Benjamin Franklin Vs. The Modern Woman
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Benjamin Franklin Vs. The Modern Woman

When virtues from the 1700s just don't apply anymore.

Benjamin Franklin Vs. The Modern Woman
Discovery History

I have embarked on an incredible task: To model my behaviors in accordance with Benjamin Franklin’s ideas of moral virtue. There are 13 virtues according to good ol' Ben Frank, as he enumerates in his autobiography (I'd link it, but it is not a fun read). They are as follows:

  1. Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order: Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality: Make no expense but to good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing.
  6. Industry: Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
  8. Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation: Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity: Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility: Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

Before recording my failures at following these dictates, I would like to point out a few inevitable failures. I will enumerate them to match the virtue they are in discordance with:

  1. I love to eat, but cannot drink. I imagine this evens out, yes? So long as I am only guilty of one. However, I imagine Benjamin Franklin would find a woman that does either of these things repulsive.
  2. I imagine Ben Franklin would find most of my conversation trifling. A slave-owner likely does not find discussions on intersectionality particularly appealing or worthwhile. A man whose wife was illiterate also would not find my views on feminism and gender particularly empowering. I’d love to argue with Ben Frank for a bit, but I would likely be written off as overwhelmingly trifling.
  3. My business, as a woman, is usually considered to be keeping things clean. My house, however, is a mess. I am a student and also work part time. Any cleaning I can do is done between other tasks. I read while throwing clothes in the laundry. I write haphazard notes while filing papers. If it cannot be done with one hand, it is left undone.
  4. I don’t see any issues with this one. Don’t back out of responsibilities. Seem like a solid foundation of how to live.
  5. What would Ben Franklin qualify as wasteful? I think of myself as much more wasteful than I should be, but the construction of our capitalist society makes it more difficult. Interesting to think about the changing definition of wastefulness.
  6. I am, again, female. Many of my actions must be unnecessary, since many of them involve advocating for rights and providing care to others. In my definition, these are my worthiest actions. Fairly sure Ben Franklin would not agree.
  7. I think I got this. I am not a particularly loud person, and avoid hurtful language at all costs. Perhaps Ben Franklin would find my thoughts sinful, again, since I am a girl. Particularly because my closest friend in Bozeman works at Erotique. Maybe I don’t got this.
  8. I’m an activist, so I would hope that I am just. I would argue that Ben Franklin does not embody this virtue much.
  9. “Forbear resenting injuries.” Like the ones the patriarchy Ben Franklin built have placed upon me? I am resentful, but I think it is deserved.
  10. See number 3. Is there much difference?
  11. I imagine that much of what disturbs me are trifles according to Ben Frank. Like number 2.
  12. This is not a problem, though it is a societal one. Rape culture, of course. Good to know Ben Franklin would look down on it.
  13. Ben Franklin is attempting humility by imitating two of the most respected figures in history? That’s… very humble of him. Of course, this is impossible for me to do properly. Socrates and Jesus, as well as Ben Franklin, are all men. As are most historical figures worth looking up to, at least so I am told.

Now that that is done, allow me to begin my tables of sin.

The first day of reading Ben Franklin’s autobiography:

  1. I slept in to excess. I also ate to excess.
  2. I criticized Ben Franklin’s autobiography for being sexist and racist.
  3. I did not put my laundry away, nor my coat, shoes, books. I left the dishes undone.
  4. I slept through my first class this morning.
  5. I bought lunch for myself, expensively on campus, instead of packing one from home, which would be much cheaper.
  6. I wasted time reading articles about feminism on Facebook, instead of reading all of the materials I should have for classes.
  7. I’m not sure if my thoughts ever qualify as innocent.
  8. No issues here.
  9. Got angry about anti-feminism, homophobia and transphobia. This is an everyday thing.
  10. I have my period. I think that is the opposite of personal cleanliness. Particularly to Ben Franklin.
  11. Being on Facebook is the practice of being disturbed by trifles.
  12. No issues here.
  13. … I am as deeply unlike Jesus and Socrates as I think is possible. Perhaps Mary and Sappho instead? If so, no immaculate births yet (thank God), and I haven’t written poems about young ladies I'm into today.

