Ernest Belfort Bax from Reminiscences and reflexions of a mid and late Victorian (1920)
Ernest Belfort Bax at age 62 – © National Portrait Gallery, London
Ernest Belfort Bax – portrait by Europa Phoenix
Ernest Belfort Bax Stock Photo – Getty Images
Ernest Belfort Bax from Reminiscences and reflexions of a mid and late Victorian (1920)
Ernest Belfort Bax at age 62 – © National Portrait Gallery, London
Ernest Belfort Bax – portrait by Europa Phoenix
Ernest Belfort Bax Stock Photo – Getty Images
Amid the various writers who have favoured THE NEW AGE with their views on the question of Female Suffrage, none have really traversed my original contention, as contained in my first article. That contention was, that occupying as they do a privileged position before the law – not only in itself, but still more in its administration – as against men, women have no just claim to the franchise. That the votaries of Female Suffrage feel this, is proved by the fact that their most serious efforts at arguments turn upon the iniquity of subjecting women to “man-made laws,” their staple policy throughout their agitation being, by dint of lying assertions and insinuations, ceaselessly repeated, to create the impression on the public mind that the existing state of the law and its administration not only does not favour women, but is actually unfair to “the sex.” Now, as I have pointed out, to anyone in the least acquainted with the theory and practice of the English law, there can be no doubt whatever that the latter, in theory and still more in practice, is entirely and without any exception whatever, one-sided and partial to women and against men.
The only correspondent of THE NEW AGE who has really touched the point at issue at all, while admitting the substantial truth of my remarks, confines himself to suggesting exaggeration on my part and observing that our infamous anti-man marriage laws were unjust “not on one side only.” But I must deny the charge of exaggeration, a denial that can be substantiated by illustrative cases galore. As regards the marriage laws, I insist that the unfairness is wholly and solely on one side. But I must here make an explanation. There does exist on paper one slight concession of fairness towards the husband. The divorce law, namely, ordains that an adulterous wife, owing to the fact that by her adultery she can introduce into the family, and compel her husband to support, a bastard child, can be divorced by the husband on proof of adultery alone, whereas for a wife to obtain divorce from her husband (in which case, of course, the above reason does not obtain), it is necessary to prove cruelty in addition to adultery. Now, believer as I am that marriage ought to be an absolutely free union, it is certainly not my case to defend the existing marriage laws as a system. But I do say that, given that system and our present property and family relations generally, nothing can be more reasonable or more equitable as between the man and the woman than this provision of the English law respecting divorce.
Yet when brought to book and challenged to give a concrete instance of the unfairness of “man-made laws “ to woman anent which the woman’s righter is perennially blathering at large, it is invariably this very innocent and natural provision of the divorce law that is trotted out, it being the solitary instance in which the law does not overtly favour the woman at the expense of the man. But I have said that this provision exists on paper merely, and so it does, since in practice it remains a dead letter. For the discrimination in question is now practically abolished, anything which the wife objects to – coming home late at night, going out to a party without taking her with him, holding her hands when she attempts to scratch or bite him – being adjudged technical cruelty by the husband within the meaning of the law. Per contra, the Act of 1895 condones expressly the adultery of the wife, providing she can successfully plead “neglect” (an elastic term) on the part of the husband. So much for this solitary case in which the Feminist, to his horror and indignation, finds that the law does not for once avowedly favour women at the expense of men. But apart from this isolated example, the whole marriage law is one tissue of favouritism to the woman and injustice to the man, as I have already shown.
And yet we find in “advanced” journals tirades like the following: “Any fool, any blackguard, any coward, is wise enough and worthy enough to be allowed a legal and a holy licence to torture and insult a woman. Anything with the title of husband in his pocket may goad and stab and lash and sear the soul of the slave we call a wife” (Clarion, July 17) Unfortunately, the champion liar who can gush forth the mendacious, sentimental slush, of which the foregoing is a sample, does not stand alone. His performance is but part of an anti-man crusade of misrepresentation and falsehood carefully organised and skilfully engineered, the object of which is, and has been, to inflame public opinion against men in the interests of female privilege and of female domination. Feminists well know that the most grotesquely far-fetched cry anent the injustice of man to woman will meet with a ready ear. They well know that they get here fond and foolish man on his soft side. Looking at the matter impartially, it is quite evident that man’s treatment of woman is the least vulnerable point in his moral record. Woman, as such, he has always treated with comparative generosity. But it is, of course, to the interests of the abettors of female domination to pretend the contrary. Accordingly everything has been done to excite prejudice in favour of woman as the innocent and guileless victim of man’s tyranny, and the maudlin Feminist sentiment of the “brute” man has been carefully exploited to this end. The result of two generations’ agitation in the above sense is seen in the existing state of the law, civil and criminal, in which the “Woman’s Movement” has succeeded in effecting the violation of every principle of rectitude towards the male side of the sex-equation. The existing laws connected with marriage which place the husband practically in the position of legal slavery as regards the wife is typical of the whole.
That the present “Votes for Women” movement is only a phase of the anti-man crusade which Feminism has been carrying on for nigh two generations past with the aid of the Press, is shown, not only by the persistent efforts to represent “ man-made laws “ as unjust to women, but by the incidental remarks of Suffragette leaders in which the sex animus is shown, no concealment being made of the intention to use the suffrage for rivetting on man the chains of legalised female oppression. For example, Mrs. Pankhurst recently represented one of the functions of emancipated “Womanhood” to be the handing over of the luckless male to the Female blackmailer by raising the “age of consent” above sixteen!! The allusion made at the same time to the “daughters of the working class “ is a piece of demagogy too thin to deceive anyone as to the venomous sex-spite animating this outrageous proposal.
Again, in the Daily News for July 30 a suffragette objects to a woman being punished for murdering her child, protesting that the father, who had had nothing to do with the crime, ought to have been in the dock in her place!
In the present agitation we see merely the culmination of a Feminist campaign organised with scarcely any attempt at concealment, as I have said, on the basis of a sex-war. But this sex-war is at present one-sided, the man’s case goes by default. There is no sex-conscious man’s party to be appealed to and to engineer public opinion in favour of the claims of the most elementary justice for him, as here is a sex-conscious woman’s party to further any and every iniquitous claim of the female sex. So long as the present state of things lasts, organised determination on the one side and indefinite gullibility on the other, are likely to maintain the ascendancy of the Feminist cult and increase the sphere of female privilege.
