Preface

THE LEGAL SUBJECTION OF MEN (1908)

Preface To New Edition.

I HAVE been usually credited with being the chief author of the following brochure. Such, however, is not the case. “The Legal Subjection of Men” is in great part the work of an Irish barrister and LL.D. of Dublin, who died a few years ago. That portions here and there are from my pen is true, but for the bulk of the pamphlet I am not directly responsible, as any expert in literary style will probably detect. I mention the circumstance in writing the few words of preface for the new edition asked of me by the publishers, not with a view to any disclaimer, but simply in the interests of literary truth and accuracy. For though, as stated, only myself directly responsible for short sections, I none the less, in the main, heartily endorse the whole. The present edition has been carefully corrected and the Law brought up to date, though the illustrative cases necessarily remain as in the original edition. There have been few agitations in history which have been characterised by such hard lying and shameless perversion of fact as the so-called “Woman’s Movement.” Unfortunately, continually-reiterated assertions in direct contravention with the real state of the case have only too well succeeded. The public mind has been bull-dozed into assuming the reverse of what actually obtains to represent the truth, and has sympathised and given effect to its sympathies on the basis of these false representations. I need scarcely say that the advocates of “Woman’s Rights” and female suffrage, whose whole credit is based upon the tissue of falsehood it is the mission of this little work to expose, have done their best to boycott and ignore the exposure. All honour then to the Twentieth Century Press for originally publishing, and to the New Age Press for having the courage to risk offending certain sections of “advanced” opinion by reprinting, the following unvarnished statement of Law and fact.

E. Belfort Bax.

Preface

IT seemed to the authors of the following pamphlet that the time had fairly come for confronting the false assumptions underlying the conventional whining cant of the Feminist advocate with a plain and unvarnished statement of Law and fact. The “Woman’s rights” (?) agitator has succeeded by a system of sheer impudent, brazen, “bluff,” alternately of the whimpering and the shrieking order, in inducing a credulous public to believe that in some mysterious way the female sex is groaning under the weight of the tyranny of him whom they are pleased to term “man the brute.” The facts show these individuals to be right in one point and only one, namely, that sex-injustice and sex-inequality exist; for it so happens that the facts further show the said injustice and inequality to exist wholly and solely in favour of women as against men. In short, they disclose a state of things in which, down to the minutest detail of law and administration, civil and criminal, women are iniquitously privileged at the expense of men. As it is, many an unhappy male victim of modern sex-prerogative would doubtless be only delighted to be allowed to partake of a little of the oppression under which he is told unfortunate Woman is groaning, but from any share in which he sees himself to his detriment excluded. Mr. Hardcastle [1] found his guest’s new-fashioned shyness bore a strong resemblance to old-fashioned impudence, and our male victim of pro-feminist laws and tribunals may well he excused for failing to distinguish between this new-fashioned oppression and old-fashioned domination. In conclusion, we would advise the Feminist guild ignore our pamphlet with its tale of infamy. It is their only chance of gulling their sentimental dupes any longer. Let the latter once know of our sketch, and their game is up. For those who have read it, and a retain the vestiges of open mind on the subject, the maundering [grumbling] farce of “down-trodden woman and the brute man” will be played out.

[1] A character in “She Stoops To Conquer” by Oliver Goldsmith, 1773.

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The Problem of Modern Feminism (1912)

We may trace the origin of modern Feminism in a fairly continuous line back to the eighteenth century – to protagonists in revolutionary and pre-revolutionary literature – notably to Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. From that time onward the Feminist question has always been present, though it only became prominent during the second half of the nineteenth century.

It was about the end of the sixties that the Woman’s Suffrage plank first made its appearance in the modern Socialist movement, in the original International at the instance of Michael Bakounin and his followers, and was one of the few proposals emanating from that quarter that was accepted by the Marx party. But for a long time the question remained in the background, being hardly referred to at all in the earlier programmes of the Continental parties. In fact, in the German party the “Woman Question,” as apart from the general Social question, first received serious attention in 1883 in Bebel’s book, the first edition of which was issued under the title of Woman in the Past, Present, and Future contained very much Woman and very little Socialism. (In the later editions, under the title Woman and Socialism, it is only fair to say, the proportions have been altered.) In this work, Bebel, who virtually admits in his preface that the bulk of the party at that time was against him, maintained the dogma of the equal capacity of woman with man, with its corollary, the right of women to occupy all positions and exercise all functions hitherto controlled by men. In France, Lafargue was active on the Feminist side during the early eighties.

Since then the Feminist dogma has found much favour with Socialists everywhere, and the demand for Female Suffrage has been officially embodied among the planks in the immediate political platform of the Social Democratic party. At the same time, it has been sought to exercise a pressure within the party to prevent dissentient Social Democrats from expressing an adverse opinion.

Time was when Manhood Suffrage was the cry of all Democrats, and there are, doubtless, plenty of Social Democrats to-day who would be glad enough, if they did but dare, to take their stand on the old Suffrage platform, which was good enough for Chartists and earlier Socialists.

The fact is, of course, this sex question cuts athwart other issues. Hence it is that the conventional bourgeois, unwilling as he is to admit the sins of his class towards the proletariat, is often perfectly ready to smite his manly breast and deplore the assumed harshness of his own to the opposite sex. There is no logical reason for Socialism specially championing the position of modern Feminism. That Socialism must bring about changes in the position of women may be allowed, but the special direction of these changes must be the coefficient of the permanent physiological structure and functions of the female sex, with the new economic conditions and the resultant new social forces. To dogmatise on the future as to the precise nature of these changes at the present stage is eminently unscientific.

Let us take the practical issue of the Suffrage. People commonly talk as if the franchise was an end in itself rather than what it is, simply a means to other ends. But Feminists and Suffragists know very well for what purpose they want the franchise. They intend to use their new weapon to give a further edge to what may be termed anti-man legislation. They rightly think that this class of law-making which they have been so successful in promoting indirectly for a generation past, they will in future, with the leverage of the vote, be able to promote directly with a still greater success. This is what lies behind all protestations of sex equality and the like. The equality desired is the species of equality the chief characteristic of which is to be “all on one side.”

At the same time, some of the arguments adduced against Female Suffrage do not strike me in themselves as altogether conclusive. For example, it cannot be denied that the argument as to the sphere of women being the home, though undoubtedly true in the past, and though containing more truth to-day than the average Feminist would admit, has undoubtedly lost some of its force owing to the changed economic conditions of the present time. Then, again, I have heard it argued that contact with the rough and tumble of political life, with its intrigue, ambitions, sordid rivalries, etc., would defile the pure spirit of womanhood. Well, here again I do not think the argument is altogether convincing, since the rabid Feminist might insist that the pet sex would, on the contrary, infuse an elevating spirit into public life, that a whiff of the breath of Womanhood (with a capital W) would act like magic in disinfecting political life and raising it to a uniform level of pure disinterested virtue. And although we may be personally quite convinced that such would not be the case, yet, seeing that the experiment has not yet been tried on any large scale or for any considerable length of time, it might not be easy to prove our conviction to anyone choosing to affirm the contrary.

