consistent; since he imagines that we exist only for the gratification of two instincts, the sexual and the maternal, it does not seem unreasonable on his part to conclude that we also think by instinct.) I am certain that I am right as to this masculine habit of confusing intuition with instinct; since on every occasion on which I have been more or less politely – but always firmly – informed that I had no intellect, but could console myself for the deficiency by the reflection that I possessed the usual feminine quality of intuition, I have made a point of bringing the person who made the remark to book by insisting upon an exact definition of the term. In every single case within my own experience the exact definition – as I have been careful to point out – has been not insight, but instinct. Our mental processes, in short, are supposed to be on the same level as the mental process which starts the newly-hatched gosling on its waddle to the nearest pond. We are supposed to know what we want without knowing why we want it – just like the gosling, which does not make a bee-line for the water because it has carefully examined its feet, discovered that they are webbed, and drawn the inference that webbed feet are suitable for progress in water.

This question of the intuitive or instinctive powers of woman is one that has always interested me extremely; and as soon as I realized that my mind was supposed to work in a different way from a man’s mind, and that I was supposed to arrive at conclusions by a series of disconnected and frog-like jumps, I promptly set to work to discover if that was really the case by the simple expedient of examining the manner in which I did arrive at conclusions. ...  I can trace the progress of my thought, step by step, just as a man can trace his. I may reason wrongly, but I do not reason in hops. And I have yet to meet the woman who does. I have met many women who were in the habit of coming to conclusions that were altogether ridiculous and illogical; but they were conclusions – drawn from insufficient data – and not guesses. No sane human being regulates – or does not regulate – its life, as we are supposed to do, by a series of vague and uncontrolled guesses.

I imagine that the idea that women do so control their lives must have had its origin in the fact that men and women usually turn their mental energy into entirely different channels. On subjects that are familiar to us we think quickly, and acquire a mental dexterity akin to the manual dexterity of a skilled artisan. But the subjects upon which women exercise this mental dexterity are not, as a rule, the same as those upon which men exercise theirs; the latter have usually left narrow social and domestic matters alone, and it is in narrow social and domestic matters that we are accustomed to think quickly. We are swifter than they are, of course, at drawing the small inferences from which we judge what a man will like or dislike; but then, for generations the business of our lives has been to find out what a man will like or dislike, and it would be rather extraordinary if we had not, in the course of ages, acquired in it a measure of that rapid skill which in any other business would be called mechanical, but in ours is called intuitive.

This theory of intuition or instinct, then, I take, as I have already said, to be in the nature of a subterfuge on the part of the male – a sop to his conscience, and a plausible excuse for assuming that we have not the intelligence which (if it were once admitted that we possessed it) we should have the right to cultivate by independent thinking.

Taken with Rebecca West’s remark, this shows the prevalence of the idea in the early 20th century.

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Posted: 11 February 2018 06:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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An excellent quote; I will have to add Ms. Hamilton to my list of writers to investigate.  Thanks for posting it!

Now the word “intuition”, when used in connection with woman, conveys to the average male mind a meaning closely akin to that of the word instinct – as opposed to reason.

Nicely illustrated by the fact that the Russian equivalent is literally “female instinct.”

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