It has often been remarked that even if the suffrage were granted, the enforcement of the laws decreed by a female majority would be dependent on the goodwill of men. This observation we are accustomed to find greeted by Feminist jeers. The jeers may be justified for the moment, but the intrinsic truth of the observation remains none the less. So long, namely, as the Woman’s Party can continue to bulldose men as they have done up to the present, so long will they be able to make men obey and enforce their behests, whether formulated directly through the suffrage or indirectly by hoodwinking public opinion as they do now. But when once men get tired of this, when once the reaction sets in and a sex-conscious Man’s Party forms itself, then Heaven help the women!! The anti-man ranting sisterhood do not seem to realise what the position of their sex would be if men took to refusing to act against their “brothers.” They think it the most natural thing in the world for women to talk and act in this strain as regards their “sisters.” The explanation, to my mind, is simple. They instinctively feel that man is more than sex, that he stands for humanity in the concrete, whereas woman stands, par excellence, for sex and sex alone. As I have often pointed out before, common phraseology recognises that while man has a sex woman is a sex. The hollowness of the sham of the modern dogma of equality between the sexes is shown by the fact that the assumption of inferiority is called into requisition without any hesitation when there is anything to be gained by it for the cause of female privilege. The dogma of equality is reserved for pleading for the franchise, for the opening up of the professions, and similar occasions. According to the current theory, while women are fully equal to men in capacity for government, administration, etc., and hence, while justice demands that these spheres should be accessible to them, they are so inferior to men in the capacity to control their actions and to distinguish right from wrong, that it is not to be thought of that they, poor weak women, should be treated with the same impartiality or severity by the law as is dealt out to men. Women nowadays “want it,” not “both ways” merely, but all ways. At least as good arguments may be produced to prove that the apparent muscular inferiority of women to men is not fundamental, as are adduced to prove that the apparent intellectual inferiority is not fundamental. There are plenty of instances of extraordinary bodily strength in women. And yet we never hear these arguments. Why? Because Feminists have no interest, but quite the contrary, in perverting the truth on this side, whereas on the other, their demands require that they shall prove equality – the aim being to ensure for women all honourable, agreeable, and lucrative occupations in life, while guarding them carefully from all rough and disagreeable work and from all unpleasant responsibilities. Hence it suits their book to admit the physical, while denying the mental, inferiority. My constitutional objection to privileged classes extends also to a privileged sex. Hence my (as some deem it, intemperate) zeal in exposing the hollow humbug on which the practical demands of the “Woman’s Movement” rest.
Turning again to the present agitation, it is noteworthy how the evidence as to the numerical strength of the Suffrage movement adduced by its advocates is about on a level with the arguments advanced in support of the general principle of Feminism. A stage army, the vanguard of which probably amounts to some five hundred, which can on occasion, from all England, be raised to ten thousand (among these, girlish youth and innocence being particularly prominent), such is all that has yet been achieved, and such it is that we are asked to regard as representing the public opinion of England. However, one may suppose that the Feminists are so accustomed to their statements otherwise being allowed to pass by default, that they have come to regard the supineness and gullibility of public opinion in these matters as a safe speculation. Hence, at the beginning of the twentieth century the figure of British Womanhood rises up before us, reeking with privilege, and, in alternate strophes, tearfully whimpering and threateningly shrieking that she has not enough, that she wants more! Such, at least is the Womanhood of the Feminist agitation. In concluding this controversy, I can only reaffirm my original position unshaken, and that is, that whatever other arguments there may be for or against “Votes for Women,” certain it is, under any ordinarily recognised standard of fairness and equality, that so long as women enjoy those privileges before the law at the expense of men which they now do, it is unjust that they should be given facilities for increasing, them by the concession of the franchise.
Source: New Age, 8 August 1908, p. 287-288
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.
Women’s Privileges and “Rights”, Social Democrat, Vol.13 no.9, September (1909).
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 of aggressive weakness which trades upon “chivalry” and deserves no quarter.
‘Feminism and Female Suffrage’ in New Age, (1910)
“Even taking the matter on the conventional ground of weakness and granting, for the sake of argument, the relative muscular weakness of the female as ground for her being allowed the immunity claimed by Modern Feminists of the sentimental school, the distinction is altogether lost sight of between weakness as such and aggressive weakness. Now I submit there is a very considerable difference between what is due to weakness that is harmless and unprovocative, and weakness that is aggressive, still more when this aggressive weakness presumes on itself as weakness, and on the consideration extended to it, in order to become tyrannical and oppressive. Weakness as such assuredly deserves all consideration, but aggressive weakness deserves none save to be crushed beneath the iron heel of strength. Woman at the present day has been encouraged by a Feminist public opinion to become meanly aggressive under the protection of her weakness. She has been encouraged to forge her gift of weakness into a weapon of tyranny against man, unwitting that in so doing she has deprived her weakness of all just claim to consideration or even to toleration.”
Chapter 5: The “Chivalry” Fake, in The Fraud of Feminism (1913)
The following paragraphs on the subject of feminism and World War 1 are excepted from chapter XII ‘Concluding Reflexions’ of Bax’s 1918 book Reminiscences and Reflexions of a mid and late Victorian.
“The principles and propaganda of Feminism were running high in the land up to the outbreak of the war, and though for the time being undoubtedly overshadowed by the great events of the last two years, there is no reason for thinking that Feminism, theoretical and practical, will not reassert itself when the present crisis is over. In my book on the subject I have distinguished between political and sentimental Feminism. The propaganda of Feminism has for its practical object to exalt the woman at the expense of the man. We have had echoes of sentimental Feminism during the war itself, notably, as already mentioned, in the case of Edith Cavell, where we have a woman exalted to the rank of a demi-goddess of heroism, while of the Belgian architect, Philippe Bancq, who suffered at the same time, for the same offence against the German invaders of his country, not a word has been said. Compare the case of Captain Fryatt, whose murder was even more in contravention of the laws of civilized war than that of Edith Cavell, and yet we hear of no streets named after lain and no festivals in his honour! The general theory of sentimental Feminism seems to be that the shooting of one woman non-combatant outweighs the murder of ten men non-combatants. Such divinity doth hedge a female of the human species!”
