“The sexes are to be induced to recognize each other’s status, and to bring this recognition to such a point that equality will not even be challenged.”
To many observers it is sufficiently obvious that woman’s struggle for the Suffrage represents a skirmish in the far-spread war now waging. The following article was written in response to a request made by the Atlantic to Mr. George, a prominent spokesman of the Feminist movement in England, its storm-centre, to state quite clearly the terms upon which leaders of his party will be willing to negotiate for a lasting peace. It seems fair to all parties that there should be a definite understanding of the issues involved. – The Editors, 1913.
The Feminist propaganda—which should not be confounded with the Suffrage agitation—rests upon a revolutionary biological principle. Substantially, the Feminists argue that there are no men and that there are no women; there are only sexual majorities. To put the matter less obscurely, the Feminists base themselves on Weininger’s theory, according to which the male principle may be found in woman, and the female principle in man. It follows that they recognize no masculine or feminine ‘spheres,’ and that they propose to identify absolutely the conditions of the sexes.
Now there are two kinds of people who labor under illusions as regards the Feminist movement, its opponents and its supporters: both sides tend to limit the area of its influence; in few cases does either realize the movement as revolutionary. The methods are to have revolutionary results, are destined to be revolutionary; as a convinced but cautious Feminist, I do not think it honest or advisable to conceal this fact. I have myself been charged by a very well-known English author (whose name I may not give, as the charge was contained in a private letter) with having ‘let the cat out of the bag’ in my little book, Woman and To-morrow. Well, I do not think it right that the cat should be kept in the bag. Feminists should not want to triumph by fraud. As promoters of a sex war, they should not hesitate to declare it, and I have little sympathy with the pretenses of those who contend that one may alter everything while leaving everything unaltered.
An essential difference between ‘Feminism’ and ‘Suffragism’ is that the Suffrage is but part of the greater propaganda; while Suffragism desires to remove an inequality, Feminism purports to alter radically the mental attitudes of men and women. The sexes are to be induced to recognize each other’s status, and to bring this recognition to such a point that equality will not even be challenged. Thus Feminists are interested rather in ideas than in facts; if, for instance, they wish to make accessible to women the profession of barrister, it is not because they wish women to practice as barristers, but because they want men to view without surprise the fact that women may be barristers. And they have no use for knightliness and chivalry.
Therein lies the mental revolution: while the Suffragists are content to attain immediate ends, the Feminists are aiming at ultimate ends. They contend that it is unhealthy for the race that man should not recognize woman as his equal; that this makes him intolerant, brutal, selfish, and sentimentally insincere. They believe likewise that the race suffers because women do not look upon men as their peers; that this makes them servile, untruthful, deceitful, narrow, and in every sense inferior. More particularly concerned with women, it is naturally upon them and their problems that they are bringing their first attention to bear.
The word ‘inferior’ at once arouses comment, for here the Feminist often distinguishes himself from the Suffragist. He frequently accepts woman’s present inferiority, but he believes this inferiority to be transient, not permanent. He considers that by removing the handicaps imposed upon women, they will be able to win an adequate proportion of races. His case against the treatment of women covers every form of human relation: the arts, the home, the trades, and marriage. In every one of these directions he proposes to make revolutionary changes.
The question of the arts need not long detain us. It is perfectly clear that woman has had in the past neither the necessary artistic training, nor the necessary atmosphere of encouragement; that families have been reluctant to spend money on their daughter’s music, her painting, her literary education, with the lavishness demanded of them by their son’s professional or business career. Feminists believe that when men and women have been leveled, this state of things will cease to prevail.
In the trades, English Feminists resent the fact that women are excluded from the law, generally speaking, the ministry, the higher ranks of business and of the Civil Service and so forth, and practically from hospital appointments; also that women are paid low wages for work similar to that of men.
They complain too that the home demands of woman too great an expenditure of energy, too much time, too much labor; that the concentration of her mind upon the continual purchasing and cooking of food, on cleaning, on the care of the child, is unnecessarily developed; they doubt if the home can be maintained as it is if woman is to develop as a free personality.
