- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 20 Jan 1910, p. 102-127
- MacPhail, Professor Andrew, Speaker
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- A presentation of many of the various arguments and reasonings with regard to women's suffrage. Comments on those who resort to mockery and ridicule. Endeavouring to set forth the psychology of the suffragette, not in the interest of pure science so much as with the intention of discovering if an examination of the female nature will not yield a fundamental reason why such women as so desire should be permitted to vote, to hold office, and to engage in public life. A detailed discussion follows, setting forth an examination of the male and the female throughout history. A definition of voting and the part it plays in practical politics. A look at what political equality has and hasn't done for the negro. Getting at the root of the matter by understanding the essential character of the feminine nature, and remembering that if it is good, neutral, or bad, that man has made it so. A discussion of morality. Primitive man and woman. A look at love and "being in love." "The value of the exercise of the suffrage by a woman is that it will serve to emancipate her from herself in so far as it emancipates her from men." The demand for suffrage in reality an attempt to arrive at a higher morality, to attain to consideration in virtue of goodness and not of charm. The two lines of conduct open for women.
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- 20 Jan 1910
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- THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE SUFFRAGETTE
An Address by PROFESSOR ANDREW MACPHAIL, M.A., of McGill University, Montreal, before the Empire Club of Canada, on Jan. 20th, 1910.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,--
I am not insensible to the humour of the situation, addressing a company of mature men rather than the usual class-room of students which I am accustomed to address-looking up and hungering to be fed-nor am I insensible to the privilege of addressing this audience. I am glad to speak to this audience because it is one with whose objects I am in entire accord. It might well be thought that one who had such an opportunity as this would not misuse it by dealing with anything less than some of the immediate problems which confront us today! Now, this subject in which I have chosen to involve myself is an extremely technical and philosophical one, upon which I would not care to speak without the assistance of some notes so that I shall be able to convey to you precisely the shade of meaning which I intend, and if I occupy a little more than the half-hour I hope that you will bear with me.
Few problems are so simple as they seem. Indeed all questions are one question, and the ready answer which appears final may be entirely inadequate when the enquiry is enlarged to its proper bounds. An imperfect reason is worse than no reason at all. If, for example, the function of voting has not, up to the present time, been entrusted to women, it is because the case in favour of that measure has not been properly presented: The argument has been too feminine, too easily met. If we say that women should have the privilege of voting, we are struck with the retort that voting is not a privilege but a duty. If we point to the anomaly of a woman, intellectual as George Eliot and sensative as Mrs. Browning, being deprived of a privilege which her husband's valet enjoys, the explanation is offered that the difficulty may be solved as well as by taking the vote away from the man as by giving it to the woman.
When we protest that the suffrage should be conferred upon the married woman who in her own right is in possession of property, we are informed that the family, not the individual, is the unit of society; and if we restrict our demand to votes for unmarried women alone, we involve ourselves in a controversy with the friends of Mrs. Browning, on the one hand, and of George Eliot, on the other, to say nothing of the members of that most ancient of all professions, who must be considerable property owners to pay the contributions which are habitually imposed upon them. If a property qualification would admit Judas, universal suffrage would admit the Women at the Well; but the principle of votes for married women would involve us in a consideration of their matrimonial status, about which there might well be a difference of opinion, especially in a community like the United States of America, in which one marriage out of every twelve is terminated by divorce.
We plead that wage-earning women who are economically independent of men by reason of their labour in shop, office, and factory should no longer be compelled to remain voiceless: the dissentients reply that the presence of women in those capacities is an anomaly of civilization, which will not be remedied by the creation o f a fresh anomaly. When we offer them one of these alternatives: If women are different from men, representative government without including them is incompletely representative of the State; If women are the same as men, then presumably they have the same need to vote as men; they suggest that we substitute "lunatics" for "women" and see how the propositions read.
As answer to our argument that a women who has acquired a University degree is more likely to vote intelligently than a man who is unable to decipher the name of a candidate upon the ballot and whose attainment in writing does not extend beyond the capacity to sign his name with a cross, we are informed with coarse brutality that the propriety of a college education for women is problematical and its advantage a matter of pure surmise. And finally, if we protest that character is the supreme test of fitness to vote or hold office, we are filled with the apprehension against the day when the fierce light of publicity will beat upon the Woman at the. Booth, when opposing newspapers will investigate her conduct to ascertain if she is truthful in her declarations before the Customs; for example, if she rules well her own household, having children and having them in subjection, the wife of one husband, of good behaviour, patient, not a brawler, not double-tongued, grave, sober, faithful in all things. The feminine character is notoriously difficult of investigation, and it must be estimated according to the fine standard of feminine perfection, and not by the coarse attainment of the best of public men.
If we rely upon authority and appeal to John Stuart Mill, our opponents remind us that this great moralist attained to a surety of conviction upon the propriety of female suffrage only after he had come under the ministration of that humane person, Mrs. Taylor, "a woman of surpassing excellence, who lived generally apart from her husband." When the enemies of woman suffrage have departed from this attitude of stolid indifference or obstinate contradiction and put forward initial -objections of their own, we have always been able to make reply. They protest that the polling-booth, the legislative chamber, and the barber's shop are no fit resorts for women; and we call to their attention that women have made themselves perfectly at home in other environments which appeared at first sight to be equally uncongenial--in the club, in street-processions, and in the smoking-room of steamers.