“The present war is affording a stalking-horse for more nostrums than one The trick is to trace the atrocities and misdeeds of the Prusso-German Government and armies to the absence in Germany of the influence of one’s own particular nostrum. Thus, the Feminist will try to persuade you that the crimes of the German Army are due to defects in the German character, arising from the absence of the cultus of Woman among German men and of the emancipation of Woman in the Feminist sense in the Fatherland. The shooting of Miss Cavell and sundry outrages on women in Belgium and the North of France, we are told, are referable to an insufficient spirit of gallantry or chivalry, i.e. of kowtowing to femalehood, on the part of German men. If female suffrage and female influence generally had been present in German social and political life, it is alleged, we should have had no war, or, in case of war, no “frightfulness,” and above all the sacrosanct sex would have been spared and treated with the due reverential awe which it becomes vile man to show in his dealings therewith. All this sort of talk is, I suppose, swallowed by a section of the British public at its face-value, being, as they are, utterly ignorant of the facts of the case. Either the Feminists who seek to make propaganda for their theories out of the misdeeds of the German Army do not know these facts themselves or they are dishonest in their attempt to snatch an advantage out of the war-feeling of the British public. As having had some considerable experience of Germany and things German before the war, I can answer for it that there has been now for years past as strong a current of Feminist sentiment and opinion in Germany as elsewhere, in all circles claiming to be advanced. The only difference is that in Germany, owing to Militarism with its bloodtax, the incidence of which, of course, fell exclusively on men, the injustice of allowing the sex exempted from the blood-tax to swamp with their votes the male elector who was subject to it came home, perhaps, more to the average “man in the street” than in other countries where the same conditions did not prevail. Books on Feminism had a wide circulation. Women had played a part in political agitation for a generation past, at least, in the largest political party in Germany. There was no sex-bar in the matter of membership of that party, or of the share taken in the life of its organization. There was and is, moreover, so far as I am aware, a special organization existing in Germany for the furtherance of female suffrage and other “planks” in the ordinary Feminist programme, while, morebetoken, one of its most prominent leaders is more violent in her jingoism than Count Reventlow himself. All the talk about the position of the German woman, by those who have never lived in Germany, and do not in most cases even know the language, deserves nothing but contempt. It serves the purpose, however, I suppose, of Feminists and advocates of female privilege in general, for pointing a moral and adorning a tale in favour of their own nostrum.”
After The Roots of Reality had appeared, I bethought me of a promise to my old friend William Morris, made not long before his death, to write a history of that, even to most students, little-known event at the close of the French Revolution, Gracchus Babeuf’s “Conspiracy of the Equals.” This undertaking I now endeavoured to fulfil to the best of my ability, and the result was the volume entitled The Last Episode of the French Revolution (Grant Richard), which appeared in 1911. The book, though well enough reviewed, had the sale one expects from purely historical monographs having little or no bearing on current events or practical interest for the present time. It remains, however, as the only English study on the subject obtainable, even Bronterre O’Brien’s translation of the contemporary Buonarotti’s work having been out of print for more than half a century.
This was followed in 1912 by another volume of essays, entitled Essays on Men, Mind, and Morals, comprising some previously published and some unpublished pieces, among the former the article that originally appeared in the International Journal of Ethics on the Socialist view of the fundamental principles of morality, and my reply in the Fortnightly Review to Dr. Beattie Crozier’s attack on Socialism. In November 1913 appeared The Fraud of Feminism, just after Sir Almroth Wright’s Unexpurgated Case against Woman Suffrage. In this little book of less than two hundred pages I claim to have disposed of the arguments (save the mark!), so constantly heard and so seldom contradicted or refuted, of the advocates of Feminism. I have clearly drawn the distinction between Political Feminism (as I have termed it) and Sentimental Feminism. The Political Feminist claims for women equal political and social rights with men. The Sentimental Feminist, under the sham pretence of chivalry, claims impunity for women from the unpleasant consequences of their own conduct. Between the two, and they are usually combined in the same person, we arrive at the delightful conclusion that women have a right to claim an equal position with men wherever it suits their book, i.e. in all honourable, agreeable, and lucrative positions, and at the same time to demand special treatment from that accorded to men whenever “equality” would spell unpleasant consequences for themselves – a charming doctrine truly for the female sex, in which the “equality” appears with its picturesque chivalry “all on one side.”
My efforts in this book, as in previous essays, to expose the claptrap and lies of the advocates of Feminism have naturally not been to the taste of the Suffragette sisterhood, who have lost no opportunity of venting their petty spite in feeble efforts to say nasty things. I give just one instance of this. In the Spring of 1915 appeared a volume called forth by the war, entitled German Culture, Past and Present. It consisted largely of excerpts from my previous volumes on the social side of the Reformation in Germany, with two concluding chapters on Modern Germany. The book was very favourably received by the Press generally, but there was one dissentient voice in a certain London morning daily of strong Feminist tendencies, wherein appeared a notice in which every one detected the hand of the Suffragette. The lady in question, who, of course, wrote under the veil of anonymity, headed her article Mr. Bax in extremis! (she probably meant in excelsis!). After a few words of general attack on the ground that all the contents were not new, she proceeded to single out and quote from the last chapter a couple of plain-sailing English sentences, upon which she pronounced her ipse dixit that the style was “bad” and the thought “jejune.” Now, what does the reader think these two “bad” and “jejune” sentences purported to say? Simply that in the humble judgment of the author the influence of the writings of Nietzsche on Modern Germany was not as powerful as some writers on the war had represented. Of course, I may have been wrong in my view as to this, but I submit that to describe such an opinion, whether right or wrong, precisely as “jejune” indicates a singular ignorance of the correct use of the English language as possible with advanced womanhood. As a matter of fact, these last two chapters of the book in question were written somewhat hurriedly, and in consequence one or two real if trivial errors had crept into them, which, unimportant as they were in themselves, were such as in the hands of a skilful critic bent on being “nasty” might (especially in a short notice) have been effectively exploited against me. These, however, my female critic had evidently neither the brains nor the knowledge to take advantage of. Accordingly, the foolish young woman who aimed at smartness achieved silliness.
Source: E. Belfort Bax, chaper VII ‘Literary Work’ in Reminiscences and Reflexions of a mid and late Victorian, London 1918.
Dr. Oldfield’s piteous whine for exempting women from the extreme penalty of the law while retaining it for men is hardly calculated to attract to his society those in whom the modern Feminist propaganda has left a rudimentary sense of justice. He has simply let the cat out of the bag. It now appears that the so-called “Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment” is no more than a blind; it really amounts to a Feminist “fake” for securing immunity for women from crimes for which the law exacts the extreme penalty for men. “What argument can any reasoning man have for perpetuating upon our statute book the crime of woman-hanging?” Answer: Precisely the same argument (if any) that the aforesaid “reasoning man” has for “perpetuating on our statute-book the crime of” man-hanging – neither more nor less.
