Tag Archives: men’s rights

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!


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

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

The Woman Question (1895)

Taking a hint from the suggestion of “TATTLER” a few weeks ago in Justice that it is time above question was fairly thrashed out among Socialists the editor of Justice has invited me to briefly state my views.

Up till quite recently Socialists like Radicals other advanced persons, were supposed, as a matter of course, to swallow that conventional lie of modern civilisation – the theory of “woman the victim of man’s oppression.” This dogma, which, like the doctrine of Manchester school, that the ideal of human liberty is attained under the capitalistic regime of free industrial and commercial competition, has dominated the thought of the Anglo-Saxon race for two generations and has been the chief instrument in effecting a revolution which has placed the whole judicial and administrative machinery of the country at the disposal of one sex oppress the other (in all causes, i.e. into which the sex question prominently enters.) Let us look at the present condition of this so-called “victim.”

While under our present marriage laws the wife is under no obligation to maintain the husband, not even though she have money and he be destitute (saving the ratepayer’s right to be recouped for his maintenance in the workhouse) the husband is bound at criminal law to maintain his wife in comfort under all circumstances. Hitherto exception has been made in the case of adultery on the part of wife. Now, in a Bill before Parliament this last reservation is proposed to be virtually abrogated by a “caoutchouc” paragraph which enforces “alimony” where the husband can be shown by his defect or “misconduct to have contributed to the adultery. “

Thus, if a man has ever had a dispute with his wife or even come home late, as in a recent case, he will presumably have, “by defect or misconduct, contributed to the adultery;” just as now if a man ever had words with his wife and raised his voice above its normal pitch or come home late he may deemed to have committed technical cruelty entitling the said wife to separation or divorce with “alimony.”

2. A wife is perfectly free to leave her husband at will, and he has no remedy (Jackson case). If a husband leaves his wife she can compel him to surrender to her a third of his income or earnings, and for desertion, i.e., for leaving her without money, he can be punished with hard labour.

3. A husband is further liable for her debts and her civil delinquencies (torts).

4. A husband cannot obtain relief against a wife for any act, negligence, or language of hers, while for any one of these considerations she can get judicial separation, exclusive rights over the children, if any, and a third of his income or earrings for herself, with so much per head in addition for each child. Thus if a man gives his wife an unfriendly pat on the cheek with his open hand she can get established comfortably for life on the fruits of his labour; if, on the contrary, she smashes his head in with a poker she may be fined five shillings which the injured husband has to pay; and should he succeed in obtaining a separation it is only on, condition of his keeping the virago in comfortable idleness.

A little illustration will bring home to the reader this complete serfdom of the husband to the wife under our marriage laws. A man, not long ago, obtain the offer of employment in America. His wife did wish him to go. Not having any money or work home he insisted. The wife who had money of own, and to whom he moreover gave £25 with promise of more on his arrival at his destination, went straight to the Guardians, had him arrested on board ship at Southampton, dragged before the magistrate, and sentenced to three months hard labour. The sentence was subseqently quashed after the man had been in gaol and was ruined. Most feudal barons would surely have been satisfied with such powers as this over their “villeins.”

At criminal law it is a well-known fact which anyone may verify by the records of the courts that women enjoy an almost complete immunity for all offences committed against men, as such. For assault, perjury, and blackmailing practised on men, women are virtually never even prosecuted, let alone convicted. On the other hard, savage and vindictive laws, savagely and vindictively enforced by judges are dealt out to men for the most trifling assaults or other offences committed against women. In fact it seems that the express aim of the modern political woman and her “Women’s” Associations is to deprive men of the last shred of protection against criminal women with a view of giving the latter every facility for exercising their calling.

If one looks at the matter fairly, one surely cannot be surprised at occasional violence committed on women – wife assaults, wife murders, &c. Legalised tyranny and inequality has always throughout history led to sporadic outbursts of brutality on the side of its victims. It is always so, and always will be so.

Such is the present position of advantage enjoyed by women by virtue of their sex. Such are the facts as opposed to the popular “legend” on the subject. Space forbids my further analysing the present subjection at law of men to women in this article, which is the more unnecessary as I have elaborated the subject in further detail elsewhere.

