Next Chapter

- p. 135 -
Chapter V
(5)   The Influence of Urban Civilisation in Promoting Feminism.

I have already shown how exorbitant urbanisation in all Anglo-Saxon countries has reduced male stamina, virility and general capacity, and has thus levelled the sexes and made man less able properly to adapt woman. I have also shown how, by creating thousands of epicene tasks, it has invited women to take up almost every kind of town employment, and have pointed out that, far from denoting an ascent of women, this means only a decline in the abilities of men.
        What I have not so far discussed, however, is the indirect effect of urban life on woman's sexual functions, through:—
        (1) The uselessness of children in towns so that, after one or two have sufficed to prove to all and sundry that a couple is sexually potent, and vanity in this matter is satisfied, further children have no raison d'être. All are mere burdens, even the first and often only child. But at least the latter has safeguarded its parents' vanity by giving neighbours documentary proof of its progenitors' sexual potency. Here, the utility of town children, except among exceptionally philoprogenitive people, actually ceases; for, except in unusually enlightened circles, there is no appreciation of the normal female's psycho-physical need to have more than one or two pregnancies for health and well-being.

- p. 136 -
        (2) The growing difficulty of housing large families in towns. With the turn of the century, landlords both of houses and flats, appear to have become increasingly aware of the damage and nuisance created by children in towns, where their leisure, being quite useless and usually associated with a complete lack of discipline, serves only to make them a pest. Hence the difficulty of finding accommodation for large families, and the tendency everywhere in towns to limit the family at most to three or two, if possible to one.
        (3) The stampede after a respectable or even lavish display of prosperity among all town-dwellers, resulting in an accumulation of possessions which, because they are expensive, become badges of pecuniary prestige for which families are curtailed. The passion for conspicuous spending in our culture ruled by the yardstick of Wealth, thus comes into conflict with the normal functioning of the female.
        (4) The general loss of a realistic view of life, through artificial, replacing natural, conditions. Thus the most elementary facts of biology, health, food production and normal functioning, are forgotten or lost sight of. Food becomes a "shop" product, and human life merely a matter of smart appearance and good employment. The elementary conditions of good selection in mating are so far unknown that unessentials, if pleasing, are allowed to weigh against essentials, even if these happen to be faulty.
        The result of these four indirect effects of town life is so to divert attention from the basic animal needs of man that in urban communities it is difficult to convince ordinary people that they belong to the animal kingdom at all. Except in the privacy of the conjugal

- p. 137 -
alcove, they are merely figures displaying faces and certain fashions in clothes. No thought is given to much beyond that.
        In such an atmosphere the alternative of possessing a small car, or piano, or wireless set, or else of adding to the small family, is never decided on other grounds than comfort, display or the desire for more immediate "happiness." To suggest a longer view comprising the ultimate health of the wife and a better environment for the family in the form of children, would seem all the more fantastic, seeing that in towns children are utterly useless, and, through the dominance of the urban outlook in modern England, have been made almost useless even in rural areas.
        Thus, in towns, the whole ground is prepared for the Feminist programme, even in its most extreme form — the legalisation of abortion. Women regard it not only as self-evident and almost too obvious to be stated, but also eagerly desire its prompt realisation. As no one, except myself, has ever given them a realistic view of their natures, or reminded them that they have needs and instincts incompatible with the Feminist programme, they find in every syllable uttered by the Feminist agitator, the very wisdom they have been blindly groping after. Feminism, in fact, dots the Is and crosses the Ts of their traditional artificiality so accurately that they regard as insane anyone who questions its conclusions.
        As an instance of this, I was never so much astonished as on an evening in April, 1939, when, in opposing an ardent Feminist in a debate on women's rights and the Modern Woman's ideals, after pointing to the harmfulness to women of the

