Tag Archives: Ernest Belfort Bax

1. Historical

THE position of women in social life was for a long time a matter of course. It did not arise as a question, because it was taken for granted. The dominance of men seemed to derive so obviously from natural causes, from the possession of faculties physical, moral and intellectual, in men, which were wanting in women, that no one thought of questioning the situation. At the same time, the inferiority of woman was never conceived as so great as to diminish seriously, much less to eliminate altogether, her responsibility for crimes she might commit. There were cases, of course, such as that of offences committed by women under coverture, in which a diminution of responsibility was recognised and was given effect to in condonation of the offence and in mitigation of the punishment. But there was no sentiment in general in favour of a female more than of a male criminal. It entered into the head of no one to weep tears of pity over the murderess of a lover or husband rather than over the murderer of a sweetheart or wife. Similarly, minor offenders, a female blackmailer, a female thief, a female perpetrator of an assault, was not deemed less guilty or worthy of more lenient treatment than a male offender in like cases. The law, it was assumed, and the assumption was acted upon, was the same for both sexes. The sexes were equal before the law. The laws were harsher in some respects than now, although not perhaps in all. But there was no special line of demarcation as regards the punishment of offences as between men and women. The penalty ordained by the law for crime or misdemeanour was the same for both and in general applied equally to both. Likewise in civil suits, proceedings were not specially weighted against the man and in favour of the woman. There was, as a general rule, no very noticeable sex partiality in the administration of the law.

This state of affairs continued in England till well into the nineteenth century. Thenceforward a change began to take place. 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 attempt to paint women in a different light to the traditional one of physical, intellectual and moral inferiority to men, probably received its first literary expression in a treatise published in 1532 by Cornelius Agrippa of Nettesheim entitled De Nobilitate et Praecellentia Feminei Sexus and dedicated to Margaret, Regent of the Netherlands, whose favour Agrippa was at that time desirous of courting. The ancient world has nothing to offer in the shape of literary forerunners of Modern Feminism, although that industrious collector of historical odds and ends, Valerius Maximus, relates the story of one Afrania who, with some of her friends, created disturbances in the Law Courts of ancient Rome in her attempt to make women’s voices heard before the tribunals. As regards more recent ages, after Agrippa, we have to wait till the early years of the eighteenth century for another instance of Feminism before its time, in an essay on the subject of woman by Daniel Defoe. But it was not till the closing years of the eighteenth century that any considerable expression of opinion in favour of changing the relative positions of the sexes, by upsetting the view of their respective values, founded on the general experience of mankind, made itself noticeable.

The names of Mary Wollstonecraft in English literature and of Condorcet in French, will hardly fail to occur to the reader in this connection. During the French Revolution the crazy Olympe de Gouges achieved ephemeral notoriety by her claim for the intellectual equality of women with men.

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.

The Original Divorce Law of 1857 in its provisions respecting costs and alimony, constitutes another landmark in the matter of female privilege before the law. Other measures of unilateral sex legislation followed in the years ensuing until the present state of things, by which the whole power of the State is practically at the disposal of woman to coerce and oppress men. But this side of the question we propose to deal with later on.

The present actual movement of Feminism in political and social life may be deemed to have begun in the early sixties, in the agitation which preceded the motion of John Stuart Mill in 1867, on the question of conferring the parliamentary franchise upon women. This was coincident with an agitation for the opening of various careers to women, notably the medical faculty. We are speaking, of course, here of Great Britain, which was first in the field in Europe, alike in the theory and practice of Modern Feminism. But the publication by the great protagonist of the movement, John Stuart Mill, of his book, The Subjection of Women, in 1868, endowed the cause with a literary gospel which was soon translated into the chief languages of the Continent, and corresponding movements started in other countries. Strangely enough, it made considerable headway in Russia, the awakening of Russia to Western ideas having, recently begun to make itself felt at the time of which we are speaking. The movement henceforth took its place as a permanent factor in the political and social life of this and other countries. Bills for female suffrage were introduced every year into the British House of Commons with, on the whole, yearly diminishing majorities against these measures, till a few years back the scale turned on the other side, and the Women’s Enfranchisement Bill passed every year its second reading until 1912, when for the first time for many years it was rejected by a small majority. Meanwhile both sides of the Feminist movement, apart from the question of the franchise, had been gaining in influence. Municipal franchise “on the same terms as for men” had been conceded. Women have voted for and sat on School Boards, Boards of Guardians, and other public bodies. Their claim to exercise the medical profession has been not merely admitted in law but recognised in public opinion for long past. All the advantages of an academic career have been opened to them, with the solitary exception of the actual conferment of degrees at Oxford and Cambridge. Such has been the growth of the articulate and political side of the theory of Modern Feminism.

