Tag Archives: suffrage

Bax on Rights and Responsibilities


“These dogmas of “advanced” faith in the Woman Question are… 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.”
Some Heterodox Notes on the Women Question (1887)

“Now in order to maintain this position it is necessary to assume the complete intellectual and moral equality of women with men, while judiciously conceding their physical inferiority. A desire, conscious or unconscious, on the part of these Socialists, as of other advocates of Feminism, is to make out a claim for women to all that is honourable and agreeable in the functions of human life, while safeguarding them from any obligation to accept rough or dangerous duties. Thus Bebel, in his “Frau und der Sozialismus,” while maintaining that no social function filled by men ought to be inaccessible to women, since any seeming unfitness in the latter is only the result of certain cruel oppression at the hands of vile man, yet is careful to guard his fair clients from the danger of being called upon for military purposes, even of defence.”
Feminism in Extremis (1902)

“What does the woman’s-rights movement demand? Female privilege, and when possible, female domination. It asks that women shall have all the rights of men with privileges thrown in (but no disagreeable duties, oh dear no!), and apparently be subject to no discipline but that of their own arbitrary wills. To exclude women on the ground of incapacity from any honourable, lucrative, or agreeable social function whatever, is a hideous injustice to be fulminated against from platform and in press – to treat them on the same footing as men in the matter of subordination to organised control or discipline is not to be thought of – is ungentlemanly ungallant, unchivalrous! … Advanced women and their male supporters in demanding all that is lucrative, honourable, and agreeable in the position of men take their stand on the dogma of sex-equality. No sooner, however, is the question one of disagreeable duties than “equality” goes by the board and they slink behind the old sex-immunity.”
The “Monstrous Regiment” of Womanhood (1907)

“From all we have said, it will now be evident, one would think, to the most prejudiced reader that modern English Law, following obsequiously a deluded or apathetic stage of public opinion, has solved the problem of the division of rights and duties between the sexes, by conceding to woman all rights, and imposing on man all duties.”
The Legal Subjection of Men, Chapter IX: A Sex Noblesse (1908)

“This public opinion regards it as axiomatic that women are capable of everything men are capable of, that they ought to have full responsibility in all honourable and lucrative functions and callings. There is only one thing for which unlimited allowance ought to be made on the ground of their otherwise non-existent womanly inferiority, and that is their own criminal or tortious acts! In a word, they are not to be held responsible, in the sense that men are, for their own actions when these entail unpleasant consequences for themselves. On the contrary, the obloquy and, where possible, the penalty for the wrong-doing is to be shifted on to the nearest wretched man with whom they have consorted.”
Why I Am an Anti-Suffragist (1909)

“From being part of a general code of manners enjoined upon a particular guild or profession it has been degraded to mean the exclusive right in one sex guaranteed by law and custom to certain advantages and exemptions with- out any corresponding responsibility.”
The Fraud of Feminism, Chapter V: The “Chivalry” Fake (1913)

“Chivalry, as understood by Modern Sentimental Feminism, means unlimited licence for women in their relations with men, and unlimited coercion for men in their relations with women. To men all duties and no rights, to women all rights and no duties, is the basic principle underlying Modern Feminism, Suffragism, and the bastard chivalry it is so fond of invoking.”
The Fraud of Feminism, Chapter VII: The Psychology of the Movement (1913)


Feminism and Female Suffrage (1910)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Female Suffrage and Its Implications (1904)

It is impossible to separate the question of the suffrage from the woman question in general, which is as much as to say, the suffrage opens up the whole question as to whether women as a whole are to perform the same functions in society as men and hence to have the same rights. The question, it may be observed, mainly concerns political rights (in the widest sense), i.e., rights of sharing in the direction and administration of society – equal economical rights are, of course, conceded in general, equal advantages from equal labour in some form or other being a fundamental demand of Socialism. While as regards social and legal rights, as we shall point out presently, women are already in a position of privilege as regards men. It is, then, with legal and administrative rights that we are primarily concerned.

Now, it seems to me, that the question we are dealing with resolves itself into three: (1) Are we justified in barring any section of human beings as a whole, which, through general intellectual inferiority or otherwise, is recognised as relatively incompetent to fulfil certain functions, from those functions? (2) Have we the right to conclude that women are, in general, intellectually inferior to men, or otherwise incompetent to have a voice in legislation and administration? (3) Admitting them to be sufficiently competent, are there other grounds, justifying their exclusion at present from public life in this sense? As regards the first point, first let us examine what the conception “justice” means.

