1) THE DIVISION OF SEX ROLES                                                                     

        The Greek historian Herodotus observed in the 5th century BC that in Egypt the roles of men and women were different from what they were in Greece. For instance women attend markets and are employed in trade, while men stay at home and do the weaving. Men carry loads on their heads, women on their shoulders, women pass water standing up, men sitting down. He commented that the Egyptian customs reversed the ordinary practices of mankind. 1 This passage, besides its curiosity value, suggests two things: that gender roles have varied from one culture to another, but that gender roles have always existed. It is one of the first things that anthropologists record in the cultures they are studying to what extent and in what ways the roles of men and women differ. That each sex has its own social function, activities and customs seems to be one of the universal characteristics of human societies. It was probably the earliest division of labour.  

Difference of role does not necessarily imply the subordination of one sex to the other. Customs are the gradual creations of entire peoples and both sexes generally play a part in their transmission. Yet this subordination appears to have been frequently assumed. One sex has often been considered the ruling sex, and usually (in those societies most familiar to us) it has been the male. The Roman historian Tacitus, in his essay Germania, one of the earliest ethnological studies of one people by another, comments about the most northerly of the Germanic tribes:

Bordering on the Suiones are the nations of the Sitones. They resemble them in all respects but one woman is the ruling sex. That is the measure of their decline, I will not say below freedom, but even below decent slavery. 2

The Roman writers witty disdain for the idea of women being the ruling sex may reflect the extent of male dominance in Roman society (or perhaps the worry he felt that it was on the wane), but elsewhere Tacitus praises the Germans for the greater equality between the sexes in their culture:  They believe that there resides in women an element of holiness and a gift of prophecy, and they do not scorn to ask their advice, or lightly disregard their replies. He admires the Germans exemplary monogamy and fidelity in marriage, the fact that girls marry only at maturity when they are as strong and vigorous as the men, and comments on the practical gifts of weapons, horses and oxen that the bridal couple exchange: the woman must not think that she is excluded from aspirations to manly virtues or exempt from the hazards of warfare.. she enters her husbands home to be the partner of his toils and perils. 3

It is Tacitus habit to praise the Germans whenever he wants to disparage the Romans. Like later primitivists from Montaigne or Rousseau to Claude Lévi-Strauss he uses the virtues of a less sophisticated culture as a stick to beat his own decadent civilization. We have here the paradox that Tacitus admires the Germans for apparently giving higher status to women than the Romans do, but at the same time he scoffs at the notion of women actually ruling. This has remained one of the curious paradoxes of Western culture ever since. Europeans often saw the greater freedom and equality they accorded women as proof of their moral superiority over the cultures of Asia and Africa. But like all other major cultures, they still resisted, until the last hundred years, giving women any sort of public power, in the form of participation in politics or in the higher professions. Women in the West were highly respected, but separate roles and spheres were maintained, and the womans sphere was strictly circumscribed. It is this paradox which has caused incomprehension and indignation in an age which has redefined equality to mean having exactly the same rights and duties, and has made a cult of the freedom to be and do whatever one chooses. Confinement within a separate and limited role can only appear to us to be a form of oppression. The question is: to what extent would it have been seen that way by people of other ages? And to what extent is oppression a subjective state of mind, rather than an objective state of being?

One may note in passing that the extreme northerly country referred to by Tacitus as ruled by women was, in so far as one can follow his obscure geography, very probably a Scandinavian one, possibly part of Sweden which today has a parliament of 44 per cent women, the highest proportion on earth.





The most obvious reason for the separate roles of men and women in all societies has been the function of motherhood, by which humanity survives into the future. In most ages until the twentieth century, infant and child mortality was so high that women often spent  well over a third of their average 40 to 50 year life-span either pregnant or breast-feeding, merely to ensure the survival of the race. The biological need to breast-feed babies (which was often prolonged for a couple of years, and in many societies meant constant carrying of the baby) has in all cultures we know about given women the primary role in child-rearing. (While some feminists reject this female primacy in child-raising as the mere cultural construct of wicked patriarchy, this seldom stops them asserting it as natural when it comes to giving women automatic custody of children after divorce.) It is this primary role of women in child-care that seems to explain why in most primitive cultures women do not participate in those activities in which pregnancy or carrying a baby would be a serious handicap. While this child-care role can be combined with the task of gathering food in hunter-gatherer societies (though their women probably spaced their children to minimize the encumbrance), it is not usually compatible with hunting: the presence of small children on the hunt would be something of a hindrance. Child-care is also compatible with hoeing the fields (which children can watch or help at) though not with the heavier physical effort of ploughing, or with the dangers of herding large animals or marching off to war. Among the Temiars of Malaysia (a people with a particularly gender-egalitarian culture and little division of sex-roles) tree-felling, shooting animals and raising roof-beams are nonetheless activities engaged in only by men.4 The rules which reserve certain dangerous or strenuous activities for men are essentially designed to protect women during pregnancy or protect the infants that constantly accompany them. But this separation of roles and economic functions because of womens primary role in child-care did not in itself lead to any subordination of women.

In nearly a third of societies known to anthropologists, lineage is traced through the mother, and property is also transferred through the female line. A mans property (if he has any, since land is usually transferred from mother to daughters) does not go after his death to his children but to his sisters children, thus remaining in his mothers gens or clan. In the largest surviving matrilineal culture in the world, the seven-million strong Minangkabau of the Padang region of Sumatra, Indonesia, there is a strong sense of equality between the sexes. While descent is traced through the women, practical authority is mainly exercised by a man with the right set of female relatives, and the office is transmitted on his death to his sisters son or grandson, apparently by decision of the female elders. The matrilineal nature of this culture seems to be bound up with its matrilocal customs (daughters staying at home when they marry, sons moving out) though the two things are occasionally found separately in other cultures. The fact that the married son goes to live with his wife in her familys house means the daughters remain in occupation of the family house and land, and therefore inherit it. The married son retains strong ties with his birth family, however. He remains very attached to his sisters, and forms a close bond with their children, usually closer than with his own children. He tends to spend at least as much time in his mothers (and sisters) home as in his wifes. In some cultures he may even live in his mothers house and only visit his wife, as is the case with the Mosuo of China and some West African cultures. In these matrilineal societies there is a sense of the sexes being complementary rather than of one of them ruling or having the ultimate power of decisions. Among the Minangkabau there is an explicit belief in gender equality and interdependence, and they reject the notion that they are a matriarchy or woman-ruled society.5 This, however, has been the interpretation that a certain number of feminists, following the lead of Bachofen, Morgan and Engels in the nineteenth century, have been eager to place upon matrilineal societies. The prior existence of some golden age of female rule, before wicked patriarchy seized power, has become one of the cherished beliefs of the body of myth and superstition that makes up radical feminism. 

Most anthropologists today tend to be sceptical of the idea that any matriarchy or woman-ruled society has ever existed. The 19th century Swiss scholar J.J. Bachofen, in his seminal book Das Mutterrecht, and Lewis Henry Morgan in his study of the North American Indian tribes, are generally thought to have confused matriarchy (female rule) with matriliny (female-based lineage systems.)  Their claims that the latter are surviving vestiges of ancient matriarchy are not widely accepted outside a fervid minority of mainly feminist believers. But while the Victorian theories of primitive matriarchy have met with scholarly scepticism, the undoubted existence of matrilineal societies still raises the same questions, but in slightly different terms. Is matriliny itself an earlier system than patriliny? And was there perhaps a prior stage of matriliny in many societies that are now patrilineal (including European ones?) In short, was there a change in the remote past in many societies by which mens position was strengthened and womens was somehow weakened? And if so, how and why did this change come about?  

There is a tendency nowadays to reject so completely all Victorian notions of cultural progress, or a single grand line of development of all societies, that there is a risk of taking a purely static view of cultures. The very idea of one culture being more primitive or more developed than another has been rejected by the Lévi-Strauss structuralist school, which refuses to allow us even to assume that modern Western society is more developed, advanced or even complex than that of an Australian aboriginal tribe wandering naked in the desert. The fashionable view today is of a multiplicity of cultural structures that co-exist on a timeless plane. There is a rejection of notions of higher or lower, more advanced or less advanced, and hence any notion of historical development from one to another. Lévi-Strauss even rejected the notion that primitive cultures that survive today can give us any clue as to what our ancestral culture was like thousands of years ago. Nevertheless, the fact of economic development, that there have been changes in technology and methods of farming within a single broad culture, is something even the most doctrinaire structuralist cannot deny. Without such economic change, we cannot explain how mankind got to where we are now. In so far as social systems, such as systems of kinship or lineage, can be seen to correlate with economic systems, it is legitimate to theorize that changes in one may have accompanied changes in the other.  In this sense we are permitted to speak (however conditionally, given the fragmentary evidence) of some social systems being earlier or later than others, or at least to speculate about their historical development, without imposing any single line of evolution on all. Merely because social evolution in prehistoric times cannot be traced with any certainty, this does not allow us to suppose that it never happened, or to assume that the social systems of every culture existing today emerged fully-formed and immutable from the mists of time.    

One reason for thinking that matriliny may have been the earlier system is quite simply that it would be more logical in societies which have not yet discovered the full facts of paternity. The bond of mother and children is a physically obvious one. The siblings produced by one womb are the most natural basis of kinship systems. In matrilineal societies the bond of brother and sister persists beyond marriage and seems as strong as that of husband and wife. The mans bond with his sisters children is closer than with his own, and his nephews are his heirs. Now it is tempting to conclude that this system must have evolved during a time of ignorance of the genetic input of fatherhood. Understanding the full significance of paternity depends on a knowledge of biology which may only have been acquired when human beings began breeding domestic animals. Though ancient cave drawings depicting animal copulation followed by pregnancy make clear that the connection between sex and offspring was known very early, the male genetic input into the offspring may not have been known till much later. Perhaps it was only when people noticed the resemblance of domestic animals to their sires (colours varying more among animals than among humans of the same race and making inherited traits more obvious) that they realized that sex is not merely the trigger of pregnancy, but that traits are transferred from father to offspring. Logically, this would have led men to take more interest in their own children, rather than their sisters children.

This may have been a more recent development than is commonly assumed. Various primitive cultures today still have a very hazy understanding of paternity. The Buid of the Philippines believe that the child is created only by repeated acts of sexual intercourse, which must continue throughout the pregnancy to finish off the work.6 They also think that if a woman has had several sexual partners the child will have several fathers. The Temiars of Malaysia also believe that in these cases the child will resemble all of the men the woman has slept with.7 Among the Greeks Aeschylus argued in The Libation Bearers that the male seed alone forms the embryo and the womb is merely a container while Aristotle seemed to think the mother supplied the main material and the male seed was merely a kind of enzyme or catalyst that caused it to take shape. Such are the misconceptions in this domain that anthropologists still take seriously the possibility that some cultures may not understand paternity at all, and carefully note down evidence that they do. This would lead one to suspect that ignorance of paternity was once widespread. At that early stage matriliny must logically have been the prevailing lineage system. The question then becomes: how did the change to patriliny come about to produce a majority of societies with the latter system? If the cause was simply the discovery of the facts of paternity, why did all societies which now understand paternity not change? Why do we still have both lineage systems among humans? What other factors were involved?





One suggestion, in a more sophisticated update of Victorian theories of social evolution, is that it is food production methods which are decisive in lineage systems. According to this idea, matrilineal cultures, with a rough equality between the sexes, tend to prevail in economic systems where women contribute at least as much as men to food-production. This is true of types of farming based on horticulture (using the hoe or digging-stick but not the plough), where women do most of the food-growing. This has led to theories that some matrilineal societies in the past may have been displaced by (or evolved into) societies more dominated by men when they developed certain farming techniques which required mens muscular strength. Chief among these were the use of the plough for crop-planting, and the herding of cattle or other large animals. Neither of these activities is usually found in societies with matrilineal or female-based descent. Some writers have argued that as societies adopted these new farming techniques a change in the relative contributions of men and women to the food resources of the tribe may have led to a shift in the balance of power between them. As men became more vital to food production, since they were better able to wrestle the heavy plough or control the dangerous herds of large animals, ageing parents would have wanted to keep the boys rather than the girls at home. Instead of the son going to live in his wifes parents house, as among the Minangkabau, parents would want to keep the sons living with them, since they were now the key food-providers. This might have led eventually to a shift towards transferring land to sons instead of daughters, and a move to tracing lineage through the male.

In short,  new farming techniques that gave men the key role because of  their  strength (ploughing or cattle herding) or were incompatible with the female role of child-care, may have led to women’s decreasing role in major food production. As farming became more physically strenuous, women may have found themselves relegated to less important field tasks and have spent more time in child-raising, cooking, handicrafts and housekeeping. In addition, the new farming techniques would have produced stocks of moveable wealth and led to an increase in warfare. Cattle raiding is one of the commonest practices in early warfare (prominent in Irish myths), as is burning enemy harvests. Wars require a higher birth-rate to make up for losses. Metallurgy and the development of deadly metal weapons would have given war a considerable boost, and led to more fatalities. Increased trade and travel to sell surplus crops and cattle may also have spread more infectious diseases and caused higher infant mortality. All this would increase pressure to have more children, and lead to women’s greater specialization in a child-raising role. While this role may still have been accorded a quasi-religious reverence, it may have led to less practical power and influence as women contributed less to food production. As patrilineal descent was established, it may also have become more important to ensure the wife’s faithfulness in order to be clear about paternity and lineage. We have to be careful with this argument: actual blood relationships are less important than nominal ones in many societies. The Romans, for example, had a passion for adopting children, and seemed scarcely to distinguish adopted from biological offspring, even applying to them the same incest taboos. But in some non-Western societies the concern for ensuring female faithfulness did lead to cloistering, veiling and strict subjugation of women, especially where polygamy was allowed. In general, patriliny does seem to be accompanied by greater social disapproval of female infidelity, as it is a violation of the bargain by which a woman secured a husband’s support for her children by persuading him they were his. In short we may well have seen an increased specialization and divergence of male and female roles (and a tendency for the latter to lose status) with new technologies which put key parts of food production, as well as warfare, in the hands of men.  

The increase in warfare, as the perfection of metal weapons gave an ability to kill large numbers of the enemy, would not only have led women to have a more specialized breeding role as more babies were needed to make up for war casualties. The constant state of warfare into which many tribal societies sank for long periods of their history (one thinks of the ancient Germans, the Maori, the North American Indian tribes) led to the development of a warrior cult, a cultivation of ferocity and aggressiveness in the fighting men, which further separated the sexes in character and function. Though some women are alleged to have taken  part in fighting among tribes such as the Cherokee, and occasionally among the Germans and Scandinavians (one of Eric the Reds daughters, Freydis, figures in the Vinland sagas leading an expedition to America, where she fought off Red Indians and murdered most of her companions) most women were probably thought to lack the strength and aggressiveness needed.8 When war becomes the chief occupation (according to Tacitus the Germans preferred war to farming), there tends to be a polarization of gender roles between warriors and mothers. These are the two functions on which the survival of the tribe in a hostile world depends: self-defence and breeding. (Fascism, which was in many ways a primitivist cult, returned to the emphasis on the warrior and mother roles of man and woman.) Since the psychological traits of a good mother/nurturer and those of a good warrior are very different, a certain gender specialization of character made sense. There would be little point in having a fierce nurturer or a tender warrior. It is simplest to encourage each sex to develop the qualities of its role, which the effect of male and female hormones would anyway reinforce. Finally, as war became a dominant factor in the life of the tribe, the warrior role may have come to be linked with political decision-making, as only fighting men took part in the councils of war.

Now all this, of course, is mere conjecture. It is a hypothesis of how a shift from matriliny to greater male dominance, and then perhaps as a consequence to patriliny, may have occurred in a certain number of societies, including those European ones that have shaped the modern world. There are no records to prove it or disprove it. All such hypotheses stand or fall on simple plausibility. There is, as we have said, no real evidence that matriliny was ever a universal system: it simply seems logical that it would have been at a stage when paternity was not fully understood (however far back that was.) But contradictions and problems remain even in this picture. For example, we cannot make any hard and fast association between patriliny and warrior cultures. A considerable proportion of the warrior cultures of both the North American Indians and the Polynesians are (or were till very recently) matrilineal. In some, such as the Cherokee and the Iroquois, the women apparently took part in the councils of war (and Tacitus, as we saw, claims that German women were consulted on important matters by the men, though he doesnt say in what manner.) War seems equally widespread among matrilineal and patrilineal cultures, despite pious attempts by some feminists to see the mythical matriarchy as a golden age of peace. Human aggression, envy and laziness the preference to plunder others wealth rather than work for ones own does not seem to depend on lineage systems. In fact, in many warrior cultures the womens prime responsibility for agriculture and food production seems to free the men to devote themselves to war. Tacitus remark about the Germans is significant here: For the boldest and most warlike men have no regular employment, the care of house, home and fields being left to the women, old men and weaklings of the family. 9 We will come later to the vexed question of whether this suggests ancient German society was in his time (or shortly before) matrilineal. More important for the moment is that it suggests that men were able to rise to a certain social dominance through their warrior role even when food production was done primarily by women (and lineage and inheritance may well have remained female-based.) The very lack of inherited land may even have pushed men to seek booty and glory as warriors in their competition for brides and for prestige. The auxiliary economic activity of plunder may have displaced the primary one of agriculture, at least in status (just as hunting had earlier on had higher status than gathering food, even though the latter may have provided more sustenance.) According to Tacitus, war and plunder was the source of most of the Germans wealth, and enjoyed more status than farming, which they considered “tame and spiritless.”10 Aristotle, in discussing the higher position of women among the Spartans, suggests that all militarist societies are dominated by women, as the men abandon the economic sphere for the military, and their wives take over the management of the farms.  

But there is another way in which war may have impinged on lineage systems.  Matriliny as a land inheritance system implies that land is in fact inherited from ancestors (through a female-based gens.) What of land that is conquered in war or newly settled by invaders? If such conquests were undertaken far from home, by expeditionary armies without their womenfolk (like those that crossed the seas in warships to invade an island like Britain), conquered land would come to belong to the warrior band or the chief that seized it. Since it was not inherited through a female-based lineage system, there would be no reason either for it to be transmitted through the female line. In short the act of conquest itself may have overthrown female-based lineage and land inheritance systems by putting land directly in the hands of the best warriors. Could we suggest that the massive movement of the Germanic tribes into new lands conquered after the collapse of Roman power would have put this land into the hands of male warrior bands? It is notable that Anglo-Saxon society was patrilineal. Many indications, which we shall come to later, suggest that the continental Germanic society it sprang from might have been, in the time of Tacitus, at least partly matrilineal, or in a process of transition. It may well have been the act of territorial conquest itself that made cultures totally patrilineal. A warrior chief would take possession of new land and parcel it out to his best fighters to keep their loyalty. The land would presumably belong to these fighters, as a reward for their personal prowess, not to a  female-based gens. The fame of such men may have led their sons to claim descent from them rather than their mothers and uncles. It is significant that in the feudal system which arose after the Germanic tribes overran and settled much of Europe the most extreme form of patriliny primogeniture, or inheritance of all land by the eldest son gradually took hold. By the 11th century it was widespread, and this device to preserve family land from subdivision created a patrilineal gens even more powerful than the early Roman ones. Before that the Germans, if we judge by the 6th century Visigoth code, had divided their land among all their children including the daughters. As feudalism advanced, the elected kings and democratic customs of the Visigoths tended to give way to the primogeniture, autocracy and obsession with heredity more typical of the Franks and the Normans. These leaders were perhaps strengthened in their autocratic control by their success in war and their conquest of new lands.

But it is not only the history of the Germanic peoples that suggests an association of conquest and patriliny. Both Greece and Rome were, according to their own traditions, founded by invading tribes. The invaders, if they met violent resistance, would have consisted at first of warrior bands, which would have taken possession of the land by right of conquest. It would be the men who thus had title to the land, not the women, who would presumably have followed on behind them. In fact, the legend of the rape of the Sabine women suggests that the Roman warrior bands arrived without any women at all and had to take their wives from among the conquered natives. This is a logical basis for a male-based lineage system, since it would be the male conquerors, not the female natives, who would be considered the tribal ancestors. The invading Angles and Saxons, arriving in England in warships without their women, may well have taken Celtic wives in the same way. One only has to look at the way in which English aristocrats have always tried to trace their ancestry to men who came over with William the Conqueror to see the association of patrilineal lineage systems with an original invading army. 





Assuming then that matriliny may once have been the prevailing lineage system, as logic would dictate when people were ignorant of paternity, there may have been several very different events, including the discovery of the facts of paternity, the introduction of strenuous farming methods, and the conquest of new lands by warrior chiefs, which all contributed to the change to patriliny in the European societies which have since then shaped the world. Now this change has been represented by the radical feminists, starting with Friedrich Engels, as a catastrophe, nothing less than a sort of Fall of Man. The alleged male seizure of control is regarded as the end of a matriarchal golden age, an expulsion from Eden. The entire feminist establishment of the American universities refers to the present state of society as one of patriarchy, as though this were an arbitrary and hopefully temporary arrangement. They are convinced that the dominant position of men in economic and political life is not a natural division of roles (given both the difficulty and the importance of child-bearing) but came about as a sort of Fall from grace (from which humankind may one day be redeemed.) In fact radical feminists believe ultimately in a new version of original sin confined to the male sex. The nature of this male original sin varies a little from one feminist to another, but it broadly follows the lines laid down by Engels (who took more interest in this subject than his friend Karl Marx.) Engels saw male original sin as the development of private property and individual wealth. The accumulation of surplus wealth through the raising of cattle led some men to become rich and to want to hand their wealth on to their own children, rather than their sisters children (as in the matrilineal system.) This required the overthrowing of matriliny and the setting up of the wicked institution of monogamous marriage, so that a man could make sure his children were his own for the purposes of inheritance. And this led to the subordination and oppression of women as a class in fact, to the ownership of women as virtual slaves.

The overthrow of mother right was the world historical defeat of the female sex. The man took command in the home also: the woman was degraded and reduced to servitude. She became the slave of his lust and a mere instrument for the production of children....In order to make certain of the wife
s fidelity and therefore the paternity of his children, she is delivered over unconditionally into the power of the husband; if he kills her he is only exercising his rights. 11   

 Here we have the doctrine that is fundamental to radical feminism and its entire concept of patriarchy as a diabolical system: the equation of patriliny with the enslavement of women.

Engels apparently sees the switch to patriliny as a kind of coup détat, a sudden decree by rich men (unaccountably fired with paternal passions they had never manifested before) that their own children should inherit, not their nephews, overriding the matrilineal customs of the society they lived in. And this coup détat created a radically new kind of social unit, the patriarchal family, root of all subsequent evil. The emergence of the father-headed family, displacing the communal life of the grandmother-ruled matrilineal gens, brought about every other form of slavery and oppression from which the world has since suffered. Following Morgan, in a fine example of the semantic fallacy, Engels derives the word family from the Latin word famulus or domestic slave, and claims that the original Roman familia referred to the household of slaves a man possessed. This makes family (by some occult semantic influence) necessarily a form of slavery. The term was invented by the Romans to denote a new social organism, whose head rules over wife and children and a number of slaves, and was invested under Roman paternal power with the right of life and death over them all. He goes on to quote Marx: The modern family contains in germ not only slavery (servitus) but also serfdom.12 In short he sees the family itself as the original act of enslavement of human beings. Not only is the wife in this patriarchal system merely the chief slave, but patriarchy is responsible for the invention of slavery as an institution. 

            Now here we have the source of that curious hatred of the family, of marriage and of fatherhood which forms the core of the entire modern superstition of radical feminism. Here we see the roots of the demonization of patriarchy as responsible for all the evils of the world for the past three millennia the basic dogma propagated by most of the six hundred Womens Studies and Gender Studies departments and programmes at American universities over the past thirty years. Engels saw the new patrilineal system of the Romans as creating a new type of wicked patriarchal monogamous marriage, which was different from the previous pairing marriage because it involved an absolute subordination of wives to their husbands. Women now became mere chattels, or moveable property. Men, he claims, had the right to kill their wives. Fidelity was imposed on the woman only, not the man, and only the man had the right of divorce. Here we have the original nightmare vision of the three-thousand year old oppression of females which has inspired one of the most influential social and intellectual movements of our time.

Now even at the most cursory glance there are a certain number of problems with this whole lurid picture of the past. Firstly, it is an absurdity to pretend that the Romans invented the family, based on their word for a slave: how did the family then get to be a universal institution (remarkably similar in structure) in parts of the world that had never heard of the Romans? How did the Greeks get their family while the Romans were still an obscure Italian tribe? How did the Germans get to have a similar family? Secondly, the Romans were well aware (and even took pride in the fact) that the vast legal power of the father in their culture was unique among peoples. How can this exaggerated patriarchal power (the right of life and death over family members) have been the pattern which humanity as a whole adopted after the fall from the golden age of matriarchy, when everybody admitted it was a Roman peculiarity? Thirdly, even this exaggerated paternal power of the Romans lasted perhaps three centuries before it began to be reduced step by step till it became a largely theoretical notion, as a great deal of practical equality emerged between the sexes. How, then, can this exceptional paternal power of the Romans, which lasted such a short time and was modified in the direction of equality, explain the position of women ever since, in the societies that came after? Why would subsequent societies go back to a Roman concept of paternal power which had disappeared in Rome six hundred years before its fall? The entire theory of Engels is nonsense from start to finish. Yet it is worth spending a little more time showing exactly how false it is, because Engels’ theory is still, in one form or another, a cornerstone of the whole feminist ideology today. The replacement of historical facts by superstition and myth is one of the roots of feminist fanaticism in our time. And such is the ignorance on which this movement is based, that it can only be combated by a systematic, step-by-step refutation of all its ludicrous assertions.

What Engels is referring to is the early Roman system of rule by paterfamilias. This system prevailed in its original form for perhaps the first three centuries of Romes history (if we accept for arguments sake the legendary foundation date of 753 BC), and began to be modified in the 5th century BC. Under this primitive system of tribes and patrilineal gentes, women at marriage entered their husbands gens (a kinship group a bit more restrictive than our word “clan”.) Given the early age of marriage, this generally meant they came under not their husband’s authority but that of his father or grandfather, the paterfamilias of an extended family (and perhaps originally the leader of the whole clan or gens itself.) It was the paterfamilias of a lineage group, not the father of each nuclear family, who had the patria potestas or autocratic power over everybody in his extended family, including his married sons and their wives (just as in the matrilineal system, it was not each wife that ruled her husband like a harpy, but the grandmother or female head of the gens who held ultimate authority and land ownership.) This comes from the simple fact that a farm remains in the hands of its owner until he dies, and since he controls the property, he is able to dominate all his sons, and everybody else in the family who hopes to inherit. But this patriarch, who had the last say in family matters, was not likely to treat his daughter-in-law or grand-daughter-in-law (to whom he probably felt the typical affection of old men for young women) with the bullying harshness that a jealous husband might be prone to. Nor was he likely to forget that she came from a neighbouring gens and had a father, brothers and uncles whom it might be imprudent to alienate. Rule by paterfamilias was not absolute rule by every husband over his wife but absolute rule by the chief of an extended family or clan who had just as much power (including the power of life and death) over his sons as over his nmarried daughters or daughters-in-law. Although the system had the arbitrariness of autocratic rule (in the absence of any strong state authority above the clan patriarch), it had no built-in bias against women. Given the notorious ability of women to prejudice older men who are not their husbands in their favour, and the natural rivalry between sons and fathers, the patriarch was just as likely to side with his daughter-in-law as with his son in the case of marital disputes. Greek mythology is full of intriguing young goddesses wrapping Zeus around their little finger, which is probably a fair image of the realities of patriarchal rule. In short, there was in ancient Rome, even during the early period up to the 5th century BC, no absolute power of all husbands over all wives, because most husbands were not the paterfamilias, but were themselves subject to one for a good part of their lives, until they inherited the farm.       

The position of women even in the early patriarchal period of Rome is therefore a lot less slavishly subject to their husbands than the picture Engels paints. Moreover, this patriarchal system began to change in the 5th century BC, shortly after the Republic was instituted and a proper system of law took over from primitive custom. The early laws of the Republic as they have come down to us in the Twelve Tables, dating from 450 BC (which Cicero tells us he still had to learn by heart at school four centuries later), give a much more positive picture of the position of married women. There were broadly two different kinds of marriage in Roman law: marriage with manus, or the husbands (or more often his paterfamiliass) legal authority over the wife, and marriage without. The type without manus was the most common in all periods, and as time went by became the only form. Among the patrician class, the traditional religious marriage, called confarreatio, involved manus, but it had virtually disappeared by the classical period as aristocratic women saw the advantages of keeping their legal freedom like the lower classes that is, they remained in their fathers gens. Another type of marriage, called usus, was a form of common law marriage, entered into without any necessary ceremony of any kind, but it was held to confer manus or legal authority on the husband after a year of cohabitation. However, the Twelve Tables even in 450 BC explained how the wife could avoid manus, by sleeping away from home for three nights each year. In this way she remained free of her husbands control (subject to her own fathers or grandfathers legal authority and protection, or that of a guardian of their or her choice, though this guardianship over women was a mere legal fiction by the classical period, was criticized as pointless by Gaius in his Institutes in 170 AD, and was dropped entirely from the laws of Justinian in the 6th century.) 13 A husband in the classical period, unless he married under the increasingly rare regime of manus, therefore had far less power over his wife than a Victorian one. Far from having the power to kill her (we will come to that in a moment), he did not even have the power to keep her, since from the second century BC divorce was possible for either partner on demand. Augustus tried to restrict and codify the grounds for divorce, in an effort to combat the fashion for adultery and restore the stability of marriage. This effort largely failed. Divorce in the Roman empire (and for the last two centuries of the Republic) was considerably easier for both partners than in any Western society today. Until Augustus required the public registry of divorces, the act of divorce (like that of marriage) was a far more private affair than it is with us. Even under Augustus it did not involve court proceedings (except in case of a marriage under the increasingly rare regime of manus.) A written declaration of intention to divorce by either partner was generally enough for the divorce to take effect. It is hard to see under these circumstances how any husband could exercise tyrannical authority over a wife who was free to walk out on him at any time, and over whom he had no legal authority. Nor could property be used as a means of pressure, since it was kept absolutely separate in Roman marriages, not even gifts being allowed between husband and wife. In short, marriage in the Roman empire did not generally put the wife on any worse footing than marriage in any matrilineal culture. She remained legally subject to her own birth parents in both cases. While the notion of a married woman remaining under the legal authority of her father or grandfather strikes the modern feminist as outrageous, it was no worse than the subjection to her mother or grandmother in a matrilineal system. One must understand that in most early societies the state was little developed as an institution providing legal protection for the individual, and a person’s primary protection came from the family. Everyone had to be under the legal responsibility of an older family member. When one considers that girls often married at thirteen, it was not unreasonable for a young wife to remain under the legal protection of her father (and after her fathers death she could in practice choose her own guardian, who was not much more than her legal agent.) What has always determined a wifes real power in marriage is her right to appeal to her birth family for support and protection against her husband. In Rome this right was absolute from the second century BC onwards. A wife could not be abused by a violent husband without her father and his entire clan reacting. In the case of spousal abuse she probably had far more practical protection than any wife today. She could simply ask her father (or guardian) to come over and get her, and he had the legal right to come and take her back. In short, with the disappearance of manus marriages, the Roman wife was left with the full protection of her own clan against her husband, and thus enjoyed enormous independence. To speak of her as being his slave in these circumstances is simply false. And to speak of the general change to patriliny as bringing about the permanent enslavement of women to their husbands is one of the most grotesque distortions of the history of man-woman relations ever put forward. 

The crucial point is that Engels and Marx claim explicitly that the early Roman system of rule by paterfamilias was the introduction of a new historic stage in marital relations so-called patriarchy which occurred across the board in human societies and has lasted ever since thus explaining the unfair marriage laws of the Victorian age. This is false on several levels. Firstly, as we saw, it was universally acknowledged in ancient Rome that no other people had this system of exaggerated legal rights for the father. The Romans saw it as a cultural peculiarity of their own, so it could hardly have been a universal historic stage in relations between the sexes among all mankind. Secondly, the whole system changed so radically over the thousand years of Roman history that by the time of the empire there was little of this patriarchal power left. The enormous legal power of the father gradually came to be regarded more as a cultural ideal than an actual practice, and it was steadily diminished in the classical period till it became a mere fiction. The fathers right to all his childrens earnings began to be qualified by exceptions. His right to refuse permission for his children to marry whoever they wanted was curtailed by Augustus he now had to give a valid reason for refusal. As for the fathers right of life and death over his children, this was not much more than the right of deciding whether deformed or handicapped babies should live or die infanticide in these cases being almost universally practised in the ancient world. The right of the father to sell his children into slavery was probably never exercised beyond the archaic period, when some families may have been driven by extreme poverty to sell their children, as they are in Africa today. Finally, the famous power of Roman husbands to kill their wives seems in practice to have been nothing more than an immunity to prosecution confined to one specific circumstance: killing her after catching her in the act of adultery. According to Augustus laws, for this immunity to apply, the wife had to be caught in adultery in the main conjugal home (not their summer villa), his act of killing had to be spontaneous and immediate (if he waited, it became murder), and he had to be one of the rare husbands with legal authority or manus over his wife (otherwise he had to answer to her paterfamilias, her own father, grandfather or guardian, who could charge him with murder.) The injured husbands right to kill extended to her lover, but again the act had to be done on the spot, not premeditated. 14 All of this amounts to a legalization of a crime of passion rather than a fixed power of life and death over a wife. This apparently traditional law was codified in Augustus reform of the marriage laws as a way of strengthening the hand of the husband and increasing the stability of marriage in the face of a growing fashion for adultery. There is not much evidence these laws were generally enforced, or had been for hundreds of years. When Julius Caesar suspected his wife Pompeia of adultery he divorced her; there is no suggestion he thought he had the right to kill her. Nor did Pompey kill his wife for her affair with Caesar. The very idea in the classical period would have seemed monstrous. Augustus did introduce the punishment of exile for adulterous wives, but the only signal case of its enforcement was when he had to exile his own daughter Julia, whose private life was a public scandal. All the evidence for the classical period shows us wives of an extraordinary liberty, marriage as a rather flexible arrangement easily dissolved by either partner, and adultery as a fashionable pastime for both sexes.

Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall, expresses the change of the situation of Roman women in the 2nd century BC in these terms:

After the Punic triumphs, the matrons of Rome aspired to the common benefits of a free and opulent republic: their wishes were gratified by the indulgence of fathers and lovers ... Of their private fortunes, they communicated the use, and secured the property; the estates of a wife could neither be alienated nor mortgaged by a prodigal husband; their mutual gifts were prohibited by the jealousy of the laws; and the misconduct of either party might afford, under another name, a future subject for an action of theft. To this loose and voluntary compact, religious and civil rights were no longer essential; and between persons of similar rank the apparent community of life was allowed a sufficient evidence of their nuptials..

When the Roman matrons became the equal and voluntary companions of their lords, a new jurisprudence was introduced that marriage, like other partnerships, might be dissolved by the abdication of one of the associates. In three centuries of prosperity and corruption, this principle was enlarged to frequent practice and pernicious abuse.

Passion, interest, or caprice, suggested daily motives for the dissolution of marriage; a word, a sign, a message, a letter, the mandate of a freedman, declared the separation; the most tender of human connections was degraded to a transient society of profit or pleasure. According to the various conditions of life, both sexes alternately felt the disgrace and injury .. but the reluctance of the Romans, when they were pressed to marriage by Augustus, sufficiently marks, that the prevailing institutions were least favourable to the males.15 

While Gibbon's style might sound old-fashioned to our ears, his facts are still substantially accepted. It is this very evolution of Rome
s marriage laws and of the position of women, from early dependence and inferior legal status to later independence and equality, which invalidates the entire argument of Engels. If the wicked subjection of women to the tyranny of the paterfamilias in early Rome was a stage in history reflecting some new patriarchal relation between men and women which has lasted up until the present, then why was this relation transformed into its virtual opposite in the second century BC? Why do we find Roman women in the classical period with as much freedom to divorce or commit adultery as women in the 21st century? What had changed in their class relations? Nothing. Prosperity had brought a change of mœurs, from those of poor, primitive farmers, obsessed with family honour and clan pride (as they are in many rural backwaters of the world today), to the mores of a wealthy, pleasure-loving metropolis where women were as free in their behaviour as men. In short, the entire history of Rome, with its steady increase in womens freedom and independence, refutes the notion of some new patriarchal regime of oppression having been imposed on women after the overthrow of matriarchy and afflicting them ever since. The rights and freedoms of women in Western culture (and in other cultures) have varied enormously from one nation to another and one age to another, and cannot be ascribed to a single system of male rule begun three thousand years ago. In 18th and 19th century Italy, a ladys cavaliere servente or official lover was a publicly accepted figure, with whom her husband often maintained amicable relations. Yet in 19th century England this behaviour would have been utterly inconceivable. Engels wants us to believe that the misogyny, Puritan repression and legal bias against women of Victorian England was a universal regime which had come into existence at the end of the wonderful prehistoric matriarchy and had lasted till his own day. It is hard to imagine a greater falsehood, and it has become the founding myth of the modern-day feminist sect.

Gibbon, in the passage above, tends to give the impression that Roman wives moved fairly rapidly from a position of dependent servant to a position of independent, pleasure-loving libertine. That is also a distortion, and leaves out the practical responsibilities of Roman wives and the serious respect in which they were held in all ages. The reality of marriage in Rome was best reflected in the wedding ceremonies and customs. Most of the ceremony took place in the husbands house to which the bridal couple went in procession. After entering the house, the bride placed her spindle and distaff on a sheepskin, on which they both sat, and she received the keys to the house from his hands. This was now a domain she ruled, and she was addressed as domina (our word lady but with the full connotations of the feminine of lord and master) by her husband and all others from then on. The entire household which was also a mini-factory, making its own bread from corn and clothes from raw wool was under her command. (In fact there is scarcely a culture on record in which the home is not seen as under the wifes rule Engels phrase the man took command in the home also does not correspond to any known historical reality.) All aspects of the Roman wedding ceremony underlined the equality of status of the couple in their respective spheres. The bride recited : Ubi tu Caius, ego Caia, Wherever you are Caius, I am Caia. This is a more succinct expression of an equal partnership than anything in the Christian ceremony. The respect, not to say veneration, in which Roman mothers were held by their children, and the influence they had over their adult sons (such as Coriolanus or Julius Caesar), belie any notion of servitude in the position or attitude of Roman women. The funeral friezes in which Roman couples are depicted together, in attitudes of affection and devotion, suggest Roman men had few lessons to learn about respecting their wives from a pair of Victorian communists, of whom one refused to marry his working-class Irish mistress (who was snubbed all her life by the Marxes, and whose death elicited not even a note of condolence from Marx to Engels) and the other exploited and robbed his wife, and then cheated on her with his servant, getting her pregnant and throwing his own bastard baby out of the house. Not to mention stopping his daughter marrying the man she loved because he needed her domestic services. If we want an example of a patriarchal monster, we should look at Karl Marx, not at the men of classical Rome.    

But there is another fundamental falsehood in Engels representation of the change to patriarchy as the beginning of all evil: his insistence that it was the origin of slavery. This point is taken up with great emphasis by his modern disciple, Kate Millet, and has become a fixture in the body of superstition of modern radical feminism: 

There arose with the gradual evolution of patriarchy the following institutions: slavery (the model for all later class systems and itself modelled on the ownership of persons first established over women), chiefdom, aristocracy, the social-political differentiation of economic groups into rich and poor.  16 

Millett here purports to be summarizing Engels, but she not only accepts Engels theory here but embroiders on it with enthusiasm. This bit of Engels-Millett has entered feminist lore as basic dogma: that slavery originated with patriarchy and was modelled on the ownership of persons first established over women. Now any anthropologist Millett had cared to consult could have told her that slavery was extensively practised by matrilineal societies, and in no way coincided with any change to patriarchy or patrilineal systems. The Iroquois, the subject of Morgans study of matrilineal culture held up as an example by Engels and later feminists of a matriarchal society in which chiefs were appointed and deposed by female elders practised slavery and slave-raiding with great vigour against their enemies, the Huron and the Illinois. Being one of the most powerful North American tribes, the Iroquois amassed large numbers of slaves. Slavery was practised (as far as we know) by  all American Indian tribes, as attested by the earliest Western observers in the mid-sixteenth century (which precludes the usual neo-Marxist explanation that it was a vice learned from the wicked Westerners.) Slavery has of course been a custom in almost all societies on earth, whether matrilineal or patrilineal. Slaves were used by the American Indians to till the fields, and also as domestic servants. They were often given by Indian men as presents to their wives, and some prominent women owned as many as twenty personal slaves. It was often the women of the tribe who decided whether captives should be tortured to death or used as slaves. Occasionally captives were adopted into the tribe, but this applied mainly to children. When they were adopted, a woman had to stand as their symbolic mother, and they occupied the lowest status, that of the youngest child. Men might free female slaves by marrying them. Slavery, therefore, did not differ very much in its rules among matrilineal American Indian tribes from the similar institution among the patriarchal Romans, where manumission of slaves was also common, and might occasionally be followed by marriage or adoption. In short, the idea that slavery began with patriarchal societies is quite simply false. It is part of the pattern of deliberate falsification or wilful disregard of inconvenient evidence, which characterizes the methods of both Marx and Engels, and nearly all their disciples. In someone like Kate Millett, who with a top university library at her disposal had the means to find out the truth, it is intellectual fraud to go on repeating such blatant falsehoods.   

Milletts assertion that slavery was modelled on the ownership of persons first established over women is a keystone of the entire structure of demonstrable falsehoods which makes up the ideology of radical feminism that self-pitying paranoid fantasy world of eternal victimization in which many supposedly intellectual women still live their lives today. In matrilineal societies such as the Iroquois there was nothing that could remotely be construed as ownership of wives (since the husband went to live with his wifes family, under their thumb) and yet they practised slavery. How then could slavery be modelled on the ownership of wives? If we accept that matriliny was the earlier system of the two, and we know that matrilinies practised slavery, then slavery or ownership of persons could not first have been exercised over wives. Slavery is a product of war, of a decision to exploit rather than kill captured enemies, whether men, women or children. And war again is a practice that predates patrilineal societies and was waged with particular vigour by matrilineal ones, where landless men had nothing else to do. As for the allegation that chiefdom and aristocracy also had to wait till patriliny, a look at the structure of any matrilineal culture will show both chiefs (usually men appointed by the women elders) as well as a highly developed sense of differential status through lineage. Most American Indian societies were highly stratified, on the basis of birth, with every individual knowing his place in the pecking order, like every dog in a pack. None of this is dependent on patriliny.        

            In short, Engels entire theory that the pre-historic shift from matriliny to patriliny involved the degradation of women to a slave position in marriage and the family, as well as the introduction of other evils such as slavery, chieftainship and aristocracy, is one enormous falsehood. The shift to patrilineal lineage systems and increased male domination did not produce slavery, did not produce social hierarchies, and did not produce war. Nor did it lead to anything that may accurately be called the enslavement of women. Yet these superstitions remain the basis of modern radical feminism, taken for granted in all the feminist diatribes against the patriarchy, and taught as established fact by feminist professors in the   top universities of America. 

            Now it might seem heavy-handed to spend so much time refuting the ideas of people like Engels and Kate Millett, who are hardly any longer the latest wave of fashionable thought. But the entire radical feminist tradition which has established itself as an enclave of superstition in the Gender Studies departments of American universities today stems from these thinkers. Beneath every ideology, no matter how sophisticated its expression, lies a primitive myth which gives it its emotional hold on peoples minds. And the myth of radical feminism, like that of Marxism, is a variant of the myth of the golden age, or of the fall from Eden: at some remote period of the past, human society was more just, equal, and happy, and a single fateful error, sin or heresy was responsible for the fall of mankind into its present state of terrible injustice and unhappiness. If only we could undo that original sin (private property, patriarchy, male domination), most of the evils that have followed would fall away, and humanity would find happiness again. It is necessary to expose these myths as falsehoods and absurdities in order to end the domination of superstition over the human mind and particularly over the universities of the English-speaking world. 



    Even those academic feminists who do not subscribe to the Engels version of patriarchy and “monogamous marriage” as the outright enslavement of women, still view marriage as a form of male oppression. The diverse literature of radical feminism over the past forty years has one common denominator : the rejection of marriage. For most radical feminists marriage or the pairing arrangement is something that men forced upon women for their own purposes, and against women’s will. Here is another expression of it, by Open University philosophy professor, Janet Radcliffe Richards: 

.the pairing arrangement cannot be one into which both sexes enter automatically as a result of some deeply-rooted instinct. If women had acquiesced willingly, there would have been no need for a colossal superstructure of law and convention to keep them in their place. The existence of rules to keep women in the power of men shows that men must have wanted something of women which women could not be trusted to provide of their own accord.. The non-bearers of children wanted to control the bearers of children. And the only possible explanation of that, as far as I can see, must have been their wanting to define a breeding territory from which other men were excluded, and which could guarantee at once both their having offspring and being able to identify them as their own. 17

This passage repeats the Millett dogma that men imposed the pairing arrangement by force upon unwilling women, because of their wicked desire for heirs whom they could be sure were biologically their own. Women, according to this view, have no urge to marry, no urge to form sexual relationships, and no urge to have children: it was all imposed on them by male rule. Now this view, current among  academic radical feminists, is so contrary to everything known in the field of anthropology that it is difficult to express enough contempt for it. But we shall try. If this grotesque view were true, then marriage or pairing would be unknown except in patrilineal societies, where children inherit from their fathers. Now this is demonstrably false. Marriage is as common and appears as stable among the Minangkabau, where women inherit the land and men
’s heirs are their sisters’ children, as it was among the patrilineal Romans. If the sole purpose of marriage was to produce heirs to male property, why would matrilineal societies (where children do not inherit from their fathers) engage in it? Why would societies where property is held in common engage in it? But the most extraordinary idea is Richard’s assumption that it is men who have the greater urge to have children and not women, something which observation of every culture on earth flatly contradicts. Men want sex; it is women who want children. Girls in fact traditionally held off from sex until the man committed himself to marriage and children; now that the boys can get it without, we find endless complaints about the boy’s “lack of commitment”, which is code for the fact that he just wants sex and not kids. How many men have you heard complaining lately: “She just wants sex, and won’t settle down and have children so that I can have an heir to inherit my Porsche”? On what planet have these feminists been living?

