A Journal on Alberti’s “On the Family”

The misogyny present throughout this piece is palpable. When Lionardo says women are “soft,” and “slow” he chooses to treat the way women in this day were essentially forced to act (he later admits to women being “locked up at home”), as something dictated by nature, not by the constraints inflicted upon them by their society. The entire piece is filled with the idea that women are weak, gentle, and of a much lower class than men. This is obviously not surprising if the reader is familiar with the historical context, however, it is worth mentioning.
Throughout the piece, the importance of public perception of a man, or of his household, is well documented. Not only is what other men think of one highly important, even if one “does not mind being regarded as effeminate” is damning. Again, the importance of public perception is shown when Lionardo compliments Giannozzo on having a wife that “surpasses other women.” In this way, it is shown that women are considered to be something to “have” and reflect more about essentially their owners, their husbands, than about themselves. To have a “vigorous” wife is to be a man with his household, his property, in order.
This passage shows how a patriarchal, male dominated society negatively impacts women. Even the thought of a woman touching a book was something fear inspiring to these men. In spite of the fact that Lionardo’s wife could not read, even her having access to writing, or education, was dangerous. It literally acknowledges the fact that men infantilized their wives because the concept of them being intellectually stimulated was linked to the idea that it would harm men.
In spite of the fact that Lionardo and Giannozzo continue to push the idea that women are innately below men, that they are submissive, and essentially stupid, it is seen that the behavior of women is something that is instilled in them from an early age. Giannozzo’s wife is said to have been “taught to obey them” (her parents), and had been “ordered” to always obey her husband. It is interesting that the men of this passage try to establish a sense of equality, but only when it comes to matters of the home, saying that “this property, this family, and the children to be born to us will belong to us both,” however the power dynamic is clear in the way that the men are still giving instructions to the women even in the same paragraph that they discuss their partnership.