The New Freewoman: No. 7, Vol. 1, September 15th 1913.
by Dora Marsden
It is not our intention to embarrass the pages of this journal with a parent's fond praises: its praises like its misdeeds we leave for other tongues to frame. We merely desire for the profit of our readers and for the elaboration of our own solitary view to point out, how, arising out of the unique character of THE NEW FREEWOMAN, in that it unlike any other English journal, has succeeded in evading the insular stamp, it becomes possible to draw from its pages a comparison of extreme interest bearing on the different attitudes of the differing national temperaments, towards the nature and prestige of the "idea." For the French (represented with such consummate brilliance in THE NEW FREEWOMAN) ideas are very easily detachable. They spin them like coins, and with as little ceremony, and take the ring of them to test their quality. They can offer hospitality easily to all thoughts alike, of whatever colour, blue or golden, jolly little devils or morose, because all being real they must needs be accorded a place. Though quizzical of the value of all, they doubt the reality of none. Thoughts may be evils and as such are merely to be put up with, meriting scant respect; but evil or good, they are real.
For the advanced Americans, as is natural for a young and vigorous nation keenly sensitive to impressions, ideas though likewise detachable, loom larger in size. They are forces to be grappled with in earnest. Their importance increases with their dimensions- and as the area of France is to that of America, so is the dimension of the French idea to the American. In like proportion also is its authority. It naturally behoves the American to labour for the right idea. If honesty and hefty dealing can do it, he needs will be on the side of the angels. That is why he goes forth sword in hand like the knights of old to battle for and against-ideas.
Unfortunately for the symmerty of our comparison, the orthodox English heterodox-idealist is not represented in the pages of THE NEW FREEWOMAN. The atmosphere will not permit it. For unlike the Frenchman and American, with the advanced Englishman ideas are not detachable. They are so much part and substance with himself that he is unconscious of them. The Englishman's idea is built into his structure, like mortar into a wall-facing. Formerly the offspring of thoughtful Englishmen were born little Tories or little Liberals, and there after the rest of their personality was added unto them. Nowadays they are born little Faibians, little Suffragista, little Guild-Socialists, little Heraldites: but all have the same character, mortar dried-in. This explains why there are no thought-battles in England: no battles of ideas that is: no intellectual sport. There are quarrels about systems built about ideas taken ready made and for granted, among persons who primarily represent the ideas, but there are no intellectual quarrels: they are all personal. A lunge at a system is resented in the same temper as would be a jab at a person's vital regions. Where ideas are detachable, attention can be, and is, centred on the idea, as players in the football elevens can and do fix attention on the ball. If for the ball were substituted the players' shins, the sporting relations would resemble the ones which exist among those who stand for diverse ideas in England-too painful for the game to be worthwhile. That is exactly how things stand: the game is non-existent: intellectual sport is ruled out. Those born under the same star, all the little Liberals, all the little Suffragists, all the little this, that and the other idea-ists, cluster together in their special groups to keep each other warm in their allegiance to their one idea. They remain at once the most thought-ridden and the least conscious of thought, like a man with fever, too delirious to know he is ill and in need of attention and care.
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The only person in England who makes a pretence of liking-and therefore inviting-intellectual sport is Mr. Gilbert Chesterton, but his choice of adversary as a rule falls either upon someone half his own intellectual size, or if nearer his own measure, someone whom he invariably touches upon a well recognised constitutional numb-spot, too paralysed therefore by the fixed idea to have the power to react. While, consequently, Mr. Chesterton's sham fights do not in any appreciable degree affect the accuracy of the statement that intellectual stagnation is the rule in England, it must be conceded that in the main, what stirring of the pool outside the FREEWOMAN influence is done, is done by Mr. Chesterton. Recently he has been rallying Mr. Robert Blatchford upon the failure of the supporters of "Free Thought" to assume the lead in the onslaught upon corruptive laxity in public affairs. The obvious retort from Mr. Blatchford is a "Tu quoque," "Free-Thought-er yourself," for it is as one who has given Thought control of the reins, to another who has dbne likewise that Mr. Chesterton must address the author of "Merrie England," and it is preposterous to expect a man who has abdicated in favour of a Thought to act as though he were a free agent. He has sold out his claim, and become a bondman carrying out orders, a tamed steed harnessed up, with the bit in his mouth and the rein on his neck, with Free-thought in the saddle. The only difference between Mr. Chesterton (who recently we believe entered the fold of the Roman Catholic Church) and Mr. Blatchford, is that Mr. Chesterton has been more select in his choice of drivers. His free thoughts are limited in number: Mr. Blatchford's are in number, legion, a Mafeking night mob. The Christian Trinity with the Vierge Mere, is a select family-party, and picturesque at that, but the Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, Humanity, Justice, Democracy, Evolution, beloved of Mr. Blatchford are only the first drops which prelude the deluge of thoughts each powerful enough when free, to hold a man's face to the earth, while those not given to Free-thought follies wreak on him their will. Still Mr. Chesterton most certainly is not the one to rail at the embarrassments to a man's spirit of Freethought. The fitting person is the successful master of men. He is the one who knows what it profits such as he for other men to kneel with crossed hands and bent head under the free and rampant idea. The Socialists have been calling aloud for a defence of capitalism, which is too strong to value a defence. What needs defending, were defence possible, is that crossed hands, bowed head attitude of the idea-ridden, towards honesty, equality, brotherly love, peace and order which befriend them not a feather's weight, but which obstruct them wholly in a self-appropriatory career.