Not content with contradiction, they have resort to mockery, alleging that, if women had votes, they would cast them for the candidate who had a fine general aspect and an external appearance which was pleasing. It is our sufficient answer that candidates are elected by the present method for reasons which are equally flimsy, and that under the new arrangements a House of Commons would be composed of men who would at least be beautiful, whereas today they are neither beautiful nor good! They charge that a man who has a wife and daughter would then have three votes instead of one; yet that is not more unreasonable than the present arrangement under which men purchase voters and send them to the polls like driven cattle. When mockery fails they descend to ridicule even of martyrs, laughter at heroines, and mirth because a suffragette of her own volition assumed and continues to bear the name of Catt.
Having now at the expense of some labour cleared the ground, I shall endeavour to set forth the psychology of the suffragette, not in the interest of pure science so much as with the intention of discovering if an examination of the female nature will not yield a fundamental reason why such women as so desire should be permitted to vote, to hold office, and to engage in public life. To warrant so important a departure from the established order of society, nothing less than a fundamental reason will suffice; that is, one which has been valid ever since the advent of life upon the earth, or, at any rate, of beings which have the appearance of movement. Of this creation we have two accounts. The one is given by a Semitic writer of Lower Asia, whose name is unknown to us. The other, which is the more commonly received, is closely identified with the name of Professor MacBride. The two accounts may be reconciled by assuming that the word "beginning" means a second beginning. By this easy device of exegesis we discover that in Professor MacBride's "beginning" there was neither male nor female, nothing but a neutral protoplasmic mass. In the second "beginning" there was a differentiation between the two sexes.
Leaving the ground of authority, and appealing to scientific experience, we shall discover that the male was developed out of this mass with special characteristics for the convenience of the less modified organism which remained. A timely confirmation of this statement arises out of Dr. Rumley Dawson's recent discovery in physiology, that the causation of sex lies entirely with the female; and we can well understand why she should be so resolute to preserve the type which she has created, by offering to the most manly the prize of her possession, and passing over the type which has the closest resemblance to her own. And yet, it is only for convenience we assume that nature works within rigid bounds. We speak of spring, summer, autumn, and winter for the benefit of those who sow seed, pay rent, and perform the other duties of society, whereas in reality there are no recurring seasons, but an unending progress of time. This division of living beings into male and female is also a fiction. All we should say is that the characteristics of the male or of the female are especially predominant in any given individual. The truth of this statement is apparent if we scan the range of plant life; and even in the case of the lower animals it is only a little less obvious. That is a matter of common knowledge, but its cogency when applied to ourselves demands a word by way of illustration. There are person's who are anatomically males and physically females, that is, with the outward appearance of men and the minds of women. They write letters to the newspapers, and the most experienced editor falls into error in determining the sex of the writer. These persons who lack in maleness always ally themselves with women who possess the quality in which they are deficient, and between the two the proper complement is established.
On the other hand it is the residue of the male element in the female which strives to express itself by the assumption of manly garb, voice, gesture, and conduct; though it is much easier for a man to become a woman than it is for a woman to become a man. In each there is something of the other, but what that amount is in any one individual could be determined only by a close scrutiny and comparison with the results obtained in a large number of observed cases. Certain investigations demand minuteness of enquiry, others, largness of view. One might well write a monograph upon the camel, the ostrich, or the centaur based upon the results of a scientific examination of a few specimens, which up to a certain point would be quite complete and have great value. This is the work of the anatomist in zoology, or of the morphologist in botany, who considers the lily in his laboratory rather than in the field. The anthropologist who deals with mankind in the mass, or the systemic botanist, must not taunt his fellow-investigator with want of experience in his own peculiar department, who is debarred by lack of facilities or even of inclination from making large numerical observations.
The male is what horticulturists designate as a sport, with an ineradicable tendency to revert to the female type, which is the more stable of the two, less sensitive and therefore capable of enduring discomfort, less intelligent and therefore guided more by instinct than by reason, less troubled by those emotions which lead to self-sacrifice for the good of the whole, more enduring because less dominated by those principles which are known as morality. Every civilization which has passed away proceeded by the road to effeminacy. -That is the teaching of history, and it is a matter of common observation in the individual who is becoming less virile. He forsakes his fellows for the companionship of a woman. He displays an extreme and foolish fondness, and extravagant and servile devotion, which goes by the name of uxoriousness. The phenomenon is observed at every age, but is most common in the extreme of life. We have all observed the young husband who is blissfully content with the functions of a lady's maid, and the old man whose domestic duties are mainly those of a "hooker tip," as that humble office is technically called. In his occasional intercourse with men he misses the adulation to which he is accustomed, and becomes at first dogmatic, then truculent, and finally by common consent is expelled from male society.