According to Richards not only do men have this extraordinary (though carefully concealed) desire for children, but women have none whatsoever. Women have no desire to reproduce, and care nothing for the survival of their species. Now is it reasonable to suppose that the female sex, the majority of whom in every culture on earth go weak at the knees at the sight of a baby, feels no desire whatever to produce one? How has patriarchal conditioning managed to impose this maternal instinct so universally on a sex naturally recalcitrant to it? As for the notion that women have no desire for sexual pairing, either Richards thinks that women are naturally without any sexual appetite (like most Victorians), or she thinks that women would prefer purely casual sex, without any pairing relationship. Men can only laugh hollowly at this idea. Though a promiscuous female sex is an eternal male daydream, there is little sign of it appearing any time soon. Consult the young men coming empty-handed and pissed off out of bars and clubs the world over and ask them if there is any sign of this voracious female appetite for casual sex. They will soon tell you. The fact is that with the disappearance of estrus, women, unlike chimpanzees, are not periodically primed to have sex with all comers, but only want to have it with someone to whom they feel passionately  attracted or deeply attached. Pairing, or emotional attachment to the partner, appears to perform the function of exciting women to a sexually receptive state which estrus performs with other primates. If women were naturally promiscuous, as the flower child Millett claims, then rape would be impossible: a woman would be receptive to any advances, however unexpected, in the manner of a chimpanzee in heat. This theory dismisses the whole existing reality of womens behaviour (as something conditioned by wicked patriarchy) in order to construct an imaginary one, which is the real nature of women. It ignores the intense interest that women of all cultures take in marriages, the preponderant part they play in arranging them, and the joy with which they celebrate them, whether among the matrilineal Minangkabau or the patrilineal Romans. If marriage were equivalent to a sentence of slavery for the woman, would this behaviour occur? It seems clear that for all these women, marriage is a crucial step towards fulfilling their profound urge to have children, which they want to do with one partner whom they are emotionally attached to and can rely on for support.

Radical feminists, in their incoherent rage against marriage, seem to imagine that it is a mans ideal state, invented solely for his convenience. They think that in destroying marriage and family they will destroy the mans most cherished dream and thereby score an historic revenge upon the hated enemy sex. But no male vision of paradise has ever included marriage or family. What men have always dreamed of is free access to unlimited numbers of women. The Muslim vision of paradise promises the martyr seventy-two beautiful virgins. It doesnt mention marriage or children. That few men have ever tasted this particular form of felicity here on earth is only a testimony to the real power of women in shaping human institutions: marriage and family are womens ideal imposed on men. In fact, from a biological standpoint, the mans genetic interest is in promiscuity: maximizing his genetic survival chances by scattering his seed far and wide. It is the woman who can only survive genetically through the babies that she herself gives birth to. Her chances of genetic survival are not enhanced by multiple partners, but by life-long support in bringing up her children and ensuring their prosperity (a support she is most likely to get from a male partner when she can convince him by her behaviour that her children are also his.) As one (anti-feminist) woman researcher put it, marriage is the triumph of female interests over male interests. The very fact that marriage is, for humans, the norm throughout the world when, as we know, men are naturally disposed against the institution represents a remarkable triumph of the female brain, and will. 18 Since the earliest phase of society was very probably (in large areas of the world) matrilineal, it is more than likely that marriage was a female invention, by which mothers got together and matched their offspring, as they do today among the Minangkabau.  What radical feminists generally forget is that in the majority of cultures that have existed sexual relationships have not been decided on by the participants but by their parents, and especially their mothers. Now what every mother of an adolescent daughter wants (out of genetic survival instinct) is grandchildren. And she sets out to give herself those grandchildren in the way that will best ensure a stable support system for them, which has generally been by arranging her daughters marriage.

Marriage and family are such universal institutions that, despite their variations,  differences in rules, differences in the degree of family or communal interference in them, difference in the degree of constraints or freedom they involve, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that they are the product of natural instincts. The pairing arrangement of marriage (which in many past cultures involved little more ceremony than simply living together) does not differ substantially from that found among large numbers of animal and bird species. Some birds  pair for life, and even those that pair only for a breeding season, or are separated by migrations, often find the same partner again the following season. Though promiscuity and harem systems prevail among most higher mammals, the failure of other forms of breeding arrangement to survive among human beings does point to the unique suitability of marriage and family to the peculiarities of our species. First among these peculiarities is the absence of estrus among human females, which is replaced by emotional ties as a way of achieving sexual arousal for most women. Whereas estrus inclines a chimpanzee female to put out to a succession of males, the emotional attachment that arouses a human female to sexual readiness is usually felt for one partner only. While a female chimpanzee in heat will happily accept a second partner after the one she wanted has had his fill, most women making love with husband or boyfriend would feel seriously inconvenienced if a perfect stranger then took his turn. The extreme sexual selectivity of young women has always made group sex or free love a very short-lived social experiment, or one confined to a minority cult. A second factor is the very long period of helplessness of human offspring, requiring prolonged joint investment by a male partner who is convinced that they are also his (bird species such as the albatross whose young mature slowly also mate for life.) The frequent rejection of step-children suggests that parenting instincts are linked to a sense of biological connection with the child, for both sexes (it is the step-mother who is most often portrayed in medieval folk stories as rejecting step-children.) The husband in matrilineal societies where the wife may not be faithful takes little interest in her children he invests in his sister’s children instead, where his genetic stake is clearer. Since a man’s investment in children requires a strong conviction of his genetic stake in them, a wife’s obviously faithful behaviour is designed to produce that conviction in her husband’s mind and secure his investment in her offspring. It is, in short, part of her genetic survival strategy, not his. A third factor is the vulnerability of human females to rape, because estrus, with its periodic olfactory stimulation, has been replaced by permanent visual stimulation, so that males often want sex with a female who does not want sex with them. Given the general disparity in strength between the sexes, this imposes a need for male protection of women and in the absence of police forces this can only be obtained by inspiring in some male (husband or father) a sense of exclusive ownership. Male jealousy and possessiveness is a psychological mechanism essential for protecting women from rape, because it makes her husband (or father) angry enough to kill anyone who molests her. Feminists regard male jealousy as merely one more instance of wicked male tyranny. But if men had not been jealous, no woman would ever have been safe. If a man could watch with indifference or ribald applause as a stranger raped his wife or daughter, then women would indeed be slaves at the disposal of all men. In many American (and other) penitentiaries, young men may be raped by other prisoners unless they have the protection of a stronger man, which they often have to purchase with sexual favours. They seek in effect to create the bond that will make this strong man jealous and possessive enough to deter others from raping them. In a state without law, the protection of the strong is the only means of survival. Modern feminists, living in the most secure and well-policed societies in history, have difficulty imagining what it was like to live in a primitive society without police where a womans only protection from rape by strange men came from the possessiveness of the men of her family their willingness to kill anyone who molested her. It was in her interest for the family bond and the marriage bond to be extremely possessive: if her menfolk were indifferent to whoever else used her, she would have no protection. All of these unique features of humans (not present in our ape cousins) make marriage more suitable for women than promiscuity, for their sexual satisfaction, their protection against rape, and for the successful raising of offspring.

The promiscuity recommended by so many feminists of the late sixties and seventies is a peculiar and paradoxical solution to the grievances that women were alleged to be suffering from. We shall come to that later when we get to that period. Promiscuity is not a system that has been much found in primitive societies: most alleged examples of it are found on closer inspection to be forms of serial monogamy. Herodotus did report a few cases of promiscuous societies in the north Africa of his time, but when one reads his descriptions of them (“it is a custom at a man’s first marriage for the bride to be enjoyed by each of the guests in turn”), it is hard to believe the women were having a very good time of it.19 All systems of group marriage or promiscuity seem to end up with the men poking whatever they want, whenever they want, and the women getting the muddy end of the stick. If indeed they get any end of the stick at all, since the whole problem with promiscuity is that the few most sexually attractive individuals can easily corner the market. We are not chimpanzees where the female in heat is temporarily the most attractive, and a considerable number of women (and men) would never get laid under a totally promiscuous system. Which explains perhaps why such societies have never lasted long.

Monogamous marriage is nothing more than elementary sexual justice, a fair and equal distribution of an essential pleasure. Its absence has always been associated with the worst of tyrannies, where large numbers of human beings were permanently deprived of sex and reproduction so that the powerful few could enjoy these things in abundance. It is interesting that today we are moving back to a society with a large number of unmarried people, many of whom are sexually inactive for long periods. While we do not have promiscuity, the slight movement we have made in that direction is tending to produce (among the large numbers of single people) what promiscuity could be expected to produce: a split-level society, half sexual rabbits and half sexual tortoises.





But the feminist quest for some ideal society where wicked marriage doesnt exist has not been daunted by the near-universality of this malign institution. Given the thoroughness of anthropologists, a tiny handful of societies have over the years been unearthed where the relations between the sexes seem to remain largely casual. The Mosuo of China and the Nayar of the Malalabar coast in India seem to do without marriage, but simply form temporary liaisons, without any living together. Each partner continues to live with his or her own mothers family and the man merely visits the woman by night. But this is only possible because the woman is living in an extended matrilineal family: the children produced by such liaisons can be looked after by the support system of their grandmother, aunts, uncles, etc, who are all living under one roof. Now the reflex of any feminists who hear about the Mosuo is to hold them up as a wonderful model. But would any normal person consider this a viable system for Westerners today: three or even four generations continuing to live together? Because that is what the abolition of the patriarchal nuclear family really means: it means a return to the extended family. If the woman does not form a new family with her husband, then she stays with her birth family, a perpetual daughter (and the man may in some societies join her there, a perpetual son-in-law.) Matriliny (or matriarchy, if we prefer to use the disputed term) was not rule by the wife; it was rule by the grandmother or great-grandmother, in whose house everybody lived. Just as patriarchy, in the true sense of the term as it was found among the early Romans, was not rule by the husband but rule by the grandfather. The curious idealization by feminists of archaic social forms which no Westerner could endure living in today (imagine any feminist living under the thumb of her grandmother!) is only a sign of their hopeless muddle. This muddle derives from their fantastic ficitionalization of the past and their demonization of family and marriage, merely because of the distortions of these institutions in the Victorian age. 

The nearest thing today to the matrilineal system idealized by the feminists is in fact the dysfunctional family that we find in the drug-infested slums and ghettos of Western cities. This is the female-headed household, where a number of children have been fathered by various transient lovers (much in the fashion of the matrilineal Nayar of India or the Mosuo of China.) In the absence of family land or a large clan of relatives, including warrior brothers to go out and plunder the neighbouring tribes, the household lives on welfare paid for out of the taxes of the wicked monogamous families of the evil patriarchy. This female-headed household soon becomes a grandmother-headed household as one of the teenage daughters comes home pregnant. She drops a baby into the general chaos, and again cannot manage to interest the father in taking his responsibilities. But it would be wrong to blame the father: in the feminist matrilineal system, the father is doing the right thing in disappearing from the scene, because he has no business taking over his family in a wicked patriarchal manner and becoming that feminist demon, the male breadwinner. If the father took his responsibilities, rented a flat, married the girl, took care of the baby and earned a living for all of them, he would be committing the original male sin of patriarchy. He would be setting up that evil system of oppression, the nuclear family with a male breadwinner. The next thing, he would be encouraging his young wife to stay home and look after the baby and we would be witnessing again that atrocious human rights violation the slave-wife, condemned to a life of diaper-changing and walks in the park, while her husband has all the fun and glory of working in the factory all day. Before we finished we would have an assertion of fascist paternal authority: the father would have the audacity to claim that this child was half his and might demand some say in whether it went to school and what it learned. The ultimate level of atrocity would be reached when in case of divorce he might even claim some rights to it, might demand the right to see it regularly, inflicting his vile male presence on an ex-wife who does not want to see him or speak to him again. All of this patriarchal tyranny would follow if she once let this male pig through the door to acknowledge the baby as his. Far better to keep it all in the matrilineal family, and let teenage mother and baby swell the welfare rolls.

In this way radical feminism encourages and even idealizes the disintegration of the family, demonizes male responsibility as tyranny, demonizes fatherhood and its natural duties as patriarchy, and has probably had a more destructive effect on human society than any ideology since the Marxism it sprang from.






We have outlined the arguments that some matrilineal societies may well have evolved into patrilineal ones through changes in farming methods and survival conditions. But the question remains:  what evidence is there that this actually happened? There are no historical accounts of societies changing from one lineage system to another. All we have to go on is that societies of both types still exist today, but patrilineal ones are far more numerous. Were they always so? Or did some of them evolve from earlier matrilineal stages?

Now the attempts by Bachofen and Morgan to prove the existence of primitive matriarchy relied on the method of looking for vestiges of this earlier system in existing or recorded societies and trying to reconstruct the past from these surviving traces. This whole methodology of reconstruction from vestiges has more recently been rejected by many anthropologists. This is partly due to the influence of a structuralist ideology which plays down change and ignores evidence of development in human cultures. But a sweeping rejection of the method of reconstruction from vestiges in anthropology is almost as foolish as it would be in geology, palaeontology, or archaeology all of which depend almost entirely on recreating the past from vestiges in the present. What is essential in all these sciences is the care, expertise and prudence brought to bear upon the work of reconstruction. The Victorian matriarchists tended to jump to conclusions which they had already decided on in advance. But various writers have taken up this approach in more sophisticated ways since then, and pointed to evidence which might well suggest a primitive matrilineal stage in some Western societies. The evidence is cause for reflection, even if it does not constitute proof.

Some writers have claimed that there are traces in both ancient Greek and Jewish culture that suggest these societies may have moved from a matrilineal to a patrilineal pattern shortly before their first extant writings. It has been argued (with a trace of paradox) that the extraordinary emphasis given to patrilineal genealogies in the Jewish scriptures might indicate they were just becoming established. Jewishness is still inherited through the mother. The books of the Old Testament also show an obsessive hostility to the worship of the Canaanite goddess Ashoreh (involving practices of unspecified turpitude, perhaps with temple prostitutes), into which the Jews were continually backsliding. This might suggest that the Jews of this period were engaged in a struggle to stamp out the traces of a matrilineal order, expressed in the goddess-worship which still prevailed in some of the societies around them. Similarly, the theme of patrilineal descent and male domination is still very much in the forefront of Greek literature in the fifth century BC. We find it in Aeschylus, in the judgement of Orestes matricide to avenge his father, in which Apollo testifies that the seed predominates in reproduction, making a son more his fathers offspring than his mothers.

            The mother is not parent of her so-called child
            but only nurse of the new-sown seed.
            The man who puts it there is parent. 20 

 This is a militant and aggressive assertion of patrilineal principle, as though there were an opposing point of view that still had to be vanquished (or as though there were a vague folk memory of a time when women were wrongly credited with the entire miracle of reproduction, and men were now getting their own back.) The Eumenides or Furies are portrayed by Aeschylus as representatives of an older order of female divinities, favouring the mother, defeated by the new gods favouring the father. There is a sense of revolution in the air in this play. The battle of mens and womens rights is debated more than once in Greek drama, which is often indicative of a change in womens status which provokes controversy (we find the same thing in 14th century Europe, and again in the late 17th century, and in the 19th.) The recurrent theme of womens collective revolt, a favourite with Aristophanes, suggests that Athenian women did not take their subject status lying down. Greek drama gives leading roles to a number of women characters, especially in the position of opposing authority. Antigones famous revolt is caused by her determination, against the kings orders, to bury her brother, who died as a traitor attacking his own city, Thebes. In her assertion of family duty against state law, Antigone is harking back to an earlier tribal or clan custom that pre-dates state power. In the important Greek distinction between natural justice and state law, women are often shown by the Greek dramatists as defending natural justice against political authority. But admittedly these arguments are paradoxical: they take the militant assertion of male dominance in these societies as a sign of its relative newness, which may be thought somewhat weak grounds for positing an earlier matrilineal order.

When we come to the ancient Germans, it is different. The vestiges of a primitive matriliny seem far more direct and recent, given the high status of German women according to Roman commentators. Scholars over the last few years have examined the lineage system revealed in Beowulf and argued that there are unmistakable signs of matrilineal inheritance patterns, notably the transfer of power from a clan chief to his sister’s son. The suggestion is that the Anglo-Saxon poet was using continental Germanic (Danish) material from an earlier period, when a matrilineal lineage pattern prevailed. He recorded elements of this system in his poem without really understanding them, since patriliny was the rule among the Anglo-Saxons. Thus he tells how Beowulf rejects the offer by his aunt of the kingship held by her late husband (his mother’s brother) and protests that it should go to the king’s son. The poet faithfully records the matrilineal incident which he found in his material – the curious offer by the hero’s aunt, as if she had the power to dispose of the crown and wanted to keep it in her husband’s gens by giving it to his sister’s son rather than her own – but he tries to square it with the patrilineal culture of his own day. Her offer is of course absolutely consistent with  matrilineal practice. Women in this poem mourn the death of brothers more than husbands, and young men seem to be part of the war-bands of their maternal uncles, not their fathers. When Beowulf dies, the man who inherits from him seems also to be his sister’s son (though the poet himself does not seem to grasp the significance of this, and pretends that he is a substitute for the son Beowulf would have liked to have.) All of this points to the poem being set in a society with strong matrilineal elements. 21

The importance of the relationship of uncle and nephew among the Germans was commented on by Tacitus six centuries before this poem.

 The sons of sisters are as highly honoured by their uncles as by their own fathers. Some tribes even consider the former tie the closer and more sacred of the two, and in demanding hostages prefer nephews to sons, thinking that this gives them a firmer grip on mens hearts and a wider hold on the family. 22

 Tacitus, innocent of the investigations of modern anthropology, seems oblivious to the significance we read into this today that it suggests a matrilineal system. But his next comment, However, a mans heirs and successors are his own children, paradoxically shows, by denial, that he knew of the existence of matrilineal systems. The fact he finds it necessary to insist that sons inherit indicates that the contrary idea, of nephews inheriting, might otherwise cross the reader’s mind. Now where would Tacitus have heard of a system of nephews inheriting, if not from the Germans themselves (or other barbarians?) The matrilineal system must have been known to him as an alternative or he would not have taken pains to exclude it. Did some tribes still practise it, despite his generalization about sons inheriting? It does call to mind his description of the remote Sitones, a northern tribe where women are the ruling sex, presumably with a matrilineal system still intact and complete. It may well be that among other tribes the lineage system was in varying degrees of transition, with some patrilineal and some matrilineal elements in their customs (perhaps reflecting the varying degree of influence upon them of the Romans.) He has already commented on the idleness of the German men: For the boldest and most warlike men have no regular employment, the care of house, home and fields being left to the women, old men and weaklings of the family. 23 This again suggests a society that is still in part matrilineal, the women doing most of the agricultural work while the men devote themselves to war. When he comments on the high status of women: You can secure a surer hold on these nations if you compel them to include among a consignment of hostages some girls of noble family we might now interpret this statement in a new light. 24 It may reflect not merely the mens chivalrous sentiments and the higher value they generally placed on women’s lives but also the fact that the loss of high-born women might have wreaked havoc with their lineage system.

            The importance of the relationship of sisters son as a transmission line for high office is found, as we have seen, among the Minangkabau of Sumatra. While clans are traced through the women, and land inheritance is from mother to daughter, practical authority over the tribe seems to be exercised by a man who is the brother of a key female elder, and the office is transmitted on his death to his sisters son or grandson by decision of the women elders. The fact that a husband divides his energies between the family he is born into and the new family he is founding with his wife means that there is a built-in rivalry for his attention and labour between his wife and his sisters. There is a similar built-in rivalry between a man and his wifes brothers for influence over his wife and her children. This dispersal of mens nurturing and providing instinct between several families may lead on the positive side to a close-knit clan fabric, where sisters and brothers remain very attached, but it must also provoke jealousy and rivalry, especially between mens wives and sisters. A womans instinct, one might think, is to try to get her husband to invest in her (their) children judging from the strength of this urge among women today. And it might even be that very urge which eventually put an end to the matrilineal system in many places: the wife may have persuaded her husband to give his attention (and his wealth) to her children, not his sisters, by emphasizing his genetic stake in them. We can imagine various scenarios. Perhaps as a husband contributed more and more to the household wealth with his success in cattle-raising, trade or plunder, the fate of this accumulated wealth became an object of rivalry. On his death his wealth would pass to his sisters children (thus remaining within his birth gens), and his wife may well have resented this, and tried to get him to leave it to her children instead. The Marxist-feminist conviction that the change to patriliny must have been caused by the mans desire to leave his property to his own children, rather than his sisters children, is psychologically quite implausible. If he spent a lot of time with his nephews and nieces, and they resembled him, he would be perfectly happy to leave his wealth to them. (He could at least be sure of his genetic or “blood” connection with them, more than he could with his own children.) It is his wife who would not have been happy with this arrangement: they were not her nephews and nieces, they were total strangers to her blood. She would be the one determined that he should leave his wealth to her children and she perhaps sought to gain his interest in them by persuading him with a show of fidelity that they were certainly also his children. It is the wife of a rich man who had the most to gain from overthrowing the matrilineal system by making sure his wealth went to her children, not to his sisters. In short, as men developed sources of wealth which became at least as important as the land inherited by the women moveable wealth in the form of cattle, goods obtained by trading surplus crops, or booty from war this would have motivated the wife, not the husband, to want to shift from a matrilineal to a patrilineal system, so that her children could inherit his wealth. And once the man became established as the wealth-provider and protector of their joint children, rather than his sisters children, three things would have followed.

First, he would have been more present in his wifes home (rather than his mothers and sisters’ home) and assumed more authority over her children, edging out her brothers. Second, his wife, anxious to ensure his investment of his wealth in her children, would have adopted a posture of total fidelity to him, to emphasize that these children were his, by developing the sense of exclusive love between them. By associating sex with love, she could use sex to edge out the influence of her rival, his sister, who could not use sex because of incest taboos. The wife could in a sense trump the lifelong bond he had with his sister by developing a new form of sexual love, turning a pragmatic mating into a deep emotional relationship, protected by the jealousy of both. Setting up their own marital home separate from her family home would have symbolized the new monopoly of his affections by her and her children. Third, girls (and their parents) would have begun choosing their husbands not for their looks and youth, but for the wealth and status they could bestow on their children. We see this choice of husband already in the Icelandic sagas, where the girls prefer wealthy, high-status men to young, good-looking ones. Women, far more concerned about their children’s future than men are, make mating choices which will favour their offsprings chances of success. Men, who under a matrilineal system perhaps chose wives largely for their status, the wealth of their family and the land they would inherit, would then begin to choose them for looks, youth, and charm. This pattern of choice appears to be extremely widespread across cultures. All of this suggests that it was women rather than men who initiated the change to patriliny, so that their husbands wealth and status would benefit their children. And since women by their choice of husband exercise real control over the future status and prosperity of their children, they begin to develop the arts of attracting the man they want, as their chief means of controlling both their own future wealth and status and that of their children.

            It might seem a paradox to argue that the shift from matriliny to patriliny (which we may assume occurred widely if many more prehistoric societies were matrilineal than existing ones) was brought about by women, but it is perfectly logical. Women, in order to benefit their children, precipitated a change which had the unintended consequence of leading to a decline in their own collective status. But the prime cause of it was the development of major sources of wealth by men: cattle raising, trading in cattle or surplus crops produced by the plough (requiring long, dangerous journeys to find buyers, which made trading naturally men’s work) and the plunder of enemy villages in war. These new sources of male wealth led the men to compete with one another for women by displays of their wealth rather than their youth and looks. Women then began to go for wealthy men, who could assure their comfort and status, and that of their children. But if they wanted their children to inherit their husbands wealth and status, women had to persuade their men to abandon the matrilineal system and leave their wealth to their own children, not their sisters children. Initially women may have retained the inheritance of land; but as the boys became more important sources of food and wealth than the girls (since the boys were needed for ploughing and cattle-herding) ageing parents may have preferred the sons to stay home and the daughters to marry away. This would have led to land inheritance also shifting to the male. In short, the development of new sources of wealth by men would have led girls to want to shift to a system where they could attract a rich husband whose wealth would pass to their children; while the development of new strenuous farming methods would have led parents to prefer a system where sons stayed home and inherited the farm. Women thus sacrificed their collective status for the individual success of their own offspring. In accepting what may have been a more subordinate and more strictly faithful relationship with a wealthy man, they guaranteed their childrens future prosperity. This at any rate is a more plausible process by which the shift to patriliny occurred than the Engels version of a male coup d’état by the sudden emergence of a strong paternal instinct which had never manifested itself until then.

The historic change to patriliny is something that many societies, such as the Minagkabau, obviously did not go through. Their ancient matrilineal system stubbornly survives, despite conversion to Islam four centuries ago. This is perhaps because their agricultural system has not really evolved, and food-production (on a horticultural mode, not using the heavy plough) remains in the hands of women. The main economic contribution made by the men tends to be outside the tribe: the young men, having no inherited land, are driven to seek their fortunes outside (through marriage or by their wits), and therefore travel far and wide, particularly as traders. Nearly a third of their people live in other parts of Indonesia where they no longer really follow their traditional matrilineal culture. The natural tendency to dispersal of a culture where men often marry outside the tribe may explain the fragility of matrilineal systems in those societies exposed to travel, mobility and trade. The Minangkabau themselves disagree about whether their culture became matrilineal because of the tendency of their young men to travel far from their ancestral home, or whether this travelling tendency is the result of the sons being without family land. The curious result of this wanderlust is that the men excel in trade, business and literary activities, hold a disproportionate number of government posts including cabinet seats, and form a sort of  intellectual elite in Indonesia, while being without any land inheritance rights in their own tribe. 25

One is tempted to draw what may seem at first sight a fanciful comparison with the men of northern Europe, who have displayed throughout their history a remarkable lack of attachment to home, and a willingness to wander the world to seek their fortunes, whether by trade or war. If the literary vestiges we have discussed do point to an ancestral matrilineal culture among the Germans, it may be this which gave their men a similar wanderlust to the Minangkabau. A male roaming instinct born of a matrilineal society where boys were landless may then have outlasted the shift to a patrilineal system. A young man seeking his fortune abroad and by brave deeds winning the hand of a foreign princess, heir to a kingdom, is one of the commonest patterns of European folktales. Though found among the Greeks, in the myth of Jason, it is particularly common among the Germanic folk-tales of the Middle Ages. In fact the image of the princess in her tower may not primarily be the image of female helplessness awaiting male rescue so decried by the feminists. Behind this medieval romance tradition we might discern a much older pattern: the image of the heiress to large tracts of land, waiting for a wandering male from another tribe to come and court her, prove his worth by passing various tests, in order to marry her and share her inheritance which is the pattern of matriliny. The passing of tests in order to obtain the girl is basic to many of these folk-tales, including The Nibelungenlied, where the magical help that Siegfried gives Gunther to win his Icelandic princess proves the undoing of them all. What is common to all these stories is that it is the boy who wanders abroad and the girl who stays at home, that it is he who passes through trials to obtain her, the king’s daughter, and that they usually settle down in her kingdom. All this is matrilineal and matrilocal, and that seems to be the commonest underlying pattern of European folk-tales. What makes the male active and the female passive is the males movement away from home into the unknown, on a quest for a female elsewhere, and that movement is imposed most of all by matriliny, in which the female stays put and inherits the land. Among nations, this pattern of adventurous male wandering is epitomized by the way of life of the Vikings, both traders and warriors, who founded kingdoms or colonies in Ireland, England, Scotland, Normandy, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, Greenland, and perhaps in America. The tendency of young men to wander abroad may even have contributed to the warrior system. Tacitus describes the elite warriors of the tribe of the Chatti as homeless and landless mercenaries dedicated to war with an almost ascetic fervour:   

 Every battle is begun by these men. They are always in the front rank where they present a startling sight: for even in peace-time they will not soften the ferocity of their expression. None of them has a home, land or any occupation. To whatever host they choose to go, they get their keep from him, squandering other mens property since they think it beneath them to have any of their own, until old age leaves them without enough blood in their veins for such stern heroism. 26 

 These landless men seem to be the products of a largely matrilineal system, which disinherits sons and drives them abroad to seek their fortune by force of arms. Since they have no other means of support, booty is the goal of Germanic warriors. War is almost a violent form of trade, or more accurately a form of organized crime or plunder. It is by this means that men seek prestige and glory, perhaps in some cases to enable them to make a good marriage with an heiress to prime land. It also drives the warriors abroad to seek booty further and further from their own over-looted neighbourhood, and turns them into explorers and invaders of far-off places. Paradoxically, these twin traditions of wanderlust and the warrior cult may have given northern European man the peculiar urge to conquer and settle far-off lands which has spread his culture to the ends of the earth, with such mixed results for other peoples. It would be an irony if we concluded that the imperialist urge to explore and conquer new lands (like the wandering trader habits of the Minangkabau men) was originally the product of matriliny.




We cannot leave this subject without looking briefly at the treatment of matriarchy in ancient literature itself. The concept of matriarchy, however dubious it seems to most modern anthropologists, exercised the ancient imagination considerably, and has come down to us in various myths and legends. There are several descriptions of all-female or female-ruled societies in classical sources, though they appear to be largely fictive. In one story the Amazons, horse-riding female archers, used to break their infant sons legs and arms or cut their hamstrings, so that all males were crippled and unable to ride or fight, and thus formed a servant class while the women governed. In another story an all-female tribe of horse-riding archers used to make periodic arrangements with the men of other tribes to meet briefly for breeding purposes, and would then send the fathers any sons they bore. In another version of this story, recorded by Herodotus, these Amazons finally made a permanent arrangement with the young men of a region of Scythia and agreed on a way of life where they would both play the same role and engage in hunting and war together. 27 These stories might almost be fables meant to suggest the sort of problems women would have in maintaining their rule over a physically stronger sex:  they would either have to cripple males, expel them or compromise with them. Some might discern in this a foreshadowing of the three paths taken by modern feminism: gender-bending, lesbian separatism and equal rights feminism. 

One might point out that almost all ancient tales of Amazons and women warriors relate to the stage of warfare dominated by light skirmishing cavalry, using bow and arrow to strike from a distance a speciality of the Scythians and the people of the steppes. Now horse-riding and archery are two sports where women can equal men. This was before the Greeks developed mass charges by heavily armed infantry, so-called phalanx warfare, in the 8th century BC, as Greek farmers decided to stand and defend their crops in pitched battles. One might suggest that the phase of the history of warfare where women could equal men (as archers and horse-riders) was overtaken by new technologies, notably the bronze armour requiring greater muscular strength to wear it and run with it, and the heavy weapons needed to pierce it. It is difficult to imagine many women carrying at a run the seventy pounds of armour and weapons carried by a Greek hoplite.28 It may be more than accidental that the disappearance from the ancient world of all traces of matrilineal systems coincides roughly in date to the development of this style of warfare which required not only more strength but an unprecedented degree of testosterone-driven aggressiveness and brutality. Male dominance appears to have been accentuated with the invention of methods of warfare requiring extreme masculine qualities, both physical and mental, which men had to train to develop.

It has been argued by many that before the warrior cult there may have been a phase of human development in which women had a religious, almost mystical prestige because of the mystery of motherhood, the miraculous production of new life. Tiny figurines of women, sometimes pregnant, often referred to as mother goddesses, are among the earliest surviving sculptures in the Old World, dating back to over 20,000 BC. It has been surmised that this phase of culture might have been characterized by animistic beliefs, expressing a magical relationship to the world, and an identification of woman with the forces of life, reproduction and renewal of vegetation in the spring.29 There may well have been a tendency for this mystical approach to life to give way before the growth of rational understanding of the processes of nature, as the breeding of animals (and the male role in reproduction) as well as crop-raising began to be better understood. The womans mysterious and magical power of child-bearing was not just explained but explained away (and perhaps exposed as a bit of a cheat, since it was males who were after all found to be responsible for this miracle.) Her status might then have fallen. We would thus have the notion of male dominance developing with the growth of a more rational, empirical approach to the world rather than a magical, animistic approach, identifying mystically with nature. This again is an idea which some Victorian theorists proposed, and some recent women scholars have revived.  

It may be no coincidence that the Greeks, who developed in the 8th century BC the most masculine type of warfare ever seen, phalanx warfare calling on testosterone to an unprecedented degree in order to develop both the muscular strength to carry the armour and heavy weapons, and the aggressive, suicidal urge to charge in massed ranks, eight deep, into the enemys massed ranks with deadly edged weapons and no chance of escape were, after a century or two of this, displaying the most rational, logical minds ever seen on earth. What strikes the reader of Greek philosophers such as Aristotle is their analytical approach to nature, the absence of any sense of a magical, intuitive relationship with nature, such as medieval man still possessed. Aristotle has a more scientific mind than any Western European until Leonardo and Galileo. The modern analytical, logical mind seems to spring mature from Greek civilization without any intermediate steps. Pythagoras in the 6th century BC saw the whole world through mathematics, at a time when magic, superstition and religion dominated the world-view of most other cultures. Where on earth did this mathematical way of thinking come from? What caused Greek minds to be so different?

Now when one considers that mathematics is a testosterone-related ability, that researchers have found that the second highest level of testosterone in a population group correlates with the highest mathematical skills, one is tempted to a heretical idea.30 Did the Greeks method of warfare (in which the entire male population participated) have an effect on their brains? Was a suicidally aggressive style of warfare phalanx warfare the factor that increased their testosterone levels, giving the Greeks a crucial mathematical ability which lay at the basis of their rational thinking? Does a violently militaristic people develop an edge in analytical thought because of the effect of enhanced testosterone on the brain? Was phalanx warfare the brain-masculinizing discipline that after two centuries produced Pythagoras? It may of course be a coincidence that the two most militaristic peoples in Europes history the ancient Greeks and the modern Germans also produced its greatest philosophical and mathematical minds. 31

It is significant that as the Greeks developed their intellectual culture, women were excluded from it in the same way that they were excluded from war though Plato, that ideological heretic, favoured womens participation in both intellectual and military life. Because in his vision of the ideal Republic he abolished the family, Plato also abolished gender roles, and sought to develop the purely rational qualities of mind in both women and men. For him it was a logical step that women should also train for war, a notion that many modern feminists agree with. Over two thousand years later the Soviet feminist politician Alexandra Kollantai would put forward a communist vision strikingly similar to Platos. Kollantai and other radical feminists accept the basic premise of Platos Republic: womens complete equality with men requires the abolition of the family. Of course Platos concern was perfect justice he wanted to abolish nepotism, the favouring of ones children, and the unfair inheritance of wealth, by concealing whose children were whose. Abolishing the family was the only way to have a perfect meritocracy. But one might say that the direction of radical feminism was laid down by Plato, who was the first to reject family life, paternity and gender roles and to see the link between them. From the very first, the vision of radical feminism has been a communist, totalitarian vision, where the state replaces the family in taking care of children.




            One of the foundations of radical feminism is the absolute rejection of societys right to impose gender roles. Janet Radcliffe Richards clearly regards any pressure on anyone to play a specific social role because of their sex as an intolerable injustice in itself, whether or not the role involves any subordination. Why, she asks put separate pressures on the two sexes at all? 32 The idea that people should be pressured by their society into certain kinds of behaviour on the basis of their sex seems to radical feminists not only intolerable in the present but equally intolerable at any time in the past. How dare any society limit any human beings freedom to be whatever he or she chooses, they ask?

Such a point of view could only be the product of the individualistic, liberal-capitalist ideology first developed in the eighteenth century, which saw human beings as free atoms. At any previous stage of human history few people would have understood what the argument even meant. It is based on the romantic Rousseauist illusion that human beings are born free. In point of fact no human being has ever been born free. If he were born free he would get up and walk about, go into the kitchen and make himself dinner. Now no human baby has ever done this. Babies are utterly helpless, and they cannot therefore be considered free in any meaningful sense that of having choices and the ability to pursue them. Humans, like other mammals, are born as the dependent property of their parents or of someone else who looks after them irrespective of their free legal status. If a small kitten imagines it is free, the mother cat will soon teach it otherwise with a swipe of her paw. Born into the possession of others, existing only thanks to the good will and nurturing of others, human beings grow up within a society (at its base, the family) where they have a role expected of them in exchange for societys benevolence in enabling them to live. The simplest role expected of a female is that in repayment for being enabled to live, she will enable others to live; that she will contribute to the survival of the society that has given her life by giving life in her turn. Almost all constraints on women in the past have been designed in principle to ensure that they fulfilled this contract a reproductive role that no man or old woman could fulfil in their place, and without which the society that gave them birth could not survive. 

        In most past societies the womans duty to give birth had its counterpart in the mans duty to defend his tribe or nation. Tacitus describes the custom of the Chatti, fiercest of the German warriors, of growing their hair and beard long until they have killed an enemy in war:

Standing over the bloody corpse they have despoiled, they reveal their faces to the world once more, and proclaim that they have at last repaid the debt they owe for being brought into the world, and have proved themselves worthy of their native land and their parents. 33 

The idea that somebody owes a debt to society for being brought into the world must come as a shock to the egotistical “free spirits” of the modern age, who on the contrary seem to think that the world owes them a living for gracing it with their presence. Human beings today are quite officially held to be born with rights but no duties. This was not the view of people in the past. Such was the sense of social belonging of all people until the liberal-capitalist age, that the duty of a person to contribute to the survival of society before indulging his own individual caprices was never even questioned. One of the peculiar paradoxes of the radical feminists’ viewpoint is that despite their muddled Marxism, which holds capitalism and private property responsible for all the alleged oppression women have suffered, their ideology is so completely a product of the 18th century liberal-capitalist Enlightenment, with its belief in liberty and its rejection of society’s claims over the individual. Their whole conviction that the traditional pressures upon women to fulfil a mother-role were an intolerable act of oppression is based on the belief in individual freedom invented by the liberal-capitalist society. Without capitalist liberalism, feminism would be inconceivable.

But to apply to the past the judgements of our own highly individualistic age must inevitably lead us to view all past societies as insufferably oppressive. In the past social obligations were imposed on every individual. There was very little room for freedom of choice or non-conformity to the approved roles for each sex. A woman who did not want to marry and have children, because she was either lesbian or frigid or preferred to have a whole string of lovers, was clearly going to have problems in most societies in the past. Christian Europe provided more scope than many other cultures for these rebel individuals : it gave the frigid or lesbian the option of being nuns and the promiscuous the option of being courtesans. Both of these vocations in various ages gave access to intellectual pursuits that few more conventional women engaged in. In Renaissance Italy most of the women who achieved fame as poets or intellectuals were either courtesans or nuns. The convents of many ages may be regarded as lesbian sororities, even if the lesbian relationships were Platonic. But exactly the same is true of the men, who were constrained by the obligation of their sex to serve as soldiers in time of war. The only ones usually exempt from this duty were again those who chose a religious life, as priests or monks, and whose pacifism was thus no longer equated with cowardice. Again, the more effeminate men were often in their element in monasteries, which in certain ages gained a sulphurous reputation for unorthodox forms of brotherly love. In some non-Christian cultures, effeminate homosexual men were similarly given a religious role as shamans. The societies of the past did therefore manage to accommodate some non-conformity to gender role, but for the “normal” majority of men as well as women the roles were strict and inescapable. From the point of view of the survival of the species, one could argue that a certain pressure on the majority to conform can be justified. Every tribe has a right to impose on its members the behaviour vital for its collective survival – for the women, giving birth, and for the men, defending the tribe. These two obligations are so primordial that they are in no way affected by whether women or men are in the leadership positions, and matrilineal and patrilineal societies have scarcely differed in this respect. The matrilineal Iroquois, as we have seen, had a male warrior cult as developed as any other tribe, and their numbers suggest their women were prolific breeders.   

It is debatable whether men or women have been more constrained by gender roles in the past. Mens duty to fight to defend the tribe involved willingness to sacrifice their lives. Anyone hesitant about making this sacrifice had the decision made for him from the ancient Germans who drowned cowards and deserters in swamps, to their First World War descendants (on both sides) who merely shot them. Women, many of them feminists, eagerly participated in the white feather campaigns to pressure boys to volunteer to fight and die in the trenches. (Eleanour of Aquitaine and her female Crusader companions did the same tossing spindles, symbols of womens work, to the men reluctant to volunteer for the Crusades.) Did it occur to anyone to ask whether male cowards, pacifists or deserters might have other valuable talents that they might make good child-raisers? Societies have allotted gender roles out of a spirit of simplification and to make it easier to pressure people to provide certain dangerous services to the community by decreeing it a law of nature that this category of human being must provide this service. It has always involved injustice to the few who did not conform to type. But the past is not a just country. The only way we can evaluate it is to ask to what extent its cruelties and injustices were necessary for survival, and were crucial in enabling us to reach this lofty point of history from which we may look back and condemn our ancestors. 




            The oppression of women in the past is so taken for granted today that to question it is almost like questioning the existence of slavery or the reality of the Holocaust. But the notion of oppression is not as simple as it might at first appear. That women were generally subordinated in varying degrees in the patrinileal societies of the West is clear, but is all subordination oppression? Is the subordination of children to parents oppression? At what age does this subordination become oppression by definition: 16? 18? 21? Are different views allowed on this question? Might a culture subordinate children to parents until they are 30, without being oppressive? Or until their father and grandfather both die, as the Romans did? What of those cultures (the majority in the past) where parents decided who their children would marry? Is this by definition oppression?

Is the subordination of soldiers to their officers oppression? Is the subordination of workers to their boss oppression? Or pupils to teachers? If not, when does it become oppression? If a child is beaten by a teacher, is that oppression? If the child is punished by being kept after school, is that subordination but not oppression? If soldiers are flogged or shot for disobeying orders, is that oppression? If they are given extra guard duty, is that subordination but not oppression? Can we then define oppression as a separate thing from subordination? Does it involve coercion? Does it involve abuse of power which causes protest and resentment? Does it involve such excessive, cruel use of power that the subordinate party refuses to accept subordination, and is then coerced into accepting it? Must oppression mean constant resentment and hatred of the oppressor? Does oppression exclude all possibility of love of ones oppressor? Is it possible to be oppressed without realizing it? If one accepts ones subordination as natural, is one suffering from some internal psychological oppression? If, in a subordinate position, one does not know or think one is oppressed, is one doubly oppressed, or not at all?

            The great problem in understanding subordination is that in a democratic age we have lost all conception of what it meant. We cannot believe that it was ever acceptable. Equality for us is now an absolute. The moment there is inequality, we assume this must mean slavery. The notion of inequality with rights for both parties is to us nonsense. If there is no equality, there can be no rights for the subordinate party that is our assumption. Yet the whole feudal system was built on the notion that every level in the hierarchy had both its rights and its duties. Even the lowest level had rights, and even the highest level had duties. The notion of an unequal relationship where each party has strict rights and duties, where one is not absolutely at the mercy of the other, where there is neither slavery nor tyranny, is not just alien to us but incomprehensible. The notion of respecting somebody lower in the hierarchy, who has fewer rights than you, is only comprehensible today inside the army (an institution increasingly vilified because of this entire system of subordination.) Yet this is the principle that underlay virtually all human relationships for at least nine tenths of recorded history.

Dare we suggest that women throughout history have usually been subordinate to men, but have not generally been oppressed? They have occasionally been oppressed, in the sense that their subordination has at times been so marked that it has been felt as oppression, but this has not generally been the case in the West. The feminist argument is that all subordination of women was by definition oppressive at all times in history. But what are the grounds for thinking this? If one human being needs the protection of another, is not subordination inherent in the relationship, as in the case of children and parents, without this dependence being in any way oppressive? (The comparison of women and children is not unreasonable;  the widespread custom of mature men marrying thirteen year-old girls meant a disparity in experience of the world which made the husband as naturally the protector and decision-maker as a parent would be.) The partial economic incapacitation of women by continual child-birth, nursing and child-raising imposed a partnership where men were the main breadwinners and physical protectors and therefore took the economic and external decisions for the family unit (while the wife ruled the house.) It is only when this incapacitation itself began to diminish, as medical and economic progress in the 18th century made childbirth safer, increased populations and extended life-spans (raising the age at marriage) while philosophy opened up new vistas of individual liberty that this subordination was suddenly felt by some women to be oppressive, and the struggle to put an end to it began.   

This general acceptance of their position by women was only possible because nearly all human societies before the eighteenth century lived by patterns of hierarchy and subordination as their organizing principle. The notion that any subordination is wicked, that all human beings are born free and equal, arrived only with the Enlightenment (though there were hints of it among the Levellers of the English Revolution of the 17th century, in the peasant revolts of a few centuries earlier, and in previous civilizations among the Athenians and the Nordics though no society till the 18th century seriously questioned slavery, the ultimate form of subordination.) Are nearly all societies from the beginning of time to the eighteenth century to be considered oppressive, and therefore evil? What if there was no other principle of social organization available to them? What if hierarchy and subordination are the inborn principles of nature, shown in the pecking order of all tribal animals, and we humans have simply inherited them from our ape ancestors? Is it not easier to keep order in a large group (such as  an army) if every individual is responsible for the obedience of the one below him? What if every generation blindly followed the pattern of hierarchy set up by the previous one, without daring to challenge it for fear of a general collapse of order just as bureaucrats today blindly follow procedures they know are utterly absurd for fear of chaos if they question them? Do societies have a force of inertia that only catastrophe can change?

In such a system are those at the top of the hierarchy more to blame than those at the bottom? Or are those who call the system in question to be considered the most virtuous, and those who accept it as natural the most vicious, whatever rank in the hierarchy they occupy? How do we judge morally the conformity to a system that we now consider deeply unjust?  Are only the rebels in such a society to be admired? Was George Washington the slave-owner necessarily an oppressor and nothing but that (as the politically correct schoolbooks now imply?) Was Nat Turner, the rebel black slave and mass murderer of white women and children, a good man and a hero? And what of those slaves who refused to join him out of Christian principle were they cowards and collaborators with tyranny? 



        It is a kind of moral question we have been reluctant to approach in a democratic humanist age – how to judge the past. Do we judge it by our standards or by its own? Do we judge events for themselves or for their consequences? If the ancient Greek system of slavery was necessary to produce Plato and Aristotle, Aeschylus and Sophocles, was it justified? To put it another way, would we undo it? Or could we, since our long journey to the moral code that enables us to condemn slavery today passed through the thoughts of those particular minds? If the exploitation of 19th century workers in appalling conditions was necessary to produce the industrial wealth we all benefit from today, was it justified? Would we rather go back to an agricultural economy? Would we undo the Panama Canal or the Hoover Dam because of the lives they cost? If the dying out of large numbers of the native peoples of the United States and Australia was necessary for these two nations to develop, with all the contributions they have since made to human happiness (including defeating Nazism and Japanese imperialism), was this evil justified? If you had to choose between the present situation, and an America and Australia still inhabited only by their indigenous peoples, which would you choose? And how many lives would you undo?