It may be quite true that concrete justice always implies a definite content, but nevertheless, all concrete and particular justice presupposes an abstract and general justice by which the former can be measured. Now, the abstract principle of justice is covered, I take it, by the notion of equality, as Aristotle found out long ago. But when closer viewed this “equality,” it is seen, must be a relative equality. It must be an equality determined by the total circumstances of a particular case and not merely by one or two of its most obvious and superficial aspects. It is this last consideration which decides its character or determines its content in any particular instance.

Judged by this standard, then, I take it there exists a right to debar in general the unfit from the exercise of certain functions within a given society – provided that the unfitness results from organic causes and is not merely the temporary and direct outcome of defective economic and social conditions within the society itself. This is generally recognised even as regards the franchise. For example, children, i.e., young persons up to a certain age, are by common consent excluded from the right to exercise the suffrage as being unfit by reason of immaturity. Even the most suffrage-thirsting democrat limits his demands to adult suffrage. Then, again, where you have within a society an alien population of an intrinsically lower race the right to exclude such a population from interfering in the regulation and administration of such a society by its votes or otherwise, would be admitted at least by many thoroughgoing democrats. And the more so now that the experience of this particular application of the man-and-the-brother doctrine in the United States has proved its unworkability. The reason is obvious – lower races stand in the same relation to higher races that children do to adults. Their minds are so far different from the former, that there is no basis of organic equality between the two. In this case, of course, of lower and higher races, while the attempt to amalgamate them in one commonwealth can only be productive of mischief, the true solution is that the organically lower race should be left to itself to work out its own social destiny. For instance, my solution of the negro question in America would be, while excluding the negro from the franchise in the white States, in those of the Southern States where he was in an overwhelming majority to hand over the government of the State entirely to the negro, to the exclusion, for that matter, of such white population as there might happen to be. The white American might not like this, but it would be the only just way out of the difficulty which his ancestor has created by forcibly importing the negro out of Africa. This, however, by the way. I have only wanted to show that the exclusion from political influence in the society, whether by vote or otherwise, of elements organically inferior, or, if you will, organically different, from that which has hitherto constituted the society, is not necessarily inconsistent with a democratic attitude which would level, in politics, all distinctions [apart] from economic differences; in other words, on class in the ordinary sense of the word.

Between fundamentally disparate things there can be at least no direct relation of equality. Now Socialism is a doctrine proclaiming the fundamental identity for a common socio-political life of the men of the progressive races, the apparent diversities being non-fundamental to such a common life. These diversities it traces mainly to economic and political causes – in the case of classes to economical causes solely; in the case of races within the circle of modern civilisation (with which, as above said, Socialism is alone directly concerned), largely to political causes, as well as to economical causes, the organic differences between these races, if we assume such to exist, being so slight as to be non-fundamental from the point of view concerned. But Socialism does not affirm that the negroid branch of the human family (say) is in the same case. For here we clearly have to do with an organic difference of a deep-lying, if not fundamental, character. The mind of the savage, of the Bushman, or even of the Kaffir, is to that of the progressive races as the mind of a civilised child to that of a civilised adult. There is plainly, therefore, here not even the basis of a common politico-social life. This fact alone (we observe, by the way) ought to bring home to us the cruelty and criminality of the imperialistic enslaving of such races, thereby destroying their own social forms-forms which are alone suited to them. It is, I say, a false conception of justice which demands for such races the franchise in an alien social organisation. True justice insists upon the duty of “hands off,” i.e., of freedom and development for them from within, along their own lines. For where deep-seated organic disunction obtains, justice must have a different content to where no such distinction obtains.

Again, as already said, within every community you have an order of human beings who by common consent are unfitted for the functions of regulating and administering the community, viz., children or young persons under age. Here also there is no basis of direct equality, the immaturity constitutes an organic distinction which in this case also gives justice with regard to them a different content to what it would have if this distinction were not present. There is a justice, of course, in their case, because there is a form of equality to be arrived at, but it is an indirect justice because the equality is indirect. There is justice, for that matter, for all living beings, for animals as well as human beings, but it does not consist in giving them all the franchise. I think it is clear, therefore, that we are justified in debarring any order of persons from the franchise if they, as a class, indicate an inferiority based on an organic difference which is likely to render their co-operation in political or administrative life a danger or disadvantage to the community as a whole. For let us make no mistake, the active franchise (so-called) means the first step towards the passive; and this again is the step to all other political functions; just as the Bar is the first step towards the Bench, and this again towards the highest administrative functions in the existing State. You cannot practically limit any order of persons to the first step alone, with a “thus far shalt thou go and no farther.” from the right of election to a legislative body, to the right of membership of that body, for instance, there is no logical halting-place.