Of course, under Socialism, the side of the question based on property falls away. Our existing infamous marriage laws must disappear when both sexes are alike economically free. When once this is so, a perfectly free marriage, without let or hindrance, would necessarily result. Should, as Herbert Burrows seems to have suggested, a bastard “public opinion” try any games on of attempting by ostracism to supply the place of the defunct coercive legal bond in enforcing any special form of marriage, such as monogamy, we shall have to do our best to strangle that “public opinion” as quickly as possible. If driven to it, even opponents might combine in an association whose members pledged themselves (like the Oneida Creekers), to marital relations strictly limited to a fixed period, say six months. To thus raise anti-monogamy to the level of a principle would surely be a pity as a result of the “cussedness” of trying to compel outward conformity to monogamy among people whose temperaments were unsuited to it. In using the ugly word “lust” for any form of marriage he does not like, Herbert Burrows resembles the respectable bourgeois of my boyhood’s days who used to stigmatise every form of liberty he did not like (e.g., the right of workmen to combine) as “licence.” No, friend Herbert, I trust a society even half-way into Socialism will be past being caught with that sort of chaff.

At the same time I regard it as highly probable that for a long while to come voluntary monogamy (voluntary, in fact, and not in name merely) will be the dominant form of the sexual relation. The attempt to enforce it, however, whether by law or “public opinion,” will I am equally convinced be contrary to the whole spirit of a reasonable society. To make out that there is an absolute and immutable moral superiority in monogamy irrespective of temperament or circumstances over every other form of sexual relation is surely absurd. Only by society encouraging perfect freedom can the most perfect form of the sexual relation, that best adapted to human needs, be wrought out. Monogamy, like every other institution, will have to make good its case by showing its superiority to other forms, and not by the aid of external tyranny, whether juridical or social.

Before concluding this article I would point out what is liable to be overlooked, viz., that the coercive effect of “public opinion” could only be operative in a Socialist society when the whole community was practically unanimous in condemning a course of conduct and not in defence of any arbitrary dogma, however strongly held by a section of the community. The case is different under capitalist conditions when a man can be forced to wear a “pot” hat against his will, owing to the “public opinion” of the class on whom he is dependent for his livelihood insisting on it.

Source: The Woman Question, Justice, 27th July, 1895, p.6.

1. The Legend


The Legend.

JOHN STUART MILL is dead! but his eloquent wail of the subjection of women is never let die–it rings in our ears every day. It is solemn, it is pathetic; it overflows with the chivalric sentiment which Mill professes to repudiate as out of date, like the clanship and hospitality of the wandering Arab, but which nevertheless, is so strongly developed in the average male. It has become the gospel of women’s pretended wrongs, and has caused the ingenuous youth of Oxford and Cambridge to blush for their fellow males. The only objection that the lawyers of the present year of grace can raise to it is that it is really the reverse of legal truth. But even apart from the late John Stuart Mill, for considerably more than a generation past–indeed, one may say, more or less from the beginning of the present century–mankind, in this and some other countries, has had sedulously instilled into its mind the notion that the female sex is labouring under a grievous oppression at the hands of the tyrant male. In the present day this opinion has acquired the character of an axiom which few people think of disputing. Every occurrence bearing upon the social or economical relation of the sexes is judged in the light of this fixed idea. The press in general voices the view of public opinion with the result that the assumption in question is continually being reiterated. The moral of the injustice exercised by man upon woman is insisted upon with all the devices of rhetoric, and every chance occurrence is eagerly seized upon and pressed into the service to point the moral and adorn the tale of the favourite theory. No one, as far as we are aware, has seriously set him or herself to proving the theory to have any foundation at all. Starting with the assumption, the state of things it implies has been deplored, people have tried to explain it, to suggest remedies for it, but tested it has never been. We all know the story of King Charles II. and the Royal Society; how the Merry Monarch, shortly after the institution of that learned body, propounded a problem for its solution, to wit, why a dead fish weighed more than a live one? Many were the explanations suggested, till at length one bold man proposed that they should come back to first principles, and have a dead fish and a live fish respectively placed in the scales before them. The proposition was received with horror, one member alleging that to doubt the fact amounted to nothing less than high treason. After much difficulty, however, the bold man got his way; the matter was put to the test, when, to the utter discomfiture of the loyal members, the alleged fact which they were seeking to explain evinced itself as but a figment of the Royal fancy. We propose in the following paragraphs to consider whether the matter does not stand similarly only very much “more so” as regards the conventional notion of the legal and social disabilities of women. In the present paper we shall merely confine ourselves to the legal aspects of the question. It will not, we think, take us long to convince our- selves that the allegations on this subject which the present generation, at least, has had dinned into its ears from all sides since its infancy, are even on a less favour- able footing as regards accuracy. Charles II. thought the dead fish weighed heavier than the live one. The event only proved that they weighed the same–not that 2 the live one weighed heavier than the dead one. Our modern women’s righters bewail the alleged legal oppression of women by men. The facts show not that neither sex is oppressed as such, but, on the contrary, they disclose a legalised oppression of men by women.