The sentimental side of Feminism, with its practical result of the overweighting of justice in the interests of women in the courts, civil as well as criminal, and their practical immunity from the operation of the criminal law when in the dock, has advanced correspondingly; while at the same time the sword of that same criminal law is sharpened to a razor edge against the man even accused, let alone convicted, of any offence against the sacrosanct majesty of “Womanhood.” Such is the present position of the Woman question in this country, which we take as typical, in the sense that in Great Britain, to which we may also add the United States of America and the British Colonies, where – if possible, the movement is stronger than in the mother country itself – we see the logical outcome of Feminist theory and sentiment. It remains to consider the existing facts more in detail, and the psychological bearings of that large number of persons who have been in the recent past, and are being at the present time, influenced to accept the dogmas of Modern Feminism and the statements of alleged facts made by its votaries. Before doing so it behoves us to examine the credibility of the dogmas themselves, and the nature of the arguments used to support them and also the accuracy of the alleged facts employed by the Feminists to stimulate the indignation of the popular mind against the pretended wrongs of women.

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Footnote:

[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).

Introduction

IN the following pages it is not intended to furnish a treatise on the evolution of woman generally or of her place in society, but simply to offer a criticism on the theory and practice of what is known as Modern Feminism.

By Modern Feminism I understand a certain attitude of mind towards the female sex. This attitude of mind is often self-contradictory and illogical. While on the one hand it will claim, on the ground of the intellectual and moral equality of women with men, the concession of female suffrage, and commonly, in addition thereto, the admission of women to all professions, offices and functions of public life; on the other it will strenuously champion the preservation and intensification of the privileges and immunities before the law, criminal and civil, in favour of women, which have grown up in the course of the nineteenth century.

The above attitude, with all its inconsistencies, has at its back a strong sex-conscious party, or sex union, as we may term it, among women, and a floating mass of inconsequent, slushy sentiment among men. There is more than one popular prejudice which obscures the meaning and significance of Modern Feminism with many people. There is a common theory, for instance, based upon what really obtained to some extent before the prevalence of Modern Feminism, that in any case of antagonism between the two sexes, women always take the man’s side against the woman. Now this theory, if it ever represented the true state of the case, has long ceased to do so.

The powerful female sex union spoken of, in the present day, exercises such a strong pressure in the formation of public opinion among women, that it is rapidly becoming next to impossible, even in the most flagrant cases, where man is the victim, to get any woman to acknowledge that another woman has committed a wrong. On the other hand it may be noted, that the entire absence of any consciousness of sex antagonism in the attitude of men towards women, combined with an intensification of the old-world chivalry prescribed by tradition towards the so-called weaker sex, exercises, if anything, an increasing sway over male public opinion. Hence the terrific force Feminism has obtained in the world of the early twentieth century.

It is again often supposed, and this is also a mistake, that in individual cases of dispute between the sexes, the verdict, let us say of a jury of men, in favour of the female prisoner or the female litigant is solely or even mainly determined by the fact of the latter’s good looks. This may indeed play a part; but it is easy to show from records of cases that it is a subordinate one – that, whatever her looks or her age may be, the verdict is given her not so much because she is a pretty woman as because she is a woman. Here again the question of attractiveness may have played a more potent part in determining male verdicts in the days before Feminist sentiment and Feminist views had reached their present dominance. But now the question of sex alone, of being a woman, is sufficient to determine judgment in her favour.

There is a trick with which votaries of Feminism seek to prejudice the public mind against its critics, and that is the “fake” that any man who ventures to criticise the pretensions of Feminism, is actuated by motives of personal rancour against the female sex, owing to real or imaginary wrongs suffered by him at the hands of some member or members of the sex. I suppose it may be possible that there are persons, not precisely microcephalous idiots, who could be made to believe such stuff as this in disparagement of him who ventures an independent judgment on these questions; otherwise the conduct of Feminists in adopting this line of argument would be incomprehensible. But we would fain believe that the number of these feebleminded persons, who believe there is any connection between a man having independent judgement enough to refuse to bend the knee to Modern Feminist dogma, and his having quarrelled with any or all of his female friends or relations, cannot be very numerous. As a matter of fact there is not one single prominent exponent of views hostile to the pretensions of what is called the “Woman’s Movement” of the present day, respecting whom there is a tittle of evidence of his not having lived all his life on the best of terms with his womankind. There is only one case known of indirectly by the present writer, and that not of a prominent writer or speaker on the subject, that would afford any plausible excuse whatever for alleging anti-Feminist views to have been influenced by personal motives of this kind. I am aware, of course, that Feminists, with their usual mendacity, have made lying statements to this effect respecting well-nigh every prominent writer on the anti-Feminist side, in the hope of influencing the aforesaid feeble-minded members of the public against their opponents. But a very little investigation suffices to show in every case the impudent baselessness of their allegations. The contemptible silliness of this method of controversy should render it unworthy of serious remark, and my only excuse for alluding to it is the significant sidelight it casts upon the intellectual calibre of those who resort to it, and of the confidence or want of confidence they have in the inherent justice of their cause and the logical strength of their case.