Now the question arises, are we to regard women as possessing a deep-lying organic difference, involving inferiority, to men? If so, we shall be eo ipso justified in opposing woman-suffrage on the ground that the well-being of the community as a whole would be endangered thereby. “Equality in a reasonable sense,” as Möbius says, “can only mean that injustice is done to no one, that there is equal reward for equal achievements.” It does not mean necessarily, as above pointed out, that every one, irrespective of vital differences, should have the same rights. Have we, then, the indications of mental inferiority in woman? I must here enter a protest against the trick of certain Feminists in attempting to belittle the difference between men as a sex-class and women as a sex-class. The immense difference (I do not say, mind, inferiority) between the mind of woman and the mind of man is patent and obvious to all who have no interest in denying it. An attempt to ignore this self-evident fact – a fact open to the observation of everyone – seems to me waste of time to discuss. Deny the inferiority if you will, but do not deny the difference. Talk about there being no greater difference between the sexes than between one man and another and one woman and another, we can hardly regard as seriously meant.

References to the comparatively slight distinction between the sexes in animals does not affect the question. It would seem that the sex-distinction in man approaches the relative magnitude of the specific or variational distinction in the lower animals. Möbius explains this greater differentiation of the sexes in the human species than in animals by the long period of helplessness in the human offspring. Whether this is so or not I am not prepared to say. The point really at issue is, I take it: Does this distinction involve either general inferiority or inferiority in certain directions? Both those points I think must be answered in the affirmative. Of course, I cannot here argue the case in detail. The main line of proof for the general inferiority of women is given at length in the introduction to the well known work of Lombroso and Ferrero on the Female Criminal. To take the physical indications of inferiority first. I will not dwell upon the inferiority as regards size and development of physique generally, though this might also have its significance, but would point out that according to the researches of Bischoff and Rüdinger not merely is the female brain absolutely smaller than that of the man, but relatively smaller allowing for the difference of size in the organism. Rüdinger has dealt with the matter, and gives a series of plates and tables showing from a large number of instances that the important parts of the brain are themselves relatively smaller; and not only so, but what perhaps is more important, that the convolutions even in the new-born child are much simpler and cruder in the female than in the male. The differences are vastly accentuated in the adult, the formation of important parts of the brain presenting quite a different appearance in this respect between the sexes, approaching, as regards proportions, in the female to the pre-human type. The inferior sensibility to pain discovered by Lombroso in women is a well-known fact. The special character of the female sexual system and its functions by the amount of vital energy they absorb would, apart from anything else, naturally lead us to expect an inferior development. The same conclusion is pointed to by the earlier ripeness of the human female organism.

Now, let us look at another group of facts not referring directly to the structure of the female sex, but to its intellectual functioning. Where and when throughout history can we discern in any branch of original thought or imagination or emotional activity, women that have achieved anything noteworthy – in science, in philosophy, in political practice, in invention, in the fine arts (painting, poetry, music)? The few exceptions in one or two of these departments in which women have approached the achievements of third-rate men, only suffice to prove the rule. Now, how do you explain this? Oh, it is said, women have been repressed, and have had no opportunity of showing their latent capacities! But it is forgotten that they have by no means been discouraged in all departments; on the contrary, rather the reverse in the fine arts and certain lines of literature. Furthermore, male genius has shown itself, where it existed, in the teeth of the most adverse circumstances. “Ah, but,” it will be replied, “how many among men are not geniuses, and yet you don’t deny them the franchise on the ground of inferiority on that account!” This is to mistake the argument, which is only designed as a test. From the heights of the summits one may gauge that of the table-land beneath them. If one order of human beings produces a continuous crop of geniuses in every – the most divergent – departments, and another order does not, we may fairly conclude that the average of the order that produces few or no geniuses is also, as an average, inferior to the order that produces many. Again, as regards the undoubtedly considerable memory capacity of women when specially cultivated, a capacity which enables them to compete with men in cram-examinations, Möbius (Die Physiologische Schwachsinn des Weibes) points out that even this form of intellectual power is rapidly lost in women, especially after a few years of married life. He observes the same in every other form of mental activity in the case of women. However brilliant in the girl, it has no durability. These things, however, I admit, though undoubtedly indicating inferiority, might not be taken as sufficient to exclude women from public functions.