The disturbance of this balance between the sexes is more exaggerated in certain periods of history than in others. It was most marked at those stages of civilization in which the matriarchal theory of government prevailed. This occurred at a time when humanity was emerging from savagery, when the chase as a means of livelihood was giving way to agricultural pursuits and the domestication of animals, when articles of adornment had fallen from their high purpose and bred the debasing necessity for the warmth and comfort of clothing. These three offices of caring for animals, planting seeds, and making clothes naturally fell to women. The calf, lamb, or kid, an accidental product of the chase, was brought home to the cave as an object of interest. Its gambols of joy or its contortions in pain were amusing to the women and children, and its life was preserved as a solace from the tedium of winter. From this it was an easy discovery that the animal might reproduce its kind and afford, by the food products which it yielded, sustenance in time of need, and warmth after its body was skinned and eaten. By an equally fortuitous circumstance the advantages of a stable supply of fruits from the earth must have been discovered. The labour of the chase, which began as a sport and ended as a necessity, became a piece of sport again, to which the man might devote himself with pleasure unalloyed by the fear of hunger. But even a life of pure sport eventually palls upon one, and the primitive man lapsed into a condition of idleness in which he was so inert that women were obliged to undertake the business of government as well as of industry. They dominated the religious system also; and the deities of that period are always female. From this we may deduce the law that the authority of the woman prevails in direct proportion to her usefulness.
Men who are idle become debased. They forsake the quest of their hard ideal and turn aside upon an easier way. By inertia alone they tend to exaggerate the female element in themselves and to become like women. This glorification of the feminine finds its most modern expression in the tenets of that new American sect set apart by a woman, which contends that its founder has interpreted the feminine idea of God as Jesus interpreted the masculine idea. To this is added the inconsequential corollary that the feminine is the higher of the two; and there is an illuminating revelation of a somewhat general mind upon the question of motherhood in their theory 'that this woman by a process of immaculate conception brought forth a book. As if anticipating the question, her great apologist admits: "You may ask why this child did not come in human form as did the Child of old," and he supplies the answer: "Because it was not necessary." Out of a plain New England woman they have made a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars, delivering the child which shall heal all nations. At least that is how it appears in their own writings and painted windows. This sentiment is a pure revival of paganism and recurs continually. It brought the worship of the woman into the Church during the renaissance which occurred in the fifteenth century, when the Diety was expressed by the term Dea. One may agree that women are saints, and yet have a hesitancy of conviction that they are gods.
Women have a sure instinct that this natural tendency of men to exaggerate the feminine idea and to become like women is perilous to the race. It is women alone who prevent it from dominating the world, on account of their own inherent distrust in it. This is well shown by the secret pity which a woman entertains for a man who is about to unite himself for life with one of her own sex. A woman marries for the substantial reason that she is enamoured of the institution of marriage a man marries because a certain personality is attractive to him. If he would discover how flimsy this reason appears to the woman who is the object of attraction, he has only to hear the comments which are made as she regales her friends with a revelation of his mind as exposed in those writings which are commonly known as "love-letters" and occasionally as "exhibits."
If, now, we can discover that the exercise by women of the function of voting will tend to preserve the male idea from merging into the feminine, the case in favour of female suffrage will be advanced, even if we are obliged to abandon the ground upon which the measure has been defended, namely, that it would make for efficiency of government and do something to remove the disabilities which women as well as men now endure. Suffragettes have come to believe that there is something thaumaturgic or at least sacramentary in the act of voting, that it has an inherent efficacy and would confer upon public life an inward and spiritual grace, whilst in reality it is merely an ordinance without sanctity, an outward and visible sign of something which may have no existence, and may be fraught with damnation to those who perform it unworthily.
Voting is merely a method of expressing an opinion. The result is good or bad, depending upon the correctness of the opinions which the voters entertain and their ability to enforce them. The method has worked well in certain cases, namely, those in which communities had discovered the true principles of public policy by long ages of experience in public affairs, by living a life of freedom, resolute to maintain it even at the cost of sacrificing the individual life. Certain tribes from the shores of the North Sea which afterwards developed into the Anglo-Saxon race earned their freedom by remaining free. Every man voted. The reeve with four men from each township appeared at the hundred-mot to enforce an opinion which was in reality a derivative from the need and art of fighting. Other communities seized this weapon without paying the price and it broke in their hands. The negroes of the United States had the duty of voting thrust upon them; and one would be naive indeed who should say that their condition was improved thereby, or that they brought any great accession of wisdom to the public councils.
I am afraid that the women who profess to believe that all things will be made new by the easy device of voting are following their senses under the delusion that they are following the inexorable logic of a long experience.
It is only those who are engaged in practical politics who are aware how small a part voting plays in the operation of government, and they have devised an elaborate machinery to prevent an expression of public opinion, or to thwart it in the event of 'its getting out of hand. Many women are sufficiently instructed in cynicism to unmask the most plausible politician; but women of simplicity, having faith in all humanity, would become unconscious dupes of the wily. intriguer, or willing victims of the honest reformer who is himself deceived. Even if women were in possession of a correct theory of government, which in itself is merely a matter of surmise, and were resolved to lay aside all considerations of personal interest for the sake of giving true expression to it, they would yet be face to face with those contrivances which exist for the purpose of dulling the conscience and paralyzing the public will. Men who are enthusiastic reformers of politics continually encounter the influence of the under-world intriguer, the briber, the organizer of self-interest; and it is entirely probable that in the new order women might be found who would lend themselves for these base purposes, if we can infer from the ease with which recruits are obtained for purposes which are baser still.