Preface

Preface to the 1921 Reissue

THE following essay was published at the end of 1913 and is now reissued as originally written. Since the year before the World War the situation of woman has, of course, changed. Feminism in this and in some other countries has won well-nigh all its formal demands. Mr Asquith, who before the war declared he would have nothing to do with a House of Commons elected by a female vote, during the war, for no assignable reason, suddenly made a volte-face and became a strong advocate of female franchise.

The acquisition of the suffrage has as its result carried with it the right to all occupations and offices, as decreed by the “Sex-Disability Repeal Act,” and so the pitch-forking of women into administrative posts proceeds galore. But the main contentions of The Fraud of Feminism have not been affected by the change in question. Though women have been conceded all the rights of men, their privileges as females have remained untouched, while the sentimental “pull” they have over men, and the favouritism shown them in the courts, civil and criminal, often in flagrant violation of elementary justice, continues as before. The result of their position on juries, as evinced in certain trials, has rather confirmed the remarks made in Chapter II anent hysteria than otherwise. The sex-bias of men in favour of women and the love of the advanced woman towards her sex-self show no sign of abatement. Proposals to the effect that in the event of infanticide by a mother the putative father should be placed in the dock merely because he is a man are received with applause.

The other day, at a court held in a fashionable town of the south coast, on a prostitute being brought up charged with soliciting, a female “justice,” recently appointed, declaimed against the wickedness of punishing prostitutes for soliciting while men were never brought up charged with the offence. (Needless to say, there was the usual male fool to be found in the body of the court, who shouted: “Hear! Hear!”) Now is it conceivable, I ask, that anybody can be so infatuated with Feminism as not to see that a prostitute who solicits nightly in the exercise of her trade – i.e. for the purpose of money-making – is in a different position from a man who, once in a way, may, urged by natural passion, make advances to a woman? Such a person must be unable to see distinctions in anything, one would think. Besides, it is not true that men, if charged with the annoyance or molestation of women, cannot be, and have not been, prosecuted for the offence. The lady “justice” in question would probably like to see a man paired with a prostitute in the dock every time the latter gave occasion for police action. Such is the Feminist notion of justice.

There are a vast number of men who cultivate the pretence of having a contempt for, or a prejudice against, their own sex. The idea seems to be to pander to the sex-vanity of the “New Woman.” Every popular writer caters for this prejudice. No one can have failed to notice the persistent journalistic and literary “stunt” by which the man is portrayed in the light of a miserable and abject living creature as a foil to the “noble animal” woman. There is scarcely a play, short story or novel the plot of which in any way admits of it where this now stale device is not dragged in some form or shape. Even Shaw, with all his somewhat ostentatious flouting of convention, cannot resist the temptation of yielding to it in one or two of his plays – e.g. Catherine the Great. This sort of thing is not without its influence on the course of justice, as the daily papers still continue to show us.

Times have not changed in this respect. The war, which has altered the face of things otherwise and in the matter of the social and political aspect of sex-relations, has been the occasion of revolutionary transformation in the shape of political sex-equality, has left female privilege, civil and criminal, as it was in 1913. There is no indication that the general public has a dawning sense that, to adapt the common metaphor, “What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” Everywhere we hear the same old bogus grievances of the female sex trotted out as crying for remedy, but never the injustice of a man being compelled, whatever his economic position, to keep his wife, while a woman is under no corresponding obligation to keep her husband. No urgency is suggested for removing the anomaly that a husband is amenable for his wife’s libels and slanders; none that a boy of fourteen is punishable for a sexual offence to which he has been incited by a girl of sixteen, who gets off scot-free; none that the obligation of a husband, whose wife wishes to bring an action for divorce against him, to furnish her with the money to fight him, should be abolished. On the other hand, every law, every judicial decision, every case in the courts, civil and criminal, that on the most superficial view can be exploited by the conventional Feminist claptrap to prove the wickedness of “man-made law” to woman, is gripped by the beak of the Feminist harpy to help build up her nest of lying sex-prejudice, whence she and her confraternity may sally forth and by their raids on male sentiment not merely help to buttress up existing female privilege, but wherever possible to increase the already one-sided injustice of the law and its administration towards men in the interest of the other sex.