We will, therefore, pass on to a more serious form of inferiority. I refer to the special tendency of women to hysteria. In common language, the word hysteria (hysterical, &c.) is often used to designate any form of mental excitement or strong emotion. This, of course, is a misuse of words. I have heard it said that men “get hysterical” over political issues, over Parliamentary candidatures in this country, Presidential elections in the United States, &c. Such talk, however, is merely synonymous with saying that they get excited, but mere excitement of the passions or emotions does not necessarily imply hysteria. [1] The symptoms of true hysteria, in women, the exaggeration of trifles into issues of absorbing importance, the flushing, the stertorous breathing, &c., are familiar to common observation, and may be found detailed in any medical treatise on the subject. Now this form of nervous and mental disturbance, is, I submit, almost wholly confined to women. It is not to be denied, of course, that men, or rather boys, occasionally exhibit hysterical symptoms of the genuine type. But these cases are always comparatively rare. With women, on the contrary, hysteria is the commonest disorder. It varies, of course, enormously in degree, from being a mere tendency exhibiting itself in slight and unimportant nervous symptoms to cases in which it becomes positive insanity and even acute mania. It has been calculated, I believe, that at the lowest estimate one woman out of every four or five is more or less subject to hysteria in one or other of its forms. The Government report, published in Germany in 1902, on the employment of women in post offices and other public departments, shows how heavily this form of nervous and mental disease handicaps women in the exercise of very simple administrative duties in that country. I am not aware whether a similar report on the subject has been issued in Great Britain. The very word hysteria, from [ύζτερα] (womb), is a proof that the disease has been from time immemorial associated with the female sex; and this is none the less significant, whether or no we accept the opinion that the womb itself has an exclusive connection with it. Hysteria, then, being a form of mental disturbance especially affecting women, and by no means to be confounded with mere emotional excitement, which may exist and proceed from a variety of causes equally in both sexes, surely it would be advisable for those impartial male persons who clamour for the admission of women to all political functions to suspend their enthusiasm at least until they have looked this subject up in recent medical treatises.

Scarcely less important is the characteristic in women often remarked upon, namely, the curious absence so frequently seen of a sense of justice, as such. [2] This, which so often vitiates their moral character (using the phrase in its true and widest sense), is, I think, itself deducible from their inability to appreciate abstract considerations generally, or, indeed, to interest themselves in any subject which does not centre in an individual. They care, not for principles, but for persons; they hate and love, not causes, but men. That, under certain circumstances, a defective moral sense is very liable to be engendered by this tendency, is obvious – for the simple reason that a moral principle is a universal and abstract rule and no respecter of persons.

In concluding this portion of the subject, I will call attention to one singular inconsistency in Feminists. The physical weakness of woman is commonly held a sufficient ground for the possession of certain privileges and exemptions, but the mental weakness of woman, which may or may not exist, but of which there is at least prima facie evidence, is held to be no valid ground for denying her access to functions involving grave responsibilities. Now this is an instance of the strange perversity which feminist sentimentalism engenders. (When I use the word sentimentalism, I must remind you, I intend not as most people do, to denote an excess of sentiment beyond what I like myself, but a one-sided sentiment whatever its amount may be.) The Feminist cannot see that granted that he admits the first he is ethico-logically bound to admit the second. However, I know there are some who are prepared to adopt a logical attitude. A dear friend of mine, one of the most prominent English Socialists, observed to me recently that while he was absolutely convinced of the physical, intellectual, and moral inferiority of woman to man he was nevertheless in favour not only of political but of all other equality between the sexes, which for that reason he thought would do no harm. I am afraid we cannot all be quite so sanguine on this head. However, this is at least a consistent point of view.

And now let us deal with our last heading for discussion, which turns mainly upon this last point. I have sketched out very briefly a few of the grounds which might lead us to think that the organic difference between man and woman is of a very deep lying character and does involve the mental inferiority of the female sex, of a kind and degree justifying exclusion from political functions.

This, however, is a matter difficult to prove to everybody’s satisfaction. Let us, then, for the sake of argument, concede the point of intrinsic unsuitability, and enquire whether, even though a case were not made out on this ground justifying exclusion from the franchise, there might yet be other grounds which, at the present time at least, would render the concession of political functions to women unjust or undesirable.

