Woman and Labour. Olive Schreiner 1911
Chapter VI. Certain Objections.
It has been stated sometimes, though more often implicitly than in any direct or logical form, (this statement being one it is not easy to make definitely without its reducing itself to nullity!) that woman should seek no fields of labour in the new world of social conditions that is arising about us, as she has still her function as child-bearer: a labour which, by her own showing, is arduous and dangerous, though she may love it as a soldier loves his battlefield; and that woman should perform her sex functions only, allowing man or the state to support her, even when she is only potentially a child-bearer and bears no children. (Such a scheme, as has before been stated, was actually put forward by a literary man in England some years ago: but he had the sense to state that it should apply only to women of the upper classes, the mass of labouring women, who form the vast bulk of the English women of the present day, being left to their ill-paid drudgery and their child-bearing as well!
There is some difficulty in replying to a theorist so wholly delusive. Not only is he to be met by all the arguments against parasitism of class or race; but, at the present day, when probably much more than half the world's most laborious and ill-paid labour is still performed by women, from tea pickers and cocoa tenders in India and the islands, to the washerwomen, cooks, and drudging labouring men's wives, who in addition to the sternest and most unending toil, throw in their child-bearing as a little addition; and when, in some civilised countries women exceed the males in numbers by one million, so that there would still be one million females for whom there was no legitimate sexual outlet, though each male in the nation supported a female, it is somewhat difficult to reply with gravity to the assertion, "Let Woman be content to be the 'Divine Child- bearer,' and ask no more."
Were it worth replying gravely to so idle a theorist, we might answer:– Through all the ages of the past, when, with heavy womb and hard labour- worn hands, we physically toiled beside man, bearing up by the labour of our bodies the world about us, it was never suggested to us, "You, the child-bearers of the race, have in that one function a labour that equals all others combined; therefore, toil no more in other directions, we pray of you; neither plant, nor build, nor bend over the grindstone; nor far into the night, while we sleep, sit weaving the clothing we and our children are to wear! Leave it to us, to plant, to reap, to weave, to work, to toil for you, O sacred child-bearer! Work no more; every man of the race will work for you!" This cry in all the grim ages of our past toil we never heard.
And today, when the lofty theorist, who tonight stands before the drawing- room fire in spotless shirtfront and perfectly fitting clothes, and declaims upon the amplitude of woman's work in life as child-bearer, and the mighty value of that labour which exceeds all other, making it unnecessary for her to share man's grosser and lower toils: is it certain he always in practical life remembers his theory? When waking tomorrow morning, he finds that the elderly house drudge, who rises at dawn while he yet sleeps to make his tea and clean his boots, has brought his tea late, and polished his boots ill; may he not even sharply condemn her, and assure her she will have to leave unless she works harder and rises earlier? Does he exclaim to her, "Divine child-bearer! Potential mother of the race! Why should you clean my boots or bring up my tea, while I lie warm in bed? Is it not enough you should have the holy and mysterious power of bringing the race to life? Let that content you. Henceforth I shall get up at dawn and make my own tea and clean my own boots, and pay you just the same!" Or, should his landlady, now about to give birth to her ninth child, send him up a poorly-cooked dinner or forget to bring up his scuttle of coals, does he send for her and thus apostrophise the astonished matron: "Child- bearer of the race! Producer of men! Cannot you be contented with so noble and lofty a function in life without toiling and moiling? Why carry up heavy coal-scuttles from the cellar and bend over hot fires, wearing out nerve and brain and muscle that should be reserved for higher duties? We, we, the men of the race, will perform its mean, its sordid, its grinding toil! For woman is beauty, peace, repose! Your function is to give life, not to support it by labour. The Mother, the Mother! How wonderful it sounds! Toil no more! Rest is for you; labour and drudgery for us!" Would he not rather assure her that, unless she laboured more assiduously and sternly, she would lose his custom and so be unable to pay her month's rent; and perhaps so, with children and an invalid or drunken husband whom she supports, be turned out into the streets? For, it is remarkable, that, with theorists of this class, it is not toil, or the amount of toil, crushing alike to brain and body, which the female undertakes that is objected to; it is the form and the amount of the reward. It is not the hand-labouring woman, even in his own society, worn out and prematurely aged at forty with grinding domestic toil, that has no beginning and knows no end–
"Man's work is from sun to sun, But the woman's work is never done"–
it is not the haggard, work-crushed woman and mother who irons his shirts, or the potential mother who destroys health and youth in the sweater's den where she sews the garments in which he appears so radiantly in the drawing-room which disturbs him. It is the thought of the woman-doctor with an income of some hundreds a year, who drives round in her carriage to see her patients, or receives them in her consulting-rooms, and who spends the evening smoking and reading before her study fire or receiving her guests; it is the thought of the woman who, as legislator, may loll for perhaps six hours of the day on the padded seat of legislative bench, relieving the tedium now and then by a turn in the billiard- or refreshment-room, when she is not needed to vote or speak; it is the thought of the woman as Greek professor, with three or four hundred a year, who gives half a dozen lectures a week, and has leisure to enjoy the society of her husband and children, and to devote to her own study and life of thought; it is she who wrings his heart. It is not the woman, who, on hands and knees, at tenpence a day, scrubs the floors of the public buildings, or private dwellings, that fills him with anguish for womanhood: that somewhat quadrupedal posture is for him truly feminine, and does not interfere with his ideal of the mother and child-bearer; and that, in some other man's house, or perhaps his own, while he and the wife he keeps for his pleasures are visiting concert or entertainment, some weary woman paces till far into the night bearing with aching back and tired head the fretful, teething child he brought into the world, for a pittance of twenty or thirty pounds a year, does not distress him. But that the same woman by work in an office should earn one hundred and fifty pounds, be able to have a comfortable home of her own, and her evening free for study or pleasure, distresses him deeply. It is not the labour, or the amount of labour, so much as the amount of reward that interferes with his ideal of the eternal womanly; he is as a rule quite contented that the women of the race should labour for him, whether as tea-pickers or washerwomen, or toilers for the children he brings into the world, provided the reward they receive is not large, nor in such fields as he might himself at any time desire to enter.
When master and ass, drawing a heavy burden between them, have climbed a steep mountain range together; clambering over sharp rocks and across sliding gravel where no water is, and herbage is scant; if, when they were come out on the top of the mountain, and before them stretch broad, green lands, and through wide half-open gates they catch the glimpse of trees waving, and there comes the sound of running waters, if then, the master should say to his ass, "Good beast of mine, lie down! I can push the whole burden myself now: lie down here; lie down, my creature; you have toiled enough; I will go on alone!" then it might be even the beast would whisper (with that glimpse through the swinging gates of the green fields beyond)– "Good master, we two have climbed this mighty mountain together, and the stones have cut my hoofs as they cut your feet. Perhaps, if when we were at the foot you had found out that the burden was two heavy for me, and had then said to me, 'Lie down, my beastie; I will carry on the burden alone; lie down and rest!' I might then have listened. But now, just here, where I see the gates swinging open, a smooth road, and green fields before us, I think I shall go on a little farther. We two have climbed together; maybe we shall go on yet, side by side."
For the heart of labouring womanhood cries out today to the man who would suggest she need not seek new fields of labour, that child-bearing is enough for her share in life's labour, "Do you dare say to us now, that we are fit to do nothing but child-bear, that when that is performed our powers are exhausted? To us, who yet through all the ages of the past, when child-bearing was persistent and incessant, regarded it hardly as a toil, but rather as the reward of labour; has our right hand lost its cunning and our heart its strength, that today, when human labour is easier and humanity's work grows fairer, you say to us, 'You can do nothing now but child-bear'? Do you dare to say this, to us, when the upward path of the race has been watered by the sweat of our brow, and the sides of the road by which humanity has climbed are whitened on either hand by the bones of the womanhood that has fallen there, toiling beside man? Do you dare say this, to us, when even today the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the comfort you enjoy, is largely given you by the unending muscular toil of woman?"
As the women of old planted and reaped and ground the grain that the children they bore might eat; as the maidens of old spun that they might make linen for their households and obtain the right to bear men; so, though we bend no more over grindstones, or labour in the fields, or weave by hand, it is our intention to enter all the new fields of labour, that we also may have the power and right to bring men into the world. It is our faith that the day comes in which not only shall no man dare to say, "It is enough portion for a woman in life that she bear a child," but when it will rather be said, "What noble labour has that woman performed, that she should have the privilege of bringing a man or woman child into the world?"
But, it has also been objected, "What, and if the female half of humanity, though able, in addition to the exercise of its reproductive functions, to bear its share in the new fields of social labour as it did in the old, be yet in certain directions a less productive labourer than the male? What if, in the main, the result of the labour of the two halves of humanity should not be found to be exactly equal?"
To this it may be answered, that it is within the range of possibility that, mysteriously co-ordinated with the male reproductive function in the human, there may also be in some directions a tendency to possess gifts for labour useful and beneficial to the race in the stage of growth it has now reached, in excess of those possessed by the female. We see no reason why this should be so, and, in the present state of our knowledge, this is a point on which no sane person would dogmatise; but it is possible! It may, on the other hand be, that, taken in the bulk, when all the branches of productive labour be considered, as the ages pass, the value of the labour of the two halves of humanity will be found so identical and so closely to balance, that no superiority can possibly be asserted of either, as the result of the closest analysis. This also is possible.
But, it may also be, that, when the bulk and sum-total of human activities is surveyed in future ages, it will be found that the value of the labour of the female in the world that is rising about us, has exceeded in quality or in quantity that of the male. We see no reason either, why this should be; there is nothing in the nature of the reproductive function in the female human which of necessity implies such superiority.
