Tag Archives: Ernest Belfort Bax

A Creature of Privilege (1911)

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

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Preface

THE LEGAL SUBJECTION OF MEN (1908)

Preface To New Edition.

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

E. Belfort Bax.

Preface

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

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

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The Problem of Modern Feminism (1912)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bax on ‘Sentimental Feminism’ and ‘Political Feminism’

SuffrageLR

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why not, if she molests you?

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

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

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

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Bax on Feminism and The Media

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

Feminism and Female Suffrage (1910)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s Privileges and “Rights” (1909)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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