Are you willing to accept the evils of the past for the benefits they have brought? But if you accept them, do you not justify them? Do you not become their accomplice? It has become the fashion today for all Westerners to engage in ritual self-flagellation over the colonization of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico. But would you wish away the present existence of those nations, hundreds of millions of souls, product of that colonization? This is a question we rarely ask, because the only sane answer is not politically correct or morally comfortable. It forces us to see life not in moral terms – in terms of the ideologies of indignation – but as tragic.

So it is with the subordination of women in most past ages and cultures. To what extent was it necessary in order to enable us to survive and reproduce and get to this point in time where it is no longer necessary? If we conclude this was a necessary evil, how can we condemn the means by which all of us, both women and men, have survived into the present?

But even if we admit that a great part of the subordination of women in the past was not necessary or rational, what then? We might well admit that depriving women (as they were deprived in most ages) of certain legal and political rights, of participation in politics, of university education, of access to professions, was quite unnecessary in order to ensure their reproductive role. After all, they were allowed to become nuns, which entails no breeding at all, so why not lawyers, doctors and politicians? But all this amounts merely to acknowledging the obvious – that human nature does not follow rational paths even in its pursuit of rational goals. It is typical of human beings to put forward a general principle for their actions, and then push those actions to an extreme that makes a mockery of the principle. Human minds regularly bend reasonable beliefs into irrational dogmas. We have recently seen the same with all the political isms of the 20th century. At the time of writing, the Castro regime, obsessed with the evils of international capitalism, still does not allow anyone in Cuba to open a private restaurant that has more than ten seats. How can we blame the ancient Greeks or the medieval church for the narrowness of their views on women when supposedly educated and progressive minds have fallen into far worse extremes in our own lifetimes? Was support for the church’s views on subordinating women more heinous than support for Stalin’s or Mao’s views on exterminating the bourgeoisie – which a good part of the Western leftist intelligentsia in our lifetime (including notable feminists) went along with? When we admit that most aspects of the subordination of women in the past were absurd and pointless we are merely admitting that human beings have always been irrational, blind fanatics even in their pursuit of reasonable goals – in this case, biological survival.  

       But, more generally, how do we come to terms in the present with a past which was largely ignorant, unjust and cruel? What is the meaning of condemnation, or of guilt and remorse, for actions committed hundreds of years ago? And who should we condemn for the past? For the condemnation of past evils would have no point (that is, would have no element of malicious triumph) unless we can use it to condemn those in the present who can somehow be blamed by association (or sympathy) for those acts. But on what grounds are we to select the people who are to be held vicariously responsible today for past evils? On the grounds of nationality? Race? Class? Sex? Creed? If a French Cathar woman was burned at the stake in the 13th century, who should have guilt heaped on them today for this act? Catholics? Church dignitaries? Northern Frenchmen? The upper classes? The male sex? Perhaps we can find an upper-class Catholic bishop from Normandy who embodies all these characteristics and hold him up to public revilement – or burn him in revenge. The modern left, with its neo-Marxist mindset, seeks someone to blame for every evil, no matter how remote in time, because that is the essence of Marxism: the division of mankind into two groups, the victims and the oppressors. But if we renounce blame, an identifiable culprit, a scapegoat group for every evil, then we must face the fact that the fault for these crimes lies within human nature, its inherent stupidity, intolerance, fanaticism and cruelty. And how do we then face life, knowing that the human species as a whole seems thus condemned in advance by its own crippling defects? It is this existential fear, this fear of our own human nature, that has fuelled the desire to externalize evil, to identity it with one particular group, class, sex, race or ideology, so that we can struggle to overthrow and exterminate that one source of oppression, as a means of human redemption. That is the seductive and poisonous hope that Marxism and all its offshoots (radical feminism, anti-white racism, Nazism, as well as its ancestor anti-Semitism) have held out to us: redemption through scapegoats. By imputing all evil to some group other than ourselves, we can overthrow and kill off the evil part of mankind, and save ourselves without having to change ourselves.   

When we look at the whole spectrum of suffering that human beings have inflicted upon one another in the past, can any of it be redeemed by happiness achieved in the present and the future? Probably not. Should we then condemn the whole past and wish it away, when we realize, not that its cruelties and injustices were necessary in order to reach where we are now, but that they were unnecessary? We can more easily endure past suffering if we can see it as a stage that had to be passed through to get to a state where we no longer suffer. But if we understand that this suffering was pointless, that there was no earthly reason for it, that we could perfectly well have reached where we are now without any of it, then the past becomes an intolerable burden. We have then to choose, with Nietzsche, whether we would want all this all over again, recurring forever, the whole of human history endlessly repeated, or whether we would rather that the human race had been wiped off the face of the earth. Ultimately, there is no middle ground. We must want all of human history or none of it.

One thing is certain:  the injustices of the distant past cannot be compensated in the present. The victims are dead and so are the oppressors. Some nations had the geographic misfortune to find themselves living next to more powerful nations, which invaded, oppressed, and martyrized them for centuries, for no good reason. But how much sense does it make for an Irishman today to collar an Englishman in the pub and indignantly thrust down his throat the history of what the English did to the Irish? The Englishman today was not responsible for all that and can do nothing about the past. And the same applies to a Russian and a Latvian, or a Turk and a Greek, or a man and a woman. History does not allow just retaliation or just compensation, because culprits and victims alike are now dead and beyond reach.

What is more, for an Irishman today to identify with his dead ancestors as though he were a victim himself, and identify the present-day Englishman as an oppressor, is sentimental, self-indulgent nonsense. Nobody has the right to identify more than anyone else with past victims through sharing some general category that they belong to. I have the same right to identify with the historic wrongs of a Kurd or an Armenian or a Tibetan as I have with the wrongs of an Irishman. I have the same right to identify with the wrongs of a woman as I have with the wrongs of a man. The dead do not belong to us by category. Every woman alive has as many male ancestors as I have. And I have as many female ancestors as she has. I have no more right to identify with Sophocles or Shakespeare or Jefferson than a woman has. And she has no more right to identify with Sappho or Jane Austen or Joan of Arc than I have.

A good deal of modern radical feminism is fuelled by the same wallowing in  chauvinistic sentimentality as the nationalism of the Irish Republican Army or the Basque separatists. These movements immerse themselves in the wrongs of the past, in pity for past victims among their people, until they are totally blinded to the reality of the present. They see the people around them through the distorting haze of a smouldering sense of intolerable wrong. The desire to blame, to accuse, to strike at those responsible, becomes a form of madness that leads them to atrocious acts against people who were born long after this oppression ceased. Among radical feminists the outcome is not usually violence but a sense of wrong so overpowering that they are incapable of seeing any man except as an enemy and an oppressor. This movement has become a form of self-intoxication in hatred of a kind that would be banned by law if it was directed against another race. And like all movements of collective hatred its members justify themselves by orgies of sentimental love among their own, pretending that they are all still suffering the wrongs that not one of them has ever endured except in imagination, when reading their own lurid version of the past. And just as more moderate nationalists or socialists sometimes give way to bouts of self-indulgence in the sham cult of collective self-pity exploited by the extremists, so all feminists occasionally succumb to the  grotesque martyrdom complex that is the stock-in-trade of the radicals among them. In this way they reinforce the myth of victimization that keeps their movement going, they pay lip-service to the goal of the overthrow of the patriarchy, like tired social democrats guiltily intoning the Internationale, and brandishing aloft their faith in a revolution that their rational minds have long since dismissed as a pipe-dream. If they failed to sing along with the crowd, they might be tempted to wonder if they had not been living an illusion all their lives.





The history of womens subordination to men is complex, and the degree of oppression it involved, or might have been felt to involve, varied greatly from one age and one culture to another – even within Western civilization and the ancient cultures that influenced it. The paradox of the position of women in the ancient world is that it often appears to have been best in those societies whose system of government we would consider the worst, and worst in those societies we would consider the best. The freer the society, the worse the position of women. Thus of the major cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean, the situation of women appears to have been best among the totalitarian Egyptians, and worst among the freedom-loving Athenians. The exception to this paradox is the ancient Hebrews, whose autocratic, intolerant theocracy also produced the worst oppression of women.

Women in Egypt had legal independence, could sign contracts, own property and conduct business. They appeared in public with their husbands at social events. Herodotus reports they attended markets and were employed in trade. A certain number of women ruled as stand-in pharaohs, as regents for young sons (much as women did in Medieval Europe.) Yet this society was an absolute monarchy, a totalitarian theocratic dictatorship, with no notion of citizens rights or individual liberties, and nothing resembling the freedom of thought found in Athens. By contrast, Athenian women had no right to transact any business more substantial than doing the weekly shopping without a male guardian authorizing the transaction. All women had legal guardians (father, brother, husband) all their lives, in recognition of their emotive, gullible and impulsive character. Athenian men had the right to participate in political debates, law-courts, and to vote for their leaders, but not the women. This was a society which not only gave its citizens political rights and freedoms unparalleled until modern times; it also took elaborate measures to prevent the concentration of wealth, by stopping one family from inheriting anothers land, in order to preserve a measure of equality among citizens. That a society so obsessed with liberty, equality and political rights gave so little of any of these things to its women is indeed puzzling. 

What can explain this inverse correlation between democracy and womens rights? Perhaps it comes from the fact that absolute monarchies are organized like families, where  parents rule jointly over children. The queen, like the mother, is second in command to the king, and replaces him when he is away. Female power in these cultures appears as natural as the power of a mother and such societies may have evolved ultimately from tribes of animals such as wolves or apes, dominated by a top male and a top female. In some matrilineal societies such as the Minangkabau, as we saw, the female elders choose the male ruler, in function of a matrilineal descent system. As power becomes more rational and democratic, it shifts away from these primitive clan systems. Moreover, in absolute monarchies the power of a king is personal, and is easily influenced and even shared by the women who share the rulers private life. In general, aristocracies are stratified by class and family ties more than by sex. Wherever blood-lines create status, a woman of noble blood has much higher rank than a man with base blood. In democracies the insistence that it is not blood or family connections but individual talent which fits a person for power has generally reduced the political role of women, partly because their talents were not cultivated by education in crucial political arts such as oratory. Moreover, the ability of women to influence men with their sexual attractiveness, and perhaps also their stronger parental urge to promote their childrens advancement, made their presence in politics often synonymous with corruption, intrigue and nepotism, the very things democracy fought to eliminate. The first thing good government must do is separate the ruling function from the private life and entourage of the ruler which means excluding his womenfolk from power and influence. One cannot help relating the slight misogyny of the Athenians to their cult of political virtue. Is there some psychological connection between an ideal of incorruptibility and a certain puritan disdain for women seen as sexual intriguers, jealous, vindictive and obsessed with the advancement of their children? Or is it simply that in democracies family life is most respected and traditional, and this generally means treating families as units, with the man as representative of the whole? And in tyrannies the sacredness of the family is not respected, as a tyrant may seize another mans wife at will, and his wives and mistresses compete ruthlessly for the ascendancy? At any rate we will find this connection between relatively democratic government and the absence of women in political life, and the opposite connection between corrupt regimes and petticoat government, in later periods as well. There are even examples of it in our own age. One of the worlds oldest democracies, Switzerland, where people vote directly on the largest proportion of their laws of any country, was the last nation in the Western world to give women the vote – in 1971. 

In ancient Athens women were not only excluded from politics, but also from business, and, in most cases, from that rich intellectual life by which Athens laid the foundations of all our knowledge in science, history, philosophy, literature, ethics and politics. But their exclusion from these activities was not total. There were exceptions: some women studied philosophy, as we know that the wives of the philosophers Pythagoras and Crates had been their pupils, and Leontion, the mistress of Epicurus, was also his pupil. She even wrote a treatise mentioned by Cicero and praised for its style. A class of courtesans, or hetaerae, emerged in the 5th century BC, trained to please men with their charms and musical skills, but also sometimes educating themselves to a high degree through their relations with leading intellectuals. The most famous, Aspasia, became the concubine of Pericles and took an active part in intellectual life, being alleged by Plato (maliciously) to have written the statesmans speeches. A few women became poets, and one of them, Sappho, was nicknamed by Plato the tenth Muse. But the majority of respectable wives were confined to a domestic role, and were rarely seen in public. This is at any rate the image that has come down to us, though some argue it has been exaggerated. It must be balanced against the prominent part women characters play in Greek tragedy, often in the role of defying authority, and the recurrence in Aristophanes comedies of the theme of womens revolt. Defenders of the Athenians, such as Professor Kitto, have argued convincingly not only that married women attended the theatre (since the story runs that the Furies of Aeschylus were so terrifying they caused miscarriages in the audience) but that they also discussed public affairs with their husbands at home, and thus influenced politics indirectly. He quotes a delightful passage from an Athenian lawyer addressing a jury with the argument: “how will you face your wives and daughters at home tonight if you acquit this person?” and describing the hostile interrogation by his womenfolk that the juryman will undergo. 34 The fact remains that in Athens the married woman’s influence, if she had any, was exercised only in private. The only women who accompanied men in public and were seen at all social gatherings were the hetaerae, courtesans, who were not citizens but freedwomen and foreigners (a pattern still seen as recently as the 1970s, when many a Greek man chatted up blond tourist girls in the bars, while his own wife sat at home.) A woman in ancient Athens who wanted to have freedom of movement and an active intellectual life, conversing freely with intelligent men who were not her husband, had to be an independent adventurer living by her wits and charms or more crudely, a high-class prostitute.  

            Paradoxically, the militarist-fascist state of ancient Sparta, a society based entirely on war, where boys were taken in charge by the state at seven and lived till thirty in military barracks, gave women more freedom than democratic Athens. Because the men devoted so much of their time to the army (a necessity in order to dominate the vast class of helots, or slaves), they left everyday tasks to their wives, which gave the latter much more independence than elsewhere in Greece. Spartan men ate with their regiment every day, and did military training till sixty, while women did most of the everyday supervision of the farm. Girls also took part in athletics, received an education, married only at eighteen, not at puberty, and were seen by other Greeks as rather forward, outspoken hoydens who wore the trousers in the home. While Spartan women did not take part in politics, they owned property according to Aristotle they owned two fifths of the land in Sparta. Aristotle saw Spartan women as having too much freedom, too much wealth, and indulging in too much luxury. He even suggests it is characteristic of warlike peoples like the Spartans to be ruled by their wives.35 This brings to mind not only the active role of women among the German tribes, where the warriors left the work in the fields to the women, but also later associations of war with greater freedom and equality for women. As men vacate the economic sphere for the military, women move into the economic sphere to take their place. Just as the Crusades and the American Civil War saw a number of war widows become independent landowners, so the men going off to the First World War left the women to work in the factories and offices, a giant step towards their economic independence. One could even suggest that 20th century Western society, where the mobilization of women into the workforce, initially only in time of war, became permanent, was merely an extension of the same process of militarization. For the West today is engaged in a permanent economic war, where production and consumption of goods has become an irrational cultural obsession, enslaving both sexes to full-time, pointless work. 

            Aristotle’s critical attitude towards the independence of Spartan women raises the question of his general attitude to women and their role in society. It is worth making a short digression to examine this, because Aristotle has been held up by some feminists not only as an exemplar of Greek contempt for women but even as the chief source of the entire ideology of wicked Western patriarchy. Given his sulphurous reputation among the feminists, it is something of a surprise to come across Aristotle’s account in the Third Book of his Economics of the virtues of a good wife. Here he paints a picture of marital harmony, mutual support, respect and fidelity that would have seemed perfectly acceptable to any intelligent woman in any age till the late 20th century. He lays great stress upon the duty of faithfulness of the husband:


A virtuous wife is best honoured when she sees her husband is faithful to her, and has no preference for another woman, but before all others loves and trusts her and holds her as his own…. If she perceives that her husband’s affection for her is faithful and righteous, she too will be faithful and righteous towards him. .… And it is fitting that he should approach his wife in honour, full of self-restraint and awe; and in his conversation with her, should use only the words of a right-minded man, suggesting only such acts as are themselves lawful and honourable. And if through ignorance she has done wrong, he should advise her of it in a courteous and modest manner…. And so when he is away she may feel that no man is kinder or more virtuous or more truly hers than her own husband. 36


Now if this had been written by some non-Western sage at any time in the past, it would be held up by feminists as an example of the superiority of the marital relations of this non-European    culture over the wicked patriarchal tyranny of the West. Given that this passage is from Aristotle, the alleged arch-theoretician of the Western patriarchy, it must be dismissed as hypocritical window-dressing for a sinister system of enslavement. What must be focused on instead is his other statement in the same text that the wife should “consider her husband’s wishes as laws appointed for her by divine will.” This at once puts things in their true perspective. All the gentleness and kindness and respect and faithfulness he preaches is a mere alibi for a monstrous ideology: this wicked man expects a wife to obey her husband! Given the truly Hitlerian proportions of this evil idea, nothing else matters. Even though Aristotle tells us in the Politics that the rule of husband over wife is a “constitutional rule”, not a dictatorship (and therefore requires the consent of the governed), and that the two partners are equal in nature though unequal in function, these are not even mildly extenuating circumstances. The belief in the husband’s rule is enough for the feminists to see Aristotle as the patriarchal devil incarnate. He also remarked tactlessly that women’s reasoning faculty, though it exists, “lacks authority.” 37 This is a puzzling phrase, suggesting that women’s reasoning faculty might not always get the upper hand over their less rational impulses – in short, that women might sometimes be scatter-brained – a monstrous observation, which has fortunately never occurred to any man before or since.

But the remark Aristotle is most reproached for is a statement in his biological work, variously rendered as: A female is a defective male, or a disabled male, or a failed male (the last one being the best translation.) This remark has been blown up by feminists through paranoid exaggeration into incontrovertible proof that the Greeks considered women subhuman (rather like the similar doctrine among American blacks that in the 16th and 17th centuries Africans were considered subhuman animals by all Europeans.) No doubt if a “victim group” is looking for evidence of oppression and humiliation it will always find it, but this example is too ludicrous to pass over.

            When Aristotle makes this remark in his Generation of Animals he is writing of how embryos are formed and by what mechanism they come to be two sexes. He had no way of knowing about chromosomes; he only knew there was some female matter in the womb, and he thought that what the male sperm contributed must be the form – some energizing principle that shaped the matter into an embryo. But how was it that the embryo sometimes became male and sometimes female? What determined its sex? He could not have known that the sperm carries either a female X or a male Y chromosome which determines the sex of the baby. He thought that male sperm must be wholly male. His outlook was teleological : he believed that all living things were trying to achieve some purpose of their own. He thought that the male sperm must be trying to make the embryo male. If the sperm succeeded in imposing its maleness, the embryo became male. If the sperm failed in its purpose, because the female matter in the womb was too strong, the embryo remained female. In this sense the female embryo was a failed male failed from the point of view of what the sperm was trying to achieve (in the way we talk of a failed actor or a failed writer someone who did not become what he had the potential to become.) This was not meant to belittle females, or consider them regrettable accidents, since he clearly saw that nature wants to produce equal numbers of males and females, so that each will have a mate. But nature achieves her purpose through the sperm failing half the time to achieve its own. Hence the notion of the female fœtus as the result of a failure by the sperm to transform it but a necessary failure in the overall scheme of Nature (which, he remarks elsewhere, never does anything without purpose.) 38

Now his theory is far from absurd. We know now that it is the sperm that determines the sex of the embryo. And we know that the female is the base form (or default form) of the embryo. It is the unmodified form – the form that continues if it is not transformed into a male by the action of male hormone (which the embryo produces if it has received a male chromosome.) It is therefore not totally off-target to say that a female foetus is a failed male, in the sense that it is the default form which male hormone has not modified. (If something stops the male hormone from acting on the embryo, it will, of course, continue to develop as a female despite having a male chromosome.) Aristotle even guessed at the transforming role of male hormone by his observation of the similarities between women, children and eunuchs they were all bodies that had not been acted upon by some male element. Aristotle got a lot closer to the truth of the sexing process by brilliant intuition and reasoning than we got for a long time afterwards, until we had far greater technical means than he had. And this is a rather more important aspect of his work than the incidental fact that his phrase about the female as a failed male may have been used as a sexist jibe by the odd misogynist cleric of a later age. It is in fact somewhat childish that grown women with university degrees in the late 20th century should have been so offended and outraged by a turn of phrase by which a thinker nearly two and a half thousand years ago struggled to express (without the benefit of a modern scientific vocabulary) an extraordinary insight into what was going on in the sexing process in the embryo. But most feminists do not even read the context of the phrases which they denounce as “oppressing women”. They have all the blinkered sense of purpose of Soviet commissars determined to discover reactionary tendencies in a writer of a bygone age, however much the sense of his words must be distorted to do so.   





            If the situation of women was not brilliant in Athens, it looks far worse when we turn to the ancient Jews. Jewish men were allowed four wives (until the 10th century Rabbenu Gershom forbade polygamy to the Ashkenazi Jews.) Jewish women had no right to divorce, even if their husband committed adultery. Adultery by a married man did not even count as a sin unless his mistress was married. The Jewish husband, on the other hand, could divorce his wife for merely burning his dinner, or because he fancied another woman more. If a woman committed adultery, she was liable to be stoned to death. These laws show greater bias against women than the laws of any other people of ancient times that have come down to us. Even today in Israel the religious courts control divorce, only the man can divorce, and there are said to be ten thousand women who are captives of husbands who refuse to divorce them, despite the total breakdown of the marriage. On the other hand, if an Orthodox Jewish woman is raped, her husband (if he belongs to the ultra-orthodox group bearing the name Cohen) must divorce her for disloyalty, unless he utters the formula I dont believe you! when she tells him about it. 39 Cases of this kind, where the woman is held to be guilty for her own rape, still occur in Israel – and rapists may even escape prosecution because of the requirement to deny that the act happened. By contrast, rape was regarded as so serious by the early Romans that they overthrew the monarchy because a king’s son committed it. They honoured his victim Lucretia as a national heroine. The 7th century Germanic Visigoth code (based partly on Roman law) punished rape or forcible abduction of a woman by two hundred lashes, followed by lifelong enslavement of the rapist to the victim or her family, and forbade (on pain of death) reparation of the rape by marriage. 40 This sort of  reparation of rape by marriage was current in the Old Testament (Exodus 22: 16-17 and Deuteronomy 22: 28-9) and is common even today in certain East African tribes, which still practise marriage by abduction. This practice indicates that a raped woman is seen as dishonoured”, and marrying her rapist is the best future she can hope for. For the Visigoths, on the contrary, marriage with a rapist was a capital offence for both. 

The notion of womens uncleanness because of her menstrual periods is particularly marked in Judaism womans period requires seven days of sleeping separately from her husband and then ritual purification by total immersion. It is tempting to link the unusually disadvantaged position of women in Jewish culture with the invention by Judaism of a single male God. Unlike the women of the polytheistic cultures around them, Jewish women had no divinity in their own image to appeal to, and no symbol of benign female power to balance the omnipotent male deity. Protestant Christianity, by encouraging people to read the Jewish Old Testament as a guide to living, ensured that the most reactionary, primitive, and oppressive attitude to women in the entire ancient world greatly influenced Protestant countries – notably America from the 17th century on, and England as the Puritan middle classes rose to dominance in the 19th century. The absence in Protestantism of the Catholic cult of Mary reinforced the bias against women inherent in the Judaeo-Protestant scheme of things.   

In the monarchies of other parts of the ancient Mediterranean, women sometimes wielded power as queens, either as the kings deputy, or sometimes in their own right. Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great, reigned as a cruel tyrant over Macedonia and her own kingdom of Epirus after Alexander left on his conquests. In Macedonia, again an absolute monarchy, womens position was higher than in most parts of Greece, although the Macedonian Aristotle (perhaps disgusted with Olympiass extraordinary cruelty) seemed to prefer the attitudes of his adopted Athens. The Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt produced Cleopatra, who, having disposed of her husband-brother, ruled with absolute power. The Roman monarchy and early Republic followed the pattern of Athens in its laws: women were subject to perpetual male guardianship, and generally became subject to their husbands paterfamilias when they married (at least among the upper classes.) But as Rome evolved towards more representative republican government, instead of the position of women worsening it got much better. As we have seen, most married women avoided coming under their husbands (or his fathers) legal authority, remaining instead under the legal guardianship of their own father or grandfather. A married womans father thus kept administrative control of her property (the settlement made on her by both families) which was never ceded to her husband, as it was in Victorian England. So strict was property separation in Roman marriages that husband and wife could not even give each other gifts of any value. This system of guardianship by the womans paterfamilias also gave her protection against an abusive husband, since she could always run home to her father, who had the legal right to take her back at any time and end the marriage. Divorce was equally available to both partners on simple demand. The Roman legal system thus gave women enormous independence in practice.  However, it did so by treating women legally as perpetual minors, which is hardly to the taste of modern feminists. It should not be forgotten that girls often married at thirteen, and to give a teenage girl the real power to spend what might amount to a quarter of her fathers fortune would be sheer folly in any society. Her property was given to her by both families to support her in case of divorce or widowhood, and it was therefore logical to bind it to this purpose, in the way our own pension funds are tied and cannot be gambled away or spent on frivolities. But she gained more control of it as she got older. When her father died, she passed into the guardianship of someone appointed in his will, but she could easily change this guardian if she wanted to, and he was not much more than her agent. Here is how the Roman jurist Gaius, in his famous Institutes (which came to have the force of law, somewhat like Blackstones Commentaries in England), saw the problem of womens tutelage in 170 AD:   


There does not seem to be any good reason, however, why women of full age should be under guardianship, for the common opinion that because of their levity of disposition they are easily deceived, and it is only just that they should be subject to the authority of guardians, seems to be rather apparent than real; for women of full age transact their own affairs, but in certain cases, as a mere form, the guardian interposes his authority, and he is often compelled to give it by the Praetor, though he may be unwilling to do so. 41 


Gaius goes on to describe ways in which women can get rid of guardians they dont like and appoint those they want. It is clear that to him the guardianship of women was a conservative notion inherited from the remote past (Rome’s oldest laws notoriously stayed on the books alongside new ones, creating legal chaos) and no longer corresponded to the real degree of freedom women enjoyed. It was up to lawyers to get around these laws. Even the guardians themselves seemed unwilling to play their role, as the women in practice transacted their own affairs. The last sentence might also mean that if a guardian refused to agree to what a woman wanted, she could appeal over his head to the Praetor, who would compel him to give his assent. This gap between the law and reality explains Justinians abolition of the guardianship of women when he codified the laws. The everyday situation of women in imperial Rome was probably freer than it was in any subsequent age till the 20th century certainly a lot freer than it was in early Victorian England, where married women lost control of their property to their husband (except for the wealthier classes who normally made pre-nuptial property settlements), had no independent legal status, and in most cases had no right of divorce until 1857.

          What about womens occupations in ancient Rome? Were they confined to domestic servitude as the feminists would have us believe? Women in Rome seem to have had the same range of occupations as they did in later medieval times. Married women, whether they had servants to supervise or did the work themselves, engaged in all the activities such as spinning, weaving, sewing and pottery necessary to furnish the essential items of domestic use, which were mostly home-made. Some of them helped their husbands in trades and crafts and at least one of them, Memmia Sosandris, was a major entrepreneur, in charge of iron ore mines in Lyon in the 3rd century AD. Other trades known to have been practised by women include wine merchants, butchers, perfume makers, seamstresses, laundresses, pharmacists and hairdressers. 42 On the political level, after the Republic collapsed, the Roman empire gave some women opportunities of power at the very top through marriage and family relationships. Mothers of emperors were power-brokers behind the scenes; empresses became figures of power in their own right. Julia Domna, Syrian wife of the emperor Septimus Severus, was not only a powerful empress but was a major influence on the reign of her son, Caracalla, preventing him from dividing the empire with his brother. Her sister, Julia Maesa, after Caracallas murder, managed to place her young grandson on the throne by a coup détat, and she and her daughters in practice ruled Rome for another twenty years. Centuries later, Theodora, the daughter of a circus bear-keeper and sometime dancer and prostitute, became the mistress and then the wife of the Emperor Justinian. He changed the law in order to be able to marry an ex-prostitute, and treated her as joint ruler, equal in imperial authority. She exercised real influence over the laws, notably those governing women and prostitutes, when Justinian undertook his massive legal reforms.

We have already commented on the paradox that absolute monarchy and aristocracy have generally increased womens status, as the road to power lay either in their sexual attractiveness, or in their birth, wealth or family ties. Unfortunately, womens tendency to exercise power through nepotism, corruption or sexual fascination has not always endeared them to democrats and reformers, who seek to banish these elements of corruption and personal influence from government. This partly explains the lower status of women among the democratic Athenians than among the fascist Spartans, the monarchist Macedonians or the imperial Romans. Democratic Athens alone had a stern ideological mission to stamp out corruption, sexual intrigue and family ties as an influence on affairs of state, and the logical way to do this was to exclude women from politics. (Plato wanted to go about this differently by abolishing the family and concealing whose children were whose, thereby allowing women to participate in government, but his views were felt to be extreme.) In a similar fashion, the Christianization of Rome led to the rise of a new intellectual elite with ambitions to impose a new, stern moral order on the empire the clergy. This moralistic, fanatical organization, increasingly celibate and puritanical, dedicated to imposing its austere, other-worldly doctrines, viewed women with deep suspicion. Though in the Gospels Jesus himself always treated women with great courtesy and respect, and had a dedicated following among them, ascetic Church fathers saw women chiefly as temptations to carnal lust and thus as occasions of sin. Influenced by the misogynist Old Testament creation story, theologians like Tertullian saw Eve as the eternal misleader of men, responsible for the Fall. Sex, identified as a major danger to salvation, had to be brought under control by making marriage a sacrament. Step by step marriage was made indissoluble transformed, one might say, from a joy into a penance. The gradual imposition of celibacy on the clergy meant Europe was for a thousand years ruled spiritually by men with little sympathy for women in some cases because they were repressed homosexuals (like Saint Augustine), in others because they were ascetics who feared the carnal temptations women represented. Priestly celibacy can be seen on one level as creating a unique collective power-structure, free of rivalries over the advancement of children, and perpetually renewed from below (in a sense an alternative solution to the problem of nepotism addressed by Platos Republic: instead of not knowing their children, the rulers dont have children, but adopt successors on merit.) But much more importantly, celibacy was part of a spiritual path to salvation through transcending the life of the senses. Like many of the mystical religions of the East, aimed at freeing mankind from the passions and snares of earthly life, Christianity considered sexual pleasure sinful, marriage second-best and family a necessary evil. All of this reduced the status of women.




But Western civilization is a composite one. Whoever called it Judaeo-Christian focused on only one narrow aspect of it. Even our ethical code has never been wholly Judaeo-Christian. Our laws have certainly not. Western civilization is a Germano-Celtic-Graeco-Roman-Judaeo-Christian civilization. The Germans and Celts gave us many of our folk customs, fairy-tales, myths, laws, moral attitudes, marriage practices, our love of nature, and much of our warlike, rebellious, adventurous and individualistic character. The Greeks founded our arts, sciences, architecture, literature, mythology, philosophy and history. The Romans, besides their engineering and road-building, gave Europe (and later America) many of its laws, political institutions and administrative structures as well as its greatest language, which influenced the very categories of Western thought. Finally, Judaeo-Christianity provided a spiritual vision, a religious cosmology, a rich body of stories, and parts of our moral code. The fall of Rome to the Germanic invaders therefore created a new reality, as Western civilization shifted under the influence of a new major component. When these northern tribes accepted Christianity, they grafted it onto their own culture and gave it their own slant. Their own traditional values were quite different from those of the Roman clergy. The Church fathers were influenced not only by the stern patriarchal religion of the Jews, with its contempt for women, but also by Greek philosophical traditions such as neo-Platonism, with its emphasis on an other-worldly spiritual plane more real than the physical, sensual world, which they despised as corrupt and sinful. The Germanic peoples who formed the elite of the new European nations had their own ideas. Like the Celts they had always given women higher status and a more active role than the Romans – including sometimes a leadership role. They worshipped goddesses as well as gods, nature rather than a spiritual plane, and they gave an importance to family and clan that made them unreceptive to the ascetic, anti-woman message of the clergy. The first great modification they operated on the Christian religion was to elevate the figure of Mary into a mother goddess, and make a holy family the centre of their pantheon. The mother of Jesus had been rescued from her biblical obscurity at the Council of Ephesus in 431, when mainland Greece was already occupied by the Visigoths: she was declared the god-bearer, giving her implicit divine status. It may be significant that Ephesus was the site of the temple of Artemis, heir to the long tradition of the mother goddess, whose worship had been suppressed by the Emperor Theodosius fifty years earlier. It is tempting to see this consecration as a symbolic transfer of the mother goddess role to Mary, and this is at any rate how Germanic Europe began to view her.

In 451 Mary was declared eternally a virgin, and in 600 was raised to the level of an immortal, with the institution of the Feast of the Dormition, or falling asleep, since the mother of God could not know death. In the 5th century the Roman temple of Isis at Soissons, the capital of the Franks, was rededicated to the Virgin Mary. The Parthenon, the great temple of Artemis at Athens, was rededicated to Mary shortly afterwards, and the church of Saint Mary Maggiore was built around the same time in Rome. Statues of the girl with the baby began to appear in churches everywhere. The cult grew till it reached a peak in the 12th and 13th centuries. Between 1170 and 1270 in France 100 churches and 80 cathedrals were built in Marys honour. 43 In every church in late medieval Europe there were two main images: the hanged man and the mother goddess both of them belonging to the ancient Germanic religion as much as to Christianity. (The crucifix only became a potent Christian symbol around the 10th century, and the cult appears to have started in Germany. The first images of Mary with her child were Byzantine Greek, but they were soon Westernized that is, made more natural and lifelike, the girl prettier, the child more like a baby.) Judaism had no cult of motherhood it sternly rejected all the neighbouring cults of mother-goddesses Isis, Ashoreth, Astarte. But its heretical offshoot, Christianity, as it spread across Europe, sank back into the pattern of the older nature cults which celebrated mother goddesses and their sons who were killed, descended into the underworld and rose again from the dead to renew all of life in the spring. Symbolic connections between Mary and these earlier versions of the mother goddess may be found in countless medieval images of her, suggesting artists were well aware of the older iconography she fitted into. Associated with the sea, like Isis and Aphrodite, identified with the morning star like Venus, with corn harvests like Cybele, seated in the same position as Isis with Horus, she spins the destiny of mankind like the Fates. 44 Mary the mother goddess became the new dominant divinity of Europe, and her cult restored the gender balance to a narrowly patriarchal Judaeo-Christian religion, where the main image of woman had been Eve, the temptress.

Women, far from being reviled or belittled as the official propaganda of the Church fathers might suggest, in fact attained a new status as the Germanic occupiers of Europe formed a new ruling elite, imposing their own laws and customs. The Germans glorified the family and the clan, to a degree not seen since the early days of Rome, and their traditional culture gave high status to women. Visigoth laws gave daughters equal inheritance rights; in the south of what is now France some counties were ruled by women. Even Paris in the 5th century was, according to legend, ruled for some years by Saint Genevieve, who saved it from Attila the Hun (and the legend is just as important as the reality in reflecting the role ascribed to women.) The conversion of the Frankish king Clovis to Catholicism is attributed to the influence of his wife Clothilde. The perennial wars among the various Germanic kingdoms (which continually changed shape as they were divided among the children) were as often fuelled by the jealousies and vindictiveness of the women as by the ambitions of the men. The epic poem that gives life to this period for posterity, The Nibelungenlied, tells the story of the bitter rivalry between the wives of the hero Siegfried and King Gunther, Kriemhild and Brunehild, which caused the ruin of the Burgundian nation. It mirrors the long and bloody real-life feud between the Frankish queens of Austrasie and Neustrie, the enlightened Brunehaut and the vicious Fredegonde, ending in Brunehauts atrocious death at the hands of her rivals son. Both these queens led their own armies, and Fredegonde played an active role in the torture and murder of her numerous victims. The women rulers of this era were as ambitious and ruthless as men, and they did not hesitate to use their sexual charms to attain their ends. The young widow Adelaide of Burgundy in the 10th century outmanoeuvred a male usurper by fleeing to the protection of Otho, the German emperor, and proposing marriage. The delighted Otho not only made her his empress, but seized back her state from the usurper, restored it to her control, and greatly enlarged it. The Church could no more keep the women of these turbulent Germanic tribes in their place than it could keep the men from treating war as a sport. The world of Christian Europe owed as much to the character of the Germanic peoples as it did to Christianity.

In fact Christianity, with its extreme pacifism, renunciation of the world and puritanical asceticism, is an impossible religion to apply in real life. No real society can do more than pay lip-service to it and practise a series of grotesque and hypocritical compromises with it. Those who tried to take it literally, like the 12th century Cathars in Occitanie (now southern France) lived outside society. They were soon accused of heresy by the Church (for considering the material world evil, which was carrying renunciation a step too far) and exterminated in a ruthless Crusade. For the ruling Germanic tribes Franks, Visigoths, Lombards, Burgundians, Saxons, Normans Christianity was a useful consolation in the face of death, but their real values lay elsewhere. They were those of a conquering military aristocracy, obsessed with their own genetic survival among their subject peoples. This led to a cult of family, heredity and bloodlines of an extreme kind. The Aryan invaders of India had similarly sought genetic survival by creating caste barriers between themselves and their subject peoples (as had the Spartans.) In Germanic Europe birth and blood became the measure of human worth to a degree never reached even in the ancient world. But this gave some women (the aristocrats) enhanced status. After all, a womans blood is as blue as her brothers. With rank went power. In no other period of history has the destiny of nations been so intimately bound up with the marriages of their rulers. We know little of the wives of any Roman consuls; the wife of every medieval king was a major player, and we know her entire family history. The Visigoth code had allowed women to inherit estates and even kingdoms (though the Salic law of the Franks in the north forbade it, and permitted women only to be regents for their underage sons, on the grounds that a wife moved to her husbands fief.) In the south of what is now France, before male primogeniture became established, daughters frequently inherited an equal share of estates. In the absence of sons, the daughter might inherit a vast domain, a county, or a duchy, which was often an independent state. The departure of noblemen on the Crusades also left many chatelaines in command of castles, towns and great domains (though some wives, like Eleanour of Aquitaine, wife of the King of France, accompanied their husband to the wars.) Wives of absent Crusaders did not hesitate to lead armies to put down rebellions or assert their claims to disputed lands. In Champagne in the 13th century, women held 17 per cent of all estates. In the Limousin in 1300 about 10 per cent of great estates were headed by women. 45 These numbers compare favourably with the proportion of women at the head of Fortune 500 companies today. In all nearly six hundred queens, duchesses and countesses of the French-speaking countries exercised ruling functions, either as regents for sons, deputies for husbands, or in their own right, from early medieval times to the 18th century. 46 Ermengarde of Narbonne ruled the city and province she inherited in 1150 for sixty years, performing such functions as judge, in accordance with local (Germanic) custom. When she was challenged by ambitious rivals, who cited Roman law, which excluded women from such roles, she was confirmed in her ancient rights by King Louis VII. He enjoined her “to uphold the custom of our kingdom” which allowed women to inherit and rule “in the absence of the better sex”, and ended his letter to her : Therefore preside over courts of judicial enquiry with the zeal of the One who … by His loving kindness gave the rule of the province of Narbonne into the hands of a woman; and let no person by our authority deviate from your jurisdiction on the grounds that you are a woman. 47 In Occitanie many aristocratic women not only assumed public functions but began to play a leading cultural role, as patrons of poets, troubadours, jongleurs, and entertainers. Some women even took part in discussions of philosophical subjects or became troubadours and poets themselves. But above all women acted as a force for the transformation of manners and sensibilities. The power of aristocratic women led them to impose on men of lower rank not only new standards of dress and behaviour (Eleanour of Aquitaine made knights comb their hair before they came into her presence) but also new notions of how they wished to be treated. The cult of the lady was born, and on its heels came the cult of courtly love.  





From the end of the 11th century, the Crusades had brought Western Europeans into greater contact with the Muslim world. Muslim scholars had become major custodians of the  thought of Classical Greece, as many ancient libraries, like that of Alexandria, had fallen into the hands of the Arabs as their armies conquered the region. There was also much Crusader contact with the Byzantine Greek civilization centred on Constantinople, the greatest city in the world, whose libraries were far better stocked with the works of the ancients than the miserable libraries of the war-racked West. From these two sources a new cultural influence began to filter into Europe, accelerating in the 14th century as Byzantine Greek scholars were hired in Italian universities. The works of ancient Greece, lost to Western Europe for so many centuries, were rediscovered, translated and circulated again. Before long these new sources of ancient knowledge had brought about a rebirth of learning, which later French scholars dubbed the Renaissance. The church’s bleak ascetic outlook was soon submerged (or at least enlarged) by the literary revival of a brilliant pagan culture of aestheticism, sensuality, rationality and freedom of thought, which gave people a new conception of the possibilities of human life. This whole development was arguably set in motion by the Crusades and the contact they brought with other cultures.  

 But the Crusades also changed European sensibilities more directly. The Crusaders were at first not merely astonished but repelled by the level of luxury, refinement, elaborate ceremonial, and (as they saw it) decadence, of the Byzantine court in Constantinople. They despised the effeminate Byzantine aristocracy, which had given up the personal practice of warfare and hired mercenaries to fight for them. They suspected duplicity and deceitfulness behind their elaborate ceremonials and flattering, sycophantic manners. This cultural clash contributed to the distrust which led a later blundering expedition of Crusaders to sack Constantinople in 1204 and hold it for half a century. But Byzantine culture was also appreciated by the more intelligent Franks. As bands of Norman adventurers wrested Italy from Byzantine and Arab rule in the 11th century, the successful warlords, such as King Roger of Sicily, hired Byzantine artists to decorate their churches and palaces, and developed a taste for the clothes and manners of a more refined civilization. These Italian-based Normans provided many of the leaders of the First Crusade – including Bohemond and Tancred, who seized for themselves the principalities of Antioch and Galilee. The Crusader warlords who settled down as rulers in their new lands of Outremer (“Overseas”, the areas of Palestine, Syria and Lebanon they took) were open to new cultural influences, especially from their Arab neighbours. Here was a culture of warriors like themselves, but with a refinement of lifestyle beyond anything they had imagined. Many of the permanent Frankish settlers learned Arabic, adopted Arabic dress and manners, and began to immerse themselves in the culture and literature of their new homeland. As we have seen already in the accounts of Fulk of Chartres, many Frankish settlers began to see themselves as citizens of Tyre or Antioch and had no intention of ever going back permanently to France. But they kept up contact with cousins or family members in Europe, were constantly reinforced by newcomers seeking their fortunes or coming to marry heiresses, and went back and forth to France on family business. These Franks of the Middle East, throughout the two hundred years of their presence there, became a conduit for Arab influence on Europe. Subsequent waves of Crusaders who returned to Europe after a stay with their colonial cousins in Outremer brought something of the Orient back with them to their provincial towns in the French and Occitan heartland.

For the Crusades were also an enormous adventure, the opportunity of a lifetime for young men to see the world, to visit great cities, to encounter other cultures, to prove themselves in battle, perhaps to acquire fame, fortune or even a principality. And all of this with the blessing of the Church and the elevating sense of the spiritual rewards they were reaping from their defence of the Christian holy places against defilement. On this great adventurers’ road there were no doubt conquests to be made other than by force of arms, and a new libertinism crept into the culture of Europe after the First Crusade. This was first manifest in the entry into European poetry of the theme of love and sexual conquests. 

The first troubadour poems that have survived in the southern French or Occitan vernacular were written by Guilhem IX, Duke of Aquitaine (grandfather of Eleanour), at the start of the 12th century, after he returned from the First Crusade, where he had been defeated disastrously by the Turks. His stay in Constantinople may have exposed him to the poets and entertainers of the refined, sophisticated Byzantine court. He also received at Poitiers a Welsh poet, Bledri Ap Davidor, who acquainted him with the story of Tristan and Iseult and the Arthurian legends (later to be popularized by Marie de France at the court of his grand-daughter, Eleanour of Aquitaine, and her second husband, the Plantagenet King of England, Henry II.) All of this may have influenced the poems Guilhem began to write, which spoke of love in accents that had never been heard before in Christendom. The duke was a keen womanizer, who famously abducted a vassal’s wife (whom he called Dangerosa) and kept her in a castle, provoking a rupture with his duchess, the daughter of the Count of Toulouse. The love poems of the “First Troubadour” were thus those of a man of the world, not a pining adolescent. They had a range of tones from ribald jesting about his sexual prowess to tender poems of longing, anticipation and the memory of sweet moments with his mistress. Some of them were also read as allegories with deep philosophical meanings. One of his finest poems tells of his two horses, which could not stand each other, but both of which he dearly wanted to keep. We learn that their names are Agnes and Arsen, and it appears he is discussing, in somewhat demeaning fashion, two of his mistresses.  But the names Agnes and Arsen mean purity and virility, and he seems to be talking of two contrary aspects of human life, which he is determined to reconcile and enjoy simultaneously. He has already warned us that only the wise will understand his poem, and his emphasis on the opposition between two values seems to take us into the murky waters of Cathar dualism – that puritanical, world-rejecting heresy, which was curiously interwoven with the troubadour culture of Occitanie and whose extermination marked the end of its golden age. In short, the simple poem about two horses or even two mistresses can be read on a number of levels.48 But aside from these depths of allegory and symbolism, Guilhem’s main influence on his contemporaries seems to have been the freedom with which he spoke of love in all its aspects, and above all the figure of the lover who cannot eat or sleep till he knows his mistress’s mind about him. It is this vein of the unhappy or longing lover, with a disdainful or unattainable mistress, which was mined exhaustively by the poets who came after him. These troubadours of Occitanie wrote poems in which sexual love was treated with a refinement and an emotional depth that had never been seen before in Europe.