- p. 138 -
curtailment of families, 1 I was met with cries from the audience of townswomen of "Sit down! Sit down! We don't want any of those Nazi views in this country!" 2
        But, when the limited, wholly artificial and unenlightened outlook of the English urban female is thoroughly grasped, can such an outburst appear strange or unnatural?
        To them, everything the ardent Feminist had said was the quintessence of wisdom. What I said, because it was realistic and more profound, sounded monstrously unreal and far-fetched.
        Thus, to advocate, as I had been advocating ever since 1923, a deep concern about the normal woman's psycho-physical need of a full sexual life and the full employment of her genital apparatus, was to be guilty of Nazi propaganda — the Nazis having been heard of only since 1933!
        Ignorance and stupidity could hardly combine with more disastrous results. But the incident proves my point about the vast and dangerous distance urban women have travelled from a realistic view of life and especially of themselves. Incidentally too it sheds a light on the "democratic" and "free" people of England. "Free" certainly to exert their ignorance and stupidity in going wrong, and "democratic" to the extent that their freedom to go wrong may be exploited by demagogues.
        I did not, however, need this experience to convince

        1 I had made a fairly long speech based on the data collected in my FUTURE OF WOMAN, and THE TRUTH ABOUT CHILDBIRTH.
        2 Quite naïvely the women who raised this clamour paid an unintended tribute to the Nazis. For, if the views I expressed that night really are exclusively Nazi, it would seem that, here at least, they had the monopoly of wisdom.

- p. 139 -
me of the lamentable condition of urban women in this matter; for anyone who, like myself, knows the literature of Feminism and Birth Control propaganda, with all its glaring non sequiturs, false assumptions, illogicalities and appeals to heated emotions, could not hold a very high opinion of those who can be convinced by it.
        In an urban population, however, any racket is a feasible undertaking, and no absurdity or incredibility can be too great to prevent its being accepted by the average town crowd, if only it be propounded with enough "humour," enough emphasis, and enough humbug.
        In regard, however, to the actual development of urbanism and its exorbitant growth, the influence of women upon their will-less and humorous menfolk should not be underrated.
        It is a fact little recognised by sociologists, but one which I noted as long ago as 1924 (at least in regard to dairy work) 1 that women in the country — the wives, sisters and daughters of farmers, small-holders and cottagers — lead very much busier lives than do their sisters of the towns and cities. A farmer's, like a smallholder's wife, may be said to be always busy. If it is not the fowls, then it is the dairy, the kitchen, the children, and sometimes even the calves, goats, and pigs. The wife of the bank or insurance clerk, and the wife of the City man, has in comparison a life of almost complete leisure. She does not, moreover, have to tend lamps and candles, fetch water from the pump or the pond, find and chop her own fire-wood, etc.,

        1 See my novel, THE TAMING OF DON JUAN (Hutchinson, London).

- p. 140 -
whilst she also has in plenty the shops she loves, her fellow creatures, and entertainment of all kinds.
        There can be little doubt, therefore, that wherever, as in Anglo-Saxon countries, the women begin to get a firm hold of the guiding reins of civilisation, there will immediately follow a strong leaning towards town life; and behind the frantic, not to say, insane, multiplication of cities and towns in England, and particularly behind the migration of the rural population to the urban districts during the last hundred years, a wise posterity will ultimately appreciate that feminine influence was not lacking.
        Mr. Fred D. Smith or Miss Barbara Wilcox evidently seems inclined to support my view in this matter; for in a book published by them four years ago, one of them says: "I am inclined to think that women have sought the town more than men." 1
        Thus it seems probable that, whilst urban conditions may be said to favour Feminism, the influence of women in a culture supported by feeble men may be said to favour urbanism.
        I say above that "through the dominance of the urban outlook in modern England children have been made almost useless even in rural areas."
        By this I mean that, in the old economy of the countryside, children were an asset. The more a man had, the wealthier he could become, because anything

        1 See LIVING IN THE COUNTRY (London, 1940, p. 15). See also Alva Myrdal's NATION AND FAMILY (London, 1945, p. 31). "It is certain that men are more rural and women more urban."
        Confirmation of this point of view is forthcoming from the Countess of Keranflech-Kernezne's LA FEMME DE LA CAMPAGNE (Paris, 1933), where, on p. 13, she speaks of woman making man desert the country; on p. 24, she identifies the problem of rural exodus with the feminine problem, and, on the same page, declares, "D'un bout à l'autre de l'Europe la jeune fille se détache de la terre."

