IN the following pages it is not intended to furnish a treatise on the evolution of woman generally or of her place in society, but simply to offer a criticism on the theory and practice of what is known as Modern Feminism.
By Modern Feminism I understand a certain attitude of mind towards the female sex. This attitude of mind is often self-contradictory and illogical. While on the one hand it will claim, on the ground of the intellectual and moral equality of women with men, the concession of female suffrage, and commonly, in addition thereto, the admission of women to all professions, offices and functions of public life; on the other it will strenuously champion the preservation and intensification of the privileges and immunities before the law, criminal and civil, in favour of women, which have grown up in the course of the nineteenth century.
The above attitude, with all its inconsistencies, has at its back a strong sex-conscious party, or sex union, as we may term it, among women, and a floating mass of inconsequent, slushy sentiment among men. There is more than one popular prejudice which obscures the meaning and significance of Modern Feminism with many people. There is a common theory, for instance, based upon what really obtained to some extent before the prevalence of Modern Feminism, that in any case of antagonism between the two sexes, women always take the man’s side against the woman. Now this theory, if it ever represented the true state of the case, has long ceased to do so.
The powerful female sex union spoken of, in the present day, exercises such a strong pressure in the formation of public opinion among women, that it is rapidly becoming next to impossible, even in the most flagrant cases, where man is the victim, to get any woman to acknowledge that another woman has committed a wrong. On the other hand it may be noted, that the entire absence of any consciousness of sex antagonism in the attitude of men towards women, combined with an intensification of the old-world chivalry prescribed by tradition towards the so-called weaker sex, exercises, if anything, an increasing sway over male public opinion. Hence the terrific force Feminism has obtained in the world of the early twentieth century.
It is again often supposed, and this is also a mistake, that in individual cases of dispute between the sexes, the verdict, let us say of a jury of men, in favour of the female prisoner or the female litigant is solely or even mainly determined by the fact of the latter’s good looks. This may indeed play a part; but it is easy to show from records of cases that it is a subordinate one – that, whatever her looks or her age may be, the verdict is given her not so much because she is a pretty woman as because she is a woman. Here again the question of attractiveness may have played a more potent part in determining male verdicts in the days before Feminist sentiment and Feminist views had reached their present dominance. But now the question of sex alone, of being a woman, is sufficient to determine judgment in her favour.
There is a trick with which votaries of Feminism seek to prejudice the public mind against its critics, and that is the “fake” that any man who ventures to criticise the pretensions of Feminism, is actuated by motives of personal rancour against the female sex, owing to real or imaginary wrongs suffered by him at the hands of some member or members of the sex. I suppose it may be possible that there are persons, not precisely microcephalous idiots, who could be made to believe such stuff as this in disparagement of him who ventures an independent judgment on these questions; otherwise the conduct of Feminists in adopting this line of argument would be incomprehensible. But we would fain believe that the number of these feebleminded persons, who believe there is any connection between a man having independent judgement enough to refuse to bend the knee to Modern Feminist dogma, and his having quarrelled with any or all of his female friends or relations, cannot be very numerous. As a matter of fact there is not one single prominent exponent of views hostile to the pretensions of what is called the “Woman’s Movement” of the present day, respecting whom there is a tittle of evidence of his not having lived all his life on the best of terms with his womankind. There is only one case known of indirectly by the present writer, and that not of a prominent writer or speaker on the subject, that would afford any plausible excuse whatever for alleging anti-Feminist views to have been influenced by personal motives of this kind. I am aware, of course, that Feminists, with their usual mendacity, have made lying statements to this effect respecting well-nigh every prominent writer on the anti-Feminist side, in the hope of influencing the aforesaid feeble-minded members of the public against their opponents. But a very little investigation suffices to show in every case the impudent baselessness of their allegations. The contemptible silliness of this method of controversy should render it unworthy of serious remark, and my only excuse for alluding to it is the significant sidelight it casts upon the intellectual calibre of those who resort to it, and of the confidence or want of confidence they have in the inherent justice of their cause and the logical strength of their case.