What does Sor Juana say about men, and who are the men she seems to admire in Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz had a good deal to say about men, and was obviously not shy about being extremely honest in the face of an age-old social hypocrisy:

In her poem Redondillas she...criticizes the sexism of the society of her time, poking fun at and revealing the hypocrisy of men who publicly condemn prostitutes, yet privately pay women to perform on them what they have just said is an abomination to God. Sor Juana asks the sharp question [regarding] the purity/whoredom split found in base male mentality: "Who sins more, she who sins for pay? Or he who pays for sin?"

The above quote refers to the idea that without men willing to pay prostitutes, there would be no prostitutes. However, while men were vilifying these "fallen women," they were also paying for the "pleasure of their company."

We know that Sor Juana had several proposals, which she declined; she admitted she had no interest in marriage. (We can thereby assume that a life of matrimony did not appeal as much as a life of pursuing knowledge.)

In one poem that she wrote, she criticized men. In summary:

From the first, her writing expressed her strong belief in the moral and intellectual equality of women and their right to an education. A famous quatrain accuses “Stupid men who accuse/ Women without any grounds,/ Without seeing that you are the cause/ Of the very thing that you blame.”

In this poem (much longer in its entirety), she accuses men for blaming women and making women the very creatures they then unfairly criticize.

At the same time, there are men we can assume she admired.

Perhaps the first man Sor Juana would have admired was her paternal grandfather, Pedro Ramirez, who was primarily responsible for raising her during her early years. (It was his library she "devoured" as a child.)

The viceroy in Mexico City in 1664, identified (in one source) as the Marquis de Mancera, wanted to test Sor Juana's knowledge among a widely notable group of intellectual men. I would think, based on what I have read of Sor Juana, that she would  have welcomed this challenge, and appreciated the Marquis' part in arranging it.

The Bishop of Puebla, Manuel Fernández de Santa Cruz was considered a friend for a long time, as they carried on correspondence. (However, he betrayed Sor Juana's trust by publishing a criticism of the sermon of a famous Jesuit scholar many years before—without her consent. It was published under the Bishop's pseudonym, and accompanied by a letter criticizing her for turning her back on matters of the church and spending too much time on worldly matters.) This "attack" was responsible for eliciting from Sor Juana perhaps her most noteworthy writing, "Respuesta a Sor Filotea," which some consider the first "feminine manifesto," in which she vigorously defended herself, and especially her writing.

Sor Juana’s famous response to him defended her right to an intellectual life, even as a woman and a nun.

 

Additional sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juana_Inés_de_la_Cruz

http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/271-the-remarkable-life-of-juana-inés-de-la-cruz-1651–1695

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