Suffragettes are mistaken if they suppose that their labour is ended when they pause in the weary round of visits to dressmaker, manicure, and masseuse, or interrupt their social and domestic duties, for so much time as is required to place a dainty ballot in a box. When they adventure into the booth they plunge into the world of politics and of crime, unaware that their innocent act may be the means of depriving a rich corporation of its booty, a poor man of his food, a worker of the right to live, a women of her profession, or a criminal of his prey. They must not expect that, upon beholding the spectacle of a suffragette about to vote, all these forces of self-interest and of evil will run backward and fall to the ground as dead men.
It is not the act of voting which emancipates a people. They qualify themselves for voting by remaining free. The negroes to whom I have referred will be worthy to vote only when they emancipate themselves from themselves. Their political equality was thrust upon them, and it has not done them much good. They were unable to acquires freedom: they are unfit to exercise the functions of free men. The immediate business to which all suffragettes should address themselves is to assist in this investigation of their own minds, to ascertain if they really do desire freedom and are competent to achieve it, if indeed they desire it so earnestly that they must needs seize upon it without saying "by your leave," and at one stroke emancipate themselves from their own nature and from the restrictions which from the beginning of time have been imposed upon them by reason of the possession of that nature.
All literature concerns itself with this investigation of the nature of humanity, or rather the soul of it, if one may risk the employment of so ambiguous a word; and, according to Browning, little else is worth study save the development of a soul. The consensus that an examination of the soul of the female is an impolite, ungracious, or impertinent act is a suggestion that she has none, or at best, that she has one which does not merit or will not endure such scrutiny. The process can be carried on with entire impersonality, as men investigate their own nature, and even if it lead to self-depreciation, that also is good. The "capability and god-like reason" of the male is not the theme of "Hamlet," but rather an amplification of the question and answer: "What is a man?" If his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed,--"a beast, no more, a beast, the lord of beasts!" And if in the nature of women are found traces of the primitive woman, that need not alarm them or us, though it may dispel certain illusions to make way for fresh illusions founded upon reality.
Men are quite free to confess that they have not eradicated the savage instincts from their hearts, that traces of the primitive man are ever present with them, and they do not hesitate to make open revelation of it in their stupid brutality, in the joy with which they eat their food, in their poor attempts at the decoration of their persons by means of green hats and coloured waist-coats, in their pitiable efforts to look fierce by an arrangement of the vestige of hair which yet survives, in the alacrity with which they imbibe intoxicants for the sake of casting off that burden of morality which they have so painfully acquired and which yet sits uneasily upon them. But a woman, living in the minds of others, careful not of what she is but of the impression which she makes, is as anxious to conceal her identity as she is to disguise the art of her adornment.
To get at the root of the matter, we must understand the essential character of the feminine nature, and if we discover that it is good, neutral, or bad, we must remember that man has made it so. The praise or blame is to us. Therefore we are in reality investigating ourselves. There is a German saying: From a woman you can learn nothing of a woman. As Immanuel Kant explains it
woman does not betray her secret. And yet, the only secret which is well kept is that which is no secret at all. Possibly this is the reason why women and Freemasons have been so successful in guarding theirs'! The revelation which women in their writings make of themselves is incomplete because they are incapable of that intellectual effort by which complete detachment is obtained. All the "Confessions" have been done by men, St. Augustine, Montaigne, Pepys, Rousseau, Amiel, and by those immodest writers of the past ten years whose confessions are so tiresome because they have so little to confess, and therefore experience none of that reminiscitory pleasure which makes the confessional so popular.
It was a reflection of Joseph de Maistre: "I do not know what the heart of a rascal may be; I know what is in the heart of an honest man: it is horrible." Only a man is capable of making this true reflection and of confessing not alone faults which do not dishonour, but secrets which are ridiculous and mortal sins which are without extenuation. One may well believe that Chateaubriand in his Memoires d'Outre-tombe, Lamartine in, his Confidences, Renan in his Souvenirs, even without being consciously insincere or lacking in veracity, refrained from mentioning those cruelly painful reminiscences with which Rousseau scourged himself; but one is considered simpleminded indeed who believes that George Sand tells us as much as she can remember in L'Histoire de ma Vie. This charge which M: Jules Lemaitre brings against George Sand finds its explanation in the fact that women really do forget. A man will deliberately revive the remembrance of past sins for his present amendment, and evil being turned into good, the sin is forgiven. A woman forgets an act of meanness because it made no impression upon her mind when she committed it. She does not understand the nature of it. She forgives an act of meanness which a woman commits against her because they understand each other so well.
