One of the male feminists of this radical pre-War period was an English writer by the name of W.L. George. He wrote a tract called Feminist Intentions which I want to look at. George began his piece as follows:
The Feminist propaganda...rests upon a revolutionary biological principle. Substantially, the Feminists argue that there are no men and that there are no women; there are only sexual majorities. To put the matter less obscurely, the Feminists base themselves on Weininger's theory, according to which the male principle may be found in woman, and the female principle in man. It follows that they recognize no masculine or feminine "spheres", and that they propose to identify absolutely the conditions of the sexes.
George recognises that the feminist programme is a revolutionary one in that it aims to overturn the principle of two distinct sexes, male and female. Sex is to be made not to matter, in keeping with the liberal principle that what is predetermined is an impediment to individual autonomy.
George's second paragraph is also worth reading:
Now there are two kinds of people who labor under illusions as regards the Feminist movement, its opponents and its supporters: both sides tend to limit the area of its influence; in few cases does either realize the movement as revolutionary. The methods are to have revolutionary results, are destined to be revolutionary; as a convinced but cautious Feminist, I do not think it honest or advisable to conceal this fact. I have myself been charged by a very well-known English author (whose name I may not give, as the charge was contained in a private letter) with having "let the cat out of the bag" in my little book, Woman and To-morrow. Well, I do not think it right that the cat should be kept in the bag. Feminists should not want to triumph by fraud. As promoters of a sex war, they should not hesitate to declare it, and I have little sympathy with the pretenses of those who contend that one may alter everything while leaving everything unaltered.
That last sentence is a good insight. Are there not many Westerners who sign on to a radical liberalism without recognising what they are bringing down in the process?
And George is not entirely faultless here either. He expected that feminism would "strengthen the race"; and that it would improve the character of both men and women. I wonder what he would say if he could travel forward in time and witness ladette behaviour, or the thugging up of men, or the declining fortunes of the Western family and the Western peoples:
Therein lies the mental revolution: while the Suffragists are content to attain immediate ends, the Feminists are aiming at ultimate ends. They contend that it is unhealthy for the race that man should not recognize woman as his equal; that this makes him intolerant, brutal, selfish, and sentimentally insincere. They believe likewise that the race suffers because women do not look upon men as their peers; that this makes them servile, untruthful, deceitful, narrow, and in every sense inferior.
Similarly, George thought that if traditional marriage were abolished that it would liberate men and women to have unions based on love alone - he didn't foresee the coarsening of relationships and the instability of family life that would result:
Their grievances against the home...are closely connected with the marriage question, for they believe that the desire of man to have a housekeeper, of woman to have a protector, deeply influence the complexion of unions which they would base exclusively upon love, and it follows that they do not accept as effective marriage any union where the attitudes of love do not exist.
Next comes an argument that time has proven to be utterly wrong. George says that the feminists of his time wanted women to be economically independent, in part, because it would then allow women to choose the best men as mates and that this would have a eugenic effect - which would then benefit the race:
Under Feminist rule, women will be able to select, because they will be able to sweep out of their minds the monetary consideration; therefore they will love better, and unless they love, they will not marry at all. It is therefore probable that they will raise the standard of masculine attractiveness by demanding physical and mental beauty in those whom they choose; that they will apply personal eugenics.
The men whom they do not choose will find themselves in exactly the same position as the old maids of modern times: that is to say, these men, if they are unwed, will be unwed because they have chosen to remain so, or because they were not sought in marriage. The eugenic characteristic appears, in that women will no longer consent to accept as husbands the old, the vicious, the unpleasant. They will tend to choose the finest of the species, and those likely to improve the race. As the Feminist revolution implies a social revolution, notably "proper work for proper pay", it follows that marriage will be easy, and that those women who wish to mate will not be compelled to wait indefinitely for the consummation of their loves. Incidentally, also, the Feminists point out that their proposals hold forth to men a far greater chance of happiness than they have had hitherto, for they will be sure that the women who select them do so because they love them, and not because they need to be supported.
