Evacustes A. Phipson 1910

Feminine Idiosyncracies


Source: The Social Democrat, XIV, No. 1, January 1910, pp. 38-41;
Transcribed/Proofed/Corrected: by Dawn Gaitis.
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Mr. Belfort Bax is to be congratulated on his courage in plainly stating, for the first time on record — though the fact is sufficiently obvious — that females seem to be “always thinking of their sexual organs.” From the little girl who, if you only casually glance at her, immediately pulls down her frock, to the woman who reads an erotic significance into the most commonplace remark, their whole lives are apparently coloured by chronic sex-consciousness. Indeed, they take but little interest in, and are soon bored by, any topic or pursuit in which “love” or gallantry has no part, and pretty soon forsake the company of men who allow themselves to forget that they are women.

This would be right and proper enough but for their nauseous pretence that it is not so, and the constant endeavour to appear as if sex played no greater part in their lives than in men’s. In reality, they would be the first to complain if their privileges and prerogatives were ignored, and men were to cease doffing their hats, bowing and smiling, flattering and complimenting, and generally deferring to and giving them the advantage, whenever they are nominally on a footing of equality. And what would they say if their present ostensible aspirations were logically put into practice, and they were compelled to dress in male attire, with no chance of studying the “latest fashions,” to take their turn at navvying and scavenging, or, as formerly, to crawl half-naked in coal mines and be whipped if they fell asleep in factories? Indeed, I suspect that at heart they are not altogether proud of the “rights” they have already won, such as the right to fight with men for a seat in a tram on a cold winter’s morning, which they would often not get at all but for man’s instinctive sense of courtesy, in spite of rebuffs.

The fact is, a woman’s whole nature and all her actions are dominated by the sex instinct in a manner and to an extent not approached in man’s. In everything she does she has an eye to its bearing on her sexual nature. One can immediately tell whether a girl is in love, or engaged, by her demeanour towards other men. If not, she is all smiles and interest; otherwise, supremely and ostentatiously indifferent. Neither work, reading, recreation, nor travel have any value in themselves, but only as leading to some romantic experience. How many young ladies give up accomplishments such as drawing, fancy needlework, or even music, as soon as their main object, the capture of a husband, is accomplished! Similarly, no meanness or deception is bad in itself, but only if it may lead to any unpleasantness to, or exposure of, the woman concerned in it, for she is, above all, a slave to outward conventionality. She willingly acquiesces in the male thesis that, no matter how bad her character in other respects, if chaste she is “virtuous.”

Women are, indeed, so different from men in almost every respect that their qualities may almost be said to be the exact opposite to those of the latter. In any given circumstance, the procedure of a woman is usually the reverse of that which a man would follow. If she is disappointed she kills herself, so as to “wring his bosom” (when, in reality, he is jolly glad to get rid of her); if the man is disappointed he kills the girl. Man is usually amenable to reason; it is proverbially useless to argue with a woman. Personally, I always agree with anything she says, no matter how absurd her contentions, and, as for her actions, I simply do not consider her responsible for them. If man is more wicked, he at least can sharply distinguish between right and wrong; woman has but a rudimentary conscience, if any, properly so-called, at all. A man can only unblushingly lie after long practice, a woman can rattle off “fibs” by the dozen without a flinch. An utterly false slander is sweeter to her than one based on fact. Who ever knew a girl to say “yes” when asked for a kiss? Indeed, according to one novelist, she will tell a man she “hates” him in the very act of accepting his offer of marriage.

As for the rules of morality made for woman by her masters, she can neither comprehend nor appreciate them, and unless thoroughly drilled and subjugated, asserts her independence of them at the slightest opportunity. She delights in exhibiting every inch of her body that law or fashion allows, and despises her greatest asset, virginity, as much as man prizes it. In truth it is of no value to her at all, rather the reverse, and unless it were hedged around with such a triple wall of pietistic, conventional and legal defence, would be thrown away incontinently at the first solicitation. As it is, this “priceless jewel,” which poets have raved over in all ages, which in melodrama a woman would rather die than give up, and which if it could be openly sold would fetch in cold cash probably at least 1,000, is daily disposed of for 5s., 2d., or, in most cases, nothing at all, notwithstanding the disgrace, misery and perhaps death that may follow from exposure.