To arrive at an apprehension of this condition of non-morality, we must go back to the beginning of created beings, when the problems of physiology were reduced to their simplest forms, and the problems of psychology and ethics had not yet made their appearance; when the presence of life was revealed only by the appearance of movement. As we see the living being in its lowest form, it merely moves, eats, grows, reproduces itself, and dies. It is contractile, irritable, receptive, assimilative, metabolic, secretory, respiratory, and reproductive, as the books on science say. This seems a great deal, but in reality it is very little, for it does not differentiate an amoeba from a man. The evolution of the animal kingdom began with the acquirement of the first rudiments of a morality. The original amoeba was content to await until its food arrived in a faint swirl of water. We can well imagine that, by some circumstance which was apparently fortuitous but in reality due to the operation of the law of gravity and of those principles which underlie the distribution of air, the food was brought in unusual quantity or at an unnecessary moment. The creature, being already surfeited, was quite willing that the nutriment should go to a rival. The satisfaction which was experienced as a result of comfortable physical distention was attributed to an act of self-abnegation, and so the foundation of morality was laid. This illustration may be made more obvious, and perhaps less absurd, if we consider the situation of the savage reclining before the fire with his family in the sanctity of his cave after a successful day's chase, and a surfeit upon the rude but efficient cookery of those days. We shall not be wrong if we surmise that an emotion of gratitude might arise in his breast towards the giver of so much good and of commiseration of a less fortunate neighbour. This laudable sentiment might induce him to share the food which was yet uneaten, especially if-not to credit him with too high and disinterested a morality-he recalled that on previous occasions his surplus store had perished by decay. Certainly he would not feel disposed to interfere with his neighbour's chase, and so the principle of justice would be established. It is not improbable that his neighbour at some future time would do as he had been done by, and accordingly the growth of morality and the bonds of amity would be strengthened. In due course game laws would make their appearance, and out of that would arise a system of jurisprudence to cover the various problems which must have faced a growing, though simple, civilization.
If now it be true that morality had its origin in the mental and physical activities attendant upon the procuring of food, and since these activities were exercised chiefly by the male, it follows that the female who was not brought under the influence of a favourable environment would remain non-moral. She did not come in contact with the world, as the saying is, and continued unlearned, wanting the hard lesson of experience. Something of a similiar nature is still witnessed in the case of those clerics who deal habitually with women, of schoolmasters and professors whose world is merely that which is encountered within the walls of a class-room, and of writers whose observation does not extend beyond their closets. The characteristics of the feminine nature are found in them. They are considered virtuous because the problems of morality have never presented themselves.
Shut out from the world, the primitive woman was not free to develop an independent life. She adapted herself to the man. His views were her views; his dislikes were shared by her, and she adopted his opinions ready-made. She preferred to be dependent, and agreed that the man should continue to mould her mentality. This destruction of her personality and departure from her line of life became so permanent that she enjoyed it. Her sense of personal value was lost. It was found in external things, her beauty, her adornment, her children, or her husband. This lightness of regard for their own personality still persists, as we may see in the readiness with which a woman exchanges her own name for another, not once, but under certain circumstances--after a period of half-luxurious sorrow and self-conscious demureness--twice, or yet again, and each time with the greater alacrity. Without freedom there can be no free will, and without free will there can be no character.
The primitive man in the contest with his environment developed an ethic, a logic, and a morality, because he was free. Deprived of freedom, the primitive woman remained servile in disposition; tyrannical when occasion offered, because the servant makes the worst master; unjust, since she was protected against the penalty of injustice; unsympathetic and heartless, because there was no occasion for a wide and 'disinterested charity; mindless, because there was another to think for her. Trained to accept the convention which the man imposed upon her, she easily submitted to the conventions devised by her own sex, and became imitative even in the clothes which she wore, in the method of adornment which she adopted, in the sentiments which she entertained, and in the opinions which she expressed. In time, however, she adapted herself to her environment, and developed a kind of ethic of her own, which was entirely adequate for the circumstances in which she was placed, but breaks down hopelessly in a wider sphere of activity.
As if it were not enough that the woman was deprived of these incentives to the acquisition of a morality she was made the victim of man's unconscious egoism and his conscious duplicity. Men in common with other males are subject at times to a curious psychical condition which is familiarly known as "being in love." The first symptom of this mental disorder is an entire incapacity to perceive the truth. He creates an ideal woman, the woman of poetry and other romantical writings. He attributes to her, or rather projects into the ideal, his own qualities of truthfulness, modesty, justice, charity, sympathy, fortitude, and beauty. To employ the jargon of the theologians, this ideal woman is anthropomorphic. A man who is in love with a woman is really in love with himself, but neither the one nor the other is aware of the fact. He begins by deceiving himself and ends by deceiving her, for a time at least, and her future life consists in the employment of every resource to encourage and maintain the fiction. It is not the real woman whom he loves, but a spurious personality. To succeed in retaining this love, she is obliged to live the life of the image which he has created, and ends by destroying her inner self. And yet, under present conditions, that woman succeeds best who is most successful in maintaining this illusion in the minds of both.