But it had been seen elsewhere. The Arab world, which, through the Crusades and the Moorish occupation of Spain, was a major cultural influence on the time, had its own tradition of love poetry. Guilhem may well have become acquainted with Arab love poems during the Crusades, or through his marriage to Philippa of Toulouse, who had previously been married to King Sancho I of Aragon, and may have brought back Moorish love poems from Spain. For the Arabs had a strikingly similar tradition of Ghazal love poems, celebrating a particular kind of love known as Udhri love. This love was always unrequited. In this tradition, love was equated with suffering. The chaste and faithful lover, pining silently for his unattainable mistress in a society of rigid sexual taboos and a strong belief in chastity, was seen as a sort of martyr for love. This was a concept even the Prophet Mohammed had blessed, when he said: “he who loves and remains chaste and conceals his secret and dies, dies a martyr.” 49 We can see how closely the two great monotheistic religions in that age resembled each other in their sexual Puritanism, their disdain for the needs of the body, and their belief in suffering as a positive spiritual experience – expressed in the cult of martyrdom common to both. When this culture of sexual frustration combines with a new sense of beauty as the arts flourish, the result is a refinement of sexual feeling into a spiritual love that transcends the physical satisfaction which is its natural goal. Love becomes an aesthetic worship, where suffering and joy have an equal part. It is significant that in the West this cult arose first in Occitanie, and that so many of the troubadour poets and their patrons had rumoured connections with the Cathar heresy (notably the counts of Toulouse.) For the Cathars rejected the physical, sensual world more emphatically than any other current of Christianity. Their enlightened “Perfect Ones” lived in chastity, and were even more fanatical in their strictures against bodily indulgence than the Muslims. It is in the cultural context of the tension between a new libertinism and an extreme puritanical version of Christian spirituality that the cult of courtly love arises. But it is highly likely that it was directly influenced by the similar tradition in the Arab world, which had already arisen from the same tension centuries before.  Whether Guilhem himself was acquainted with Arab love poetry is open to question; but it is inconceivable that his successors were not. The Franks lived in Palestine for two hundred years, side by side with Arab and Turkish neighbours, learning their languages, sharing their entertainment, and sometimes intermarrying with them. It is suspected that Crusaders brought back the seeds of the Cathar heresy into Occitanie through their contact with the Bogomils of the Byzantine empire. It is even more likely that the Arab concept of Udhri love also travelled in the Crusaders’ baggage, to influence the poems of the troubadours for the next hundred years.   

This poetic movement, starting in Occitanie and Aquitaine and spreading northwards into France proper, gave rise to a formal conception of love, with its rules and customs, which came to be known as courtly love. This entire cult was greatly influenced in the second half of the 12th century by Guilhem’s granddaughter, Eleanour of Aquitaine. She had also been on the Crusades with her first husband, the King of France. After her separation from her second husband, the Angevin King of England, Henry II (who stayed in England), Queen Eleanour set up her own court in Poitiers. Along with her daughter, Marie, Countess of Champagne, she became a patron of troubadours and poets. One of them, Chrétien de Troyes, translated Ovid’s Art of Love, and it has been argued that the Roman poet’s burlesque advice to lovers on the art of seduction was taken seriously by the court poets of Aquitaine. Love became in fact a mock religion in which the beloved was a goddess worshipped by a slavish lover. The adoration of the lady became charged with overtones taken from the devotional cult of the Virgin Mary, which was at its height in this period. This more reverential attitude to the woman also reflected the difference between the libertine audience of Ovid in a great cosmopolitan, licentious, pleasure-loving imperial capital, and a more provincial, Christian feudal society, where duchesses and countesses held positions of real power and patronage and appreciated flattery from their poets. 

In fact French (or rather Occitan) noblewomen, by their patronage of the courtly love poets, seem to have played a determining role in fashioning this cult. Chrétien de Troyes great Arthurian love epic, Lancelot, written to order for Marie, Countess of Champagne, depicts a lover almost abject in his obedience to his imperious mistress, Queen Guinivere. He deliberately loses jousts and covers himself with shame and ridicule on her orders, in strict conformity to the rather masochistic courtly love code. This contrasts with Chrétiens earlier work, Erec, where none of these courtly elements are present, the lovers are married, and the husband treats his wife like a servant (in fact subjecting her to the sorts of trials that the later poem subjects the man to.) This would suggest that Chrétiens new patron, the Countess Marie, had a considerable influence on the content of the second work, and it contained an enormous element of flattery of her. Chrétien himself claimed that she had given him the material and the treatment of the poem. 50

Such poems were filled with feudal as well as religious language. The troubadour addressed his mistress as though she were his feudal lord. He called himself her vassal and her slave, and swore to obey all her commands. This placing of women on a pedestal may have been for some, such as the profligate Duke Guilhem, merely a literary convention, or even a seductive ploy. But for others the idea of the womans superior status reflected the reality: the troubadours were usually of inferior birth and rank to the ladies they addressed their songs to. Some were even of plebeian origin, such as Bernard of Ventadour, famous troubadour at the court of Queen Eleanour. The gradual spread at this time of the custom of primogeniture, disinheriting all but the eldest son, may have led a number of landless younger sons, with nothing but their looks, breeding and wits to live by, to try to seek their fortune by paying court to rich chatelaines widowed by the Crusades. Knighthood in Aquitaine embraced a broad class of persons, some landless and attached as retainers to a lord, some even mercenaries or knights errant”, without any fixed abode.51 Since having noble blood did not necessarily mean wealth, in this world of fluctuating fortunes some cross-class relationships were to be expected, even if they were largely adulterous and clandestine. In the courtly love cult an elaborate set of rules was worked out as to the correct procedure for paying court to a lady of higher rank. The courtly lover was required to show gentleness, fidelity, devotion, humility, discretion, patience, and obedience to his mistresss every command. His period of love was spoken of as a period of feudal service, in which his loyalty might at last be rewarded by the lady showing mercy, a euphemism for the ultimate favour. Chrétiens hero Lancelot genuflects to the bed on which his royal mistress lies, before and after making love to her. Now how much of this was an elaborate aristocratic game of fashionable flirtation and how much reflected the real love relationships of the time is still hotly debated. The existence of “courts of love” in Poitiers where Queen Eleanour and the Countess Marie passed judgement on tricky points of courtly love etiquette is still a matter of some controversy. Some scholars hold that this was a fictional invention of Andreas Capellanus, who wrote a treatise on courtly love setting out its rules. The exact interplay of  literary convention, court games and fashionable aristocratic behaviour remains unclear. What is known is that the laws against adultery were lax in Aquitaine, and many a troubadour was a legendary seducer, without necessarily going through a long penance to obtain grace. Eleanour herself was rumoured to have had a number of lovers, including her own uncle, Raymond, Prince of Antioch, while on the Crusades. The cult of courtly love can be seen as a  literary expression of a new sexual freedom among aristocratic women, especially in the south of what is now France. This sexual freedom is striking in the poems written by women troubadours, where sexual desire is often quite explicit. The “Breton Lays” of Marie de France in 12th century England also depict sensual, passionate women, eager to give themselves to their lover, once assured of his true devotion.52 The period may well have witnessed the first major movement of female sexual liberation, and in similar circumstances to later ones: a period of prolonged warfare, where males are absent for several years and die in large numbers, pushing the surplus women to compete for the survivors (or lower level replacements) as well as creating wealthy widows and numerous female rulers. What is astonishing is that this new literary fashion for love poems, which may have had local, ephemeral causes, became such an enduring European cultural phenomenon. The cult of courtly love rapidly spread the length and breadth of Europe, and still deeply influenced the poetry of Chaucer nearly three hundred years after it had begun. Its traces are arguably still with us.

Most feminists detest this tradition because they see it as viewing women as passive love objects. Germaine Greer, for example, tries to belittle and ridicule it as an unhealthy cult of masochistic, adolescent garrison soldiers pining after an unattainable chatelaine.53 This is a shallow oversimplification of a complex phenomenon. By no means all troubadour poems are about unrequited love, some celebrate sexual success, and the first troubadour, as we have seen, was an overbearing duke who abducted one mistress by force. But Greers contempt for this cult is not merely the result of shoddy scholarship; it is a visceral hatred shared by most Anglo-Saxon feminists. It makes a fascinating cultural study to see the way French women academics have traditionally hailed the courtly love cult as an affirmation of the feminine principle in Western culture, a celebration of refined sensuality, of a new level of emotional richness and sensitivity in the human mating dance and then contrast it with the prissy, carping, cavilling dogmatism with which most British and American feminist academics treat it. The latter, revealing their priggish, killjoy, puritanical prejudices, invariably condemn the courtly love cult as one more manifestation of male tyranny. Here is a Frenchwoman in 1967: Courtly love, that great spiritual value, was not womens creation but it was conceived of for them. The acid comment of an English feminist in 1993: Few would defend this position today. She goes on primly with a more current view: the male-authored lyric is concerned only with male emotions or relationships with other men; the woman, like the Virgin Mary, is placed on a pedestal, but in a denial of her full humanity, she is confronted with a choice between living up to a male ideal or failing to meet its impossible criteria.54 Can anyone take this twaddle seriously? Shall I compare thee to a summers day? No, please dont, William, it will deny me my full humanity, and place me on a pedestal where I may be unable to meet these impossible criteria.  She walks in beauty like the night No, George, I cant possibly resemble the night, and its most unfair of you to expect me to.  How in Gods name can love be expressed except by placing the beloved person on a pedestal? And how can a male poet in love do anything but write about male emotions? What other emotions can he possibly feel? But let us imagine the instructions of these feminist political commissars as to how male-authored lyrics are to be written:  Praise will be confined to a womans mental qualities, her ability in such subjects as higher mathematics and economics, her administrative skills and her athletic or military prowess. There will be no mention of looks or beauty, which places unfair pressures upon a woman to live up to an impossible male ideal.  Can  there be any greater proof of the sheer collective ugliness of feminists as human beings than their contempt for the courtly love cult and, by implication, for all love poetry ever written? Is there a clearer proof of this movements descent from Anglo-Saxon Protestant Puritanism and hatred of sex? Is it any wonder the Western birth-rate is in free fall, after forty years of brainwashing of young women by these embittered hags?

Feminists in the English-speaking world cannot admit that anything positive ever happened to women in the three thousand years of recorded history until their own arrival on the scene to reveal the wondrous truth of the total interchangeability of the sexes. The entire past before their remarkable discoveries was an unrelieved landscape of sexist oppression. Whatever might look to the unwary like a step towards equality and greater respect for women must be shown to have been in reality a new and more insidious form of enslavement. The idea that the women of the 12th century might have seen it as a vast improvement to be “placed on a pedestal” and worshipped as a goddess by a poeticizing Norman courtier rather than being flung on a rush mat and raped by a drunk Viking (his ancestor) is dismissed as a naive, shallow judgement, blind to the continuity of male tyranny, which merely varies its form in every age. The weight of past martyrdom, a product largely of their own lugubrious fantasies, weighs upon English-speaking feminists so heavily that they can feel no delight in the joyful discovery of new erotic emotions by the men and women of another age. They can only criticize those new sentiments as misguided, and carp at the raptures of medieval lovers as based on incorrect doctrine. The feminists are the Islamic fundamentalists of academia, their minds draped with black martyrs chadors and choked with rigid dogmas, which condemn as oppressive any kind of sexual relationship that ever existed before their own sterile, tepid marriages with their henpecked, guilt-ridden academic husbands, or their damp lesbian affairs with their gullible student disciples.

What is striking to any normal mind approaching the subject uncluttered by ideological dogma is that the cult of courtly love placed women for the first time (and enduringly) at the very centre of literature, and at the heart of Western culture. The precise nature of their representation, and whether it pleases the dogmatic puritan fastidiousness of the feminist movement, is beside the point. A Western literary tradition till then concerned almost entirely with war and the martial prowess of men suddenly shifted its centre of interest to the love between the sexes, which became its dominant theme from then on. Instead of seeing the highest form of happiness as fame won on the battlefield, men began to see it instead as a relationship with a woman. This cult of love soon widened its scope vastly to take in love stories of the most diverse kind, some happy, some tragic, including the elaborate Arthurian romances. These tales did not all follow the pattern of courtly love, except in their central supposition that love was an emotion to die for. Love became from then on the main subject of the literature read by the aristocrats (and all others who could read) of both sexes, the theme of every song, the topic of endless discussions. This cult of love arguably played a leading role in that civilizing transformation of the character of European man (or at least of the ruling class) which took place between the tenth and twelfth centuries.

It is hard at the distance of a thousand years to form a clear notion of the exact degree of barbarism, brutality, coarseness and ignorance of a bygone age. But the transformation of sensibilities and lifestyles between the early and late Middle Ages is one of the most profound that ever occurred before the 19th century. If we compare the Vikings who took control of Normandy in 911 and the Norman knights which they had become at the court of Henry II and Eleanour of Aquitaine two and a half centuries later, we can have some inkling of the depth of the transformation. Rollos Vikings were still pagans; he agreed to convert to Christianity as part of the deal with King Charles the Simple of France, who ceded Normandy in exchange for being left alone by Rollos bloodthirsty raiders. Viking paganism was not a gentle nature cult. Worship was done chiefly by animal and human sacrifice, something recorded also of the other Germanic tribes from the earliest times. The Swedish Vikings of the 10th century were observed by an Arab diplomat, Ibn Fadlan, on the Volga river, down which they brought their Slavic slaves to trade with the Caliphate of Baghdad. Ibn Fadlan was shocked by the Vikings filthiness and lack of hygiene, and their tendency to copulate publicly with their slave girls, though he also admired their perfect physiques. He records dispassionately their human sacrifices, and describes the ceremonial putting to death of a slave at the funeral of a chief. The slave woman who volunteers to die to accompany her dead master is taken on the day of the funeral to visit every tent, where she has sexual intercourse with its owner. After various rituals and animal sacrifices, she is taken to the ship drawn up on the shore where her dead master lies, and after some more group sex with six men, is strangled and stabbed to death by an old woman called the angel of death. The ship with its two dead bodies is then set on fire and reduced to ashes. 55 Now what is striking about this whole ritual is how much it calls to mind the human sacrifices (combined with sex) observed among the Amerindians, or recorded by explorers in Africa engaged in by peoples we would normally think of as being on an altogether different level of civilization from that of medieval Europeans. Of course the scale of Viking human sacrifice did not approach the one thousand slaves sacrificed on the death of the African king of Ashanti in 1824. But it is curious to reflect that this was the level of culture of the men who a century and a half later conquered England as the Normans and appear to us as a civilized people. For the barbaric practices of the Swedish Vikings in Russia in the 10th century were no doubt similar to those of the pagan Norwegian Vikings who terrorized the coasts of England and France before settling in Normandy. What is remarkable is the speed of the change (about two hundred years) between a mentality and culture that we think of as savage and a culture which we think of as civilized: that of Marie de France or Chrétien de Troyes, which leads on imperceptibly to Chaucer, one of the most sophisticated, psychologically perceptive and erudite poets who ever lived. The depth and speed of this change is mind-boggling. Conversion to Christianity was a major part of it. But the new cult of chivalry (the duty of the Christian knight to protect the weak, especially widows and orphans, of which the Crusades produced quite a glut) also played a role, and so did the cult of courtly love, which pushed the same change of character even further. By the time the descendants of Rollos Norsemen or Normans took their place at the court of Eleanour of Aquitaine, they had a very different concept of the qualities required of a man than prevailed among the Vikings two hundred years before. 

Many of them were no longer simply strong men who knew how to fight with a variety of arms on horseback or foot; they could also dance, they listened attentively to music and poetry, they were elegantly dressed, courteous, well-mannered, eloquent and often multi-lingual. They were now reading (with a straight face) Chrétien de Troyes romance Lancelot where a lover genuflects to his royal mistress's bed one can imagine the guffaws that would have provoked in Rollos camp! They were already well on their way to becoming that chivalric ideal of courtesy and good breeding, Chaucers very parfit knight. In short, from being among the most barbarous human beings Europe has produced they were approaching the very heights of civilized refinement of the aristocratic culture, and this in the space of some two hundred years. This extraordinary transformation is due to many factors but among them is certainly the softening, feminizing influence of the cult of courtly love. One might argue that as the new feudal order became established, with its concept of chivalrous knighthood, aristocratic women played an additional civilizing role by creating through their patronage a new world of refined sensuality and poetry that the men could enter only by leaving their swords and chain-mail at the door. Women erected themselves into an aesthetic and sensual ideal which men aspired to possess, and could only possess by adopting new manners and behaviour. What we have between the tenth and twelfth centuries (and on further to the fourteenth) is a process of civilization of male behaviour which can accurately be called a feminization. It entailed the adoption by men of qualities previously associated only with women: gentleness, good manners, courtesy, elegance, grace, wit, charm, and eloquence. The very concept of a gentleman the linking of membership of the warrior class with gentleness and courtesy rather than brutal aggressiveness seems to owe a good deal to the influence of aristocratic women on the manners of the time.

Of course the cult of courtly love had its excesses. It also underwent a long transformation over the centuries till it ceased to be courtly. It began as a cult of clandestine adulterous love : the wandering troubadour trying to get off with the chatelaine, or the woman married against her inclinations seeking a lover to her taste. But its conventions were very soon adopted in the courtship of women for marriage. Kings of France were already in the 12th century using elements of courtly love language in wooing their brides. Love gradually came to be expected in marriages, and forced marriages for dynastic convenience began to get a bad press from the poets and playwrights culminating in Shakespeares glorification of marriage for love, and fierce attack on marriage for any other reason. By the time of Shakespeare and Cervantes four hundred years later both courtly love and chivalry are such well-worn conventions that they have become objects of gentle satire. Some of Shakespeares comedies ridicule the extravagance of courtly love conventions of sighing lovers and disdainful mistresses (which by then had begun to merge into the pastoral tradition, as the Renaissance poets elaborated a new fantasy about amorous shepherds and shepherdesses based on Virgil’s Eclogues.) But the very fact the conventions were still alive enough to be parodied shows how long they lasted. Their influence on Shakespeare is still very much in evidence. In his sonnets, phrases like being thy vassal echo the feudal language adopted by the troubadour towards his lady. Romeo in his courtship of Juliet, in which he pretends to be a pilgrim at the shrine of her hand, uses images taken directly from the courtly love repertoire of religious parody (images taken up again in his series of poems “The Passionate Pilgrim”.) Their love affair, going against parental wishes, has the clandestine, subversive aspects of both courtly love and later romantic love, but it is also directed towards marriage an association of love and marriage that Shakespeare now takes for granted. In fact the notion of a forced marriage, or the frustrating of true love and female choice, is something that seems to provoke real indignation in Shakespeare, and it forms the basis of several of his plots. While Shakespeare may gently parody the extravagance of both the courtly love and pastoral traditions in some of his comedies, this does not represent a rejection of their core idea the conception of love as the supreme human joy, and the loss of it as the deepest human misery. This glorification of love (and of love leading to marriage) was central to Shakespeares vision of life, and he gave it its greatest expression in plays like Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra and A Winters Tale. The poets and playwrights that followed him continued in the same vein. The emerging novelists too worked the theme of love and the obstacles it must sometimes surmount on the path towards marriage, until the whole subject reached another climactic expression in the Romantic movement. This movement again returned to the elevation of love above the laws of society. We have Byrons risqué celebration in Manfred of his incestuous relations with his half-sister. More common is the theme of love crossed by class difference, financial problems, parental interdiction, or marriage to another. The Romantics also returned to the association of love with death, something also found in the early period in the tragic love stories of the Arthurian cycle, such as Tristan and Iseult.

We can see, then, in the whole love tradition a circular development which started from a subversive cult of clandestine, adulterous love (often tragic in outcome) from the 12th to the 15th centuries, then evolved into a socially accepted cult of love directed towards marriage, which became the ideal in Europe for nearly four hundred years, before it veered again into a subversive form in the Romantic movement where it became part of the breaking down of class barriers and social taboos. The romantic theme of the unsuitable cross-class match or forbidden love for which a man or a woman willingly loses social position, reputation, and even life itself is a throwback to the original courtly love theme of a clandestine, cross-class, adulterous relationship of troubadour or knight errant and higher-ranking lady. But it is important to see that it is the same cult of love throughout. It goes through phases where it is an instrument of subversion and social rebellion (as it is both at the beginning and at the end of the nine-hundred-year period of feudal and aristocratic culture, where its cross-class element is important), and phases where it is adopted by the class-based establishment and socially approved as the natural basis of marriage. In this evolution it mirrors that other creed, Christianity, which also went through phases where it was subversive and phases where it was the established religion.   

The continuity of the cult of love in the West over the past nine hundred years is what is emphasized by the great scholar C. S. Lewis, who pioneered its study. 56 No lover reading a love-poem to his girlfriend ever stopped to ask whether it was written by an adulterous troubadour, a courting Renaissance fiancé, or a doomed romantic. Nobody could care less. What unites all phases of the cult is the conception of love between the sexes as the supreme human joy, and its loss as the deepest human misery. It is something that the sexually sated Greeks and Romans, married at puberty and with unlimited flute-girls and slaves at their disposal, would have found it difficult to take seriously. Perhaps only cultures with a puritanical element restricting sexual indulgence, or with an ideal of chastity that causes widespread sexual frustration, can produce love. Perhaps in the classical world most men did not value womens company sufficiently to idealize their relationships with them however tender and companionable those relationships may at times have been. Perhaps the down-to-earth practicality of the ancient Roman marriage, based on reproduction, family, and joint management of the large, busy household (along with the ease both of extra-marital affairs and of divorce), prevented that idealization of the other as the answer to all spiritual, emotional and sexual needs which the late Medieval culture produced (one thinks of Dante and Petrarch and their idealization of girls they could not have.) For love to be the supreme joy the partner must be the supremely important being. This cult of love was only possible in a civilization which in practical human terms, whatever the reigning legal or theological doctrines, saw women and men as equal. You cannot value above life a union with an inferior being. This cult of love between the sexes, one of the distinguishing characteristics of European civilization over the past thousand years, has, despite the strains of recent decades, not yet ended, as a glance at the handholding teenage couples in every high street in the Western world makes clear. And its spread through other cultures (on the wings of popular music, descended from the troubadour love-songs) appears irresistible. 



16) LOVE IN THE REAL WORLD                                


Academics, given to nit-picking and hair-splitting, and not seeing the wood for the trees, have sometimes tried to dismiss the cult of courtly love as a mere literary mode without social effect, because it was based on clandestine, adulterous love. But the fact that love was now the main subject of every song and almost every story inevitably had its effect on courtship and marriage throughout society. Though marriages at the highest level were traditionally arranged for reasons of state or property, love increasingly came into them. There is the tragic story of King Philippe Auguste of France. At fifteen he married a very young girl he adored, Ysabelle de Hainaut. At first she was unable to have a child (not surprisingly, since she married at ten.) When she was fourteen and still not pregnant, he felt obliged to make it clear to her that he would have to get the marriage annulled in order to have an heir, for the future peace of the realm. When Ysabelle took in this shocking news, she dressed all in white, let her golden hair loose, and began to walk around barefoot and pray aloud in all the churches, gathering a huge sympathetic crowd at her heels. On the steps of his palace the king faced her, assured her that there was no other reason for their separation than their inability to have children, and asked her gently if there was another lord he could marry her to in his place, at his expense. She replied: God forbid another man should lie in your bed! and burst into tears. He at once threw his arms around her and cried out that they would never leave each other, to the wild acclamations of the crowd. Ysabelle finally gave him an heir but died in childbirth with twins at nineteen.

Three years later in 1193 the king married a beautiful Danish princess, Ingeborg. Perhaps he had not yet got over Ysabelle, because he was struck with impotence on his wedding night. Shaken by his failure, he concluded he was under a spell and tried to repudiate his bride. She refused to give up her position; she was now Queen of France and she intended to remain it. Her legal case was strong and she appealed to the Pope. Philippe went ahead and had his marriage annulled. The Pope (urged on by the girls father, the formidable King Kanut VI, the greatest soldier of the age) struck down the annulment. Philippe, having at last fallen desperately in love with another princess, Agnes, ignored the Popes decision and married her. The couple were radiantly happy, spending their days together hunting and love-making. Ingeborg languished in a virtual prison, from which she wrote despairing letters to Rome. A new, more energetic Pope took action. He annulled Philippes new marriage, annulled the repudiation of Ingeborg, and demanded that he take her back. His refusal led to the excommunication of the French nation, its denial of the sacraments. The king held out for nine months, against a rising tide of anger from the people at their spiritual deprivation. At the end of his tether he gave in. His separation from Agnes was a scene of hysteria, of cries and lamentations on both sides. It caused her to go mad with grief. She gave birth to his child (whom she called Tristan) and died shortly afterwards of sorrow. The restoration of Ingeborg to the title of Queen was purely formal, and Philippe did not let her approach him for thirteen years. His fury and grief pushed him to make her life a misery. Then suddenly he gave in and was reconciled to her. All this time she continued to pray dutifully for his well-being. It is a saga of the conflict between legality and love, between a system of legal rules and rights, of interest of state, of marriage of reason, and the anarchy of the human heart. It may of course be read (by stubbornly doctrinaire readers) as an illustration of an oppressive system of dynastic marriages, where women were pawns of power, chattels of men, victims of oppression, martyrs of patriarchy etc, etc. But it belongs even more to the annals of loves tyranny over the human soul. Increasingly, love was a force that even the highest in the land had to reckon with. It could wreak havoc with the best-planned lives, and all the calculations of reason of state or political advantage could be swept away by its power. 57





            The new importance of love in the lives of the aristocracy reflected a certain feminization of the culture of the Renaissance period. After the fourteenth century, the character of war began to change. The use of archers, then hand-gunners, pikemen, cannon, all reduced the military importance of the armoured knight. Active military service gradually ceased to be an essential condition of land-ownership for the nobleman or knight. As armies became mercenary, the number of aristocratic men who died in war fell sharply. Among ducal families in England it fell from nearly fifty per cent in the century and a half before 1479, to less than twenty per cent in the next two hundred years, and four per cent in the last half of the eighteenth century. 58 The new peaceful era, as Shakespeares Richard III put it, this weak piping time of peace, was most suitable for capering nimbly in a ladys chamber, to the lascivious pleasing of a lute. It was in short an effeminate time when women came into their own. The entire court system that grew up in the late Middle Ages, a world of intrigues and favourites, of liaisons which might bring power as well as wealth, was a system where women competed on equal terms with men where their sex in fact gave them an edge in courting the favours of the powerful. Families of the lesser nobility who previously had sent their sons to serve in the castles of higher nobles, now sent their daughters to wait on noblewomen, and the girls were often the instruments of raising the whole family to new social heights. A marriage of one of their daughters to a powerful noble could transform a familys fortunes, and set in motion an ascension that a generation later might lead all the way to a throne. The marriage of Edward IV to the ambitious Elizabeth Woodville in 1464 led to the rise of the Woodville family to dominate the kingdom as her brothers got the top earldoms, and the eclipse of the Neville family of the kings mother, headed by her brother, the great Earl of Warwick. 59 For the climate of sexual intrigue by ambitious young women you have only to recall the disillusioned poems of the 16th century courtier, Sir Thomas Wyatt. He himself was the lover of the young Anne Boleyn, a lady-in-waiting who moved on from him to become Henry VIIIs mistress and then queen for a short while, before she was executed for adultery and treason. As he falls out of favour at court, Wyatt is abandoned by the ambitious young court ladies who once used him for social advancement:


They flee from me, that sometime did me seek,

With naked foot stalking within my chamber.

            I have seen them, gentle, tame, and meek,

That now are wild, and do not remember . 60


This picture of intriguing, social-climbing young women who were free agents in the pursuit of pleasure and ambition, is rather different from the feminist stereotype of submissive female pawns, bought and sold like chattels, that has been imposed on us in recent years. In the world of absolute monarchs, from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, women had new freedom. They exercised power in a variety of ways: as royal mistresses, mistresses of powerful ministers, mothers of kings, and of course as queens whether as consorts or as absolute rulers in their own right, like Elizabeth I of England or Catherine the Great of Russia. The more absolute the monarchy that is, the more personal the rule of the monarch the greater tended to be the power of women. Thus British observers in the 18th century thought that womens influence was particularly strong in France, which remained an absolute monarchy after Britain had become a constitutional one. The Scottish philosopher David Hume commented in this period that in France the females enter into all transactions and all management of church and state: and no man can expect success, who takes not care to obtain their good graces. 61 Such was their recognized position that women were often popularly credited with a power and influence beyond the reality. Queen Marie-Antoinette was widely blamed by the people for leading King Louis XVI to disaster with her frivolity and extravagant spending. The kings own weakness and incompetence were seen almost as secondary.

            This feminization can be seen in the clothes of the period. In the early Middle Ages men and women of the upper classes often dressed almost identically (except when the man was dressed for battle.) Both wore long belted tunics and a cloak round their shoulders. Starting in the late thirteenth century in France this unisex style gradually gave way to a more differentiated fashion. As wealth and luxury increased and the age became more libertine, furs, lace, and finer cloths enabled both sexes to emphasize their specific charms. Men revealed the shape of their legs in tight hose, accentuated the breadth of shoulder and size of chest with padded jackets. They wore codpieces to emphasize the genitals. Women began to wear tight bodices, cut low, to enhance the shape of breasts and the smallness of waists. In the fifteenth century both sexes of the upper classes began to dress in a far more sumptuous fashion, in velvet, bright silks from China, and cloth of gold. The fabrics and colours were similar for men and women only the body shape and particular charms they sought to emphasize were different. 62 By and large this remained true, with variations of cut in each age, until the end of the eighteenth century. That is why paintings of men of the period from the 15th to the 18th century often strike the modern eye as incredibly effeminate. It is as if womens tastes dominated the fashions for both sexes. In many places even the women of the prosperous bourgeoisie began to dress in the same sumptuous fashion. This led most countries in Europe to introduce sumptuary laws limiting the display allowed by classes below the nobility. These often banned gold and precious stones from their ornamentation, in an effort to limit the competition in dress from reaching outrageous and extravagant levels. The fact is that the chief occupation of the leisured classes of the time was to go to social events where they competed in appearance with one another. This may be considered the feminine equivalent of the male jousting of an earlier age. This female competitive display impulse can still be observed today at Ascot, at charity balls, at jet set parties, at bars and clubs, even at Sunday church. Until the French revolution, it was almost a full-time occupation for both men and women of the classes that could afford it and the elaborately embroidered Sunday peasant costumes for both sexes suggests the display impulse affected other classes as well.



18) WOMEN ENTER THE WORLD OF LEARNING                                                                  

            This feminization of the age and its pursuits also allowed women more opportunity to show serious talents. We have seen already how in the 12th century some women became troubadour poets, and others influential patrons of literature. Marie de France in 12th century England wrote elegant love stories based on the Arthurian cycle. With Christine de Pizan in the early 15th century a woman demonstrated complete mastery of a wide range of literary forms, and entered into full possession of the humanist world of learning. A widow driven to live by her pen to support her children (after losing father and husband and being embroiled in long litigation to obtain her inheritance), she wrote love poems (Letters to the God of Love), critical works, philosophy (The Mutations of Fortune), biographies (she was commissioned by the Duke of Burgundy to write the biography of his brother, King Charles V of France), didactic works for women (The Book of the Three Virtues, The Book of the City of Ladies), and even the Book of Arms and Chivalry, which a century later Henry VIII is supposed to have ordered from the printer Caxton.63 She even wrote her own autobiography, Christines Vision. The first major female writer in modern Europe (and one who was outspoken in defending women’s character against the misogynous writings of certain clerics) does not appear to have encountered much difficulty in getting lucrative commissions. With such success in her lifetime and fame over the next two centuries, one might ask why her works disappeared into oblivion until the late twentieth century. One unkind answer might be: she was not terribly original. Another kinder one might be: in between, along came a masculine age which dismissed women writers as minor dilettantes who were not terribly original. The truth perhaps lies somewhere between the two.

But one reason for the fluctuations in her reputation is the subject she dealt with. What  came to be called la querelle des femmes, or the sporadic literary debate over womens character and men’s attitudes to women, suffered a decline in scholarly interest during the masculine century until the feminist movement of the late 20th century revived it. And it is her part in this debate, her spirited defence of women against a certain strain of misogyny in the time, that is Christine’s chief claim to attention today. But while her writings defended womens character against denigration, her views of womens role were in fact traditional. She laid claim (on their behalf) to the traditional virtues ascribed to women, and rejected accusations about their untrustworthy, inconstant, or licentious nature. She was neither martyr nor social rebel, but was effortlessly successful in a mans world, disproving a certain number of feminist clichés about womens exclusion from all intellectual activities. Her defence of the female character against a certain literary fashion for the disparagement of women, instead of getting her into trouble, won her powerful male admirers and patrons who supported her all her life. Her recent transformation into a feminist icon has an ironical side to it, in that her own career disproves the grotesque caricature of the past as a scene of unrelieved persecution of women put about by modern feminists. Christine was neither silenced, persecuted nor burnt at the stake for her vigorous defence of women, but became a figure admired by men all over Europe. Paradoxically, she remains even today an inspiring example of one individuals resistance to a powerful intellectual movement, animated by a puritanical, venomous hatred of the other sex, and determined to poison women and men against each other by spreading, through a tissue of lies, calumnies and distortions, a vision of one sex as the source of all the evils of the world.

In the feminine age of the courts it became fashionable for monarchs and aristocrats to give their daughters the best education money could buy. Queen Isabella of Spain hired the best scholars to teach her daughters, and one of them, Catherine of Aragon, gave the same education to her daughter, the future Queen Mary of England. Her half-sister Elizabeth I was also admired for her classical scholarship (she amused herself translating texts from Greek to Latin.) Among the female prodigies of the age was Lady Jane Grey, who began learning Greek at three and finally mastered fourteen languages, including Arabic and Ancient Aramaic, by the time of her execution by Mary for treason at eighteen. The age abounded with courtiers who turned their daughters into scholars in the hope of impressing a learned prospective husband. Whether this was a good seductive tactic was a matter of lively debate, notably among women themselves. King James I leaned to the view that women should not be over-educated, but it was an opinion many others disagreed with, including his own son Charles I. The latter employed the leading female scholar Bathsua Makin to tutor his daughter in Greek and Hebrew, and his scholarly niece, Elizabeth of Bohemia, corresponded with Descartes, who dedicated his Principles of Philosophy to her.  

            One might object that this is only half the story, concentrating on a few privileged  women who had private tutors and scholarly parents, while the mass were left in ignorance. This is true. Education was not thought of as a right of the masses, but an accomplishment of the elite. People of the lower classes were taught the skills they needed for their role in life: both boys and girls were apprenticed to the trades and skills thought appropriate to them. Often the boys were taught basic literacy as well, while the girls were taught the domestic skills and crafts (such as sewing and weaving) which they would need as mistresses of households. As the sixteenth century, with its humanist scholars keen on classical education for girls as well as boys, gave way in England to a more radical Protestant ethos in the seventeenth century, even the arts that aristocratic girls were taught tended to become limited to dancing, music and modern languages. The humanist fashion for learned fathers to have their daughters taught Greek and Latin had been reinforced by the long reign of a scholar queen. In the century following her death the fashion lost ground. 64 But despite the neglect of girls’ education, the growing volume of writing of all sorts destined to a female readership from books about housekeeping and manners to sermons and tomes about the law (The Lawes Resolutions of Womens Rights dated from 1632) suggests there must have been enough women readers to constitute a lucrative market. The Reformation helped literacy because everyone was supposed to read the bible. Protestant states in Germany and Switzerland tended to give all girls primary education. From the late 17th century there was a growing market for romantic novels, most of them written by women and for women. Literacy being something which can be self-taught, we may surmise that much female literacy in families which could not afford tutors was simply picked up from parents or older sisters or brothers. Reading is in fact a simple skill anyone can learn or teach. Many bright children read before they go to school. It has taken the doctrinaire, progressive educational methods of the late 20th century to produce a generation of dyslexics. Given the standards of such girls schools as there were, as reflected in later novels like Jane Eyre, most girls were lucky not to be sent there. As we have seen, the boys private schools were not much better than concentration camps, and any learning that went on there seems to have happened in spite of the teaching, not because of it. In the 19th century schools gradually improved and girls education caught up with boys. But the tone of tragedy adopted by modern feminists as they contemplate the lack of schooling for girls in the 17th century is somewhat excessive. Schooling is not synonymous with education. School seldom has anything to do with what children read, which is their real education. Books will find whoever values them. Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, was writing voluminous philosophy and fiction in the 17th century without ever having set foot in a university (a fact which perplexed the university dons who wrote flattering eulogies of her.) Her example could have inspired any girl in the kingdom to do likewise as it may have inspired Mary Astell, who set off for London and became a professional pamphlet-writer a generation later. By the 18th century there were probably as many women scribblers as men, judging by male complaints about them. The fact that their work is not on the school syllabuses today alongside Defoe, Swift, Pope and Fielding is because it doesnt deserve to be. By the 19th century it does deserve to be, and it is.

The exclusion of women from almost all occupations but child-rearing and domestic service to their husbands is one of the pious myths of feminism that research is beginning to expose. Feminism has lately oscillated between claiming women were prevented from doing anything in the past, and celebrating the enormous range of activities they engaged in. Now it would seem contrary to the rules of logic to espouse both these views at the same time.  But the second is probably closer to the truth than the first. Medieval French records show Parisian women in 1313 engaging in a huge range of trades and crafts, from weavers and glove-makers to bakers and metal-workers. They include doctors (women patients could not show their bodies to male doctors in that age), masons and plasterers, and even construction workers. There were woman painters and sculptors and one money-lender. Fifteenth century Italian universities enabled women to take degrees as doctors, and all over Europe they practised as surgeons as well as midwives, from the 13th to the 17th centuries. 65 The engagement of women in the arts tends to be overlooked by Anglo-Saxon feminists until their sudden breakthrough in English literature in the 19th century. But they were active long before that. It is difficult to know if the biased history-writing of Victorian men or the self-pitying victim-cult of 20th century feminist women (such as Virginia Woolf) is more responsible for the myth that women were forbidden to take part in literary or artistic activities. What seems to be more relevant is the fact that women of high education also tended to be women of high class and therefore fortune (their own or through marriage) who had no need to practise any art to earn a living. It is when we get highly educated women who are suddenly impoverished by misfortune that we find them turning to art or writing to survive. Thus Sofonisba Anguissolas father, an impoverished nobleman with a large family, arranged for her to take painting lessons after she decided she didnt want to be a nun. She was befriended and advised by Michelangelo, went on to become court painter to the Queen of Spain, and was visited in her old age by an enthusiastic admirer, the young Van Dyck, who painted her portrait. Christine de Pizan, the daughter of a learned court doctor, was, as we have seen, unexpectedly widowed with small children when her husband died during an epidemic. Prey to unscrupulous creditors and locked in legal disputes over her estate, she was forced to live by her pen, which she did successfully some say the first medieval writer ever to do so (writers like Chaucer were given sinecures in the administration while they wrote, but did not earn a living directly from commissions.) The mysterious Aphra Behn, who was long thought, like one of her heroines, to have been shipwrecked and orphaned on the voyage taking her father to the governorship of Guyana, turned her hand first to spying for a living before settling on writing, producing both plays and novels in the most famous of which she purported to recount her childhood friendship with the slaves on the plantation she lived on in Guyana. A play based on her work Ooronokoo, or the Royal Slave became a popular melodrama throughout the 18th century. Though primarily a heart-rending love-drama, it was seen as a plea for the abolition of the slave trade. None of these women seem to have encountered any more problems in succeeding in their chosen art than their male colleagues.

Of course, it is hard at this distance to gauge the disadvantages that women may have suffered from in their literary or artistic endeavours. The few successes do not prove facility, any more than their limited number proves discrimination and social obstacles. The question why there were not more successful women writers is a bit more complex than the hysterical arguments of Virginia Woolf that a female Shakespeare would never have been allowed to write. Prejudice did not stop Aphra Benn or Christine de Pizan. It is more than probable that a young female playwright in Shakespeares time would have been taken under the wing of some theatre director like Burbage not men noted for their conventional lives or narrow views and milked for all that her talent could offer. In 16th century France women poets already flourished; it was only in the 17th century that England produced a crop of them (though there had been Marie de  France in the 12th century). Why the difference? As well try to explain why there were no decent plays or playwrights till the late 16th century. Literary and artistic works are produced in unpredictable spasms. One writer often inspires a whole cluster, in the manner of any other fashion. This is perhaps particularly true of women, among whom the success of one poet may have encouraged others to try their hand. The fame won by 16th century French women poets like Louise Labé (not an aristocrat but a rope merchant’s daughter) certainly inspired others. But even among the educated, literature must have remained the passion of a few exceptional individuals. Given the prestige of writing as a profession today, it is often forgotten that it was a rather low, unglamorous trade until the 19th century. The notion of some vocation sent from heaven instilling in the soul an irresistible urge to write or paint for its own sake is an invention of the Romantics, and there is little reason why a woman before that period would have chosen this way of making a living if she had other possibilities, such as a good marriage. A clever Renaissance woman, with looks to boot, could make her fortune a lot faster in her bed than at her desk. It is notable that when the cult of the poet and the novelist as forming a new, glamorous aristocracy of the spirit came along in the Romantic movement, women began flocking to these occupations in large numbers. Before that, when writers were poorly paid, inky-fingered artisans, few women of leisure bothered to dirty their hands with these lowly pursuits, unless forced into it by unexpected poverty, or inspired by a literary family. There were, of course, in addition to the few successful women writers still read, a large number of women hack novelists in the eighteenth century writing the equivalent of Harlequin romances and quite rightly forgotten today. But though their work is not worth remembering, the fact that they did this work is. It shows that the participation of women in a whole range of activities, including creative and intellectual ones, was far greater than the modern myths of the feminist victim-cult have led us to believe.

            The feminists would like to peddle a myth that women were excluded by the wicked patriarchy from any creative activities, but a few of them succeeded by superhuman effort in imposing their talents on the sexist bigots around them. The fact that there were not more of them is only a sign of the power of the patriarchy in crushing female talent. At the risk of provocation, another point of view could be put forward: that most educated women preferred social activities to intellectual ones, had no great interest in artistic pursuits, and that the few who were pushed by poverty or exceptional talent to make an effort in this domain were at once befriended and encouraged by the greatest male artists of the age, and had little trouble finding patrons fascinated to discover women with their abilities. Christine de Pizan and Sofinisba Anguissola were not the only ones encouraged and supported by men all their lives. In the mid-17th century the novelist and salonière Madame de la Fayette, author of the best-selling The Princess of Cleves, was encouraged to write and urged to publish by her lover, La Rochefoucauld, an older and more famous writer. Mary Wollestonecraft, Germaine de Stael, and George Sand were later women writers who were encouraged and supported by men, while being shunned by many women. Now it is true that the emergence of intellectual women or “femmes savantes” provoked satire and mockery from a certain number of male authors, including Molière in France and Pope in England. Molière also satirized the so-called “précieuses” – fashionable women who revived a kind of courtly love cult of extravagant gallantry where women placed themselves on a pedestal and expected men to worship them with flowery expressions of Platonic devotion. But alongside this male satire, women poets such as Louise Labé, “la Belle Cordière”, who wrote passionate love poems in the 16th century, were admired by literary men both in their own lifetime and long afterwards. One can argue that any hostility to the achievements of talented women came not so much from a “patriarchy” of male power but from the “matriarchy” that has always controlled social life and public opinion. This female hostility was often aroused by the departure of talented women from strict notions of propriety and of the traditional female virtues, of which women, not men, have always been the guardians. The limited number of female artists and writers  might also be due to the rarity of the circumstances that inspired female vocations in these fields often a scholar or artist parent who awakened their interest. The quality of female education may have been a factor – it was attacked by the 17th century scholar Bathsua Makin, who tutored Charles Is daughter and niece, as well as by Mary Wollestonecraft over a century later. Women’s exclusion from the universities did not help, and the long cultural tradition of keeping women in a family role (thought essential for human reproduction) no doubt formed an underlying psychological obstacle. But as literary forms evolved towards the novel of love and intrigue in the 17th and 18th centuries, women developed more and more confidence in their capacity to contribute to literature from their experience and observation of the world. Both the subjects of novels and their readership were increasingly feminine, and authorship went the same way. But women also contributed to more intellectual writing. In the late 17th century a young woman of modest means, Mary Astell, went up to London and made a successful career as a pamphleteer and essayist. She chose never to marry, produced some notable works of early feminism criticizing the state of marriage, met other leading women intellectuals, and lived an independent life till she died at 65. It is hard to see in what ways she suffered any disadvantages in comparison with the scores of male pamphleteers and hack writers who did the same thing and whose names have not even survived. When one thinks of her contemporary Samuel Richardson a man who had no schooling at all, a woodworkers son who became a printer and at fifty-one unexpectedly (at the request of clients to publish a text book of letter-writing) produced a best-selling novel in letter-form about the love relationship of a virtuous servant girl and her predatory employer there is nothing in his career which suggests any privilege other than talent. There was nothing to prevent any talented woman of the time doing exactly the same (as Aphra Behn and Madame de la Fayette had done two generations earlier.) The fixation of feminists with womens exclusion from university education is something of a red herring when it comes to literature. Many of Englands greatest writers Chaucer, Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Webster, Middleton, Pope, Blake, Keats, Browning, Dickens, Trollope, Hardy never set foot in a university, and most writers who did so thought it was a waste of time.

            All over Europe, the Renaissance saw the steady entry of women into various fields of art and literature without having to surmount any enormous barriers of discrimination that we can detect from this distance. Just as scholars taught their daughters Greek, Italian painters taught their daughters to paint, and some became successful artists themselves. Artemesia Gentileschi is probably the best-known today, through her savage masterpiece of Judith cutting off the head of Holophernes, thought to be a likeness of a man who had raped her. Among successful women artists who were not daughters of painters, we have already mentioned Sofinisba Anguissola. She was followed a century later by the Dutch painter Judith Leyster, the first woman admitted to the painters union, the Haarlem Guild of St Luke. In the 16th century a new class of courtesans emerged in cities like Venice, exploiting their sexual charms to gain financial independence, but also, like the ancient Greek hetaerae, often acquiring education and becoming intellectuals and poets. One of them, Veronica Franco, became a celebrated poet as well as a famous beauty, courted by princes and painted by Tintoretto. This new class of liberated women, inhabiting a demi-monde on the edges of high society, spread to France and England, and produced a number of brilliant figures, famed alike for their beauty, their freedom of mœurs, and their intellect. In 1660 the theatres in England, which had been closed by the Puritans, were re-opened and opened for the first time to actresses. Englishwomen now had a new means of fame and self-expression as artists, and many actresses became household names. They mixed increasingly both with intellectuals and with aristocrats. The institution of the salon, started in France by the Marquise de Rambouillet but taken up by other women who were not always aristocrats but often intellectuals, created a space of interaction between the worlds of literature, theatre, court politics, and high society. While some of the early salonières prided themselves on their high moral standards, the institution was soon taken over by the demi-monde of courtesans, and became a playground where different classes and worlds mixed. Some actresses and even courtesans became not merely the mistresses but the wives of noblemen and politicians, even in Protestant England. Ninon de Lenclos, a famous courtesan and a renowned expert on love, used her great wit, charm and popularity to surround herself with the leading French intellectuals of the 17th century. She presided over one of the most fashionable salons, where writers, politicians and influential aristocrats could rub shoulders and exchange views. This salon culture soon spread all over Europe and reached its height in the late 18th century. The fashionable women of this period were at the hub of intellectual and even diplomatic and political life, especially in France. Madame de la Fayette had already played an important role as a diplomat. The salonière Suzanne Necker, daughter of a pastor,  was able to push her Swiss husband into the post of French finance minister under Louis XVI. Her daughter, the liberal salonière Germaine de Stael, became Napoleon Bonapartes most formidable intellectual and political enemy. She set up court near Geneva and became the centre of opposition to Napoleon, after he forbade her to approach within fifty miles of Paris. 