 

Preface

The present volume aims at furnishing a succinct exposure of the pretensions of the Modern Feminist Movement. It aims at presenting the case against it with an especial view to tracking down and gibbetting the infamous falsehoods, the conventional statements, which are not merely perversions of the truth, but which are directly and categorically contrary to the truth, but which pass muster by sheer force of uncontradicted repetition. It is by this kind of bluff that the claims of Feminism are sustained. The following is a fair example of the statements of Feminist writers:– “As for accusing the world at large of fatuous indulgence for womanhood in general, the idea is too preposterous for words. The true ‘legends of the Old Bailey’ tell, not of women absurdly acquitted, but of miserable girls sent to the gallows for murders committed in half delirious dread of the ruthlessness of hypocritical Society.” Now it is this sort of legend that it is one of the chief objects of the following pages to explode. Of course the “fatuous indulgence” for “womanhood in general,” practised by the “world at large,” is precisely one of the most conspicuous features of our time, and the person who denies it, if he is not deliberately prevaricating, must be a veritable Rip van Winkle awakening out of a sleep lasting at least two generations. Similarly the story of the “miserable girls sent to the gallows,” etc., is, as far as living memory is concerned, a pure legend. It is well known that in the cases referred to of the murder of their new-born children by girls, at the very outside a year or two’s tight imprisonment is the only penalty actually inflicted.

The acquittal of women on the most serious charges, especially where the victims are men, in the teeth of the strongest evidence, is, on the other hand, an every-day occurrence. Now it is statements like the above on which, as already said, the Feminist Movement thrives; its most powerful argumentative weapon with the man in the street is the legend that woman is oppressed by man. It is rarely that anyone takes the trouble to refute the legend in general, or any specific case adduced as an illustration of it. When, however, the bluff is exposed, when the real facts of the case are laid bare to public notice, and woman is shown, not only as not oppressed but as privileged, up to the top of her bent, 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.

For the rest, it must not be supposed that this little book makes any claim to exhaust the subject or to be a scientific treatise. It is, and is meant to be, a popular refutation of the current arguments in favour of Feminism, and a brief statement of the case against Feminism. Sir Almroth Wright’s short treatise, The Unexpurgated Case against Woman’s Suffrage, which deals with the question from a somewhat different standpoint, may be consulted with advantage by the reader.

An acknowledgment should be made to the editor of The New Age for the plucky stand made by that journal in the attempt to dam the onrush of sentimental slush set free by the self-constituted champions of womanhood. I have also to thank two eminent medical authorities for reading the proofs of my second chapter.

The Legal Subjection of Men

THE LEGAL SUBJECTION OF MEN (1896)
by Ernest Belfort Bax

Legal subjection of menThe Legal Subjection of Men was co-written by Bax and an unnamed Irish barrister in 1896 as a response and rejoinder to John Stuart Mill’s 1869 essay “The Subjection of Women.” The 1908 reissue of the book includes the new subtitle, “A Reply to the Suffragettes.”

Below is an old avdertizement for Ernest Belfort Baxs’ book ‘The Legal Subjection of Men’ in an 1896 newspaper entitled Justice:

Publication- Justice - Saturday 05 December 1896 [ Ernest Belfort Bax ]

12. “The Oppressed Woman”

As regards the occasional cases of the ill-treatment of women by men, especially wife assaults and such like, these may by traced largely to the infamous state of the law we have described. Where the law practically refuses justice to one section of the community against another, it is only “human nature” (if we may employ that much-abused phrase) that occasionally members of the section to which justice is refused should be found to take the matter into their own hands, and attempt to redress the balance, by acts, amounting sometimes to brutality. It were surely more reasonable, rather than to expend indignation and ferocity on the individual offender, to seek out and remedy the underlying cause of the offence. Give men reasonable justice as against women, cease to trample underfoot every principle of equity and fair play at the behest of feminine shrieks, and the excuse, or at least, palliation which now undoubtedly for any sporadic brutality on the part of men, and especially husbands, of which women may be the victims, would be done away with. Whilst the law remains as it is women deserve scant pity if they do on rare occasions get the worst of it in their dealings with men. In the foregoing pages we have set forth the respective legal position of the sexes as it now stands. Our aim in doing so has been, by spreading knowledge of the facts of the case, to prevent uninformed though otherwise fair-minded persons from falling a prey to the maudlin rant of demagogic charlatans (male and female), ignorant of law and as destitute of the capacity of independent judgment on any subject as they are of any impartial sense of justice, who so frequently deliver themselves in press and on platform on the subject the “wrongs of woman.”