Heterodox Notes (1887)

The following article by Ernest Belfort Bax appeared in To-Day in July 1887 under the title ‘Some Heterodox Notes on the Women Question.’ – PW

The above is one of those questions on which a particular species of traditional nonsense is expected of one. The “advanced” writer starts from certain dogmas, which the “advanced” reader has had handed down to him in the apostolical succession of “advanced” thought for a century past. These dogmas of “advanced” faith in the Woman Question are (1) that a natural equality of the sexes obtains in all respects save that of physical strength; (2) that women have always formed an oppressed class, but that the advance of civilization may be measured by the lightening of this oppression (here, of course, we get into the tail of the great bourgeois Panegyric of Civilization); (3) the convenient corollary from the first position, namely, that women ought to have all the rights of intellectual capacity with all the privileges of physical weakness, otherwise expressed, all the rights of men, and none of the duties or hardships of men. For it is a significant and amusing fact that no mention is ever made by the advocate of women’s claims of the privileges which have always been accorded the “weaker sex.” These privileges are quietly pocketed as a matter of course, without any sort of acknowledgment, much less any suggestion of surrender. I may add yet another thesis to the dogmas of “advanced” bourgeois thought on the Woman Question. This is what I may term the theory of “womanhood.” It is to be found in its most formulated and definite guise in the Comtian worship of woman with its virgin mother and other accessories; But in a general loose way it pervades a large section of modern Radicalism, and consists in the notion of the sacredness of the female sex as such.

The sentiment, when analysed, may, I think, be traced to two sources. One is the sentiment of consideration for weakness, laudable in itself, but which has got transformed into that of the right of weakness to privilege or domination over strength which is, of course, a very different thing. But the other and most potent factor is, I fancy, a survival of the ancient worship of the principle of generation. The exponents of Cuniform tell us that a well known symbol of the alone, corresponding to the Greek Θ, is to be taken to signify the word “woman.” Now, I think there is a certain moral attached to this piece of Cuniform lore. Woman is, and has been emphatically the sex. The veneration of the generative principles in their grosser form is of course impossible to civilised man. And while male man has ceased to represent a sex, in developing into the human personality complete up to date; woman still represents a sexual principle; her personality centres in sex, in fact she still remains for the most part, an amplified, beautified, embellished sexual organ. Otherwise expressed, sex enters into the substance of woman, while in man it is only an accident.[1] Man has a sexual side which he recognises as something more or less distinct from himself – “He” is not the male principle of humanity in the same way that “she” is the female principle. With man sex enters into and affects the personality it is true, but is clearly distinguished from the personality as such; with woman, sex is identified with, and indistinguishable from the personality as a whole. This is easily seen in the incapacity of the average woman to abandon herself to interest in any impersonal question. Discourse in any drawing room with the “ladies” there assembled and you have an irresistible but uneasy sense that, however well-feigned may be the interest in the subject of conversation, the real interest of the woman centres round the fact that she is female and you are male, and in the various conventional barriers with which this fact is surrounded. The way otherwise shrewd men let themselves be deceived by the very thinnest assumption of interest in their pursuits on the part of their wives is to the last degree amusing. A friend seriously speaks of his wife’s opinion, say on some literary point; on being introduced to the wife she tells you she thinks Shakespeare must have been a very clever man! The real interest of the good woman is, of course, entirely absorbed in the personal matters springing directly from the sexual relation of married life. In modern gyneolotry I think then we may see the survival of the cultes genatrices of antiquity exhibiting itself, not in the coarse form of the worship of the actual organ, but in the refined one of deference for the representatives of the principle of sex[2] par excellence.

