If Women Were as Good as Men They’d Be Better

I’m enchanted by writing that dances wittily with language, with meaning, and with critical thinking. It is one of the reasons why my reading affair with the works of Sir Terry Pratchett began the moment I finished delighting in Equal Rites.

Consider the title of this post as an example, taken from the first of Pratchett’s Witches novels: “if women were as good as men they’d be better!” Can you see the brilliance of the phrase? Not just the social implications contained within the statement, but also Pratchett’s delicious use of punctuation and all what can be deduced from his choices.

With one sentence, Pratchett tells a story true about his Discworld and about our society. As it is, the phrase can mean several things. I asked different people to write down what they believed the words wanted to say. Some wrote “if women were as good as men (then women would) be better”; others jotted down that “if women were as good as men (then men would) be better”; a guy and a girl got into an argument about commas, intent and subject-to-object proximity, which nearly ended in blows…

When I was asked my opinion, I said that considering that someone was repeating one of Granny Weatherwax’s philosophies, only the old Bad Ass witch could ever really know. When the glares began to heat up the room, I added, “I choose to believe that Equal Rites suggests that if women and men saw each other as equally valuable, then they (both women and men) would be better.”

Doesn’t it make sense? I think it does. In fact, the whole novel is about what a horrific place the world can become when one sex (or group of people) believes biology, geography, or mythological affiliation makes them better than those different from themselves.

Equal Rites “is also a story about sex, although probably not in the athletic, tumbling, count-the-legs-and-divide-by-two sense unless the characters get totally beyond the author’s control.” Also about edges, as in… “the modern wolves were the offspring of ancestors that had survived because they had learned that human meat had sharp edges.”

So, my Wicked Luvs, what do you think the title of this post says about men and women? And what are your thoughts on evolved wolves and sharply edged humans?

Equal Ritesdetail from the cover of Equal Rites, Transworld Digital edition

13 thoughts on “If Women Were as Good as Men They’d Be Better

  1. I think, given the small bit I know about Terry Pratchett and having read the rest of the book for context, your conclusion is the right one. It’s my favorite one in any case. I also think it’s wise to look for the edges of things, because you’re likely to fall off of or be cut by them if you don’t know they are there in the first place.

  2. Yes it makes sense–your interpretation–but I dislike the phrase because of the conditional “if” part of the statement. “As good as” starts a totally false assumption on a single scale. If we must use a single scale, it should start with”If men were as good as women,” but that is distorted too. So here is your both/and: Women and men are equal & Women and men are different. Extended, that would be: All women and men should have equal opportunity. And even these statements have too many holes in them to hold water.

    • I think it’s difficult to understand (or try to explain) the motifs of an entire book or world with one sentence. But using the rest of Pratchett’s work as context (especially Granny Weatherwax way of talking/thinking), I will say that I believe the irony of the whole thing is found in the fact that Granny, in all her talks of equality, doesn’t truly believe that men and women are equal. The same is true for the wizards in Pratchett’s world.

      I like what you suggest about “if” and “when”; I like it a lot. For when men and women (the world) stop fighting over who is better or worst or less or more… perhaps all of us will notice the real problems that eating us from within and without.

  3. Hmmmm…well I have always thought of men and women as equal…and to suggest either NEEDS to be “better” would feel both presumptuous and insulting….
    Bwahahahahaha….how schoolmomish did that sound? This wolf has never had any trouble with chewing sharp edges…. 😀 XXX

    • I agree completely. And I think that this would have made Pratchett giggle (and yes, my Knight Writer was quite the giggler); seriously, when it comes to presumptuousness and insulting, few can match our dear Granny Weatherwax–the old witch is a glorious terror! 😀

  4. Not having read the book yet, I can’t say what the author intended, but I was immediately annoyed by “if”. I have not read the disc world series yet. It’s at the top of my list for next splurge purchase.

    • I predict that you will love the Discworld. One of the things Terry Pratchett’s writing does best is poke the reader into noticing things that are really messed up. Like the “if” in question…

  5. I have been thinking recently humans are way not as evolved as we think we are. We have forgotten that as the dominant species it is important to take care of the weaker ones, not run them into extinction.

Leave a Comment