Dr. Oldfield presumably believes in Female Suffrage. He believes, that is, that women are intellectually capable of full political rights with men, and yet, on the other hand, he denies them to be morally capable with men of distinguishing right from wrong. “The passions that sway women to murder,” he says, “are such as to make them wholly irresponsible for their actions.” If so it is quite clear that the inferiority of woman to man is of such a stupendous character that any talk of sex-equality is not merely unsound, but is on the face of it absurd. Most unprejudiced persons would probably consider that the statement above quoted, while applying to some female criminals also applied to some male criminals. But Dr. Oldfield wants to make sex the dividing line. If Dr. Oldfield refers to the crime passionel, and wishes to exempt this particular form of crime from the death penalty, why should he limit the exemption to one sex only? For my own part, I can see no reason whatever for special leaning towards the crime passionel in either sex. But be I right or wrong in this, there is no gainsaying that this type of crime is to be met with in both sexes alike. Of course, we have the usual snivelling appeal for chivalry towards the gentle murderess – the baby-farmer, the wholesale poisoner, the “female bluebeard”! My own feeling is that male chivalry ought really, if it is worth anything, to proclaim Divine Woman to be above the law, once for all – this would simplify matters, and be something like an adequate recognition of the “dignity of Womanhood.”
Dr. Oldfield does not disdain the demagogic art of working up an effect by harrowing his readers —only unfortunately rather stale drugs have had to be used for the process – a case alleged to have occurred some 150 years ago at Oxford, and something which probably never actually happened at all (at least in this country), viz., the scalding to death of female prisoners. The only instance in which this punishment is recorded as having been inflicted, I believe I am right in saying, was on a mere man, named Rose, in the reign of Henry VIII. Dr. Oldfield, however, thinks, I suppose, that mere men (other than himself) don’t mind the procedure so much as women.
I have described Dr. Oldfield’s society as a blind for something other than what it professes. I go further, and say that its policy of sex-favouritism constitutes it the worst enemy of its avowed aim. If there is anything likely to retard that complete abolition of capital punishment which so many of us desire, in the present state of public feeling, it is the abolition of the death-penalty for women. As Mr. Collinson, of the Humanitarian League, has more than once pointed out, these uni-sexual penal laws are the greatest foes of progress in humanity. The abominable enactment of 1820, which abolished flogging for women while retaining it for men, has left our prison system saddled with the lash (‘for men only,’, of course) ever since. “Should we hang women”? Yes, emphatically, precisely so long as we hang men, and no longer!
E. BELFORT BAX.
P. S. Dr. Oldfield tries to score a point by maintaining that the non-enfranchisement of women justifies a difference between the penal sauce for goose and gander. But many men also do not possess the franchise. So his argument, stripped of feminist sentiment, resolves itself into the following proposition: ” No non-elector ought to be hanged ”
Source: New Age, 16 May 1910, p. 59
The case for Anti feminism or Virilism – understanding by the term the opposition to the assumption of an equality of capacity between the sexes, and of the consequences drawn from that assumption to wit of admitting or even thrusting women into all public functions and into possession of all rights hitherto occupied or possessed by men – rests upon the fact that that initial assumption has never been proved and that the prima facie evidence of its fallacy, which has dominated the views of mankind in general on the subject to within two or three generations ago, has never been rebutted. The practical problem before us to-day as regards the position of the sexes resolves itself into three questions: –
(1) Is there an appreciable difference in capacity between the sexes?
(2) Granting a difference to exist, is it of such a nature as to render it desirable or undesirable that women should occupy the same place that men do in the community or render it possible that they should fulfill the same functions? (When I say desirable I mean of course from the point of view of efficiency and the common welfare.)
(3) Does democratic equity demand a mechanical equality at any price between the sexes such as is professedly contended for by feminists and the great symbol of which is the demand for female suffrage?
These three questions are intimately connected. The first question would be answered, willingly or unwillingly, by most responsible persons, even on the feminist side, in the affirmative. To deny a difference, even a fundamental difference, between the sexes in view of the facts is scarcely possible. I believe there are some persons on the feminist side who will go even this length but they are not numerous. It is in the second and third questions that the main diversity of view comes out. The feminist denies that the difference involves inferiority or, if it does, inferiority sufficiently marked for absolute social and political equality to jeopardise the interests of the community. The anti feminist, on the contrary, does regard the admitted difference as involving inferiority, at least in certain directions or, to put it politely, unsuitability for the performance of certain functions. With regard to the third question, perhaps the strongest divergence appears, the feminist maintaining that no matter how great the inferiority, how great the unsuitability, and in consequence, how great the prejudice to the community as a whole, democratic equity demands the concession at all costs of the suffrage and all that the suffrage implies The Anti feminist or, as I prefer to call him, the Virilist, on the contrary, denies that the political equality postulated as a democratic principle necessarily applies to sex. It applies, of course, to differences of class and to differences of race, at least where races are approximately on the same level of development. There you have to do with economic distinctions, traceable to the possession or not of wealth, or differences deducible from tradition language and physical environment. In the case of sex it is otherwise. Here a deep lying physiological distinction is involved. Here, therefore, you have a new element imported into the case, which bars your appeal to the general democratic principle of equality, which has never contemplated this element till the present feminist agitation arose, and hence the acceptance of the principle of democratic equality, as hitherto understood, by no means necessarily involves the advocacy of the concession of political power to women. To assume without further discussion that the principles of democracy necessarily as such include the demands of feminism is a begging of the question.
However I do not propose on this occasion to discuss at length these fundamental questions affecting our view on the relative positions of the sexes. For the sake of argument, I am prepared to concede the feminist case as it is stated by its advocates. Let us assume complete mechanical equality between the sexes, such as feminists demand to be at once feasible and desirable. The important questions then arising are first of all where the incidence of inequality obtains at the present time and secondly whether the equality, which is professedly aimed at by the feminist party, is not a blind concealing other and even opposite aims to those professed. The advocates of female suffrage base at least the urgency of their claim, if not the claim itself, on the fact that without the franchise women must be unfairly treated by man made law and its administration. They allege that man made law is invariably in the interests of the male sex, and must in the nature of things be so. Now, I have already on various occasions shown up this shameless falsehood in its true light, but inasmuch as there are always enough persons ignorant of law and fact in this connection, and with sentimental proclivities ever ready to accept eagerly any statement tending to show woman in the role of victim and man in that of oppressor, one can hardly restate the truth of the case often enough and I therefore propose to give here a brief review of the facts.
First of all let us take the marriage laws of the present day in England.
(1) The law of breach of promise, as is well known, enables the woman to obtain oftentimes vindictive damages against the man for refusing to marry her after having once engaged himself to her, notwithstanding that the breaking off of the engagement on his part may be on the best of grounds and really for the advantage of both parties. Should the woman in the course of her action commit perjury she is never under any circumstances prosecuted; on the contrary, even in such case the male victim is glad enough to settle the matter with money payment (e.g., £3,000, Gore v Lord Sudeley, June 10th 1896). It is vain to argue that the law of breach of promise exists also for the man, since it is well known that his legal right in the matter is hardly more than formal and practically a dead letter, while on the other hand, in the case of the woman, no element of misrepresentation or undue influence on her part will cause her to lose her right to compensation. An experienced intriguing woman of the world of thirty or forty may thus entrap a boy of three and twenty with perfect success.