Now the foregoing and some other arguments are put forward, I think, by many men with the unconscious desire to avoid acknowledging the real ground of their objections to Female Suffrage. They don’t like to state this ground straight out. Some, if hard pressed, will try to shuffle out of admitting it, perhaps even to themselves. But their secret conviction is that women, as a sex, are organically inferior to men, not only physically, but intellectually and morally as well, and hence not fit to be trusted promiscuously (i.e. barring exceptions) with political power. Now, no man likes to say this, because it sounds rude and arrogant to “the ladies,” even though the evidence, physiological, psychological, historical, and common observational for his conviction, is conclusive for him. In my essay on Female Suffrage and its Implications, I have briefly indicated some of the main heads of this evidence and do not propose to enter into it again here. But I must insist on the fact that for me (barring one other reason which, though decisive for the moment, is not of a fundamental nature, and which I shall refer to directly) there seems no logical ground for opposition to the granting of the franchise to women save the recognition of inferiority, at least, an inferiority ad hoc. If one acknowledges complete equality in capacity between men and women, the case for the Suffrage seems to me, in itself, unanswerable.

I have said in itself, since, as things are at present in this and most other countries, even if the capacity for political and administrative judgment were conceded, there is another ground on which, so long as it obtains, it would be just to refuse women the franchise. And this ground is the fact that women at present constitute an almost boundlessly privileged section of the community. A woman may, in the present day, do practically what she likes without fear of anything happening to her beyond a nominal punishment. The English marriage laws, with their right of the wife to maintenance, give her almost unlimited power to oppress her husband. (See a case reported in detail, with names and witnesses, etc., in John Bull for September 19, 1908.)

Not very long ago a case occurred in the north of England where a workman, out of employment, was about to be committed to prison at his wife’s behest for omitting to pay her the weekly allowance ordered by the court. Exasperated, the poor fellow struck his tyrant a fatal blow – hanged! About the same time a wife, during an admittedly trifling tiff with her husband, stabbed him fatally with a hatpin – released on her recognisances. These two cases are typical. It is this practical immunity of women from all consequences for their actions upon which the crew of Suffragists traded. Had they been liable to one quarter of the penalties men incur they would have “thought” a good many times before inciting to raid the House of Commons or to commit other breaches of the law. As it is, they knew the worst they had to fear was a short term of pampered imprisonment. Male Socialists have had to go to prison, not for trying to raid the House of Commons, but for merely breaking some local bye-law while maintaining the right of free speech.

Do not let us forget that the women who are loudest in bawling for the Suffrage do so on the ground that they are not sufficiently privileged already, and that, as we have said, to obtain the supremacy over men, the savagely vindictive laws against men and complete immunity for women they consider their due, they require the leverage the vote will give them. Under the circumstances one would like to examine with a very strong electric light the intellects of those persons who profess to believe in equality between the sexes, and who yet, as things are to-day, can advocate Female Suffrage. Their idea of equality is, I suppose, “All yours is mine and all mine’s my own.” No military service for women, and yet they shall dictate war or peace! No corporal punishment for them, and yet they shall decide on the maintenance of corporal punishment for men in prisons, etc.! No liability to maintain husband or children, and yet the right to decree laws relating to marriage; and many more such anomalies. For – let us make no mistake – no Feminist has the smallest intention of abandoning any one of the existing privileges of women. On the contrary, the intention of increasing the power and privileges of the sex is expressly declared without any subterfuge. And be it remembered the “adult suffrage” so much advocated by Socialists means an excess of a million female over male votes so far as Great Britain is concerned.

Socialist bodies proclaim “social and economic equality between the sexes” as one of their aims. Now, as a “stepping stone” towards this end, I would suggest to the advocates of sex equality (from the standpoint of our present society), besides equal wages for equal work, which we are all able to agree to, (1) obligation of wife to maintain herself, also her husband if sick, and to contribute something to the maintenance of the children of the marriage; and further (2) equal punishment for equal crime as between men and women; and (3) abolition of all laws (e.g.the law as regards libel and slander) favouring women at the expense of men; and (4) the liability of women to all duties imposed on men. I can imagine the sort of wry face the Feminists would make at the bare suggestion of these equitable demands. Otherwise, I would suggest that wherever “social and economic equality” between the sexes is proposed a note should be added that (to borrow a phrase from the famous Rule in Shelley’s case) the words be taken as “words of limitation,” in short, that the term equality is to be understood in a non-natural sense as implying all the kicks for the brute man and all the halfpence for the angel woman. Otherwise unsophisticated comrades might be disposed to take it in a natural sense, which would involve a grievous misconception.

Now, speaking as a plain man, surely it would be unjust, quite apart from any question of intrinsic suitability, for women to possess the Suffrage until something like the conditions I have before formulated obtain. If others think that giving an already privileged order of human beings the franchise spells equality, I do not.

But supposing the present balance of inequality in favour of women were remedied, there would then remain solely the question of the average inferiority of women. Now here I must again point out that the exercise of the vote is mainly a means to an end – the progress and well-being of society. Hence, if women on the average show an inferiority all round to men, or even an inferiority in the power of practical and equitable judgment in public affairs, then there is no injustice in refusing them “in the bulk” the right of interfering in these matters, where they are ex hypothesi less competent than men. Here we have to deal with a question of fact and evidence. For those who, like myself, regard the evidence for the inferiority as conclusive, there is no possible alternative to opposition to a disintegrative force such as can only be harmful to progress. To discuss the question as to the nature of the evidence would take us outside the immediate purpose of this chapter, but I deny that those to whom the evidence for incapacity appears conclusive can consistently be otherwise than opponents of Female Suffrage in all its forms. For to favour it in the teeth of such a conviction would mean sacrificing the interests of society to a barren abstraction, to wit, the abstract right to exercise a function whether fitted for it or not. And to this no one who really values progress ought surely to be prepared to consent.

The Feminism of modern public opinion, which is reflected in recent statutes and judicial decisions and in the administration of law generally, has been very persistently and very subtly fostered for more than a generation past. The Feminist attitude of public opinion has been sedulously cultivated not only by journalism but by modern literature and art, especially such as is of a popular character. The aim has been to portray Man as an ignoble, mean creature, as a foil to the courage, resource, and gentle virtues of Woman. Who has not seen a well-known picture representing the Thames Embankment at night, and the “unfortunate,” possessed of an improbably angelic face, being taken from the river, with the gentleman and lady in evening dress, who have just got out of the cab, in the foreground, the gentleman with ostentatious callousness – brute that he is! – turning away and lighting a cigarette, and the lady – gentle creature! – bending over the dripping form and throwing up her arms in sympathetic horror? It is by claptrap of this sort, both literary and artistic, that sentimental Feminism is both evoked and nourished. Some time ago I received a provincial Socialist paper (I.L.P.) which contained a feuilleton consisting of the story of a woman who had killed her baby and died after a few weeks in prison – the moral being apparently the monstrous wickedness of imprisoning such women at all, rather than rewarding them with a comfortable pension for life. There are well-known writers I could name who seem to take peculiar pleasure in painting their own sex in an abject light by way of pandering to current Feminist prejudices.