One is tempted to ask: what happened? Why was progress derailed? No woman achieved the political importance of Madame de Stael for another hundred and fifty years. No woman ever again exercised the political power of the 18th centurys Catherine the Great until Indira Gandhi and in Europe not until Margaret Thatcher. Why did this gradual progression of womens entry into intellectual and political life and a whole range of male activities not continue smoothly till they took their full place in public life, on an equal footing with men?  Why did the struggle for womens political and civil rights become so fierce and bitter throughout the 19th century, and end only when the First World War made the suffragettes abandon their campaign, join in the nationalistic fervour, and receive the vote at the end as a reward for their patriotic conformity? In short, where did things go wrong for women?

The answer is: in between came the masculine century. A revolt against the feminine and feminized age which had gone before. A sudden evolution of men in such a masculine direction that women were left staring across a gulf at what was virtually another species. And this new species was determined that the qualities and values women represented would be preserved forever separate from itself, enshrined in a feminine personality which men henceforth had nothing to do with.  


19) THE MASCULINE CENTURY                                          


The event that ushered in the new age was the French Revolution. Despite its partial betrayal by Napoleon and the latters final military defeat, its ideas were in the long term triumphant. As with Marxism in the West today, the victors were impregnated with the ideology of the vanquished.     

The French revolution was a middle-class movement animated by a hatred of the ancien régime and all its works and pomps. And what was most characteristic of the ancien régime? The privilege of birth, the climate of court intrigue, of currying favour with the great by every charm and seductive wile, sex as a means of advancement, sensuality, sexual libertinism, extravagance, display, sumptuous dress, elegant carriages, scores of liveried servants, coquetry; a shallow concern with fripperies, court entertainments, spectacles, shows, balls, parties, fashion; the influence of frivolous persons on affairs of state where the caprices of a queen could break a state budget, and the wisest ministers had to compete for the kings ear with his latest teenage mistress. All of this, the revolutionaries in a puritanical rage denounced. They were the moral heirs of Cromwells middle-class puritans, the regicides of a previous century, and they shared the same harsh, anti-sensual values that had led Cromwells short-haired Roundheads to vandalize churches up and down England. What they were denouncing was a world of pleasure, frivolity, sensuality, which lived only for its own enjoyment. What they denounced, in short, was a feminized world, dominated by feminine pursuits and feminine values. Implicitly, they were denouncing femininity itself, a femininity they saw as corrupt because it had moved outside its proper sphere, the home and family. Woman at home is an angel; woman at court is a whore. What they denounced was the court system, which gave women a central role where they exercised the worst of their vices. The parliamentary system which the middle-class radicals and liberals of Europe struggled over the next eighty years to put in its place would be a sober, black-suited affair à langlaise, with no room for frivolity, no room for pleasure, and no room for women. 

The French artist, Elizabeth Vigée le Brun, who was Queen Marie-Antoinettes court painter and portraitist, summed up this change from the ancien régime in a striking phrase: Women ruled. The Revolution dethroned them. 66 Seldom has anyone so lucidly analysed the cataclysm they lived through.

During the Revolution and its aftermath the gradual struggle to achieve constitutional government and eventually democracy all over Europe women were branded by the association with the intrigues, privilege and corruption of the old absolute monarchies. The new liberal movements of Europe were reluctant to grant women the vote partly because they felt they had just emerged from a period of petticoat government rule by courtiers, frivolous queens and royal mistresses and they wanted to avoid it like the plague. Throughout the nineteenth century, women were the object of enormous political distrust not only by the most conservative but by the most progressive men, who were sure that the mass of women (apart from a handful of intellectuals) were instinctively conservative and would vote for the most reactionary parties. This was particularly true in Catholic countries, where women were thought to be most under the influence of the Church. One progressive French leader (himself a feminist) considered women in great majority, reactionaries and clericals and believed that if they voted today, the Republic would not last six months. 67 Such was the distrust of women by anti-clerical socialist movements (the natural allies of feminism) that in most Catholic countries women did not get the vote till after the Second World War, whereas in most Protestant ones they got it after the First. It is as though women, after the ancien régime, had to spend a period of quarantine at least a century in the home, on their best behaviour, before they were judged fit to re-enter the world of politics. 

The class that took power in the French revolution, and despite its temporary defeat, all over Europe in the next few decades, was one with specific characteristics. It came to be called the bourgeoisie or the middle class though the names were not always synonymous.  The distinguishing characteristic of these people was that they lived not on the rents of their land, like the aristocrats, but by work though later many of them would come to live from rent on their commercial investments. They ranged from the better-off artisans, shop-keepers, tradesmen to businessmen, bankers, merchants, small manufacturers, and soon large ones. Their world was a world of work, not a world of play. And as the industrial revolution gave their class new prosperity, their jobs became more and more separated from the home. The small, home-based family business moved to a workshop or a factory as it grew larger. The wife at home became separated from the professional activities she had once shared in the business accounts, the orders, the selling. The wife was instead confined to a domestic role as her house grew in size, took on servants, and she became the overseer of a large household. The spheres of men and women grew separate as they had not been separate for the aristocrat, spending his time at balls and social events with wife or mistress, and were not separate for the peasant, where both men and women laboured in the fields. For the industrial worker too there was a common world, since men and women often worked in the same factories. But the harshness of factory work for women in particular, which caused the first factory reforms to aim specifically at improving womens working conditions, led many workers as well to dream of being able to keep their wife at home. For the middle classes it became an important status symbol for the wife not to work, and for the daughters to be taught those skills which would enable them to get a good husband rather than a good job  (Karl Marxs treatment of his daughters was a prime example of this trend.) In short, the strict  separation of the spheres of man and woman into a professional and a domestic world dates in large part from the rising middle classes of the industrial revolution, and the model they provided to the workers below them. 

This growing divergence in the worlds of men and women was felt and expressed by many in the age. Tennyson summed it up succinctly and approvingly:


Man for the field and woman for the hearth;

Man for the sword and for the needle she

All else confusion. 68


The urge to keep women at home in a tranquil and idyllic domesticity, far from the horrors of factory work, was expressed not only by the bourgeoisie but also by working-class socialists. The Lasallean General German Workers Association declared in 1866:


Alongside the solemn duties of the man and father in public life, the woman and mother should stand for the cosiness and poetry of domestic life, bringing grace and beauty to social relations, and be an ennobling influence in the increase of humanitys enjoyment of social life.  69


Feminists, with their paranoid tunnel vision, have seen this only as a wicked male plot to exclude women from the workplace and force them into domestic servitude to their husbands. They assume that twelve hours back-breaking labour in a factory is the summit of bliss for any woman, and only a tyrant could seek to deprive her of it. But in that age another point of view prevailed. Idleness was thought to be a more desirable state than slavery. Work was seen as a necessary evil, but an evil that brutalized mankind. It was essential to save some part of humanity from this brutalization. If man was obliged to become Caliban in this harsh industrial word, woman should still remain Ariel. In short the division of roles became above all a division of values, characters and human qualities. It was womans first social function to remain feminine and guarantee the survival of that part of human nature which was crushed out of mans soul by the system he had created. She and her world would provide the poetry which the man in his world lacked. She was to some extent the guarantor that the iron world of industry and commerce which had grown like a monstrous metal jungle till it enveloped them all should not become the only world. She would be a beacon pointing to other values refinement, gentleness, delicacy, sensitivity, poetry which her man would have access to through his relations with her. It was vitally important that she should not be dragged into the same working world which had crushed all these values and qualities out of him. Nineteenth century mans insistence on the separation of roles of men and women can be seen as a measure of his own sense of the degradation of his character by industrialism, his sense of emotional and aesthetic deprivation in the dehumanized world of the factory and the counting-house. The exclusion of as many women as possible from work was the only way of saving some part of humanity from the brutalizing machine he had set in motion.

Without woman present-day life would be unbearable for every sensitive soul, wrote the German critic Gervinus in 1853, because ..she does not suffer the degradation of lowly occupations, the turmoil and heartlessness of work. 70 This salvationist role was one that many women, even independent-minded women, embraced with enthusiasm. It will be in the female heart, par excellence, as it always has been, wrote the woman novelist George Sand, that love and devotion, patience and pity will find their true home. On woman falls the duty in a world of brute passions, of preserving the virtues of charity and the human spirit. 71 Women, in short, had a civilizing mission, precisely because of their exclusion from the brutal struggle of the mens sphere. Even women intellectuals and artists saw their role as providing some sort of human relief from the inhuman world of industrialized work.

It was this that set back for a hundred years womens aspirations to play a full part in public life and the economic world. The world of industrial work which had suddenly come into existence was so harsh and soul-destroying that the last thing anyone, male or female, wanted was for women to join it. In the working class, where the women did work, and in appalling conditions, men mainly wanted to get their wives and daughters out of those conditions. The whole drive for reform of the factory system concentrated its energies first and foremost on improving the conditions of work for women and children. Conditions of work in factories or mines were brutalizing almost beyond our imagination. Their closest parallel would be Nazi or Soviet labour camps, which in some respects were simply a return to early nineteenth century conditions. But even the new office work for the middle classes was done in conditions that imposed a radical transformation of the male character into something it had never been before. It required discipline, the suppression of emotion (above all such emotions as pity, or he could not have endured to walk into a factory and see the conditions there), an enslavement to time, to regular hours, to a constriction in space, to monotony, to paperwork, to infinite calculations, to copying endless figures, to soul-destroying repetition, to rigid hierarchy and subservience to bullying authority and all this for ten or twelve hours a day. It is hard to convey how horrifying this life must have seemed to the generation of men first compelled to live it: one can only refer the reader to the descriptions of soul-destroying work in the novels of Dickens and others in this period. This life could not have been more different from that of the rural lower gentry of a generation or two earlier. The young Tom Jones forced to work as a clerk in a merchants office or a bank would have seen it as intolerable slavery. Such a job would have required the destruction of all that was spontaneous and joyful in his character, all liveliness, all spirit, all imagination, all poetry things that in the 18th century still seemed normal in young men. The development of a masochistic conception of manhood as discipline, self-control, repression of instinct, suppression of emotion, a cult of hardness towards oneself, deliberate insensitivity, contempt for weakness, belief in a special role of the male as work-horse, pride in the ability to suffer without showing it all of this went into the transformation of the male character in the early nineteenth century. In short, this was the age that invented masculinity as we know it. The conscription of the entire male population to lifelong military service, or their incarceration in a brutal American-style prison, could not have had more effect on men’s character than their conscription into the workforce of the new industrial and commercial age. 

            It is hardly surprising that this new masochistic industrial slave sought to keep his wife from sharing this life if he possibly could. He sought to maintain her in a world which he still recognized as human, that of the home, even if he spent less time there than any previous generation of men. Men could only reconcile themselves to a life of dingy offices and dismal struggles with paper and figures, by developing a new conception of their identity and their role as workhorses for the family, as sacrificers of their own pleasure for the sake of their loved ones, and it was a primordial condition of this sacrifice that the loved ones should sit at home and appreciate it. The separate work and domestic roles of men and women were thus invented in the nineteenth century, and they militated directly against the woman taking any part in public life whatsoever. The polarization of roles was reinforced by a polarization of characters, a cult of masculinity and femininity which was pushed to a greater extreme than in any previous age, and which imprisoned both sexes in rigid categories and narrowed the possibilities of personal self-expression for both of them.    

The evolution of male and female clothing is probably the most striking indicator of the divergence of character that occurred at that time. In the early Middle Ages, as we have seen, men and women of the upper classes often dressed in similar clothes. In the 6th century mosaics of San Vitale in Ravenna, the robes of men and women at the court of the Empress Theodora are difficult to tell apart. So are the robes on the statues of the aristocratic founders of the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul at Nuremburg, Eckehard and Uta, in the mid-13th century (except for Eckehards sword belt.) With the growing libertinism of the later Middle Ages, fashions became more differentiated, as the sexes began to emphasize their specific charms, the men their legs, the women their breasts. By the end of the 15th century aristocratic women were posing bare-breasted for their portraits. Men wore tights exposing the full length of their legs. Clothes became more sumptuous for both sexes, involving velvet, silks, cloth of gold, and jewellery. But despite the different body parts exposed or emphasized, men and women wore the same bright colours and luxurious flowing fabrics, the same finery, lace and decoration. This remained true, with variations in each age, until the end of the eighteenth century. Then came a change, and the manner of dress of the two sexes suddenly diverged to a degree that was unprecedented in history. Here is how one feminist historian describes it:

Before the nineteenth century, women and men of the same social rank dressed far more like each other than like members of their sex in different strata. Female and male aristocrats alike wore similarly shaped neck ruffs, or hats, or sleeves, depending on the fashion of the day. Both wore expensive and fragile laces and silks, velvets and taffetas, and appeared in similar colour schemes.… Aristocratic women and men in the late eighteenth century powdered their hair or wore wigs, used white facial make-up, rouge and beauty patches, carried fans and handkerchiefs, wore silk stockings and high heels.… Fifty years later all this had changed. 72

She describes how at the court of Napoleon III in the mid-nineteenth century the women still dressed as “elaborately and impractically” as the ladies of the eighteenth century, in similarly light-colured dresses and huge crinolined skirts. But the men had been completely transformed.  Even the emperor now wore a dark business suit with a white shirt, and looked exactly like any banker at the stock exchange. He often wore a top hat instead of a crown. The clothing of men had become standardized and practical, uniform and sombre in colour. Silk stockings had been replaced by dark trousers. Their shoes had become flat-heeled and practical. Makeup, jewellery and perfume had disappeared. Men had changed “from dress appropriate to their rank to dress appropriate to their sex.” An interest in clothing was now considered feminine, and men who dressed flamboyantly were despised as unmanly.
The author goes on to recount how the French novelist George Sand began to wear male clothing, on her mother’s advice, not as a gesture of revolt but as a convenience, simply because she found female dress and shoes so horribly impractical on icy Paris pavements and muddy streets. If she wanted to move quickly round the capital on foot and go where she wanted in all weathers, she had to dress like a man. Men’s new practical style of clothes made the new active working life of men possible. Upper-class women’s clothes, still purely decorative, made it quite impractical for women.

This description of nineteenth century fashions depicts a sexual dimorphism or divergence in dress that no previous age comes close to.  And the clothes are a symbol of the diverging roles of the sexes. With commercial capitalism and then the industrial revolution mens lives were transformed as a vast new area of activities opened up to them. This is the age when all men, even the upper classes, suddenly found it incumbent upon them to work, even if they didnt need to. Their clothes reflected this new working world: the world of the bourgeois the banker, the stockbroker, the insurance agent, the manufacturer, the businessman. But womens lives remained the same as before, only more so. The wife of the propertied classes saw her husband less as his life was taken up with business rather than the social activities which in a previous age they had shared. Instead of the round of balls, parties, theatres and social visits which they had gone on together, she spent more time in female company or else at home waiting for him to return. The new prosperity of the rising middle classes meant that even in family businesses the woman no longer had her role to play. The accounts she had once done at home were now done by salaried employees, and it all went on in an office outside the home. Her household role was also reduced from sharing the housework to merely giving orders to the servants. The increase in trades and factory-made products meant that fewer things were hand-made at home. The range of household crafts, which used to include weaving, cloth-dyeing, dress-making, lace-making, and embroidering, diminished. The mistress of a house, in short, had less to do; her new-found leisure was seen as a mark of her rise in status. She was urged by all the moral commentators of the day to spend her extra time in the nurturing and bringing up of the children a task that aristocratic women had previously assigned to nurses. Breast-feeding was urged upon her, instead of using wet-nurses. The new cult of the child (the romantic notion of childhood as a privileged moment of innocence, instead of untutored savagery requiring strict discipline) emphasized the mother’s special responsibility to this fragile being. With this new attention to family, the average number of children each woman had rose steadily over the century to a high of over six before falling again. But the rise in prosperity also meant a vast increase in the furniture and possessions of the middle class household. While interesting and creative crafts like weaving were no longer done, there was an increase in the number of domestic chores involving cleaning and polishing. There was a constant escalation in standards of housekeeping with each new invention, from flush toilets to washing machines, as well as in the standards of child care. In short, the middle-class Victorian woman found herself sinking into a role of mother and housewife that was narrower and more limiting than the role of similar women in any previous age. Above all it was a role totally cut off from the new world of business on which her husbands life now centred.

It would be a mistake to assume that most women objected to this. Many women found the strict separation of roles congenial, and were blissfully fulfilled in the role of wife and mother. Motherhood was the acme of life to the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, and Clara Wieck declared her joy in marrying Robert Schumann: Now begins a new existence, a beautiful life, a life wrapped up in him whom I love more than myself and everything else. 73 Both these women were also artists, one a novelist, the other a concert pianist. But many other women who wanted a different and less conventional life found the age stifling. Florence Nightingale wrote in despair at thirty-two: Why have women passion, intellect, moral activity these three and a place in society where no one of the three can be exercised? But she also asked herself: Why, oh my God, cannot I be satisfied with the life that satisfies so many people? She recognized that she was an exception among women in finding this life too limiting. 74 The next year she won her bitter struggle with her family to be allowed to study nursing, a struggle essentially against her mother and sister, who felt the traditional role of a woman should content her. All her life she found that men supported and helped her in her aspirations while women opposed them. This was a paradox which other independent women, from Germaine de Stael to Mary Wollestonecraft, had met with before her. 75 For the woman who wanted to be different, the biggest enemies were other women who were happy in the domestic role the age assigned them, and saw no reason why she should not be as well. Those women who were perfectly comfortable in the conventional female role felt threatened by the rebellion against it of individual malcontents. Not to work was a privilege that belonged to the condition of a lady a term that now began to be used also by the middle classes and was seen as something of an acquired right. A lady was in fact defined as someone who didnt work. It seemed the height of perversity for some middle-class women to reject this privilege and such a rejection, if it spread, would treacherously undermine those who wanted to enjoy this mode of existence. It was the basis of educated womens claim to their idle position that it was ordained by nature and such women therefore became great defenders of nature. There is something unfeminine in independence, wrote Mrs Sandford in her 1831 guide for English women. It is contrary to nature and thus it offends. 76 Feminism was never a simple battle between women and men. It was above all a battle between women who were happy with their domestic role and women who were not.




But while the leisured lifestyle of married women of the propertied classes was jealously defended by many such women, their legal position had long come under attack by the more independent-minded. The legal position of Englishwomen in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had in fact deteriorated since the Middle Ages, as far as marriage and property went. In the later Middle Ages in England four different types of law regulated womens property and inheritance. The so-called common law, in fact developed by the landowners to further their interests, placed married women under coverture, meaning that on marriage they lost their legal independence and their property was controlled by their husbands. But at the same time the ecclesiastical courts, as well as the court of equity and the manorial courts, all gave the wife far greater protection than the common law, ensuring that her dowry remained in practice for her own use (in case of separation or widowhood), and granting widows far more of their dead husbands property than the one third provided under common law. In fact a widow in the first half of the 17th century received on average 63 per cent of her dead husbands estate. The rest, of course, was reserved for his children an important legal protection for the latter in case she remarried and had a second family (the grim fate of step-children is a common theme of medieval and early modern stories.) Moreover, in the 15th and 16th centuries women did not hesitate to go to law to obtain their rights, and their practical situation was a lot more favourable than the theoretical provisions of the common law might indicate. This began to change in the late 17th century, as a number of new laws tried to clear up the conflict between the various jurisdictions. The ecclesiastical and manorial courts, more favourable to women, lost out. 77 In 1670, for example, the right of the ecclesiastical courts to give a widow much more than the statutory one third of her husbands property was taken away, and from then on the one-third rule was strictly enforced. 78 This restriction on womens property rights contrasted with the far stronger position of women on the continent, under legal systems based on Roman law, which allowed married women to dispose freely of their own property. This was one of the paradoxes of the 18th century: after 1688 England had a parliamentary constitution that was the envy of Europe, but its laws gave women fewer property rights than the absolute monarchies of the continent (we are back with the paradox of democratic Athens.) Englishmen throughout the 18th century continued to believe that their country was a paradise for women, but Englishwomen increasingly demurred. Mary Astell very early in the century launched a bitter attack on the marriage laws which in her eyes made women slaves. 79 Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who travelled widely, compared the condition of women in England unfavourably not only with that in France and Austria, where married women retained control of their own property, but even with that in the Ottoman empire, where they also got their property back in case of divorce. 80 But her male compatriots continued to believe that despite these laws women were better treated in England than anywhere else. One late 17th century social commentator argued that while a wife in England was de jure but the best of servants. her condition de facto is the best in the world, for such is the good nature of Englishmen towards their wives, such is their tenderness and respect, giving them the uppermost place at table and elsewhere .... and putting them upon no drudgery and hardship. 81 This alleged husbandly generosity did not prevent upper-class women from making pre-nuptial legal settlements to guarantee their property rights often at the insistence of their fathers. In fact a larger number of women than has previously been thought (even including some illiterate labourers wives) took advantage of the possibilities afforded by bonds, deeds and marriage settlements. One authority estimates that at the very least ten per cent of ordinary women employed pre-marital property settlements, in addition to the five per cent that made up the upper class. 82 These settlements guaranteed the wifes property in case of separation (divorce being virtually impossible but separation being not infrequent), guaranteed her own childrens inheritance rights in case of second marriage, and made sure that if her husband died with massive debts, she could keep her own property from going to pay them.

Despite the very real legal disadvantages women suffered from in 18th century England, by comparison with the continent, the sense of female oppression did not necessarily strike the foreign observer. The Duc de La Rochefoucauld in 1784 had a more sanguine view of Englishmens treatment of their wives than some of his compatriots cited earlier:


Husband and wife are always together and share the same society. It is the rarest thing to meet the one without the other..They pay all their visits together. It would be more ridiculous to do otherwise in England than it would to go everywhere with your wife in Paris. They always give the appearance of perfect harmony, and the wife in particular has an air of contentment which always gives me pleasure. 83


This idyllic description of English nuptial bliss raises the question of whether we are right to judge the happiness of a period by the fairness of its laws, or even by its litigation. To what extent do complaints and litigation reflect exceptional cases? Do they disprove the existence of a happy majority? It is hard to estimate the subjective feelings of oppression and injustice that Englishwomen in general may have felt at their legal subordination to their husbands in matters of property, because we only hear from those who ran up against a problem, not from those who sorted things out amicably. In her detailed study of wills, trusts and settlements, above all in cases of separation, the leading scholar in the field, Amy Erickson, adds a word of caution about drawing sweeping conclusions from litigation:  


We will never know how many marital agreements were made on faith, without the insurance of legal documents. Nor will we ever know how many men peaceably carried them out; or how many men quietly failed to carry them out, to their wives disgust or resignation; or how many couples had furious arguments about property arrangements, but stopped short of litigation. 84


In short unfair laws do not always mean widespread oppression in practice. This makes it hard to judge what proportion of women at that time may have had a feeling of being oppressed. To make an analogy:  the divorce laws in Britain and America today give ex-wives not only financial settlements that amount to outright plunder of the mans property, even after the briefest of marriages; they also give wives the practical right to refuse their ex-husband access to his children (because no court has ever arrested or fined a woman for doing this.) But most ex-wives do not in practice exercise these excessive rights. The majority of British and American men today do not judge themselves to be living under tyrannical divorce laws biased against men, because the majority are not divorced, and of those that are, their ex-wives mostly act fairly. But the minority of men cursed with unreasonable and vindictive ex-wives do believe the laws are grossly unjust to men, and the literature on the subject is dominated by their bitter complaints. In the same way, most husbands in the 18th century may well have behaved correctly over their wives property; it is only wives who were the victims of tyrannical or spendthrift husbands who fully understood how biased the law was against them, and it is those women who tended to voice opinions on the subject. No doubt future historians will come to the conclusion that all the men of our age harboured deep resentments against the unjust feminist divorce laws of recent years, because the only male opinions published on this subject are complaints and bitter protests. They will wonder why in a democracy such unfair laws were allowed. But most men have lived through this age without noticing that a feminist legal tyranny is in place, because it has not affected them personally. The prevailing ideology has convinced them that women deserve special rights to compensate for past injustices, and they tamely accept unfair laws. Similarly, most Englishwomen may well have lived through the 18th century without noticing that the property laws in marriage were biased against them, because most men were fair about property, and inheritance practices mostly followed common sense and decency rather than the law. The leading scholar in the field, Amy Erickson, emphasizes to what extent practice differed from legal theory, and casts doubt on whether coverture (the married womans loss of her legal property rights to her husband) actually occurred or was generally recognized:


Coverture was socially at least a fiction . There is considerable evidence of the continuity of womens property through marriage, even apart from formal marriage settlements. In chancery court cases the value of a brides portion and her widows jointure were equivalent.... At ordinary levels a wife was regularly either the principal beneficiary of her husbands will or she was given back the goods she had brought at the time of marriage .  It is unlikely that women ceased to regard that property as in some sense theirs for the  duration of the marriage. 85 


Erickson thus concludes that the reality of Englishwomens condition was a lot less harsh than the laws would suggest that in practice most married women did keep their property. Erickson does not openly criticize the view of the past which the feminists have established over the past forty years (“woman as chattel and martyr”), but her conclusions implicitly call it into question. Much recent research into women’s position in the early modern period (from the 16th to the 18th centuries) in fact shows women as far freer in their marriage choices, more independent and more in control of their destinies than feminist myths have led us to believe. But all such research still tends to be conducted under a kind of feminist umbrella, and the women authors almost feel obliged to pay lip service to the feminist creed of universal female martyrdom. Thus Antonia Fraser’s book The Weaker Vessel in fact shows Englishwomen of the 17th century as tough, strong-willed, surprisingly independent in their actions and mating choices, and well able to stand up to men in every domain, but it is still positioned (perhaps out of political tact) within the framework of a feminist ideology of female complaint and general whinging. The ideological paradigm, the lugubrious tale of female martyrdom, within which women scholars feel compelled to place their work, is increasingly at odds with the conclusions their research comes up with.

But to conclude that women may have suffered more in theory than in practice from unjust laws does not negate the existence of those laws. One might argue that even aside from any real financial disadvantage suffered, women may been depressed and embittered merely by the contemplation of their legal powerlessness – an official inferiority which placed them in the same legal category as minors or idiots. But to argue this depressing effect one would have to show a general difference in self-esteem, or sense of injustice, between the Englishwomen subject to these unfair laws and the women on the continent, who were not. Some writers such as Mary Astell clearly do show this bitterness (it may have put her off marrying) but it is hard to know how widespread it was. What is more certain is the effect these laws had on the attitudes of later feminists, in the 19th and 20th centuries. It seems clear that the memory of these laws long afterwards (suitably exaggerated in the retelling) gave English and American feminists a bitterness and sense of oppression unknown among women elsewhere – not unlike the bitterness left in Catholic Irishmen by the 18th century Penal Laws, which deprived them of nearly all legal rights. This may go some way towards explaining the fanaticism of the radical feminist movement in the Anglo-Saxon world which women on the continent are often astonished and repelled by. 

Among the lower classes, another factor which had traditionally played in womens favour changed in the course of the 18th century. This was the relative flexibility of marriage as an institution because of a lack of any clear distinction between marriage and cohabitation. This grey area was ended in Catholic countries in the 16th century, with a legal requirement for a church wedding. But common law marriages in Britain continued to be recognized: no ceremony of any sort was required, but merely a private agreement between two people to marry. Not even witnesses seem to have been necessary: it was evidence enough that they lived as husband and wife, called each other by these names and that everybody assumed they were married. This arrangement, which in practice allowed de facto separation and remarriage in the informal common law manner, began to cause legal problems, notably when a clandestine marriage was claimed by a woman seeking to inherit from a dead man who had been publicly married to someone else. This happened in a complicated case of bigamy in Scotland in 1753, and gave rise to a change not in Scottish law but in English law. Lord Hardwickes Marriage Act of 1753 made it obligatory from then on to be married in church in order for any marriage to be valid (it had to be the Anglican Church, which provoked fury among Catholics and Dissenters, until in 1836 civil marriages were allowed.) This act also made clandestine marriages invalid and forbade divorce except by special act of parliament making it impossible for all but the extremely rich. This clumsy attempt by the state to regulate marriage more closely worsened womens position. Divorce even for spousal abuse and cruelty became impossible (though separations were still arranged by mutual consent.) For the first time in European history marriage really did become a prison, not only for the woman but also for the man, as the fate of Stephen in Dickens Hard Times makes clear. He is bound for life to a violent, alcoholic wife who, even after long separation, has the right to enter his home at any time and sell or smash up his furniture. He cannot lock her out, and he cannot have her arrested for destroying what is in law their joint property. Only in 1857 in England did a Divorce Act allow divorce for the mass of ordinary people that is, without a special act of parliament each time. Divorce could be granted on the grounds of adultery by the wife and adultery plus cruelty or neglect by the husband. This  was thought to have solved the problem of women being abused or cheated of their property by husbands. It was only in 1878 and 1882 that new laws explicitly gave married women independent control of their earnings and their property. 86

The attacks on marriage by early English feminists thus occurred in the context of the  marriage and property laws of 18th and 19th century England, which were more unfavourable to women than the laws of almost any other period and any other European country. Feminists gradually forgot that before the late seventeenth century the legal position of married women in England had been very much better than it was for the next two hundred years and that it continued to be much better on the continent. They nurtured a myth of womens eternal oppression by all men everywhere, and of marriage as inherently oppressive of women, which was totally unhistorical. It is interesting to speculate whether, if England had had the much fairer marriage laws of the continent laws that Lady Mary Wortley Montagu viewed with envy Anglo-Saxon feminism would have taken quite the same militant course that it did. It is certainly doubtful that it would have developed such an extraordinary animus against the institution of marriage and the family, seen as the root of all oppression. It is this position which not only divided women bitterly between the feminists and the defenders of the family, but put many feminists in the camp of the communist revolutionaries, aiming not merely at fairer laws but at a revolution in society itself, abolishing the family completely. The fall-out of that ill-conceived attempted revolution is still with us today. Feminist diatribes against the patriarchy are still even today based on Marx and Engels. And the latters views were rooted in the nature of English Victorian marriage laws, projected backwards in a largely fantasized version of history. (Marxs critique of the patriarchal family, of course, did not stop him being a tyrannical and feckless husband, who squandered his wifes money, cadged off his parents and uncle, forbade his daughters to have careers, stopped them marrying, seduced his unpaid, slave-like servant girl, and refused to acknowledge the bastard he fathered on her, to pay a penny for his support or even to allow him in the house.) 87  

Modern Anglo-Saxon feminists and leftists still seem oddly unaware of how peculiar the laws of early Victorian England were, and how little they reflected the position of women in Western civilization as a whole. It is not uncommon to hear British politicians saying things like: Married women in the West did not have property rights till the late 19th century, whereas women in Islamic society had them centuries before. This is quite simply false. Such people are under the illusion that the laws of early Victorian England were representative of Western civilization as a whole. In fact they were out on a limb, a peculiar aberration, and continental Europe followed the traditional Roman laws giving women separate property rights in marriage. (It is true that the Napoleonic Code, widely adopted by the countries Napoleon occupied, set back womens legal position on the continent as well, but only temporarily, and more in theory than in practice.) The question becomes: why did Anglo-Saxon law (that of England and its ex-colonies, including America) place wives in a so much worse position, from the late 17th century on, than they were placed by the laws of the rest of Europe?





It is important to see that Englands Protestant revolution, officially confirmed by the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688 which enshrined Englands Protestantism in the constitution, marked a more radical break with the Catholic-dominated continent than was made by any other Protestant regime in Europe. Continental countries, whether Protestant or Catholic, lived in a shared cultural space, influenced by each others laws and customs. None of the other major Protestant countries had a tradition of law different from Roman law: modified forms of Roman law prevailed even in Germany from around the 11th century. England, with its own unique system of common law, was militantly and self-consciously Protestant, anti-Romish and different. The English anti-Romish obsession seemed to take in not only the Catholic church but in some respects even the legacy of ancient Rome. The Protestant Reformation contains a strong undercurrent of suspicion that the Church had been corrupted by its embrace of classical Roman culture in the Renaissance. It cannot be an accident that the fault-line between Protestant and Catholic states followed so closely the borders of the ancient Roman empire. This corresponded in part to the division between Germanic and Latin-speaking peoples. But it is significant that those parts of the Germanic world which remained Catholic (the Rhineland, Bavaria, Austria) were the regions that had been ruled by the Romans. (Britain had also been ruled by the Romans, but never the English, who at that time were still in Denmark and northern Germany, outside Roman rule.) In some ways the Reformation can almost be seen as a revolt of northern (Germanic) Europe against southern (Latin) cultural domination. The northerners saw the influence of classical Rome in the pompous ceremonies and rich costumes of the Catholic liturgy, and even saw the Pope as the successor of the Roman Pontifex Maximus. They saw the  broader influence of Roman paganism in the growth of licentiousness and luxury among the clergy (widely accused of the ancient vice of sodomy by Protestant polemicists) as well as among the pleasure-loving aristocracy. Against this the northern nations (traditionally more austere in lifestyle and morals, even in Tacitus day) sought to return to the simplicity of early Christianity and the moral rigours of the bible. And within those nations the religious crusade of the reformers, because of their rejection of Pope and Episcopal authority in favour of individual conscience, tended to be aligned with a class war of the rising liberal middle class against autocratic king and aristocracy. (This alignment was not only manifest in the English civil war of Puritan middle class against Anglo-Catholic aristocracy. One finds echoes of it even in the much later American civil war, where southern patrician landowners with classical names like Horace and Quinctius fought humble northerners with biblical names like Abraham.) The religious wars, in short, ignited an ideological and cultural war which lasted for centuries, and England continued to view the continent across the gulf of this culture war. Protestant England was so suspicious of all things Roman Catholic that it even refused to adopt the Gregorian calendar (introduced by Pope Gregory in 1582) until 1752. For a hundred and seventy years England (and its empire) had different dates from the rest of Europe, except for Russia (which only changed after the Revolution.) This illustrates the antagonism and fanaticism that prevailed in the wake of the great wars of religion, and the reluctance of England to follow the continental lead in anything at all. 

The English of course saw themselves as superior to the continent because their constitution made parliament supreme (even if it was a parliament elected by under ten per cent of the male population.) This constitutional revolution of 1688 was in fact a curious compromise between the two classes which had lately fought the civil war the middle-class Protestant radicals or Puritans, and the royalist aristocracy, clinging to a more Catholic-leaning version of Protestantism. The exclusion of Catholics from the throne and from all political rights, and the assertion of parliaments supremacy, while maintaining the monarchy, was a final compromise settlement of the old political-religious-class-cultural conflict that  underlay the Civil War. But it was a compromise which allowed the Puritan ideology of the rising middle class to gradually infiltrate the establishment, till by the start of the 19th century it had taken over. The 18th century began in an atmosphere of sexual libertinism that still remembered Nell Gwyn and the Earl of Rochester, and ended under the stifling moralistic reign of Mrs Grundy. 88 The same Protestant fundamentalists that had set off in the Mayflower in 1620 were in the 19th century to rule England. A slow Puritan revolution put in power the intellectual descendants of Cromwell a figure who became an English hero to Victorians like Carlyle, after being reviled as a regicide for most of the previous century. It is this radical middle-class Protestantism, which gradually rose to dominance in England over the course of the 18th century, that holds the key to the judicial regime that regarded married women as legally one with their husband, and deprived them of rights they still enjoyed on the continent.

This is not to suggest that Protestantism is inherently misogynous : in Protestant Geneva and Prussia all girls were given more basic education than in any Catholic country. But Protestantism leans far more heavily upon the Bible than Catholicism, and the Old Testament reflects the deep misogyny of the ancient Hebrew religion. The bible, which Protestants read for themselves in the vernacular, became a living influence on the Anglo-Saxon worldview. On the continent, by contrast, it was still forbidden for Catholics to translate or even read the bible in this period, and the French translations by Antoine de Lacy and David Martin completed in 1696 both had to be published in Protestant Amsterdam and smuggled into France. As a result, the bible is almost absent as an influence on French literature of the 17th and 18th centuries, which is dominated by the Greek and Roman classics reworked by French playwrights. It is hard to imagine Drydens political allegory Absalom and Achitophel being read in France with any understanding of the biblical story, which in England was apparently familiar to everyone. The outlawing of Protestantism in France by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 in fact left the French not so much under a Catholic tyranny but under a regime that took its morals, ideas and artistic styles from classical Rome, and largely ignored Christianity. By contrast, Englishmen of the time appeared to be thoroughly familiar with their bible, and referred to it for authority. And it is this living influence of the bible, and especially the Old Testament, on the Protestant Englishmans worldview which ensured the  subordinate place of women in English society. 

It was not only the authoritarian and polygamous behaviour of the Old Testament patriarchs which gave the Englishman an inflated view of male status. Saint Paul hammered home the point in Ephesians 5,22: Wives be subject to your husbands. Both the rising middle classes of England and the Puritan settlers of North America quoted this injunction tirelessly to reinforce male authority. Mary Astell in her critique of marriage in 1700 tries to argue that the passage in the Book of Genesis where Eve is told by God her husband should rule over her is a prediction, not a commandment or an exhortation. 89 Her somewhat strained argument is a sign of the importance she attached to biblical texts as the source of the subordination of women in England. It is hard to imagine her French contemporary, the self-styled Epicurean, courtesan, socialite, and famous wit, Ninon de Lenclos, being entirely sure what the Book of Genesis was, let alone arguing about its precepts. The difference in attitudes to women on the continent and in Protestant England reflects the difference between the cultural influences of the Roman empire (which gave women great liberty) and ancient Judaism  (which gave them almost none.)  

It is, therefore, this militant Protestant emphasis on the bible that largely explains the exceptional subordination of women in England. It reflects the ancient Hebrew attitudes of the Old Testament, which was hardly read at all in Catholic countries. As English Protestantism radicalized in the course of the 17th century in the Civil War and the Commonwealth, the position of women in many ways worsened. The education of upper-class girls in Greek and Latin which seemed self-evident to Lady Jane Grey’s father, or to the queens Elizabeth, Mary and Mary Queen of Scots, gradually fell out of favour. From the late 17th century on, it was the custom for upper-class Catholic girls to be sent secretly to the continent for a rigorous convent education (under the impetus of Mary Ward, who joined the Poor Clares order) while Protestant aristocratic girls saw their education regress to the intellectual level of a modern finishing school. 90 We have already seen that when England reformed its hodgepodge of laws and different court jurisdictions in the late 17th and 18th centuries, it did so in ways that worsened womens legal position, by downgrading the ecclesiastical courts, those most favourable to the traditional property rights of women. In fact the entire legal system in England regressed during the 18th century, not only in its treatment of women. Rejecting the police forces set up in many continental countries because they were seen as a threat to the Englishmans sacred liberty, English legislators tried to stem the rapidly rising tide of crime, especially highway robbery, by passing draconian hanging laws for hundreds of offences, including poaching a hare or stealing a spoon. These laws were unique in Europe for their savagery. While torture and lingering executions such as disembowelling were abandoned in England in the mid-18th century, the hanging of children for petty theft persisted until Peels reforms in the 1820s a more draconian code than anywhere else in Europe at the time. And throughout it all the English kept up their self-righteous belief that they lived in a land of liberty, and that across the channel every form of tyranny prevailed.

This is an illustration of the peculiar co-existence of progressive developments and extremely reactionary ones, of humane advances and reversion to primitive cruelty, which characterized the early modern period. Britain was the first country on earth to abolish the slave trade in 1807, to the indignation of African kings and the consternation of other European governments, but a year later, in 1808, two sisters aged eight and eleven were hanged at Lynn for stealing. 91 Contradictions of this kind lead modern neo-Marxist self-flagellators to denounce the hypocrisy of their ancestors, as though the brutal acts (hanging children) somehow invalidated the humane ones (abolishing the slave trade.) But neither half of a paradox negates the other half : both are equally part of the truth, and to ignore either one of them is equally a distortion of reality. It is exactly this sort of paradox that saw the co-existence in England of a parliamentary system, the legal protections of habeas corpus, and more freedom of speech than elsewhere in Europe, along with laws that subordinated women to a greater extent than most continental laws. This contradiction is what provoked outrage in early feminists. Mary Astell caustically asked:  If absolute Sovereignty be not necessary in a State, how comes it to be so in a Family? And again: If all Men are born Free, how is it that all Women are born Slaves? 92 The awareness that there had been considerable progress in civil and political rights for many Englishmen, but that women were excluded from this progress, is what gave rise to the English feminist conviction that women were uniquely oppressed, due to a male conspiracy against them. Continental women, on the other hand, saw themselves more often as sharing a common lot of political oppression with men, under a system of arbitrary and tyrannical government, but with no special disadvantages for females in the realm of property rights or personal freedom. These disadvantages only came with the Napoleonic Code of 1804 (widely adopted across the continent) which subjected married women to husbands in much the same way as in England (it was Napoleons attempt to strengthen the family against the general dissipation of the ancien regime, much as Augustus had tried to do.) But continental women perhaps remembered better the rights they had once had, because they were more recent, and tended to see the struggle to get these rights back as part of a general struggle for liberty against a new form of oppression. They were less tempted to the extremist paranoid ideology of English feminists, who imagined that women had been similarly oppressed since the dawn of history a view widely diffused by the fanatical, half-baked theories of Marx and Engels, whose whole methodology was to take local and temporary evils (and even those already abolished) and proclaim them to be eternal and fundamental characteristics of a wicked System. 





            One cannot leave the subject of the legal system and its disadvantages for women without looking briefly at that extraordinary legal aberration, the witch-burning craze of the 16th and 17th centuries. The paranoid vision of modern Anglo-Saxon feminists has seen the persecution of witches as a general attack on women to keep them in their place: at times it assumes the proportions in their minds of a kind of female Holocaust. The witchcraft persecutions remain the most hideous example of misogyny in European history, one of them puts it. 93 This view of witch-hunts as an “attack on women” is a grotesque distortion of the past, to make it fit into the ideological combats of the 20th century. One can see it as an example of the “post-modernist” approach to history, which believes in interpreting all historical events (like literary texts) in terms of the reader’s own ideology – “deconstructing” the past to uncover the modern neo-Marxist “issues” that lie beneath it, instead of trying to understand it in its own terms. As part of this “female Holocaust” mythology, many feminists wildly exaggerate the number of victims of witch-burnings, some putting it in the millions. More serious scholars put it at around fifty thousand (of which ten thousand cases have been authenticated.) 94 Feminists rightly point out that up to eighty per cent of witches burned at the height of the craze were women (as opposed to roughly half women and half men during the medieval period.) They neglect to mention that many of the accusers were women as well. Nearly all those who suffered fits of demonic possession which they blamed on the witchcraft of others were women or children. 95 The attempt to explain this irrational outbreak of judicial murder, which took place not in the benighted medieval period but at the height of the humanist Renaissance, has given rise to a number of fanciful theories. Some writers have pointed to the rise of modern science in the 17th century, and have argued that the attack on witches was an attack by the new rational, masculine methods of knowledge on feminine intuitive folk-knowledge, such as that of wise women and village healers. This is also nonsense. There was nothing scientific about the witch-hunts, which were the last hysterical outbreak of deep religious fanaticism. Besides, they were mostly over by the final decades of the 17th century when the scientific societies were established. The famous Hammer of Witches laying down the procedure for dealing with them was published in 1486, and the persecutions reached their height between the 1560s and the 1660s. They appear rather to have been the last convulsions of religious superstition before science put an end to occult explanations of still-births, warts, dying cows, sick children, or crop failure, for which witches were blamed. It is in the atmosphere of religious fanaticism aroused by the religious wars of the Reformation that scholars today look for explanations.

These bloody religious wars gave a new Christian fundamentalist impulse to both camps, the Protestants on one side and the militant Counter-Reformation clergy on the other. The Reformation had not only inspired the Protestant reformers to root out the deep corruption, paganism and superstition of popular culture, which had led the church into such abominable practices (using relics and saints’ medals as charms, adoring images, buying prayers, selling indulgences, etc.) The Counter-reformation Catholic reformers were animated by the same zeal to stop the rot. It was vital that the ordinary country people should be brought into the spiritual struggle between good and evil, and made to see the error of their ancient ways. In the words of one scholar, witch hunting spread with the arrival of spiritual militancy in backwoods Europe.96 This led to a renewed and profound belief in absolute evil and the devil. Protestantism was very strong on the devil. Luthers physical struggle with the Evil One was symptomatic of that personalization of relations with Satan as well as with God which the Reformation brought about. The devil, like God, took a personal interest in each of us on a daily basis, and the more pious regularly attributed their insomnia or their aches and pains to diabolical vindictiveness. But evil forces of all kinds, summoned up by spells and curses, had long abounded in European rural folklore and needed no theology to make them real to country people. It is in fact the attempt to link these two belief-systems together – the attempt to integrate rural superstition into a rigorous Christian theology by explaining it as the work of Satan – which underlies the witch-hunts. This period witnessed a war by both Catholic and Protestant churches against the popular traditions, anarchic festivals and ribald folk customs that had corrupted medieval religious practice – even visible in the gargoyles and “green men” of Gothic church carvings. One approach was to take these popular superstitions seriously, but then to unearth the diabolical conspiracy that lay beneath them.

