E. Belfort Bax March 1908
Source: New Age, 21 March 1908, p. 418-419;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
The “Note” on the Female Suffrage question in your issue of the 7th inst. I venture to regard as a striking illustration of how the most cultured minds may be warped by feminist prejudice. I am not a habitual reader, still less an admirer, of the “leading” English journal, but if the Times suggests that – all law resting ultimately on a basis of physical force – laws passed by means of female suffrage which are disapproved of by the majority of men might stand the chance of remaining a dead letter, it is surely doing nothing worse than propounding an obvious proposition.
Your reference to the “physical efficiency of legislators” or to Mr. Balfour’s height are surely beside the point, and are based on one of the common fallacies of feminist argument, to wit, the failure to distinguish between (1) the individual of a class as against the class itself as class, and (2) one class as against another class, as such. Now women form a sex-class over against men as a sex-class, and the sex-class men admittedly have the physical strength necessary to give effect to law, on their side. The question of strength is, it may here be remarked, obviously concerned with the mass of the electorate behind the legislator, and in no way, as you would seem to imply, with the legislator personally considered.
You further pour scorn on the idea that women are ever likely to promote anti-man legislation, or to endeavour to extend the overwhelming privileges of their sex at present obtaining, alike in the civil and criminal law, and still more in the administration of the law. The probability of this happening is, however, by no means very remote. As a prominent member of the present Ministry said to me some years ago, “all that these women want in clamouring for the suffrage is to pass rascally laws against men"! The fact that this gentleman recently voted for the second reading of the Suffrage Bill does not alter the truth of his one-time remark.
You appear to entirely ignore the sense of sex-solidarity’ present in women and absent in men. Who is it that clamours loudest for the exemption from punishment of the murderers of lovers and husbands but the female crew, whose motto is (“Our sisters, right or wrong"?
Reckoning on the absence of sex-solidarity in men you may be right in thinking that as long as this continues men may consent to be made the lackey-administrators of anti-man women-made laws. But will the present state of things necessarily last? Is it quite impossible that on the female vote swamping the register for a sufficient length of time the existing wave of feminist sentiment may die down, and men may acquire a sense of sex-solidarity even sufficiently strong to lead them (for example) to refuse to be the instruments in punishing their “brothers” for offences committed against women? How about the question of physical strength then?
“A la guerre, comme à la guerre.”
E. BELFORT BAX.
[In his terror Mr. Bax has missed one point, which was that it is inconceivable that “if women had the vote they would all belong to one great anti-man party and would seek to form a government composed of their own sex alone.” The sense of sex-solidarity may be more present in women than in men, but does Mr. Bax seriously suggest that it is great enough to set every wife in political opposition to her husband? And yet unless this happens almost universally, his fears amount to nothing more than a nightmare. But, even if Mr. Bax were right in his forecast, his would hardly be a very worthy reason for refusing women the vote. What sort of a democracy is it in which half the people are disfranchised because the other half are afraid of them? – The WRITER Of THE NOTES.]