Yet it may be, that, with the smaller general bulk and the muscular fineness, and the preponderance of brain and nervous system in net bulk over the fleshy and osseous parts of the organism, which generally, though by no means always, characterises the female as distinguished from the male of the human species, there do go mental qualities which will peculiarly fit her for the labours of the future. It may be, that her lesser possession of the mere muscular and osseous strength, which were the elements of primary importance and which gave dominance in one stage of human growth, and which placed woman at a social disadvantage as compared with her companion, will, under new conditions of life, in which the value of crude mechanical strength as distinguished from high vitality and strong nervous activity is passing away, prove as largely to her advantage, as his muscular bulk and strength in the past proved to the male. It is quite possible, in the new world which is arising about us, that the type of human most useful to society and best fitted for its future conditions, and who will excel in the most numerous forms of activity, will be, not merely the muscularly powerful and bulky, but the highly versatile, active, vital, adaptive, sensitive, physically fine-drawn type; and, as that type, though, like the muscularly heavy and powerful, by no means peculiar to and confined to one sex, is yet rather more commonly found in conjunction with a female organism, it is quite possible that, taken in the bulk and on the whole, the female half of humanity may, by virtue of its structural adaptions, be found most fitted for the bulk of human labours in the future!
As with individuals and races, so also with sexes, changed social conditions may render exactly those subtile qualities, which in one social state were a disadvantage, of the highest social advantage in another.
The skilled diplomatist or politician, so powerful in his own element, on board ship during a storm becomes at once of less general value or consideration than the meanest sailor who can reef a sail or guide a wheel; and, were we to be reduced again suddenly to a state of nature, a company of highly civilised men and women would at once, as we have before remarked, find their social value completely inverted; landed on a desert shore, unarmed and naked, to encounter wild beasts and savages, and to combat nature for food, the primitive scale of human values would at once reassert itself. It would not then be the mighty financier, the learned judge, or great poet and scholar who would be sought after, but the thickest-headed navvy who could throw a stone so exactly that he brought down a bird, and who could in a day raise a wall which would shelter the group; and the man so powerful that he could surely strike an enemy or wild beast dead with his club, would at once be objects of social regard and attain individual eminence, and perhaps dominance. It would not be the skilled dancer, who in one night in a civilised state earns her hundreds, nor yet the fragile clinging beauty, but the girl of the broad back and the strong limb, who could collect wood and carry water, who would be the much considered and much sought after female in such a community. Even in the animal world, there is the same inversion in values, according as the external conditions vary. The lion, while ruling over every other creature in his primitive wilds, by right of his untamable ferocity, size, and rapacity, is yet bound to become a prey to destruction and extermination when he comes into contact with the new condition brought by man; while the wild dog, so immeasurably his inferior in size and ferocity, is tamed, survives and multiplies, exactly because he has been driven by his smaller structure and lesser physical force to develop those social instincts and those forms of intelligence which make him amenable to the new condition of life and valuable in them. The same inversion in the value of qualities may be traced in the history of human species. The Jews, whose history has been one long story of oppression at the hands of more muscular, physically powerful and pugilistic peoples; whom we find first making bricks under the lash of the Egyptian, and later hanging his harp as an exile among the willow-trees of Babylon; who, for eighteen hundred years, has been trampled, tortured, and despised beneath the feet of the more physically powerful and pugilistic, but not more vital, keen, intelligent, or persistent races of Europe; has, today, by the slow turning of the wheel of life, come uppermost. The Egyptian task-master and warrior have passed; what the Babylonian was we know no more, save for a few mud tablets and rock inscriptions recording the martial victories; but the once captive Jew we see today in every city and every street; until at last, the descendants of those men who spat when they spoke his name, and forcibly drew his teeth to extract his money from him, wait patiently behind each other for admission to his offices and palaces; while nobles solicit his daughters in marriage and kings are proud to be summoned to his table in hope of golden crumbs, and great questions of peace and war are often held balanced in the hand of one little asthmatic Jew. After long ages of disgrace and pariahism, the time has come, whether for good or for evil, when just those qualities which the Jew possesses and which subtilely distinguish him from others, are in demand; while those he has not are sinking into disuse; exactly that domination of the reflective faculties over the combative, which once made him slave, also saved him from becoming extinct in wars; and the intellectual quickness, the far-sighted keenness, the persistent mental activity and self-control, which could not in those ages save him from degradation or compensate for his lack of bone and muscle and combative instinct, are the very qualities the modern world demands and crowns. The day of Goliath with his club and his oaths is fast passing, and the day of David with his harp and skilfully constructed sling is coming near and yet nearer.
The qualities which give an animal, a race, or an individual, a higher utility or social dominance must always be influenced by any change in the environment. As the wheel of life slowly revolves, that which was lowest comes continually uppermost, and that which was dominant becomes subservient.
It is possible, that women, after countless ages, during which that smaller relative development in weight and muscularity which is incident to almost all females which suckle their young, and that lesser desire for pugilism inherent in almost all females who bear their young alive, rendered her lacking in the two qualities which made for individual dominance in her societies, may yet, in the future, discover that those changes in human conditions, which have done away with the primary necessity for muscular force and pugilistic arts, have also inverted her place in the scale of social values.
It is possible, that the human female, like the Jew, the male of that type farthest removed from the dominant male type of the past, may in the future find, that, so far from those qualities which, in an earlier condition, lessened her social value and power of labour, continuing to do so, they will increase it. That the delicacy of hand, lightness of structure which were fatal when the dominant labour of life was to wield a battle-axe or move a weight, may be no restraint but even an assistance in the intellectual and more delicate mechanical fields of labour; that the preponderance of nervous and cerebral over muscular material, and the tendency towards preservative and creative activity over pugilistic and destructive, so far from shutting her off from the most important fields of human toil, may increase her fitness for them! We have no certain proof that it is so at present; but, if woman's long years of servitude and physical subjection, and her experience as child-bearer and protector of infancy, should, in any way, be found in the future to have endowed her, as a kind of secondary sexual characteristic, with any additional strength of social instinct, with any exceptional width of human sympathy and any instinctive comprehension; then, it is not merely possible, but certain, that, in the ages that are coming, in which the labour of the human race will be not mainly destructive but conservative, in which the building up and developing of humanity, and not continually the inter-destruction of part by part, will be the dominant activity of the race, that woman as woman, and by right of that wherein she differs from the male, will have an all-important part to play in the activity of the race.
The matter is one of curious and subtle interest, but what practically concerns the human race is, not which of the two sexual halves which must always coexist is best fitted to excel in certain human labours in this or that direction, at this or that time, nor even which has most to contribute to the sum-total of human activities; but it is this, that every individual unit humanity contains, irrespective of race, sex, or type, should find exactly that field of labour which may most contribute to its development, happiness, and health, and in which its peculiar faculties and gifts shall be most effectively and beneficially exerted for its fellows.
It matters nothing, and less than nothing, to us as women, whether, of those children we bring into the world, our sons should excel in virtue, intelligence, and activity, our daughters, or our daughters our sons; so that, in each child we bring to life, not one potentiality shall be lost, nor squandered on a lesser when it might have been expended on a higher and more beneficent task. So that not one desirable faculty of the marvellous creatures we suffer to bring into existence be left uncultivated, to us, as women, it matters nothing and less than nothing, which sex type excels in action, in knowledge, or in virtue, so both attain their best. There is one thing only on earth, as precious to woman as the daughter who springs from her body–it is the son. There is one thing only dearer to the woman than herself–it is the man. As no sane human concerns himself as to whether the right or left ventricle of his heart works most satisfactorily, or is most essential to his well-being, so both be perfect in health and activity; as no sane woman distresses herself lest her right breast should not excel the left in beauty and use; so no sane man or woman questions anxiously over the relative perfections of male and female. In love there is no first nor last. What we request of life is that the tools should be given to his hand or hers who can best handle them; that the least efficient should not be forced into the place of the more efficient, and that an artificially drawn line should never repress the activities of the individual creature, which we as women bring into the world.
But it may also be said to us, "What, and if, all your dreams and hopes for woman and the future of the race be based on air? What, and if, desirable as it is that woman should not become practically dependent on her sexual function alone, and should play at least as great a part in the productive labour of the race in the future as she played in that of the past - what, if woman cannot take the same vast share in the complex and largely mental labour fields of the future, as in the largely physical fields of the past? What, and if, in spite of all her effort and sacrifice to attain this end, exactly now and when the labour of civilised societies becomes mental rather than mechanical, woman be found wanting?"
In Swiss valleys today the traveller comes sometimes on the figure of a solitary woman climbing the mountain-side, on her broad shoulders a mighty burden of fodder or manure she is bearing up for the cattle, or to some patch of cultivated land. Steady, unshrinking eyes look out at you from beneath the deeply seamed forehead, and a strand of hair, perhaps almost as white as the mountain snows on the peaks above, escapes from under the edge of the binding handkerchief. The face is seamed and seared with the stern marks of toil and endurance, as the mountain-side is with marks of storm and avalanche. It is the face of one who has brought men into the world in labour and sorrow, and toiled mightily to sustain them; and dead must be the mind to the phases of human existence, who does not see in that toilworn figure one of the mighty pillars, which have in the long ages of the past sustained the life of humanity on earth, and made possible its later development; and much must the tinsel of life have dazzled him, who fails to mark it with reverence and, metaphorically, to bow his head before it–the type of the mighty labouring woman who has built up life.
But, it may be said, what if, in the ages to come, it should never again be possible for any man to stand bowed with the same respect in the presence of any other of earth's mighty toilers, who should also be mother and woman? What, if she, who could combine motherhood with the most unending muscular toil, will fall flaccid and helpless where the labour becomes mental? What if, struggle as she will, she can become nothing in the future but the pet pug-dog of the race, lying on its sofa, or the Italian greyhound, shivering in its silken coat? What if woman, in spite of her most earnest aspirations and determined struggles, be destined to failure in the new world that is rising because of inherent mental incapacity?