The result of all this nurture of the public mind in Feminist sentiment is everywhere noticeable. An influential section of public opinion has come to regard it as axiomatic that women are capable of everything of which men are capable, and therefore they ought to have full responsibility in all honourable and lucrative functions and callings. There is only one thing for which unlimited allowance ought to be made on the ground of their womanly inferiority, otherwise so strenuously denied, and that is their own criminal or tortuous acts! In a word, they are not to be held responsible, in the sense that men are, for their own actions when these entail unpleasant consequences for themselves. On the contrary, the obloquy and, where possible, the penalty for the wrong-doing is to be shifted on to the nearest wretched man with whom they have consorted. I cannot quote unlimited cases, but, by way of illustration, I will mention two that occur to me at the moment of writing.

A few years ago a woman deliberately shot at and wounded a solicitor (a married man) with whom she had had relations. The act was so premeditated that it came out in evidence she had been practising shooting with the revolver for days beforehand. There was, moreover, no question of a child in the case, and not even one of financial embarrassment, as she was in receipt of a quarterly allowance under a trust. Hence the case presented itself as a cold-blooded one of attempted murder without a single circumstance of extenuation. The woman was sentenced to the very lenient penalty of seven years’ penal servitude. (Had a man attempted to murder in this way a jilting mistress he would have received, without doubt, twenty years at least, if not a life sentence.) Now it seems incredible, but it is a fact, that a campaign was immediately started throughout the whole of the press, largely by “advanced” women and male Feminists, in favour of this dastardly female criminal, who only fell short of being a murderess by accident! The second case is that of Daisy Lord three or four years ago. To read the gush on that occasion one might have thought that the murder of new-born children represented the highest ideal of motherhood. This Daisy Lord became for the nonce a kind of pinchbeck Madonna in the eyes of the Feminist public. Such women as the above ought, of course, to have equal voting rights with men, but equal consequences for their actions – oh dear, no! If there is one demand which is popular with the Feminists, it is for raising the age of consent from sixteen to eighteen or twenty-one years, at which latter age, presumably, the right to the Franchise, if conceded, would come into operation. They are therefore evidently of opinion that the woman who has only just ceased to need the protection of the law in the control of her own body becomes immediately fully qualified to have a voice in the management of public affairs! The extent to which Feminist sentiment can fling justice to the winds in these days is shown by the savage demand, in cases of infant murder, for vicarious vengeance on one who, as regards the offence in question, is wholly innocent – to wit, on that vile and obnoxious creature, “the man.”

The way in which the modern Feminist is dead to every sense of equity in the relations of the sexes as regards elementary fairness to the man’s side of the sexual equation, is illustrated by such documents as Lady Maclaren’s Woman’s Charter. One of the demands it contains is that “no married woman should be bound to accept a foreign domicile.” This is delightful! A poor man cannot get work in this country and has to take a position abroad. At her sweet whim his wife may live apart from him as a single woman and compel him to keep her all the same! Here we have a splendid example of “woman’s right” to treat man as a slave! Suggestions of this sort, be it remembered, come from those who indignantly repudiate any desire for female privilege.

As regards this point of the protestations of zeal for equality between the sexes, when specially challenged, I would suggest to the Feminist advocate, male or female, that it would not be amiss if this zeal for sex equality ceased to assume the form of concocting bogus grievances on the woman’s side, and occasionally, at least, took shape in protests against modern one-sided sex legislation, and the favouritism uniformly shown to women in the courts, civil and criminal. To this might be added a self-denying ordinance by which advanced ladies should agitate for the abolition of reserved seats for “ladies only” in the British Museum reading room, reserved compartments in railway carriages, etc. The New York elevated railway has, I read, begun to reserve whole carriages for women, from which men are rigidly excluded, no matter how full the train may be otherwise. For be it remembered that though all men are forbidden access to female reserves, women in these cases, as a rule, have the run of all available space, there being usually no male reserves. Were they to act thus, the advocates of Feminism would at least give an earnest of their sincerity in the matter of sex equality, which at present assumes such a questionable shape in their agitation and discourses.

 
Source: The Problem of Modern Feminism. Chapter VIII of Problems of Mind and Morals. Grant Richards, London 1912. Reprinted by Grant Richards, London 1920.

Bax on ‘Sentimental Feminism’ and ‘Political Feminism’

SuffrageLR

In the following quotes Bax describes ‘Sentimental Feminism’ and ‘Political Feminism’, a distinction having striking similarities to Naomi Wolf’s ‘Victim Feminism’ and ‘Power Feminism’ (coined 80 years after Bax). The main difference is that where Wolf sees Power Feminism as positive and Victim Feminism as negative, Bax described, convincingly, that both polarities of feminism acted corruptly.

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“Modern Feminism rose slowly above the horizon. Modern Feminism has two distinct sides to it: (1) an articulate political and economic side embracing demands for so-called rights; and (2) a sentimental side which insists in an accentuation of the privileges and immunities which have grown up, not articulately or as the result of definite demands, but as the consequence of sentimental pleading in particular cases. In this way, however, a public opinion became established, finding expression in a sex favouritism in the law and even still more in its administration, in favour of women as against men.

These two sides of Modern Feminism are not necessarily combined in the same person. One may, for example, find opponents of female suffrage who are strong advocates of sentimental favouritism towards women in matters of law and its administration. On the other hand you may find, though this is more rare, strong advocates of political and other rights for the female sex, who sincerely deprecate the present inequality of the law in favour of women. As a rule, however, the two sides go together, the vast bulk of the advocates of “Women’s Rights” being equally keen on the retention and extension of women’s privileges. Indeed, it would seem as though the main object of the bulk of the advocates of the “Woman’s Movement” was to convert the female sex into the position of a dominant sexe noblesse. The two sides of Feminism have advanced hand in hand for the last two generations, though it was the purely sentimental side that first appeared as a factor in public opinion.”
The Fraud of Feminism – Chapter I: Historical (1913)

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“Up to this time (the close of the eighteenth century) no advance whatever had been made by legislation in recognising the modern theory of sex quality. The claims of women and their apologists for entering upon the functions of men, political, social or otherwise, although put forward from time to time by isolated individuals, received little countenance from public opinion, and still less from the law. What I have called, however, the sentimental aspect of Modern Feminism undoubtedly did make some headway in public opinion by the end of the eighteenth century, and grew in volume during the early years of the nineteenth century. It effectuated in the Act passed in 1820 by the English Parliament abolishing the punishment of flogging for female criminals. This was the first beginning of the differentiation of the sexes in the matter of the criminal law. The parliamentary debate on the Bill in question shows clearly enough the power that Sentimental [1] Feminism had acquired in public opinion in the course of a generation, for no proposal was made at the same time to abolish the punishment of flogging so far as men were concerned. Up to this time the criminal law of England, as of other countries, made no distinction whatever between the sexes in the matter of crime and punishment, or at least no distinction based on the principle or sentiment of sex privilege. (A slight exception might be made, perhaps, in the crime of “petty treason,” which distinguished the murder of a husband by his wife from other cases of homicide.) But from this time forward, legislation and administration have diverged farther and farther from the principle of sex equality in this connection in favour of female immunity, the result being that at the present day, assuming the punishment meted out to the woman for a given crime to represent a normal penalty, the man receives an additional increment over and above that accorded to the crime, for the offence of having been born a man and not a woman.