With marriage, lastly, they are perhaps most concerned. Though they are not in the main prepared to advocate free union, they are emphatically arrayed against modern marriage, which they look upon as slave union. The somewhat ridiculous modifications of the marriage service introduced by a few couples in America and by one in England, in which the word ‘obey’ was deleted from the bride’s pledge, can be taken as indicative of the Feminist attitude. Their grievances against the home, against the treatment of women in the trades, are closely connected with the marriage question, for they believe that the desire of man to have a housekeeper, of woman to have a protector, deeply influence the complexion of unions which they would base exclusively upon love, and it follows that they do not accept as effective marriage any union where the attitudes of love do not exist. For them who favor absolute equality, partnership, sharing of responsibilities and privileges, modern marriage represents a condition of sex-slavery into which woman is frequently compelled to enter because she needs to live, and in which she must often remain, however abominable the conditions under which the union is maintained, because man, master of the purse, is master of the woman.
Generally, then, the Feminists are in opposition to most of the world institutions. For them the universe is based upon the subjection of woman: subjection by law, and subjection by convention. Before considering what modifications the Feminists wish to introduce into the social system, a few words must be said as to this distinction between convention and the law.
Convention, which is nothing but petrified habit, has lain upon woman perhaps more heavily than any law, for the law can be eluded with comparative ease, and she who eludes it may very well become a heroine, merely because we are mostly anarchists and dislike the law. Every man is in himself a minority, and is opposed to the law because the law is the expression of the will of the majority, that is to say, the will of the vulgar, of the norm. But convention is far more subtle: it is the result of the common agreement of wills. Therefore, as it is a product of unanimity, the penalties which follow on the infractions of its behests are terrible; she who infringes it becomes, not a heroine, but an outcast. The law is, then, nothing by the side of etiquette.
Hence Feminist propaganda. While the Suffragists wish to alter the law, the Feminists wish to alter also the conventions. It may not be too much to say that they would almost be content with existing laws if they could change the point of view of man, make him take for granted that women may smoke, or ride astride, or fight; cease to be surprised because Madame Dieulafoy chooses to wear trousers; briefly, renounce the subjective fetich of sex. Still, as they realize that states become more socialistic every day, they realize also that through the law only can they hope to change manners. The mental revolution which they intend to effect must therefore be prefaced by a legal revolution.
The first Feminist intention is economic, — proceeds on two lines: —
1. They intend to open every occupation to women.
2. They intend to level the wages of women and men.
As regards the first point, they are not as a rule unreasonable. If they demand that women should practice the law as they do in France, preach the Gospel as they do in the United States of America, bear arms, as in Dahomey, it is not because they attach any great value to these occupations, but because they consider that any limitation put upon woman’s activities is intrinsically degrading; so keenly do they feel this, that some serious Feminists took part some years ago in the controversy on, ‘Are there female angels?’
The second point is more important. It is a well-established fact that women are paid less than men for the same work: for instance, in England, women begin at wages which are less than those of men as teachers, post-office and other civil servants. The Feminists are not prepared to agree that this condition is due to some inherent inferiority of woman; in their view her inferiority is transitory, is due to her inferior position. One Feminist, C. Gasgoigne Hartley, in The Truth About Women, outlines a bold hypothesis: ‘What, then, is the real cause of the lowness of remuneration offered to women for work when compared with men? Thousands of women and girl receive wages that are insufficient to support life. They do not die, they live; but how? The answer is plain. Woman possesses a marketable value attached to her personality which man has not got. The woman’s sex is a saleable thing.’ Briefly, if a woman works less well than a man, less fast, less continuously, it is because she is inadequately rewarded. They reverse the common position that woman is not well paid because woman is not competent, basing themselves on the parallel that liberty alone fits men for liberty. They argue that woman is not competent because she is not well paid; consequently, those Feminists who are inclined toward Radicalism in politics demand a minimum wage in all trades, which shall be the same for women and men.
The economic change will be brought about by revolutionary methods, by sex strikes and sex wars. The gaining of the vote is, in the Feminists’ view, nothing but an affair of outposts. Conscious propagandists do not intend to allow the female vote to be split as it might recently have been between Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Wilson, and Mr. Taft. They intend to use the vote to make women vote as women, and not as citizens; that is to say, they propose to sell the female vote en bloc to the party that bids highest for it in the economic field. To the party that will, as a preliminary, pledge itself to level male and female wages in government employ, will be given the Feminist vote; and if no party will bid, then it is the Feminist intention to run special candidates for all offices, to split the male parties, and to involve them in consecutive disasters such as the one which befell the Republican party in the last presidential election in the United States.