Something like the opposite has happened. The emphasis on being independent and career focused has led many upper class women to delay family formation and then either to settle in a panic or else fail to reproduce; nor does it seem to be true that when women no longer need men to provide for them that they then select men of mental and physical beauty.
George next tells us that feminists want to loosen the marriage tie. However, they want the man to continue to pay even if the woman chooses to divorce as:
The rebels must accept situations such as the financial responsibility of man, while they struggle to make woman financially independent of man.
George then starts to dream of a utopian future:
Personally, I am inclined to believe that the ultimate aim of Feminism with regard to marriage is the practical suppression of marriage and the institution of free alliance. It may be that thus only can woman develop her own personality, but society itself must so greatly alter, do so very much more than equalize wages and provide work for all, that these ultimate ends seem very distant...
....in common with many Feminists I incline to place a good deal of reliance on the ennobling of the nature of the male.
George is claiming that all the sacrifices men make for women as husbands and fathers has the ultimate effect of suppressing a woman's personality. So why would a man make such sacrifices if the effect is a negative one?
And can it really be said that a feminist sexual revolution has ennobled the nature of the male? It's more likely that it is we who look back to George's era and notice a stronger culture of masculine nobility that what we have today.
George also noticed that some feminist women of his time wanted to lay claim to children as theirs alone, with the father having no rights:
One feature manifests itself, and that is a change of attitude in woman with regard to the child. Indications in modern novels and modern conversation are not wanting to show that a type of woman is arising who believes in a new kind of matriarchate, that is to say, in a state of society where man will not figure in the life of woman except as the father of her child. Two cases have come to my knowledge where English women have been prepared to contract alliances with men with whom they did not intend to pass their lives,--this because they desired a child. They consider that the child is the expression of the feminine personality, while after the child's birth, the husband becomes a mere excrescence. They believe that the "Wife" should die in childbirth, and the "Mother" rise from her ashes. There is nothing utopian about this point of view, if we agree that Feminists can so rearrange society as to provide every woman with an independent living...
George did not have a high opinion of the New Woman - the radical feminist women of his own time:
The "New Woman", as we know her to-day, a woman who is not so new as the woman who will be born of her, is a very unpleasant product; armed with a little knowledge, she tends to be dogmatic in her views and offensive in argument. She tends to hate men, and to look upon Feminism as a revenge; she adopts mannish ways, tends to shout, to contradict, to flout principles because they are principles; also she affects a contempt for marriage which is the natural result of her hatred of man.
But, like most revolutionaries, he thought this was a necessary transitory stage and that new social conditions would then create a more ideal type of woman. In his words:
The New Woman is like a freshly painted railing: whoever touches it will stain his hands, but the railing will dry in time.
George then floats another idea, which is that women should wear a uniform:
One tentative suggestion is being made, and that is a uniform for women.
He seems to have associated an interest in appearance with sexually distinct feminine women - something which contradicted the idea of making the sexes the same. Hence a uniform for women.
Finally, George finishes with this:
Thus and thus only, if man will readjust his views, expel vir and enthrone homo, can woman cease to appear before him as a rival and a foe, realize herself in her natural and predestined role, that of partner and mate.
That strikes a false note. For a man to expel vir (manliness) and enthrone homo (humanliness) is not a readjustment of his views - it is overthrowing his own sex and his distinct identity as a man. Here again is the radical insistence on abolishing sex distinctions.
And George "readjusts" the truth by claiming that women traditionally appeared to men as rivals and foes, and only by getting with the feminist programme can women finally become partners and mates. The traditional understanding was not that men and women were foes but that they had interdependent and complementary roles; it is feminism which has institutionalised the idea that men and women are competing for power in the cause of maximising an individualistic autonomy.
One thing I hope this post has demonstrated conclusively is that feminism did not begin with Germaine Greer, nor even with Simone de Beauvoir. It existed in a radical form long before these women arrived on the scene. And the aim has been much the same, namely to make sex distinctions not matter; to maximise female independence and autonomy; and to promote relationships on female terms.
The sad thing is that George believed his feminist programme would strengthen the race, ennoble men and women, and create a more loving culture of relationships. In this he has been proved disastrously wrong.