In the course of this digression I have forestalled one or two points in the subsequent argument. However, I will now jot down in succinct manner a few criticisms of the cardinal dogmas of modern gyneolotry. Like the dogmas of the Christian theology, and of the Bourgeois economy, these dogmas are supported by one or two stock pseudo-arguments of a conventional nature, the rottenness of which is manifest at a glance. For instance, in support of the potential intellectual equality of women with men, in face of the obvious actual inequality, the fiction is promulgated that women have been cut off from the possibilities of culture which men have had. Now this, I submit, is very much on a level with the Bourgeois argument in support of a class-society, which consists in trotting out the virtuous man of industry and frugality, and the vicious man of indolence and extravagance. There is a grain of truth, of course, in both arguments, but it is imbedded in a mountain of error. It may be true in isolated cases, and under special circumstances, that women have suffered from the lack of training in special departments which men have enjoyed, just as it may have been true in some few cases that wealth has been the result of industry in a sense, and poverty of laziness. The objection of course is, that as arguments they are inept, if for no other reason than that they fail to account for ninety-nine per cent of the facts. The curriculum of higher education has until recently, by general consent, been adverse rather than propitious to the development of intelligence in those subject to it. Years devoted to Latin verse-making can hardly be deemed stimulating to general mental development. This, at all events, women have been spared. Secondly, it has only been in a few departments of learning that at the best, men have had any considerable advantage over women. From the days of Sappho, there has never been any obstacle, real or conventional, in the way of women “taking to” literature or the fine arts in any of their forms. Yet what (in comparison to men) have they ever achieved in any of these departments? It is said that women have always been taught to limit their interests to home, & c. This may be true, of the Englishwoman of a generation ago and to a less extent even of to-day. But it was not true of the cultivated Greek hetaira, or of the Roman lady of the Augustan age. It has never in modern times been true of a large section of women in France, or in numberless other instances that might be mentioned. Besides, we find that with men individual character and genius has always shown itself precisely in the overcoming of such obstacles of environment. This is also true of women who have attained distinction. There was nothing, for instance, in the training of George Eliot different from that of the ordinary Englishwoman. The argument from social and educational disadvantage therefore plainly breaks down. It is not this which has prevented the average woman intellectually equalling the average man, or the exceptional woman the exceptional man.

The argument for equality, drawn from examination statistics, is hardly worth mentioning. That by great efforts some women can equal men in capacity for “cramming” proves nothing. The “examination” intellect means little more, in plain English, than a good memory and an acquired facility in using it. It is, in fact, an improved calculating machine, which is comparatively rarely accompanied by general or special ability otherwise. What senior wrangler or tripos man has ever been heard of by the world after his examinations are passed and forgotten?

Let us now consider the question of the physical strength of women. The inferiority of bodily or muscular strength is supposed to entitle woman to special privileges. That all weakness is entitled to consideration (though not to domination) goes without saying. But I submit that in the ordinary life of the modern world the question of muscular strength or weakness has very little significance. Even on those rare occasions when it becomes pressing, the invention of firearms has reduced its importance very considerably. A woman flourishing a loaded revolver could hold a room-full of able-bodied men in check. Again, on this argument the consideration shown to weakness ought to be shown quâ weakness and not quâ sex, as it is at present.

But the chief form of female privilege is the assumed constitutional “frailty” of the sex. We come now to an important point. Muscular weakness is commonly confounded with constitutional; strength of body with strength of health and vital power. Woman, because she is muscularly “frail” has obtained the credit of being constitutionally “frail.” But is this belief in accord with facts? Does muscular frailty involve constitutional frailty? If it does of course there remains a certain basis of reason in some, though not all, of the exemptions and privileges of women. But I contend it is contrary to facts open to everyone. It is a universally admitted fact that the female infant is much stronger and more easily reared than the male infant. The registrar-general’s statistics alone illustrate this, as broadly as could be desired. The number of male births is enormously in excess of female. The numerical proportions of adult men and women is, as is well-known, just the reverse. This superior vigour of the female infant would of itself lend probability, in the absence of strong evidence to the contrary, for assuming certainly not less vital power in the female than in the male adult. And what evidence is there to the contrary? A widespread assumption and nothing more. In observations (relating to this matter) extending over some years of accidents, severe illnesses, injuries, & c., I have noted the excess of women over men who “pull through,” as the expression is, to be enormous.