The initial accusations of witchcraft were seldom the product of church authorities. They were the product of neighbour accusing neighbour, the paranoid suspicion of an occult cause of everyday misfortune, from stillbirths to dying cows. Beggars were often accused of laying a curse on a house or family after they were sent away empty-handed. Any subsequent ills of the family were then blamed on this beggars curse. Given the economics of widowhood in the lower classes, as well as the greater longevity of females (once past the danger zone of child-bearing), most old beggars were women. 97 Accusations might also take the form of women or children suddenly appearing possessed, recounting extraordinary fantasies about people they knew, or accusing them of bewitching them. Most of these accusations were readily accepted by militant religious reformers, both Protestant and Catholic, as a wonderful opportunity for the edification of the masses. They were convinced of the reality of evil, and eager to demonstrate to their flocks the devils active role in all the misfortunes of life. All that remained was to get the witch to confess to demonic inspiration. Accused witches were sometimes the practitioners of folk medicine, or those supposedly skilled in warding off the evil eye or other occult forces the very protectors against witchcraft which rural societies had traditionally relied on. These cunning women or cunning men were now suspected of the same witchcraft they had been supposed to defend against. In fact the whole campaign against witches may be seen as an attempt to transfer spiritual protective power against everyday misfortunes from traditional magicians to the church, by re-interpreting the traditional magicians as agents of the devil. One could argue that women simply happened to be over-represented among the practitioners of traditional magic and medicine (especially old widows trying to eke out a living by gathering edible plants or medicinal herbs) just as they were over-represented among old beggars. It might seem preposterous to accuse these marginalized, destitute individuals of malignant power. But these lonely, unfortunate souls were seen as more likely to be malcontents wishing harm upon the community, and cursing others out of envy of their happiness. In an age when prayer was thought to be a real power in the world, when fortunes were spent to have one’s soul prayed into heaven by pious nuns or monks, invocations to the Evil One to bring misfortune on others were treated with deadly seriousness.

The witch hunts varied in intensity from country to country. Joseph Klaits argues that the intensity of witch-hunts varied in proportion to the religious conflict in the country. They were at least as common in Protestant countries as in Catholic ones, and were particularly savage in Germany, scene of a bloody religious civil war, where over half of all witch-burnings took place and where torture of witches was systematic. Contrary to the beliefs of earlier Anglo-Saxon historians, who associated the witch-hunts with medieval Catholicism, Spain was among the countries that killed the fewest witches. The Inquisition, more rigorous in its judicial methods and powerful enough to ignore popular hysteria, dismissed most accusations as fantasy. A judge of the Spanish Inquisition, Alonso de Salazar, demonstrated in 1611 by systematic separate questioning of several confessed witches that the alleged witches sabbats were inventions, and the entire phenomenon was one of mass hysteria and auto-suggestion. His devastating report brought witch-burning in Spain to an end. 98 The Spanish Inquisition already had its designated scapegoats to keep it busy: converts from Judaism or Islam who were secret backsliders and therefore traitors to the Spanish nation (defined by religion, since hybridization under Arab occupation had wiped out any notion of a Spanish race.) Religious authorities elsewhere, while of course still concerned with combating rival versions of Christianity (through religious wars and persecutions), were also dealing with what they saw as a more fundamental threat from the realm of evil. Just as the Spaniards imagined a fifth column of false converts and secret backsliders loyal to enemy religions, the rest of Europe imagined a vast conspiracy of secret worshippers of Satan. This conspiracy had to be rooted out in spectacular witch-trials which would focus the people’s minds on the reality of the workings of the Evil One in their midst. Witch-hunts, often conducted by specialists from outside, convinced the doubters of the reality of the devils mischief in everyday life, and gave them a vivid, dramatic experience of the ongoing fight between good and evil. The public trial of witches provided a graphic means by which the moral struggle against evil traditionally a silent, internal, spiritual struggle with ones own sinful nature could be externalized and dramatized into a public, physical combat against the deluded or malevolent agents of Satan. This would mobilize the masses into a militant awareness of the enemy among them which often led to chain reactions of more accusations, as people got carried away by the drama they were witnessing. By means of this public drama, the private struggle against sin became a public struggle against a far more dangerous moral apostasy. The combat against the devil was thus not merely an individual, spiritual struggle against the Tempter but the combat of a whole community against secret traitors who had given their allegiance to a diabolical enemy. Witch-hunting represents above all the rise of a belief in secret, traitorous conspiracies as the source of all evil a worldview which lies at the root of the later ideologies of anti-Semitism and Marxist-Leninism. All of them have in common a belief that mankind can be redeemed by exposing and exterminating the agents of evil acting secretly in our midst. Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot were soon to kill their own witches by the tens of million condemning them on evidence that makes our witch-burning ancestors (with their fifty thousand victims, their trials, interrogations and witnesses) look like models of rationality, fairness and moderation.    

Politically correct historians, working in the stale tradition of late 20th century academic neo-Marxism, try to link the witch-hunts with the persecution of “minorities”. Joseph Klaits, a witch-hunt specialist, tells us that “majority cultures have frequently ascribed responsibility for social disasters to heretics, blacks, homosexuals, Jews and others,” and sees witch-persecutions as a reflection of the hatred of “the other” – which the left regards as some deep-rooted sin of the West. 99 This is largely nonsense. The salient characteristic of the witch-hunts was that it was not aliens or marginal groups that were generally targeted (neither Jews, gypsies, nor prostitutes were picked on.) It was neighbour accusing neighbour, daughter accusing mother, nuns accusing their confessor. The victims included famous scholars, politicians, priests, and in several cases the very witch-hunter himself – accused by his colleagues of leniency and burned at the stake for complicity. The main characteristic of witches is that they could be anyone, and therefore everyone was ultimately suspect. However, there were some discernible patterns in the choice of the accused, and it is why these patterns emerged that is the subject of some controversy.

While in the 15th century men and women tended to be burnt for witchcraft in equal numbers, from the mid-16th century, as the craze intensified, women came to predominate overwhelmingly among the accused. The nature of the offence began to change. The actual harm the witch was charged with doing to the neighbours cows or children began to be less important than the proof this constituted of an allegiance to Satan. The initial accusations of witchcraft by paranoid neighbours or hysterical children were invariably transformed by the investigators into an attempt to prove the accused persons “commerce with the devil” and after 1550 that commerce was increasingly conceived of in sexual terms. 100 The witches sabbat was seen as a mass sexual orgy, involving copulation with Satan in various monstrous forms, the eating of babies, prostitution of children to the devil, and so on. Most of these were seen as predominantly female forms of depravity, because of the sexual nature of the power Satan exercised over his followers. Women, already seen as the weaker and more impressionable sex, were thought to be peculiarly susceptible to the seductive wiles of the Evil One. It became an essential part of trials to force the accused to confess to these orgiastic sins, and many of them did so, under the pressure of torture or the power of suggestion, thus reinforcing the entire fantasy in the minds of the investigators. 101

This sexual obsession reflects the sixteenth and early seventeenth century view of women as lascivious, licentious and sexually insatiable. Modern feminists have spent much time denouncing the Victorian caricature of women as being almost sexless creatures, who endured rather than enjoyed sex. The prevailing view up to a century before then had been the opposite. Kate Milletts proud boast that womens capacity for multiple orgasms proves they are naturally promiscuous was exactly what the sixteenth century moralists believed and they thought that this excessive sexual appetite made women a natural prey of the devil. In fact sexual licentiousness had grown steadily for the past couple of centuries. From the mid-15th century onwards kings in France and elsewhere had public, official mistresses. Nudity invaded painting at this time (probably as shocking to contemporaries as its invasion of the cinema and then television in the late 20th century.) Within a few years aristocratic ladies were having their portraits painted bare-breasted – the equivalent of posing for Playboy. Prostitution vastly increased – becoming in some places such as Venice almost a respectable profession, as famous courtesans published poetry and were courted by princes. The same licentiousness was found all the way down the social scale. Practically all priests in 16th century Bavaria had concubines. 102 When the Reformation broke out in the 16th  century, the religious reformers sought to tighten up moral standards and stamp out sexual licence and later Catholic Counter-reformation militants followed suit. In some countries, such as Scotland, adultery became once more a capital offence (a situation treated in Shakespeares Measure for Measure.) The conflict between the new moralistic tone of the religious reformers and the prevailing licentiousness (kings continued to have mistresses, and courts continued to be sinks of debauchery) led to a rage against women in general as the instigators of lechery. Such widespread depravity could only exist because women had insatiable appetites (if women would just say no, none of this would happen.) This is reflected in Lears speech:


Down from the waist they are centaurs,

Though women all above:

But to the girdle do the gods inherit,

Beneath is all the fiends:

Theres hell, theres darkness, there is the sulphurous pit,

Burning, scalding, stench, consumption.  103


This belief in female lechery was partly responsible for the disproportionate number of women among the accused. But misogyny was a bias reflected in the witch-hunting craze, not the origin of it. The origin was the belief in Satans rampant presence in the world and ability to seduce the unwary. The misogynous bias was in thinking of women as particularly unwary humanitys weakest link. The obsession with lechery seems at first sight to be reflected in some of the more prurient obsessions of the witch-hunters searching for the devils marks on the witchs body, including her private parts, demanding a blow by blow account of her copulation with Satan and other orgiastic rites. But one should not conclude that accusations were made simply for the sexual titillation of the investigators. There was no predilection for accusing beautiful young women, whose bodies it would obviously have been more enjoyable to examine. Male witches of all ages also had their bodies examined for the devils mark in exactly the same way. Nor was there any targeting of prostitutes or female adulterers, who might seem to embody female lechery in its most obvious form. Despite feminist claims, it was not, therefore, female sexuality that was being attacked in the witch-hunts there was no general crackdown on young women for sexual enticement or leading men astray. (When such occasional crack-downs occurred, as in Paris in 1656 when prostitutes were rounded up and sent to a large workhouse called the Salpêtrière, these young women were not accused of witchcraft.) In the regions of France, the Swiss Jura and England whose legal records have been studied the most thoroughly, it has been found that most convicted witches were between fifty-five and sixty-five years old – very old for the time, since no king of France lived longer than sixty years between the 10th century and the early 18th This is not an age at which women generally deploy their seductive wiles with much success. The witches were not only old, but often widows, and usually poor. 104 The witch was caricatured as an ugly old hag the very opposite of an enticing sexual temptress. Now much clerical misogyny of the time was focused on sexually attractive young women as the pathway to perdition; it simply does not match with the profile of the hag-like witch. What one academic calls the “stereotypical image of the witch as the exemplar of dangerous female sexuality” is a late 20th century feminist invention, confusing two totally opposite types of misogyny. Nor were witches targeted for “getting above their place” or for mannish behaviour – another favourite distortion by modern feminists. Neither the sexual nor the misogynous aspects of this craze are at all easy to define, as they simply do not conform to feminist ideological clichés.

The fact that the majority of witches were women, that an examination of the naked body was part of the investigation, and that the witch was often charged with sexual relations with the devil, all seem to suggest that there was a sexual element in this and also an element of misogyny. But there was no concentration on female adulterers, fornicators, prostitutes, or lewd dressers, so this was very clearly not a campaign against “female sexuality”. Witches were not dominant females, bossy wives or social rebels; they were usually the oldest, poorest, loneliest and weakest members of society. Female witches were seldom accused of any sexual offence with a person. (In the earlier medieval period, the charge of witchcraft was sometimes brought against a woman who induced impotence in a man – but this accusation became less common during the witch-hunting craze, which reflected a quite different set of concerns.) 105 The charge of witchcraft was usually one of occult powers derived from commerce with the devil and the sexual aspect of this commerce was added by the investigators through their elaborate fantasy of the witches sabbat. When men were accused of witchcraft by women, on the other hand, the offence itself was very often sexual. Most of the famous cases of men accused by young women in French convents in Loudun, Marseilles and elsewhere, involved accusations of sexual abuse by priests using occult powers. The men were subjected to the same search for the devils mark on their bodies, and many were tortured atrociously for maintaining their innocence.106 What was paradoxical in cases of female possession was that there was no necessary eagerness to arraign possessed women themselves; they were often merely exorcised. If young women claimed possession by the devil, and blamed this possession on the witchcraft of someone else, the young women themselves were not usually tried as witches, but seen as victims and those they accused were tried (whichever sex they were.) In other words the accused were selected on criteria it is difficult to comprehend from our perspective but which totally refute the claim that witches were killed “because they were women.” In fact almost all young women claiming diabolical possession, who might seem to us prime candidates for the stake in a misogynous society, were let go. One of them, Elizabeth de Ranfaing, after accusing a well-known doctor of causing her possession and getting him burnt at the stake in Lorraine in the early 17th century, was afterwards revered as a saint. 107 There is, therefore, no simple explanation for this phenomenon as a general hatred or even suspicion of women.

What one sees is an extraordinary willingness to believe accusations even against highly respected persons of either sex (heads of convents, priests, doctors, mayors) on the basis of the unsubstantiated word of an accuser of either sex. (In this way it most closely resembles our own hysterical campaigns against paedophilia and wife-beating, where individuals are also arrested, jailed and their lives ruined on the basis of the flimsiest allegations, because of a prior belief that this sort of crime is rampant.) In some cases the only rationale we can imagine is a determination to settle old scores with enemies. While clerical misogyny riddles the whole cultural context of the witch-hunting craze, there is no discernible gender hierarchy in terms of credibility of witnesses, or plausibility of accusation. A girl claiming possession and blaming a prominent scholar or cleric for some occult sexual power over her (as a fourteen-year old novice accused Father Louis Gaufridi in the Ursuline convent at Marseilles in 1609) could bring him to the rack and the stake just as easily as a neighbour accusing a poor widow of killing his cow. In fact one of the extraordinary aspects of the phenomenon is the collapse of any notions of hierarchy, whether of gender or class. The mightiest man could be brought low by the accusations of the poorest girl (and many such accusations were clearly the product of sexual infatuations by the girls, which they refused to admit out of puritanical shame and guilt.) Many witch-hunters themselves ended up accused and burned, often for suspect leniency. But a connection with sexual repression on various levels seems clear, in the sexualization of the vision of witchcraft as disgusting sexual acts with the devil. In 1628 when the Burgomaster of Bamberg in Germany, Johannes Junius, was accused of being a witch by his colleagues (who had been tortured) and forced to confess under torture himself, he invented a whole sexual scenario. We know from the letter he wrote to his daughter from prison that he consciously invented it to stop the torture, but it is the nature of the confession that is interesting for what it shows us about his perceptions of what his accusers wanted him to say. He invented a scenario in which a demon in a woman’s shape seduced him in a garden, and then changed into a goat and with a threatening crowd of fellow-demons made him renounce God and swear allegiance to Satan. Then she took him to various witch-gatherings, where he saw numerous other people (he was tortured until he gave a name for nearly every street in the city, including all his friends, who were all arrested, tortured and burned too.) The Burgomaster guessed that his accusers wanted something sexual; the nature of his enslavement to Satan had to be sexual, through his demon paramour. 108 Now it is this sexual element in how demons were thought to work which explains some of the bias towards accusing women. If male witches were seduced and sexually ensnared by female demons, then how many more female witches must be seduced by the great Satan himself? The very conception of Satan as male meant that his sexual slaves were felt to be more likely to be female. It was, in short, the sexualization of Satan and his power which led to the bias towards seeing those in thrall to him as chiefly women.

There was, therefore, an anti-woman bias in the witch-hunts, in the perception of women as more susceptible to seduction by a male demon; but it is very clear that misogyny was not the origin of the witch-hunts, which was a belief in Satans power to pervert souls. What then are we to make of the formulation of feminists that the witch-hunts were a persecution of women when we know that about a quarter of the witches burned were men? Is this simply a question of male victims being invisible to a feminist (as we find today with male victims of domestic violence)? If the women witches were killed because they were women, what were the men witches killed for? Because they were men? For some totally different reason? Why would exactly the same accusations, trials, tortures, examinations for the devils mark be carried out, but for totally different ideological reasons, depending on the sex of the accused? For the females it was because they were women; for the males, who knows? Is there any logic in this? What are to make of this sentence, with its lugubrious tone of solemn condemnation, by a leading feminist historian : In a time of political, economic, and religious uncertainty, Europes elite had turned for security to the persecution of women. 109 How acceptable is this kind of affirmation (which, through force of repetition by feminists, is probably believed by a majority of educated women in the Western world today?) What if a senior citizens lobby claimed that witches were killed because they were old (which most of them were) – the first atrocious mass-murder of the old in history? Would we accept that myth – a kind of Holocaust of the Aged? Would we accept it if German historians suddenly told us that in the early seventeenth century Europe’s elite solved its problems of religious conflict by turning to the mass-murder of Germans? Would everyone accept the statement that the estimated eight million German victims of the Thirty Years War were killed because they were Germans – a notoriously troublesome people? Would we allow chauvinistic German historians to exploit a general, mad, human tragedy of senseless warfare to advance a myth of a deliberate, racist Holocaust of their nation? Would no one dare oppose this myth, for fear of hurting German sensibilities? Yet an identical form of female chauvinism is expressed in this self-indulgent martyrdom myth that witches were killed because they were women (when a quarter of them were men.) It is hard to see why we should let feminists get away with this paranoid, self-pitying distortion of history when we would not accept it from historians representing any other category of human beings. The feminists clearly expect that a combination of male guilt and old-fashioned male chivalry (which they despise but exploit) will allow them to invent their own female Holocaust, and that nobody will dare to puncture their myth for fear of being seen as another heartless male misogynist. It is time this blackmail was challenged and the pious martyrdom-myths of feminism (propagated with the goal of inciting hatred of men among their female students) were demolished.

The witch-burning craze only petered out towards the end of the 17th century, when the moralistic crusade exhausted itself, when the religious civil wars faded into the past, and a fanatical, apocalyptic vision of diabolical evil lost its hold over peoples minds. It certainly did not end because of any greater enlightenment in mens attitudes to women: as we have seen, womens legal position in England got worse at the end of the 17th century, not better. The end of the witch craze was partly due to the rise of science, notions of rational explanations for things, and more scepticism concerning the supernatural (by the mid-18th century there were openly atheist philosophers, and a concerted attack on religious belief by the French Enlightenment philosophes.) This clearly reduced the intensity of belief in the devil. But the end of witch-burning may also be partly due to the triumph of libertinism in the courts of Charles II in England and Louis XIV in France. The open acceptance of sexual appetites both monarchs had publicly acknowledged mistresses who became famous and admired figures put an end to the reformers obsession with devilish sexuality and the peculiar sexualization of the vision of Satan. For a good hundred years (from 1660 to about 1770) sex (including adultery and fornication) seems to have been accepted as something natural. This is the period of Samuel Pepys Diary, where the writer spends his days going about seducing young girls, married women, or prostitutes with disconcertingly uniform ease. It is the time of the Earl of Rochesters obscene poems. Homosexual clubs open in London. The story of Moll Flanders the prostitute becomes a literary best-seller, by the author of one of the most famous adventure stories of all time, Robinson Crusoe. Actresses become stars. Courtesans become not only extremely rich ladies of fashion, but get married to noblemen and leading politicians.  On the continent Choderlos de Laclos in Les Liaisons Dangereuses makes seduction a cynical game, and Casanova makes it a fine art. But the good times do not last forever: towards the end of the 18th century it all comes to an end. Because by this time, as we have seen, the rising industrial-mercantile middle classes (in both England and France) have gradually gained the upper hand and begun to influence morality. In France this takes the form of growing middle-class anger at the wasteful, pleasure-loving lifestyle of the obscenely wealthy aristocrats while millions toil for a pittance. The result is revolution and civil war. In England, the parliamentary system restrains royal extravagance; and the rising middle classes, with their wealth earned from trade or the new industries, gradually impose their moral values and attitudes without a violent upheaval. They are no longer the attitudes of carefree men-about-town, but of solid businessmen and fathers of families. The last decades of the century see a new sober note entering mens fashions: the colours grow darker, the cloth less showy. Kings become faithful husbands. And soon a queen will take the throne who will epitomize the family values of a new Puritan era.             










Women in this new age of Victoria are altogether different creatures from the coarse, night-riding old lechers, lusting after Satan’s lascivious embraces, who had to be dealt with by the strappado and the rack. They are now considered sexless beings who are so weak they are in permanent danger of wasting away. It is as though femininity has undergone the same process of Bowdlerization removing all its sexual elements which Shakespeares plays were subject to in 1818 by the editor Thomas Bowdler, to make them more suitable for family reading. Above all women are now domestic creatures. The Victorian age is the age of the home, and woman is at the centre of it, no longer as social hostess, but as the presiding angel of domestic bliss. The idea that womans place is in the home would have been laughed to scorn by the women in the Restoration plays of Congreve or Wycherley. Her place was at the theatre, at a ball, at a salon, or driving in the park pleasures that she shared with her husband on equal terms (even if the happy couple sometimes engaged in a running battle of adulterous one-upmanship.) But when aristocratic frivolity and sociability gave way to a sober world of work, and the man, after an exhausting day at the office, came home to what he hoped would be domestic peace and quiet, then a stifling little isolated world presided over by a prisoner-wife came into being. And the wife in this new role was desexualized. The man out at work all day in the counting-house has to be assured that his wife is not dallying with one of the footmen, so a puritanical frigid sexlessness must be cultivated in her under the name of virtue. (Contrast the eighteenth century aristocrat who spent his life taking his wife to balls and parties, and who wanted to show her off at her most sexually alluring.) And the safest way to turn her thoughts from sensuality is to persuade her she is in fact a sort of invalid. She is so frail that he must even take pains not to hurt her during their restrained sexual encounters. The cultivation of the image of women as weak and ill becomes a feature of the nineteenth century. A physician in 1827 explained that the female sex


is far more sensitive and susceptible than the male; and extremely liable to those distressing affections which for want of some better term have been determined nervous, and which consist chiefly in painful affections of the head, heart, side and indeed of almost every part of the system.110


Some doctors of the period were convinced that more than half of women suffered from a psychological illness or nervousness. Edward Clark of Harvard Medical School was so pessimistic about the inherent physical weakness of women that he concluded that women would soon be unable to reproduce. Women were not suffering from a specific disease, so much as the disease of being a woman, which subjected them to the enormous and nefarious effect of the womb on their entire system. This mysterious organ made them subject to hysteria, an all-purpose malady that replaced the melancholia of an earlier age. This physical weakness was openly invoked as proving their unfitness for any but a domestic life. One conservative physician, rebutting John Stuart Mills call for womens suffrage, argued in 1867 :


Womans physical nature shows comparative delicacy, the confirmation of structure and organs is less developed;  there is less strength and vigour and less fitness to encounter the obstacles of intercourse with the world. 1867. 111 


This weakness made her particularly unsuited to challenge the male preserve by entering professions such as medicine and science, which some women were by now trying to do. The reason invoked was specifically her menstrual periods and the debility these induced:  


One shudders to think of the conclusions arrived at by female bacteriologists or histologists at the period when their entire system, both physical and mental, is so to speak unstrung, to say nothing of the terrible mistakes which a lady surgeon might make under similar conditions. 112


Woman was thus constitutionally incapable of doing any demanding profession. She was seen as so predisposed towards nervous illness that it often became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Female hypochondria was rife in the period. Alice James, sister of the famous novelist and the famous philosopher, spent her life consulting physicians, convinced she was ill and wanting to find out what the illness was. As we have seen, women were also considered to be quite devoid of sexual appetite. This was an age which quite literally lost sight of the female orgasm, which previous centuries had written about at length. Towards the end of the nineteenth century it was discovered again, with great excitement. Most nineteenth century doctors in Britain and America thought that women got little or no pleasure from sex. Anything resembling an orgasm was assimilated to an attack of hysteria. The first American woman doctor, Dr Elizabeth Blackwell, wrote at the end of the Victorian age: These women have been taught to regard sexual passion as lust and as sin a sin which it would be a shame for a pure woman to feel and which she would die rather than confess. 113

This was a complete transformation of the traditional image of woman, who, as we have seen, was until the late eighteenth century considered a particularly lascivious creature. The earlier view had prevailed for long centuries. Women in the Middle Ages were thought to have very healthy sexual appetites, and to be the instigators of much of the lechery deplored by preachers. The Churchs traditional suspicion of women was based precisely on her role as lustful temptress. The whole fabliau tradition of bawdy tales that fills the pages of Boccaccio and Chaucer drew on a notion of women as carnally inclined, as well as using sex to fight for the upper hand in marriage and frequently succeeding. A figure like the Wife of Bath who dominates her successive husbands through sexual manipulation: Thou shalt have queynt enough richt anon, or Youll get your dose of cunt in a moment is a far cry from the Victorian ideal of womanhood. The Elizabethans believed that girls need for sex was so strong that if they didnt have it (through marriage) by sixteen, they would fall victim to the green sickness, a depressed pining for sex. They were married at a very young age to satisfy this youthful craving. An adults strength and maturity were expected of them even at the dawn of puberty. A 12th century French king wanted to divorce his wife because by the age of fourteen, after four years of marriage, she was not yet pregnant.

Nor had girls in previous ages been spared any mental stress. We have seen how Renaissance scholars did not hesitate to cram their daughters with ancient Greek from the age of three, and were as proud of their scholastic achievements as they were of their sons. It would never have occurred to Lady Jane Greys father, or Catherine of Aragon, or Charles I,  that too much study might strain their daughters feeble nervous system. Yet in the Victorian age there was a widespread belief that women’s mental and nervous weakness made them too fragile for serious intellectual studies. The Victorians created a cult of manhood which had never existed with this degree of self-consciousness before, and they did it by contrasting men with two weaker creatures: children and women. Just as the nineteenth century saw the emergence of a cult of the child as a specific period of life with its own unique character and experiences, so it saw the emergence of an exaggerated image of womanhood as embodying all the fragility, weakness  and  hyper-sensitivity that men were now supposed to banish from their characters.  It is this grotesque sentimentalization of women as frail creatures who must be protected from lifes buffeting which is quite new in the 19th century. The intrepid traveller Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the courtesan Ninon de Lenclos, or her English equivalents Elizabeth Armistead and Harriet Wilson, and before them the adventurous women of the English Civil War who manned castles under siege none of these women would have recognized the Victorian caricature of womanhood as their image of women at all. We would not enjoy today such feisty Shakespearean characters as Portia or Rosalind or Beatrice, or the women characters of Wycherley or of Chaucer, if they were the namby-pambies of the Victorian ideal of womanhood an ideal which some feminists would try to persuade us was the universal image which the patriarchy has always tried to impose on women. It is nothing of the kind. In the nineteenth century we see a revolution in attitudes. Just as the clothes of men and women, which in the eighteenth century resembled each other closely, in brilliant colours, luxury fabrics and sexual allure, underwent a sudden violent differentiation as men were thrust into dark shapeless suits, so the characters of men and women, as they were officially supposed to be,  also underwent a violent differentiation. The effeminate and exuberant fop of the eighteenth century, wearing silk and lace and kissing both sexes as a greeting, became the sober black-clad Puritan of the nineteenth century, who shook hands with his own children. And as man renounced and repressed any aspects of his personality that might be considered feminine (in his obsessive pursuit of the new cult quality manliness), he insisted on woman making up for it by displaying feminine qualities only, and renouncing any aspect of the masculine, which had become his exclusive domain.

In short, the nineteenth century (above all, in England) saw a more extreme polarization of the cultural norms of mens and womens characters than had ever been seen before, and a more grotesque and feeble caricature of femininity than had ever existed. There was a collective amnesia of the intrepid, independent women of previous ages, the women rulers of Occitanie, of England, of Sweden, of Russia, the women poets, writers, artists, adventurers, generals. All images of woman except that of the delicate angel of the hearth were banished as unseemly and immoral. This is what led to the tension, violence and bitterness of the womens struggle in the nineteenth century. For this new extreme version of femininity, while the majority of Victorian women conformed to it, at least outwardly, was vigorously contested by a minority of women, who continued to demonstrate in their lives a set of characteristics and capacities totally at odds with it. As the century advanced, the official belief in female weakness and delicacy became an increasingly embattled position as women began proving their abilities in a whole range of fields. There was a widening reality gap between this artificial, establishment image of pallid, helpless, sickly femininity and the actual behaviour and activities of growing numbers of women. In medicine, the Crimean war saw middle-class nurses begin to replace the illiterate drunken skivvies who had done the work till then and well-brought up girls began to assist at amputations without anaesthetic in hospitals awash with blood and faeces. Women were soon clamouring to become midwives and doctors, against stubborn resistance (even though they had practised these professions from the Middle Ages up until the 17th century, and even later in the case of midwives.) Florence Nightingale, after her reform of nursing, became an adviser to British officials leaving for India and was responsible for planning reforms of hospitals, health services, sanitation, drainage, irrigation, sewage systems, and water supplies all in a country she never actually visited. 114 Other women were soon travelling to the ends of the earth and playing an active role in the British Empire – and not only the ceremonial role so admirably played by Mary Curzon, the wife of the first Viceroy of India. Women undertook missionary work in remote African jungles and worked at every kind of job in the colonies, often in the roughest of conditions. In fact the empire and the women who went out to live their lives in it, whether as pioneers, officials’ wives, nurses, teachers, actresses or even servants, transformed the real condition of Victorian women more radically than any political movement. Women became intrepid travellers and adventurers, voyaging to remote parts of the world and exploring little known cultures. The botanist Marianne North travelled throughout the Americas, Asia and Australasia, her paintings of exotic plants attracting the attention of Darwin and ending up in Kew Gardens. By the 1880’s women were taking part in tiger shoots in India and kangaroo hunts in Australia side by side with the men. 115 The empire provided a space where energetic women could be free to ride and shoot all day and do all the things considered unladylike in England. The more equal status of women in the colonies soon bore political fruit: in 1893 New Zealand gave women the vote. Inevitably the greater personal freedom women enjoyed in the empire had its effect on those back home.

The new assertiveness and independence of Englishwomen was reflected in the education they began to receive. Girls schools developed from their beginnings in the eighteenth century Ladies Academies into serious institutions providing girls with an education in every respect equal to that of boys, including a growing emphasis on team sports. Womens university colleges were set up at London (1848) and Cambridge (1873). In the face of all this, the reactionary movement to resist womens entry into various professions (three women candidates were refused entry to the midwifery examinations in 1876) can be seen as a more and more desperate attempt by conservative men to hold back an irresistible tide. As women tried to muscle in on male preserves, they had to be kept out of them by a constant shrill reassertion of the doctrine of their physical unfitness. The gap between what many women already were and what they were supposed to be according to establishment notions of propriety was so enormous that in the last years of the century it generated a social tension that could almost be described as a collective schizophrenia on the subject. It is in the context of this tension that we can see the fanatical drive of the suffragette movement to push through the final barrier by a last violent shove. They were trying to burst the dam which they were sure was already on the point of giving way.























The political organisation of the feminists had begun on the margins of liberal and leftist political movements. During the French revolution radical women demanded the same “equal rights” that were then being waved aloft as the birthright of all men, whatever their class, creed or colour. Their arguments, supported by a handful of men such as Condorcet, were rejected by the majority of revolutionaries. The most insistent, obstreperous feminist, Olympe de Gouges, achieved equality of a sort by being sent to the guillotine by Robespierre. Under Napoleon the most famous woman intellectual in France, Madame de Staël, was banned from coming within fifty miles of Paris. Her pleas for greater legal equality between men and women were dealt a stinging rebuff when Napoleon introduced his Code Civil, which reduced married women to the same subordinate legal status as in England (part of his attempt, like his model Augustus, to strengthen the family against the decadent morals of the age.) In the years after the Napoleonic wars, English feminists, looking to the long-term benefits of liberalism, joined various other movements for social reform, such as the Chartist and anti-slavery movements. It was the exclusion of female delegates from the Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 that first provoked women in both Britain and America to organise their own movements, in 1847 in Sheffield and in 1848 in Seneca Falls. 1 In the 1850’s Harriet Taylor Mill (wife of John Stuart Mill, who was also a feminist campaigner and was elected to parliament on a feminist platform) put forward the rational arguments for the women’s vote with tireless logic against “the prejudice of custom”. She compared women’s subjugation with the institution of slavery, then at the centre of debate after its abolition in the British empire and its maintenance in America. Such arguments met with a blanket rejection by politicians on all sides. Conservatives evoked the sacred position of women. Even Gladstone, leader of the Liberals, put it in these terms in 1884 as he rejected the vote for women as part of his electoral reform: “If there be a subject in the whole compass of human life and experience that is sacred, beyond all other subjects, it is the character and position of women.” 2

This argument reveals the worry among men that women, by entering public life, would lose the feminine, motherly character which men most valued in them. It is probable that the arguments used to keep women out of public life had a determining effect on the way feminism developed in the nineteenth century. If women had been excluded from politics because of a belief in their intellectual inferiority, following Aristotle’s line, then they would have fought for equality by proving their intellectual gifts – in the manner of Christine de Pizan. But they were excluded on the grounds of their sacred and inviolable feminine character and above all their natural role as mothers. This argument called for two different responses: either an effort to reassure men that women’s entry into public life would not mean the loss of their feminine character, or, on the contrary, an open rejection and denunciation of femininity as a male invention aimed at keeping them down. Millicent Fawcett, leader of the more moderate liberal feminists, took the first line, declaring in 1878: 


I advocate the extension of the franchise to women because I wish to strengthen true womanliness in women, and because I want to see the womanly and domestic side of things weigh more and count for more in all public concerns.  3   


But this view was gradually overtaken by the second, more radical approach. Many feminists began to reject femininity as an artificial construct invented by men to enslave them – rather than affirming the equal value of the feminine half of human nature, and its right to play an equal role in the world. It is that radical approach which carried the day. More important it was that approach which was revived late in the 20th century and led to a movement of “liberation” which was in fact a process of masculinization of women – their total assimilation into the male work role, and the consequent distortions of a society which worships competition, power, production and material achievement and has marginalized motherhood, relationships, love, compassion and the nurturing qualities (which are rightly considered feminine because they are linked to female hormones.) The nature of our present European society (over-working and under-breeding) was to a large degree determined by the precise shape of the struggle for women’s political emancipation in the 19th century, and by the arguments used against it.    

The rejection of femininity was seen in many aspects of the women’s movement in Britain in the late nineteenth century. It was highly visible in the girls’ schools which had been set up by martinet, authoritarian headmistresses, determined to crush any feminine nonsense out of their charges and turn them into tough, disciplined, unabashed creatures who would compete with men on their own terms and earn their respect. Prettiness and coquetry were officially disparaged in these schools. Mirrors were banned. The imposed uniforms were masculine and hideous. 4 By the end of the century, physical education and compulsory games (cricket, hockey and lacrosse) were common in English girls’ schools. At a number of schools it was customary for the girls to give each other masculine nicknames: Jacko, Bob, Charles, Tom. 5 It was assumed that the girls who wanted a career must give up all idea of marriage. The assumption behind all of this was that women had to become like men in order to gain men’s respect as equals in the public sphere. This was the point of view promoted by George Bernard Shaw in Mrs Warren’s Profession, where his young heroine, rejecting her ex-call-girl mother’s plans for her to marry into the upper class, becomes “a woman of business, permanently single and permanently unromantic”. 6 To Shaw (a lifelong celibate) marriage itself was a form of prostitution. Sex was a brutish instinct to be overcome, and once it was eliminated gender equality became a self-evident principle. This puritanical, anti-sex outlook was reinforced by a de facto alliance between feminism and the National Vigilance Association, which campaigned against prostitution in the late 1880’s after the exposure of the widespread traffic in young girls. In so far as feminists at that time addressed sexual behaviour at all, they tried to end the double standard by imposing on men the same ideal of chastity as was imposed on women, rather than calling it into question. Female university professors such as Dr Mary Sharlieb demanded sternly that each girl student should possess “the white flower of a blameless life”. The new women’s university colleges were patrolled by chaperones, which inmates recalled as “an elaborate machinery for frustrating contacts between male and female undergraduates.” 7 The young Winston Churchill, making a speech in Leicester Square in 1894, took part in a small riot to tear down the wooden barricades erected by women Vigilance leaders to keep the prostitutes out. 8 It was left to the post-war generation of feminists like Rebecca West to question the ideal of purity in sexual matters that was still upheld by mainstream feminists.

But the feminists had already split before the war on the subject of using aggressive and violent tactics. This was one aspect of male behaviour that some of the younger generation of suffragettes readily adopted.  Until the turn of the century the mainstream suffragette consensus had been that responsible, civilized behaviour was indispensable in making their point – an argument tirelessly repeated by the leader of the moderates, Millicent Fawcett. After 1906, the radicals, under Emmeline Pankhurst, rejected that premise in favour of more violent tactics. “The argument of the broken pane of glass is the most valuable argument in modern politics,” Pankhurst declared. Demonstrations became provocative and clashes with hostile mobs violent. Tactics included “breaking windows, pouring liquids down mailboxes, cutting telegraph wires, cutting ‘Votes for Women’ into golf courses”. 9 When arrested the women went on hunger strikes. They were force fed, and the famous “Cat and Mouse Act” was passed, allowing the authorities to release a hunger striker temporarily until she was healthy again and then re-arrest her. Over a thousand suffragettes went to prison for their activism, and the increasing violence of the movement, inspired partly by Irish terrorism, culminated when one of them committed suicide by throwing herself under the King’s horse at the Derby in 1913. 

The outbreak of war the following year put a sudden end to the suffragettes’ militancy. Both radical and moderate wings at once converted themselves into patriotic movements, convinced that a German victory would be disastrous. The Pankhursts’ magazine The Suffragette changed its name to Britannia. Suffragettes were granted amnesty and released from prison. Paradoxically this patriotic stance, and the war work undertaken by women to replace men at the front, swayed men’s opinions in their favour more than all their past militancy. The Germans’ execution of the English nurse Edith Cavel as a spy in 1915 led Prime Minister Asquith to declare that “There were thousands of such women but a year ago we did not know it.” 10 The next year he committed his government to giving women the vote. In 1918 all British women over 30 who owned property received the franchise, and in 1928 it was extended to all women over 21. All men over 21 had received the vote in 1918 when property qualifications for men were finally abolished (thus enfranchising the poorest one third of the male population.) The time-lag between the vote for all men and the vote for all women was 10 years.

            Despite modern feminist myth-making, the suffragette victory was a hollow one. The women’s vote was gained by the capitulation of women to war-time jingoism – by women doing their bit to keep the mass slaughter of teen-age boys going for as long as possible. Many of the feminists took a leading part in the white feather campaigns to shame young men into joining up and getting killed. The Pankhursts’ magazine, as we have noted, was renamed The Britannia. It is a paradox that patriotic conformity succeeded so quickly in getting what half a century of bitter radical campaigning had failed to achieve. But democracy has always been much more closely linked to nationalism, militarism and war than modern left-wing pieties have led us to believe. It was the Napoleonic wars that first gave Frenchmen, Englishmen and Germans a sense of nationhood. The sense of forming a single national community, of being one people indivisible, seems to be a prerequisite for democracy. Certainly no democracy has ever emerged without that sense. People cannot bow to the decisions of the majority unless they feel that the majority is the same people as themselves. In the 18th century Europeans had identified more with their class than their nation. The Napoleonic wars made them nationalists, as nation after nation revolted against the French occupation (or was inspired by French nationalism.) The mass military conscription introduced by Napoleon and widely adopted by other countries later in the century was soon a force not only for national unity but also for a growing sense of the stake of all classes in the fate of the nation, and their right to participate in its decisions. It began to be felt that if workers have a duty to fight and die for their country on the government’s orders, then they ought to have some say in choosing the government. The new post-revolutionary notion of republican citizenship encompassed both the duty of military service and the right to vote. It is notable that the universal male suffrage which the French and German liberals of the 1848 uprisings failed to achieve, the Franco-German war of 1870 ushered in for both nations. The two great parliamentary reform bills extending the vote to large sections of the working class in Britain were passed in 1854 and 1884, in the midst of war fever and patriotic hysteria – the Crimean war and “Gordon’s war” in Egypt. The fact that women’s perceived contribution to the war effort in the First World War led to their accession to the vote was merely a further step in this same line of development. It was part of the long association of democracy with nationalism, mass militarism and serving the nation in war-time.   

The war also transformed women’s lives, far more than any feminist campaign could have done. Women had to move into jobs to replace men at the front, and this gave them a new sense of their professional capacities and economic independence. Again the change was reflected in clothes: hemlines suddenly rose, and women’s ankles and then calves began to be visible. This allowed a far more active life, including sports and bicycle riding. Hair was cut short, another symbol of femininity gone, and a slim boyish shape became fashionable. Women were in fact imitating the appearance of the men who came back as heroes from the trenches, right down to the suntan, badge of the war veteran, which replaced the lily white complexions of the past. The sexual icons stopped being the pallid gentlemen and ladies haunting the high-class West End gambling parlours and became the sun-tanned war veteran and the intrepid nurse. Sexual mores also changed. Women, competing for a drastically reduced population of young men after the war – and during the war, faced with the imminent death of their fiancé – began to have sex before and outside marriage with fewer social consequences. Chaperones disappeared in the 1920’s and women felt free to go anywhere alone. Even though they were encouraged to go back to work and leave jobs to the newly demobilized men – married women were officially required to resign from some state jobs, such as teaching – the experience of work in the war had transformed their perspectives. Legal barriers to employment fell. In 1919 the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act was passed and Englishwomen were legally admitted to become lawyers, jurors, judges and members of parliament. While the vote for women did not directly change politics, as women did not vote any differently from the men of their class, it was a symbol of equality that continued to be built on. It established a general feminist agenda of aiming at equality in every sphere. Women ministers entered European governments (in Britain in 1929, and even in France in 1936, despite the fact that Frenchwomen did not yet have the right to vote.) Women pilots began competing for speed records in flights between continents. A conscious desire by women to prove their abilities in every domain became a general motivating force. But among the militant movements themselves, divisions appeared as to what their goals should be. The gap widened between middle class equal rights feminists and socialist feminists, particularly over the issue of special protective legislation for women in factories (such as limiting their working hours.) The socialists wanted to maintain and extend it; the equal rights feminists opposed it, because it perpetuated “inequality” and hampered their own progress in the liberal professions. Divisions became bitter, and many socialist feminists loathed the middle-class ones to the point of refusing all co-operation. 11 

But there was a more fundamental difference between the two traditions of middle class equal rights feminism and socialist feminism. The socialist feminists had always worked for a revolution in which all relations between human beings would be different in every domain, including that of sex. The end of marriage and the traditional family was one of their goals. Socialist feminists had long been inclined to enter “free unions” with men, a practice notably followed by the Saint Simonian feminists of France in the 1830’s. 12 The early socialists were often outside legality in their actions, organizing illegal unions of workers in the 1830’s, and this clandestine existence went hand in hand with a flouting of the marriage laws. From this arose the accusation that socialists believed that all women should be held in common, an allegation widespread enough for Marx and Engels to deride it in The Communist Manifesto. But from the utopian beliefs of 19th century women socialists that all would be utterly different after the Revolution, that men and women would relate on different terms, came that strain of what might be called socio-sexual feminism which raised its head again in the 1970’s. While equal rights feminists contented themselves with seeking (and in England finally obtained) more just and equitable divorce laws, socialist feminists believed in a total transformation of the man-woman relationship.

Their dream reached a short-lived climax in the Russian revolution, during the period when Alexandra Kollontai was a minister in Lenin’s government. This disciple of free love, who famously compared having sex to drinking a glass of water, promulgated a number of decrees. Her marriage law gave men and women equal rights, legalized divorce and made it easy to obtain. Maternity hospital care was made free, religious education for girls was ended. The Soviet state legalized abortion in 1920, and Kollantai set about organising crèches and kindergartens, explaining that “the responsibility for the child is passing from the family to the collective.” 13 She argued for the disappearance of the family to “liberate women from domestic servitude, lighten the burden of motherhood and finally put an end to the terrible curse of prostitution.” 14 She urged the worker mother not to differentiate between her own children and others. Her full vision, reminiscent of Plato’s Republic, was put forward in a Utopian fantasy written in 1922:  “Life is organized so that people do not live in families but in groups according to their ages. Children have their palaces, the young people have their smaller houses, adults live communally in the various ways that suit them.”15  Housework (one of Kollantai’s bugbears) is done by teams of professional men and women cleaners, cooking is done in communal kitchens, meals eaten in public restaurants, and clothes are washed in communal laundries. She had already proclaimed the future woman’s right to total sexual freedom: “to drink from the cup of love’s joy, however deep it is and to satisfy herself. When the cup is empty she throws it away without regret or bitterness.”16 However, none of this more radical programme was ever realized. In 1921 Kollontai lost the support of Lenin, who opposed her undermining of marriage and parental responsibility. She had by now joined an internal opposition group, and she was neutralized by being sent abroad as ambassador. Her radical vision of sexual freedom gave way to Lenin’s puritan cult of work and production, which found monogamy more congenial – and finally to Stalin’s pro-natalist concerns, which recriminalized abortion. After a period of sexual anarchy in the twenties, which left many a village woman abandoned with a baby, there was  a move back to a more stable concept of marriage. The Soviet state, while encouraging women to work, backed away from the full radical feminist programme, which aimed to replace the family by a state or communal support system for children.

It is perhaps the disillusionment wrought by the Russian revolution – or perhaps ambivalence in the West towards the radical vision – that made this strain of feminism fade into the background for several decades. In the period between the wars the issues of pacifism and the fight against fascism came to dominate the radical agenda. Even though feminists like Virginia Woolf wrote passionate works advocating radical measures such as wages for mothers, women’s issues were gradually submerged in a wider fight to defend civilized values against a political movement that glorified the ultra-masculine warrior-figure and war itself. (Virginia Woolf, having opposed the war against Hitler as irrelevant to women’s concerns, was so badly wrong-footed by the course of history that she committed suicide during the conflict.)       