There are many replies which may be made to such a suggestion. It is often said with truth, that the ordinary occupations of woman in the past and present, and in all classes of society in which she is not parasitic, do demand, and have always demanded, a very high versatility and mental activity, as well as physical: that the mediaeval baron's wife who guided her large household probably had to expend far more pure intellect in doing so than the baron in his hunting and fighting; that the wife of the city accountant probably expends today more reason, imagination, forethought, and memory on the management of her small household, than he in his far simpler, monotonous arithmetical toil; that, as there is no cause for supposing that the tailor or shoemaker needs less intellect in his calling than the soldier or prize-fighter, so there is nothing to suggest that, in the past, woman has not expended as much pure intellect in the mass of her callings as the man in his; while in those highly specialised intellectual occupations, in which long and uninterrupted training tending to one point is necessary, such as the liberal professions and arts, that, although woman has practically been excluded from the requisite training, and the freedom to place herself in the positions in which they can be pursued, that yet, by force of innate genius and gifts in such directions, she has continually broken through the seemingly insuperable obstacles, and again and again taken her place beside man in those fields of labour; showing thereby not merely aptitude but passionate and determined inclination in those directions. With equal truth, it is often remarked that, when as an independent hereditary sovereign, woman has been placed in the only position in which she has ever been able freely and fully to express her own individuality, and though selected at random by fate from the mass of women, by the mere accident of birth or marriage, she has shown in a large percentage of cases that the female has the power to command, organise, and succeed in one of the most exacting and complex of human employments, the government of nations; that from the days of Amalasontha to Isabella of Spain, Elizabeth of England, and Catharine of Russia, women have not failed to grasp the large impersonal aspects of life, and successfully and powerfully to control them, when placed in the supreme position in which it was demanded. It may also be stated, and is sometimes, with so much iteration as to become almost wearisome, that women's adequacy in the modern fields of intellectual or skilled manual labour is no more today an open matter for debate, than the number of modern women who, as senior wranglers, doctors, &c., have already successfully entered the new fields, and the high standard attained by women in all university examinations to which they are admitted, and their universal success in the administration of parochial matters, wherever they have been allowed to share it, proves their intellectual and moral fitness for the new forms of labour.
All these statements are certainly interesting, and may be unanswerable. And yet–if the truth be told, it is not ultimately on these grounds that many of us base our hope and our certitude with regard to the future of woman. Our conviction as to the plenitude of her powers for the adequate performance of lofty labours in these new fields, springs not at all from a categorical enumeration of the attainments or performances of individual women or bodies of women in the past or present; it has another source.
There was a bird's egg once, picked up by chance upon the ground, and those who found it bore it home and placed it under a barn-door fowl. And in time the chick bred out, and those who had found it chained it by the leg to a log, lest it should stray and be lost. And by and by they gathered round it, and speculated as to what the bird might be. One said, "It is surely a waterfowl, a duck, or it may be a goose; if we took it to the water it would swim and gabble." But another said, "It has no webs to its feet; it is a barn-door fowl; should you let it loose it will scratch and cackle with the others on the dung-heap." But a third speculated, "Look now at its curved beak; no doubt it is a parrot, and can crack nuts!" But a fourth said, "No, but look at its wings; perhaps it is a bird of great flight." But several cried, "Nonsense! No one has ever seen it fly! Why should it fly? Can you suppose that a thing can do a thing which no one has ever seen it do?" And the bird–the bird–with its leg chained close to the log, preened its wing. So they sat about it, speculating, and discussing it: and one said this, and another that. And all the while as they talked the bird sat motionless, with its gaze fixed on the clear, blue sky above it. And one said, "Suppose we let the creature loose to see what it will do?"–and the bird shivered. But the others cried, "It is too valuable; it might get lost. If it were to try to fly it might fall down and break its neck." And the bird, with its foot chained to the log, sat looking upward into the clear blue sky; the sky, in which it had never been–for the bird–the bird, knew what it would do–because it was an eaglet!
There is one woman known to many of us, as each human creature knows but one on earth; and it is upon our knowledge of that woman that we base our certitude.
For those who do not know her, and have not this ground, it is probably profitable and necessary that they painfully collect isolated facts and then speculate upon them, and base whatever views they should form upon these collections. It might even be profitable that they should form no definite opinions at all, but wait till the ages of practical experience have put doubt to rest. For those of us who have a ground of knowledge which we cannot transmit to outsiders, it is perhaps more profitable to act fearlessly than to argue.
Finally, it may be objected to the entrance of woman to the new fields of labour, and in effect it is often said–"What, and if, all you have sought be granted you–if it be fully agreed that woman's ancient fields of toil are slipping from her, and that, if she do not find new, she must fall into a state of sexual parasitism, dependent on her reproductive functions alone; and granted, that, doing this, she must degenerate, and that from her degeneration must arise the degeneration and arrest of development of the males as well as of the females of her race; and granting also, fully, that in the past woman has borne one full half, and often more than one half, of the weight of the productive labours of her societies, in addition to child-bearing; and allowing more fully that she may be as well able to sustain her share in the intellectual labours of the future as in the more mechanical labours of the past; granting all this, may there not be one aspect of the question left out of consideration which may reverse all conclusions as to the desirability, and the human good to be attained by woman's enlarged freedom and her entering into the new fields of toil? What if, the increased culture and mental activity of woman necessary for her entrance into the new fields, however desirable in other ways for herself and the race, should result in a diminution, or in an absolute abolition of the sexual attraction and affection, which in all ages of the past has bound the two halves of humanity together? What if, though the stern and unlovely manual labours of the past have never affected her attractiveness for the male of her own society, nor his for her; yet the performance by woman of intellectual labours, or complex and interesting manual labour, and her increased intelligence and width, should render the male objectionable to her, and the woman undesirable to the male; so that the very race itself might become extinct through the dearth of sexual affection? What, and if, the woman ceases to value the son she bears, and to feel desire for and tenderness to the man who begets him; and the man to value and desire the woman and her offspring? Would not such a result exceed, or at least equal, in its evil to humanity, anything which could result from the degeneration and parasitism of woman? Would it not be well, if there exist any possibility of this danger, that woman, however conscious that she can perform social labour as nobly and successfully under the new conditions of life as the old, should yet consciously, and deliberately, with her eyes open, sink into a state of pure intellectual torpor, with all its attendant evils, rather than face the more irreparable loss which her development and the exercise of her gifts might entail? Would it not be well she should deliberately determine, as the lesser of two evils, to dwarf herself and limit her activities and the expansion of her faculties, rather than that any risk should be run of the bond of desire and emotion between the two sexual halves of humanity being severed? If the race is to decay and become extinct on earth, might it not as well be through the parasitism and decay of woman, as through the decay of the sexual instinct?
It is not easy to reply with rationality, or even gravity, to a supposition, which appears to be based on the conception that a sudden and entire subversion of the deepest of those elements on which human, and even animal, life on the globe is based, is possible from so inadequate a cause: and it might well be passed silently, were it not that, under some form or other, this argument frequently recurs, now in a more rational and then in a more irrational form; constituting sometimes an objection in even moderately intelligent minds, to the entrance of woman into the new fields of labour.
It must be at once frankly admitted that, were there the smallest possible danger in this direction, the sooner woman laid aside all endeavour in the direction of increased knowledge and the attainment of new fields of activity, the better for herself and for the race.
When one considers the part which sexual attraction plays in the order of sentient life on the globe, from the almost unconscious attractions which draw amoeboid globule to amoeboid globule, on through the endless progressive forms of life; till in monogamous birds it expresses itself in song and complex courtship and sometimes in the life-long conjugal affection of mates; and which in the human race itself, passing through various forms, from the imperative but almost purely physical attraction of savage male and female for each other, till in the highly developed male and female it assumes its aesthetic and intellectual but not less imperative form, couching itself in the songs of poet, and the sometimes deathless fidelity of richly developed man and woman to each other, we find it not only everywhere, but forming the very groundwork on which is based sentient existence; never eradicable, though infinitely varied in its external forms of expression. When we consider that in the human world, from the battles and dances of savages to the intrigues and entertainments of modern Courts and palaces, the attraction of man and woman for each other has played an unending part; and, that the most fierce ascetic religious enthusiasm through the ages, the flagellations and starvations in endless nunneries and monasteries, have never been able to extirpate nor seriously to weaken for one moment the master dominance of this emotion; that the lowest and most brutal ignorance, and the highest intellectual culture leave mankind, equally, though in different forms, amenable to its mastery; that, whether in the brutal guffaw of sex laughter which rings across the drinking bars of our modern cities, and rises from the comfortable armchairs in fashionable clubs; or in the poet's dreams, and the noblest conjugal relations of men and women linked together for life, it plays still today on earth the vast part it played when hoary monsters ploughed after each other through Silurian slime, and that still it forms as ever the warp on which in the loom of human life the web is woven, and runs as a thread never absent through every design and pattern which constitutes the individual existence on earth, it appears not merely as ineradicable; but it is inconceivable to suppose that that attraction of sex towards sex, which, with hunger and thirst, lie, as the triune instincts, at the base of animal life on earth, should ever be exterminable by the comparatively superficial changes resulting from the performance of this or that form of labour, or the little more or less of knowledge in one direction or another.