(2) According to the law of England, the right of maintenance accrues solely to the woman. Formerly this privilege was made dependent on her cohabitation with the man and generally decent behaviour to him. Now even these limitations cease to be operative, while the man is liable to imprisonment and confiscation of any property he may have. A wife is now at full liberty to leave her husband, while she retains her right to get her husband sent to gaol, if he refuses to maintain her; to put the matter shortly, the law imposes on the wife no legally enforceable duties whatever towards her husband. The one thing which it will enforce with iron rigidity, is the wife’s right of maintenance against her husband/ In the case of a man of the well to do classes, the man’s property is confiscated by the law in favour of his wife. In the case of a working man the law compels the husband to do corvee for her as the feudal serf had to do for his lord. The wife on the other hand, however wealthy, is not compelled to give a farthing towards the support of her husband, even though disabled by sickness or by accident; the single exception in the latter case being, should he become chargeable to the parish, in which case the wife would have to pay the authorities a pauper’s rate for his maintenance. In a word, a wife has complete possession and control over any property she may possess as well as over her earnings, the husband on the other hand is liable to confiscation of capitalised property or earnings at the behest of the law courts in favour of his wife. A wife may even make husband bankrupt on the ground of money she alleges that she lent him, a husband on the other hand has no claim to his wife for any money advanced, since a husband is supposed give, and not to lend, his wife money or other valuables.
(3) A husband is responsible for the torts of his wife against parties at the same time that the present law gives him no control over her in any way whatever. As the late Sir Lockwood expressed it: “If Mrs. Jackson slanders or libels any person, that person can take proceedings, not against Mrs. Jackson but against Mr. Jackson.” And this although Mrs. Jackson, of her own will, has left Mr. Jackson and is living apart from him. Similarly, a wife is held by the law to be guiltless of practically any crime committed in the presence of her husband, murder excepted.
(4) No man can obtain a separation or divorce from his wife (save under the Act of 1902, a police court separation for habitual drunkenness alone) without a costly process in the High Court. Every woman can obtain, if not a divorce, at least a legal separation by whining to the nearest police court for a few shillings, which her husband, of course, has to pay. The latter, it is needless say, is mulcted in alimony “at the discretion of the court.” This “discretion” is very often of a queer character for the luckless husband. Thus, a working man only earning twenty shillings a week may easily find himself in the position of having to pay from seven to ten shillings a week to a shrew out of his wages.
In cases where a wife proceeds to file a petition for divorce the way is once more smoothed for her by the law at the husband’s expense. He has to advance her money to enable her to fight him. Should the case come on for hearing the husband finds the scale still more weighted against him: every slander of his wife is assumed to be true until he has proved its falsity; the slightest act or a word during a moment of irritation, even a long time back, is twisted into what is termed “cruelty”, even though such has been provoked by a long course of ill treatment and neglect on the part of the wife. The husband and his witnesses can be indicted for perjury for the slightest exaggeration or inaccuracy in their statements, while the most calculated falsity in the evidence of the wife and her witnesses is passed over. Not even the grossest allegation on the part of the wife against the husband, even though proved in court to be false, is sufficient ground for the husband to refuse to take her back again, or from preventing the court from confiscating his property, if he resists doing so. Knowledge of the unfairness of the court to the husband, as all lawyers are aware, prevents a large number of men from defending divorce actions brought by their wives. A point should here be mentioned as regards the action of a husband for damages against the seducer of his wife. Such damages obviously belong to the husband as compensation for his destroyed home life. Now, even these damages our modern judges in their feminist zeal have converted into a fund for endowing the adulteress, depriving the husband of any compensation whatever for the wrong done him. He may not touch the income derived from the money awarded him by the jury, which is handed over by the court to his divorced wife.
It would take us too long to go through all the privileges, direct and indirect, conferred by statute or created by the rulings of judges and the practice of the courts in favour of the wife against the husband. It is the more unnecessary to go into them here, as they may be found in detail as illustrative cases in a pamphlet, in which I collaborated, entitled: The Legal Subjection of Men (Twentieth Century Press).
It remains as regards this question of divorce to notice the one point in the divorce law which can possibly be twisted into the semblance of a grievance for the woman. I refer to the rule that, in order to obtain relief, the wife has to prove cruelty in addition to adultery, while the husband is required to prove adultery alone. This is the one straw which the feminist convulsively clutches when confronted with the infamous partiality towards women of the whole body of the English law and its administration. It has done duty now so long that it is getting a little worn, but as the one ewe lamb in the shape of a colourable grievance against divine woman, it is a treasure of inestimable value to the feminist advocate. We will therefore devote a few words to it. Now, I may say at once that so far as I am concerned, this rule might be swept away to-morrow as it probably will be very shortly, without my taking the trouble to lift a finger in its defence. But any impartial person, who regards the question from the standpoint of present and past conditions, must, I submit, come to the conclusion, that it is prima facie a perfectly reasonable provision. It has its origin mainly in the simple fact that while the woman by her adultery may bring a bastard child into her husband’s family, for the maintenance of which he is responsible, the husband, by his adultery, has produced no material injury to the wife. Hence, given the existing conditions of property holding and the conventional views as to the marriage relation, as to the justification of which in themselves I say nothing in this place, given this state of things, I submit, nothing can be more reasonable or fairer than the distinction made by the law in this matter. However, as above hinted, the rule in question is likely soon to be set aside altogether; and meanwhile, its effect notwithstanding feminist objurgations, is more illusory than real, since in our days the judges of the Divorce Court will accept practically anything the wife chooses to complain of as sufficient evidence of legal cruelty, to enable the wife to get her decree. The worst of this is that the farcical legal cruelty of the Divorce Court is often used by feminist judges as an excuse for depriving the husband of the custody of his own children.
The neglect of the husband or family on the part of the wife is no ground for the relief of the husband from his obligation for maintenance &c. Neglect of the wife by the husband is, however, a ground for judicial separation with the usual consequences alimony &c. “Thus,” as it has been put, “between the upper and the nether millstone cruelty on the one hand, neglect on the other, the unhappy husband can be legally ground to pieces whether he does anything or whether he does nothing.” Personal violence, while severely punished on the part of the husband, is an amusement that the wife can resort to with impunity. If she is prosecuted by the husband, the result will be at most a fine which he himself has to pay. Should she in very extreme cases be sentenced to imprisonment, the husband, if a poor man, is practically compelled to take her back to live with him on her release. The law in this respect would be better understood if I mention a case, which came under my notice some years ago, in which a humane magistrate had to make a treaty with a married woman who had nearly murdered her husband, by which he consented to let her off scot free, provided she graciously agreed to a separation. Presumably the wretched victim had still to support this female brute. Legally he would have been liable to do so, should she become chargeable to the parish.