While inviting the reader to take careful note of his personal observations and his newspaper in this respect for the next six or twelve months I may recall haphazard one or two instances of female toughness of constitution, probably exceeding that of any man on record. It is well known that to be sentenced to the knout in Russia was only deemed a euphemism for a sentence of death. The only recorded instance of anyone passing through the ordeal unscathed is that of Mme. Lapuchin, who was knouted by order of Elizabeth of Russia, survived without serious impairment of health, was deported to the mines of Siberia, survived that also, and returning to St. Petersburg; died at a green old age. Most of us recollect the instance of the old Scotchwoman, the winter before last, who being in ill-health, was on her voyage from the Shetlands to the Mainland in quest of medical advice, was wrecked, drifted about on a raft in intensely cold weather, without food of any kind, for nearly a week, when she was picked up by a passing vessel, was taken ashore, and tended, and in a few days completely recovered. Not so very long ago, a woman experienced but slight constitutional disturbance after jumping from the Clifton Suspension Bridge, a height of some 800 feet. A case came within my personal knowledge recently of a young woman having to undergo an exceptionally severe surgical operation for internal tumour, involving removal and replacement of a portion of the intestines. “She’ll never get over it” was remarked to me. “It may seem incredible,” I replied, “still strong is the female constitution and will probably prevail.” The truth of my observation was attested when in a few weeks after her two or three hours surgical vivisection she was better than she had ever been before. Now these instances, which are taken merely at random, as they occur to me while writing, and which might be indefinitely multiplied, may be termed exceptional, if you like, but allowing the utmost latitude to their exceptional character, I contend they altogether upset the traditional assumption of the “frailty” of women as regards constitutional vigour and the capacity for endurance. The fact is the “lady” of civilisation is brought up to regard herself as a “frail” creature, is always being told “my dear, this is too much for you,” that it is fatal for her to stand on her feet for a few minutes together and so on, till at last she persuades herself it is true, or at least proper and womanly for her to pretend it is. Among the proletariat where these fancies are an unattainable luxury the equality of health and staying-power between men and, women is much more obvious; so, also, to a somewhat lesser extent with those women among the educated classes who have to earn their own livelihood by teaching or literary work. The injustice to men which the conventional superstition of the “frailty” of woman, with its customary rites entails is seen on various occasions. In an omnibus on a wet morning how often does it happen that one of that unhappy class of exploited employees, the city warehouse clerk, with health undermined by long hours in a vitiated atmosphere is driven to dangerous exposure to make room for some fat, hulking matron, out to do her “shopping,” who has probably ten times his physical stamina.

I think we may fairly conclude then (1) that no case has, as yet, been made out for reconsidering the opinion dictated by the obvious facts of the problem as it stands, viz. that women are radically inferior in mental power to men;[3] on the other hand, (2) that there is a very good case, supported by a large mass of evidence, for reconsidering the received opinion of the inferiority in constitutional strength or vital power, of women as compared with men, an opinion which is accepted like most traditional beliefs, in the absence of evidence, and without examination.

The second main position of orthodox Radicalism, that women are, and have been in the past, grievously oppressed by men, is, on one side of it wholly false, and on the other true only to a very limited extent. It is a common fallacy in this connection to represent women as an oppressed class. Now, as a matter of fact, at no period of the world’s history has the female sex constituted a disinherited or oppressed class. Women may have been liable to certain disabilities. But these have been always compensated and often more than compensated by exemptions and special privileges. Economically, although dependent on men, women have for the most part had the “lion’s share at the banquet of life.” The real state of the case is that the condition of women has been determined by that of the men of the class to which they belonged. Women of the privileged class have always been privileged, women of an oppressed class have been oppressed, not as women, but as belonging to an economically inferior section of the population. We repeat that women as a sex have never been at any time treated as an inferior class to be exploited, in the same way that the slave class of ancient times, the villein class of mediaeval times, or the Proletarian class of modern times, has. The, analogy sometimes attempted to be drawn between the female sex and an oppressed class is therefore altogether inept.

Coming to the present day, the talk of male oppression, in any form or degree is simply the grossest and most impudent piece of cant. Law, custom, and opinion, in this and in most other western countries are wholly and absolutely on the side at women as against men. It is hopeless for a man to attempt to get justice where his adversary is a woman. This has reached a condition of scandal in this country that every assizes shows a crop of spurious charges of indecent assault brought by women against men, without a single instance of one of these women being prosecuted for perjury. There was an atrocious case, recently, of a woman who, charged an unfortunate workman in the same factory with her, because he refused to give her money. Baron Huddleston who tried the case remarked that the woman ought to be prosecuted. Was she? Not a bit. Now suppose these cases were reversed. Suppose men of the baser sort to have discovered a way of blackmailing “ladies.” Conceive the yell of indignation that would well up from press and platform; conceive the proposals to apply the “cat” to the dastardly ruffians; conceive the sentences of penal servitude for life which would re-echo from the walls of every tribunal! Imagination pales before the terrific ebullition of Bourgeois fury that would ensue. But, of course, when it is men who are the sufferers, and women who are the assailants it is only a matter on which Mr. Stead may exercise his small wit.

