The Fraud of Feminism/Chapter 8

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The Fraud of Feminism  (1913) 
E. Belfort Bax
the indictment
London: Grant Richards Ltd pages 161-175

Feminism, or, as it is sometimes called, the emancipation of woman, as we know it in the present day, may be justifiably indicted as a gigantic fraud—a fraud in its general aim and a fraud alike in its methods of controversy and in its practical tactics. It is through and through disingenuous and dishonest. Modern Feminism has always professed to be a movement for political and social equality between the sexes. The claim for this equalising of position and rights in modern society is logically based upon the assumption of an essential equality in natural ability between the sexes. As to this, we have indicated in the preceding pages on broad lines, the grounds for regarding the foregoing assumption as false. But quite apart from this question, I contend the fraudulent nature of the present movement can readily be seen by showing it to be not merely based on false grounds, but directly and consciously fraudulent in its pretensions. It uniformly professes to aim at the placing of the sexes on a footing of social and political equality. A very little inquiry into its concrete demands suffices to show that its aim, so far from being equality, is the very reverse—viz. to bring about, with the aid of men themselves, as embodied in the forces of the State, a female ascendancy and a consolidation and extension of already existing female privileges. That this is so may be seen in general by the constant conjunction of Political and Sentimental Feminism in the same persons. It may be seen more particularly in detail, in the specific demands of Feminists. These demands, as formulated by suffragists as a reason why the vote is essential to the interests of women, amount to little if anything else than proposals for laws to enslave and browbeat men and to admit women to virtual if not actual immunity for all offences committed against men. It is enough to consult any suggestions for a woman's "charter" in order to confirm what is here said. Such proposals invaribly suggest the sacrificing of man at every turn to woman.[1]

In the early eighties of the last century appeared a skit in the form of a novel from the pen of the late Sir Walter Besant, entitled "The Revolt of Man," depicting the oppression of man under a Feminist régime, an oppression which ended in a revolt and the re-establishment of male supremacy. The ideas underlying this jeu d'esprit of the subjection of men would seem to be seriously entertained by the female leaders of the present woman's movement. It is many years ago now since a minister holding one of the highest positions in the present Cabinet made the remark to me:—"The real object, you know, for which these women want the vote is simply to get rascally laws passed against men!" Subsequent Feminist agitation has abundantly proved the truth of this observation. An illustration of the practical results of the modern woman's movement is to be seen in the infamous White Slave Traffic Act of 1912 rushed through Parliament as a piece of panic legislation by dint of a campaign of sheer hard lying. The atrocity of this act has been sufficiently dealt with in a previous chapter.[2]

Other results of the inequality between the sexes so effectively urged by present-day Feminism, may be seen in the conduct of magistrates, judges and juries, in our courts civil and criminal. This has been already animadverted upon in the course of the present work, and illustrative cases given, as also in previous writings of the present author to which allusion has already been made. It is not too much to say that a man has practically no chance in the present day in a court of law, civil or criminal, of obtaining justice where a woman is in the case. The savage vindictiveness exhibited towards men, as displayed in the eagerness of judges to obtain, and the readiness of juries to return, convictions against men accused of crimes against women, on evidence which, in many cases, would not be good enough (to use the common phrase) to hang a dog on, with the inevitable ferocious sentence following conviction, may be witnessed on almost every occasion when such cases are up for trial. I have spoken of the eagerness of judges to obtain convictions. As an illustration of this sort of thing, the following may be given:—In the trial of a man for the murder of a woman, before Mr Justice Bucknill, which took place some time ago, it came out in evidence that the woman had violently and obscenely abused and threatened the man immediately before, in the presence of other persons. The jury were so impressed with the evidence of unusually strong provocation that they hesitated whether it was not sufficient to reduce the crime to that of manslaughter, and, unable to agree offhand on a verdict of murder, asked the judge for further guidance. Their deliberations were, however, cut short by the judge, who remarked on the hesitation they had in arriving at their verdict, finally adding: "Only think, gentlemen, how you would view it had this been your own wife or sister who was cruelly done to death!" With the habitual obsequiousness of a British jury towards the occupant of the Bench, the gentlemen in question swallowed complacently the insult thrown at their wives and sisters in putting them in the same category with a foul strumpet, and promptly did what the judge obviously wanted of them—to wit, brought in a verdict of wilful murder. The cases on the obverse side, where the judge, by similar sentimental appeal, aims at procuring the acquittal of female prisoners notoriously guilty on the evidence, that palladium of rogues, the English law of libel, precludes me from referring to individually. As regards the disparity in punishment, however, we have an apt and recent illustration in the execution of the youth of nineteen, convicted on doubtful evidence of the murder of his sweetheart, and the reprieve of the woman convicted on her own admission of the murder of her paramour by soaking him in paraffin during his sleep and setting him alight!