The Second World War, while it defeated the fascist cult of the warrior, was able to do so only by reaffirming the male role as soldier-hero. In a sense moderate militarism defeated extreme militarism. The war had mixed consequences for women. In some ways it promoted equality: women participated in resistance movements and some were tortured or shot along with men. The disappearance of any trace of chivalry in the prisons of the totalitarian states, Nazi Germany, Japan and the USSR, created a de facto equality: both women and men could be treated worse than animals. Perhaps because of the role played by women in the Resistance, as well as the strength of the French left, women in France finally got the vote in 1945, as they did throughout the south of Europe, twenty-five years after the Protestant north. But the post-war period was one of painful reconstruction, with a need to concentrate on economic survival. Women throughout the West were encouraged to stay at home to leave the jobs to men, the returning heroes. In any case they wanted to have children, as people always do after a war. The proportion of full-time housewives rose, and the proportion of women in the liberal professions in America fell sharply from what it had been in 1930. A new Victorian-style American family was constructed on the basis of the family house in the suburbs paid for by low-interest mortgages for demobilized soldiers. The beginnings of mass consumer capitalism – the perception that the expanding market for household goods was not foreign markets, but the internal mass market, the workers, who were no longer paid as little as possible to cut production costs but paid enough to become consumers themselves – changed the way people lived. It led to a new influence of advertising on lifestyles as the masses were pushed to buy goods. The wife in particular was targeted as consumer-in-chief of the household. With television, advertising gained a new power to impose its values and to reinforce the conservative vision of fixed gender-roles. When prosperity began to be assured in the 1960’s, there was growing discontent with this social straitjacket among intellectual women, who demanded wider horizons. Their demands were suddenly submerged in an explosion of student protest over the Vietnam war, black civil rights and other issues of authority and freedom. This radical atmosphere, with its prevailing New Left, neo-Marxist ideology, soon turned women’s discontent into a movement aimed at revolution. 





            There were two distinct phases in the American women’s liberation movement: a suburban discontent before the Vietnam war began, and a campus revolt after the antiwar protests threw the country into turmoil. The first phase was a growing malaise among middle-class American housewives in the new suburbs. This discontent attracted more and more media attention and became the subject of endless debates among psychologists and sociologists in the early sixties. It was given its most forceful expression in Betty Friedan’s 1963 book The Feminine Mystique.17 This book lucidly outlined the grievances of the suburban housewife. Often college educated, she had given up all possibilities of career or job to concentrate with romantic idealism on home and family, and she had ended up bored, listless and frustrated, with a sense of wasted energies and of life passing her by. Above all she could not understand why she should feel dissatisfied with what she believed was an important home-making role. So her dissatisfaction was laced with guilt. She spent all day doing housework that could have been done in a fraction of the time, chasing dust in a growing obsession with cleanliness, and never seemed to have any time for any intellectual activity, even reading. Some housewives ended up ill or consulting therapists for depression. But psycho-analysis, Friedan points out, was not going to help them. Freud’s whole system rested on the idea that women are naturally passive, family-centred beings, that their discontents arise from a penis-envy that must be overcome by acceptance of their limitations. The only solution offered women was to adjust to the reality of being housewives. Friedan argued, on the contrary, that personal growth is essential for all humans, that the only fulfilled women were those that had jobs or passionate activities outside their home, and that women must participate in the wider community or perish. She maintained that this participation in active life would make them more fulfilled and effective wives and mothers, not less. She even argued that the full-time mother-role was making spoilt milksops of the next generation, pointing to widespread anecdotal evidence of listlessness, immaturity and lack of ambition among the young (similar evidence was trotted out a generation later about the latch-key kids of working mothers.) In short, her argument that women should work in order to gain personal fulfilment was not a frontal attack on marriage and family or an open blueprint for a revolutionary transformation of sex-roles. It lacked the entire philosophical dimension of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, published over a decade before, which had argued that man’s rational character and creative role was something women had to aspire to and adopt, abandoning their own silly, emotive femininity. Instead, Friedan’s was a down-to-earth, pragmatic plea for a more balanced, active life for women if they were to achieve real happiness.

It is a plea that sounds eminently reasonable forty years later, partly because it is a project for change that has in large part been realized. Most urban Western women today are Friedan feminists in the sense that they believe their fulfilment depends on keeping one foot in the world of work, even when they have children. This is because work is seen more and more as a form of social participation that reinforces the sense of worth and usefulness, which all humans, as tribal animals, need. The housewife’s work became unsatisfying in the 20th century not only because it was deprived of many of the creative crafts, like weaving, that had been part of it in earlier ages, but because it was no longer done as part of a group. A member of a conclave of village wives at the communal oven or the head of a large medieval or Victorian household of servants did her work with social reinforcement from a group – something which an isolated modern housewife does not have. People seem to need recognition of their work by some kind of community, not merely by one individual. Only when the family is very large does the mother tend to feel substantial group-reinforcement for a full-time mother role, but large families are now rare. And women of high intelligence need to employ that intelligence usefully if they are to stay sane. A broad consensus among men and women has now formed on this issue, reflected in the fact that the majority even of married women now work in most Western countries. The main question debated now is how to combine the two roles of work and motherhood. Many young women see part-time work as a solution once they have children (and would like more responsible jobs to be available on a part-time basis). Others prefer a few years of full-time motherhood, followed by a return to full-time work. Relatively few Western women under fifty, especially in big cities, now believe that a full-time mother and housewife role is fulfilling over a whole lifetime, unless other important intellectual or social activities are added to it. The debate has now shifted to practical questions, which still remain difficult to resolve. There is the problem of long and inconvenient working hours, or of getting part-time work that is not menial, boring, or badly paid. There is the problem of dropping out of the work system for some years to have children and then re-entering it with outdated qualifications and experience. There is the problem of childcare, and the debate over the age at which babies should be handed over to strangers. There is the vexed question of the husband’s sharing of housework, which goes against his traditional role. These difficulties remain, but it is debate over these which has now replaced the fundamental question of women’s work role outside the home. It is no longer a question of whether the woman should have such a role but how it can best be managed and combined with family.

Friedan’s book exudes a sense of logic, reason and lucidity that few Western men today would quarrel with. Revelations that she was a Stalinist Communist from her college days till her mid-thirties, sharing the aim of that sect to undermine Western society, do not necessarily discredit her arguments. Nor do the comments of her ex-husband that she “was in the world during the whole marriage”, had a full-time maid and “seldom was a wife and mother”.18 Ideas themselves are not invalidated by the dishonesty, hypocrisy or ulterior motives of their authors; to believe otherwise is to fall into the ad hominem fallacy. But Friedan’s project of social change, which has now largely been achieved, was not achieved without a certain amount of social conflict and individual suffering. The crux of her call for women to go out and work was of course the willingness of men not only to make room for women in the world of work but also to lose jobs to them – and not just in the traditional female areas of nurse, secretary and teacher, but in all areas – from managerial jobs to factory jobs and specialist professions. Since jobs cannot be multiplied at will (and there was no attempt to cut working hours), there could only be a battle for the existing ones. In order to work, women had to take jobs away from men. Men naturally put up a fight to keep them. When one group is in possession of jobs (on which they depend for their family’s survival, and their own sense of identity and worth) and another group wants to take half those jobs for themselves, thus putting many of the first lot out of work, it is natural for the first group to try to keep the second group out. This phenomenon is hardly the basis for an entire theory of history, but it was erected into one by the more radical feminists who followed. The new educational opportunities girls had had after the war had to be translated into access to jobs that had previously been monopolized by men, and this provoked a simple corporatist struggle, one sex against the other for their own self-interest, with discrimination, hostility and unfairness rife. Instead of seeing this as the inevitable but temporary frictions, injustices and niggling battles of a social role adjustment (in which men were clearly the losers), many feminists saw it as a revolutionary struggle of historic proportions, proving the irredeemably oppressive character of men as such. An elaborate fantasy of something called “the patriarchy”, a system devoted to the wicked cause of oppressing women, became a reality in the minds of many feminists. And those men who lost their jobs because more qualified women took them, thus reducing their chances of having (or keeping) a wife and family, ended up with a bitterness against feminism which has not yet gone away. The feminist omelette could not be made without breaking eggs, and all the eggs were male.

Feminists, celebrating their triumph in the work-place, have never quite faced up to the fact that women’s mass entry into the work market meant that many less capable men were thrown out of work (since working hours were not significantly reduced and jobs, even in an expanding economy, were not expanding fast enough to absorb the huge influx of women without causing unemployment among men, which became substantial from the 1970’s on.) It is of course far easier to find the kind of feminist who believes in women having access to good jobs, than the kind who believes in supporting an unemployed husband at home. The first thing a young woman who gets a good job usually looks for is a man with a better job. She certainly does not contemplate marrying the man she has just put out of work, who is now stigmatized (above all by women themselves) as one of life’s failures, incapable of supporting a family. It is this imbalance in the inclination of the two sexes to support an unemployed partner at home that led many less qualified men to see feminism as a threat to their jobs, their marriages and their very survival. In some professions (such as firemen) they put up fierce resistance to the arrival of women in their workplace, and treated them with open hostility. Feminists were demonized as enemies of the family, putting fathers out of work and destroying their marriages, while feminist rhetoric began to denounce all men as the enemy, genetically predisposed to sexist oppression. 

All of this was exacerbated by the feverish revolutionary atmosphere of the 1960’s, provoked by the violent opposition to the Vietnam War. The Marxist analysis of the imperialistic relations between the now-prosperous West and the poor nations of the Third World suddenly acquired urgency when the young of America were being asked to die for this imperialist order. Marxism, which had fallen somewhat out of favour after the tyranny of Stalin, the division of Europe and the bloody crushing of the Hungarian Uprising, became flavour of the decade once again. All was explained. The expansionist communist threat was a capitalist lie to preserve our dominion over the poor countries. In reality we were the oppressors, not the communists. Young conscripts were being sent to die for oppression, not for freedom. Even those who did not go along with this Marxist analysis were appalled at the cruelty of the war, the massiveness of the destruction of a poor and backward country, and the blind refusal of the American government to understand the nationalist dimension of the struggle. A government so stubbornly bent on a course of evil could only be evil. Any means of stopping it were justified. Its moral authority in all other fields was undermined. Why accept laws, rules, moral precepts emanating from an establishment so clearly in the wrong? If the state had shown itself to be evil, why not try to bring it down? Why not see its police as enemies, its laws as tyranny, its moral rules as humbug? The young who were being sacrificed in this inhuman war rejected not only the war but the entire society that had decided to wage it. The ferocity of the repression of demonstrations by baton-wielding police only confirmed the young in their conviction that they were fighting against a tyrannical system which must be overthrown in its entirety.

The atmosphere was given another crusading dimension by the coincidence in timing of the other great American struggle of the age, the fight for black civil rights. After the Civil War southern blacks had made rapid political progress, some of them being elected to state assemblies. Then gradually southern white reactionaries reasserted their dominance and pushed the blacks out of political life again by introducing special “Jim Crow” laws, property and literacy qualifications to vote, backed up by physical intimidation. As a new jingoistic American patriotism arose in the 1890’s, the reconciliation between North and South took the form of  giving the South a free hand in segregation. In the new wave of democratic enthusiasm that followed the victory of the GI’s over Nazi racism in 1945, this situation struck many as unacceptable. The movement for civil rights began in the south in the 1950’s, swept across the country in the Watts riots and the burning ghettos of 1967, and was consecrated as a holy cause by the assassination of Martin Luther King the next year. John Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, his brother’s in 1968, the widespread conspiracy theories alleging the involvement of the secret services, all came together to create an image of an old order of evil with its back to the wall, lashing out dangerously but capable of being defeated. The old order was one of racism, social injustice, imperialism, militarism, authoritarianism, and puritanical intolerance of the new counter-culture with its fashion for long hair, drugs and free love. Not only in America but all over Europe the young, a large and visible generation because of the baby boom after the war and their easy access to universities, launched their revolt against the authoritarian rigidities of the system in place. It was not merely a political demand for change: it was a philosophical demand for another conception of life. The slogans of the student revolt of May 1968 in Paris: “Under the pavement, the beach”, “Power to the Imagination”, “It is forbidden to forbid” expressed a romantic cult of unlimited freedom, of infinite vague aspiration. More precisely, the universal slogan “Make love not war” symbolized an opposition between a repressive, imperialist, militarist culture leaning on an old tough-guy, John Wayne image of man, and a gentle, pacifist culture, where love, tolerance, sexual freedom, communal living, mass music festivals, the exploration of spiritual experiences through drugs or meditation, expressed universal brotherhood, a closeness to Nature and a concern for the preservation of all life.    





It was in this seething atmosphere of exaggerated evils and the sense of the impending overthrow of an entire order that feminism suddenly radicalized. Many feminist students, like their predecessors in the 1840’s anti-slavery movement, resented the exclusion or marginal-ization of women in the radical movements they had taken part in. They began to see that even within revolutionary movements such as the Students for a Democratic Society there was a problem. There was an internal sexist oppression – by the stereotyping of women, the confinement of women to the coffee-making, photocopying role, the automatic assumption of leadership roles in every movement by men. Once back at home after a day of rioting, recounted one radical Frenchwoman, she peeled the potatoes while he leafed through the revolutionary newspapers. 19 In the feverish atmosphere of the time, the domestic laziness of radical men was erected into a new absolute evil, to be combated by a new neo-Marxist ideology. The reading of a newspaper while she peeled the potatoes was clearly an act of patriarchal violence in a direct line of descent from the ius primae noctis or droit de cuissage. The age-old oppression of women, like that of the workers, like that of blacks, could only be ended by a mass political struggle to overthrow the oppressor. Radical men fuelled the flames by expressing open derision for the feminists. Black leader Stokely Carmichael’s famous jibe that the only position of women in the revolutionary movement was “prone” made it clear that even leftist males were inextricably part of a universal evil. Men as such now became the designated enemy: not just establishment men, violent policemen, conservative politicians, ruthless capitalists or white racists, but men in general. Just as classic Marxism worked for the overthrow of bourgeois rule, and anti-racism worked for the overthrow of white rule, so women’s liberation must work for the overthrow of men’s rule – the age-old patriarchy. Women students, looking beyond the next barricade at the society they would join when they graduated from university, in fact saw a world which was not yet ready to receive them in the roles they envisaged playing in it. They sensed they had to change that world (while they were still part of a militant student force) if they were to survive in it.

The basic complaint of this new radical movement was that men do not in fact accept women as equals, and they oppose women’s accession to leadership roles in any domain: political, economic or intellectual. Women are tolerated in a subordinate role, for which men think nature has designed them, and are not accepted in a position of command. In their 1969 anthology of feminist writings Masculine/Feminine, Betty and Theodore Roszak compared the position of women to that of American blacks.


When we discover that the black tenth of America makes up less than 1 per cent of our society’s leadership and prestige categories, but far more than 10 per cent of our menial, unemployed, and prison populations, we conclude that some form of direct or indirect, de jure or de facto, discrimination must be at work. Now suppose we apply the same rule of thumb to social relations between the sexes. How many female politicians, union leaders, publicists, business executives, athletic stars, university professors, diplomats, scientists, artists…? How many male housekeepers, child-minders, kindergarten teachers, stenographers…? How many women holding positions of power, prestige, and initiative? How many men adapting their lives to the demands of their wives’ careers? 20


The authors go on to point out that


hardly anyone, outside militant feminist circles, seriously anticipates that the sexual mix in the many callings of life will ever be half and half. Try to imagine it: half our congressmen become congresswomen; half our housewives become househusbands;  half the mothering done by fathers; half the breadwinning done by women…... as if sex made no difference to the way of the world.  21


This, in simple terms, became the objective of the new radical feminist movement which emerged in the late sixties: total gender equality and interchangeability, which meant a fifty-fifty split in key occupations of power and parenting. It was quite different from the demands of the emancipationists of the late 19th century, who fought for access by women to all professions on merit, but not necessarily their equal representation in them. And it was different from the demands of the Betty Friedan school, for the right of mothers to a self-fulfilling job outside the home. This was a programme for the transformation of men and women themselves so that “sex makes no difference” in the occupations they follow. The only guarantee that women were being treated as equals and really did have equal access to top jobs was if they actually occupied half the top jobs. That must now become the goal: fifty-fifty in Congress and all other leading positions, otherwise intolerable oppression still existed. The idea that many women might want something different from most men, that some might lack motivation to get the top jobs, that their biological make-up might give many of them a greater family orientation than men, or quite simply make them more inclined to work with children than with cars – all this was dismissed as part of that pernicious ideological brainwashing which was keeping women in subjection. In fact the very existence of such prejudices suggested that a thorough reconditioning of the human mind was needed, and that children had to be brought up in radically new, non-sexist ways to prevent these stereotypes from being perpetuated.

This then became the goal and programme of the radical feminist movement over the next decades. It underlay the huge movement of women into the workplace, protected by new anti-discrimination laws, till thirty years later women now make up nearly half the work force in most Western countries. But feminism also branched out into other fields besides that of economic and occupational equality. There were  movements to protect women from violence, wife-beating and rape, both by changes in the law and by setting up centres for battered women. There were successful campaigns in various countries for the right to abortion. There were laws passed against sexual harassment. Divorce laws were revised repeatedly in various Western countries to tip the balance of property and custody rights in favour of women. Various feminist movements militated in favour of prostitutes, homosexual rights and against pornography. In short, feminism developed a socio-sexual dimension distinct from its economic goals. And the debate on many of these issues occurred within the context of the other major social change which occurred in the 1960’s – the liberalization of sexual behaviour, generally referred to as the sexual revolution. This was not a change that was caused by feminism, though many feminists instantly adopted it (often to retreat from their enthusiasm some years later.) But it had an enormous influence on the context of man-woman relations within which the struggle for various feminist causes took place. The abrupt change, over a single decade, from a society where marriage was the only accepted context for sexual relations, to a world where it was simply one of many options in human relationships, inevitably influenced how women saw their own possibilities in life and their role in society. It is worth looking at how radically this sexual revolution changed things between the sexes and how it partly determined the direction that feminism itself would take.





            The Roman satirist Juvenal remarked: “No one ever suddenly became depraved.” The same is probably true of societies (whether we regard the collapse of traditional sexual codes as  depravity or liberation.) A liberalization of sexual mores which appears sudden is often the effect of a gradual, longer-term change under the surface. This has led some commentators to claim that the sexual revolution of the sixties has been much exaggerated, because everything had already happened long before. There had certainly been in the first half of the century a gradual shift away from the moral straitjacket of Victorianism (itself an historical aberration); but the sixties pushed it all much further, and right across the board socially. The first step in sexual liberation had occurred in the 1920’s, as the First World War left young women competing for a sharply reduced number of surviving, able-bodied young men. The Great War also destroyed and discredited much of the old class society, and its rules and moral conventions became harder to impose. Chaperones disappeared, skirts got shorter, women began playing competitive sports. The night life of the roaring twenties – cabarets, night clubs, dancing girls – became sexier. Female serial adultery (engaged in by certain famous film stars and socialites) acquired an air of fashionable daring, rather than social suicide. The movies of the thirties showed a sophisticated high society where the rules were no longer clear, where romance was a game, and bad girls often prospered. In some places such as Berlin the sexual liberation went a long way further, including a thriving gay scene, where transvestite balls were regularly held and night-clubs where men danced with men were probably as easy to find as in any large Western city today. But the Second World War and the post-war reconstruction period brought a more puritanical climate. After the war Victorian family values made a come-back, as working-class soldiers returned home to the hero’s reward of low-interest mortgages and the suburban family idyll. In the cinema, the pure, wholesome girl next door wanting marriage and family (Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds) partly replaced the sexy vamp, gangster’s moll or cynical socialite of the thirties. But as society gradually prospered again, the new puritanical suburban values, essentially those of work and family, began to be eroded by capitalism itself. A shift to mass consumerism began to emphasize self-indulgence rather than self-discipline. “Pamper yourself!” the ads of 1960 urged, as companies tried to sell consumers the latest labour-saving gadget or superfluous luxury. It was only a matter of time before the new hedonism spread to the matter of sex.

On an intellectual level, the sexual revolution was sparked off among students in the early sixties by radical ideas of liberation from old conventions and taboos, which had been slowly spreading over the previous decade. The ideas of atheist philosophers like Bertrand Russell became popular at universities and led to a new questioning of Christian morality, especially in matters of sex. Novels like those of D.H.Lawrence and Henry Miller, exploring sexual themes with greater crudeness, became the subject of celebrated obscenity trials as censorship laws were challenged. The 1960 prosecution of the publisher of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in Britain allowed famous defence witnesses, including Dame Rebecca West and the liberal Bishop of Woolwich, to publicize a new view of sex as something not dirty but sacred, even outside marriage.22 Alfred Kinsey’s reports on male and female sexual behaviour, published in 1948 and 1953, purported to find evidence of huge amounts of sexual deviance and unsuspected libertinism among Americans. Though his statistics have since been revealed as bogus, and slyly designed to shift the norms of sexual behaviour, they were seized on during the decade that followed as an argument for sexual liberation. This was now viewed by younger academics as something already out there which the establishment was pretending not to see.23 In the cinema, the fame of sex goddesses like Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot stimulated a new, obsessive interest in sex after the bleak post-war years. A panting, drooling scrum of journalists followed Brigitte Bardot wherever she travelled, like a pack of dogs after a bitch in heat. In the world of music, rock and roll became increasingly sexy as Elvis Presley gyrated his pelvis on stage and dances like the jive turned the dance-halls into heaving masses of bodies out of control. The new British pop music culture of the early sixties took this sexual liberalisation a step further, with the spectacle of screaming mobs of teenage girls eager to tear the clothes off their idols. The fashion industry of Carnaby Street exploited a new sexiness in women’s clothes. The commercial boom of  “swinging London” was based on an association of sartorial trendiness with a knowing air of sexual success. The King’s Road became a hang-out for girls to display their bodies in miniskirts, while the fashionable young men swaggered about in long hair and gaudy clothes. The atmosphere was heavy with sexual innuendo, and “picking up” became a new pastime. A conflict of generations opened up on the subject of music, sex, clothes, hairstyles and drugs, and this culture war created a group loyalty among the young. This whole cultural rebellion was then radicalized by the passions unleashed by the Vietnam war. It became a revolt against all the conventions and rules of an evil, war-mongering society. The hippie movement, sprouting in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district in 1967, preached free love and drugs as an alternative to war. The contraceptive pill, first marketed in 1961, and used by three-quarters of fertile women by 1975, removed every girl’s fear of pregnancy at the same time as the new fashion for casual sex removed her fear of losing her reputation.24  Suddenly, in the incredibly short period of the last half of the sixties, the sexual taboos of the past collapsed. Sex became “in”, a fashion fad like miniskirts, the limbo rock or the hula hoop. This was not simply a question of girls sleeping with their steady boy-friends (something which girls from artistic or theatrical milieus had been doing for decades) or of certain “loose” professions such as film actresses having to pass through the casting couch. It was something that middle-class and working-class girls from staid backgrounds began doing with perfect strangers as Saturday night entertainment. It became commonplace to meet a girl at a party and sleep with her that night. It became possible, perhaps for the first time in Western history, for young women of the respectable middle classes to have sex with a man within an hour or two of making his acquaintance, and without money being a motive. The nearest precedent to this had occurred in the England of the late 17th century, after Puritanism had been defeated and a licentious monarchy restored; in most other periods this degree of libertinism had been confined to a milieu of courtesans. And of course these were not courtesans – a demi-monde of professional sexual adventurers – but respectable girls, who would one day probably celebrate church weddings and be given away by proud fathers. The social rule-book had been torn up and thrown out the window. 

This brief summary of the steps by which this change came about does not of course explain it. A narrative of the events, social trends and fashions that gradually snowballed into what came to be known as the sexual revolution does not wholly answer the question: why? Looking back over this period one is left with the feeling that these various events and causal factors even when added together still do not provide a satisfactory explanation of such a radical change in human behaviour – and especially female behaviour. The atmosphere of revolution of the time, the collapse of the moral authority of the old order, has something to do with it, no doubt – and this factor of atmosphere is the most difficult thing of all to demonstrate or even clearly recall nearly forty years later. But there was perhaps another factor that was less obvious at the time. Group behaviour responds to unconscious drives, and sexual behaviour appears to be influenced by perceptions of how easy or difficult it is for one sex or the other to find a mate. Now in the late sixties there was a sudden surplus of young women on the “market”, which may well have had an influence on their behaviour, whether or not they were conscious of it. This surplus had been caused by a simple phenomenon. Given the fact that women tend to marry men nearly three years older than themselves (to be precise, an average of 2.5 years at that time), due to girls’ earlier puberty and earlier social maturity, fluctuations in birth rates can cause an imbalance in the numbers of each sex “on the market” for a mate at a given moment. Now birth rates in the 1940’s had fluctuated enormously, as millions of potential fathers who were away at war for several years came home in 1945 and started families. The number of births per year in the United States, for example, went up from around 2.9 million in 1944 and 2.8 million in 1945, to 3.8 million in 1947. 25 This is a thirty-five per cent rise. Other Western countries saw a similar baby boom. A girl born in 1947, reaching twenty in 1967, and looking for a man in her traditional target age group, two to three years older than her, would have discovered a desperate shortage of men. If she was looking for a man born in 1944 or 1945, she would have found there were four girls in her own year-group for every three boys in the year-group they were chasing. Now of course, the girl born in 1947 could fall back on boys born the same year as her, who were just as numerous as the girls. But these boys were being targeted by the girls two to three years younger than them, their traditional matches. In short, the young men of the early baby boom years had a double ration of girls available. And they set out to enjoy it. 

This shortage of men was exacerbated in America by the Vietnam war, which at its height not only sent nearly half a million young men of marriageable age abroad but drove others to leave the country to avoid the draft. It is probably this that accounts for the figures in the US census showing a huge gap in the numbers of the two sexes in 1970 which was not present for the same generation ten years earlier. Figures by the US census office show that in 1970 there were 8,453,752 young women between 20 and 24 in America, and only 7,917,269 young men of the same age (this represents 93.7 boys for 100 girls.) There was thus already a shortfall of over half a million boys in the same age group as the girls. If one takes the age-group of young men slightly older, that of 25-29, which the girls of 20 - 24 would normally target for marriage, then the figure for the young men is only 6,621,567 – a shortfall of over 1.8 million young men, or nearly 22%. 26 This smaller age-group of course, corresponds to births during the war years, 1941-45. Now granted that the exact age gap in marriages at that time was 2.5 years, not 5 years, we should halve this differential to get a better idea of the imbalance. We still reach a figure of just under a million or 11% fewer young men of the right age for the girls looking for mates in 1970. Now 11% may not seem much, but imagine 89 young men and 100 young women being shipwrecked on an island and stuck there for life. Which sex is going to be competing hardest to get their mate, the boys or the girls? And which sex is going to be sitting pretty and playing the field?

            Add to that the difference between the number of girls aged 15 to 19 in 1970 (who would be dating and marrying upwards), a figure of 9,436,501 girls, and the boys they were  chasing (the 7,917,269 boys between 20 and 24), and we have another shortfall of a million and a half boys, or a surplus of a million and a half girls for this generation of young men to enjoy. In all, putting together the number of girls 15 to 24 and the number of young men 20 to 29, we reach for 1970 a proportion of marriageable boys to girls of 81 to 100. Again, this would have to be corrected somewhat to take account of a 2.5 year rather than a 5-year age-gap at marriage but the shortage of young men or surplus of girls is still quite dramatic. 27

Now the sex that is in short supply has the upper hand. The boys in the late sixties, therefore, were able to impose their rules. And the boys’ demands, thanks to the urgings of testosterone, are always simple: sex first, talk later. The girls, seeing an imaginary line of other girls behind them, were in no position to refuse. In fact they were eager to compete for what must have seemed to them not so much a commodity in short supply (there are always more men in the public space of bars and clubs) but a commodity with a disconcerting tendency to slip out of their grasp and into someone else’s. And girls compete by putting out sooner, by emphasizing not only their sexiness but their availability. The mini-skirt was not just a tease: it was a promise. An advertisement of the skimpiness of sexual defences was a promise that there would be only token resistance. The final barrier, which the girls had so stubbornly defended during the drawn-out, frustrating “petting” sessions of the 1950’s, now fell on the first date. The girls hardly dared say no because they might not get a second date. They were all convinced the next girl in line (with mini-skirt up to her crotch and tits hanging out of her blouse) would say yes, and they would miss out. In the 1950’s the girls had assumed there was a tacit agreement among them to say no, enforced by stigmatising as a slut any of them who caved in. The fact that there were plenty of boys to go round made it quite easy to say no and still keep a boyfriend on a string by a regular dose of “heavy petting”.  Now that the stigma of being a “slut” had gone (blown away by the new fashions, by the pill and by the new moral attitudes in the air) and boys seemed hard to pin down, the agreement could no longer be relied on. If the girl waiting in line behind them was going to say yes, they’d better get in first. For many boys it was like shooting fish in a barrel. And they went gaily from girl to girl like bees in a flower garden. The girls had to compete even harder in alluring dress and signs of willingness to put out. In short, the fashionable, liberated, hedonistic side of the sexual revolution was combined with a competitive pressure among the girls that was an accident of birth-rates.

It is this demographic factor – the shortage of boys – which helps to explain the extraordinary enthusiasm for sex among the girls of that generation – something which has not been equalled since. What motivated the girls was perhaps an unconscious competitive drive due to the vague perception that there were an awful lot of them around and they had to use their heavy weapons to win. Human beings may be driven in their mating behaviour by an unconscious estimate as to the number of available mates, in the same way as birds decide the number of eggs they will lay in a given season by getting the feel of how much food there is around and how many rivals for it there are. The atmosphere and rules of the mating game at any time may be determined not by a conscious awareness of the shortage or excess numbers of one sex (since they have no means of comparison with other generations), but by an instinctive collective reaction to that situation on an unconscious level. We may look at other sudden mass changes in sexual behaviour in history in the same light: the huge numbers of prostitutes in Victorian England and in 16th century Italy may have had socio-economic-demographic causes all mixed together. The shortage of males to marry who had the financial means to keep the girls in an acceptable style may have been responsible. We are seeing a similar phenomenon in Russia today, where a huge difference in wealth between the impoverished majority of people (including the old professional middle class) and a small new-rich elite leads to a competition among impoverished middle-class girls to try to marry into the new-rich elite by exploiting their sexual attractions (or else to marry abroad if they can’t.) 

It is little wonder that after a few years of the boys behaving like bees in a flower garden in the 1970’s, some of the girls began to think they were holding the muddy end of the stick. They were being played for suckers simply because there were too many of them competing too hard. It is these disenchanted girls (one might say, that part of the surplus population of females who were not having a good time – the malicious might whisper, the ugly ones) who in the early 1970’s began to swell the ranks of the campus feminists with a new anti-male gripe, this time about sexual exploitation. (A decade before, in the fifties, most of the griping had been done by frustrated male authors about girls who wouldn’t put out.)

Of course some girls adapted to the philosophy of free love and one-night stands and enjoyed it. It became commonplace for girls too to claim that they could have sex just for fun,   like drinking a glass of water, in Alexandra Kollantai’s immortal phrase. Research tends to cast doubt on whether large numbers of women do in fact enjoy casual sex with strangers, except in special circumstances. 28 But the climate of the late sixties and seventies was special. The sense of a generation in rebellion created a general atmosphere of solidarity among them, a sense of shared ideals, a shared belief in the right to sexual pleasure, above all a sense of liberation from the repressive values of their parents’ generation. This was especially true of those who felt part of the hippie, flower-power subculture. This sense of solidarity triggered at least the illusion of emotional involvement at very short notice. Many one-night stands were passionate affairs, as if lonely individuals had found each other at last. Often the illusion had been created by music, drugs, alcohol, the togetherness of an impromptu beach party, or the sentimental closeness of a shared favourite song on the dance floor. The sudden perception of mutual attraction was like a complicity, almost a conspiracy against the world – the discovery of a shared secret that had to be consummated to make it real. The very subversiveness of the “free love” cult created instant empathy among its adepts. Mystical ideas abounded, and the mystic’s love for the whole universe was readily channelled into an act of love with one person, without actually knowing that person at all, beyond the fact that he or she felt the same sudden generous impulse. Love, especially among the “flower power” and Eastern mysticism adepts, was often felt less as a personal fixation on one individual than as a fountain of diffuse benevolent emotion that needed an outlet. These were the psychological devices by which sex between people who had just met was often romanticized. In a climate like this a young man could make love to a well-brought up young woman of twenty whom he had met only an hour or two before, and both could have the impression that an intense emotional exchange was taking place. For many it was like the proverbial bolt of lightning, the magic of love at first sight, consummated with the precipitation of a generation that had made a cult of the present moment. Sometimes these spontaneous love affairs led to a real relationship that lasted. Sometimes their very poignancy was based on their ephemeral nature. Sometimes one partner discovered, to his or her chagrin, the other person in an equally passionate embrace with someone else the next night. The fragile emotional superstructure created by this collective cult of “peace and love” could easily collapse and reveal underneath what appeared to be the sordid exploitative impulse to shag as many as you can. The movement of general indulgence in spontaneous eroticism wavered between idealism and cynicism. 




The sexual revolution was at first embraced by many feminists, who saw it as an essential part of women’s liberation. Kate Millet used the term sexual revolution as a synonym for the feminist revolution, and vaunted the female capacity for multiple orgasms as a proof of women’s natural promiscuity.29 “The politics of anti-monogamy”, as one feminist remembered it, “elevated casual sex into an act of political liberation.”30 Germaine Greer at first embraced the sexual revolution as the key to women’s independence and decried marriage as slavery. The title of her first book, The Female Eunuch, appeared to equate women’s oppression with their conditioned lack of a healthy and voracious sexual appetite, which she vigorously advocated. The novelist Erica Jong was so enthusiastic for sex that she glorified a kind of female Casanova behaviour, creating heroines who shagged their way through massed ranks of stalwartly erect males. These attitudes were soon to be contradicted by more radical elements among feminists, whose hostility to men made them little inclined towards heterosexual indulgence. But the link between the sexual revolution and feminism was more profound than any ideological position taken by its most vocal spokeswomen.

The sexual revolution became in fact the instrument of that breakdown in the stability of marriage which made female economic independence a reality (and a necessity) on the ground. The sexual revolution was the catalyst by which feminism changed from an ideological movement among a few students and intellectual activists into a mass social phenomenon. For the sudden ease of sexual relationships meant that the solid basis of marriage was knocked from under it. Why get married if you can have sex without? Why the inevitable association of sex and marriage when pregnancies could now easily be prevented? Above all, the ease and speed with which men and women now entered into sexual relationships made monogamy and fidelity more difficult. Gone was the long courtship. A few hours’ chat-up now sufficed for the last favour to be granted. Adultery had become too easy. Temptation was everywhere, especially for men, given the temporary surplus of eager, mini-skirted young women. Divorce laws were liberalised and divorce rates soared. Marriage became a contingent and temporary state. This undermining of stable marriages which the sexual revolution brought about, and which feminism then actively called for, set in motion a whole train of consequences. The old marriage contract between husband and wife, whereby he earned the money while she looked after the kids, could no longer work if the husband was likely to be picked up and spirited away by the girl at the bus stop. The surplus of young women scrambling to steal each other’s mate had thrown the whole system out of kilter. If marriage was not guaranteed to last, because sex had become a free-for-all, then the contract could not be relied on. Women could not give up work for kids and be left in the lurch without any means of support five years down the line.

This meant that the feminist demand for access to the best jobs took on new relevance for women of all classes. With the shortage of men, and the new instability of marriage,  many young women had to face the possibility that there would be no man permanently in their lives to look after them and their children financially. They had to fend for themselves. This meant that a job for a woman was no longer temporary or ancillary employment – a few years as a secretary while she looked round for a husband. The job might be permanent, so she didn’t want to limit herself to secretary. She wanted a shot at the boss’s job. Hence the whole campaign against discrimination in employment, demand for equal wages, equal chances of promotion, and so on, which led to major changes in the law in the 1970’s. It was a shift of perspective on women’s work, from earning pin-money (or a self-fulfilling hobby-job) to being the bread-winner. And its basic cause was not a sudden conviction among women that work was the be-all and end-all of life, but the sudden uncertainty of the prospect of finding a husband who could be relied on to support them for a whole lifetime – or in some cases one with enough ambition to stub out his joint and look for a decent job. In short, the sexual revolution, by undermining marriage, made the feminist revolution a practical necessity.

A radical movement which had begun on the campuses as a minor, neo-Marxist offshoot of revolutionary politics, a demand for freedom and equality of women as an “oppressed group” (an idea which at first struck many middle class wives flitting about the fashion boutiques as merely comical), began, therefore, to gain a mass following. The changes occurring in sexual relations, the destabilization of marriage and the rising number of male drop-outs from the work-system, suddenly made the feminist demands for economic equality relevant to the lives of millions. If marriage was no longer going to be there as a life-long commitment, providing women with stability and financial security, then they had to launch themselves into the adventure of careers and professional life and fight for equality in this domain. It is therefore the sexual revolution which transformed feminism from a marginal ideological movement in the universities into a mass social change. The age-old institution of stable, lifelong monogamous marriage was not overthrown by the feminists. It was overthrown by the sexual free-for-all, which was ushered in by a youth culture of rebellion and total liberty and a temporary surplus of girls on the market. But once lifelong marriage was overthrown, there was nothing left to do but push for a complete change in women’s role. The sexual revolution cut the ground from under the old order, and made the economic independence of women a necessity, by destroying the material basis of the old life – stable, lifelong marriage. 

            Women entered the work market in huge numbers over the next decade. To do this they needed changes in the law to outlaw sex discrimination in employment and guarantee them equal pay. Britain passed such laws in the 1970’s and most other Western countries followed suit. Over the next fifteen years every month had its newspaper story of the first woman plumber or police captain or brain surgeon in a city. In sheer numbers women transformed the work market. According to the 2001 census of England and Wales, they now make up 46 per cent of the people with jobs – though only 58 per cent of employed women work full-time (at least 31 hours a week) as opposed to 90 per cent of employed men. Women have penetrated every profession and category of job. There are women commanding city police forces in France, piloting jumbo jets in Germany and working as plumbers in Britain. There are women generals and corporation presidents in America, and there have been women prime ministers and presidents in Britain, Norway, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland and the Baltic states. Many of these changes have come about through open competition, guaranteed by the anti-discrimination laws. Sometimes they have happened through positive discrimination, like the quota systems for female politicians in Scandinavia. Over the past ten years in Scandinavian countries the lists of candidates for national elections presented by political parties must have a 40 per cent minimum of each sex, according to party rules. This has given Scandinavian countries an average female representation in their parliaments of between 35 and 44 per cent, around double the proportion found in European countries without these quotas. In Norway there has been a woman prime minister for most of the past decade. This has also happened in New Zealand, where women have led both major parties for some years and alternated as prime minister, without any quota system being in force. 

            What might be called the feminist transformation of society – the mass entry of women into the work market and into politics – has occurred therefore through a combination of government legislation, lobbying within political parties by the feminist movement as well as myriad battles by individual women to pursue the career they want, backed up by laws protecting their right to do so. The equal opportunity society is something most men as well as women now believe in and take for granted, without necessarily defining themselves as feminists.




While the sexual revolution provided the catalyst for the mass movement of women into the job market by undermining marriage, it had other, more contradictory effects on the feminist movement itself. The initial enthusiasm for sexual freedom among many 1960’s feminists began to be countered by other voices. More sober-minded, neo-Marxist feminists, who saw men more schematically as the oppressors of history and women as the victims, were wary of the exploitative aspect of this sexual free-for-all. Sleeping with lots of the oppressor class could hardly, they felt, be a liberating experience. The sexual revolution was seen by this faction largely in terms of male promiscuity, which was one more aspect of men’s age-old exploitation of women. While women’s promiscuity, in contrast, was defended as a liberation from wicked male possessiveness, it was still rather suspect because it meant in practice aiding and abetting the marauding male in his sexual conquests. Addiction to sex with men came to be seen as an unhealthy sign of collaboration with the oppressor. Feminist campaigns against rape and wife-beating had begun to foster a view of all men as the enemy and of male sexual impulses as fundamentally predatory. Of course, this new suspicion of sexual freedom did not lead feminists back towards any respect for marriage, which remained in their eyes nothing but a male plot to enslave them. But if short-term relationships were now as suspect as long-term commitments, it was not quite clear what was left. Nor was it clear how the species was to raise children – apart from a few half-hearted attempts to form women’s communes where children could be brought up together – presumably until the boys reached puberty and were booted out as potential rapists. Those who embraced Marxism continued to believe in the Kollantai solution of the state replacing the neurosis-ridden family in its responsibility for children. The solution had therefore to wait till “after the revolution”. But since it is difficult in the meantime to keep up relationships of love with a class designated as the enemy, one natural direction was towards lesbianism.

British radical feminists in their 1971 paper “Thoughts on Feminism” argued: “we will continue to be dominated by men as long as we have our closest emotional/sexual relationships with men….”  Lesbianism was to be not only a way of freeing themselves from men, but also a way of transforming women’s personality and freeing it from the horrid deformation of femininity.  “Our personality alters as we become less penetrable (vaginal) and increasingly self-contained (clitoral).” 31 Women’s “consciousness-raising groups” thus became a happy hunting ground for lesbians to recruit new talent among those disillusioned with their relationships with men during the “calves in clover” years of surplus girls. Homosexuality also provided one solution to the demographic problem of surplus women, as it was to do for men fifteen years later when the demographic shoe was on the other foot. Radical feminist groups became increasingly self-contained, inward-looking, living a kind of separatism from men, whose sexual propensities were now seen not merely as exploitative but above all threatening. Rape was viewed as the paradigm of all heterosexual intercourse. Men were simply defined as potential rapists. All men were thought to dream of rape as the ultimate assertion of their power over all women. “Rape is … a mirror image of our ordinary sex folkways,” wrote one feminist. It is “actively and visibly supported by a legend of considerable glamour.” 32 Rape was believed to be in some way encouraged by the system in order to keep all women in subjection. A legitimate campaign against sexual violence began to take on the tinge of a general gender racism against men. Date-rape became a hot topic, and some universities in North America introduced codes of behaviour which made all sexual intercourse definable as rape if explicit verbal consent had not been given by the woman. Since very little talk is normally exchanged at these moments, some young women were led to believe after the event that they had been raped, and sought to prosecute their partners. 33 Men suddenly felt vulnerable to a charge of rape whenever they had sex. Rape was in effect redefined as any sexual act a woman regretted afterwards. Jokes began to circulate about hopeful young men carrying printed forms to obtain consent in writing from their dates before proceeding to each new step, from stroking a thigh to undoing a bra. The jokes were an attempt to dissipate a real and growing male paranoia at the open season upon men.   

Now much of this campaign was coloured by the fact that the people behind it genuinely felt that all heterosexual intercourse is vile, repulsive and inherently a violation of the woman. As the radical feminist Andrea Dworkin put it, “The hurting of women … is basic to the pleasure of man.” 34 A strain of militant lesbianism which saw all heterosexual intercourse as a form of rape set out quite deliberately to spoil the party the sexes were having through most of the seventies. Lesbianism thrives in periods where relations between the sexes are difficult, and it has a natural interest in creating such difficulties. The free love cult of the seventies had fostered an easy complicity between young men and women in which sexual relationships could form very quickly. It was in the lesbian interest to replace this easy climate with an atmosphere of hostility and suspicion between the sexes. So the free love fashion was attacked as nothing more than  male exploitation of women, and legal measures were taken to repress it. The sexual harassment laws and internal college rules introduced in America in the 1980’s had for their effect (and we may therefore suspect as their aim) to make it much more difficult and even dangerous for any man to approach and enter into conversation with a woman in a public place, whether bar, club or university campus. Relations between male professors and female students were now subject to so much suspicion, and open to so many wild accusations, that a male tutor receiving a female student had to leave the door of his study open as a precaution against calumnious charges. Asking a woman student or colleague out for a date, or even complimenting her on her clothes, could now be interpreted by the courts as criminal behaviour. Gullible liberals, men as well as women, could not see that the agenda behind these laws was not so much the protection of women as the deliberate frustration of relations between the sexes by a group who find such relations inherently repugnant. Their purpose was not only the gleeful satisfaction of sabotaging heterosexual relationships but also the hope of picking up a few crumbs for themselves, as frustrated young women, rendered paranoid of men by feminist propaganda, became more open to the lesbian message and more available for lesbians to prey upon.

The most important weapon in this campaign was a widening of the definition of rape. Mary Koss, professor of psychology at Kent State University, published an article in 1982 in which she claimed “rape represents an extreme behaviour but one that is on a continuum with normal male behaviour within the culture”.35 After an invitation to lunch with Gloria Steinem, this promising new radical militant was commissioned by Ms. magazine to do a national rape survey on college campuses. One of the questions asked of female respondents was: “Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?” Anyone that answered yes was deemed to have been raped. On the basis of this survey, 27.5 per cent of respondents were deemed to have been victims of rape or attempted rape, even though three-quarters of these alleged victims refused to consider what had happened to them as rape  (they were seen as “in denial”.) This figure, based on this single bogus study, has now become a sacrosanct symbol of women’s martyrdom. As Christina Hoff Summers, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Clark University puts it: “‘One in four’ has since become the official figure on women’s rape victimization cited in women’s studies departments, rape crisis centers, women’s magazines, and on protest buttons and posters.”36 Feminists such as Susan Faludi and Naomi Wolf accept it as gospel, the latter emphasising that acquaintance rape is “more common than left-handedness, alcoholism and heart attacks.” 37 In short, in the feminist dictionary rape now includes any sexual relations which a woman has engaged in under the influence of alcohol offered her by her date, for the purpose of lowering her defences or putting her in a mood where she will consent to sex. A man who buys his date a drink and afterwards sleeps with her is by definition a rapist. The vast majority of sexual acts that take place between people who are not married or living together are now defined quite officially by radical feminists as acts of rape, because they take place after going out on a date during which alcohol is consumed (presumably at the man’s initiative, since he is usually the one who orders the drinks.) This is another extraordinary example (following the massive fraud practised by Kinsey) of how bogus research is accepted as “scientific” and enters into a realm of urban myth (like the “one in ten” homosexuals), endlessly retailed by militant academics and intellectuals, long after it has been exposed as fraudulent. (A more reliable figure for rape and attempted rape, including unwanted finger penetration by a date, and attempts “to have sex when you didn’t want it, even if intercourse didn’t occur”, is 7.7 per cent of American women over a lifetime – a figure obtained by a major feminist-sponsored survey of 8000 women in 1998.38 )

The concerted radical feminist attack on the male character as inherently that of a rapist is in some ways reminiscent of the attacks of the medieval clergy on women as lascivious seducers of men. One cannot help reading into certain medieval diatribes against female concupiscence a covert agenda to persuade young men they would be better off evading the carnal clutches of lewd women by joining a monastery where a kind older monk would take them under his wing. In the same way lesbian feminists seek to persuade young women that only in the arms of another woman can they know real love and not a vicious desire to dominate and violate by an inherently rapist male. It is tempting to suggest (all the more so because of its political incorrectness) that whenever in history a new Puritanism tries to dampen the ardour of heterosexual indulgence, we may discern the agenda of a powerful homosexual group behind it. After less than two decades of sexual liberty, the homosexual radical feminists replaced the (often unconsciously) homosexual clergy of the past thousand years as the chief scourges of heterosexual pleasure, determined to poison relations between the sexes for their own peculiar purposes. 