11. Socialists and Feminists

Certain Socialist writers are fond of describing the Social-Democratic State of the future as implying the “emancipation of the proletarian and the woman.” As regards the latter point, however, if emancipation is taken to include domination, we have not to wait so long. The highest development of modern capitalism, as exemplified in the English-speaking countries, has placed man to all intents and purposes, legally under the heel of woman. So far as the relations of the sexes are concerned, it would be the task of Socialism to emancipate man from this position, if sex-equality be the goal aimed at. The first step on the road towards such equality would necessarily consist in the abolition of modern female privilege.

THE SUFFRAGE.

It is absurd for feminist advocates to trot out their threadbare grievance of the want of the suffrage as a serious disability in the face of all the privileges we have been discussing.. It may be right, or it may he wrong, for women to have the suffrage. Respecting this we say nothing here. But, whether right or wrong, we deny that the lack of it, by an otherwise privileged class, constitutes a grievance. Electoral disqualifica- tions are often attendant on special privilege. The Royal Family of this realm, with all their branches, are debarred from the exercise of both the passive and the active franchise. And yet no one pleads that, say, the prince of Wales, is, in consequence, a cruelly oppressed personage. Similarly the clergy of the Established Church are debarred at least from the passive franchise (i.e., they may not sit in Parliament), and yet we have never heard it contended that on this account they are a solely hard-done-by section of the community. Where women have parliament, law courts, police magistrates, judges as their obsequious humble servants, what more could they expect to obtain, even if they had the suffrage?

10. A Sex Noblesse

From all we have said, it will now be evident, one would think, to the most prejudiced reader that modern English Law, following obsequiously a deluded or apathetic stage of public opinion, has solved the problem of the division of rights and duties between the sexes, by conceding to woman all rights, and imposing on man all duties. It would not be difficult to show, were it worth while , that even the disabilities of women in past times have been grossly exaggerated by apostles of the feminist cultus who have, of course, taken a brief to prove the wickedness of “horrid man” to the poor downtrodden female. Such disabilities as really obtained were for the most part the necessary outcome of women’s position as non-combatants in a rude fighting age, and certainly did not originate, as is generally represented, in any deep- laid scheme of male devising. In return for a certain formal subjection, in some respects, they obtained not only the blessing of protection, then an important matter, but valuable privileges in other directions. An impartial student of history must admit that, however badly men have treated their fellow-men, they have always treated women with comparative generosity. The change from feudal to modern capitalist conditions, as regards the position of women, is characterised, however, not only by, at one and the same time, the abolition of every vestige of subordination or disability, but, in addition to that, by the extension of the old compensating privileges, which were the counterpart of the former, and by the further heaping up on the top of these of new privileges, the result having finally saddled us with the institution of that sex-noblesse the leading features of which we have sketched out in the foregoing pages.

9. Muscular Inferiority and Sex-privilege

We must once more refer, on account of its wide-spreading popularity, to the cheap sneer by which some small but gallant wits may endeavour to turn the edge of the foregoing observations, namely, the attempt to play of the muscular inferiority of women to men as an answer to any allegation of oppression exercised on behalf of the so-called weaker sex. When looked at fairly in the face, the point in question will he seen so preposterously absurd as to be hardly worth answering. But, nevertheless, absurd as it is, it undoubtedly plays a part, half unconsciously, in the apathy of most men on the question of female privilege. Because men are muscularly stronger than women, it is felt by many, and the feeling is supported by the class of cheap witticism above referred to, that therefore it is impossible for men to be seriously oppressed by women. A moment’s reflection suffices to show that the question of muscular strength or weakness is absolutely immaterial to the issue. It would be just as reasonable to suppose that because the Czar of Russia and his high officials were less muscularly developed than the average Russian peasant, that the possibility of the Russian peasant being seriously oppressed by the Czar or his government was a proposition to be laughed at. The weakest and most frail woman, backed by the whole power of the State, may easily annihilate by the State forces summoned by her scream, a legion of Samsons or Hercules.