This practice of loving and believing a lie is, I suspect, the fons et origo of all that is evil in our civilization. Few men and no women are free from the vice. Even the intelligent fall into the easy habit. In an important city the editing of a newspaper was entrusted to ten of the most righteous women to be found therein, and yet they assigned the prize which had been offered for the best expression of appreciation of their labours to a man who affirmed that their literary product would overwhelm the city "with a deluge of sweetness and light." The second prize went to a woman who predicted that much good would be effected "by their wisdom, their wit, and their might." And this leads one to the observation that nearly all writing is an endeavour to minister to this desire for self-deception. Comparatively few men who have attained to the great age of forty years indulge in the pastime of reading. Their experience has taught them that the motive of nearly all writing is the desire for notoriety, either in this life or in the minds of those who are to come. They are wise enough to write their own books; but being wise, they abstain. They regard it as a delusion that all who are capable of reading are also capable of writing. As well might a man believe that he had a peculiar aptitude for herding sheep arid playing the bagpipes, because he was born in the Highlands of Scotland. This desire of women to be deceived accounts for that insincere writing which is found in nearly all novels, and in all of those shepapers which fatten upon their credulity. Reading, then, becomes a vapid and frivolous amusement for dazing the mind, arid a book no better than a lap-dog.
Nor does art thrive any better than literature in this atmosphere of feminism. Art has to do with the beauty of utility, of truth. A woman learns by instinct, possibly by experience, that personal beauty does not imply morality, and as it is with her own personality she is most concerned, a secret distrust in all beauty, even the beauty of art, is instilled into her mind. Accordingly the pictures which are painted to please her must have a superficial prettiness, and the houses which are erected for her use will best serve her purpose if, instead of simplicity, they display a decorated cosiness and have sufficient cupboards for the accommodation of her castoff finery. The superfluous top-hamper of civilization, which makes living difficult for the rich and impossible for the poor, continues to burden humanity because women will have it so. A World of iniquity is created out of their desire fair change. It is not love of beauty which suddenly reveals to a woman that last year's adornment is hideous, but the desire to change one form of ugliness for another If she possessed that sense of beauty which comes from sincerity, and that in turn from freedom, she would fee and for all agree upon some practice of adornment, combined with utility, which would have a reasonable degree of permanency, rather than submit to the tyranny of an organized band of mercenaries, who exist for the purpose of exploiting her femininit. This passion in women for splendid apparel arises from their suspicion that they are not in reality beautiful, but have only been told so by men whose senses they suspect are dulled by passion.
The value of the exercise of the suffrage by a woman is that it will serve to emancipate her from herself in so far as it emancipates her from men. In the present state of affairs, which is based on the Oriental conception that a women is a chattel, a private possession, born to serve and be dependent upon man, she has no complete existence in herself. She obtains the sense of full existence only through her husband and children, just as the Mussulman woman attains to the chief desire of her heart if she is chosen to give a son to the Padishah. She stands ready to be made wife or mother, that she may acquire that gift; and her love is the mental sense of satisfaction that she is about to be redeemed.
Looked at narrowly, this attempt on the part of women to emancipate themselves would appear to be nothing more than the expression of a desire to enlarge the range of their caprice, for which not even marriage, the old sovereign remedy, is any longer efficacious. In reality the reason lies much deeper. It is a blind striving for the pure air of freedom, for escape from a bondage in which only the qualities of the servile have had room for development. Until women cease to believe the pretty lies which men tell them, that they are only a little lower than the angels, and discover the real bondage, their own nature, from which they must emancipate themselves, they will not proceed with any degree of seriousness. They will not convince the world until they themselves are convinced. Analysis they consider detraction, and fly from investigation in wild alarm. Upon this subject there is a considerable body of information in the writings of satirists, dramatists, and theologians, ancient and modern: but it is decried as slander, whether uttered by St. Paul, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, or Otto Weininger.
This violent effort to attain to freedom is bound to be associated with a form of disorderliness which the common mind describes as hysterical. All disorder in itself is bad. It is intolerable only when it is meaningless. It is decried because it is misunderstood. Any consideration of the mind of the suffragette would be quite inadequate without some mention of those complex manifestations which are known as hysteria. Of this too I shall offer an explanation in support of my argument. It is a sign of the striving after a higher morality, of an attempt to "convert nothing into something," to put on a new nature, to acquire personality, distinction, character, and mind. Up to a certain point the woman accepts her femininity and all that is implied thereby with unquestioning obedience, taking it at its masculine value. In the absence of an external controlling influence there comes a divine discontent with that negative condition of existence, and she becomes imbued with moral ideas which are foreign to her normal mind and opposed to her real nature. In reality she puts on a superficial, sham self, and yet is incapable of perceiving the spuriousness of it. This new personality shows itself in self-confidence, independence, assertiveness, a punctilious sincerity and capable candour in speech and action. This artificial imitation of the masculine morality with which she has over-laid her femininity, at the touch of some rough reality flies in pieces, and the conflict between her real nature and this unnatural self produces those phenomena which are known as hysteria. It is a contest between what she knows to be true and what she suspects is false.
