What is Higgins implying about gender relations in this quote from Pygmalion?

Well, I haven't. I find that the moment I let a woman make friends with me, she becomes jealous, exacting, suspicious, and a damned nuisance. I find that the moment I let myself make friends with a woman, I become selfish and tyrannical. Women upset everything. When you let them into your life, you find that the woman is driving at one thing and you're driving at another . . . Lord knows! I suppose the woman wants to live her own life; and the man wants to live his; and each tries to drag the other on to the wrong track.

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Henry Higgins isn't quite the misogynist we think he is. Neither is George Bernard Shaw, the writer of Pygmalion, even though Higgins seems at times to be speaking with Shaw's voice.

Shaw was a democratic socialist, and he wrote his plays as social and political commentary, not for...

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entertainment.Pygmalion, for example, deals with the rigid class structure of British society and is only incidentally about womens' rights.

Shaw was pro-women and supported equal rights and the suffragette movement, although at first glance Higgins's lines would seem to contradict that.

Shaw believed that women were no less the unwilling victims of a male capitalist society than the people of Britain as a whole, that marriage for financial security was simply a legalized form of prostitution, and that the conventional family was an artificial institution designed to reduce woman to the level of a possession—which is very much how Higgins first perceives and treats Eliza Doolittle.

At the point in the play from which these lines are taken, Higgins has offered to train Eliza (in her words) "to be a lady in a flower shop 'stead of selling at the corner of Tottenham Court Road," and the housekeeper, Mrs. Pearce, has taken Eliza off to have a bath—with "Monkey Brand," says Higgins, "if it won't come off any other way" (Monkey Brand soap was a highly abrasive soap used for household cleaning, not as a bath soap). Higgins is treating Eliza as a possession that he can do with as he chooses.

Higgins's views about women change significantly by the end of the play, however, and Eliza helps him to change, which is one of the themes of the play.

By teaching Eliza to be "a lady in a shop," Higgins wants to demonstrate that class distinction is merely a matter of talking and dressing according to society's standards and that the imposed class structure has nothing to do with the actual character of the person relegated either to a low or high standing, which he perceives as little more than a matter of chance. For Higgins, teaching Eliza how to be "a lady in a shop" is simply an exercise to prove how great he is at teaching people how to speak and act correctly in society. For Shaw, this same exercise serves to send a message about class distinction and the inequality of the sexes.

With this in mind, Higgins's little tirade about women —and equally about men, although the underlying sense of equality is lost in the rhetoric—is Shaw's attempt to show his audience that men and woman ought to be treated equally, and that neither sex should strive to dominate the other—either in society or in their own private relationships.

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The unmarried Henry Higgins here makes a radical claim: women and men shouldn't become friends because they are, by nature, incapable of getting along. The woman "is driving at one thing," the man at "another."  In his experience, the price of such a friendship outweighs the benefits. The woman becomes jealous (possessive) and wants too much (is too exacting). On the other hand, Higgins recognizes that he himself also become difficult: he wants to rule the woman (he becomes a tyrant) and he expects everything in the relationship to be about him (selfishness). This causes a battle of the wills as each friend tries to "drag" the other on to his or her own path.

In this statement, Higgins reveals that he sees male/female relationships as a battleground, with each person trying to "win." It is either his way or her way. In this view, there is no compromise, no middle ground, no one track the man and woman might travel together. We understand from this that Higgins is a rigid individual who has no "give." He's not interested in mutuality. This helps explain his domineering and rude behavior towards Eliza while he is teaching her to speak and act like a lady: he can't bear to let her "win" or get the upper hand. It also explains why he casts her out at the end: he sees a friendship or relationship with her as impossible. We can condemn him for his self-centered coldness or pity him for his inability to form relationships.

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