8. The Actual Exercise Of Women’s Sex Privileges

The most curious of all concomitants of the legal subjection of men in England arise, first, that many men are not conscious of the real state of the law, and secondly, that a very loud-voiced minority of women, reinforced by sycophantic males, represent the law as being the apotheosis of unjust sex-privileges on the part of men. The last phenomonen is, no doubt, in great part one cause of the first, but other causes for men’s unconsciousness contribute. A survival of the days when the physical force of the man was allowed by the State to play a part in his quarrels with women, survive in the public delusion that it is impossible for man to be oppressed by women. How can men be legally oppressed by women? Are not men, if worthy of the name, able to defend themselves? This objection, once categorically stated, is seen to be ridiculous. A legal defence is not a matter of strength or courage, but of skill. Even a skilled defence is a poor protection before a biased tribunal. But lastly, the whole question of muscular strength is absurdly and outrageously irrelevant. The bravest and strongest man is as weak as a child before the over- whelming force of the State. Any woman can at will summon to her aid a power no man can resist. And behind this force of law rests the equally irresistible force of public opinion. All this, under the present dispensation, is arrayed against the man accused by a woman. The woman accuser wields the whole power of the Courts and the community, backed up by the press and public opinion. Her physical strength is an irrelevant matter, her real force lies in the state of public opinion before which the man becomes helpless. The power of the autocrat lies not in his physical strength, but in his ability to summon at a beck the resources of the State. The Czar of Russia is, and the Emperor Nero was, physically no stronger than the merest beggar. Catherine of Russia was physically weaker than the lowest of her grenadiers.

1. The law is not generally known by the vulgar, and lawyers, unless paid, are not usually accustomed to be expansive to the public at large on the subject of their information. Ignorance by the public of the law promotes litigation, and lawyers individually are not particularly oppressed by or frightened at the legal privileges of women. The technical skill of the lawyer and his powerful trade union usually enables him to get the best of the woman who contends with him in the law courts. Similarly, in former days, the lawyer took care to guard himself from being hurt by the feudal privileges of the noble, which weighed so heavily on the rest of the community.

2. Most women in England are still under the in- fluence of the earlier polity of the Church and of Christendom. They do not dispute the duty of female subordination, and do not in fact as yet think of exercising the more flagrant of these new-fangled legal sex-privileges. The utmost pitch of domination that the majority have reached to is a noticeable increase in the display of overbearing manners towards their husbands, and other male dependents, and the palpable consciousness that the threat of a public scene will bring the scene-hating Englishman to his knees.

3. A large minority of women influenced by kindness and self-respect and all amiable qualities, do not exercise any of these iniquitous sex-privileges at all. If an insignificant minority of women are oppressed by individual men, it is merely because, from any reason, economic or other, the woman does not for a considerable time, choose to go to the Police Courts. When a fact of this kind comes to be published, it is trumpeted forth in the press–the press which carefully excludes stories of male slavery–with the object of producing a false impression as to the side on which the balance of injustice is to he found.

4. The more flagrant of these privileges are in practice resorted to chiefly by the more profligate of the female sex. Happily every man does not fall a victim. But those who do find it convenient to keep concealed the story of their wrongs. Their friends might believe in their innocence, but their enemies or the public at large would not. The man injured by a woman has no sex-conscious “man’s party” to appeal to. Every brawling wife and shrieking termagant or cold-blooded blackmailer has a sex-conscious propaganda ready to her hand. It is therefore all the more important to remember that these privileges conferred by the law of England on the woman against the man, are no dead letter. They are actually enforced with rigour that increases every day. Judge, jury, counsel and press vie with each other in driving the iron into the soul of the unfortunate man who is forced to contend with a woman in the law courts. Such an extreme of squalid unrighteousness has been reached that it has become a commonplace of the legal profession that no justice is to be had in the Courts against a woman–unless in some case of outrageous atrocity, and not always even then. The origin of this singular phenomenon–a revival of barbaric gynocracy among the English-speaking people in the British Islands, America and the British Colonies is a subject of the deepest interest, but not one lending itself to cursory treatment. A photograph of the outer surface–a picture of the facts of the law is all that has been attempted here. To confine our attention to the strictly necessary, it will suffice to remind the reader that the ordinary motives which induce the more selfish members of any privileged class to use a privilege, exist in the case of women. Many slave-owners were as indulgent as St. Clair, but many were like [Simon] Legree [“Uncle Tom’s Cabin”]. The chief impelling motives appear to be:– 1. A desire for economic advantage to get money without trouble; to exploit the labour of the male slave, enthralled by the law–this works quite as well to impel a woman as well as a man to use an unjust power. It is the predatory instinct present in pirates, robbers and criminals of all classes. 2. A desire to domineer and oppress. This impulse as distinguished from ordinary revengefulness is, some think, stronger in women than in men. No one will deny its existence in both men and women, whatever be its special cause. 3. Malignity and vindictiveness. Inordinate revenge for real or fancied wrongs, disproportioned vindictiveness for the chance slights of a complex social life may he safely reckoned on to actuate the bitterer section of a female noblesse as well as a male one. If power does not corrupt, at least it gives room for corruption to spread. Modern life among English speaking people, while releasing women from male guidance, has, by individu- alising women, multiplied the occasions of conflict between members of the two sexes. Different ideals and tests of action (women judge men by one standard and men judge women by another), the result of natural divergencies, as well as of education, absence of sex- illusion on the female side and its presence on the male side, add to these occasions.