Another effect of the influence of Sentimental Feminism, is seen in crimes of the "unwritten law" description, the crime passionel of the French. The most atrocious and dastardly murders and other crimes of violence are condoned and even glorified if they can but be covered by the excuse that they are dictated by a desire to avenge a woman's "honour" or to enable her to obtain the object of her wishes. The incident in Sir J. M. Barrie's play of the lady who murders a man by throwing him out of a railway carriage over a dispute respecting the opening of a window, and gets acquitted on the excuse that her little girl had got a cold, represents a not exaggerated picture of "modern justice"—for women only! The outrageous application of the principles, if such you may call them, of Sentimental Feminism in this country in the case of the suffragettes, has made English justice and penal administration the laughing-stock of the world. But the way in which the crimes of the suffragettes have been dealt with, is after all only a slight exaggeration of the immunity from all the severer penalties of the law enjoyed by female convicts generally. This has been carried in the case of suffragette criminals to the utmost limits of absurdity. In fact, the deference exhibited towards these deliberate perpetrators of crimes of wanton destruction is sometimes comic, as in the case of the Richmond magistrate who rebuked the policeman-witness in an arson charge for omitting the "Miss" in referring to one of the female prisoners in the dock: as well as in the "high character" usually attributed to the perpetrators of these deeds of outrage and violence even by certain functionaries of Church and State. They did not speak in this strain morebetoken, when mere male anarchists or Fenians were involved in difficulties with the law due to overzeal for their cause!

The whole movement, it is quite evident, depends for its success, largely, at least, on the apathy of men. The bulk of men undoubtedly do not sympathise with the pretensions of the Feminist agitation, but the bulk of men are indifferent one way or the other. They do not take the Feminist Movement seriously. The bare notion of women, as such, being a danger to men as such, strikes them as absurd. They do not realise that the question is not of the physical strength of women as women, but of the whole forces of the State being at the disposal of women to set in motion to gratify their whims and passions. The idea of a sex war in which women take the field against men, such as represents the inwardness of the whole Feminist Movement of to-day, seems to them ridiculous. The feeling at the root of most men's good-humoured patronage of, or indifference to, Modern Feminist claims, is roughly expressed in a remark of the late William Morris in replying to some animadversions of mine on the subject:—"What does it matter? A man ought to be always able to deal with a woman if necessary. Why, I could tackle a half dozen women at once for that matter!" This is a common attitude of mind on the subject among otherwise sane and sensible men. The absurdity of it is manifest when one considers that the issue of man versus woman as units of physical strength respectively, is purely irrelevant. It is not a question of the man tackling the woman or any number of women. It is the question of the whole force of the State tackling the man in favour of the woman. The prevalent idea in many men's minds seems to be that of the State drawing a ring-fence around the disputant man and woman and letting them fight the matter out between themselves, which, to speak the language of the great geometer of antiquity—"is absurd."

Modern Feminism, tacking itself on to an older tradition which it travesties beyond all recognition, has succeeded in affecting modern public opinion with an overpowering sense of the sacrosanctity of human femality as such. It is not content with respect for the ideal of good womanhood but it would fain place on a pedestal the mere fact of femalehood in itself. This is illustrated in a thousand ways. Thus while public opinion tolerates the most bestial and infamous forms of corporal punishment for men in gaols, it will regard the slight chastisement by the medical head of an institution for mental cases, of a girl who is admittedly obstinate and refractory rather than mentally afflicted in the ordinary sense of the term, as "degrading."