Again, it is a fact, the explanation of which for obvious reasons, cannot be given here, that severe corporal punishment is more likely to injure young boys than girls. Yet if there is a case of a female child receiving a very mild castigation it is invariably magnified into a violent assault and emotionally commented on from the bench, and this in face of the brutal flogging systematically inflicted on the unfortunate lads on board government training ships, and in industrial schools. Yet again, take the case of the law of husband and wife. The husband is compelled to maintain his wife, under all circumstances, while the wife, who has her earnings protected, can sell him up for drink or to keep a paramour at her sweet will and pleasure. If he remonstrates she may proceed to rejoin with a chair, or a flat-iron, or a poker; and should he then be rash enough to stay the uplifted arm, he has committed an assault, she proceeds with wailing to the nearest police-court; commiseration from magistrates for her and six months “hard” for him – la voila – she is but an ill-used matron, and a convict-felon he. And this is what you call advancing toward equality between the sexes. The success of Barnum journalism and its maiden tribute agitations, Langworthy marriages, & c., shows the ease with which a cheap conventional indignation can be trumped up on any question supposed to point the moral and adorn the tale of the fiendish malignity of man and the angelic innocence of woman. How different is it with any infamy perpetrated not for the immediate satisfaction of an imperious passion (however unnatural or perverted) but in the cold-blooded pursuit of gain. A few months ago a fishmonger at Hammersmith, was sentenced by the stipendiary to a month’s imprisonment for one of the most revolting crimes a man can commit-he had tried to sell to the poor of the neighbourhood a portion of a putrid cod, which, had it been eaten, must, the medical officer stated, inevitably have produced inflammation of the intestines, probably resulting in a horrible death. This fishmonger appealed, the already ridiculous sentence was quashed, on account of “previous good character,” and a fine of ten pounds substituted. Did the humane philanthropic Bourgeois make the welkin ring with his protestations? Oh dear no. This was done in pursuance of a legitimate branch of trade. (It cannot be said in excuse that such offences are not common for it is admitted that only in the most extreme instances, and not always then, are they brought to justice, and notwithstanding, scarcely a week passes without one appearing at one or other of the London police courts.) This same Bourgeois philanthropist can foam at the mouth, gnash his teeth and vomit an ocean of gushing indignation over the chance seduction of a girl under eighteen! The latter has nothing to do with trade, and is connected with the wellspring of traditional emotion, so you have only to turn the tap on, and out spouts the sentiment ready brewed.

Notwithstanding the state of law, public opinion, and custom, the “shrieking sisterhood,” and their male lackeys continue to invoke male “chivalry” in defence of every usurpation or act of injustice perpetrated in the interest of female domination. This invocation of chivalry now is about on a level with the capitalist’s invocation of “freedom of contract.” With both ideas, while their form remains intact the content has entirely changed. Under an Individualist system of production, “freedom of contract” between employer and employed had a meaning; under the great industry it has none – it is merely an excuse for exploitation by the Capitalist class. In the early middle ages, when strength of arm was commonly called into requisition for defence, “chivalry” had a meaning; in the nineteenth century it has none, and is merely an excuse for the privileges and domination of the female sex. In fact, if “chivalry” means taking the side of the weaker, it would be shown more often to-day, in championing the cause of the man against the woman, than that of the woman against the man. Hegel said that every typical character appeared twice in history – once as tragedy and once as farce. If we apply this to the chivalric type, and take King Arthur or Sir Launcelot (regarded for the nonce as historical personages) as the embodiment of the former we may certainly find the latter in the person of the great cheap-jack of London journalism, and exponent of the sorrows of husband-hunting wenches. The drop is certainly great from the hero of the “City of Legions” to the “Northumbrian boy.”

It might be thought from the general tenor of these remarks that they were intended as an attack on all idea of equality between the sexes. Such, however, is not the case. All I have meant to do is to attack the spurious social and political equality advocated by the bourgeois “woman’s rights” faction, male and female, an “equality” which, to employ the celebrated bull, is “all on one side.” This to my thinking is to be fought at all costs. As a friend intimately acquainted with current political life recently observed to me, what these people want to get the suffrage for is not to further any broad social views whatever, but simply to get infamous laws passed against men as men. This I believe to be true. What they really want is the erection of a sex domination.