Side by side with this purely political action, Feminists intend to use industrial strikes in exactly the same manner as do the Syndicalist railway-men, miners, and postmen of Europe; well aware that they have captured a number of trades, such as millinery, domestic service, restaurant attendance, and so forth, and large portions of other trades, such as cotton-spinning in Lancashire, they propose to use as a basis the vote and the political education that follows thereon, to induce women to group themselves in women’s trade-unions, by means of which they will hold up trades, and when they are strong enough, hold up society itself.
I enunciate these views with full sympathy, which can hardly be refused when one realizes that the sweated trades are almost entirely in the hands of women, — laundry, box-making, toys, artificial flowers, and the like. The fact that the underpaid trades are women’s trades, and that the British Government has been compelled to institute wage-boards to bring up women’s pay from four cents an hour to the imposing figure of six cents, and the recent white-slavery investigations in America, are evidence enough that public opinion should hesitate before blaming any industrial steps women may choose to take. For it should not be forgotten that woman risks more than comfort and health, and that the under-payment of her sex often forces her to degradation.
Conscious of the temporary inferiority of woman, an inferiority traceable to centuries of neglect and belittling patronage, the Feminists propose to increase woman’s power by making her fitter for power. They are well aware that the enormous majority of women receive but an inferior education, that in their own homes, especially in the South of England, they are not encouraged to read the newspaper (which I believe to be a more powerful instrument of intellectual development than the average serious book), and that any attempt on their part to acquire more information, to attend lectures, to join debating clubs, tends to lower their ‘charm value’ in the eyes of men. That point of view they are determined to alter in the male. They propose to kill the prejudice by the homœopathic method: that is to say, to educate woman more because man thinks she is already too educated. Briefly, to kill poison by more poison. For this purpose they intend to throw open education of all grades to women as well as to men, to remove such differences as exist in England, where a woman cannot obtain an Oxford or Cambridge degree. They propose to raise the school age of both sexes, and to not less than sixteen. The object of this, so far as women are concerned, is to prevent the exploitation of little girls of fourteen, notably as domestic servants.
Some Feminists favor coeducation, on the plea that it enables the sexes to understand each other, and these build principally on the success of American schools. A more violent section, however, desires to place the education of girls entirely in the hands of women, partly because they wish to enhance the sex war, and partly because they consider that continual intercourse between the sexes tends to deprive ultimate love of its mystery and its charm. But both sections fully agree that the broadest possible education must be given to every woman, so as to fit her for contest with every man.
So much, then, for the mental revolution and its eventual effects on the position of women in the arts, the trades, and the schools. In the industrial section, especially, we have already had an indication of the main line of the Feminist attitude, a claim to a right to choose. This right is indeed the only one for which the Feminists are struggling, and they struggle for those obscure reasons which lie at the root of our wish to live and to perpetuate the race. It is no wonder, then, that the Feminists should hae designs upon the most fundamental of human institutions, marriage and motherhood.
In the main, Feminists are opposed to indissoluble Christian marriage. Some satisfaction has been given to them in a great many states by the extension of divorce facilities, but they are not content with piecemeal reform such as has been carried out in the United States, for they realize quite well that divorce cuts both ways, and that it is not satisfactory for a wife to be married in one state, and divorced under a slack law in another. Indeed I believe that one of the first Feminist demands in America would be for a federal marriage law.
But alterations in the law are minor points by the side of the emotional revolution that is to be engineered. Roughly speaking, we have to-day reasonable men and instinctive women. Such notably was Ibsen’s view: ‘Woman cannot escape her primitive emotions.’ But he thought she should control these inevitables so far as possible: ‘As soon as woman no longer dominates her passions she fails to achieve her objects.’ The distinction between reason and instinct, however, is not so wide as it seems; for reason is merely the conscious use of observation, while instinct is the unconscious use of the same faculty; but as the trend of Feminism is to make woman self-conscious and sex-conscious, the Feminists can be said broadly to be warring against instinct, and on the side of reason. They look upon instinct as indicative of a low mentality. For instance, the horse is less instinctive than the zebra, and a curious instance of this was yielded by certain horses in the South African war, which were unable to crop the grass because they had always eaten from mangers. Civilization, we may say, had caused the horses to degenerate, but nobody will contend that the horse is not more intelligent than the zebra, more capable of love, even of thought. Briefly, the horse approximates more closely to a reasonable being than does the instinctive wild beast.
