Typos p. 168: shear [= sheer]; p. 168: mise-en-scene [= mise en scène]; p. 169: Le Temps Retrouve Voll. [= Le Temps Retrouvé, Vol.]; p. 169: seemd [= seemed]; p. 169: revloting [= revolting]; p. 169: Pavillion [= Pavilion]; p. 169: unconditonal [= unconditional]
Lady into woman *
Anthony M. Ludovici
The International Journal of Sexology 8, 195455, pp. 168170
- p. 168 -
Since Britain has "become a land in which government was elected by a preponderance of female voters, and women's values achieved concrete form through the realisation of the Welfare State," everything is for the best. The ingenuousness, moreover, with which Miss Brittain still contrives to be indignant at the idea that "Woman's Place is the Home", demonstrates conclusively her inability to rise above an emotional attitude to the Feminist Movement and to regard objectively the changes it has wrought. For now that we are no longer ashamed of facing the realities of sex and know how essential for healthy woman's psycho-physical wellbeing is the normal functioning of her elaborate reproductive organs; now, above all. that the least perspicacious can, see that the Home is the optimal mise-en-scene for securing, promoting and sheltering the results of this normal functioning, it is not only old-fashioned silliness, but shear muddle-headedness any longer to deny that Woman's Place is the Home.
Miss Brittain speaks with evident disparagement of the sensible folk who now hold this view. "But most men," she says, "continue to believe that, faced with the choice, a woman would always prefer marriage to a career." This means that most men think more of women's intelligence than Miss Brittain does. For, every intelligent girl who enjoys good health and is normally constituted, should know by now that the best way of preserving these advantages and, what is more, her sanity and freedom from neuroses, is precisely to "prefer marriage to a career."
It would take too long to point to all the shallow and superficial arguments and statements in this book. I must confine myself to a selection of the most glaring.
For instance, take the claim that the English world has improved since women's values have "achieved concrete form". Unfortunately, this achievement had occurred long before women had been given the Vote. Owing to the long-established prevalence of women's values in our society, England had for decades already concentrated her whole attention, in both charity and humanitarianism unilaterally on the sick, the physiologically botched and hopeless, long before Feminism triumphed. And the result has been that the Welfare and succour of the steadily diminishing few, who are healthy and sound and can, in their own persons, give some promise of a desirable future for English humanity, have been so grossly neglected that even to mention in any public gathering to-day the need of protecting and multiplying the minority whose breath is not actually foul, only provokes a mild titter.
As Professor D. W. Harding, in a recent excellent book, so well says: "We are struck with the vast amount of psychological knowledge advice, and trained personnel that are available for aiding the mentally or physically handicapped child compared with the meagreness of the interest taken in the exceptionally able. For one thing, there is no doubt that in our culture most people's sentiments are organized in a way that makes it easier to lavish attention on the unfortunate than to help the gifted to make the most of themselves. . . . Our culture gives more encouragement to the effort towards helping the unfortunate." (Social Psychology and Individual Values, 1953, Chap. XIII).
But even stated as moderately as this, such a protest against the state of affairs resulting from the influence of women's values, cannot hope to meet with any understanding from women. They simply cannot follow any
* Vera Brittain. Lady into woman, London: Andrew Dakers, 1953. pp. 251, price 15 Sh.
Take again Miss Brittain's long dissertation on women and war. In Woman and Labour, p. 170, Olive Schreiner says, "On that day, when the woman takes her place beside the man in the governance and arrangement of external affairs of the race, will also be the day that heralds the death of war as a means of arranging human differences."
Nothing could be more inaccurate than this statement of the South African androphobe, and yet Miss Brittain, in 1953, 42 years after it was written, quotes it with obvious approval.
Whether it was their deep though secret envy of the male, which as Kistermaecker, Proudhon and others, including Ferdinand Lundberg and Dr. Marynia F. Farnham declare, characterizes the Feminist Movement and inevitably leads to hatred; or whether it was, as Fritz Wittels hints, the attractions war offers to women by instantly loosening constraints and establishing a state of polyandry in troop-infested areas, and generally setting defiance to moral codes, some thinkers are undecided. But, in any case, the evidence that women love war is overwhelming, and there is a strong body of opinion that this is not merely because it forces on the envied sex the role of sacrificial animals, but also because it gives women's secret hatred of the male a patriotic disguise, under which they can in a manner socially acceptable drive men to the slaughter.
During World War I, I was frequently struck, when on leave, with the offensive spectacle of women, young and old, who could sit eating hearty breakfasts while their newspapers, folded at the Roll of Honour and propped against the milk-jug, enabled them between their mouthfuls calmly to inform the company of the tragic fate of some relative, friend, or acquaintance at the Front.