This demand for the suffrage is in reality an attempt to arrive at a higher morality, to attain to consideration in virtue of goodness and not of charm. The real opponents are the women who master men by that easy device, and all men who find it so comfortable to succumb, because they find it so alluring. There is an active and a passive conspiracy working to the same end that women shall not be free. There is no creature in the world so irritating to the woman who is merely good as the woman who is merely charming, and therefore in a condition of negative morality. The most efficient means to destroy the force of any charm is to investigate its origin, a task to which those who are striving for emancipation would do well to apply themselves. It is not enough that they have relinquished this quality in themselves. They can succeed only when they have removed its possession from others. The struggle for freedom from their own nature will not be easy. The habits acquired during countless ages are all but ineradicable; yet progress may appear in the exchange of one bondage for another. One would say that the noble army of martyrs who have attacked the inner sanctuary of the British Constitution had emancipated themselves from every restraint and destroyed the last attraction between themselves and living men; and yet their next act was to bind themselves with physical chains to those stone images of male humanity which stand in the Hall of St. Stephen. This thing is an allegory.
I am not blind to certain perils which lie in the way; but I think they have been exaggerated and will tend to cure themselves. Voting implies being voted for, and men are so fatuous that they will vote for the woman who has a pleasing personality and skill in the adornment of her person, rather than for a candidate of commanding intellect and skill in the public use of her tongue. Then will arise another noble band of martyrs after the discovery of how little men's votes for women are influenced by reason and how much by charm. They will declare that men shall no longer have the opportunity of being silly, and they will banish their charming sisters from public life.
There is nothing which a man who is left to himself desires so ardently as he desires the feminine. To attain to it he will commit the last infancy, descending to the level of the beast from which he has arisen, even whilst he despises himself for the surrender of that morality which he has so laboriously acquired. This interdependence of good and evil constitutes the riddle of the universe; and yet it is out of this conflict between the lower and the higher that our civilization, as we know it, has arisen. The woman exercises her power by means of a charm by which she allures and then captivates. The "fountain" of this charm is love, and its essence "pleasant to the eyes" like that fruit which first attracted the Universal Dame herself. If the power of this charm were unchecked, it would re-absorb the masculine idea into the feminine, so earnestly is it desired by men. It is the business of women to see to it that this charm is exercised with due restraint. Every child knows that a charm is broken by speech, and if the injunction taceat mulier were observed, the masculine would be delivered into an eternal bondage. If all women at all times behaved themselves in accordance with the principles of the eternal feminine, which are those of appearance and beauty, men would become so enamoured of it that they would mould their lives by it and eventually transform themselves into women.
Compare the power of the woman who sits, and looks, and exercises her charm in silence and mystery with her who says an insane thing three times over with the intention of being interesting and vivacious, or a foolish thing rather than remain silent; with her who votes and speaks in the councils, even though she speaks with the tongue of a man and reveals all knowledge; with her who brawls in public places, and even gives her body to the Holloway gaol; and we shall discover the essential reason why women should be encouraged to do these things, namely, that they shall be induced to tell the truth about themselves and so liberate men in some degree from the power of their charm, that reason may govern life.
The women who are not satisfied with the status of wife and mother and are striving to educate themselves into fitting "companions" for their husbands and sons by attending lectures and reading magazines are unaware of the power of this charm, and are suffering from an exaggerated notion of the kind of companionship for which men are capable. They magnify the masculine intelligence unduly. What a piece of work is a man! they exclaim in rhapsody, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god, the beauty of the world! In reality this "paragon of animals" desires a woman more ardently than he desires a talking book, agreeing, if he is sensible, with that eminent divine, John Calvin, when he declared: "The only beauty that can please my heart is one that is gentle, chaste, modest, economical, patient, and finally, careful of her husband's health."
The real grievance from which women suffer is that their authority and claim to consideration is based upon a principle which is non-ethical and of no inherent value in their eyes. Their way of escape lies in convincing men that they also should arrive at a like estimate of its fallibility. This can best be done by setting up truth in opposition to falsehood, which is the most subtle method of iconoclasm, the most powerful for breaking down an eidolon in which the affections are inordinately fixed, since the deity and the devotee can then make mutual inferences. To keep the matter scientific and impersonal, they might begin by an investigation into the nature of the troglodytic woman, disclosing her characteristics, assigning them to their proper cause, and estimating what proportion still remains. The opinion requires corroboration that women have been more successful than men in purging away those qualities which were inherent in the primitive nature. Indeed to the most careful observer there is some evidence that jealousy has not entirely given way to justice, heartlessness to charity, pride to dignity, shamelessness to modesty, selfishness to sympathy. and the desire of provoking compassion to a self-reliant fortitude.
This investigation might properly be undertaken by the various Councils of Women, even at the risk of excluding those subjects upon which they possess no especial information, such as the effect of narcotics and intoxicants upon the masculine frame. A frank pronouncement from this high quarter would be free from the taunt that it was merely slander, diatribe, or vituperation. To make the enquiry sufficiently extensive, it might be well to appoint a committee of men to prepare an agendum for the meeting, a labour in which I would willingly bear a part, having a desire for specific information upon certain points, namely: why up to a certain age a younger sister dislikes the elder, and between certain ages a mother is averse to her daughter; why the law of modesty in apparel is not constant at nine o'clock in the evening and nine o'clock in the morning; why it is painful for a woman to witness another advancing in social status; why female beauty and an adornment which heightens it does not excite an emotion of universal pleasure; why women make good nurses, if it is not because they are lacking in sympathy.