That the female who drives steam-driven looms, producing scores of yards of linen in a day, should therefore desire less the fellowship of her corresponding male than had she toiled at a spinning-wheel with hand and foot to produce one yard; that the male should desire less of the companionship of the woman who spends the morning in doctoring babies in her consulting-room, according to the formularies of the pharmacopoeia, than she who of old spent it on the hillside collecting simples for remedies; that the woman who paints a modern picture or designs a modern vase should be less lovable by man, than her ancestor who shaped the first primitive pot and ornamented it with zigzag patterns was to the man of her day and age; that the woman who contributes to the support of her family by giving legal opinions will less desire motherhood and wifehood than she who in the past contributed to the support of her household by bending on hands and knees over her grindstone, or scrubbing floors, and that the former should be less valued by man than the latter–these are suppositions which it is difficult to regard as consonant with any knowledge of human nature and the laws by which it is dominated.
On the other hand, if it be supposed that the possession of wealth or the means of earning it makes the human female objectionable to the male, all history and all daily experience negates it. The eager hunt for heiresses in all ages and social conditions, make it obvious that the human male has a strong tendency to value the female who can contribute to the family expenditure; and the case is yet, we believe, unrecorded of a male who, attracted to a female, becomes averse to her on finding she has material good. The female doctor or lawyer earning a thousand a year will always, and today certainly does, find more suitors than had she remained a governess or cook, labouring as hard, earning thirty pounds.
While, if the statement that the female entering on new fields of labour will cease to be lovable to the male be based on the fact that she will then be free, all history and all human experience yet more negates its truth. The study of all races in all ages, proves that the greater the freedom of woman in any society, the higher the sexual value put upon her by the males of that society. The three squaws who walk behind the Indian, and whom he has captured in battle or bought for a few axes or lengths of tobacco, and over whom he exercises the despotic right of life and death, are probably all three of infinitesimal value in his eyes, compared with the value of his single, free wife to one of our ancient, monogamous German ancestors; while the hundred wives and concubines purchased by a Turkish pasha have probably not even an approximate value in his eyes, when compared with the value which thousands of modern European males set upon the one comparatively free woman, whom they may have won, often only after a long and tedious courtship.
So axiomatic is the statement that the value of the female to the male varies as her freedom, that, given an account of any human society in which the individual female is highly valued, it will be perfectly safe to infer the comparative social freedom of woman; and, given a statement as to the high degree of freedom of woman in a society, it will be safe to infer the great sexual value of the individual woman to man.
Finally, if the suggestion, that men and women will cease to be attractive to one another if women enter modern fields of labour, be based on the fact that her doing so may increase her intelligence and enlarge her intellectual horizon, it must be replied that the whole trend of human history absolutely negates the supposition. There is absolutely no ground for the assumption that increased intelligence and intellectual power diminishes sexual emotion in the human creature of either sex. The ignorant savage, whether in ancient or modern societies, who violates and then clubs a female into submission, may be dominated, and is, by sex emotions of a certain class; but not less dominated have been the most cultured, powerful, and highly differentiated male intelligences that the race has produced. A Mill, a Shelley, a Goethe, a Schiller, a Pericles, have not been more noted for vast intellectual powers, than for the depth and intensity of their sexual emotions. And, if possible, with the human female, the relation between intensity of sexual emotion and high intellectual gifts has been yet closer. The life of a Sophia Kovalevsky, a George Eliot, an Elizabeth Browning have not been more marked by a rare development of the intellect than by deep passionate sexual emotions. Nor throughout the history of the race has high intelligence and intellectual power ever tended to make either male or female unattractive to those of the opposite sex.
The merely brilliantly attired and unintelligent woman, probably never awakened the same intensity of profound sex emotion even among the men of her own type, which followed a George Sand; who attracted to herself with deathless force some of the most noted men of her generation, even when, nearing middle age, stout, and attired in rusty and inartistic black, she was to be found rolling her cigarettes in a dingy office, scorning all the external adornments with which less attractive females seek to supply a hidden deficiency. Probably no more hopeless mistake could be made by an ascetic seeking to extirpate sex emotion and the attraction of the sexes for one another, than were he to imagine that in increasing virility, intelligence, and knowledge this end could be attained. He might thereby differentiate and greatly concentrate the emotions, but they would be intensified; as a widely spread, shallow, sluggish stream would not be annihilated but increased in force and activity by being turned into a sharply defined, clear-cut course.
And if, further, we turn to those secondary manifestations of sexual emotion, which express themselves in the relations of human progenitors to their offspring, we shall find, if possible more markedly, that increase of intelligence and virility does not diminish but increases the strength of the affections. As the primitive, ignorant male, often willingly selling his offspring or exposing his female infants to death, often develops, with the increase of culture and intelligence, into the extremely devoted and self-sacrificing male progenitor of civilised societies; so, yet even more markedly, does the female relation with her offspring, become intensified and permanent, as culture and intelligence and virility increase. The Bushwoman, like the lowest female barbarians in our own societies, will often readily dispose of her infant son for a bottle of spirits or a little coin; and even among somewhat more mentally developed females, strong as is the affection of the average female for her new born offspring, the closeness of the relation between mother and child tends rapidly to shrink as time passes, so that by the time of adolescence is reached the relation between mother and son becomes little more than a remembrance of a close inter-union which once existed. It is, perhaps, seldom, till the very highest point of intellectual growth and mental virility has been reached by the human female, that her relation with her male offspring becomes a permanent and active and dominant factor in the lives of both. The concentrated and all-absorbing affection and fellowship which existed between the greatest female intellect France has produced and the son she bore, dominating both lives to the end, the fellowship of the English historian with his mother, who remained his chosen companion and the sharer of all his labours through life, the relation of St. Augustine to his mother, and those of countless others, are relations almost inconceivable where the woman is not of commanding and active intelligence, and where the passion of mere physical instinct is completed by the passion of the intellect and spirit.
There appears, then, from the study of human nature in the past, no ground for supposing that if, as a result of woman's adopting new forms of labour, she should become more free, more wealthy, or more actively intelligent, that this could in any way diminish her need of the physical and mental comradeship of man, nor his need of her; nor that it would affect their secondary sexual relations as progenitors, save by deepening, concentrating, and extending throughout life the parental emotions. The conception that man's and woman's need of each other could be touched, or the emotions binding the sexes obliterated, by any mere change in the form of labour performed by the woman of the race, is as grotesque in its impossibility, as the suggestion that the placing of a shell on the seashore this way or that might destroy the action of the earth's great tidal wave.
But, it may be objected, "If there be absolutely no ground for the formation of such an opinion, how comes it that, in one form or another, it is so often expressed by persons who object to the entrance of woman into new or intellectual fields of labour? Where there is smoke must there not also be fire?" To which it must be replied, "Without fire, no smoke; but very often the appearance of smoke where neither smoke nor fire exist!"
The fact that a statement is frequently made or a view held forms no presumptive ground of its truth; but it is undoubtedly a ground for supposing that there is an appearance or semblance which makes it appear truth, and which suggests it. The universally entertained conception that the sun moved round the world was not merely false, but the reverse of the truth; all that was required for its inception was a fallacious appearance suggesting it.
When we examine narrowly the statement, that the entrance of woman into the new fields of labour, with its probably resulting greater freedom of action, economic independence and wider culture, may result in a severance between the sexes, it becomes clear what that fallacious appearance is, which suggests this.
The entrance of a woman into new fields of labour, though bringing her increased freedom and economic independence, and necessitating increased mental training and wider knowledge, could not extinguish the primordial physical instinct which draws sex to sex throughout all the orders of sentient life; and still less could it annihilate that subtler mental need, which, as humanity develops, draws sex to sex for emotional fellowship and close intercourse; but, it might, and undoubtedly would, powerfully react and readjust the relations of certain men with certain women!
While the attraction, physical and intellectual, which binds sex to sex would remain the same in volume and intensity, the forms in which it would express itself, and, above all, the relative power of individuals to command the gratification of their instincts and desires, would be fundamentally altered, and in many cases inverted.
In the barbarian state of societies, where physical force dominates, it is the most muscular and pugilistically and brutally and animally successful male who captures and possesses the largest number of females; and no doubt he would be justified in regarding any social change which gave to woman a larger freedom of choice, and which would so perhaps give to the less brutal but perhaps more intelligent male, whom the woman might select, an equal opportunity for the gratification of his sexual wishes and for the producing of offspring, as a serious loss. And, from the purely personal standpoint, he would undoubtedly be right in dreading anything which tended to free woman. But he would manifestly not have been justified in asserting, that woman's increased freedom of choice, or the fact that the other men would share his advantage in the matter of obtaining female companionship, would in any way lessen the amount of sexual emotion or the tenderness of relation between the two halves of humanity. He would not by brute force possess himself of so many females, nor have so large a circle of choice, under the new conditions; but what he lost, others would gain; and the intensity of the sex emotions and the nearness and passion of the relation between the sexes be in no way touched.
In our more civilised societies, as they exist today, woman possesses (more often perhaps in appearance than reality!) a somewhat greater freedom of sexual selection; she is no longer captured by muscular force, but there are still conditions entirely unconnected with sex attractions and affections, which yet largely dominate the sex relations.