- p. 141 -
in the nature of complete self-sufficiency is out of the question for the family of the small farmer if he has to meet a wage-bill every week. Where there are children, however, whether girls or boys, they can so soon be employed usefully in agricultural work, and their training to such work is so early perfected, that outside labour can be dispensed with often before they reach late adolescence, and a self-contained unit, working for its own sustenance, and independent of the outside world, becomes a possibility much more nearly realisable than when it is necessary to have recourse to paid labour. True, in our modern world of tractors, taxes, ready-made clothes, boots, rates, coal, etc., certain outgoings in cash are always necessary, no matter how small the farm. But whereas such cash outgoings are limited, in the case of the farming family, to those products, goods and services which cannot be home-provided; in the case of the farmer without children, they extend to labour about the farm which normally should be performed by the farmer's or small-holder's children. 1
        But even this ideal state of affairs is no longer possible to-day because, owing to the influence of the town outlook on all legislation — an influence which, as I say above, has made children in rural districts almost as superfluous to their parents (except as a means of gratifying parental vanity) as they are in the towns, the small farmer, who might wish to form with his family a self-contained unit, living as independently as possible of the outside world, cannot now achieve his object. For, during the whole of their

        1 For an excellent description of the ideal family farm, though it sheds little light on the forces which make it impracticable today, see Adrian Bell's THE FAMILY FARM, in ENGLAND AND THE FARMER (London, 1941, Chapter IV).

- p. 142 -
post-infant years and their early adolescence, the children who might help him to be self-supporting are kept at school, and are really only free to help him when they are beyond school age. Meanwhile they are taught nothing that can possibly promote their usefulness to him in later years but are, on the contrary, influenced by all they learn to incline more to urban than to rural life.
        In this sense, the Elementary Education Acts of 1870 and later were actually misunderstood by the rural population. The education they offered may well have been regarded by the urban sections of the country as "free"; but it was certainly not free for the country men; and for them to suppose, as they have long supposed, that their children were educated "free" by the nation, was a piece of purblind folly.
        Truth to tell, they paid heavily for the so-called "free" education of their children under the Elementary Education Acts passed in the last decades of the 19th century. Their cash outgoings increased to the extent to which outsiders had to be recruited for work on their farms and small-holdings, and they had to make good, either in time spent or else in labour substitutes, the delay caused in their children's agricultural training. Moreover the urban bias given to their children's minds and characters by an education bearing no relation to the occupations and interests of the rural population, often alienated their children from farm life.
        Thus, while the urbanite might possibly congratulate himself on the free-gift of education for his children presented to him by a generous and paternal Government, the countryman only had to dive more deeply into his pocket for this alleged benefaction, and

- p. 143 -
it drove the ideal of a self-contained, self-supporting unit ever further and further away.
        In this sense urban conditions, leading to the undesirability of children, may be said to have spread to rural areas through no fault of the countryman himself, though whether now that these conditions have been firmly established, rural wives are sufficiently foolish to imagine that the changes which have made children cease to be wholly assets are such as to have redounded to women's advantage, is a question which I fear it is impossible to answer except in the affirmative.
        The rural woman has now, unfortunately, very much the same outlook, as regards offspring, as her urban sister. And, since the appeal of such Feminist doctrines as those of Birth Control and Family Limitation are no longer resisted by the countryman himself, because rural children have been rendered useless and superfluous elements in the home, the spread of the urban outlook to the countryside is now playing as much into the hands of Feminism in our rural as in our urban population.



Next Chapter