[1] I should explain that I attach a distinct meaning to the word sentimental; as used by me it does not signify, as it does with most people, an excess of sentiment over and above what I feel myself, but a sentiment unequally distributed. As used in this sense, the repulsion to the flogging of women while no repulsion is felt to the flogging of men is sentimentalism pure and simple. On the other hand the objection to flogging altogether as punishment for men or women could not be described as sentimentalism, whatever else it might be. In the same way the anti-vivisectionist’s aversion to “physiological” experiments on animals, if confined to household pets and not extended to other animals, might be justly described as sentimentalism; but one who objected to such experiments on all animals, no matter whether one agreed with his point of view or not, could not be justly charged with sentimentalism (or at least, not unless, while objecting to vivisection, he or she were prepared to condone other acts involving an equal amount of cruelty to animals).”
The Fraud of Feminism – Chapter I: Historical (1913)

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“The basis of this side of Feminism is a sentimentalism – i.e. an unequally distributed sentiment in favour of women, traditional and acquired. It is seldom even attempted to base this sentimental claim for women on argument at all. The utmost attempts in this direction amount to vague references to physical weakness, and to the claim for special consideration deriving from the old theory of the mental and moral weakness of the female sex, so strenuously combated as out of date, when the first side of Modern Feminism is being contended for. The more or less inchoate assumptions of the second or sentimental side of the modern “Woman’s Movement” amounts practically, as already stated, to a claim for women to be allowed to commit crimes without incurring the penalties imposed by the law for similar crimes when committed by men. It should be noted that in practice the most strenuous advocates of the positive and articulate side of Feminism are also the sincerest upholders of the unsubstantial and inarticulate assumptions of the sentimental side of the same creed. This is noticeable whenever a woman is found guilty of a particularly atrocious crime. It is somewhat rare for women to be convicted of such crimes at all, since the influence of sentimental Feminism with judges and juries is sufficient to procure an acquittal, no matter how conclusive the evidence to the contrary.”
The Fraud of Feminism – Chapter II: The Main Dogma of Modern Feminism

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“WE have already pointed out that Modern Feminism has two sides or aspects. The first formulates definite political, juridical and economic demands on the grounds of justice, equity, equality and so forth, as general principles; the second does not formulate in so many words definite demands as general principles, but seems to exploit the traditional notions of chivalry based on male sex sentiment, in favour of according women special privileges on the ground of their sex, in the law, and still more in the administration of the law. For the sake of brevity we call the first Political Feminism, for, although its demands are not confined to the political sphere, it is first and foremost a political movement, and its typical claim at the present time, the Franchise, is a purely political one; and the second Sentimental Feminism, inasmuch as it commonly does not profess to be based on any general principle whatever, whether of equity or otherwise, but relies exclusively on the traditional and conventional sex sentiment of Man towards Woman. It may be here premised that most Political Feminists, however much they may refuse to admit it, are at heart also Sentimental Feminists. Sentimental Feminists, on the other hand, are not invariably Political Feminists, although the majority of them undoubtedly are so to a greater or lesser extent. Logically, as we shall have occasion to insist upon later on, the principles professedly at the root of Political Feminism are in flagrant contradiction with any that can justify Sentimental Feminism.”
The Fraud of Feminism – Chapter III: The Anti-Man Crusade

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“WHILE what we have termed Political Feminism vehemently asserts its favourite dogma, the intellectual and moral equality of the sexes – that the woman is as good as the man if not better – Sentimental Feminism as vehemently seeks to exonerate every female criminal, and protests against any punishment being meted out to her approaching in severity that which would be awarded a man in a similar case. It does so on grounds which presuppose the old theory of the immeasurable inferiority, mental and moral, of woman, which are so indignantly spurned by every Political Feminist – i.e. in his or her capacity as such. We might suppose, therefore, that Political Feminism, with its theory of sex equality based on the assumption of equal sex capacity, would be in strong opposition in this matter with Sentimental Feminism, which seeks, as its name implies, to attenuate female responsibility on grounds which are not distinguishable from the old-fashioned assumption of inferiority. But does Political Feminism consistently adopt this logical position? Not one whit. It is quite true that some Feminists, when hard pressed, may grudgingly concede the untenability on rational grounds of the Sentimental Feminists’ claims. But taken as a whole, and in their practical dealings, the Political Feminists are in accord with the Sentimental Feminists in claiming female immunity on the ground of sex. This is shown in every case where a female criminal receives more than a nominal sentence.”
The Fraud of Feminism – Chapter IV: Always the “Injured Innocent”!

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“Chivalry to-day means the woman, right or wrong, just as patriotism to-day means “my country right or wrong.” In other words, chivalry to-day is only another name for Sentimental Feminism. Every outrageous pretension Of Sentimental Feminism can be justified by the appeal to chivalry, which amounts (to use the German expression) to an appeal from Pontius to Pilate. This Sentimental Feminism commonly called chivalry is sometimes impudently dubbed by its votaries, “manliness.” It will presumably continue in its practical effects until a sufficient minority of sensible men will have the moral courage to beard a Feminist public opinion and shed a little of this sort of “manliness.” The plucky Welshmen at Llandystwmdwy in their dealings with the suffragette rowdies on memorable occasion showed themselves capable of doing this. In fact one good effect generally of militant suffragetteism seems to be the weakening of the notion of chivalry – i.e. in its modern sense of Sentimental Feminism – amongst the populace of this country.