I have also endeavoured in the foregoing to show the baselessness of the arguments supposed to tell in favour of the intellectual equality of men and women. Two things seem to me clear. (1) There is and has been a palpable inequality. (2) The arguments hitherto put forward to explain away that inequality won’t hold water. It will be observed that this is a very different thing from dogmatically asserting the inequality to be necessarily permanent. I believe it to be much more radical than many people would wish to imagine, but we can none of us foresee the results which such a revolution as that toward which modern socialists look forward will effect in modifying human life generally and with it calling into play latent and as yet unproven capacities in the female mind. With regard to the practical point of equality of social status between men and women the question entirely rests on an economic basis. As has been often said, so long as a man “keeps” a woman, whether as wife or mistress, as things go, it is perfectly natural he should expect to control that woman. It is a part of the system. Abolish the economic independence, place woman on an equal economic footing, and you have cut the ground from under any other possible dependence. In this great socialistic step toward real as opposed to sham equality between the sexes, two other points are I think involved. One is the definitive overthrow of our sham monogamic marriage and the formal recognition by society collectively of free relations between the sexes; and the other is the repudiation by women themselves of the anachronistic notion of “Chivalry,” as being due to them from men. (This reconstruction aspect of the question would require a special article). If we are to have equality and fellowship, let it be equality and fellowship, and not a hollow fraud masquerading under the name.



1. This does not, of course, touch the question as to the relative strength of the actual sexual appetite in the two sexes. The latter may quite consonantly with the argument be, as some physiologists allege, greater in man than in woman. The statement in the text is best illustrated by the two aims of the “respectable” woman, which are (1), to maintain her virginity, or (2) to make a good marriage.

2. Christianity, in accentuating as the first of virtues, the essentially female morality of sex, really, tended to drag men down to the level of mere males. When “sex” interpenetrates the whole personality a sexual ethic is obviously the dominant one. Chastity – as in the case of women – becomes the first of virtues. Where sex is merely one side of the personality, the sex-morality necessarily loses its importance, even if it is not formally abrogated.

3. I have refrained from entering into the strictly scientific questions of embryology and craniology which nevertheless make entirely in favour of the above thesis, partly from incompetence to deal with them adequately, partly because they would extend this paper too much.

Source: To-day July 1887, pp. 24-32.

Some Bourgeois Idols (1886)

The following excerpt from Ernest Belfort Bax’s essay was originally published under the 1886 title Some Bourgeois Idols; Or Ideals, Reals, and Shams. This is his first extant commentary on the ‘woman question.’ – PW


Let us take another idol. This time we tread on sacred ground indeed – equality between the sexes. Well may the iconoclastic hand tremble before levelling a blow at this new Serapis. Nevertheless here also – as the phrase is understood by the ordinary modern woman’s right, advocate – we are bound to recognise a vampire. In earlier stages of social development, woman was placed in a condition of undoubted social inferiority to man. Into the grounds of this inferiority it is unnecessary here to enter. Suffice it to say it existed, and that against the state of things the cry of “equality between the sexes” was raised, at first in a veiled, and afterwards in an open manner. For some time it represented a real tendency towards equality by the removal of certain undoubted grievances. But for some time past the tendency of the bourgeois world, as expressed in its legislation and sentiment, has been towards a factitious exaltation of the woman at the expense of the man – in other words, the cry for “equality between the sexes” has in the course of its realisation become a sham, masking a de facto inequality.

Greek goddessThe inequality in question presses as usual, heaviest on working-man, whose wife, to all intents and purposes has him completely in her power. If dissolute or drunken, she can sell up his goods or break up his home at pleasure, and still compel him to keep her and live with her to her life’s end. There is no law to protect him. On the other hand, let him but raise a finger in a moment of exasperation against this precious representative of the sacred principle of “womanhood,” and straightway he is consigned to the treadmill for his six months amid the jubilation of the D.T. and its kindred, who pronounce him a brute and sing paeans over the power of the “law” to protect the innocent and helpless female. Thus does bourgeois society offer sacrifice to the idol “equality between the sexes.” For the law jealously guards, the earnings or property of the wife from possible spoliation. She on any colourable pretext can obtain magisterial separation and “protection.”