Special occasion and an honest mind suggest that it is time again to hurl a shaft against liberty-the subtlest among the Sacred, established on pedestals. What is liberty? Whether it be some thing, or whether it be nothing, we have no respect for it. We do nothing in its behalf. We neither act nor refrain from acting in its name. Liberty, for us, lends no criterion for judging actions. We seek to do anything and everything which ministers to our satisfaction. Our limitations lie only in our ability and lack of it. Those who do not like our ways will stop us-if they can. We have no respect for their liberty, and the folly is theirs if they have a care for ours. Together we will wrestle it out. Let our power and the genuineness of our satisfaction decide; liberty, at least, shall not obtain in the seats of authority. With this present issue of THE NEW FREEWOMAN, the distinguished American scholar who has done English-speaking peoples a service of inestimable value by his translation of Max Stirner's work into English as "The Ego and His Own," Mr. Steven T. Byington, opens a series of articles on "Interference with Environment," a series which we take to be concerned with the limitations of the liberty of the individual in the social community. We shall be among the most interested of Mr. Byington's readers and possibly among his critics. Be that as it may, we can prophesy in advance that our criticism will not be that liberty is laid in fetters. Our only concern is with the means and necessity for self-defenoe.
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Opportunity, in the person of Dr. Ethel Smyth, the English composer, in the role of the "ye compleat suffragist," offers us an illustration of the wound inflicting process which debate is in England. She answers the anti-suffragist view thus:-
"Why dissemble? This is no longer a controversy. It is a fight to a finish against huge odds, and I am glad that objectionable phrase 'our friends the antis' has dropped out of currency. Writing from the lines of Torres Vedras, the Duke of Wellington mentions the bringing back by French sentries of our men's muskets, left behind during drunken bouts in the enemy's quarters, and adds, 'I am glad to think a pitched battle tomorrow will put an end to these disgusting familiarities.' Exactly, the duke was in grim earnest; a fighter, not a talker. As for us, some of our women have died; others are facing death and certain ruin af health; others have cheerfully exchanged ease and security for a doubftul future; others are looking on in agony while those they love and honour are enduring these things for their faith. We, like the duke, have no use for that tolerance which is the characteristic atmosphere of sham fights."
Now, whose scalp docs Miss Smyth want? It is quite evident she means to have at someone's. Does she really want to see definite persons with names to them, cut up into little pieces? Or by a straining of the quality of mercy, merely laid in irons in deep dungeons? It is our unexaggerated belief that she-and others-does yearn, peak and pine after this latter. If only the Suffragists would be more explicit, the situation would be so very much jollier, even if more savage. Elsewhere Miss Smyth says "if men are face to face with the dread prospect of self-control, it is because syphilis is now such a menace to the State...." If someone applied a little of the pressure of persuasion to Miss Smyth we might now get at what the suffragists mean: what they mean to do, that is, when they become part of the coercive State machinery. For candour's sake alone, it would be so interesting to have a plain statement. And we have been told such long, long years that they are going to do "things" by means of the vote that we may now without assertiveness, ask "how?"