The Feminists therefore propose, by training women’s reason, to place her beyond the scope of mere emotion and mere prejudice, to enable her to judge, to select a mate for herself and a father for her children, — a double and necessary process.
There is a flavor of eugenics about these ideas: the right to choose means that women wish to be placed in such a position that, being economically independent to the extent of having equal opportunities, they will not be compelled to sell themselves in marriage as they now very often do. I do not refer to entirely loveless marriages, for these are not very common in Anglo-Saxon states, but to marriages dictated by the desire of woman to escape the authority of her parents, and to gain the dignity of a wife, the possession of a home and of money to spend. In the Feminist view, these are bad unions because love does not play the major part in them, and often plays hardly any part at all. The Feminists believe that the educated woman, informed on the subject of sex-relations, able to earn her own living, to maintain a political argument, will not fall an easy prey to the offer held out to her by a man who will be her master, because he will have bought her on a truck system.
Under Feminist rule, women will be able to select, because they will be able to sweep out their minds the monetary consideration; therefore they will love better, and unless they love, they will not marry at all. It is therefore probable that they will raise the standard of masculine attractiveness by demanding physical and mental beauty in those whom they choose; that they will apply personal eugenics. The men whom they do not choose will find themselves in exactly the same position as the old maids of modern times: that is to say, these men, if they are unwed, will be unwed because they have chosen to remain so, or because they were not sought in marriage. The eugenic characteristic appears, in that women will no longer consent to accept as husbands the old, the vicious, the unpleasant. They will tend to choose the finest of the species, and those likely to improve the race. As the Feminist revolution implies a social revolution, notably ‘proper work for proper pay,’ it follows that marriage will be easy, and that those women who wish to mate will not be compelled to wait indefinitely for the consummation of their loves. Incidentally also, the Feminists point out that their proposals hold forth to men a far greater chance of happiness than they have had hitherto, for they will be sure that the women who select them do so because they love them, and not because they need to be supported.
This does not mean that Feminism is entirely a creed of reason; indeed a number of militant Feminists who collected round the English paper, The Freewoman, have as an article of their faith that one of the chief natural needs of woman and society is not less passion, but more. If they wish to raise women’s wages, to give them security, education, opportunity, it is because they want to place them beyond material temptations, to make them independent of a protector, so that nothing may stand in the way of the passionate development of their faculties. To this effect, of course, they propose to introduce profound changes in the conception of marriage itself.
Without committing themselves to free union, the Feminists wish to loosen the marriage tie, and they might not be averse to making marriage less easy, to raising, for instance, the marriage age for both sexes; but as they are well aware that, in the present state of human passions, impediments to marriage would lead merely to an increase in irregular alliances, they lay no stress upon that point. Moreover, as they are not prepared to admit that any moral damage ensues when woman contracts more than one alliance in the course of her life, — which view is accepted very largely in the United States, and in all countries with regard to windows, — they incline rather to repair the effects of bad marriages, than to prevent their occurrence.
Plainly speaking, the Feminists desire simpler divorce. They are to a certain extent ready to surround divorce with safeguards, so as to prevent the young from rushing into matrimony; indeed they might ‘steep up’ the law of the ‘Divorce States.’ On the other hand, they would introduce new causes for divorce where they do not already exist, and they would make them the same for women and men. For instance, in Great Britain a divorce can be granted to a man on account of the infidelity of his wife, while it can be granted to a woman only if to infidelity the husband adds cruelty or desertion. Such a difference the Feminists would sweep away, and they would probably add to the existing causes certain others, such as infectious and incurable diseases, chronic drunkenness, insanity, habitual cruelty and lengthy desertion. It should be observed is thus as favorable to men as it is to women, for many men who have now no relief would gain it under the new laws. As Feminism is international, the programme of course includes the introduction of divorce where it does not exist, — in Austria, Spain, South American states, and so forth.
