Ben Franklin was a genius of his time. A wizard of so many wonders he was a latter day Elon Musk.
Young Franklin worked for his older brother, James, publisher of The New-England Courant, a Boston based newspaper filled with moral and political virtues of the day. As one of America’s first successful circulations, The New-England Courant was the Twitter of the 1700’s. The paper’s mission was to endorse the singular vision of powerful men in the hierarchy of the New World.
Denied the opportunity to publish his thoughts, yet refusing to be censored, 17 year old Ben adopted the pseudonym, Silence Dogood. Silence became a popular contributor to the Courant. Like Elon in many ways, (s)he was a disrupter.
Presumed to be a middle-aged widow, past her prime, Silence’s musings were dismissed as the persnickety opinions of an old woman. Mrs. Dogood’s editorials challenged adherence to the monolithic status quo.
Her thought-provoking opinions were a catalyst of pop-culture conversations. The irony of Mrs, Dogood’s value became undeniable.
Dogood proclaimed “Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom, and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech.”
When James Franklin figured out he had been played by his younger brother, Ben was kicked out of the family business. Like Ben, Silence Dogood was censored in Boston.
Ben moved on to do-good in Philadelphia and around the world. He was a visionary for most of his 84 years. Credited with inventing many things, including the Franklin stove, the lightening rod, and bifocals he warmed, brightened and focused our world. He was a Founding Father of the University of Pennsylvania, and helped to organized the U.S.Postal Service. Instrumental in shaping our Nation, Franklin was a principle writer of the Declaration of Independence. Revered as an Ambassador to France, his Puritan upbringing informed his work-ethic and egalitarian philosophies.
In today’s parlance the dude had street-cred. People valued his insights. “Early to bed, earn to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”. “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” And, “a married life is a most satisfying life .”
Ben Franklin’s philosophical opinions were laced with personal hypocrisies. He admitted he aspired to be a gentleman, but explained, he wasn’t prefect. Ben was a perpetual playboy. In the morning he would ‘air-bathe’ nude in gardens. At night he was a wolf-in-silk knickers flirting his way into the charms of woman around the world.
Of Ben Franklin’s many accomplishments, he was also a myopic pillar of Man~Splaining.
In a letter titled “Advice to a Friend, On Choosing a Mistress” Ben Franklin Man~Splained how to manage lust.
His “How To” List included 8 MAN~splainations on the value of bedding a women past their prime:
- They are more knowledgeable conversationalists
- When women become less handsome, they study how to become of greater service and are the most useful of friends when you become sick.
- There’s no risk to pregnancy with older women, which would be attended with ‘much inconvenience ‘
- Because they are more experienced, older women are more discreet.
- All animals who walk drain their beauty from top down. ” The face is the first to go lank and wrinkled, then the neck, the breasts and arms. The lower parts continue to the last to be as plump as ever. The pleasure of corporal enjoyment with an older woman is at least equal and frequently superior.’
- The sin is less with an older woman. Debauching a virgin may be her ruin and make for an unhappy life.
- Making a young girl miserable may give you bitter reflections, none of which are attached to making an old woman happy.
- Lastly, old woman are so grateful!
The letter of misogynistic instruction was dated June 25th,1745. Considered scandalous by 19th century standards, Ben’s note was deleted when Franklin’s historic papers were published as a collection. In the 20th century, the decision to censor his thoughts were reversed when obscenity laws were updated.
As we celebrate Woman’s History Month it’s important to learn from the past, recognize the timeless virtue of free-speech, and remember the value of a women, at any age, is her agency. Although Man~Splaining is part of history, it doesn’t require a lightening bolt to see sometimes even genius’ are myopic.