It is not the man of the strong arm, but the man of the long purse, who unduly and artificially dominates in the sexual world today. Practically, wherever in the modern world woman is wholly or partially dependent for her means of support on the exercise of her sexual functions, she is dependent more or less on the male's power to support her in their exercise, and her freedom of choice is practically so far absolutely limited. Probably three-fourths of the sexual unions in our modern European societies, whether in the illegal or recognised legal forms, are dominated by or largely influenced by the sex purchasing power of the male. With regard to the large and savage institution of prostitution, which still lies as the cancer embedded in the heart of all our modern civilised societies, this is obviously and nakedly the case; the wealth of the male as compared to the female being, with hideous obtrusiveness, its foundation and source of life. But the purchasing power of the male as compared with the poverty of the female is not less painfully, if a little less obtrusively, displayed in those layers of society lying nearer the surface. From the fair, effete young girl of the wealthier classes in her city boudoir, who weeps copiously as she tells you she cannot marry the man she loves, because he says he has only two hundred a year and cannot afford to keep her; to the father who demands frankly of his daughter's suitor how much he can settle on her before consenting to his acceptance, the fact remains, that, under existing conditions, not the amount of sex affection, passion, and attraction, but the extraneous question of the material possessions of the male, determines to a large extent the relation of the sexes. The parasitic, helpless youth who has failed in his studies, who possesses neither virility, nor charm of person, nor strength of mind, but who possesses wealth, has a far greater chance of securing unlimited sexual indulgence and the life companionship of the fairest maid, than her brother's tutor, who may be possessed of every manly and physical grace and mental gift; and the ancient libertine, possessed of nothing but material good, has, especially among the so-called upper classes of our societies, a far greater chance of securing the sex companionship of any woman he desires as wife, mistress, or prostitute, than the most physically attractive and mentally developed male, who may have nothing to offer to the dependent female but affection and sexual companionship.
To the male, whenever and wherever he exists in our societies, who depends mainly for his power for procuring the sex relation he desires, not on his power of winning and retaining personal affection, but, on the purchasing power of his possessions as compared to the poverty of the females of his society, the personal loss would be seriously and at once felt, of any social change which gave to the woman a larger economic independence and therefore greater freedom of sexual choice. It is not an imaginary danger which the young dude, of a certain type which sits often in the front row of the stalls in a theatre, with sloping forehead and feeble jaw, watching the unhappy women who dance for gold–sees looming before him, as he lisps out his deep disapproval of increased knowledge and the freedom of obtaining the means of subsistence in intellectual fields by woman, and expresses his vast preference for the uncultured ballet-girl over all types of cultured and productive labouring womenhood in the universe. A subtle and profound instinct warns him, that with the increased intelligence and economic freedom of woman, he, and such as he, might ultimately be left sexually companionless; the undesirable, the residuary, male old-maids of the human race.
On the other hand, there is undoubtedly a certain body of females who would lose, or imagine they would lose, heavily by the advance of woman as a whole to a condition of free labour and economic independence. That female, wilfully or organically belonging to the parasite class, having neither the vigour of intellect nor the vitality of body to undertake any form of productive labour, and desiring to be dependent only upon the passive performance of sex function merely, would, whether as prostitute or wife, undoubtedly lose heavily by any social change which demanded of woman increased knowledge and activity. (She would lose in two directions: by the social disapprobation which, as the new conditions became general, would rest on her; and yet more by the competition of the more developed forms. She would practically become non-existent.)
It is exactly by these two classes of persons that the objection is raised that the entrance of woman into the new fields of labour and her increased freedom and intelligence will dislocate the relations of the sexes; and, while from the purely personal standpoint, they are undoubtedly right, viewing human society as a whole they are fundamentally wrong. The loss of a small and unhealthy section will be the gain of human society as a whole.
In the male voluptuary of feeble intellect and unattractive individuality, who depends for the gratification of his sexual instincts, not on his power of winning and retaining the personal affection and admiration of woman, but on her purchaseable condition, either in the blatantly barbarous field of sex traffic that lies beyond the pale of legal marriage, or the not less barbarous though more veiled traffic within that pale, the entrance of woman into the new fields of labour, with an increased intellectual culture and economic freedom, means little less than social extinction. But, to those males who, even at the present day, constitute the majority in our societies, and who desire the affection and fellowship of woman rather than a mere material possession; for the male who has the attributes and gifts of mind or body, which, apart from any weight of material advantage, would fit him to hold the affection of woman, however great her freedom of choice, the gain will be correspondingly great. Given a society in which the majority of women should be so far self-supporting, that, having their free share open to them in the modern fields of labour, and reaping the full economic rewards of their labour, marriage or some form of sexual sale was no more a matter of necessity to them; so far from this condition causing a diminution in the number of permanent sex unions, one of the heaviest bars to them would be removed. It is universally allowed that one of the disease spots in our modern social condition is the increasing difficulty which bars conscientious men from entering on marriage and rearing families, if limited means would in the case of their death or disablement throw the woman and their common offspring comparatively helpless into the fierce stream of our modern economic life. If the woman could justifiably be looked to, in case of the man's disablement or death, to take his place as an earner, thousands of valuable marriages which cannot now be contracted could be entered on; and the serious social evil, which arises from the fact that while the self-indulgent and selfish freely marry and produce large families, the restrained and conscientious are often unable to do so, would be removed. For the first time in the history of the modern world, prostitution, using that term in its broadest sense to cover all forced sexual relationships based, not on the spontaneous affection of the woman for the man, but on the necessitous acceptance by woman of material good in exchange for the exercise of her sexual functions, would be extinct; and the relation between men and women become a co-partnership between freemen.
So far from the economic freedom and social independence of the woman exterminating sexual love between man and woman, it would for the first time fully enfranchise it. The element of physical force and capture which dominated the most primitive sex relations, the more degrading element of seduction and purchase by means of wealth or material good offered to woman in our modern societies, would then give place to the untrammelled action of attraction and affection alone between the sexes, and sexual love, after its long pilgrimage in the deserts, would be enabled to return at last, a king crowned.
But, apart from the two classes of persons whose objection to the entrance of woman to new fields of labour is based more or less instinctively on the fear of personal loss, there is undoubtedly a small, if a very small, number of sincere persons whose fear as to severance between the sexes to result from woman's entrance into the new field, is based upon a more abstract and impersonal ground.
It is not easy to do full justice in an exact statement to views held generally rather nebulously and vaguely, but we believe we should not mistake this view, by saying that there are a certain class of perfectly sincere and even moderately intelligent folk who hold a view which, expressed exactly, would come to something like this–that the entrance of woman into new fields would necessitate so large a mental culture and such a development of activity, mental and physical, in the woman, that she might ultimately develop into a being so superior to the male and so widely different from the man, that the bond of sympathy between the sexes might ultimately be broken and the man cease to be an object of affection and attraction to the woman, and the woman to the man through mere dissimilarity. The future these persons seem to see, more or less vaguely, is of a social condition, in which, the males of the race remaining precisely as they are today, the corresponding females shall have advanced to undreamed of heights of culture and intelligence; a condition in which the hand-worker, and the ordinary official, and small farmer, shall be confronted with the female astronomer or Greek professor of astonishing learning and gifts as his only possible complementary sex companion; and the vision naturally awakens in these good folk certain misgivings as to sympathy between and suitability for each other, of these two widely dissimilar parts of humanity.
It must of course at once be admitted, that, were the two sexual halves of humanity distinct species, which, having once entered on a course of evolution and differentiation, might continue to develop along those distinct lines for countless ages or even for a number of generations, without reacting through inheritance on each other, the consequences of such development might ultimately almost completely sever them.
The development of distinct branches of humanity has already brought about such a severance between races and classes which are in totally distinct stages of evolution. So wide is the hiatus between them often, that the lowest form of sex attraction can hardly cross it; and the more highly developed mental and emotional sex passion cannot possibly bridge it. In the world of sex, kind seeks kind, and too wide a dissimilarity completely bars the existence of the highest forms of sex emotion, and often even the lower and more purely animal.
Were it possible to place a company of the most highly evolved human females–George Sands, Sophia Kovalevskys, or even the average cultured females of a highly evolved race–on an island where the only males were savages of the Fugean type, who should meet them on the shores with matted hair and prognathous jaws, and with wild shouts, brandishing their implements of death, to greet and welcome them, it is an undoubted fact that, so great would be the horror felt by the females towards them, that not only would the race become extinct, but if it depended for its continuance on any approach to sex affection on the part of the women, that death would certainly be accepted by all, as the lesser of two evils. Hardly less marked would be the sexual division if, in place of cultured and developed females, we imagine males of the same highly evolved class thrown into contact with the lowest form of primitive females. A Darwin, a Schiller, a Keats, though all men capable of the strongest sex emotion and of the most durable sex affections, would probably be untouched by any emotion but horror, cast into the company of a circle of Bushmen females with greased bodies and twinkling eyes, devouring the raw entrails of slaughtered beasts.
But leaving out even such extreme instances of diversity, the mere division in culture and mental habits, dividing individuals of the same race but of different classes, tends largely to exclude the possibility of at least the nobler and more enduring forms of sex emotion. The highly cultured denizen of a modern society, though he may enter into passing and temporary and animal relations with the uncultured peasant or woman of the street, seldom finds awakened within him in such cases the depth of emotion and sympathy which is necessary for the enjoyment of the closer tie of conjugal life; and it may be doubted whether the highest, most permanent, and intimate forms of sexual affection ever exist except among humans very largely identical in tastes, habits of thought, and moral and physical education. (In Greece at a certain period (as we have before noted) there does appear to have been a temporary advance of the male, so far in advance of the female as to make the difference between them almost immeasurable; but he quickly fell back to the level of the woman.) Were it possible that the entrance of woman into the new fields of labour should produce any increased divergence between man and woman in ideals, culture, or tastes, there would undoubtedly be a dangerous responsibility incurred by any who fostered such a movement.
But the most superficial study of human life and the relation of the sexes negates such a conception.
The two sexes are not distinct species but the two halves of one whole, always acting and interacting on each other through inheritance, and reproducing and blending with each other in each generation. The human female is bound organically in two ways to the males of her society: collaterally they are her companions and the co-progenitors with her of the race; but she is also the mother of the males of each succeeding generation, bearing, shaping, and impressing her personality upon them. The males and females of each human society resemble two oxen tethered to one yoke: for a moment one may move slightly forward and the other remain stationary; but they can never move farther from each other than the length of the yoke that binds them; and they must ultimately remain stationary or move forward together. That which the women of one generation are mentally or physically, that by inheritance and education the males of the next tend to be: there can be no movement or change in one sex which will not instantly have its co-ordinating effect upon the other; the males of tomorrow are being cast in the mould of the women of today. If new ideals, new moral conceptions, new methods of action are found permeating the minds of the women of one generation, they will reappear in the ideals, moral conceptions, methods of action of the men of thirty years hence; and the idea that the males of a society can ever become permanently farther removed from its females than the individual man is from the mother who bore and reared him, is at variance with every law of human inheritance.