In the same article Miss Smyth quotes Miss Pankhurst. "Under all the excuses and arguments against votes for women, sexual vice is found to be lurking; hence man's instinctive desire to keep women in a state of economic dependence"; and "once women are politically free they will become spiritually strong as well as economically independent, and no longer give or sell themselves to be the play things of men." Perverse to naughtiness! "Once women are politically free they will become spiritually strong." Ye gods and little fishes! It becomes increasingly difficult to realise that Christabel Pankhurst is a comparatively young woman-she has such an incapacity for regarding her pet idea from the outside. She stands for it in that hard, dried-in fashion which ordinarily is found, in equal degree, only with extreme old age.
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It is apparent from expressions of feeling similar to those to which Dr. Smyth gives publicity in the article to which reference has been made, that the hostility of advanced women towards men is a very real thing. Moreover it is growing as rapidly as literature for women is changing from what was, the standard literature for the schoolroom and the hearth. It will continue to grow until this question of supply and demand in sex matters has been finally thrashed out. An American correspondent in a personal communication urges a point of view which may be gathered from the following extract, and of which not the least valuable aspect is that it can leave none in doubt as to the matter which is under debate. Writing of the causes of prostitution, he says that it would be
"more accurate to have said that religious superstitions and social customs were the cause, since we have historical accounts of prostitution as early as eighteen centuries B.C. I think it is perfectly true, however, that the repression of the sexual instinct in women (which lack now certainly is the mainstay of prostitution) has generally been brought about by the inhibition, for some reason or other-usually religious-of the exercise by women of their sexual faculties. And if women are not under-sexed, their sexual apathy is beautifully simulated. It is conceivable that this simulation may exist up to the point of yielding to man, but can it exist throughout the sexual act? Proof must, necessarily, be largely a record of personal experiences, and such a record might not, in good taste, be produced; but what else can be inferred when widely experienced male sexual varietists almost unanimously concur in the statement that only a small proportion of the women with whom they have associated (not prostitutes) experience a normal sexual orgasm, and that the sphincter of the vagina is rarely active? I trust you will pardon my plain speaking, but it has seemed to me that there are certain physical facts with which you are not familiar. It is, however, possible that, as a friend has just suggested to me, American women in this respect are an exception. If that be true, it simply illuslrates the fallibility of empirical generalizations."As far as the arguments contained in the above passages concern our own theory, i.e., that women consciously and subconsciouslv inflame the sex-ardour of men by a simulation of apathy, we can only say that the physical facts if they are as stated support our diagnosis. Regarding the cause which originally prompted such simulation there must necessairly be, at present, innumerable opinions, but as regards religious superstitions, it seems to us, that these exploit tendencies which have already come into existence, rather than actually call them there; and that therefore this apparent coldness regarding a matter which is, and always has been, women's chiefest concern, must have found its origin in some thing more fundamental: probably in the cunning of the under-dog which must, first, of necessity, seek to make itself of value to its more powerful superiors: and secondly, if its instinct is strong, to turn the superior power to its own service. This is precisely what women who felt and recognised their own relative inferiority have done, by bringing their own sex-impulses completely under control and exciting those of men to an abnormal degree-an activity which is the main concern of the womanly woman. It is ludicrous to assume, because of a certain trick of attitude, that the passive woman is aloof from sex: the mischief of her is, that she is not vitally interested about any single thing else. She has made it embrace her entire life, including her means to live, and her amusements. As the inhibitary discipline gradually grew into a habit and became more or less easy, its practice became more and more crowned with the success it was intended to achieve: it put power into the hands of the woman, and a refined pastime involving the subtle exercise of this power developed into an exquisite quasi-aesthetic pleasure. Refined love-making for the womanly woman was, is, the most alluring, subtle, choicest of choice pleasures. Common sex is dogs' fare by comparison; inhibition has thus been its own reward, and its method the method of allurement par excellence.