Proust was struck by the same spectacle (Le Temps Retrouve Voll. I p. 109). There was, moreover, a mood of exhilaration and satisfaction among the women one saw, which, when one was fresh from the lethal misery of the trenches, was frankly blood-curdling. The women and girls who handed white feathers to young men whom they thought should be out in that lethal misery, were also self-revelatory.
R. N. Bradley, always psychologically shrewd, remarks of woman's positive attitude to war; "She likes to see her boy in Khaki, and presents white feathers to those who are not. There is undoubtedly a deep-rooted unconscious antagonism between the sexes and I have often wondered whether this was an instance of it." (Duality, 1923, Chap. VIII, 2). John Cooper Powys observed the same phenomenon and, in discussing women's attitude to war, speaks of "their ambiguous feminine emotions winch seemd to delight in sending off handsome young men to the battlefield." (Autobiography, Chap. II).
No one who witnessed the revloting weekly gatherings of young and old females, convened by Christabel Pankhurst in the Pavillion, Piccadilly, during the latter years of World War I, can doubt Powys's words. For, despite the heavy death-roll and the cruel hardships of trench life, relieved only when an advance across No-Man's Land often ended one's misery, it was always the unanimous vote of these Pavillion gatherings that the War should go on "until the last young man."
Coupled with this tell-tale "patriotism", was the suspicious fortitude with which English wives, mothers, sisters and sweethearts, particularly of the Middle Classes, survived losses which romantic fiction is wont to depict as crushing to the women concerned. A further strange feature of both World Wars I and II, was the ferocious eagerness with which Middle Class women particularly, insisted on a war to the bitter end. In the second war, at the time when neither our own nor the enemy's cities and fairest monuments had yet been bombarded from the air, they would grow livid with fury at any hint of a prompt withdrawal of the Democracies from the struggle, in order to leave the two major totalitarian States to fight each other to exhaustion and a finish. Yet both Hanson W. Baldwin and Sven Hedin (Great Mistakes of the War, 1950, Chap. I, and German Diary, 1951, p. 136. respectively) say that the democracies would now be far better off, more powerful and more peacefully settled if this had in fact been done.
But behind the disastrous policy which both Baldwin and Hedin condemn, there stood a solid phalanx of English Middle class women who insisted on war to the bitter end "Unconditional Surrender", a typically female conception of the proper way to end a conflict. (Both Captain Liddell Hart and Captain Russell Grenfell condemned the policy of unconditonal surrender.)
In the months preceding World War I, I noticed everywhere that it was the women who rabidly insisted on fighting Hitler, and
I cannot quote all those who have reached this conclusion; but, truth to tell, there is massive evidence to show that the Feminist legend that women's advent to political power would mean eternal peace is, like most Feminist claims, entirely unfounded. There are some data which indicate that the more passionate women of Southern Europe and Russia not only hate war because it threatens their husbands, sons and sweethearts, but also do their utmost to prevent their men from being involved in it, and I have given some of these facts in this Journal (issue of Feb. 1950). But this is certainly not true of English Middle Class women.
Passing over such ridiculous statements as that Virginia Woolf was "the greatest British novelist of the period between the wars" (she certainly wrote the silliest novel of that period, Orlando), what are we to say to Miss Brittain's inaccurate remark that "In Britain and similar countries young people of every type live in a safer and more rational world than that of our Victorian forbears"?
The implication, of course, is that this is since women's values achieved concrete form. But it is not a fact. Since Feminist influence led to the most reckless freedom for young women and girls and gravely disquieting indiscipline in all classes, we have had an alarming increase due to crimes of violence and lust. Although the total incidence of crime is tending to fall, owing to the abolition of various regulations relating to food etc., crimes of violence are tending to rise. Even quite recently this has been marked. Thus offences against the person were in,
Sexual offences also rose as follows:
Whilst acts of sexual violence against females are as follows:
Cases of actual rape have also increased. Whereas in pre-war days the average was 82 per annum, in 1953 there were 295.
But Miss Brittain's book is so full of superficial and dubious statements, calculated to give the impression that, since women's advent to political power, we are witnessing the Augustan Age of English history, that the ill-informed reader might well be led to infer that her paean in favour of Feminism is justified.
I have only taken the trouble to enter at length into a discussion of this poor book because I think it important to dispel some of the major illusions which it may help to spread about Women's Emancipation. But I admit that Lady into Woman is nevertheless a remarkable production. For it is remarkable that in spite of all the glaring features of national deterioration which now may be appreciated even by the blind, it should still be possible sincerely and ardently to hold and exalt all the old-fashioned ideas and hopes which animated the first romantic advocates of so-called "Women's Freedom."