E. Belfort Bax

The Woman Question and
Marxian Historical Materialism

(19 December 1918)

E. Belfort Bax, The Woman Question and Marxian Historical Materialism, Justice, 19th December 1918, p.7. (review)
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Proofread by Chris Clayton (May 2007).

Women as Sex Vendors, by R.B Tobias and Mary E. Marcy (Chicago, Kerr and Company), 50 cents.

In the little book before us the writers endeavour to explain the general position of women by a novel application of the economic theory of history. The privileged situation of woman socially and economically in our existing society, so often pointed out by the present writer, is freely admitted and often insisted upon by them, and their explanation of this phenomenon is that it is deducible from the fact that women are the monopolists of a saleable or barterable commodity necessary to the vast majority of men – viz., their sex. This it is which makes women on the average conservative. Even where not possessed of personal attraction they know they have an asset which on a push they can realise, and every fairly personable woman is in the position of the small shopkeeper who always cherishes the dear hope of some day carrying off one of the big prizes of retail trade, of seeing his small-shop develop into a Whiteley’s or a Harrod’s Stores.

The theory is certainly ingenious, and there is doubtless a good deal to be said for it, but, like most applications of the famous formula of Marx, it will hardly, we fear, as here set forth, cover all the facts – though it undoubtedly will some. The structure and attitude of male emotion towards the opposite sex, for example, certainly plays a part in the result which can hardly be described as wholly economic. Meanwhile, it is refreshing to find a female writer (or writers) honest enough to admit freely and openly the true facts of the case, facts which completely knock the bottom out of the conventional feminist jeremiads on Man the tyrant and Woman the victim.

The picture of American law (pages 47 to 52), throws a lurid light on the iniquitous privileging of women at the expense of men in the United States. While the man is bound hand and foot and may not even raise a finger in his own defence, the woman is practically free to commit any crime of which the victim is a man.

The little work, it should be said, is based as regards its historical and anthropological side on Friedrich Engels’s well-known book Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privat-Eigenthums und des Staats.




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