Again, we have the same principle illustrated in the truly bestial outcry raised every now and again by certain persons for the infliction of the punishment of flogging on men, for particular offences, notably “assaults on women and children.” As a matter of fact, in the worst cases of cruelty to children, women are the criminals. Some few months back there was a horrible instance in which a little girl was done to death by a stepmother in circumstances of the most loathsome barbarity: yet these horror-stricken advocates of the lash never venture to support flogging as a wholesome corrective to viragos of this description. It would be opposed to middle-class sentiment, which would regard such a proposition as blasphemy against the sacred principle of “femality.” No other explanation is possible, since it can hardly be assumed that even the bourgeois mind is incapable of grasping the obvious fact that a man pinioned and in the hands of half a dozen prison-warders, is in precisely as helpless a condition as any woman in a like cage, and that, therefore, the brutality or cowardice of the proceeding is no greater in the one case than in the other. The bourgeois conception of “equality between the sexes” is aptly embodied in that infamous clause of the “Criminal Law Amendment Act,” which provides that in case of illicit intercourse, between a boy and girl under sixteen years of age, though the girl escapes scot free, the boy is liable, to five years imprisonment in a reformatory.

Even the great Radical nostrum which is supposed to involve the quintessence of political equality, is, when closely viewed, the hollowest of shams. The revolutionary socialist perhaps does not much concern himself about questions of the suffrage, esteeming but lightly the privilege of electing men to help to carry on the present system of society, which he believes destined to perish before long. But looked at from the ordinary point of view, it is quite clear that considering the fact that the female population of England is in excess of the male by about a million, female suffrage, in spite of its apparent embodiment of the principle of equality, really means, if it means anything at all (which may be doubtful) the handing over of the complete control of the state to one sex.

These are only a few of the illustrations which might be multiplied almost indefinitely, of the truth that the tendency of the modern middle-class world, is, while proclaiming the principle of “equality between the sexes” in opposition to the feudal subjection of woman, to erect, the female sex into a quasi-privileged class. The real equality between the sexes aimed at by socialism is as, I take it, much opposed to this Brummagem sentiment and sham equality, as it is to the female slavery of ancient times of which, of course, we do not wish to deny that survivals remain even at the present day. With the economic emancipation of woman and the gradual transformation of the state-system of to-day into an international league of free communes, the feudal subjection of women to man and the middle-class subjection of man to woman will be alike at an end.

Source: Bourgeois Idols, Commonweal, April 1886, pp.25 & 26.


Ernest Belfort Bax (1854 – 1926) holds a special place in the history of men’s rights advocacy, being the first to mount a sustained public campaign soliciting compassion for men and boys, while denouncing gynocentric chivalry and cultural misandry that was common in his time. As the first major spokesman on these issues Bax is considered the father of the first wave of the men’s rights movement.

The movement inaugurated by Bax was firstly a literary effort seeking to raise awareness of unreasonable discrimination against men; in divorce settlements, onerous financial responsibilities, military service, domestic violence bias, criminal sentencing disparities, misandric cultural roles and expectations, and so forth. While there were numerous men’s rights advocates appearing from Bax’s time forward, his efforts were published in mainstream publications spanning a period of thirty years, making his voice not only the first, but one of the most enduring.

Bax wrote on a great many topics, including religion, socialism, history and philosophy. This website reproduces all those writings (and only those writings) in which he dealt with men’s human rights, along with the gynocentric culture he believed responsible for undermining those rights. In these writings he asserted that feminism was a central part of the “anti-man crusades” that were in turn responsible for the expansion of “anti-man laws” during the time of men-only voting in England.

Bax wrote many articles in The New Age and elsewhere about English laws partial to women and against men, and of women’s privileged position under the law. He believed that women’s suffrage would unfairly tip the balance of power to women. In 1896 he co-wrote The Legal Subjection of Men as a response to John Stuart Mill’s 1869 essay The Subjection of Women. In 1913 he published The Fraud of Feminism, detailing feminism’s adverse effects on males and society. Section titles included “The Anti-Man Crusade”, “The ‘Chivalry’ Fake”, “Always The ‘Injured Innocent’”, and “Some Feminist Lies and Fallacies”.

The sheer volume of writings about men’s human rights show that the topic exercised Bax’s mind throughout his life, rivaling his interest in politics and philosophy but surprisingly little mentioned by biographers; perhaps the result of a widespread censorship of non-feminist narratives reported by Bax. With the resurgence of interest in men’s human rights, biographers might now be willing to update Bax’s life knowing they have a receptive audience for whom censorship is less likely to be accepted.


[1] See here for a description of the first and second waves of the men’s human rights movement