Indeed, while maintaining such a rigid outward attitude of horror towards any assault on their chastity, women studiously avoid the most obvious means of protecting it. Their dress is not only no protection but a positive incentive to amorous advances, and it is a curious fact that while males are quite superfluously protected by thick and impervious attire, females, especially at the age when they most need it, not only wear flimsy stuff, which is no defence against either climatic or other adverse influences, but frequently nothing whatever in the most vital region. Evidently, however much women value their “honour” in the abstract, they are careful not to prevent the possibility of its being assailed, and, as a matter of fact, as all newspaper reports show, no girl spontaneously complains of any such assault, unless perhaps through jealousy of some rival. Here, again, woman is overwhelmingly the creature of her sex. There is nothing in males, either physically or mentally, corresponding to virginity in woman, any more than there is to a small girl’s affection for dolls and babies, a maiden’s coquetry and appetite for novel reading, or a grown woman’s love of finery, her long periods of confinement and nursing, and her special ailments and to “equalise” the work of both, either at school or in the factory, under the pretence of giving woman her “rights,” is simply to impose on her even further burdens and disadvantages than those she already labours under. Nothing, indeed, could be more unnatural or preposterous than the present craze among women for becoming mere imitations of men, when every genuine sentiment and fibre of their being protests against it.

As Geoffrey Mortimer (I think) has finely said; “The whole of woman’s body is one prayer for love,” and to desecrate this fairest work of creation, this delicate, capricious, self-abandoning bundle of nerves, who, to use her own frequent phrase, “does not know her own mind,” and “needs someone to lean upon,” by forcing her to compete with the coarse, strong, tough frame of man, with his egoistic and tyrannical instincts, is a task which may be worthy of laissez-faire Liberalism but certainly not of Socialism, whose aim should be rather to withdraw her from all work that can be done by men; and to substitute for it ample rest and leisure, also granting her every privilege to which she is entitled by virtue of her abounding love, her weakness, her sufferings, and the all-important role she has to play in the propagation and rearing of the race.

After all, the chief of woman’s rights is the right to the protection and support of men, without which she is helpless. Give her the vote by all means, as also anything else she asks for. It will only mean, as experience in other countries has shown, doubling the man’s. It is even doubtful if in purely sexual questions her influence would count for anything. Women, as a class, have never originated or brought about any reform whatever, and as to demanding that betrayers shall share the disgrace of their victims, the probabilities are all the other way, since women are notoriously harder than men on the peccadillos of their own sex. They are incapable of originality, as is proved by the primitive way in which they do everything unless men come to their aid by invention or advice. That, as an American professor has lately said — who no doubt will share Mr. Bax’s ostracism by women for telling them the truth — woman is but a savage at heart, is shown not only by her love of gewgaws, but by her passive acquiescence in any conditions, her toleration of every vice and crime of man, and her own barbaric ways if left to herself; witness her bestial method of nursing infants, and of cleaning fire grates and sanitary appliances, the associated visits of school-girls to the lavatory, and their amusement at the indecent words and actions of boys. She also, notwithstanding her supposed tenderness, cheerfully assents to the torture of seals and ospreys that she may be decked out in their spoils, to the cruel and disgusting docking of dogs’ and horses’ tails, and, if drowning a mouse or kitten, will take it out of the water at intervals “to see if it is dead.”

Women should demand, not more work — they have always had far too much of that - but more play; not further burdens but the lightening of those they already bear. This would be an intelligible cry, but the desire for “equal opportunities of labour” when they have hitherto enjoyed not merely equal, but far superior opportunities, is comic in its inanity. Women are already nominally on a pedestal, they are even referred to as “ladies” (the feminine of “lord”), when males in the same social stratum are merely “men”; they should insist on being practically so regarded, or rather as queens, the acknowledged superiors of men, irresponsible creatures, not to be judged by masculine standards at all, nor even their own. For even these would fail. One might as well try to direct the flight of a butterfly. For instance, any woman would like to have plenty of money. Yet a pretty girl, once seduced by, and therefore in love with, some hulking ruffian, will cheerfully go on the street and hand him over all her earnings, perhaps 20 a week, when her only recompense is blows and curses. A woman beaten black and blue by her villainous husband will beg the magistrate to be merciful to him. If a boy is whipped for throwing stones at a little girl, it is she who cries, or, at any rate, suffers most.

The true right of women is to have everything they want without making any return except what their love prompts. This is their only reasonable and logical demand, and should be the object of their efforts.

EVACUSTES A. PHIPSON