The subtlest sex-charm in women is an alert quietness-an attentive stillness. (The men who notoriously attract women use the same method.) It is used perfectly only by the adepts. The less adroit attempt unlimited variations upon it. Its motive, conscious or otherwise, is to attract sexually. If the continuous employment of a means ends by producing physical effects originally uncounted upon, these effects are accidental by-products which would be removed or altered by any alteration of the means which might become necessary to subserve the original motive. To the majority of women, the essential thing is that they shall be able to attract men: it a matter of infinitely less importance that men should be attractive to them. (If a man is satisfactory in other and, to them, more important ways, money, social standing and so on, they will make the best of his deficiencies, sexually. It is therefore because of the fact that women attract men more when they appear reluctant to be attracted, that women appear reluctant. That there shall be no possibility of miscarriage in the issue, women actually create a super layer of reluctance. Throughout the entire course of their sexual life they adopt and maintain an elaborate pose: married women even more than unmarried, and it is inevitable that so continuous a frame of mind should have a physical counterpart. The real test would be for men to become retiring. The genuine woman would then appear on the surface. As things stand now the miscalculations that are rife between men and women in relation to sex and to each other are due to the fact that respectively they are looking to sex to yield two totally different things: a man expects from it a physical and mental satisfaction, but a woman expects sex to yield her a man entire. A, man seeks to win a woman's co-operation in the attainment of a satisfaction at least for himself, but if possible and by preference, for both. A woman looks to sex to give her power: to win for her a dominion external to herself. She endeavours, by the complete disciplining of sex-impulses in herself, to use the man's undisciplined impulses for his own subjugation. This difference is the real ground of war between the sexes, because both have expectations based on delusions as to each other's motives, and in the eventuality both feel defrauded. When for instance before marriage, a man with devoted humility, offers himself to a woman, and weights his plea to be taken with substantial gifts, she imagines it to be but the prelude of a total surrender. She imagines (we speak of those on the "plane" of the "temperamental") that he is offering himself as a possession which she has only to be good enough to take and mould to her liking. Hence the belief of women that they can "reform" men; hence the nasty jog to women's vanity which marriage gives, hence the cry of the soulful woman-realising that "love" is not strong enough to eliminate the original Adam in a man-for an "affinity," a "twin-soul" which is the search for that particular native bent in the tree in the direction she means her "affinity" to take; she has understood what it is which causes friction and disillusionment: the disillusionment of "love" put on trial. No man ever eats the dust, after marriage, to the extent that any woman whatsoever, imagines he will before. No man could completely satisfy in a woman the craving for dominion which the delusive humility of a man's courtship awakens. When a woman commits the error-from a womanly point of view-of hunting down her man instead of drawing him in by fascination, she awakens the same instinct for dominion in the man. It is the lust to devour, to destroy, quickened into being by the suggestion of its possibility. It explains the cruelty of "love": Wilde's "Each man kills the thing he loves" is not descriptively accurate. It should be "A man is tempted to kill the thing which shows that it loves him." It is, broadly speaking, on a like principle with that which leads the boy to break his watch to come at its insides. It is the savagery of the interest in growth and development.
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We appear to be getting a considerable distance away from the bases from which the above observations started: the physiological facts cited by our American correspondent, and the hot indignation against the lusts of men given utterance to, by Miss Pankhurst and Miss Smyth. We make immediate return to them however, in deductions which follow directly from the observations. The physiological details referred to doubtless are single instances taken from a large number of effects which a physician who IS a psychometrician might have indicated in advance of experience, as following inevitably upon a long continued emotional attitude. They are effects only, not causes, however, and can be left out of account. The emotional cause from which they spring is however a phenomenon to be studied by those who concern themselves with "Woman Movements," "Prostitution," and the like. Those who are satisfied with things as they are, need take no note of any of these things, but those who propose a revolution by compulsory reform would get forwarder with more caution if they took the trouble to find out of what they were haranguing. They need first to analyse the meaning of the smirk on the face of the consciously "pure woman." In the main, with benefits accruing slowly from individual to individual the rise to power of the protected pure woman represents the most successful swindle on record in history. "She," the type which never exists, by the way, first puts the bridle on herself (it is her virtue; the poor inherit the earth)- she stimulates desire in men to an exaggerated need; she holds out promises of satisfaction which she cannot, and does not intend to, supply; she accepts gifts and binds her victim before she bestows the goods; the business transaction effected she does as she likes and will make repudiation of claims into a virtue; whereupon the "prostitute" supplies the needs the pure have created; she pays the pure one's extravagant debts; the pure one thereupon kicks her in private and prays over her in public; from flirting in the drawing-room, she comes to haggle over a "reference" in the kitchen; she flares over the story of the Piccadilly flat in the Albert Hall and buttonholes old friends in the lobby of St. Stephen's to get their promise to vote for a Bill to flog the lust out of men. She is Irony's master piece. She has indeed a case to state, but as yet she lacks the courage to state it. She is an old seasoned cad, but even cads can put up a defence. At any rate, she is worth considering. Indeed, before the fight gets to that "finish" Miss Ethel Smyth speaks of, she will have been thoroughly overhauled, and we suggest that the women of the Woman Movement take stock of her points before they engage themselves too far in support of her interests.