From a case taken haphazard from Lloyd’s News, March 6th 1910, a wife had been allowed under an order of the Court of Chancery to take the whole of her husband’s income as well as her own, leaving the husband totally without means to support the children, although presumably the wife being deprived of the custody of the children, had caused the divorce by her “misconduct.” This shows to what incredible length the feminist current has influenced the power of the law. From the same journal in another case, the husband had petitioned for divorce, the wife counter-claiming judicial separation, the parties having made it up and being again together. The judge, on the application of the husband’s counsel, dismissed the petition for divorce, but declined to dismiss the wife’s counter-claim, reserving that for future decision; therefore, the wife living with her husband, who had abandoned his claim and condoned the wife’s faults, had still the claim of the wife held in pressure over him, and also her right to apply for a trial of that claim at any time; a monstrous violation, it would appear, of the rectitude of all judicial procedure. By the decision in the Jackson case above referred to, no compulsion can be exercised on the wife to compel her to obey an order of the court for the restitution of conjugal rights. This had already been provided for so far as the direct action of the law is concerned by Lord Cairns’s Act of 1884, which took away the right of the court to enforce obedience by imprisonment or by the attachment of property. But by a cynical stroke, this same law enacted that the husband’s property might be confiscated in the case of disobedience. The Jackson case which decided against the husband’s personal rights to retain his wife in the house when she proposed to leave him, i.e. to enforce his legal right to cohabitation is simply in full accordance with the prevailing tendency to free the woman and enslave the man. The Law Lords some years ago extended the principle involved in the above tendency to Scottish law. Previously the law of Scotland allowed desertion for five years to constitute a divorce with the right of re marriage. This arrangement was practically upset by a decision in the House of Lords in 1894, when they refused to grant divorce to a man whose wife had left him for four years and taken her child with her They justified their new interpretation of the law on the ground that the man did not really want her to come back to him. But inasmuch as this plea can be started in every case where it cannot be proved that the husband had absolutely grovelled before his wife, imploring her to return, and possibly even then, since the sincerity even of this grovelling might conceivably be called in question, it is clear that the decision practically rendered this old Scottish law inoperative for the husband. As for bigamy, every newspaper reader must be aware that while a man not uncommonly receives seven years for this offence, I think I am not wrong in stating, that no woman has ever been in recent years imprisoned for marrying again during her husband’s lifetime.
Having given a cursory statement of the present condition of the law and its administration as regards the matrimonial relation, we will now proceed to deal with the question of the relative incidence of the criminal law on the two sexes. We will start with the crime of murder, especially the murder of a husband or wife, a lover or sweetheart. The law of murder is nominally the same for the woman as for the man, but the effectiveness of its provisions in the two cases is very different.
The general principles as regards women accused of the crime of murder may be roughly formulated as follows: –
The least excuse is deemed sufficient to reduce the crime from murder to manslaughter. In order to secure a conviction, the evidence must be at least ten times as strong as the minimum evidence which would carry a conviction in the case of a man. Should the verdict be one of murder, the death penalty is almost invariably commuted probably at the instance of the jury as well as of the judge. If, as is usually the case, the woman is convicted of manslaughter instead of murder, an almost invariably light and oftentimes merely nominal sentence is passed. For older cases I may refer those interested to the pamphlet before mentioned, but a recent case of a particularly flagrant character may be here given extracted from the Morning Leader (September 23rd, 1908). Mrs. E.B.C, twenty six, widow, was remanded at Marylebone on a charge of murdering her husband. A post mortem examination of deceased revealed a portion of a hat pin three inches in the left lung. At the inquest, Mrs. C. said, her husband had told her it ran into him and broke off as he was getting into bed. After the funeral the relatives returned to the house and deceased’s two brothers entered the room and called prisoner aside. One of them asked her if she ran the hat pin into her husband. “Yes,” she replied, “I did it in a fit of passion.” He then returned to the room and said “Ladies and gentlemen, Elsie has owned up that she stabbed Arthur in a fit of passion.” Finally at the trial the jury found her guilty of manslaughter and on her declaring that she was maddened by her husband accusing her of immorality, she was merely bound over. Now here is a case which had a man been in the dock and his wife the victim, he would undoubtedly have been convicted of murder and probably hanged. But the woman is let off scot free.
A similar case, not quite so recent, is the following: Extract from The Times for January 9th and 16th, 1905, R.G., forty nine, who fatally stabbed A.S., a barrister at law, with whom she had lived for upwards of thirty years, on December 21st, 1904. She was alleged to have stabbed him in the back with a knife at their residence. Jury returned a verdict of manslaughter and she was sentenced by Mr. Justice Darling to six months in the second division!
A further case may be cited, taken from a report in the News of the World of February 28th, 1909. A young woman shot at the local postman with a revolver, the bullet grazed his face, she, having fired point blank at his head. Jury returned a verdict of not guilty although the revolver was found on her when arrested, and the facts were admitted and were as follows: At noon she left her house crossing three fields to the house of the victim, who was at home and alone; upon his appearing she fired point blank at his head, he banged to the door and thus turned off the bullet, which grazed his face and “ploughed a furrow through his hair.” She had by her, when arrested, a revolver cocked and with four chambers undischarged.
These cases are good illustrations of the attitude taken by judges and juries towards the crimes of murder and attempted murder when committed by women against men. What that attitude is, where crimes of identical nature are committed by men against women, we have only to open our morning newspapers to see.