The combination of Sentimental Feminism with its invocation of the old-world sentiment of chivalry which was based essentially on the assumption of the mental, moral and physical inferiority of woman to man, for its justification, with the pretensions of modern Political Feminism, is simply grotesque in its inconsistent absurdity. In this way Modern Feminism would fain achieve the feat of eating its cake and having it too. When political and economic rights are in question, bien entendu, such as involve gain and social standing, the assumption of inferiority magically disappears before the strident assertion of the dogma of the equality of woman with man – her mental and moral equality certainly! When, however, the question is of a different character – for example, for the relieving of some vile female criminal of the penalty of her misdeeds-then Sentimental Feminism comes into play, then the whole plaidoyer is based on the chivalric sentiment of deference and consideration for poor, weak woman.”
The Fraud of Feminism – Chapter V: The “Chivalry” Fake

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“Chivalry, as understood by Modern Sentimental Feminism, means unlimited licence for women in their relations with men, and unlimited coercion for men in their relations with women. To men all duties and no rights, to women all rights and no duties, is the basic principle underlying Modern Feminism, Suffragism, and the bastard chivalry it is so fond of invoking. The most insistent female shrieker for equality between the sexes among Political Feminists, it is interesting to observe, will, in most cases, on occasion be found an equally insistent advocate of the claims of Sentimental Feminism, based on modern metamorphosed notions of chivalry. It never seems to strike anyone that the muscular weakness of woman has been forged by Modern Feminists into an abominable weapon of tyranny. Under cover of the notion of chivalry, as understood by Modern Feminism, Political and Sentimental Feminists alike would deprive men of the most elementary rights of self-defence against women and would exonerate the latter practically from all punishment for the most dastardly crimes against men. They know they can rely upon the support of the sentimental section of public opinion with some such parrot cry of’ “What! Hit a woman!”

Why not, if she molests you?

“Treat a woman in this way!” “Shame!” responds automatically the crowd of Sentimental Feminist idiots, oblivious of the fact that the real shame lies in their endorsement of an iniquitous sex privilege. If the same crowd were prepared to condemn any special form of punishment or mode of treatment as inhumane for both sexes alike, there would, of course, be nothing to be said. But it is not so. The most savage cruelty and vindictive animosity towards men leaves them comparatively cold, at most evoking a mild remonstrance as against the inflated manifestation of sentimental horror and frothy indignation produced by any slight hardship inflicted by way of punishment (let us say) on a female offender.”
The Fraud of Feminism – Chapter VII: The Psychology of the Movement

_________________________

 
“In the foregoing pages we have endeavoured to trace some of the leading strands of thought going to make up the Modern Feminist Movement. Sentimental Feminism clearly has its roots in sexual feeling, and in the tradition of chivalry, albeit the notion of chivalry has essentially changed in the course of its evolution. For the rest, Sentimental Feminism, with its double character of man-antipathy and woman-sympathy, as we see it to-day, has assumed the character of one of those psychopathic social phenomena which have so often recurred in history. It can only be explained, like the latter, as an hypnotic wave passing over society.

As for Political Feminism, we have shown that this largely has its root in a fallacious application of the notion of democracy, partaking largely of the logical fallacy known technically as a dicto secundum quid ad dictum simpliciter. This logical fallacy of Political Feminism is, of course, reinforced and urged forward by Sentimental Feminism. As coming under the head of the psychology of the movement, we have also called attention to some curious phenomena of logical imbecility, noticeable in the utterances of educated women in the suffragette agitation.”
The Fraud of Feminism – Chapter VII: The Psychology of the Movement

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Bax on Feminism and The Media

1913: Pressure placed on publishers and editors by the Feminist sisterhood was well known

1913: Pressure placed on publishers and editors by the Feminist sisterhood was well known

Between the years 1896 and 1913, Ernest B. Bax observed that the feminist sisterhood enjoyed enormous control over mainstream media, which in his day consisted mainly of newspapers and magazines. The following are three quotes from Bax:

“When, however, the bluff is exposed… then the apostles of feminism, male and female, being unable to make even a plausible case out in reply, with one consent resort to the boycott, and by ignoring what they cannot answer, seek to stop the spread of the unpleasant truth so dangerous to their cause. The pressure put upon publishers and editors by the influential Feminist sisterhood is well known.” [The Fraud of Feminism, (1913) pp.1-2]

***

“The task of Feminism is to paint a privileged sex in the colours of an oppressed one. Naturally this difficult task can only be accomplished by a game of “bluff” of the most impudent kind and by the wholesale “hocussing” of public opinion by falsehoods, and at the same time by the most strenuous attempts to prevent the light of fact being let in.

Of the latter there has been evidence only recently within the SDP in the demand of Mr. Herbert Burrows at the Conference that the pamphlet ‘The Legal Subjection of Men’ – in which the present state of the law and its administration between the sexes is given – should be suppressed, and also in the representations made to the Editor from a “Women’s Committee” of the body that I should be muzzled and any statement of mine adverse to Feminism be excluded from the party organs.” [Women’s Privileges and “Rights”, Social Democrat, Vol.13 no.9, September 1909, pp.385-391]

***

“All parties, all sorts and conditions of politicians, from the fashionable and Conservative west-end philanthropist to the Radical working-men’s clubbite, seem (or seemed until lately) to have come to an unanimous conclusion on one point – to wit, that the female sex is grievously groaning under the weight of male oppression. Editors of newspapers, keen to scent out every drift of public fancy with the object of regaling their “constant readers” with what is tickling to their palates, will greedily print, in prominent positions and in large type letters expressive of the view in question, whilst they will boycott or, at best, publish in obscure corners any communication that ventures to criticise the popular theory or that adduces facts that tell against it.

Were I to pen an impassioned diatribe, tending to prove the villainy of man towards woman, and painting in glowing terms the poor, weak victim of his despotism, my description would be received with sympathetic approval. Not so, I fear, my simple statement of the unvarnished truth.” [Essays in Socialism New & Old (1907), pp.108-119]

Bax on Rights and Responsibilities

R VS R

“These dogmas of “advanced” faith in the Woman Question are… namely, that women ought to have all the rights of intellectual capacity with all the privileges of physical weakness, otherwise expressed, all the rights of men, and none of the duties or hardships of men. For it is a significant and amusing fact that no mention is ever made by the advocate of women’s claims of the privileges which have always been accorded the “weaker sex.” These privileges are quietly pocketed as a matter of course, without any sort of acknowledgment, much less any suggestion of surrender.”
Some Heterodox Notes on the Women Question (1887)

“Now in order to maintain this position it is necessary to assume the complete intellectual and moral equality of women with men, while judiciously conceding their physical inferiority. A desire, conscious or unconscious, on the part of these Socialists, as of other advocates of Feminism, is to make out a claim for women to all that is honourable and agreeable in the functions of human life, while safeguarding them from any obligation to accept rough or dangerous duties. Thus Bebel, in his “Frau und der Sozialismus,” while maintaining that no social function filled by men ought to be inaccessible to women, since any seeming unfitness in the latter is only the result of certain cruel oppression at the hands of vile man, yet is careful to guard his fair clients from the danger of being called upon for military purposes, even of defence.”
Feminism in Extremis (1902)

“What does the woman’s-rights movement demand? Female privilege, and when possible, female domination. It asks that women shall have all the rights of men with privileges thrown in (but no disagreeable duties, oh dear no!), and apparently be subject to no discipline but that of their own arbitrary wills. To exclude women on the ground of incapacity from any honourable, lucrative, or agreeable social function whatever, is a hideous injustice to be fulminated against from platform and in press – to treat them on the same footing as men in the matter of subordination to organised control or discipline is not to be thought of – is ungentlemanly ungallant, unchivalrous! … Advanced women and their male supporters in demanding all that is lucrative, honourable, and agreeable in the position of men take their stand on the dogma of sex-equality. No sooner, however, is the question one of disagreeable duties than “equality” goes by the board and they slink behind the old sex-immunity.”
The “Monstrous Regiment” of Womanhood (1907)