If, further, we turn from an abstract consideration of this supposition, and examine practically in the modern world men and women as they exist today, the irrationality of the supposition is yet more evident.
Not merely is the Woman's Movement of our age not a sporadic and abnormal growth, like a cancer bearing no organic relation to the development of the rest of the social organism, but it is essentially but one important phase of a general modification which the whole of modern life is undergoing. Further, careful study of the movement will show that, not only is it not a movement on the part of woman leading to severance and separation between the woman and the man, but that it is essentially a movement of the woman towards the man, of the sexes towards closer union.
Much is said at the present day on the subject of the "New Woman" (who, as we have seen, is essentially but the old non-parasitic woman of the remote past, preparing to draw on her new twentieth-century garb): and it cannot truly be said that her attitude finds a lack of social attention. On every hand she is examined, praised, blamed, mistaken for her counterfeit, ridiculed, or deified–but nowhere can it be said, that the phenomenon of her existence is overlooked.
But there exists at the present day another body of social phenomena, quite as important, as radical, and if possible more far-reaching in its effects on the present and future, which yet attracts little conscious attention or animadversion, though it makes itself everywhere felt; as the shade of a growing tree may be sat under year after year by persons who never remark its silent growth.
Side by side with the "New Woman," corresponding to her, as the two sides of a coin cast in one mould, though differing from each other in superficial detail, are yet of one metal, one size, and one value; old in the sense in which she is old, being merely the reincarnation under the pressure of new conditions of the ancient forms of his race; new in the sense in which she is new, in that he is an adaptation to material and social conditions which have no exact counterpart in the past; more diverse from his immediate progenitors than even the woman is from hers, side by side with her today in every society and in every class in which she is found, stands–the New Man!
If it be asked, How comes it to pass, if, under the pressure of social conditions, man shows an analogous change of attitude toward life, that the change in woman should attract universal attention, while the corresponding change in the man of her society passes almost unnoticed?–it would seem that the explanation lies in the fact that, owing to woman's less independence of action in the past, any attempt at change or readaptation on her part has had to overcome greater resistance, and it is the noise and friction of resistance, more than the amount of actual change which has taken place, which attracts attention; as when an Alpine stream, after a long winter frost, breaks the ice, and with a crash and roar sweeps away the obstructions which have gathered in its bed, all men's attention is attracted to it, though when later a much larger body of water silently forces its way down, no man observes it. (An interesting practical illustration of this fact is found in the vast attention and uproar created when the first three women in England, some thirty odd years ago, sought to enter the medical profession. At the present day scores of women prepare to enter it yearly without attracting any general attention; not that the change which is going on is not far more in volume and social importance, but that, having overcome the first obstruction, it is now noiseless.)
Between the Emilias and Sophy Westerns of a bygone generation and the most typical of modern women, there exists no greater gap (probably not so great a one) as that which exists between the Tom Joneses and Squire Westerns of that day and the most typical of entirely modern men.
The sexual and social ideals which dominated the fox-hunting, hard- drinking, high-playing, recklessly loose-living country squire, clergyman, lawyer, and politician who headed the social organism of the past, are at least as distinct from the ideals which dominate thousands of their male descendants holding corresponding positions in the societies of today, as are the ideals of her great-great-grand mother's remote from those dominating the most modern of New Women.
That which most forces itself upon us as the result of a close personal study of those sections of modern European societies in which change and adaptation to the new conditions of life are now most rapidly progressing, is, not merely that equally large bodies of men and women are being rapidly modified as to their sexual and social ideals and as to their mode of life, but that this change is strictly complementary.
If the ideal of the modern woman becomes increasingly one inconsistent with the passive existence of woman on the remuneration which her sexual attributes may win from man, and marriage becomes for her increasingly a fellowship of comrades, rather than the relationship of the owner and the bought, the keeper and the kept; the ideal of the typically modern man departs quite as strongly from that of his forefathers in the direction of finding in woman active companionship and co-operation rather than passive submission. If the New Woman's conception of parenthood differs from the old in the greater sense of the gravity and obligation resting on those who are responsible for the production of the individual life, making her attitude toward the production of her race widely unlike the reckless, unreasoning, maternal reproduction of the woman of the past, the most typical male tends to feel in at least the same degree the moral and social obligation entailed by awakening lifehood: if the ideal which the New Woman shapes for herself of a male companion excludes the crudely animal hard-drinking, hard-swearing, licentious, even if materially wealthy gallant of the past; the most typically modern male's ideal for himself excludes at least equally this type. The brothel, the race-course, the gaming-table, and habits of physical excess among men are still with us; but the most superficial study of our societies will show that these have fallen into a new place in the scale of social institutions and manners. The politician, the clergyman, or the lawyer does not improve his social or public standing by violent addictions in these directions; to drink his companions under the table, to be known to have the largest number of illicit sex relations, to be recognised as an habitual visitant of the gambling saloon, does not, even in the case of a crowned head, much enhance his reputation, and with the ordinary man may ultimately prove a bar to all success. If the New Woman's conception of love between the sexes is one more largely psychic and intellectual than crudely and purely physical, and wholly of an affection between companions; the New Man's conception as expressed in the most typical literature and art, produced by typically modern males, gives voice with a force no woman has surpassed to the same new ideal. If to the typical modern woman the lifelong companionship of a Tom Jones or Squire Western would be more intolerable than death or the most complete celibacy, not less would the most typical of modern men shrink from the prospect of a lifelong fetterment to the companionship of an always fainting, weeping, and terrified Emilia or a Sophia of a bygone epoch.
If anywhere on earth exists the perfect ideal of that which the modern woman desires to be–of a labouring and virile womanhood, free, strong, fearless and tender–it will probably be found imaged in the heart of the New Man; engendered there by his own heighest needs and aspirations; and nowhere would the most highly developed modern male find an image of that which forms his ideal of the most fully developed manhood, than in the ideal of man which haunts the heart of the New Woman.
Those have strangely overlooked some of the most important phenomena of our modern world, who see in the Woman's Movement of our day any emotional movement of the female against the male, of the woman away from the man.
We have called the Woman's Movement of our age an endeavour on the part of women among modern civilised races to find new fields of labour as the old slip from them, as an attempt to escape from parasitism and an inactive dependence upon sex function alone; but, viewed from another side, the Woman's Movement might not less justly be called a part of a great movement of the sexes towards each other, a movement towards common occupations, common interests, common ideals, and towards an emotional sympathy between the sexes more deeply founded and more indestructible than any the world has yet seen.
But it may be suggested, and the perception of a certain profound truth underlies this suggestion; How is it, if there be this close reciprocity between the lines along which the advanced and typical modern males and females are developing, that there does exist in our modern societies, and often among the very classes forming our typically advanced sections, so much of pain, unrest, and sexual disco-ordination at the present day?
The reply to this pertinent suggestion is, that the disco-ordination, struggle, and consequent suffering which undoubtedly do exist when we regard the world of sexual relationships and ideals in our modern societies, do not arise in any way from a disco-ordination between the sexes as such, but are a part of the general upheaval, of the conflict between old ideals and new; a struggle which is going on in every branch the human life in our modern societies, and in which the determining element is not sex, but the point of evolution which the race or the individual has reached.
It cannot be too often repeated, even at the risk of the most wearisome reiteration, that our societies are societies in a state of rapid evolution and change. The continually changing material conditions of life, with their reaction on the intellectual, emotional, and moral aspects of human affairs, render our societies the most complex and probably the most mobile and unsettled which the world has ever seen. As the result of this rapidity of change and complexity, there must continually exist a large amount of disco-ordination, and consequently, of suffering.
In a stationary society where generation has succeeded generation for hundreds, or it may be for thousands, of years, with little or no change in the material conditions of life, the desires, institutions, and moral principles of men, their religious, political, domestic, and sexual institutions, have gradually shaped themselves in accordance with these conditions; and a certain harmony, and homogeneity, and tranquillity, pervades the society.
In societies in that rapid state of change in which our modern societies find themselves, where not merely each decade, but each year, and almost day brings new forces and conditions to bear on life, not only is the amount of suffering and social rupture, which all rapid, excessive, and sudden change entails on an organism, inevitable; but, the new conditions, acting at different angles of intensity on the different individual members composing the society, according to their positions and varying intelligence, are producing a society of such marvellous complexity and dissimilarity in the different individual parts, that the intensest rupture and disco-ordination between individuals is inevitable; and sexual ideals and relationships must share in the universal condition.
In a primitive society (if a somewhat prolix illustration may be allowed) where for countless generations the conditions of life had remained absolutely unchanged; where for ages it had been necessary that all males should employ themselves in subduing wild beasts and meeting dangerous foes, polygamy might universally have been a necessity, if the race were to exist and its numbers be kept up; and society, recognising this, polygamy would be an institution universally approved and submitted to, however much suffering it entailed. If food were scarce, the destruction of superfluous infants and of the aged might also always have been necessary for the good of the individuals themselves as well as of society, and the whole society would acquiesce in it without any moral doubt. If an eclipse of the sun had once occurred in connection with the appearance of a certain new insect, they mighty universally regard that insect as a god causing it; and ages might pass without anything arising to disprove their belief. There would be no social or religious problem; and the view of one man would be the view of all men; and all would be more or less in harmony with the established institution and customs.
