The Nobility and Excellence of Women, and the Defects and Vices and Men is Lucrezia Marinella’s 1600 response to an essay published the year previous year by Giuseppe Passi. That essay, The Defects of Women, outlined in a particularly misogynistic and, unfortunately for its author, not particularly well-reasoned manner all the various pieces of evidence pointing to the conclusion that women are comprehensively and irrefutably inferior to men.
As the kids of today like to say, Giuseppe Passi didn't realize it at the time, but he was about to get schooled by Lucrezia Marinella.
Righteously outraged not less by the content of the Passi’s diatribe than by the near-total absence of rational and logical reasoning informing that content, Marinella almost immediately after reading The Defects of Women sat down to compose her response. Showcasing a brilliant mind which disproved and refuted the basic premise from which Passi started, Marinella adopted the tactic of mirroring Passi’s developmental strategy
Her essay begins by adopting Passi’s contention that the very etymological roots of the word “woman” proves the inferiority of their gender. It is difficult to tell whether Marinella actually lends any credence to what is essentially a spurious claim for evidence at best, but the genius of her response is that she takes it as seriously as Passi and surpasses him in locating etymological evidence that not only undoes his arguments, but proves her own research into the issue is more analytical and fact-based. The entire point of the section seems to be less about etymology than laying own a foundation proving her approach is going to be intellectually informed rather than emotionally-formed. The irony of such a reversal could not possibly be lost on the attentive reader and almost certainly must have been particularly stinging for the author whose argument on the inferiority of women is based to a large degree upon the inferiority of their placing passion over perception.
Not content merely launch a grenade that explodes Passi’s overwrought arguments that women are a more defective construct of God than men, the latter part of Marinella’s response proceeds to launch an all-out nuclear offensive against the defects of men. She systematically lays out her evidence showcasing the negative traits more prominent in men that reveals them to be more defective than women. Among the traits Marinella argues exist more wholly as driving forces among men are obstinate stubbornness, a whole lack of faithfulness, a resistance to obligation and, perhaps most biting of all, a trend toward effeminacy not peculiar to women.
The Nobility and Excellence of Women, and the Defects and Vices and Men quickly disappeared following the death of its author and remained a relatively obscure entry in the history of feminist writing until the feminist movement gained ground in the 1970’s when its rediscovery brought it back fully to its place of good standing within that literary history.