“From all we have said, it will now be evident, one would think, to the most prejudiced reader that modern English Law, following obsequiously a deluded or apathetic stage of public opinion, has solved the problem of the division of rights and duties between the sexes, by conceding to woman all rights, and imposing on man all duties.”
The Legal Subjection of Men, Chapter IX: A Sex Noblesse (1908)

“This public opinion regards it as axiomatic that women are capable of everything men are capable of, that they ought to have full responsibility in all honourable and lucrative functions and callings. There is only one thing for which unlimited allowance ought to be made on the ground of their otherwise non-existent womanly inferiority, and that is their own criminal or tortious acts! In a word, they are not to be held responsible, in the sense that men are, for their own actions when these entail unpleasant consequences for themselves. On the contrary, the obloquy and, where possible, the penalty for the wrong-doing is to be shifted on to the nearest wretched man with whom they have consorted.”
Why I Am an Anti-Suffragist (1909)

“From being part of a general code of manners enjoined upon a particular guild or profession it has been degraded to mean the exclusive right in one sex guaranteed by law and custom to certain advantages and exemptions with- out any corresponding responsibility.”
The Fraud of Feminism, Chapter V: The “Chivalry” Fake (1913)

“Chivalry, as understood by Modern Sentimental Feminism, means unlimited licence for women in their relations with men, and unlimited coercion for men in their relations with women. To men all duties and no rights, to women all rights and no duties, is the basic principle underlying Modern Feminism, Suffragism, and the bastard chivalry it is so fond of invoking.”
The Fraud of Feminism, Chapter VII: The Psychology of the Movement (1913)

Feminism and Female Suffrage (1910)

First and foremost amongst the rights claimed by Feminists for women is the political franchise. The reasons for this claim are based, one on abstract justice, the assumption being that women are, on the average, substantially similar and equal to men in intellectual and moral capacity; and the other on the practical consideration that, as things are, women constitute a cruelly-oppressed section of the community, and that, as with any other division of the community similarly situated, the political franchise is the first essential to their obtaining their legitimate social rights. Now, in the present article it is proposed to deal exclusively with the last point while conceding the other for the sake of the argument. In doing so, I propose to show, as briefly as possible, not only, that women at the present time, considered as women and apart from the class to which they belong, suffer no sort of social injustice to which the men of their class are not equally exposed, but, on the contrary, that as women they enjoy privileges, and hence constitute a privileged order of human beings, not only as against the men of their class, but as against men generally, us men. If this be so, I contend not only does the practical urgency of the Suffrage claim, even if it were conceded in the abstract, fall to the ground, but even the abstract right itself would disappear, since the granting of it would amount to the piling up of an additional privilege on an already privileged class.

That the object of a large number of these women who are now clamouring for the franchise is not merely to maintain but to extend their legal privileges is evident to anyone. They want the suffrage as a weapon wherewith to carry on a sex-war, with a view to the dominance of the female. That this means countering evolution with a vengeance I will merely remark in passing. In early forms of life the female may perhaps be taken as representing the most important element of the species. As the male element evolved, however, the higher function of the species became more and more absorbed by the male, and the female more and more relegated to the function of reproduction. The subordination of the female element by the male has been a characteristic feature of evolution from the lower to the higher throughout the whole course of biological, as of sociological, development.

But to address ourselves to our more immediate purpose, which is to show the privileged status of women before the law, alike in itself and still more in its administration. Let us begin with the civil law, and, first of all, with that relating to the status of the married woman. No woman can be imprisoned for debt (“contempt of court”) no matter what means she may possess, although her husband may be for the non-payment of her debts. Not even can her property be attached for the payment of a debt if settled on her in due form. Neither can she be served with a bankruptcy order unless in relation to a business carried on apart from her husband and in her own name. She is free to leave her husband, and he has no legal power to detain her or compel her to return. He has no control over her personal property. She, on the other hand, can obtain an order for restitution of conjugal rights, by which he is ordered to return, or she can obtain alimony or maintenance, according to her “station in life.” The husband is responsible for any slander or libel she may commit although he knew nothing of it or even disapproved it. He is liable, that is, for damages and costs, while she escapes with absolute impunity. From the above it will be seen that the infamous British law sticks at no outrage on the most elementary principles of common rectitude in privileging the married woman at the cost of her husband. Not that this is by any means a complete statement of the case. To have given such, with the necessary detail and references to law reports, would have carried us much beyond the limits admissible in the present article.

Among all the women’s rights advocates I am not aware of one who, in her zeal for equality between the sexes, has ever suggested abolishing the right of maintenance of the wife by the husband. On the contrary, they are usually only too eager to increase the husband’s burdens in this connection. By an Act passed in 1895 this liability for maintenance was extended to a wife notwithstanding her adultery. It must be remembered here that it is not alone by actual statute that wives are favoured at the expense of their husbands, but that judge-made or decision law is even still more operative in this direction. As has been remarked of the judges in this matter, “every moth-eaten scrap of privilege which is in favour of the wife they retain. All privileges of the husband, no matter how firmly established, they deny as ever having existed.” An illustration of this is to be found in the statement of Lord Halsbury in the Jackson case that a husband had never the right in English to restrain his wife! The pro-Feminist bias of judges is no less marked in civil than in criminal proceedings.

Let us now turn to the criminal law. A wife enjoys, at present in this country, practical immunity for all offences of which her husband is the victim. Gaol and public obloquy are the lot of the husband, as we all know, for similar offences towards the wife. The wife, without forfeiting her right of maintenance, may insult, slander, or libel her husband. The wife is free to neglect every one of her recognised duties, while the husband has no redress. If, on the other hand, the husband neglects her he is at once liable to a police-court separation order with confiscation of property, or wages, for her maintenance. It must be remembered here that everything of which the wife chooses to complain (e.g., coming home late at night) will be held by the Court to constitute neglect, just as everything the wife chooses to call cruelty will be construed as such by a similar chivalrous tribunal. A husband can be arrested and imprisoned for deserting his wife, whereas a wife may desert her husband with impunity.

But it is not so much in the letter of the law that its sex-favouritism is most conspicuously illustrated. It is in the spirit of its administration that this sex-favouritism appears in its strongest light. An assault by a woman on a man, certainly by a wife on her husband, is lightly punished if at all. That this is so can be tested by anyone who likes to read the police reports regularly. Again, a case is hardly known of a woman being sentenced to imprisonment for bigamy. Men commonly receive seven years for this offence. Similarly, a woman is practically allowed full freedom to commit perjury in the Divorce Court with a view to establishing a case of adultery against her husband. Let the husband but try the same game on and he will find quite another pair of shoes awaiting him. Even if the perjury be committed to exculpate himself – a thing regarded as a matter of course in the wife – the husband is by no means secure from the danger of penal servitude. The only case in which perjury is permitted to a man without consequences is where it is committed (say in the Divorce Court) in order to guard or whitewash the character of a woman. The letter of the law in criminal cases is supposed to apply equally to both sexes, but the practical difference in its application is so flagrantly glaring as to hardly need animadversion. We all know the savagely vindictive sentences passed by police magistrates and judges for the most trivial wife assaults and for common assaults generally where a female is the object of them.