In the Legal Subjection of Men (Twentieth Century Press, 1896) the privileges of women over men in the matter of law and its administration in this country will be found described in detail. These inequalities exist. But that is not all. Feminists only claim equality with men in so far as it has agreeable consequences for women. And this applies all along the line. Did you ever hear of “advanced” women clamouring for equality in the matter of military service or even for the right to become police constables? One often hears the Feminists’ wail over the economic inequality between men and women. They claim, and justly claim, equal wages for equal work, no preference to men over women. With this we are all agreed. But have you ever heard of a Feminist demanding equal penalty for equal crime? Because I never have. Oh, no! Here comes in the “poor weak woman” whine. The muscular weakness of women (in spite of, as is admitted, a greater constitutional vigour than in man) is held to be sufficient to relieve the woman of the larger part of the responsibility for her actions in so far as criminal law is concerned, and yet no protest against injustice is made by those whose voice is so loud otherwise in denouncing sex-inequality. As Mr. Collinson, of the Humanitarian League, has pointed out, one great difficulty in getting rid of brutality in punishments is the one-sided sexual nature of such brutality, viz., that it affects the male sex only.

The Feminists, in their eagerness to admit muscular inferiority in women, with a view to justifying sex-privilege before the law, forget that they are giving away part of their own case. The inferiority in the matter of muscular strength of the female sex, if it be conceded, must imply a strong presumption of mental inferiority. Oh! exclaims someone, physical and mental strength are seldom united in the same individual. Quite right, I answer. This holds between individuals of the same sex but not between one sex and another, and for the following reason. The sex-class Man, say, possesses a certain measure of inherent vital force (if you like), a certain average of potential; as energy, capacity, or power. This power may realise itself in any given individual as physical at the expense of mental, or as mental at the expense of physical, but, over the whole range of the male sex both balance one another. If, however, you admit in the case of women a consistent average inferiority in power over the whole sex, on one side of its manifestation, viz., the physical, the presumption is obviously strong that this expresses an inferiority in the total sex-capacity, mental as well as physical. The argument from the individual member of a class cannot be applied to the class as such, any more than the single instance can subvert the rule. For the above reasons I would advise woman’s-righters to choose the one side or the other. If they stick to the weakness of woman physically as ground for woman’s privileges and immunities, let them give up prating of equality otherwise. If they contend for equality let it at least be an even equality all round.

We come now to a last and very important fact, and that is that if we take our stand on universal adult suffrage, there being a vast majority of women in the population, we are simply handing over the whole administration of affairs to the female sex. At any time if the female sex chooses to vote solid it can upset the entire male vote. Now, I ask, are you prepared for this? And I think I need hardly say more on this point.

The conclusion I draw from the above facts alone, and apart from all other considerations, such as those previously indicated, is, that setting aside the question of the intrinsic suitability or unsuitability of the female sex for the exercise of political functions it is at least not just or equitable that women should exercise such functions – even the suffrage – (1) So long as women possess sex privileges as against men, or so long as they are not prepared to accept the whole duties and responsibilities of life in an equal degree with men; (2) That it is undesirable they should be given the franchise at all so long as the acquirement of the vote by women would possibly mean the political subjection of man, owing to the excess of the female population. I contend that so long as women have special privileges at criminal law, special favouritism at civil law, special exemption from military service, the right of maintenance, when married, by the husband, &c., it is neither just nor expedient that they should, in addition, by the concession of the franchise, be placed in a position to dominate men politically by sheer weight of numbers.



1. The mere shedding of tears per se, an ebullition of temper, a display of enthusiasm, however unusual in intensity, a wave of emotional sentiment (started, as so often happens, by collective suggestion), a one-sided or even “cranky” insistence upon a particular aim; all these things have usually no connection what ever with the special pathological condition termed hysteria. Excitement is only one symptom of hysteria. As well say that every person with a flushed face is suffering from scarlet fever as that every person who gets excited is therefore hysterical. Of course, as we all know, all the above symptoms are commonly stigmatised as “hysterical,” which in such cases is merely a term of abuse by those who are annoyed by them. Where there is any approximatively or even conceivably adequate external cause for the display of an emotion, recourse to a pathological explanation is unwarranted and gratuitous. Besides, there are many pathological mental conditions other than hysteria. If I am not mistaken, Hippocrates was the first medical authority to whom a description of true hysteria was attributed, and which is, I believe, surprisingly accurate even when compared with present-day manifestations of the malady.

2. Of course, on saying this, one is fairly bombarded with irrelevant insistence on the fact that men can act unjustly, a proposition which, of course, no one denies. The point here is that women, as a rule, cannot even understand the principle of justice as such, or irrespective of their liking or disliking for individuals concerned in a particular application of it. Many men are sometimes swayed by personal prejudice, but women seem almost invariably to be so.

Source: From Social Democrat, Vol.8, no.9, 15 September 1904. pp.533-545.