What exact form the new divorce laws would take, I cannot at present say, for Feminism is as evolutionary as it is revolutionary, and Feminists are prepared to accept transitory measures of reform. Thus, in the existing circumstances, they would accept a partial extension of divorce facilities, subject to an adequate provision for all children. In the ultimate condition, to which I refer later on, this might not be necessary, but as a temporary expedient Feminists desire to protect woman while she is developing form the chattel condition to the free-woman condition. Until she is fit for her new liberty, it is necessary that she should be enabled to use this liberty without paying too heavy a price therefor. Indeed this clash between the transitory and the ultimate is one of the difficulties of Feminism. The rebels must accept situations such as the financial responsibility of man, while they struggle to make woman financially independent of man, and it is for this reason that different proposals appear in the works of Ellen Key, Rosa Mayreder, Charlotte Gilman, Olive Schreiner, and others, but these divergences need not trouble us, for Feminism is an inspiration rather than a gospel, and if it lays down a programme, it is a temporary programme.
Personally, I am inclined to believe that the ultimate aim of Feminism with regard to marriage is the practical suppression of marriage and the institution of free alliance. It may be that thus only can woman develop her own personality, but society itself must so greatly alter, do so very much more than equalize wages and provide work for all, that these ultimate ends seem very distant. They lie beyond the decease of Capitalism itself, for they imply a change in the nature of the human being which is not impossible when we consider that man has changed a great deal since the Stone Age, but is still inconceivably radical.
Ultimate ends of Feminism will be attained only when socialization shall have been so complete that the human being will no longer require the law, but will be able to obey some obscure, but noble categorical imperative; when men and women can associate voluntarily, without thrall of the State, for the production and enjoyment of the goods of lie. How this will be achieved, by what propaganda, by what struggles and by what battles, is difficult to say; but in common with many Feminists I incline to place a good deal of reliance on the ennobling of the nature of the male. That there is a sex war, and will be a sex war, I do not deny, but the entry of women into the modern world of art and business shows that an immense enlightenment has come over the male, that he no longer wishes to crush as much as he did, and wishes to crush as much as he did, and therefore that he is loving better and more sanely. Therein lies a profound lesson: if men do not make war upon women, women will not make war upon men. I have spoken of sex war, but it takes two sides to make a war, and I do not see that in the event of conflict the Feminists can alone be guilty.
One feature manifests itself, and that is a change of attitude in woman with regard to the child. Indications in modern novels and modern conversation are not wanting to show that a type of woman is arising who believes in a new kind of matriarchate, that is to say, in a state of society where man will not figure in the life of woman except as the father of her child. Two cases have come to my knowledge where English women have been prepared to contract alliances with men with whom they did not intend to pass their lives, — this because they desired a child. They consider that the child is the expression of the feminine personality, while after the child’s birth, the husband becomes a mere excrescence. They believe that the ‘Wife’ should die in childbirth, and the ‘Mother’ rise from her ashes. THere is nothing utopian about this point of view, if we agree that Feminists can so rearrange society as to provide every woman with an independent living; and I do not say that this is the prevalent view. It is merely one view, and I do not believe it will be carried to the extreme, for the association of human beings in couples appears to respond to some deep need; still, it should be taken into account as an indication of sex revolt.
That part of the programme belongs to the ultimates. Among the transitory ideas, that is, the ideas which are to fit Feminism into the modern State, are the endowment of motherhood and the lien on wages. The Feminists do not commit themselves to a view on the broad social question whether it is desirable to encourage or discourage births. Taking births as they happen,t ehy lay down that a woman being incapacitated from work for a period of weeks or months while she is giving birth to a child, her liberty can be secured only if the fact of the birth gives her a call upon the State. Failing this, she must have a male protector in whose favor she must abdicate her rights because he is her protector. As man is not handicapped in her work by becoming a father, they propose to remove the disability that lies upon woman by supplying her with the means of livelihood for a period surrounding the birth, of not less than six weeks, which some place at three months. There is nothing wild in this scheme, for the British Insurance Act (1912) gives a maternity endowment of seven dollars and fifty cents whether a mother be married or single. The justice of the proposal may be doubted by some, but I do not think its expediency will be questioned. On mere grounds of humanity it is barbarous to compel a woman to labor while she is with child; on social grounds it is not advantageous for the race to allow her to do so: premature births, child-murder, child-neglect by working mothers, all these facts point to the social value of the endowment.