Let us now take the crime of violent assault with attempt to do bodily injury. The following cases will serve as illustrative examples: — From the News of the World (May 9th, 1909): A nurse in Belfast sued her lost swain for breach of promise. She obtained £100 damages, although it was admitted by her counsel that she had thrown vitriol over the defendant, thereby injuring him, and the defendant had not prosecuted her. Also it was admitted that she had been carrying on with another man. From the Morning Leader of July 8th 1905 I have taken the following extraordinary facts as to the varied punishment awarded in cases of vitriol throwing. That of a woman, who threw vitriol over a sergeant at Aldershot and was sentenced to six months imprisonment without hard labour, while a man, who threw vitriol over a woman at Portsmouth, was tried and convicted at the Plants Assizes on July 7th, 1905 and sentenced by Mr. Justice Bigham to twelve years penal servitude. As regards the first case, it will be observed that notwithstanding her crime, which in the case of the man was described by the judge as “cowardly and vile” and meriting twelve years penal servitude, the woman was rewarded by damages for £100 to be obtained from the very man whom she had done her best to maim for life, besides being unfaithful to him, and who had generously abstained from prosecuting. But it is not merely in cases of murder, attempted murder or serious assault that justice is mocked by the present state of our law and its administration in the interests of the female sex; the same attitude is observed, the same farcical sentences passed on women, whether the crime be theft, fraud, common assault, criminal slander, or other minor offences. We have the same preposterous excuses admitted, the same preposterous pleas allowed, and the same farcical sentences passed, if indeed any sentence be passed at all. The following examples I have culled at random: – From John Bull (February 26th, 1910): At the London Sessions Mr. Robert Wallace had to deal with the case of a well-dressed woman living at Hampstead, who pleaded guilty to obtaining goods to the amount of £50 by false pretences. In explication of her crime it was stated, that she was under a mistaken impression that her engagement would not lead to marriage, that she became depressed, and that “she did not know what she said or did”; while in mitigation of punishment it was urged the money had been repaid, that her fiancé could not marry her if she was sent to gaol, and that her life would be irretrievably ruined; and she was discharged. From the Birmingham Post (February 4th, 1902): M.W., twenty six, clerk, pleaded guilty to embezzling £5 1s. 9d., on November 16th £2 2s. 4d. on December 21st, and £5 0s. 9d. on December 23rd last, the moneys of her employers. Prosecuting counsel said prisoner entered prosecutor’s employ in 1900, and in June last, her salary was raised to 27s. 6d. a week. The defalcations, which began a month before the increase, amounted to 134. She had falsified the books, and when suspicion fell upon her, destroyed two books in order as she thought to prevent detection. Her counsel pleaded for leniency on the ground of her previous good character, and because she was engaged. The Recorder merely bound her over, stating that her parents and young man were respectable, and so was the house in which she lodged. A correspondent mentions in the Birmingham Post of February 8th, 1902, a case where a woman had burned her employer’s outhouses and property doing £1,800 worth of damage and got off with a month’s imprisonment. On the other hand the same judge at the same Quarter Sessions thus dealt with two male embezzlers C.C., twenty eight, clerk, who pleaded guilty to embezzling two sums of money from his master in August and September of 1901, amounts not given, was sent to gaol for six calendar months, and S. Gr., twenty four, clerk, pleaded guilty to embezzling 7s 6d and 3s. For the defence it was urged that the prisoner had been poorly paid and the Recorder, hearing that a gentleman was prepared to employ the man as soon as released, sentenced him to three months hard labour. A further and more recent case, and one which is also mentioned in John Bull of February 26th, 1910, is worthy of being noted here: A sentence of a month’s hard labour was passed by the Mortlake magistrates on a porter convicted of stealing sixpenny worth of milk from a churn at Barnes railway station. He had been in the employ of the railway company for ten years and nothing was known against him apart from this—at least the only thing against him was that he had not been born a woman.
In cases of annoyance and harassing of men in their business occupation or profession by women, however aggravated, and however serious the injury, the magistrate will generally tell the prosecutor that he cannot interfere. This incident is so common in police court reports that hardly any newspaper reader could fail to remark it. In the opposite case, that of a man harassing a woman, he is invariably called upon to find sureties, failing which he is sent to gaol.
We now come to one of the most infamous pieces of one sided sex-legislation on the statute book I refer to the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1886. The Act in its entire inception shows sufficiently the cloven hoof of feminist bias, but it contains one provision which, to use the Yankee phrase, “fairly licks creation” for its brazen bare faced outrage on every elementary sense of justice. It is well known that the English law has never regarded the corruption of minors by a woman as a crime or even as a misdemeanour. But the Act in question goes a step further. While consecrating this female sex-privilege, it enacts in effect that a boy of fourteen years can be prosecuted and sent to gaol for an offence to which he has been instigated by a girl just under sixteen years, whom the law of course on the basis of the aforesaid sex-privilege holds guiltless. When one considers the usual greater precocity of girls than boys, the iniquity of such a measure as this will appear in its strongest light. A particularly bad case in point was decided on appeal from the Central Criminal Court to the Court for Crown Cases reserved in June 1894, in which a designing female wretch appeared as witness against a number of boys younger than herself, whom it came out in cross examination, she had been directly instrumental in debauching. In some respects this clause of what is known as Mr. Stead’s Act, puts the coping stone on to the legal privileging of women, since here all semblance even of justice and fairness is flung to the winds, and the legal sex-privilege stands forth naked and unashamed. In the pamphlet before referred to will be found a number of illustrative cases collected by the late Dr. Lawson Tait of Birmingham, from his own experience as medical officer of police showing the direct encouragement offered by the law, as it at present stands, to blackmail and bogus charges on the part of women.
It must not be forgotten as regards the citation of criminal cases illustrating the infamous partiality of the law and its administration towards female prisoners, that one whole class—probably the most numerous—and certainly the most important class of such cases, the law of libel, as it stands to-day, bars anyone from alluding to, individually. I refer to the acquittal of women notoriously guilty on the evidence. This last class of cases as already stated, cannot be used in illustration of the partiality of the law, owing to the incidence of the law of libel, which gives an acquitted person the right of action no matter how notoriously wrongful the acquittal may have been.
We have seen now the privilege at the expense of the man which the law itself and still more its administration affords to women. It remains to consider the preferential treatment in prison after conviction. What prison discipline is for the male offender is perfectly well known: He is liable, in addition to severe physical labour as part of his penalty, to the torture of the plank bed; and for any breach of prison discipline may be given the punishment of flogging. Now, female prisoners are expressly exempted as such from all these frightful aggravations of confinement in gaol. The work they have to do is invariably of a light character, laundry work, needle work, &c. They are not condemned at night to the plank bed, but are allowed an ordinary mattress and pillow with bed covering, while by the law of England no woman can be flogged for the most heinous offence, even as a part of her sentence, much less at the behest of prison justices for mere breach of rules. It must not be forgotten either here that a sentence of imprisonment on a woman compared with that on a man in a like case is often not more than a third of the duration. A woman has moreover special privileges as regards good conduct marks, and as to the chances generally of being released before her time has expired.
The history of the suffragette movement in this direction is instructive when, according to the newspapers, the prisoners were allowed with practical impunity to bite, scratch, and kick the wardresses, and to throw their food and utensils through the window, and for a long time had only to go for two or three days without their dinner to be let out scot free. Let us picture to ourselves what would have happened to a man under like circumstances: solitary confinement for weeks, bread and water diet, plank bed, lash, &c, even if he were not brought before the magistrates for additional sentence for assault. But even all these exemptions did not satisfy the females in question. Did not they and their male backers make the welkin ring for weeks together with a veritable howl of indignation at the harsh treatment they received—they being political prisoners, if you please? As regards this last point, most of those who shouted loudest must have known perfectly well that up to that time never had there been recognised in English law or custom any difference as regards prison treatment between political and other offences. How often have male Socialist speakers been imprisoned for the technical offence of obstruction without a voice being raised as to their not receiving first class treatment? Moreover, even had such a distinction ever existed, those who shrieked loudest on the subject could hardly have been so devoid of intelligence, one would think, as not to see that breaking windows, assaulting the police, &c., could not be considered otherwise than as common law offences, rendering those guilty of them liable to the ordinary punishment for such misdemeanours. Everyone knows that the term “political offence,” apart from actual insurrection, refers to spoken or written words, the attempt to maintain the right of public meeting in the face of, say, a Government order to the contrary, and has never been used to cover the vulgar, silly, and objectless police offences, by which the suffragettes made themselves notorious.