4. Many women who, of their own accord, being still under the influence of the earlier policy of Christendom, would not think of exercising the force of public opinion, or the privileges of a one-sided law against their husbands or other men, are influenced to do so in various ways. The incessant clamour of a hysterical press leads them to suppose that in any quarrel with a man, the man must be wrong, the woman never can be wrong. The shrieks of the “new woman” propaganda suggest to women that in making most infamous use of her weapons she is upholding the cause of her “sisters.” Furthermore the new mammon-worship which has infected all modern English life has produced among the average middle class woman an unspoken theory–that the sole duty of man is to make money for his wife. The revolutionary theory of equality, dating from 1789–is applied only on one side, and it is assumed as an axiom that a wife is kept and has a right to do precisely as she pleases. At the same time it is taken as quite self-evident that she is emancipated from any duty of obedience or even civility to him. Added to the conclusions of the feminist spirit of domination, the final position is that the man is to submit to all insolences and outrages without redress. This conception of the relative positions of men and women is urged in a thousand different ways on any woman who has a quarrel with her husband, and must inevitably influence the average woman. 5. Many women, themselves ignorant of the modern law, are instigated by lawyers to bring suits, relying on their iniquitous legal privileges. Not merely are men’s reputations, lives and fortunes thus endangered, but in this way the present state of.the law has become a powerful solvent of the historic basis of the family relations of Christendom, by encouraging disputes between wives and husbands. Sir Walter Phillimore in a recent speech has pointed out what a part is played by solicitors in the promotion of divorce suits. The essential thing, therefore, to remember is that the the subjection of women in England, if it ever existed, has gone, and long gone. It is succeeded by a state of sordid subjection of the man to a biased public opinion, to a hysterical press, and to sentimental administrators of a corrupted law. There are, however, some signs that the legal subjec- tion of men in England is not destined to live for ever. The law, after all, is the shadow of public opinion.

7. The Civil Law

As every litigant who has to contend with a woman knows to his cost, feminine privilege is not confined to matrimonial matters, nor to the Criminal Courts. The purse of the male is hit in the Civil Courts quite as heavily as his person in the exercise of the criminal privileges of the female sex. Anyone who has any relations, even of the most innocent character, with a woman, from a tenant or a trader who contracts with her to a casual guest at a friend’s house who makes her acquaintance in a social way, may have occasion to discover that absence of intimacy does not necessarily shield him from unpleasant consequences. The chief privileges of women in the Civil Courts are as follows (they cannot be paralleled [equalled] by those of a peer or a member of the House of Commons):–

1. Freedom from Arrest for Debt if Married.

2. Property Of Married Woman Exempt from Seizure.

3. Privilege to Commit Breaches of Contract.

4. Privilege to Defraud.

5. Privilege to Seduce.

6. Privilege to Commit Adultery.

7. Privilege to Insult.

8. Privilege to Assault.

9. Privilege to Waylay.

10. Privilege to Libel and Slander.

1. FREEDOM FROM ARREST FOR DEBT.

The process of imprisonment for debt (nominally for contempt of Court in not paying an instalment of a debt) is retained in England under the Debtors Acts, 1869 and 1882. But not in the case of the married female. No married woman is to be punished for non-payment of debt, and the Court is incapable of being contemned by a married woman. This superiority to Common Law standard, for the mere male, yet again marks out the woman as a member of an inviolable noblesse. A woman can obtain goods and not be compelled to pay for them, may use all her arts of persuading the chivalrous trader– but no compulsory power of imprisonment need disturb her. This may or may not be a good rule, if applied as in certain American States, to both men and women. But when reserved to women, it is an obvious sex privilege.

2 . PROPERTY EXEMPT FROM SEIZURE.

A married woman, as already pointed out, although rolling in wealth and owning tens of thousands a year, even when separated and released from all duty to her husband and children, retains her privilege of having her property exempt from seizure for debt. Some very amusing cases–amusing that is to all except the male litigant–of rich women refusing to pay traders and solicitors will be present to the public mind. When a rich woman develops a taste for litigation, the wisdom of the legislature has found no way of protecting the defendant from ruinous costs. Even if she quarrels with her solicitor, he is powerless to protect himself against being mulcted in costs–perhaps a happy stroke of poetic justice, as lawyers have largely created these oppressive sex-privileges of women. (See the many ramifications of the Cathcart Case.)