The last of the transitory measures is the lien on wages. In the present state of things, women who work in the home depend for money on husbands or fathers. The fact of having to ask is, in the Feminists’ view, a degradation. They suggest that the housekeeper should be entitled to a proportion of the man’s income or salary, and one of them, Mrs. M. H. Wood, picturesquely illustrates her case by saying that she hopes to do away with ‘pocket-searching’ while the man is asleep. Mrs. Wood’s ideas certainly deserve sympathy; though many men pay their wives a great deal more than they are worth and are shamefully exploited—a common modern position—it is also quite true that many others expect their wives to run their household on inadequate allowances, and to come to them for clothes or pleasure in a manner which establishes the man a pacha. When women have grown economically independent, no lien on wages will be required, but meanwhile it is interesting to observe that there has recently been formed in England a society called ‘The Home-makers’ Trade Union,’ one of whose specific objects is, ‘To insist as a right on a proper proportion of men’s earnings being paid to wives for the support of the home.’
Generally speaking, then, it is clear that women are greatly concerned with the race, for all these demands—support of the mother, support of the child, rights of the household—are definitely directed toward the benevolent control by the woman of her home and her child. I have alluded above to these Feminist intentions: they affect the immediate conditions as well as the ultimate.
Among the ultimates is a logical consequence of the right of woman to be represented by women. So long as Parliamentary Government endures, or any form of authority endures, the Feminists will demand a share in this authority. It has been the custom during the Suffrage campaign to pretend that women demand merely the vote. The object of this is to avoid frightening the men, and it may well be that a number of Suffragists honestly believe that they are asking for no more than the vote, while a few, who confess that they want more, add that it is not advisable to say so; they are afraid to ‘let the cat out of the bag,’ but they will not rest until all Parliaments, all Cabinets, all Boards are open to women, until the Presidential chair is as accessible to them as is the English throne. Already in Norway women have entered the National Assembly: they propose to do so everywhere. They will not hesitate to claim women’s votes for women candidates until they have secured the representation which they think is their right, that is, one half.
These are the bases, roughly outlined, on which can be established a lasting peace.
I do not want to exaggerate the difficulties and perils which are bound up in this revolutionary movement, but it is abundantly clear that it presupposes profound changes in the nature of women and of men. While man will be asked for more liberalism and be expected to develop his sense of justice (which has too long lain at the mercy of his erratic and sentimental generosity), woman will have to modify her outlook. She is now too often vain, untruthful, disloyal, avaricious, vampiric; briefly she has the characteristics of the slave. She will have to slough off these characteristics while she is becoming free, she will have to justify by her mental ascent the increase in her power. Feminists are not blind to this, and that is why they lay such stress upon education and propaganda.
One of the most profound changes will, I think, appear in sex relations. The ‘New Woman,’ as we know her to-day, a woman who is not so new as the woman who will be born of her, is a very unpleasant product; armed with a little knowledge, she tends to be dogmatic in her views and offensive in argument. She tends to hate men, and to look upon Feminism as a revenge; she adopts mannish ways, tends to shout, to contradict, to flout principles because they are principles; also she affects a contempt for marriage which is the natural result of her hatred of man. The New Woman has not the support of the saner Feminists. Says Ellen Key, in The Woman Movement, “These cerebral, a maternal women must obviously be accorded the freedom of finding the domestic life, with its limited but intensive exercise of power, meagre beside the feeling of power which they enjoy as public personalities, as consummate women of the world, as talented professionals. But they have not the right to falsify life values in their own favor so that they themselves shall represent the highest form of life, the “human personality,” in comparison with which the “instinctive feminine” signifies a lower stage of development, a poorer type of life.’ If this were the ultimate type very few men would be found in the Feminist camp, for the coming of the New Woman would mean the death of love. If the death of love had to be the price of woman’s emancipation, I, for one, would support the institution of the zenana and the repression of woman by brute force; but I do not think we need be anxious.