Again, in order to sustain its favourite thesis, the intellectual equality of woman with man, it resorts, whenever a plausible case presents itself, to its usual policy of the falsification of fact. Take the instance of Madame Curie. When radium was first discovered in the laboratory of the late Professor Curie we were told that the latter had made the discovery, it being at the same time mentioned that he possessed in his wife a valuable aid in his laboratory work. We were afterwards told that the discovery of radium was the joint work of both, the implication being that the honours were equally divided. Now, Feminist influence has succeeded in getting Madame Curie spoken of as herself the discoverer of radium! I venture to affirm that there is no evidence whatever for assuming that radium would ever have seen the light had the late Professor Curie not himself experimented in his laboratory, not to speak of his predecessor Becquerel.

We have seen that Feminists are, in this country, at least, zealous in championing the Puritan view of sexual morality. Many of them, in the vehemence of their Anti-man crusade, look forward with relish to the opportunity they anticipate will be afforded them when women get the vote, of passing laws rigorously enforcing asceticism on men by means of severe penal enactments. All forms of indulgence (by men), sexual or otherwise, uncongenial to the puritanic mind, would be equally placed under the ban of the criminal law! Anyone desirous of testing the truth of the above statement has only to read the suffragette papers and other expositions of the gospel of Feminism as held by its most devoted advocates.

One point should not be lost sight of, and that is the attitude of the Press. Almost all journals are ready to publish any argument in favour of the suffrage or of the other claims of the movement on behalf of women. In defiance of this fact, a prominent Feminist prelate some time ago, in a letter to The Times, alleged among the other so-called grievances of women at the present day, and apparently as in some sort a condonation of "militancy," that the Press was closed to women anxious to air their grievances! A statement more directly the reverse of the truth could hardly have been made. Open any paper of general circulation—say any of the morning dailies—and you will find letters galore advocating the Feminist side of the question! According to my own observation, they are in the proportion of something like three or four in favour to one against. The fact is useless denying that this sex-agitation has every favour shown it by current "public opinion," including even that of its opponents. Female "militants" of the suffrage have pleas urged in condonation of their criminal acts, such as their alleged "high character," which would be laughed at, in the case of men—and yet they whine at being boycotted.

The readiness, and almost eagerness, with which certain sections of British public opinion are ready to view favourably anything urged on behalf of female suffrage, is aptly illustrated by the well-known argument we so often hear when the existence of "militancy" is pointed out as a reason for withholding the suffrage—the argument, namely, as to the unfairness of refusing the franchise to numbers of peaceable and law-abiding women who are asking for it, because a relatively small section of women resort to criminal methods of emphasising their demand. Now let us examine the real interpretation of the facts. It is quite true that the majority of the women agitating for the suffrage at the present day are themselves non-militants. But what is and has been their attitude towards their militant sisters? Have they ever repudiated the criminal tactics of the latter with the decision and even indignation one might reasonably have expected had they really regarded the campaign of violence and wanton outrage with strong disapprobation, not to say abhorrence? The answer must be a decided negative. At the very most they mildly rebuke the unwisdom of militant methods, blessing them, as it were, with faint blame, while, as a general rule, they will not go even so far as this, but are content, while graciously deigning to tell you that, although their own methods are not those of militancy, yet that they and the militants are alike working for the same end, notwithstanding they may differ as to the most effective methods of attaining it. The non-militant woman suffragist is always careful never to appear an anti-militant. Everyone can see that had the bulk of the so-called "peaceable and law-abiding" suffragists, to whose claims we are enjoined to give ear, honestly and resolutely set their faces against, and vigorously denounced, the criminal campaign, refusing to have anything to do with it or its authors, the campaign in question would have come to an end long ago. But no! this would not have suited the book of the "peaceable and law-abiding" advocates of woman's suffrage. Their aim has been, and is still, to run with the "militant" hare and hunt with the "peaceable and law-abiding" hounds. While themselves abstaining from any unlawful act they are perfectly willing and desirous that they and their movement shall reap all the advantages of advertisement and otherwise that may accrue from the militant policy. That the above is a true state of the case as regards the "peaceful and law-abiding" elements in the suffragist movement, which we are assured so largely outnumber the militant section, one would think must be plain to everyone, however obtuse, who has followed with attention the course of the present agitation. And yet there are fools of the male sex who consider seriously this preposterous plea of the injustice of refusing to concede the suffrage to a large number of "peaceable and law-abiding" women who are demanding it, because of the action of a small body of violent females—with whom, bien entendu, the aforesaid large body of "peaceable and law-abiding" women (while keeping themselves carefully aloof from active participation in militancy), do not pretend to conceal their sympathy!

