The Fraud of Feminism/Chapter 4

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The Fraud of Feminism  (1913) 
E. Belfort Bax
always the “injured innocent”
London: Grant Richards Ltd pages 80-97

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

We have already given examples of the fact in question, and they could be indefinitely extended. At the end of the year 1911, at Birmingham, in the case of a woman convicted of the murder of her paramour by deliberately pouring inflammable oil over him while he was asleep, and then setting it afire, and afterwards not only exulting in the action but saying she was ready to do it again, the jury brought in recommendation to mercy with their verdict. And, needless to say, the influence of Political and Sentimental Feminism was too strong to allow the capital sentence to be carried out, even with such a fiendish wretch as this. In the case of the Italian woman in Canada, Napolitano, before mentioned, the female franchise societies issued a petition to Mr Borden, the Premier of Canada, in favour of the commutation of sentence. The usual course was adopted in this case, as in most others in which a woman murders a man—to wit, the truly “chivalrous” one of trying to blacken the character of the dead victim in defence of the action of the murderess. In other cases, more especially, of course, where the man is guilty of a crime against a woman, when mercy is asked for the offender, we are pitifully adjured to “think of the poor victim.” As we have seen, Lord Haldane trotted out this exhortation in a case where it was absurdly inappropriate, since the much-commiserated “victim” had only herself to thank for being a “victim,” and still more for remaining a “victim.” We never hear this plea for the “victim” urged where the “victim” happens to be a man and the offender a woman. Compare this with the case of the boy of nineteen, Beal, whom Mr M'Kenna hanged for the murder of his sweetheart, and that in the teeth of an explanation given in the defence which was at least possible, if not probable, and which certainly, putting it at the very lowest, introduced an element of doubt into the case. Fancy a girl of nineteen being convicted, whatever the evidence, of having poisoned her paramour or even if, per impossibile, she were convicted, fancy her being given more than a short term of imprisonment! A man murdered by a woman is always the horrid brute, while the woman murdered by the man is just as surely the angelic victim. Anyone who reads reports of cases with an unbiassed mind must admit the absolute accuracy of this statement.

Divine woman is always the “injured innocent,” not only in the graver crimes, such as murder, but also in the minor offences coming under the cognisance of the law. At the Ledbury Petty Sessions a woman in the employment of a draper, who had purloined goods to the amount of £150, was acquitted on the ground of “kleptomania,” and this notwithstanding the fact that she had been in the employment of the prosecutor for over five years, had never complained of illness and had never been absent from business; also that her landlady gave evidence showing that she was sound in mind and body. At the very same sessions two men were sentenced respectively to eight and twelve months' imprisonment for stealing goods to the value of £5! (John Bull, 12th November 1910).

At this point I may be permitted to quote from the article formerly alluded to (Fortnightly Review, November 1911, case taken from a report in The News of the World of 28th February 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.”

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, 9th May 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 8th July 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 it over a woman at Portsmouth was tried and convicted at the Hants Assizes, on 7th July 1905, and sentenced by Mr Justice Bigham to twelve years' penal servitude! As regards the first case it will be observed that, (notwithstanding a crime, which in the case of a 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 victim 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 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, 26th February 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 explanation 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 that the money had been repaid, that her fiancé could not marry her if she were sent to gaol, and that her life would be irretrievably ruined, and she was discharged! From The Birmingham Post, 4th February 1902: A female clerk (twenty-six) pleaded guilty to embezzling £5, 1s. 9d. on 16th November, £2, 2s. 4d. on 21st December and £5, 0s. 9d. on 23rd December last, the moneys of her employer. 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 1902 a case where a woman had burned her employer's outhouses and property, doing £1800 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. G. (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! O merciful recorder!

The “injured innocent” theory usually comes into play with magistrates when a woman is charged with aggravated annoyance and harassing of men in their business or profession, when, as already stated, the administrator of the law will usually tell the prosecutor that he cannot interfere. In the opposite case of a man annoying a woman under like circumstances he invariably has to find substantial sureties for his good behaviour or go to gaol. No injured innocence for him!

There is another case in which it seems probable that, animated by the same fixed idea, those responsible for the framing of laws have flagrantly neglected an obvious measure for public safety. We refer to the unrestricted sale of sulphuric acid (vitriol) which is permitted. Now here we have a substance subserving only very special purposes in industry, none in household economy, or in other departments, save for criminal ends, which is nevertheless procurable without let or hindrance. Is it possible to believe that this would be the case if men were in the habit of using this substance in settling their differences with each other, even still more if they employed it by way of emphasising their disapproval of the jilting of sweethearts? That it should be employed by women in wreaking their vengeance on recalcitrant lovers seems a natural if not precisely a commendable action, in the eyes of a Sentimental Feminist public opinion, and one which, on the mildest hypothesis, “doesn't matter.” Hence a deadly substance may be freely bought and sold as though it were cod-liver oil. A very nice thing for dastardly viragoes for whom public opinion has only the mildest of censures! In any reasonable society the indiscriminate sale of corrosive substances would in itself be a crime punishable with a heavy term of imprisonment.