3. BREACH OF CONTRACT.

The absence of any compulsory power over a woman’s person or a married woman’s property and the bias of the courts amounts practically to a licence for her to break any contract at pleasure. This is quite apart from the peculiar privilege of women to waste a man’s time and money in a pretended engagement, possibly to lure on a more wealthy lover–and to he exempt from penalty. Their privilege to commit per- jury and slander with impunity plays a great part in the decision of any case in which a woman’s contract is concerned. All stock brokers, insurance agents, solicitors, and bankers, and business men generally, know how hopeless, as a rule, is any prospect of getting a contract enforced against a woman. As a rule it is best to compromise or submit to injustice rather than try it out with an adversary privileged to use loaded dice.

4. PRIVILEGE TO DEFRAUD.

Precisely as in the Criminal Law, there is no real remedy against any fraud not of extraordinary magnitude and clearness of proof, perpetrated by a woman on a man. A notorious female blackmailer brings lying accusations, suing on breach of promise of marriage, against a prominent Conservative member of Parliament. She loses her suit as she has to admit on cross-examination that she a few months previously, had extorted £5,000 from another victim of a similar suit, which was hushed up. But her victim could not get back his £5,000– and no one suggested civil or criminal process against her.

5. PRIVILEGE TO SEDUCE.

The feminine privilege of seduction extends also to the civil Courts. No civil action lies against any woman of full age or the seduction of a minor, not even if her doings be a device to entrap him by threats of scandal into marriage, and the attainment of title and fortune by her inducements to lead him astray. The male minor in France has some protection. The consent of cooler heads is required to his marriage. In England he has no protection from the terrible consequences of succumbing to the wiles of a female seducer. Contrast the law of England on the seduction of the female, minor or adult. Vindictive damages are to be had for the asking from the indignant jury. Legal fictions of “loss of service” by parents, are laid under requisition to prevent the operation of the maxim volenti non fit injuria [No injury is done to a consenting party].

6. PRIVILEGE TO COMMIT ADULTERY.

No action, civil or criminal, lies against a woman who induces a married man to have illicit relations with her. She may succeed in stripping the man of all his fortune, blackmail him for years, break up his home, cause him to be deprived of the custody of his children, and cap the climax of her crimes by appearing as a willing wit- ness for his wife in the Courts. No penalty awaits her. A man who seduces or is seduced by a wife has the satisfaction of being held up to public odium as a traitorous scoundrel, and at the same time of paying enormous costs and damages–the latter being settled on the delinquent wife.

7. PRIVILEGE TO INSULT.

For some mysterious reason a woman is supposed to be incapable of insulting a man. She may use most insolent language in a public assembly, waylay him at his office, or place of business, and adopt any other method of annoyance that malignity can devise, and the law refuses to protect him, and sends him to hard labour if he is goaded into retort. Jeremy Bentham proposed a century ago that women insulting other citizens should be punished by being exposed to public ridicule in a pillory. But we are now a long way off from the adoption of such a remedy as that. The sturdier Englishmen of former times restrained feminine provocation to violence by the summary methods of the cucking school and the indictment at the assizes of the “common scold [shrew],” not to mention the domestic discipline of the husband.

8. PRIVILEGE TO ASSAULT.

In a similar mysterious way a woman is supposed incapable of assaulting a man–at least in such a way as to deserve, not to say criminal punishment but even the exaction of pecuniary recompense. It is true that a woman with a weapon can cause grievous bodily harm. But the mere man has to put up with the consequences of such displays of feminine independence, inasmuch as the privilege holds good in civil as well as in criminal law.

9. PRIVILEGE TO WAYLAY.

In civil as well as criminal Courts this offence in women is unpunished. Let a man protect himself is the general rule on the subject. But as he is punished if he attempts to protect himself, he has simply to submit to the outrage.

10. PRIVILEGE TO LIBEL AND SLANDER.

To bring unfounded charges against any man –not against a fellow women– is now a well-established legal privilege of the fair sex. However, originally it was restrained in earlier days by legal process and domestic discipline. Exactly as in breaches of contract, it is usually wise to submit to the injustice. But the rising wave of pro-feminist sentiment has reached a curious height of late years. A woman can accuse a man of sexual irregularities with absolute impunity. But it is not to be supposed that he is to have a like privilege. A special statute (Slander of Women Act) passed a few years ago, makes such slander of a woman actionable. But she retains her privilege of slandering a man. If this be not a statutory sex-privilege words must have lost their meaning. The grim irony of making a man responsible for his wife’s slanders, and other misdeeds–although the law has deprived him of all control over her person or property, has been already referred to.