As regards indecent assaults, the late Baron Huddleston remarked that in his experience men required far more protection against women than women against men. The reason for this is obvious. It is hardly known, even in the most malicious charge of this kind, that the female plaintiff has ever been prosecuted, much less convicted, for perjury. With this absolute immunity, this dastardly form of blackmailing has naturally flourished among a certain section of the female population. It is even encouraged by the law, for by the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 a boy of fourteen can be convicted for committing a sexual offence with a girl of sixteen, to which he was actually incited by the latter, who, by virtue of her sex, is held guiltless by the law. I know of a case in which a female was produced as witness against several boys, younger than herself, whom she had seduced, but the Court held that this precocious creature could not be punished, although her victims were duly sent to gaol.

As regards prison treatment, it is well known that flogging is absolutely abolished by the Act of 1820 where women are concerned. Hanging is practically abolished by usage for women who murder men. Women, if they find prison discipline irksome to them, have, as a rule, only to create a sufficient disturbance to get it relaxed. A very flagrant case of this kind occurred some years ago at Wormwood Scrubbs. In any case the duration of sentence is, on the average, about one-third that which a man would receive for a like offence, while the “hard-labour” is generally little more than nominal.

I have above given a few of the leading points in the favouritism of the law towards women. Those who wish to pursue the matter in further detail, list of cases etc., may be referred to a pamphlet published some twelve years ago by the Twentieth Century Press entitled The Legal Subjection of Men. This pamphlet, I may observe, which gives the state of the law and its administration at the time of writing, and which holds good in all essentials to-day, has been studiously ignored and boycotted by the feminist faction, well knowing, as they did, that a perusal of it would have burst up once for all that exploitation of popular ignorance and prejudice on which their agitation is based. In the face of the statement of law and of facts there given, the game of bluff by which the advocates of “woman’s rights” succeed in drawing tears from guileless simpletons by diatribes on the cruelly unjust status of Women under man-made laws, would have ceased to be possible. We will now turn to an argument which is sure to crop up. What, it may be said, has all this to do with the right of women to the franchise? Women, it may be urged, are not responsible for these iniquitously sex-biassed laws, or for the administration of the law. The answer to this is, that the chief argument for the imperativeness and urgency of votes for women insisted on by Suffragettes is mainly the unfairness of treatment meted out to women. Now, it is clear that when it is shown that much-decried man makes laws wholly and solely in the interests of the opposite sex and to the detriment of his own, any conclusions drawn from the contrary assumption vanish in smoke. If it be alleged, further, that women do not want these privileges, my reply is, why do they not say so in the course of their agitation? Instead, not only do those who are most zealous in clamouring for the franchise do their best to bluff their dupes by posing as the victims of a non-existent male oppression, but they, often enough, expressly proclaim their intention of pressing forward legislation the effect of which would be to enhance the existing privileges of their sex. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that, although it may be true that women in general are not directly responsible for the present state of the law and public sentiment, this is largely due to the persistent action of the feminist agitation during the last two generations, so that sex-conscious women at least, are in a very definite sense responsible for it. Finally, their position, as a specially privileged class, is surely incompatible with the claim to the possession in addition thereto, of the political rights of those not so privileged.

In the present article I have only dealt briefly with one aspect of this question. I may point out in conclusion that the existing state of public opinion on the subject registers the fact that sex-conscious women have exploited the muscular weakness of their sex and have succeeded in forging a weapon of tyranny called “chivalry” which enables them to ride rough-shod over every principle of justice and fair play, Men are cowed by it, and fail to distinguish between simple weakness per se which should command every consideration, and that aggressive weakness which trades upon “chivalry” and deserves no quarter.

 
Source: New Age, 30 May 1910, p. 88-89

Women’s Privileges and “Rights” (1909)

An anonymous lady writing over the signature “Fair Play” treats the readers of the Social-Democrat to what an admirer describes as a “spirited reply” to my article Why I am an Anti-Suffragist. There is one thing for which I am grateful to my “spirited” opponent and that is that she has the candour to throw overboard at starting the hollow pretence that sex-equality is the aim of the female-suffragists. “Women demand,” she says, “both deference from, and equality with, men.” So there we have it. She goes on to state that they lay claim to this “deference” on the ground of their sex. Socialists who profess to believe in equality and also in Feminism, please note! This “deference” to sex she apparently claims on the ground of chivalry, but here I would remind “Fair Play” that, as she herself points out, chivalry has nothing to do with sex as such. Chivalry may exact a “deference” toward a sick or an aged woman as it may toward a sick or infirm man. But the attempt to make it run on the lines of sex-distinction is untenable on any rational ground. An ordinary healthy strong woman has no more claim to be an object of special chivalry than an ordinary healthy strong man. If men are muscularly stronger than women, women are, as has often been pointed out, constitutionally stronger than men. Women can bear much severer strains than men can, with impunity. The recuperative power of the female organism is well-known to physiologists.

But there is a curious zeal on the part of Feminists to insist on this point of the muscular inferiority of women to men while indignantly repudiating inferiority in all other directions. Thus “Fair Play”: “But though nature has handicapped women physically, she has not done so as far as brains are concerned.” Now as far as most persons’ observation and reading of well-known facts are concerned, it is indubitable that they point, prima facie, to an, at least, equally great, if not greater, mental inferiority to men than the physical (muscular) inferiority – so strongly emphasised by Feminists. It is neither less nor more easy to rebut or contest the physical inferiority than it is the mental. The reason of the aforesaid procedure on the part of Feminists is, however, not far to seek. The only semblance of ground for the privileging of women, for their exemption from all the disagreeable duties of citizenship, is this ground of physical weakness. But when it comes to the question of mental weakness that is quite another story. Although we might naturally expect inferiority on the physical side to involve inferiority on the psychical side also, not perhaps in any given individual, but taking the sex as a whole, and although facts point to, at least, equally great mental as physical inferiority between the average woman and the average man, we are nevertheless asked to ignore all these considerations, and in a humble and contrite spirit accept the Feminist dogma that women, while physically weaker, are mentally as good as men – with the practical corollary, of course, that while all honourable or remunerative functions ought to be open to women, they are to be jealously guarded from all arduous occupations as also from the legal consequences of their own criminal or tortious acts.