It is not only by men, and by a morbid public opinion inflamed by Feminist sentiment in general, that female criminals are surrounded by a halo of injured innocence. The reader can hardly fail to notice that such women have the effrontery to pretend to regard themselves in this light. This is often so in cases of assault, murder or attempted murder of lovers by their sweethearts. Such is, of course, particularly noticeable in the senselessly wicked outrages, of which more anon. The late Otto Weininger, in his book before quoted, “Geschlecht und Charakter” (Sex and Character), has some noteworthy remarks on this, remarks which, whether we accept his suggested theory or not, might well have been written as a comment on recent cases of suffragette crimes and criminals. “The male criminal,” says Weininger, “has from his birth the same relation to the idea of value [moral value] as any other man in whom the criminal tendencies governing himself may be wholly absent. The female on the other hand often claims to be fully justified when she has committed the greatest conceivable infamy. While the genuine criminal is obtusely silent against all reproaches, a woman will express her astonishment and indignation that anyone can doubt her perfect right to act as she has done. Women are convinced of their being in the right without ever having sat in judgment on themselves. The male criminal, it may be true, does not do so either, but then he never maintains that he is in the right. He rather goes hastily out of the way of discussing right and wrong, because it reminds him of his guilt. In this fact we have a proof that he has a relationship to the [moral] idea, and that it is unfaithfulness to his better self of which he is unwilling to be reminded. No male criminal has ever really believed that injustice has been done him by punishment. The female criminal on the other hand is convinced of the maliciousness of her accusers, and if she is unwilling no man can persuade her that she has done wrong. Should someone admonish her, it is true that she often bursts into tears, begs for forgiveness and admits her fault; she may even believe indeed that she really feels this fault. Such is only the case, however, when she has felt inclined to do so, for this very dissolving in tears affects her always with a certain voluptuous pleasure. The male criminal is obstinate, he does not allow himself to be turned round in a moment as the apparent defiance of a woman may be converted into an apparent sense of guilt, where, that is, the accuser understands how to handle her” (“Geschlecht und Charakter,” pp. 253-254). Weininger's conclusion is: “Not that woman is naturally evil or anti-moral, but rather that she is merely a-moral, in other words that she is destitute of what is commonly called 'moral sense.'” The cases of female penitents and others which seem to contradict this announcement Weininger explains by the hypothesis that “it is only in company and under external influence that woman can feel remorse.”

Be all this as it may, the fact remains that women when most patently and obviously guilty of vile and criminal actions will, with the most complete nonchalance, insist that they are in the right. This may be, and very possibly often is, mere impudent effrontery, relying on the privilege of the female sex, or it may, in part at least, as Weininger insists, be traceable to “special deep-lying sex-characteristics.” But in any case the singular fact is that men, and men even of otherwise judicial capacity, are to be found who are prepared virtually to accept the justice of this attitude, and who are ready to condone, if not directly to defend, any conduct, no matter how vile or how criminal, on the part of a woman. We have illustrations of this class of judgment almost every day, but I propose to give two instances of what I should deem typical, if slightly extreme, perversions of moral judgment on the part of two men, both of them of social and intellectual standing, and without any doubt personally of the highest integrity. Dr James Donaldson, Principal of the University of St Andrews, in his work entitled “Woman, her Position and Influence in Ancient Greece and Rome and among the Early Christians,” commenting on the well-known story attributed to the year 331 B.C., which may or may not be historical, of the wholesale poisoning of their husbands by Roman matrons, as well as of subsequent cases of the same crime, concludes his remarks with these words: “It seems to me that we must regard them [namely these stories or facts, as we may choose to consider them] as indicating that the Roman matrons felt sometimes that they were badly treated, that they ought not to endure the bad treatment, and that they ought to take the only means that they possessed of expressing their feelings, and of wreaking vengeance, by employing poison” (p. 92). Now though it may be said that in this passage we have no direct justification of the atrocious crime attributed to the Roman matrons, yet it can hardly be denied that we have here a distinct condonation of the infamous and dastardly act, such a condonation as the worthy Principal of St Andrews University would hardly have meted out to men under any circumstances. Probably Professor Donaldson, in writing the above, felt that his comments would not be resented very strongly, even if not actually approved, by public opinion, steeped as it is at the present time in Feminism, political and sentimental.