But, supposing the sudden arrival of strangers armed with superior weapons and knowledge, who should exterminate all wild beasts and render war and the consequent loss of male life a thing of the past; not only would the male be driven to encroach on the female's domain of domestic agriculture and labour generally, but the males, not being so largely destroyed, they would soon equal and surpass in numbers the females; and not only would it then become a moot matter, "a problem," which labours were or were not to be performed by man and which by woman, but very soon, not the woman alone nor the man alone, but both, would be driven to speculate as to the desirability or necessity of polygamy, which, were men as numerous as women, would leave many males without sex companions. The more intelligent and progressive individuals in the community would almost at once arrive at the conclusion that polygamy was objectionable; the most fearless would seek to carry their theory into action; the most ignorant and unprogressive would determinately stick to the old institutions as inherited from the past, without reason or question; differences of ideal would cause conflict and dissension in all parts of the body social, and suffering would ensue, where all before was fixed and determinate. So also if the strangers introduced new and improved methods of agriculture, and food became abundant, it would then at once strike the most far-seeing and readily adaptable members of the community, both male and female, that there was no necessity for the destruction of their offspring; old men and women would begin seriously to object to being hastened to death when they realised that starvation did not necessarily stare them in the face if they survived to an extreme old age; the most stupid and hide-bound members of the community would still continue to sacrifice parents and offspring long after the necessity had ceased, under the influence of traditional bias; many persons would be in a state of much moral doubt as to which course of action to pursue, the old or the new; and bitter conflict might rage in the community on all these points. Were the strangers to bring with them telescopes, looking through which it might at once clearly be seen that an eclipse of the sun was caused merely by the moon's passing over its face, the more intelligent members of the community would at once come to the conclusion that the insect was not the cause of eclipses, would cease to regard it as a god, and might even kill it; the more stupid and immobile section of the community might refuse to look through the telescope, or looking might refuse to see that it was the moon which caused the eclipse, and their deep-seated reverence for the insect, which was the growth of ages, would lead them to regard as impious those individuals who denied its godhead, and might even lead to the physical destruction of the first unbelievers. The society, once so homogeneous and co-ordinated in all its parts, would become at once a society rent by moral and social problems; and endless suffering must arise to individuals in the attempt to co- ordinate the ideals, manners, and institutions of the society to the new conditions! There might be immense gain in many directions; lives otherwise sacrificed would be spared, a higher and more satisfactory stage of existence might be entered on; but the disco-ordination and struggle would be inevitable until the society had established an equilibrium between its knowledge, its material conditions, and its social, sexual, and religious ideals and institutions.
An analogous condition, but of a far more complex kind, exists at the present day in our own societies. Our material environment differs in every respect from that of our grandparents, and bears little or no resemblance to that of a few centuries ago. Here and there, even in our civilised societies in remote agricultural districts, the old social conditions may remain partly undisturbed; but throughout the bulk of our societies the substitution of mechanical for hand-labour, the wide diffusion of knowledge through the always increasing cheap printing-press; the rapidly increasing gathering of human creatures into vast cities, where not merely thousands but millions of individuals are collected together under physical and mental conditions of life which invert every social condition of the past; the increasingly rapid means of locomotion; the increasing intercourse between distant races and lands, brought about by rapid means of intercommunication, widening and changing in every direction the human horizon–all these produce a society, so complex and so rapidly altering, that social co-ordination between all its parts is impossible; and social unrest, and the strife of ideals of faiths, of institutions, and consequent human suffering is inevitable.
If the ancient guns and agricultural implements which our fathers taught us to use are valueless in the hands of their descendants, if the samplers our mothers worked and the stockings they knitted are become superfluous through the action of the modern loom, yet more are their social institutions, faiths, and manners of life become daily and increasingly unfitted to our use; and friction and suffering inevitable, especially for the most advanced and modified individuals in our societies. This suffering, if we analyse it closely, rises from three causes.
Firstly, it is caused by the fact that mere excessive rapidity of change tends always easily to become painful, by rupturing violently already hardened habits and modes of thought, as a very rapidly growing tree ruptures its bark and exudes its internal juices.
Secondly, it arises from the fact that individuals of the same human society, not adapting themselves at the same rate to the new conditions, or being exposed to them in different degrees, a wide and almost unparalleled dissimilarity has today arisen between the different individuals composing our societies; where, side by side with men and women who have rapidly adapted or are so successfully seeking to adapt themselves to the new conditions of knowledge and new conditions of life, that, were they to reappear in future ages in more co-ordinated societies, they might perhaps hardly appear wholly antiquated, are to be found men and women whose social, religious, and moral ideals would not constitute them out of harmony if returned to the primitive camps of the remote forbears of the human race; while, between these extreme classes lies that large mass of persons in an intermediate state of development. This diversity is bound to cause friction and suffering in the interactions of the members of our societies; more especially, as the individuals composing each type are not sorted out into classes and families, but are found scattered through all classes and grades in our societies. (One of the women holding the most advanced and modern view of the relation of woman to life whom we have met was the wife of a Northamptonshire shoemaker; herself engaged in making her living by the sewing of the uppers of men's boots.) Persons bound by the closest ties of blood or social contiguity and compelled to a continual intercourse, are often those most widely dissevered in their amount of adaptation to the new conditions of life; and the amount of social friction and consequent human suffering arising from this fact is so subtle and almost incalculable, that perhaps it is impossible adequately to portray it in dry didactic language: it is only truly describable in the medium of art, where actual concrete individuals are shown acting and reacting on each other–as in the novel or the drama. We are like a company of chess- men, not sorted out in kinds, pawns together, kings and queens together, and knights and rooks together, but simply thrown at haphazard into a box, and jumbled side by side. In the stationary societies, where all individuals were permeated by the same political, religious, moral, and social ideas; and where each class had its own hereditary and fixed traditions of action and manners, this cause of friction and suffering had of necessity no existence; individual differences and discord might be occasioned by personal greeds, ambitions, and selfishnesses, but not by conflicting conceptions of right and wrong, of the desirable and undesirable, in all branches of human life. (Only those who have been thrown into contact with a stationary and homogeneous society such as that of primitive African tribes before coming in contact with Europeans; or such as the up-country Boers of South Africa were twenty years ago, can realise adequately how wholly free from moral and social problems and social friction such a society can be. It is in studying such societies that the truth is vividly forced on one, that the key to half, and more than half, of the phenomena in our own social condition, can be found only in our rapidly changing conditions necessitating equally rapid change in our conceptions, ideals, and institutions.)
Thirdly, the unrest and suffering peculiar to our age is caused by conflict going on within the individual himself. So intensely rapid is the change which is taking place in our environment and knowledge that in the course of a single life a man may pass through half a dozen phases of growth. Born and reared in possession of certain ideas and manners of action, he or she may, before middle life is reached, have had occasion repeatedly to modify, enlarge, and alter, or completely throw aside those traditions. Within the individuality itself of such persons, goes on, in an intensified form, that very struggle, conflict, and disco-ordination which is going on in society at large between its different members and sections; and agonising moments must arise, when the individual, seeing the necessity for adopting new courses of action, or for accepting new truths, or conforming to new conditions, will yet be tortured by the hold of traditional convictions; and the man or woman who attempts to adapt their life to the new material conditions and to harmony with the new knowledge, is almost bound at some time to rupture the continuity of their own psychological existence.
It is these conditions which give rise to the fact so often noticed, that the art of our age tends persistently to deal with subtle social problems, religious, political, and sexual, to which the art of the past holds no parallel; and it is so inevitably, because the artist who would obey the artistic instinct to portray faithfully the world about him, must portray that which lies at the core of its life. The "problem" play, novel, and poem are as inevitable in this age, as it was inevitable that the artist of the eleventh century should portray tournaments, physical battles, and chivalry, because they were the dominant element in the life about him.
It is also inevitable that this suffering and conflict must make itself felt in its acutest form in the person of the most advanced individual of our societies. It is the swimmer who first leaps into the frozen stream who is cut sharpest by the ice; those who follow him find it broken, and the last find it gone. It is the man or woman who first treads down the path which the bulk of humanity will ultimately follow, who must find themselves at last in solitudes where the silence is deadly. The fact that any course of human action leading to adjustment, leads also to immediate suffering, by dividing the individual from the bulk of his fellows; is no argument against it; that solitude and suffering is the crown of thorns which marks the kingship of earth's Messiahs: it is the mark of the leader.
Thus, social disco-ordination, and subjective conflict and suffering, pervade the life of our age, making themselves felt in every division of human life, religious, political, and domestic; and, if they are more noticeable, and make themselves more keenly felt in the region of sex than in any other, even the religious, it is because when we enter the region of sex we touch, as it were, the spinal cord of human existence, its great nerve centre, where sensation is most acute, and pain and pleasure most keenly felt. It is not sex disco-ordination that is at the root of our social unrest; it is the universal disco-ordination which affects even the world of sex phenomena.
Also it is necessary to note that the line which divides the progressive sections of our communities, seeking to co-ordinate themselves to the new conditions of life, from the retrogressive, is not a line running coincidentally with the line of sex. A George Sand and a Henrik Ibsen belong more essentially to the same class in the order of modern development, than either belongs to any class composed entirely of their own sex. If we divide humanity into classes according to type, in each division will be found the male with his complementary female. Side by side with the old harlot at the street corner anxious to sell herself, stands the old aboriginal male, whether covered or not with a veneer of civilisation, eager and desiring to buy. Side by side with the parasitic woman, seeking only increased pleasure and luxury from her relations with man, stands the male seeking only pleasure and self-indulgence from his relations with her. Side by side with the New Woman, anxious for labour and seeking from man only such love and fellowship as she gives, stands the New Man, anxious to possess her only on the terms she offers. If the social movement, through which the most advanced women of our day are attempting to bring themselves into co-ordination with the new conditions of life, removes them immeasurably from certain types of the primitive male; the same movement equally removes the new male from the old female. The sexual tragedy of modern life lies, not in the fact that woman as such is tending to differ fundamentally from man as such; but that, in the unassorted confusion of our modern life, it is continually the modified type of man or woman who is thrown into the closest personal relations with the antiquated type of the opposite sex; that between father and daughter, mother and son, brother and sister, husband and wife, may sometimes be found to intervene not merely years, but even centuries of social evolution.