I instanced the Tooting tramway incident as an act of commendable pluck on the part of those concerned in it to boldly challenge the attempt of woman’s righters to “jump the claim” to chivalry as a special right of the sex they champion. But there is another point Feminists conveniently overlook. It is this: That granting the “weakness” argument, this very weakness, to whose claim chivalry may per se be granted, forfeits its claim when it presumes upon that claim and becomes aggressive. Aggressive weakness deserves no quarter – à la guerre, comme à la guerre.

“Fair Play” indulges in the usual talk about the injustice of women who pay taxes not having votes. “No taxation without representation” has been, as we all know, the political mot d’ordre of the middle classes in their struggle for independence against noble and monarch. It is the affirmation of the dependence of political power on acquired property; but the modern Socialist is precisely engaged in combating the notion of basing political rights on a property qualification at all, so for him, at least, the argument in question can have no special weight. For the rest, the terrible grievance of taxation without representation seems to me, in any case, somewhat exaggerated. I rent a humble dwelling in a French town, for which I duly pay my “impôt de l’état,” without any right to vote for candidates for the Chamber; but yet, strange to say, I don’t feel myself groaning under a particularly monstrous injustice. Provided the recognised governmental functions of protection, etc., are duly carried out, I fail to see that the payment of a moderate tax for them involves such an outrageous violation of rectitude as many other things in our present social order. Taxes rest on private property, which is guaranteed to the holders by the existing State. Hence it seems not unnatural that all possessed of private property should pay proportionate taxes, quite apart from the question of direct representation. When the State levies a personal or blood tax – e.g., conscription – it is quite a different matter. This does not rest on property, but on the personal life and labour of the individual. Here a claim to direct personal participation in the machinery of government is infinitely stronger. But an obligatory personal service of this nature the State never claims from women.

Women bear children, it is said. Good. But there is no governmental compulsion that they should do so. They do so in the performance of a natural function, not as a public duty. All that the State demands of women in this connection is that they shall not kill their babies when they have them, and even this is considered hard on the poor, oppressed creatures (cf., the Daisy Lord agitation). The absurdity of comparing the risks of childbed with those of the battlefield and its horrors, only shows the extremities to which Feminists are reduced for weapons to refute a very obvious and straightforward argument.

“Fair Play” commends Georges Sand for her disregard of convention in her life. But who is it that most slavishly licks the boots of Mrs. Grundy in questions, say, of free marriage, in which Georges Sand so conspicuously (and rightly as I think) asserted her claim to personal freedom? Just women! It is precisely on the ground of the servile puritanism of women to conventional moral shibboleths that many persons, not otherwise adverse to woman suffrage, dread any increase in the direct influence of women in public affairs. “Fair Play,” like other Feminist advocates, seizes upon questions of minor social “deferences” and carefully omits to notice the main indictment of anti-suffragists, namely, the privileged legal position of women under “man-made law” and administration, a position which the avowed aim of Suffragists is to strengthen and extend. The woman, who is alleged to be mentally equal to man, is excused the legal punishment for her crime because she is a woman. A workman was hanged in Ireland last week for flogging his female child to death; a woman a few years ago, also in Ireland, in a well-known cause célèbre, for a precisely similar offence, viz., torturing a child to death, got twelve months’ imprisonment. Let “Fair Play” defend such iniquities as this (which, in a minor form, are occurring weekly and daily) if she dare! The WSPU would presumably, while maintaining the death sentence on the man, reduce that of the woman to three months’ imprisonment as a first-class misdemeanant!

The cant about “brute force” is not impressive. As “Fair Play” must know, “brute force” is the final appeal of every institution and every right. What Feminists want is to have the “brute force” at the disposal of men exercised in favour of women. They want to set men to “bully” other men into submission to the demands of the female sex. This is the true meaning of the agitation for the franchise. It is not a question of sweet reasonableness versus brute force, but of brute force exercised on behalf of one sex rather than another. Suffragists want to place the female sex in a position to legislate, i.e., to command the brute force of the State (wielded by men) in their own interests. Hence the denunciation of “man-made law” which already gives woman a position of legal domination over the man, but not enough apparently to satisfy the rapacious will-to-power possessed by the Feminist members of the sex.

The task of Feminism is to paint a privileged sex in the colours of an oppressed one. Naturally this difficult task can only be accomplished by a game of “bluff” of the most impudent kind and by the wholesale “hocussing” of public opinion by falsehoods, and at the same time by the most strenuous attempts to prevent the light of fact being let in. Of the latter there has been evidence only recently within the SDP in the demand of Mr. Herbert Burrows at the Conference that the pamphlet published by the Twentieth Century Press, The Legal Subjection of Men – in which the present state of the law and its administration as between the sexes is given – should be suppressed, and also in the representations made to the Editor from a “Women’s Committee” of the body that I should be muzzled and any statement of mine adverse to Feminism be excluded from the party organs. For the former we have only to consult the current literature of Feminism in the daily and weekly press. The desperate attempt to secure privileges for the Suffragettes is a topical case in point.

Those who “gas” most about “political” offences and “first-class” prison treatment know perfectly well (1) that there is not and never has been any distinction in English law or custom drawn between “political” and other offences as regards prison treatment. They know well enough that men galore, among them Socialist speakers imprisoned for the technical offence of obstruction, have had no “first-class” treatment and that no one has suggested they should have. They also know (2) that even if the distinction as to “political” imprisonment existed – breaking windows, assaulting the police, persistent personal molestation, etc., could not possibly be regarded as other than common law offences obnoxious to an ordinary common-law punishment. In fact, the sympathisers with Suffragettism are quite aware that they are playing a comedy in the hope of hoodwinking public opinion. This comedy became screaming farce when Mr. Keir Hardie posed as the innocent and indignant redresser of female wrongs, and suggested to the Home Secretary that the law needed amending to raise prison treatment of women to a level with that of men! Fancy these petted and pampered hussies – who, after deliberately breaking the law, are allowed to assault warders, throw their food and untensils out of window, having previously smashed the same – with practical impunity – having then only to go without their dinners for a day or two in order to have their sentences of two or three months remitted; and think of what would happen to a man did he venture upon but a tithe of the outrages these despicable females on the hunt for cheap martyrdom allow themselves with perfect assurance, relying upon their sex immunity and the limitless forbearance of male authorities! Heroism is a cheap commodity when one knows beforehand there is no danger of any unpleasantness worth speaking of, no matter what one does. For men the lash, the plank-bed and weeks of semi-starvation and solitary confinement! For women, at worst, a few days of arrest in cells, the airiness and comfort of which the Secretary of State personally supervises! And yet there are Socialists who profess to think it unjust that a section of the community, weltering in privilege of every description, should not, at the same time, be accorded the political rights accruing to the section deprived of these advantages. Truly, there is no accounting for the operations of sex-prejudice in certain minds. No, no, my “spirited” female friend, justify the name you have assumed and show us that you have a distant notion, at least, of what constitutes “Fair Play,” as regards this question!

 
Source: Women’s Privileges and “Rights”, Social Democrat, Vol.13 no.9, September 1909, pp.385-391.