Another instance, this time of direct special pleading to prove a woman guilty of an atrocious crime to be an “injured innocent.” It is taken from an eminent Swiss alienist in his work on Sex. Dr Forel maintains a thesis which may or may not be true to the effect that the natural maternal instinct is either absent or materially weakened in the case of a woman who has given birth to a child begotten by rape, or under circumstances bordering upon rape, and indeed more or less in all cases where the woman is an unwilling participant in the sexual act. By way of illustration of this theory he cites the case of a barmaid in St Gallen who was seduced by her employer under such circumstances as those above mentioned; a child resulted, who was put out to nurse at an institution until five years of age, when it was handed over to the care of the mother. Now what does the woman do? Within a few hours of receiving the little boy into her keeping she took him to a lonely place and deliberately strangled him, in consequence of which she was tried and condemned. Now Dr Forel, in his Feminist zeal, feels it incumbent upon him to try to whitewash this female monster by urging, on the basis of this theory, the excuse that under the circumstances of its conception one could not expect the mother to have the ordinary instincts of maternity as regards her child. The worthy doctor is apparently so blinded by his Feminist prejudices that (quite apart from the correctness or otherwise of his theory) he is oblivious of the absurd irrelevancy of his argument. What, we may justly ask, has the maternal instinct, or its absence, to do with the guilt of the murderess of a helpless child committed to her care! Who or what the child was is immaterial! That a humane and otherwise clear-headed man like Dr Forel could take a wretch of this description under his ægis, and still more that in doing so he should serve up such utterly illogical balderdash by way of argument, is only one more instance of how the most sane-thinking men are rendered fatuous by the glamour of Sentimental Feminism.

In the present chapter we have given a few typical instances of the practice which constitutes one of the most conspicuous features of Modern Feminism and of the public opinion which it has engendered. We hear and read, ad nauseam, of excuses, and condonation, for every crime committed by a woman, while a crime of precisely similar a character and under precisely similar circumstances, where a man is the perpetrator, meets with nothing but virulent execration from that truculent ass, British public opinion, as manipulated by the Feminist fraternity, male and female. This state of public opinion reacts, of course, upon the tribunals and has the result that women are practically free to commit any offence they please, with always a splendid sporting chance of getting acquitted altogether, and a practical certainty that even if convicted they will receive farcical sentences, or, should the sentence be in any degree adequate to the offence, that such sentence will not be carried out. The way in which criminal law is made a jest and a mockery as regards female prisoners, the treatment of criminal suffragettes, is there in evidence. The excuse of health being endangered by their going without their breakfasts has resulted in the release after a few days of women guilty of the vilest crimes—e.g. the attempt to set fire to the theatre at Dublin. It may be well to recall the outrageous facts of modern female immunity and free defiance of the law as illustrated by one quotation of a description of the merry time of the window-smashers of March 1912 in Holloway prison given by a correspondent of The Daily Telegraph. The correspondent of that journal describes his visit to the aforesaid prison, where he said there appeared to have been no punishment of any kind for any sort of misbehaviour. “All over the place,” he writes, “is noise—women calling to women everywhere, and the officials seem powerless to preserve even the semblance of discipline. A suffragist will call out her name while in a cell, and another one who knows her will answer, giving her name in return, and a conversation will then be carried on between the two. This chattering obtains all day and far into the night. The 'officials' as the wardresses prefer themselves called, have already given the prison the name of 'the monkey-house.' Certain it is that the prisoners are treated with all deference, the reason being perhaps that the number of officials is insufficient to establish proper order. While I was waiting yesterday one lady drove up in a carriage and pair, in which were two policemen and several bundles of clothes, to enter upon her sentence and this is the note which seems to dominate the whole of the prison. Seventy-six of the prisoners are supposed to be serving sentences with hard labour, but none of them are wearing prison clothes, and in only one or two instances have any tasks of any description been given, those generally being a little sewing or knitting.” Again a member of the Women's Freedom League at a meeting on 19th May 1912 boasted that the suffragettes had a wing of their own at Holloway. “They had nice hot water pipes and all the latest improvements and were able to climb up to the window and exchange sentiments with their friends.” She had saved money and enjoyed herself very much!!

Here we have a picture of the way the modern authorities of the law recognise the “injured innocence” of female delinquents who claim the right wantonly to destroy property. Our present society, based as it is on private property-holding, and which usually punished with the utmost severity any breach of the sanctity of private property, waives its claims where women are concerned. Similarly arson under circumstances directly endangering human life, for which the law prescribes the maximum sentence of penal servitude for life, is considered adequately punished by a week or two's imprisonment when those convicted of the crime are of the female sex. Oh, but they were acting from political motives! Good, and have not terrorist anarchists, Fenians and Irish dynamiters of the Land League days also acted from political motives? The terrorist anarchist, foolish and indefensible though his tactics may be, believes honestly enough that he is paving the way for the abolition of poverty, misery and social injustice, a far more vital thing than the franchise! The Irish Fenians and dynamiters pursued a similar policy and there is no reason to doubt their honest belief that it would further the cause of the freedom and national independence of Ireland. Yet were these “political” offenders dealt with otherwise than as ordinary criminals when convicted of acts qualified by the law as felonies? And their acts, moreover, whatever we may think of them otherwise, were, in most cases at least, politically logical from their own point of view, and not senseless injuries to unoffending persons, as those of the present-day female seekers after the suffrage.