For women, then, there are two lines of conduct open, and only two. Either they must remain in the cave, as "sisters to the flowers," in an environment suitable for the development of such qualities as may be developed from the essentially feminine nature, an easy docility, a pleasurable obedience, meekness, forbearance, longsuffering, patience, silence; as objects upon which men may lavish protection, kindness, benevolence, affection, and so stimulate their own masculine morality, and redeem themselves in virtue of the love which is created thereby; or they must aspire to a perfect freedom and casting aside the curb of sex and freeing themselves from the tyranny of kith and kin, come out into the world and remain out in the full glare of the sun, ruthlessly
exposing their nature to the rough environment whereby its imperfections will be scourged and chastened away. Possibly that nature might perish in the process before a new one was created, and in any event it might be nothing more than a close approximation to the male.
There is no middle station, half in and half out, exposing the evil and doing nothing for its amendment. This tentative standing-ground merely permits of a sudden release of the nature of the primitive woman in all its nakedness unchecked from within and uncontrolled from without. The spectacle is so revolting, I fear, that most women would turn back with grief and hatred of it to their old rule, rather than strive with a full purpose and endeavour after a new obedience. That is the essential difficulty with which those women have to contend, who would lead their sisters out of bondage. Their real enemies are of their own household, who hate to see this revelation that women make of themselves, which affords to vulgar satirists congenial exercise of their irony and scoff, for the torment or amusement of those who, like themselves, by continually regarding humanity as it is, have developed a capacity for analysis at the expense of a certain dryness and hardness of heart.
These satirists smile and whisper in our ear that the emancipation of women is intended only to enlarge the bounds of their caprice; that their performance is of no immediate interest to the man, and only of very remote benefit to the woman; that, when he grows tired of the farce, he will cast her out of the cave and leave her to her own device as he was left in the day of his creation. From this they conclude that a race which allows itself to be brought to such an impasse is not worth reproducing, and we cannot blame them too severely. It is on account of their perception of this fact that the women of primitive communities deal faithfully with their unruly sisters lest a worse thing befall themselves. There is a choice between the good and the best, as there is between the evil and the good; and women must find in freedom compensation for having cast out the imputed sacredness from their lives; and, in watching the gyrations of their souls, some recompense for that calm leisure in which they were wont to dream.
This then is the end of the argument in favour of the suffragette, which is developed out of her own psychology. Women have obtained their places in the world because they are desired by men on grounds which are not of the highest ethical quality; but these are the only grounds upon which men will consent to endure the burden of carrying on a society, about whose invention they were not consulted. We are now-men and women, not as opponents, but as companions, in a misery which we should do our best to assuage by mutual help--face to face with the real problem. Shall we allow the evil to endure, or even suffer the good to remain as the enemy of the best, saying with the sluggard, a little more sleep, a little more slumber; or shall we strive after the higher morality, even losing our life that we may save it?
It is no bar to the argument that it faces the extinction of the species to which we belong. In a question of morality consequences do not count. We did not create ourselves. The responsibility of ceasing to exist does not rest upon us. It is in reality a question of conduct, and upon that we can always get information if we inquire of Him whose genius for right living was such that a large proportion of mankind have agreed upon Him as the chief exemplar and pattern of pure righteousness. The problem presented itself to Him. He answered it in pacific terms. Three times and in separate places are the question and answer recorded in words which are almost identical. What good thing shall I do that I may inherit eternal life; what lack I yet? What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? What shall I do to inherit eternal life? To convince us that the answer is not one of special application, the question is repeated thrice in general terms and so recorded; Who then can be saved? Who then can be saved? Who then can be saved? The answer invariably is that those who would inherit everlasting life, must forsake certain things which are specifically set forth and the enumeration ends in all cases with "women." One is quite prepared to be told that Paul was ill-informed or ill-natured, when he declared that even the intimacy with a woman which is implied by marriage is a drag in the attempt after a higher life, and yet protests, in face of that exegetic feat which attributes the insertion of the fatal word to a monkish hand, that Jesus really meant something when he said that she must be forsaken.
All things are working toward this divine end by making it easy to forsake the woman. As that kind of intelligence is developed, by higher education, as it is called with a certain degree of assumption, which consists in an increased capacity for the recollection of unrelated statements, a measure of value is created which men can understand. They are dealing in their own currency. Pedantry they have already witnessed, and the instructed woman is even less adorable than a professor. An imitation of the garb which is customary in the male at once suggests the form which it is intended to conceal, and a comparison with the standards of abstract beauty. When women place themselves in situations for which they are not qualified by their nature to fill with obvious advantage, they become a ridiculous caricature of themselves. The mind of the suffragette appears to possess a peculiar aptitude for that absurdity which makes a man impatient and finally contemptuous of all femininity, and resolute to adhere to his own ideal. A woman may be foolish and yet be charming. She emancipates herself when she becomes an object of aversion.