Tag Archives: female privilege

Uni-Sexual Criminal Law (1910)

Dr. Oldfield’s piteous whine for exempting women from the extreme penalty of the law while retaining it for men is hardly calculated to attract to his society those in whom the modern Feminist propaganda has left a rudimentary sense of justice. He has simply let the cat out of the bag. It now appears that the so-called “Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment” is no more than a blind; it really amounts to a Feminist “fake” for securing immunity for women from crimes for which the law exacts the extreme penalty for men. “What argument can any reasoning man have for perpetuating upon our statute book the crime of woman-hanging?” Answer: Precisely the same argument (if any) that the aforesaid “reasoning man” has for “perpetuating on our statute-book the crime of” man-hanging – neither more nor less.

Dr. Oldfield presumably believes in Female Suffrage. He believes, that is, that women are intellectually capable of full political rights with men, and yet, on the other hand, he denies them to be morally capable with men of distinguishing right from wrong. “The passions that sway women to murder,” he says, “are such as to make them wholly irresponsible for their actions.” If so it is quite clear that the inferiority of woman to man is of such a stupendous character that any talk of sex-equality is not merely unsound, but is on the face of it absurd. Most unprejudiced persons would probably consider that the statement above quoted, while applying to some female criminals also applied to some male criminals. But Dr. Oldfield wants to make sex the dividing line. If Dr. Oldfield refers to the crime passionel, and wishes to exempt this particular form of crime from the death penalty, why should he limit the exemption to one sex only? For my own part, I can see no reason whatever for special leaning towards the crime passionel in either sex. But be I right or wrong in this, there is no gainsaying that this type of crime is to be met with in both sexes alike. Of course, we have the usual snivelling appeal for chivalry towards the gentle murderess – the baby-farmer, the wholesale poisoner, the “female bluebeard”! My own feeling is that male chivalry ought really, if it is worth anything, to proclaim Divine Woman to be above the law, once for all – this would simplify matters, and be something like an adequate recognition of the “dignity of Womanhood.”

Dr. Oldfield does not disdain the demagogic art of working up an effect by harrowing his readers —only unfortunately rather stale drugs have had to be used for the process – a case alleged to have occurred some 150 years ago at Oxford, and something which probably never actually happened at all (at least in this country), viz., the scalding to death of female prisoners. The only instance in which this punishment is recorded as having been inflicted, I believe I am right in saying, was on a mere man, named Rose, in the reign of Henry VIII. Dr. Oldfield, however, thinks, I suppose, that mere men (other than himself) don’t mind the procedure so much as women.

I have described Dr. Oldfield’s society as a blind for something other than what it professes. I go further, and say that its policy of sex-favouritism constitutes it the worst enemy of its avowed aim. If there is anything likely to retard that complete abolition of capital punishment which so many of us desire, in the present state of public feeling, it is the abolition of the death-penalty for women. As Mr. Collinson, of the Humanitarian League, has more than once pointed out, these uni-sexual penal laws are the greatest foes of progress in humanity. The abominable enactment of 1820, which abolished flogging for women while retaining it for men, has left our prison system saddled with the lash (‘for men only,’, of course) ever since. “Should we hang women”? Yes, emphatically, precisely so long as we hang men, and no longer!

E. BELFORT BAX.

P. S. Dr. Oldfield tries to score a point by maintaining that the non-enfranchisement of women justifies a difference between the penal sauce for goose and gander. But many men also do not possess the franchise. So his argument, stripped of feminist sentiment, resolves itself into the following proposition: ” No non-elector ought to be hanged ”

 
Source: New Age, 16 May 1910, p. 59

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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

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.