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 labor in the new world of social conditions that is arising about us, as she has her function as child-bearer: a labor which, by her own showing, is arduous and dangerous, though she may love it as a soldier loves his battle field; 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 laboring 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 labor is still performed by women, from tea pickers and cocoa tenders in India and the islands, to the washerwomen, cooks, and drudging laboring 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 civilized 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 labor-worn hands, we physically toiled beside man, bearing up by the labor 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 labor 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, sacred child-bearerl 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 to-day the lofty theorist, who to-night stands before the drawing-room fire in spotless shirt-front and perfectly fitting clothes, and declaims upon the amplitude of woman's work in life as child-bearer, and the mighty value of that labor which exceeds all other, making it unnecessary for her to share man's grosser and lower toils: does he always remember his theory? When waking to-morrow 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? He does not 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!" Nor, 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 coal, does he send for her and thus apostrophize 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 muscle that should be reserved for higher duties? We, we 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 labor. The Mother, the Mother! How wonderful it sounds! Toil no more! Rest is for you; labor and drudgery for us!" Would he not rather assure her that, unless she labored 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 he objects to; it is the form and the amount of the reward. It is not the hand- laboring 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 woman's work is never done"--
it is not the haggard, work-worn 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 who 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 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 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 the ideal of the mother and child-bearer. That, in some other man's house, or perhaps his own, while he and the wife he keeps for his pleasure 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 labor, or the amount of labor, so much as the amount of reward that interferes with his ideal of the eternal womanly; he is as a rule contented that the women of the race should labor for him, whether as tea-pickers or washerwoman, 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 desire to enter.
When master and ass, drawing a heavy burden between them, should 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 caught the glimpse of trees waving, and there came 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 too 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 laboring womanhood cries out today to the man who would suggest she need not seek new fields of labor, that child-bearing is enough for her share in life's labor, "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 childbearing was persistent and incessant, regarded it hardly as a toil, but rather as the reward of labor; has our right hand lost its cunning and our heart its strength, that to-day, when human labor 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 to-day 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 labor in the fields, or weave by hand, it is our intention to enter all the new fields of labor, 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 labor has that woman performed, that she should have the privilege of bringing a man or woman child into the world?"
But, it may be objected, "What if the fe- male half of humanity, though able, in addi- tion to the exercise of its reproductive func- tions, to bear its share in the new fields of social labor as it did in the old, be yet in certain directions a less productive laborer than the male? What if, in the main, the result of the labor of the two halves should not be found to be exactly equal?" To this it ma 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 n many directions a tendency to possess gifts 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 pesent state of our knowledge, this is a point on which no sane person would dogmatize; but it is possible! It may, on the other hand, be that, taken in the bulk, when all the branches of productive labor be considered, the value of the labor 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 labor 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, characterizes the female as distinguished from the male of the human species, go mental qualities which will peculiarly fit her for the labor of the future. It may be that her lesser possession of the muscular and osseous strength, which were the elements of primary importance to humanity 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 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 labors in the future!
As with individuals and races, so also with sexes, changed social conditions may render exactly those subtle 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 social value or consideration than the meanest sailor who can reef a sail or guide a wheel; and, if we were to be reduced again suddenly to a state of nature, a company of highly civilized 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 be 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 civilized state earns her hundreds, nor 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, to-day, by the slow turning of the wheel of life, come uppermost. The Egyptian taskmaster 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 to-day 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 pariamsm, 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 skillfully constructed sling is coming near and yet nearer.
The qualities which give an animal, a race, 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 find that, so far from those qualities which, in an earlier condition, lessened her social value and power of labor, continuing to do so, they will increase it. That the delicacy of hand, lightness of structure, which were fatal when the dominant labor of life was to hurl a battle-axe or move a weight, may be no restraint but even an assistance in the intellectual and more delicate mechanical fields of labor, 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 resent; but, if woman's long years of servitude and physical subjection, and her ex- perience 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 labor of the human race will be not mainly destructive but conservative, in which the building up and consolidating 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 co-exist is best fitted to excel in certain human labors in this or that direction, 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 labor 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 marvelous creatures we 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 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 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 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 labor 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 labor fields of the future as in the largely physical fields of the past? What if, in spite of all her effort and sacrifice to attain this end, exactly now when the labor of civilized societies becomes mental rather than mechanical, woman be found wanting?"