The whole modern woman's movement is based, in a measure, at least, on an assumption which is absolutely unfounded—to wit, that man has systematically oppressed woman in the past, that the natural tendency of evil-minded man is always to oppress woman, or, to put it from the other side, that woman is the victim of man's egoism! The unsoundness of this view ought to be apparent to every unbiassed student of history, anthropology, and physiology. The Feminist prefers to see evidence of male oppression in the place woman has occupied in social and political life, rather than the natural consequence of her organic constitution, her secondary sexual characteristics, and the natural average inferiority which flows therefrom. As regards the personal relations between men and women, an impartial view of the case must inevitably lead to the conclusion that whatever else man in general may have on his conscience, no reasonable reproach lies to his score as regards his treatment of woman. The patience, forbearance, and kindliness, with which, from Socrates downwards, men as a rule have encountered the whims, the tempers, and the tantrums of their often unworthy womankind is indeed a marvel. But it is a still greater marvel that Modern Feminism in this, as in other things, should have succeeded in hocussing public opinion into the delusion that the exact opposite of the truth represents the real state of the case. This, however, is a marvel which runs through the history of the controversial exploits of the whole Feminist Movement.

In the foregoing pages we have striven to unmask the shameless imposture which, in the main, this movement represents. We have tracked down one dishonest argument after another. We have pointed out how the thinnest and hollowest of subterfuges are allowed to pass muster, and even to become current coin, by dint of unrefuted reiteration. The Feminist trick of reversing the facts of the case, as, for example, the assertion that man-made law and its administration is unjust to women, and then raising a howl of indignation at the position of affairs they picture, such being, of course, the diametrical opposite of the real facts—all this has been exposed. In conclusion I can only express the hope that honest, straightforward men who have been bitten by Feminist wiles will take pause and reconsider their position. Whatever sentiment or sympathy they may have with the aims of the movement intrinsically, it ought to be not too much to expect them to view with contempt and abhorrence the mass of disingenuous falsehood and transparent subterfuge, which the votaries of Feminism systematically seek to palm off upon a public opinion—only too easily gullible in this matter—as true fact and valid argument.

  1. This is arrived at by the clever trick of appealing to the modern theory of the equal mental capacity of the sexes when it is a question of political and economic rights and advantages for women, and of counterappealing to the traditional sentiment based on the belief in the inferiority of the female sex, when it is a question of legal and administrative privilege and consideration. The Feminist thus succeeds by his dexterity in the usually difficult feat of "getting it both ways" for his fair clients.
  2. There is one fortunate thing as regards these savage laws aimed at the suppression of certain crimes, and that is, as it would seem, they are never effective in achieving their purpose. As Mr Tighe Hopkins remarks, apropos of the torture of the "cat" ("Wards of the State," p. 203):—"The attempt to correct crime with crime has everywhere repaid us in the old properly disastrous way." It would indeed be regrettable if it could be shown that penal laws of this kind were successful. Far better is it that the crimes of isolated individuals should continue than that crimes such as the cold-blooded infliction of torture and death committed at the behest of the State, as supposed to represent the whole of society, should attain their object, even though the object be the suppression of crimes of another kind perpetrated by the aforesaid individuals within society. The successful repression of crimes committed by individuals, by a crime committed by State authority, can only act as an encouragement to the State to continue its course of inflicting punishment which is itself a crime.