The second day of reading Ben Frank’s autobiography:

  1. I ate to excess. Again.
  2. I criticized Ben Frank’s autobiography for being sexist and racist. Again.
  3. House is in the same state, if not slightly worse, than yesterday. I did fold some laundry. It hardly made a dent.
  4. No issues here.
  5. No issues here.
  6. I was amazingly productive, so no issues here either.
  7. Same problem as before.
  8. Still no issues.
  9. Got angry about anti-feminism, homophobia and transphobia. Definitely an everyday thing.
  10. Still have period. Sorry Ben Franklin. They last a bit.
  11. Didn’t go on Facebook, but was bothered by a comment made in one of my classes.
  12. No issues here.
  13. Still no lesbian poetry. I’ll have to work on that. Still not pregnant with the child of God. Pretty sure I shouldn’t hold out for that.

The last day of reading Ben Frank’s autobiography:
(I think he’d be into all of my lists.)

  1. Still eating to excess.
  2. Didn’t openly criticize Ben Franklin’s autobiography today, but thought much criticism.
  3. … Not as much change as I would hope for a weekend. Did a couple loads of laundry and a load of dishes. Folded some. Not enough to make the house presentable.
  4. Was late turning in an assignment, due to my grandmother’s funeral being the just-passed weekend. I felt awful for missing my deadlines.
  5. I gave a homeless man $60 while in Seattle for the funeral. Not sure if Ben Franklin would class this as well done or not. The homeless man had paint thrown on him by some UW frat boys. I wanted to help him at least with that. I hope Ben Franklin would approve.
  6. I spent a lot of time crying, which is not very productive of me.
  7. Still not sure if my thoughts are considered pure.
  8. I felt just in helping the homeless man and fighting off the frat boys. Would Ben Franklin feel the same?
  9. Got angry about anti-feminism, homophobia and transphobia. Additionally, how we treat the homeless. I should do something about that and work on being more empathetic toward it. After all, it can happen to any of us. There is not much dividing myself and them.
  10. Period gone, but now am perpetually tear-streaked. I’m afraid my womanliness makes this impossible.
  11. Is caring about the wellbeing of others a trifle?
  12. No issues.
  13. Didn’t have time for lesbian poetry or immaculate pregnancies. I fear I am a failure at humility.

    Clearly, I am not a virtuous young man. Even if I was not a woman, unclean by nature, I would not be worth of manhood. Luckily, that has never been my goal. Thank you Ben Frank, but I think I will devise my own list of virtues:
  1. Be aware of your own consumption. Ensure it is for your well being, not because of addiction. Do not feel guilty, but slowly ease yourself into better habits that fit the lifestyle you want.
  2. Ensure your voice is heard, but also ensure it is not at the expense of other voices. Be thoughtful and kind, but do not avoid constructive criticism. Discussion is how experiences are shared.
  3. Try to keep your living spaces in a state amenable to your mental health and ability. Do not feel guilty, but slowly ease yourself into better habits that fit the lifestyle you want.
  4. Follow through on your responsibilities and commitments. If it is unavoidable, respectfully inform those who may be affected.
  5. Live within your means and capitalize on opportunities to help others -- if you possibly can.
  6. Be productive, but do not do so to the detriment of your own health and ability.
  7. Be kind, respectful and tolerant of others. Even if you disagree.
  8. Try to reaffirm the concept of fairness in your own life. Frequently, our world is unfair. Try to work against that.
  9. Work to correct injuries, both those you have inflicted, and those inflicted upon you.
  10. Have good hygiene and be generally presentable. That’s enough.
  11. Try to approach problems with calm and understanding. It is ok to have feelings and be angry, but try to make it productive rather than destructive.
  12. Don’t rape people. Always ensure you have enthusiastic consent.
  13. Imitate those you feel are worth imitation. For me that may be Will Smith or Audre Lorde, for you it may be entirely different. The values we find most important are reflected in those we admire.
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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