From the state of things of which the foregoing is a very imperfect sketch, it is evident, we are confronted in modern society, in addition to the only too obvious class opposition which divides the possessors and controllers of the land and means of production of wealth, generally from the propertyless proletariat, with another line of demarcation, this time having not an economical, but a physiological basis: that of sex. We have, in fact, society divided into two portions, with the dividing line of sex. One side is held fully responsible for its actions before the law, and fully amenable to the penalties provided by the law for offences, the other section is not held responsible for its actions or, if it is, only in an attenuated degree, and is practically immune from at least all the severer penalties of the law. Such is the position, as regards this much debated question, of the social status and relations of the sexes at the present day. Now there may be various arguments for the granting of the suffrage to women, as there are undoubtedly many weighty reasons against it, based on the physical intellectual and moral characteristics of women, but quite apart from these considerations, nay, even granting for the sake of argument the justice of the pro suffragists case, even then, I say, so long as women remain as they are to-day in a position of privilege, which exempts them to a large extent from the pains and penalties for committing crimes and breaking the law, generally to which men are liable, so long, quite apart from any other consideration, to talk of their having a right to the suffrage on the ground of democratic justice is a farcical absurdity.
But. it will be observed by the feminist, “women are not responsible for these privileges, which are the work of male legislation!” “All they are asking for is equality!” I have even heard it said: “Your argument tells in favour of admitting women to the franchise, if, as you say, this legislation in which women have had no hand is so bad!” This sounds like a plausible argument, but unfortunately it won’t work. For as a matter of fact, women are largely responsible for the whole body of one sided sex-legislation, which has arisen within the last half century. It is they who have created the public opinion that has rendered it possible. It has been by a ceaseless agitation, by an untiring misrepresentation of fact, by nobbling members of the Press and of Parliament, that the infamous laws we have been considering have come into being. This has been the work of precisely the same type of women, and in so far as they are yet living, even of the individual women themselves, who are at the present moment clamouring for the franchise. It is only necessary to listen to the leaders of the modern suffrage movement for a few minutes, to find out that their aim is to use the suffrage as a means of forcing on to the statute book more one sided legislation of the same description. What else is the meaning of the outcry against man made laws and of the reiterated assertion that women will never get their rights until they obtain the suffrage. No suggestion here that women already possess privileges of which equity would deprive them!
The extent to which “political” women cling to the most iniquitous privileges of their sex is aptly illustrated by the agitation got up lately by the Suffrage Societies for the reprieve of the Italian murderess Napolitano in Canada, who had been condemned to death for having in the most cold blooded manner butchered her husband in his sleep. Verily anything female has the heartfelt sympathy of the “anti-man” suffragette!!
On the contrary, the whole walk and conversation of the present day female agitator is a proof, if such were needed, that it is hoped to exercise directly, by means of the franchise, a similar pressure and for a similar object to that previously exercised indirectly, which we have to thank for the existing sex-privileges.
That the granting of the suffrage to women, in spite of what is often said as regards this point, means sex-tyranny over men by women, is sufficiently indicated by recent results. For example, New Zealand, where, as is well known, women possess the franchise, has recently afforded an instructive case of such tyranny. In the conscription law lately passed there, which of course affects men alone, it is provided that no alcohol shall be permitted in the camps of the citizen soldiers. But this is not all. A deputation of women some time ago interviewed the responsible Minister to exact assurances that the law should not be evaded. That the desired assurances were given was hailed by the spokeswoman of the deputation as a great triumph for the principle of female suffrage. “Did women not possess the vote,” said she, “such a deputation would have been put off with the reply that men must have their drinks!” If this is not sex-tyranny I do not know what is. Again in Australia (Victoria) where women also possess all political and municipal rights, a law, I understand, has been passed reserving in the parks’ special seats for women, on which, if any man rest, he shall be heavily fined. To come nearer home, in that special resort of the advanced person, the Garden City at Letchworth, teetotalism has at the biennial referendum been hitherto enforced against a majority of male votes by the female inhabitants. Now seeing that it is generally the male proletarian who, after his day’s work, wants his drink, we have here another instance upon a small scale of a piece of sex-despotism.
I put the case once for all, in conclusion, to all advanced women who pretend to advocate equal laws between the sexes, political and otherwise—”are you able to drink of the cup that men drink of and to be baptised with the baptism that men are baptised with?” You know perfectly well that you do not believe you are able and that if you were able, you would certainly not be willing. You know quite well in your heart of hearts, however much you may profess it with your lips, not only that you are not willing to surrender one iota of your present privileges, but that your talk of equality is but a blind! What you are really aiming at is not merely the consolidation of your existing privileges, but the acquirement of as many fresh sex-privileges, political, social, or economical, as you can obtain. You know perfectly well that the notion of protesting against the sex-privileges you enjoy as unjust has never entered the head of any of your number. Your aim, I again insist, addressing, as I am, of course, the leaders of the present feminist movement, and excluding possible exceptions in the rank and file, your aim is the conversion of the female sex into a dominant sex noblesse!
As a proof that this is the object of the modern woman’s agitation, we have only to cast our eyes down the clauses of Mrs. M. Laren’s Woman’s Charter, one of which is that the husband, in addition to his present burdens, should be compelled to pay a weekly sum to his wife, ostensibly as wages for her housekeeping services, which bien entendu she may perform badly or well or not at all without forfeiting her right to be paid for them at full rate. Another clause is that a wife is to be under no obligation to follow a husband who is compelled by circumstances, in order to earn a livelihood for himself and her, to reside out of the country.
In your endeavours in this respect you are aided by that sex-glamour of which Schopenhauer speaks and by which the bulk of men are hypnotized. You are well aware that it is this sex-blindness which prevents large numbers of men from seeing things as they really are, and upon this you mainly rely for the success of your agitation!
Source: A Creature of Privilege. The Fortnightly Review, 110(85) November 1, 1911. p. 919ff
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.
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  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.
 A character in “She Stoops To Conquer” by Oliver Goldsmith, 1773.
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.