In Swiss valleys to-day 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 the 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 labor 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 developments; 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 laboring 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 shall 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 labor 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 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. The medieval 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. The wife of the city accountant probably expends to-day more reason, imagination, forethought, and memory on the management of her small household, than he in his simpler, monotonous arithmetical toil. 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.
As for those highly specialized intellectual occupations, in which long and uninterrupted training tending to one point is necessary, such as the liberal professions and arts, 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, 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 labor; 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 been able freely and fully to express her own individuality, and though selected at random by fate from the mass of women, by the accident of birth or marriage, she has shown in a large percentage of cases that the female has the power to command, organize, and succeed in one of the most exacting and complex of human employments, the government of nations. From the days of Amalasontha to Isabella of Spain, Elizabeth of England, and Catherine of Russia, women have not failed to grasp the large impersonal aspects of life, and successfully and powerfully to control them, when placed in a 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 labor is no more to-day an open matter for debate, than the number of modern women who, as senior wranglers, doctors, etc., 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 labor.
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 labors 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-yard 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, with its leg chained close to the log, preened its wings. 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 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 labor, and in effect it is often said - "What 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 labors 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 labors of the future as in the more mechanical labors 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 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 labors 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 labors, or complex and interesting manual labor, 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 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 labor 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 parasitism, with all its attendant evils, rather than face the more irreparable loss which her development and the exercise of her powers 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 sex 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 inversion 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 labor.
It must be at once frankly admitted that, were there the smallest danger in this direction, the sooner woman laid aside all endeavor 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 ameboid globule to ameboid globule, on through the endless progressive forms of life; till in monogamous birds it expresses itself in song and complex courtship and 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 esthetic and intellectual but not less imperative form, couching itself in the songs of the poet and the deathless fidelity of fully developed man and woman to each other, we find it not only everywhere forming the 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 a 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 affection of men and women linked together for life, it plays still to-day on earth the part it played when hoary monsters plowed 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 an individual existence on earth: - not only does sexual attraction appear ineradicable, but it is ridiculous to suppose that that attraction of sex towards sex, which, with hunger and thirst, lie, as the triune instinets, at the base of animal life, should ever be ex- terminable or in any way modifiable by the comparatively superficial changes resulting from the performance of this or that form of labor, or the little more or less of knowledge in one direction or another.
That the female who runs 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 negate it. The eager hunt for heiresses, in all ages and social conditions, makes 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 to-day certainly does, find more suitors than had she remained a governess or cook, laboring as hard, earning thirty pounds.
While if the statement that the female entering on new fields of labor 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 negate its truth. The study of all races in all ages proves that the greater the freedom of woman, the higher the sexual value put upon her by the males of that society. The three squaws who walk behind the Indian, whom he has captured in battle or bought for a few axes or lengths of tobacco, and over whom be exercises the 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 thousands of modern European males set upon the one comparatively free woman, whom they 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 any 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 labor, 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 no ground for the assumption that increased intelligence and intellectual power diminish 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 and 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 highly intellectual gifts has been yet closer. The life of a Sophia Kovalevsky, a George Eliot, an Elizabeth Browning has 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 feebler 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 increase of culture and intelligence, into the often extremely devoted and self-sacrificing male progenitor of civilized 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 newborn offspring, the closeness of the relation between mother and child tends rapidly to shrink as time passes, so that by the time, of adolescence 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 culture 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 labors through life, the relation of St. Augustine to his mother, and 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 not 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 labor, 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 relatiom 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 labor performed by the woman of the race, is as grotesque in its impossibility as the suggestion that the replacing 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 labor? Where there is smoke there must also be fire." To which it may 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 labor, 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 labor, 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! CONTINUED...
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Proceed to Part II of Chapter 6.