It is not man as man who opposes the attempt of woman to readjust herself to the new conditions of life: that opposition arises, perhaps more often, from the retrogressive members of her own sex. And it is a fact which will surprise no one who has studied the conditions of modern life; that among the works of literature in all European languages, which most powerfully advocate the entrance of woman into the new fields of labour, and which most uncompromisingly demand for her the widest training and freedom of action, and which most passionately seek for the breaking down of all artificial lines which sever the woman from the man, many of the ablest and most uncompromising are the works of males.
The New Man and Woman do not resemble two people, who, standing on a level plain, set out on two roads, which diverging at different angles and continued in straight lines, must continue to take them farther and farther from each other the longer they proceed in them; rather, they resemble two persons who start to climb a spur of the same mountain from opposite sides; where, the higher they climb the nearer they come to each other, being bound ultimately to meet at the top.
Even that opposition often made by males to the entrance of woman into the new fields of labour, of which they at present hold the monopoly, is not fundamentally sexual in its nature. The male who opposes the entrance of woman into the trade or profession in which he holds more or less a monopoly, would oppose with equal, and perhaps even greater bitterness, the opening of its doors to numbers of his own sex who had before been excluded, and who would limit his gains and share his privileges. It is the primitive brute instinct to retain as much as possible for the ego, irrespective of justice or humanity, which dominates all the lower moral types of humanity, both male and female, which acts here. The lawyer or physician who objects to the entrance of women to his highly fenced professional enclosure, would probably object yet more strenuously if it were proposed to throw down the barriers of restraint and monetary charges, which would result in the flooding of his profession by other males: while the mechanic, who resists the entrance of woman into his especial field, is invariably found even more persistently to oppose any attempt at entrance on the part of other males, when he finds it possible to do so.
This opposition of the smaller type of male, to the entrance of woman into the callings hitherto apportioned to himself, is sometimes taken as implying the impossibility of fellowship and affection existing between the men and women employed in common labour, that the professional jealousy of the man must necessitate his feeling a hatred and antagonism towards any one who shares his fields of toil. But the most superficial study of human life negates such a supposition. Among men, in spite of the occasional existence of the petty professional jealousies and antagonism, we find, viewing society as a whole, that common interests, and above all common labours, are the most potent means of bringing them into close and friendly relations; and, in fact, they seem generally essential for the formation of the closest and most permanent human friendships. In every walk of human life, whether trade, or profession, we find men associating by choice mainly with, and entertaining often the profoundest and most permanent friendships for, men engaged in their own callings. The inner circle of a barrister's friendships almost always consists of his fellow-barristers; the city man, who is free to select his society where he will, will be oftenest found in company with his fellow-man of business; the medical man's closest friendship is, in a large number of cases, for some man who was once his fellow-student and has passed through the different stages of his professional life with him; the friends and chosen companions of the actor are commonly actors; of the savant, savants; of the farmer, farmers; of the sailor, sailors. So generally is this the case that it would almost attract attention and cause amusement were the boon companion of the sea captain a leading politician, and the intimate friend of the clergyman an actor, or the dearest friend of the farmer an astronomer. Kind seeks kind. The majority of men by choice frequent clubs where those of their own calling are found, and especially as life advances and men sink deeper into their professional grooves, they are found to seek fellowship mainly among their fellow-workers. That this should be so is inevitable; common amusements may create a certain bond between the young, but the performance of common labours, necessitating identical knowledge, identical habits, and modes of thought, forms a far stronger bond, drawing men far more powerfully towards social intercourse and personal friendship and affection than the centrifugal force of professional jealousies can divide them.
That the same condition would prevail where women became fellow-workers with men might be inferred on abstract grounds: but practical experience confirms this. The actor oftenest marries the actress, the male musician the female; the reception-room of the literary woman or female painter is found continually frequented by men of her own calling; the woman-doctor associates continually with and often marries one of her own confreres; and as women in increasing numbers share the fields of labour with men, which have hitherto been apportioned to them alone, the nature and strength of the sympathy arising from common labours will be increasingly clear.
The sharing by men and women of the same labours, necessitating a common culture and therefore common habits of thought and interests, would tend to fill that painful hiatus which arises so continually in modern conjugal life, dividing the man and woman as soon as the first sheen of physical sexual attraction which glints only over the unknown begins to fade, and from which springs so large a part of the tragedy of modern conjugal relations. The primitive male might discuss with her his success in hunting and her success in finding roots; as the primitive peasant may discuss today with his wife the crops and cows in which both are equally interested and which both understand; there is nothing in their order of life to produce always increasingly divergent habits of thought and interest.
In modern civilised life, in many sections, the lack of any common labour and interests and the wide dissimilarity of the life led by the man and the woman, tend continually to produce increasing divergence; so that, long before middle life is reached, they are left without any bond of co- cohesion but that of habit. The comradeship and continual stimulation, rising from intercourse with those sharing our closest interests and regarding life from the same standpoint, the man tends to seek in his club and among his male companions, and the woman accepts solitude, or seeks dissipations which tend yet farther to disrupt the common conjugal life. A certain mental camaraderie and community of impersonal interests is imperative in conjugal life in addition to a purely sexual relation, if the union is to remain a living and always growing reality. It is more especially because the sharing by woman of the labours of man will tend to promote camaraderie and the existence of common, impersonal interests and like habits of thought and life, that the entrance of women into the very fields shared by men, and not into others peculiarly reserved for her, is so desirable. (The reply once given by the wife of a leading barrister, when reference was made to the fact that she and her husband were seldom found in each other's society, throws a painful but true light on certain aspects of modern life, against which the entire woman's movement of our age is a rebellion. "My husband," she said, "is always increasingly absorbed in his legal duties, of which I understand nothing, and which so do not interest me. My children are all growing up and at school. I have servants enough to attend to my house. When he comes home in the evening, if I try to amuse him by telling him of the things I have been doing during the day, of the bazaars I am working for, the shopping I have done, the visits I have paid, he is bored. He is anxious to get away to his study, his books, and his men friends, and I am left utterly alone. If it were not for the society of women and other men with whom I have more in common, I could not bear my life. When we first met as boy and girl, and fell in love, we danced and rode together and seemed to have everything in common; now we have nothing. I respect him and I believe he respects me, but that is all!" It is, perhaps, only in close confidences between man and man and woman and woman that this open sore, rising from the divergence in training, habits of life, and occupation between men and women is spoken of; but it lies as a tragic element at the core of millions of modern conjugal relations, beneath the smooth superficial surface of our modern life; breaking out to the surface only occasionally in the revelations of our divorce courts.)
It is a gracious fact, to which every woman who has achieved success or accomplished good work in any of the fields generally apportioned to men will bear witness, whether that work be in the field of literature, of science, or the organised professions, that the hands which have been most eagerly stretched our to welcome her have been those of men; that the voices which have most generously acclaimed her success have been those of male fellow-workers in the fields into which she has entered.
There is no door at which the hand of woman has knocked for admission into a new field of toil but there have been found on the other side the hands of strong and generous men eager to turn it for her, almost before she knocks.
To those of us who, at the beginning of a new century, stand with shaded eyes, gazing into the future, striving to descry the outlines of the shadowy figures which loom before us in the distance, nothing seems of so gracious a promise, as the outline we seem to discern of a condition of human life in which a closer union than the world has yet seen shall exist between the man and the woman: where the Walhalla of our old Northern ancestors shall find its realisation in a concrete reality, and the Walkurie and her hero feast together at one board, in a brave fellowship.
Always in our dreams we hear the turn of the key that shall close the door of the last brothel; the clink of the last coin that pays for the body and soul of a woman; the falling of the last wall that encloses artificially the activity of woman and divides her from man; always we picture the love of the sexes, as, once a dull, slow, creeping worm; then a torpid, earthy chrysalis; at last the full-winged insect, glorious in the sunshine of the future.
Today, as we row hard against the stream of life, is it only a blindness in our eyes, which have been too long strained, which makes us see, far up the river where it fades into the distance, through all the mists that rise from the river-banks, a clear, a golden light? Is it only a delusion of the eyes which makes us grasp our oars more lightly and bend our backs lower; though we know well that long before the boat reaches those stretches, other hands than ours will man the oars and guide its helm? Is it all a dream?
The ancient Chaldean seer had a vision of a Garden of Eden which lay in a remote past. It was dreamed that man and woman once lived in joy and fellowship, till woman ate of the tree of knowledge and gave to man to eat; and that both were driven forth to wander, to toil in bitterness; because they had eaten of the fruit.
We also have our dream of a Garden: but it lies in a distant future. We dream that woman shall eat of the tree of knowledge together with man, and that side by side and hand close to hand, through ages of much toil and labour, they shall together raise about them an Eden nobler than any the Chaldean dreamed of; an Eden created by their own labour and made beautiful by their own fellowship.
In his apocalypse there was one who saw a new heaven and a new earth; we see a new earth; but therein dwells love–the love of comrades and co- workers.
It is because so wide and gracious to us are the possibilities of the future; so impossible is a return to the past, so deadly is a passive acquiescence in the present, that today we are found everywhere raising our strange new cry–"Labour and the training that fits us for labour!"
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