If the New Woman is so aggressive, it is because she must be aggressive if she is to win her battle. We cannot expect people who are laboring under a sense of intolerable injury to set politely about the righting of that injury: when woman has entered her kingdom she will no longer have to resort to political nagging; her true nature will affirm itself for the first time, for it is difficult to believe that it has been able to affirm itself under the entirely artificial conditions of androcracy. Already some women to whom a profession or mental eminence has given exceptional freedom show us in society that women can be free and yet be sweet. Indeed they almost demonstrate the Feminist contention that women must be free before they are sweet, for are not these women—of whom all of us can name a few—the noblest and most desirable of their kind? The New Woman is like a freshly painted railing: whoever touches it will stain his hands, but the railing will dry in time.
There is one type of woman, however, whom I venture to call ‘Old Woman,’ who is probably a bitterer foe of Feminism than any man, and that is the super-feminine type, the woman for whom nothing exists except her sex, who has no interests except the decking of her body and the quest of men. This woman, who once dominated her own species, still represents the majority of her sex. It is still true that the majority of women are concerned with little save the fashions, novels, plays, and vaudeville turns. These women want to have ‘a good time’ and want nothing more; they are ready to prey upon men by flattering them; they encourage their own weakness, which they call ‘charm,’ and generally aim at being pampered slaves, because, from their point of view, it pays better than being working partners. Evidence of this is to be found in women’s shops, in the continual change in fashions, each of which is a signal to the male, and in the continual increase in the sums spent on adornment: it is not uncommon for a rich woman to spend five hundred dollars on a frock; two hundred and fifty dollars has been given for a hat; and twenty-five thousand dollars for a set of fur.
As Miss Beatrice Tina very well says, ‘Woman is woman’s worst enemy,’ though she is not referring to this type. So long as woman maintains this attitude, compels man to forget her soul in the contemplation of her body, so long will she remain a slave, for this preoccupation goes further than clothes.
In a book recently published, an account is given of the late Empress of Austria, who was evidently one of the lowest of the slave type. It is noteworthy that she had no love for her children because their coming had impaired her beauty. Now I do not suggest that Feminists are arrayed against the care of the body: far from it, for the campaign has many associates among those who support physical culture, the fresh-air movement, ancient costume revival, and the like; but Feminists are well aware that concentration on adornment diverts woman from the development of her brain and her soul, and enhances in her the characteristics of the harem favorite. One tentative suggestion is being made, and that is a uniform for women. The interested parties point out that men practically wear uniform, that there is hardly any change from year to year in their costume, and that any undue adornment of the male is looked upon as bad form. Thus, while few men can with impunity spend more than five hundred dollars a year on their clothes, many women do not consider themselves happy unless they can dispose of anything between five and twenty times that amount. This, while involving the household in difficulties, lowering her mentality.
Feminists do not ask for sumptuary laws, having very little respect for the law, but for a new vision which is this: Man, intellectually developed, decks himself in no finery, because it is not essential to his success; woman must likewise abandon frippery if she is to have energy enough to reach his plane. They propose to attain their object by the force of their example, and I have received several letters on the subject, which show that the idea of fixing the fashions is not entirely wild, for fashion consists after all in wearing what everybody wears, and if an influential movement is started to maintain the costume of women on a very simple basis, it may very well prevail and kill much of their purely imitative vanity by showing them that undue devotion to self-adornment is very much worse than immortal: in other words, that it is in bad taste.
Incidentally the Feminists believe that the downfall of many women is procured by the offer of fine clothes. They hope, therefore, to derive some side-profits from the simplification of woman’s dress.
The question also arises as to whether woman can become intellectually independent, whether she does not naturally depend upon the opinion of man. It is suggested that not even rich women are actually independent, that women place marriage above their art, their work; but I do not think this is a very solid objection, for the vaunted independence of men is not so very common; they currently take many of their opinions from their reading in newspapers and books, and must often subordinate their views and their conduct to the will of their employer. The main answer to this suggestion is that we must not consider woman as she was, but woman ‘as she is becoming,’ as a creature of infinite potentialities, as virgin ground.
It may be petitio principii to say that, as woman has produced so much that is fine, she would have produced very much more if she had not been hampered by law and custom, derided by the male, but bad logic is often good sense. This should commend itself to men who are no longer willing to support the idea that women are inherently inferior to them, but who are willing to give them an opportunity to develop in every field of human activity. Thus and thus only, if man will readjust his views, expel vir and enthrone homo, can woman cease to appear before him as a rival and a foe, realize herself in her natural and predestined rôle, that of partner and mate.