Of course not all feminists, or even all radical feminists, were lesbian. But those who remained in heterosexual mode must have found the ride bumpy. Even in the relaxed sexual atmosphere that prevailed in the 1970’s, ideology is not easy to sleep with. And any ideology which sees half the human race as wicked oppressors – tainted by the original sin of testosterone, born into the evil conspiracy of “patriarchy” – makes it difficult for the “good sex” to pursue harmonious relations with the evil one. A relationship where one partner keeps the other under permanent probationary surveillance, judges him according to an ideological schema and awards brownie points for political correctness is not likely to last long, except with a masochist. Initially a vague men’s movement tried to start up in tandem with feminism, to keep a sort of dialogue with it, and the young men, generally earnest, pacifist types eager to admit men’s historic crimes and promise more considerate behaviour in the future, adopted a sort of grovelling masochistic posture, hoping to placate the women. Instead the feminist women (who, as generally masculine types, naturally prefer masculine men) despised these male camp followers as gutless wimps. One woman journalist quipped: “I’ll take action man over Knitting Ken any day.”39 One of the great problems of feminism is that the masculine women most likely to be feminists (since they reject the feminine role) are sexually attracted (if they are heterosexual) to very masculine men. But the only men who share their ideas and accept equality with them are the least masculine men. The heterosexual feminists ended up dreaming of truck drivers while they slept with poets, whom they generally treated like doormats. Feminists were of course wanting something contradictory: a man who was a stallion in bed and a poodle in the kitchen. This kind of chimera does not exist in sufficient numbers on earth to satisfy feminist demand. Few men who are stallions in bed ever treat women as equals or stay faithful to them. And few men with the gentleness, tolerance and patience to listen to feminist tirades and bow to feminist demands are ever going to be stallions in bed. That is simply the way human nature is. The sex drive of the male, being determined by testosterone, is generally proportionate to his level of aggression and his urge to dominate, and heterosexual feminists were torn between their physical attraction and ideological repulsion for dominating, ultra-masculine characteristics. 

But feminism from the first thrived on contradictions, and feminists generally believe in incompatible things. Most feminists believe that men are by nature more selfish, heartless, ruthless, unfaithful, violent and domineering than women – but that there is no inherent difference in character between the sexes. This contradiction can be entertained only by believing that all these vicious characteristics of men, and the noble characters of women, are purely the result of their social conditioning. But it becomes difficult then to explain the paradox that the oppressed sex ended up with the better character. Is oppression then good for one? And if it has made women better, why should they complain? Another paradox is that men are seen as far worse than women, and yet apparently the more women act like men, the better they become. The same characteristics are to be deplored in one sex but praised in the other. Thus men’s infidelities are a form of oppression, while women’s are a form of liberation from wicked patriarchal possessiveness. Men’s aggressiveness is evil;  women’s is a force of self-assertion, or even self-defence. Men’s resort to prostitutes is a disgusting act of exploitation; but successful women who use male prostitutes have been praised by feminists as brave, adventurous pioneers breaking taboos. Men watching strip-tease shows are woman-hating, sadistic perverts; women watching male strip shows, with raucous, ribald comments, are liberated souls, rejecting stereotypes of passive female sexuality. There are even more paradoxes when it comes to the attitudes of the feminists to the respective rights of marriage partners. Men are to be pushed into an equal parenting role, urged to invest emotionally in their children, but must have no rights to custody of their children once they divorce – and visiting rights must remain subject to the ex-wife’s whims and must never be enforced by courts. Women insist on financial independence from their husbands while they are married, but when they divorce they insist on the ex-husband’s duty to keep them. A divorced Frenchman must even today keep paying his ex-wife substantial alimony throughout her entire life, irrespective of her (or his) financial or marital situation. Any movement to change this is fiercely opposed by feminists (even though second wives are among its biggest victims.) A man who wanted some of his wife’s property on divorce would be a vile gold-digger; a woman who wants a man’s property is merely demanding her due. Gold-digging wives routinely fleece rich husbands after a year of marriage without children. A woman’s attitude to property is that hers is entirely her own, but her husband’s is half hers, and the feminist-dominated courts agree. Women, in short, continue to insist on keeping all the advantages of the old unequal marital system, while claiming all the rights of the new legal equality, but none of its drawbacks. The curious paradoxes of this world-view placed a certain strain on relationships with men for those radical feminists who remained heterosexual. What generally happened is that those who remained committed to feminism gradually became disillusioned with men, and those who remained committed to men gradually became disillusioned with feminism. An ideology cannot demonize half the human race and still expect to live with it on harmonious terms. 





But the new puritanical atmosphere of the 1980’s had other causes besides the militancy of lesbian feminists poisoning relations between the sexes. A general dampening of the world’s spirits resulted from a combination of political crises and economic hard times. Strikes by militant unions paralysed Britain in 1979 and brought in the right-wing hard-liner, Margaret Thatcher, who proceeded to dismantle the old industries where unions were strongest. Iran’s seizure of American diplomats and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan together plunged Americans into self-doubt, from which they also appealed for rescue to a right-wing ideologue. The 1979 oil price shock provoked rampant inflation, which was then strangled by the draconian policies of Reagan and Thatcher, plunging the world economy into recession. As though to add to this morose atmosphere, the new fear of AIDS began to cast its shadow over relations between the sexes. The stage was therefore already set for a retreat from the climate of sexual liberation of the seventies. But there was again, as in the earlier decade, a demographic factor which may well have played a role.   

By the early 1980’s the fall in birth-rates which set in from the mid 1960’s was beginning to have an impact. Just as a sudden rise in birth-rates creates, twenty years later, a surplus of girls on the market, because there are more 17 year-old girls than the 20 year-old boys they are running after, so a fall in birth-rates leads to the opposite – there are more 20 year-old boys than the 17 year-old girls they are chasing (the average two-and-a-half year age-gap at marriage remained constant throughout this period according to census figures in both Britain and America.) Falling birth-rates lead to a surplus of boys on the market two decades later, because they are searching for mates in a smaller year-group than their own. By 1990, the situation of 1970 had been reversed. There were 10,695,936 American men between 25 and 29. They were looking for mates among a generation of girls from 20 to 24 who numbered only 9,344,716. There was shortfall of a million and a third young women, or a surplus of a million and a third young men. This led to far-reaching changes in attitudes and behaviour. 40

In the late 1960’s and 1970’s, when there was a surplus of girls, and the boys found it easy to score, the boys naturally became non-competitive, laid-back and uninterested in material achievements. The age of peace and love saw many young men abandoning much of the competitive male behaviour of the past, dropping out of college, living as bums on beaches, despising the pursuit of careers, not worrying about the future. (I was one of them.) The logic behind it was: “If I can get laid while lazing about as a beach-bum, why work? Why compete? I’ve got it all now. I don’t need the high salary and the BMW to get a pretty girl, so why make the effort? Why give myself a heart-attack?” The whole anti-materialist bias of the hippie culture came from this belief: the best things in life, notably sex and love, are free. But the catch is: they are only free while there is a surplus of girls. As soon as there is a surplus of boys, the girls begin choosing those males who seem to offer most, and the beach-bum begins to miss out. So in the 1980’s as the surplus of girls disappeared, the hippie anti-materialist culture came to a grinding halt. The boys began scrambling for the good jobs and the careers, the credit cards and the BMW’s, because these were now necessary in order to get a girl. This change of attitudes played a large part in the new atmosphere of the 1980’s.  Madonna’s Material Girl, now with the upper hand because she suddenly saw a surplus of boys, began imposing her rules. Instead of the boys’ rules of the 1970’s, sex first and talk later, it was the girls’ rules: show me the BMW and the gold card, the expensive restaurant and the trendy club, and I’ll think about it. This, as much as the economic downturn, explains the sudden conservatism of the young of the Reagan years – the frantic climb up the ladder of success, the BMWs, the golden boys. Money is now what talked, but who did it talk to? The girls. If that’s what it took to get the girls they wanted, that’s what the boys did. Competition was back, and boys compete for girls by getting richer, getting ahead, displaying their wealth. Just as the girls competed for boys twenty years earlier in the ways girls always compete: by putting out, by wearing shorter skirts, by showing they are sexy and available. It was the turn of the wheel. In the 1980’s the boys, now the ones in surplus numbers, had to compete, with credit cards and convertibles, and the girls could hold off – hold out for a real relationship. It was not quite the fifties again, because once the couple was formed, the girls did go to bed. But they insisted on the couple thing first. The eighties brought back the couple. No sex outside the couple. It did not have to be a married couple, it might be a couple that split up after six weeks, but it had to be a couple. The girls insisted, and they were now the ones in short supply, and thus in the driving seat. There is no greater proof than the last twenty years that whenever 18 year-old girls get the upper hand, they find steady boyfriends, they organize themselves in couples. The sexual anarchy of the 1960’s and 70’s was replaced by the relative decorum of the couple scene of the 1980’s largely because the girls were calling the tune. 

I remember watching a TV debate in France in the late 1980’s where 1960’s vintage feminists were talking about the present situation of women, and one of them deplored the couple scene of the young girls coming out of high school. “We won them sexual freedom,” she sniffed, “and what do they do with it? They find themselves a boyfriend and stick to him like a leech. They might as well be married!” she added with a sneer. She could not grasp or accept the fact that these girls were expressing a free choice, their real desire, which was to live in a relationship with a boy, where they got companionship and regular sex in the context of love and affection where girls find sex most enjoyable. They didn’t particularly want a change of partners every Saturday night. They did not see sex as drinking a glass of water, as the Kollantai school of radical feminists recommended. They saw a stable relationship as the ideal context for sex – as it always has been for most women. Once again, the human norm reasserted itself through the natural instincts of eighteen-year olds, coming on the scene in apparent blithe ignorance of everything that has gone before. 




But the end of the sexual free-for-all in the 1980’s, the relative stabilization of short-term relationships, did not lead to a stabilization of long-term relationships. Divorce rates continued to rise, marriages became more fragile. The general conditions in which men and women now lived their lives became if anything more difficult, and placed more strains on relationships, now that the two-career couple and the two-job family were the norm. With the return to competitive behaviour among men, the days of the Golden Boy in the BMW, as well as the new Material Girl – not only scrambling up the job ladder herself, thus increasing competitive pressures on men, but also judging men by their brand of car – a materialistic rat-race set in which left little time to invest in relationships or family. In the new cut-throat competitive atmosphere a certain confusion reigned about what each sex wanted. In the corporate world some of the boys probably imagined that because they were now earning serious money and were prepared to settle down in marriage, the girl didn’t need to earn: she could now go back to raising kids, like under the old contract (and thus take a little of the job pressure off the boys.) The girl had other ideas. She had been taught to climb up the corporate ladder right behind the boy and try to overtake him. The boy, at the moment when he realized he had to compete hard to get a girl, suddenly found himself competing with the girl herself. The prize of all his efforts had become a rival. She no doubt thought this competition would make him respect her – perhaps even be attracted to her. He just wanted to knock her off the ladder like any other rival. The idea of a man feeling sexually turned on by a woman competing professionally with him is a feminist fantasy alien to most male minds. The hostility involved in competition is incompatible with sexual attraction. There is no respect, let alone affection, in male competition, unless it is a ritualized game, a sport. The real thing is life and death. You compete not just to win but to kill. Many women never grasped this. They began to complain about men being mean to them in a work context. It is like someone in a war complaining about being shot at. They even found a new ideological explanation: a male “backlash” against feminism. In fact the problem is that when men and women compete with each other, it always arouses meaner and more poisonous feelings than competing with the same sex. This is because each tries to prevent chivalrous or romantic instincts towards the other from interfering with their hardball game, while hoping to make these instincts interfere with the other’s game. The result is a complex sense of betrayal and unfairness on one or both sides. Secretly each of them sees the opposite sex as by nature required to treat them with more gentleness and consideration, because they are designed biologically to love each other, not to fight. The absence of that gentler treatment embitters them and poisons their relations. The natural attraction between men and women which can make everyday contact between them in the workplace a pleasure, makes direct professional rivalry hell. 

This tense atmosphere in the workplace was compounded by the increasing pace of competition in the globalized corporate economy. American corporations, under pressure from Japan, went through ruthless downsizing, sacking thousands of employees. The collapse of the old heavy industries in Britain left droves of working men unemployed. The scramble for work intensified. The axe was a permanent threat hanging over the head of every worker and every executive every day. The man threatened with the axe is threatened with the loss of livelihood for his family, the loss of their respect for him as a man. Or, if single, he is threatened with a sharp drop in his chances of marrying someone he fancies. He reacts with more aggression to such threats than a woman does, and will be more ruthless in defending his position – precisely because the man has nothing else to fall back on. If he loses his job, he loses all. No one else is going to support him. The atmosphere of companies hence becomes the atmosphere of a jungle. This is not an atmosphere women enjoy. Team spirit cannot flourish when every team member is a rival for your job. The qualities that women feel most comfortable with in the workplace and can best contribute to – team spirit, co-operation, working together towards a goal, mutual support and encouragement – were absent from the selfish, ruthless, paranoid competition of the globalized, downsizing corporation. As the work atmosphere was poisoned with back-stabbing and throat-cutting, with every weapon used including sexism, sexual harassment, and false accusations of harassment, it was natural for some women to wonder if their fight to get into managerial positions had been worth it.

            But the most important effect of the new, highly competitive world (caused by three things: the influx of women onto the job market, the rise in productivity through new technology, and the growing competition from low-cost Asian countries, without any corresponding increase in the consumer market) was to squeeze family life onto the margins of existence. Many ambitious businesswomen did not marry or have children. Many two-career couples put off having kids and had fewer when they did. (The term DINKs or Double Income No Kids was a coinage of the time.) Birth-rates fell. One or two children was now the maximum that could be fitted into such a busy life. If the mother stopped working she wanted it to be for as short a time as possible, for financial and career reasons, which meant a maximum of two kids. If she kept working the logistics of childcare became a nightmare which again made more than two kids unthinkable. But not only did families shrink. They were filled with stress. The strains placed on marriages when both partners were working hard to keep their jobs in the new competitive frenzy led to rows over housework, childcare, time together. Strains inherent in the wider work-system caused marriages to break up, as men and women blamed each other for the poor quality of their lives. Divorces led to more acrimony over property, custody of children, alimony, child support, and visiting rights. Men began to see an inherent injustice in the courts enforcing child support payments but not enforcing fathers’ visiting rights. Women as usual wanted everything and its opposite:  equal parenting responsibilities for the father when they were together, and then no rights for the father when they had split up. Wives insisted on financial independence when they were married, and then suddenly demanded financial support when they divorced. Feminism degenerated into what some dubbed “womanism” : an endless grasping demand for more and more rights at the expense of men, even in areas where the balance of rights was already outrageously in women’s favour. Finally voices among women as well as men began to question whether this whole development had been a good thing. Had it made women happier? Or men happier? Had it made life better? Many writers began a stocktaking as to what feminism in its various aspects had achieved and where it should it be going.

The gradual realization that all was not well with the radical feminist programme of the 1970’s led many feminists to retreat from hard-line positions. The 1980’s saw some famous feminists modifying their stance and criticizing radical feminism and its effects on  society. Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer were only two of the prominent first generation feminists who began to distance themselves from what feminism had become (though for Greer there were still more U-turns ahead.) Some other feminists saw this as mere capitulation to the new conservative era of Reaganism, as a hard-line Republican government tried to roll back feminist gains. Susan Faludi in her 1990 book Backlash tried to rekindle the old enthusiasm in the face of the New Right’s “family values” offensive, and berated what she saw as the apostasy of many of the older feminist leaders. But the movement to modify radical extremism continued, as it did in other domains. A gradual perception arose that the feminist movement had ignored large numbers of women who persisted in seeing family and children as their main source of fulfilment in life and who, although they often wanted some form of socially integrating work, did not want to adopt the frenetic lifestyle of male executives fighting their way up the career ladder. Many women did not see the adoption of a male set of work-oriented values (in pursuit of the holy grail of equal earnings) as an improvement of the human condition in general. The successful woman executive began to be caricatured in the media as an unhappy, neurotic spinster, wishing too late that she had fulfilled her biological destiny by marrying and having children. Feminists who had made a fetish of liberty began jumping in middle age into marriage as though into a lifeboat: even Gloria Steinem finally tied the knot. Meanwhile the feminist thesis of the purely social origin of all mental and emotional differences between the sexes was challenged by new research. The exploration of the biological origin of psychological differences between the sexes became a whole neo-feminist literary industry. While some feminists denied it, and persisted in the dogma of purely social “gendering”, other feminists adopted a belief that there were specific feminine qualities and values that society was ignoring. They pushed for recognition of woman’s specificity rather than her interchangeability with men. The rise in America of a men’s movement in response to feminism (however incoherent and bizarre some of the forms it took) drew attention to the effect role-changes were having on men’s stability and identity. A certain sympathy for men’s position began to be expressed by a number of women writers. A perception arose that happiness in the couple is not going to be achieved by the systematic attack of one sex upon the other and the piling up of laws absurdly biased against men. War is not a good basis for peace, and harmony between the sexes will always be the basis of happiness for the majority. The women’s movement was seen to have been hijacked by women who were not seeking a new kind of relationship with men, because they do not want any relationship with men at all. A movement of women who do not want to be defined only as mothers had been taken over by women who do not want to be mothers. Out of the cacophony of this debate, a new question began to shape itself: does feminism have a future? Has it done its job already? And if it still has a task, what should its direction now be?





            The huge advances made in the feminist cause, the creation of a society of genuine equal opportunities where, in some countries like Britain, women now outnumber men in higher education, and girls outperform boys at every stage of schooling until university, has led to questions about what if anything feminism still has to achieve. On this there are two schools of thought: the radical old guard for whom the movement still has a long way to go, because the goal of equal average pay for women has not yet been achieved, and a new neo-feminist school which argues that the movement has now achieved its original goals and it is time either to pack it up or to revise what it is aiming for. Otherwise it is in danger of becoming a fanatical pushing of women’s interests against men’s, right or wrong, a position some now call “womanism”. The two schools of thought are not a question of generations: Susan Faludi, a younger feminist (born in 1960) is a spokesman of the old radical orthodoxy, arguing that nothing has been achieved, and that suggestions feminism has played itself out are part of a concerted media backlash against it, orchestrated by the New Right. She attacked the first generation feminists like Friedan and Greer for having become revisionists, playing into the enemy’s hands. Underneath this dispute lay a division between what we might call radical feminism and liberal feminism. It is because their conception of the goals of feminism were very different that they reached different conclusions as to whether the movement had achieved them.

            It is easy to see that the radical feminist vision of an absolutely gender-blind society, with equal numbers of males and females in every category of occupation, from politicians to full-time home-makers, has not come about, and it is increasingly unlikely that it ever will. While in certain professions such as law and medicine, gender parity is close, in others such as engineering it is a long way off. While some professions like engineering are heavily dominated by men (with up to twenty times as many in some branches), others such as primary school teaching are now overwhelmingly dominated by women. Politicians and homemakers remain among the most polarized occupations. In countries that do not have quotas for female politicians, women members of parliament still remain under the 20 per cent bar. In England and Wales two and a quarter million women, or nearly 12 per cent of the adult female population, defined themselves in the 2001 census as full-time homemakers. In contrast, only 170,000 men, or less than one per cent, are full-time homemakers.41 The question then becomes: in professions with a huge disparity in numbers between the sexes, where does this disparity come from? Does it result from stubborn pockets of discrimination and stereotyping, or is it a sign that the two sexes want, in large numbers, quite different things? 

To take the example of homemakers – leaving aside the fact that the women home-makers probably belong largely to the pre-1970’s generation – the question is still worth posing: does the disparity in numbers come from the unwillingness of men to play this role or the unwillingness of women to accept them in it? How many women really want to renounce their closeness to their babies or toddlers and spend ten or eleven hours a day absent from them, while they provide the financial support that enables their husband to play the parenting role full-time? Clearly some women do, but will there ever be large numbers of them – equal to the numbers of men making this choice? Whatever women’s theoretical beliefs in both the equality and interchangeability of the sexes, investigations into women’s attitudes after giving birth reveal enormous resistance among young mothers to giving up the primary parenting role to their husband. 42 The special biological bond of mother and baby, which women are so ready to assert (and the courts to acknowledge) when it comes to custody cases after divorce, also seems to condition the number of choices made by each sex to become a full-time parent for a certain number of months or years. Many women, it has been found, give up highly promising careers with extraordinary insouciance at the call of a tiny being in a cradle – a very different reaction from men, who often become obsessed with providing financial security when paternity strikes. Fathers, often impressed by the unique role of the mother in breast-feeding, may well express their protective instinct towards their new-born baby by making it possible for the mother to be with it all the time. This may lie behind the far greater providing instinct of men towards women and the greater readiness of men to support women financially in the full-time mother role – something which also influences the number of women who choose this role. Far fewer women seem naturally inclined to support men at home (where they have a choice.) They seem to get very little psychological satisfaction from this, compared to the satisfaction men seem to get from supporting a wife at home with a baby. And very few men seem naturally attracted towards “good providers” among women, or feel comfortable being provided for. Women, on the other hand, even today are still attracted towards wealthy men, and this attraction does not diminish with their own financial success. The first thing a successful woman seems to look for is an even more successful man (so as to maintain her freedom to stop work when the maternal instinct strikes.) The first thing a very successful single man looks for is a beautiful young woman of child-bearing age, and her earning power is a matter of total indifference to him. These divergent attitudes have survived the feminist transformation of work roles.

To evoke such traditional attitudes in both sexes only convinces some feminists that nothing has changed, and that men remain incurably addicted to a dominant role. But does this greater male willingness to support a woman financially represent a wicked male instinct of domination, or a “good” male instinct (if there is such a thing to a feminist) of generosity and protectiveness? It is possible to interpret it both ways. Above all, is this “provider” instinct of men a biological one (like that of the farmyard cock, which calls its hens when it finds food and lets them eat first) or is it socially conditioned? This is now the crux of the argument over the persistence of huge differences in the choices men and women make, apparently quite freely. Should the persistence of these differences of choice, such as the vastly smaller number of men who choose to be full-time homemakers, be seen as a sign that stubbornly entrenched inequalities born of wicked social conditioning remain to be overcome? Or should it be seen as marking the limits where the ideological drive to absolute equality runs up against differences between the sexes which are biologically based, because linked to male and female hormone? 

          This has become then the core of the debate within and around feminism at the start of the new millennium. Is the radical feminist vision of a totally gender-blind society – with as many househusbands as housewives, and as many women as men in the police, in the army, on boards of directors, in mechanical engineering firms, auto-repair garages and in kindergartens and primary schools – still the goal and the measure of progress? Or is it quite simply a mad, totalitarian vision based on a now-discredited notion that the two sexes have exactly the same emotional, psychological and mental characteristics? Should it be modified in the light of what is now known about the biological base of personality differences between men and women? And should we consider that a gender-equal right to be whatever one’s character and ability fit one for has broadly been achieved in most Western countries already? In which case feminism, at least in the realm of jobs access, should roll up the carpet and call it a day? 

This debate goes to the heart of the difference in outlook between what we have called liberal feminism and radical feminism. Liberal feminism believes that women and men should have the same opportunities to achieve whatever they want as individuals. Radical feminism believes in changing society so that women and men will want the same things. Only then will they end up with the same levels of achievement in every field. Liberal feminism is generally thought to have already achieved its goal – equality of opportunity. Radical feminism believes that the struggle must go on until there is equality of achievements. There are still fewer Nobel prizes going to female scientists, so there is clearly no equality. There is still not equal average pay, because the top managers are mostly men. To the radical feminist this is still an unacceptable injustice. The liberal feminist is willing to acknowledge that fewer women than men may have the single-minded, obsessive ambition to reach the top, whether in business or science. The radical feminist sees this very lack of single-minded ambition as proof of the oppression of women, a product of centuries of conditioning in mothering behaviour while the men have had a “free ride” in the domain of parenting. The liberal feminist accepts that many women may want a more balanced life than men, more equally divided between family and professional ambition. The radical feminist sees this as the very reason to set to work gender-bending, to end this difference in outlook, by making men more motherly and women less so. Put simply, liberal feminism believes in giving women what they actually want, and radical feminism believes in changing women until they want what they ought to want, according to radical feminist doctrine. 

Which feminist agenda, one might ask, should democratic governments be following, the liberal or radical one? It is clear that at present it is the radical feminist agenda which still dominates most government policies throughout the Western world. This is largely because radicals, through their very fanaticism, climb to the top of every movement, and Western governments, looking to appoint feminist spokeswomen in various key positions, have almost always chosen radicals, because their feminist credentials look the most serious.     

To take a simple example: a British government science expert, Lady Susan Greenfield, in her report to the trade and industry secretary in November 2002, called on the government to take urgent action to keep women in science, engineering and technology. Her report deplores the tendency of women to leave these professions in mid-career to have families, and demands measures to push women up the career ladders (rather like the positive discrimination or quotas practised by Scandinavian political parties) to ensure a 40 per cent representation of women at the top echelons of the scientific community. This is to be done by tripling the number of women appointed to the science, engineering and technology advisory panels and research funding committees. The goal is to ensure that “the UK’s knowledge driven economy benefits from the talents of the whole population and to ensure that women benefit from the opportunities afforded by it.” 43 This argument assumes that scientific and engineering talent is by some natural law equally distributed between the sexes. Thus, if women are a minority in the top levels of these occupations, this can only be the result of discrimination against them, which must be redressed by reverse discrimination. This measure to bring about “justice” and equality of representation in domains like science rests on a radical feminist premise that the sexes have no natural inclinations towards one domain or another. Yet all the evidence refutes this assumption. While the number of female medical scientists in the USA equals the number of males (in the 2001 census) the number of male engineers is nine times greater than females, and in mechanical engineering over twenty times greater. In computer sciences the males predominate by five to two, and among chemists by two to one. Surely these anomalies indicate a gender preference, the hoary old difference observed in high school where the girls prefer biology and the boys chemistry and maths? If this difference really did result from discrimination by men, why does it not apply among medical scientists? Are male medical scientists less sexist than mechanical engineers? Or are women simply more interested in medical science than in engineering?

Furthermore, Lady Greenfield’s report does not take into account the possibility that the top echelons of research are dominated by scientists who are totally dedicated beings, living and breathing science every moment of their lives, and there may well be more males than females who want to live like this. Now of course every facility should be provided to enable women scientists, if they choose, to stop work briefly to have children and resume work quickly afterwards before they fall too far behind in a rapidly changing field. Perhaps the lack of such family-friendly organization of work and career structure makes a certain number of women leave science after having children, as Greenfield claims they do. But that is a very different measure from installing a quota system for women in top jobs. If women choose not to come back to science after having children, for many that may well be a personal choice. They may lose interest in a highly competitive, workaholic field because they see its incompatibility with the life-work balance they want. Many women in business do the same: they enjoy a few years as a young corporate high-flier and then decide to devote themselves to family and let their husband carry the burden of the mortgage. According to Lady Greenfield, women who abandon science for children are not making a valid personal choice (having given one phase of their lives to science, they now want to give another phase of it to their families.) Instead she sees them as depriving the country of their brains, and therefore necessarily disillusioned victims alienated by a sexist system. Moreover, they should be given immediate financial and power inducements to reverse their choices, as if their choice to raise children is of no benefit to the nation whatever, and child-bearing should be left to the stupid masses.

Yet the evidence is accumulating that there is a very real difference in the way the two sexes perceive happiness. Far more women than men seem to seek a balance between family and professional lives which is not always compatible with the highest levels of professional achievement. We will argue in a later section that for the vast majority of jobs a reduction in working hours is desirable because it would enable both men and women to have a better life-work balance and encourage bigger families and a higher birth-rate. But there are certain creative and intellectual jobs where work is a twenty-four-hour-a-day thing. Thinkers and artists don’t stop thinking about their intellectual problems even at night. Caroline Herschel, who helped her astronomer brother William in the late 18th century, had to poke bits of bread into his mouth as he slaved over his telescope or he would not have eaten at all. For these vocations life is sacrificed for work, and nothing can be done to change that. And perhaps it is a simple biological fact that more men than women are willing to sacrifice every other aspect of their life in the pursuit of an intellectual idea (the famous compartmentalized male brain.) In the USA today less than seven per cent of inventors’ patents are taken out by women. This indicates a huge preponderance of males among the technical monomaniacs who invent things. A lot fewer girls than boys spend all their free time in basements trying to build their own computer or short-wave radio. In short there are far more male nerds than female nerds. To try to bribe or bludgeon an equal number of women into the same technical and intellectual obsessions as men when their own emotions are telling them to stop and raise a family shows a lack of respect for women’s own choices, and a desire to impose on them the choices of a totalitarian ideology. Behind it all lies the radical feminist conviction that the entire maternal instinct is a patriarchal plot to keep women down. The shadow of certain stern figures of the Victorian emancipation movement, who saw maternal feelings as a figment of patriarchal conditioning, and women who wanted children as traitors to the cause, still lies across the radical feminist vision of today.

            The call for positive discrimination in intellectual fields such as science raises worrying possibilities of a lowering of standards for reasons of political correctness. In a field such as political representation we can accept a certain lowering of standards through quotas because politicians are seldom called on to show much in the way of intellectual genius. Democracy requires the widest possible representation of views, and women are as good at communicating as men. But in the domains of specialized knowledge, to have the sex of the candidate weigh more than their knowledge and ability when making key appointments that will influence research in a whole field is potentially disastrous. It is a return to the situation of totalitarian regimes where party membership counted more than ability or knowledge. But it is even worse than that, since it is possible for an ambitious and talented person to join a party (even hypocritically), whereas it is not possible to join the opposite sex. What is essential in fields like science is precisely to ensure that there is no sex discrimination in either direction. The premise that unequal representation and achievement proves discrimination is an extreme radical position, and it is not compatible with the present state of knowledge about how the two sexes differ (on average) in their characters and specialized abilities. It is not even compatible with the evidence we have of the huge difference in performance between boys and girls in mathematics at the highest level – in the USA, as we pointed out earlier, there are thirteen boys to every one girl in the very highest category of mathematical ability. Lady Greenfield’s call to make sure the country “benefits from the talents of the whole population” will not in fact be served by positive discrimination in favour of women, since there is every indication this will be giving top science jobs to lesser talents than would have had them otherwise.

            Yet the premises of radical feminism remain at the root of government initiatives all over the Western world. The obsession with trying to create a balance of genders in each profession is one aspect of this. Throughout the West, the domination of women in kindergarten and primary school teaching is deplored, despite the fact that in every culture on earth small children have always been looked after by women. In the Swiss city where I live, efforts are made to persuade more girls leaving school to apply for apprenticeships as car mechanics and discourage them from becoming hairdressers and beauticians. These efforts bear little fruit, and the feminist bureaucrats throw up their hands in despair. The less academic working-class girls stubbornly insist on becoming hairdressers and beauticians, because they care about hair, beauty and fashion, and most are indifferent to car engines and don’t want to have dirty fingernails. To the radical feminists this represents the deplorable triumph of sexist brainwashing. To many other people it seems to be the assertion of the natural inclination of these girls. The radical feminist believes that social stereotyping is preventing girls from choosing to become mechanics. This belief assumes that as many girls as boys want to become mechanics up till a certain age and then sexist brainwashing takes over and the girls flee the field for fear of becoming unattractive to the boys. Is there a shred of evidence of this happening? Is it not obvious that girls start developing their own tastes and favourite activities, different from boys’, as early as kindergarten? How many girls secretly buy car magazines? And does the girl who bucks the majority trend and chooses to become a car mechanic face any serious prejudice today? If we find a girl working in our local garage, do we refuse to have our car serviced by her? Surely we assume she has been trained for the job, though we may also assume she is a kind of tomboy, and as such belongs to a small minority among girls. The radical feminist position supposes that without sexist brainwashing huge numbers of girls would be tomboys and would want to become garage mechanics. There is simply no evidence of this. The thesis of an invisible population of tomboys likely to suddenly manifest themselves in a more favourable environment is a rather far-fetched one. Tomboys are generally boisterous and highly visible, capable of making their voices heard and getting their way. (Some cynics would see feminism itself as a tomboy phenomenon – the demand of a few tomboys to be allowed to play with the boys elevated to the level of an ideology.) There is of course still a stereotyping of certain jobs as mainly done by men and others as mainly done by women, and this may influence choices. But the barriers have already been broken down for those of the minority sex who seriously want to enter these professions. There is no real need for reverse conditioning or reverse discrimination. Our society has already largely achieved the liberal feminist goal: a world where individuals can be what they want, where the girl determined to become a garage mechanic, or the boy determined to become a hairdresser, can do so (even if the boy in particular has to put up with a certain amount of flak from his friends.) Any cases where someone flagrantly tried to stop them would make it into the newspapers and probably the courts. 

But the radical feminist position, that human wants themselves need to be changed, retains a tenacious ideological hold on all government thinking in this area. The conviction that people need to be freed of wicked prejudices and conditioning is a constant of the cluster of neo-Marxist ideologies that came out of the 1960’s. Radical feminists, like all the New Leftists who fell under Herbert Marcuse’s influence, believe that society is a conditioning machine and what people want is merely what they are conditioned to want. This ultimately goes back to Rousseau and the wildly misleading notion of a naturally innocent humanity distorted by wicked education. According to this way of thinking, if the two sexes do not want exactly the same jobs in exactly the same numbers this is because they have been conditioned by an evil sexist society. This sort of mindset made Marxism an explicitly anti-democratic ideology: the will of the people is a brainwashed will which should not be listened to. Radical feminists take the same totalitarian position: what today’s women say they want is the result of their patriarchal conditioning and should be ignored. What an “unconditioned” woman would really want is mathematically equal representation with men in every single occupation, from mechanic to kindergarten teacher, and nothing else can be considered a true expression of her wishes. The fact that most women do not seem to want this (or at least do not make the choices that would bring this about) is only the proof of how deeply and wickedly they have been conditioned, and how long and hard the battle to condition them the other way is going to be.

            This radical feminist position retains an enormous emotional hold on the intellectual classes today because of its history. Educated people are well aware that the argument about what the sexes are naturally suited for was used throughout the nineteenth century to keep women out of fields like medicine and science. It seems inconsistent to argue that theories about the natural inclinations of the sexes were wrongly used to discriminate against women then, but may be rightly used to explain differences of choice now. But the contradiction is only apparent. Because a principle (that of the natural inclination of the sexes) was invoked abusively in the past (to oppose what many women said they wanted), this does not mean it cannot be invoked legitimately in the present (to explain what many women say they want, and why it does not conform to radical feminist dogma.) It is now the radical feminists, not their opponents, who have  an a priori conviction as to women’s real nature and desires, and refuse to accept most women’s actual choices as free. To the radical feminist any woman whose choices do not conform to feminist dogma is not a free agent but a victim of centuries of brainwashing. Neo-Marxists do not believe any choice is free which goes against their doctrines. To a normal mind, women’s over-representation among kindergarten teachers is no more a sinister proof of sexist conditioning than their over-representation among cat owners. But for the radical feminist both of these things are  a sinister proof of brainwashing. They both result from what the radical feminist considers the wicked conditioning of girls in soft, motherly, nurturing feelings, something which should be cured by a ban on dolls and teddy-bears, along with compulsory combat sports and a spell in the army. With this kind of rigorous, gender-neutral upbringing, girls would soon turn out to be just as interested in cars and engineering as in children or fluffy animals. Behind the radical feminist’s vision lies a conviction that the process of “gendering” of personality is entirely social and not biological. And all the evidence of recent research will never persuade her of the contrary. Because that would mean accepting that her own masculine preferences are not the result of her strong-minded refusal of social conditioning but are at least partly due to her atypical biological make-up. This would make the radical feminist not the vanguard of a universal change but an exception, one of a minority of rather masculine women, who will not in fact be followed by the majority of women in the future. And this seems to be a perspective which people who see themselves as pioneers do not wish to face up to. 





            The whole question as to whether liberal feminism has already achieved its goals and radical feminism is a goal too far takes on a more emotive edge when we move to the question of equal pay, the holy grail of radical feminism. There is a certain amount of  confusion about the exact figures of the famous gender pay gap in various Western countries, and it would take a whole book to sort them out. Statistics from censuses in the US are riddled with contradictions, and it is hard to pin down what the average pay gap is (what the census gives as the average pay gap does not add up from the figures given for every sub-group.) There is frequent confusion between the gap in hourly pay and the gap in monthly pay. The former gap may reflect injustice; the latter may simply reflect the longer working hours of men. Figures are often presented as though they still meant a pay gap between men and women for the same jobs (something now illegal in most Western countries), whereas what they usually reflect is a difference in jobs done by the two sexes, and possibly rates of promotion in the same field. While this pay gap may well owe something to a lingering traditional tendency to reward the “primary breadwinner” of the family more, a number of other factors may be far more important. 

Firstly, far more men than women work full-time and very long hours. This means they not only benefit from overtime pay, but also have more responsible jobs, since these are usually full-time. In America, over twice as many women as men work part-time. In Britain the difference is even greater: 42 per cent of women with jobs work part-time (defined as less than 30 hours a week) and only 10 per cent of men. Another 22 per cent of British women work between 31 and 38 hours a week, bringing the total working less than 39 hours to nearly two thirds of women, according to the 2001 census. Among part-time American workers women’s hourly earnings are actually ten per cent higher than men’s, evidence that there is no direct pay discrimination against women (the pay gap reflects an age difference, as male part-time workers tend to be younger.) But  part-time workers of both sexes earn far less per hour than full-time workers. Figures for all American part-time workers show that salaries jump from a median of $270 for a 30 to 34 hour week, to a median of $542 for a 40-hour week. 44 This huge discrepancy, a doubling of wages for a 6 to 10 hour a week increase, shows the significance of the pay-gap between part-time and full-time work. The largest part of the wage-gap from which women suffer is therefore not the disadvantage of being women but the disadvantage of being part-time workers – a choice most of them make in order to have more time for their children. 

Secondly, more men than women work in jobs that were highly unionized in the past and were often in strategic heavy industries. Men in these jobs fought more effectively for higher wages, because they had more bargaining power. A country can be crippled by a miners’ strike, but not by a hairdressers’ strike. It is the historic accident of relative bargaining power that has given certain male-dominated occupations a wage advantage, not any social consensus as to their greater value. In addition, more women than men work in jobs like nursing and teaching where an ethic of altruism and caring makes strikes for higher pay seem slightly immoral. The fact that these are often state sector jobs does not help matters in times of tight budgets. (On the other hand, men in state sector jobs such as mining paid the price for their successful wage bargaining: after huge pay hikes for miners in the 1970’s, British coal mines were simply closed down in the 1980’s as uneconomical, and the men became unemployed.)  

Thirdly, most men put in longer years of service than most women because they do not  take time out for children, and therefore end their careers in more senior posts. This greater length and continuity of men’s careers is often denounced by radical feminists as unfair: men have a “free ride” in parenting, and are therefore able to devote themselves to their careers with more single-mindedness. In the view of these feminists, the answer is for women to demand that men should stay home with the children just as often as women do. The assumption they blithely make is that most women would want this. Now while a certain number of women do want to work full-time while their husband stays home with the baby, the question is: how many of them do? Will it ever be fifty per cent? All the evidence shows that many women resist giving up the prime parenting role to the man, and that the choice to stay home comes from the woman herself, and her far greater possessiveness towards her baby. Moreover, men accept women’s financial dependence far more readily than women do men’s. How many women simply come home one day from work and announce to their husbands: “I’m tired of this job, I think I’ll stay home with the children.” And the husband, instead of saying, “No, you won’t, you lazy cow, get back to work and earn your keep!” meekly accepts his wife’s right to stay home and live off him. This decision (as a recent comic piece by Rod Liddle in The Spectator pointed out) is often provoked by the wife’s jealousy of the au pair’s lifestyle, lazing by the pool reading as she watches over the children. 45 Imagine the reaction if the man suddenly became envious of the au pair’s lifestyle and announced he was going to stay home and live off his wife’s earnings. She would be calling a divorce lawyer within minutes. What most feminists are in constant denial about is that work is a drag and when women give it up it is less often in a spirit of self-sacrifice than of weariness, if not bone idleness. In short, the choice of a woman to stay at home is nearly always her own initiative, undertaken for her own comfort, not the man’s. Many men would dearly like to have the same freedom, but they know most women would refuse to keep them. Women demand the right to work when they feel like it, provided they are not condemned to carry the burden of the mortgage alone for the rest of their lives. What works in women’s favour, of course, and seems to justify their relative under-employment, is their greater biological urge to be with their small children, which the man generously accepts. This famous unique bond between mother and child is of course something every feminist vigorously asserts when it suits her and strenuously denies at all other times. But this greater female nurturing instinct is what lies behind the disproportion in the numbers of women and men who choose to stay home with the kids, and the far more important disproportion between the numbers of men and women willing to support a semi-idle spouse pottering about the house or browsing the boutiques. 

Fourthly, more men than women are driven by the ambition to earn more for their families rather than spend more time with them, and therefore take on jobs with longer hours, more stress and higher pay. The latest American labour department statistics show that on average men work an hour and a half longer per day than women in full-time jobs. In Britain a quarter of men work more than 49 hours a week, and only seven per cent of women. This disproportion suggests that  more women than men approve of their spouses making these choices, and push them to do so, because they want the extra money for a better house, kitchen, furniture, clothes and holidays. Women also bask in the reflected glory of their husband’s higher professional status, whereas men do not usually acquire the high status of their wife. The boss’s wife is a power to be reckoned with; the boss’s husband is a standing joke. It is therefore quite often the wife who is the main driving force behind her husband’s greater ambition, because it is also her way to reach the top of the social heap. She is quite willing to regard her husband merely as a bank account, and to see far more of the fashion boutiques than she ever sees of him. Women who have made it to wealth and status through marriage are looked up to and respected by other women as highly successful. For a woman to have manipulated a rich man into paying for her life of idle luxury, or better still to have plundered him in a spectacularly profitable divorce suit, is the height of female achievement in the eyes of other women. In contrast, men who have gained wealth by marrying a rich or famous woman (or plundering her fortune in a divorce, where that is possible) tend to be despised by most other men as gigolos, valets, chancers, or con-men. The success of a man always magnifies his wife; the success of a woman often diminishes her husband. There is the asymmetry that fuels men’s ambitions, and undermines women’s. A man is ambitious for both; a woman for herself alone. 

These then are probably the main reasons why women continue to earn less on average than men – and not any direct discrimination in pay or promotions. (Among British middle managers, the latest figures show that women now earn more than men, which suggests that direct pay inequalities are no longer significant.46) The biggest single reason is the large number of women who (quite intelligently) choose to work part-time, and the fact that such jobs are less well-paid per hour than full-time jobs. The idea that women are deliberately confined to these jobs by a wicked patriarchal capitalist system is nonsense (they generally have to fight bosses to obtain reduced hours.) These are life-choices, which indicate women’s different (and saner) sense of priorities. Instead of the feminists deploring the fact that so many women work part-time, they should be militating to get better pay and conditions for part-time work and to make more of it available in all fields. Why should the full-time, high-stress, high-earning career be seen as the norm or the ideal, merely because it is usual among men? (Paradoxically, some feminists have praised women’s better life-work balance as more healthy, while denouncing the part-time work and lower female income that allows it.) Almost all the young women I have had occasion to question on this subject (and over years of language teaching I have asked at least a thousand European women, as it is a standard discussion theme): what would be the ideal solution for you when you have children, reply: part-time work. The question is no longer why women should be confined to this role, since they clearly want it (if it is available.) The question is why men should be forced to go on working forty, fifty, or sixty hours a week  and shouldn’t have the same choice. Why, in short, can’t both partners work part-time and still survive – on a total of forty or fifty hours a week per couple, as their parents did in an age when productivity was many times lower? 




            The crucial problem of all Western societies today is the pressure upon people to work long hours. It is this pressure which often results indirectly in the disadvantaging of women in the career stakes, because they more often reject the lifestyle of overwork, and are more often in a position to do so. With the intensified competition of the era of globalization, the issue of how much time employees can be expected to devote to the company has become crucial. Young male employees and junior executives can generally be ridden harder and forced to work longer hours than young women – if only because girlfriends and wives are more understanding of the long hours than are boyfriends and husbands. The young woman often refuses (or gives up) the ten hour day and the weekend at the office because she wants a life. The young man has been brought up to believe this is life, and he is condemned to it. It is men, not women, who are conditioned to a life of slavery. It is women who are most likely to reject such a life as unbalanced – sometimes after proving for a short time that they can do it just as well as a man can, before settling down to raise a family while he pays the mortgage. Women in managerial positions who also have families are those most aware that this kind of life is unsustainable in the long term. They are so overloaded with work and stress, they see so little of their children, that many decide it is not worth it, they are losing too much else they value in life. Men are often less sure what else in life they have to fall back on, and accept the stress load. The wife who resigns a high-powered job and decides to play homemaker for a while knows that, on one level, she will be pleasing her husband. The man who does the same will not usually be pleasing his wife. She will soon start asking how long he is going to remain idle while she pays the bills. For these reasons, the ultra-high-stress job may see the man last longer in it than the woman – precisely because the woman has more choices.  

The ultimate cause of the inequality of the sexes is the fact that men are programmed (whether by nature or nurture) to accept their spouse’s financial dependence upon them as a sort of tribute to their protective ability, something that reinforces their sense of worth. A dependent, helpless woman (if she is young and attractive) is even a sexual turn-on for a man. Women, on the other hand, are not programmed to accept men’s financial dependence upon them as a tribute to their protective ability or a reinforcement of their sense of worth, and it is certainly not a sexual turn-on for them. Most women are profoundly uncomfortable with male financial dependence, whatever they pretend, and will soon make the man feel like a loser and a freeloader. This difference in the “providing instinct” creates an essential difference in liberty between men and women. Married women generally have the choice – work or stay home – while men do not. For all these reasons men will try harder to stay in the high-stress job even if it kills them (which of course it does, about seven years on average earlier than women.) Women will resign long before that point. This means the higher stress level in executive jobs today (as companies lay off middle executives and expect those remaining to do the job of two) is becoming a new factor that militates against women and gives men the competitive edge. It suggests that the holy grail of women’s equal average earnings will remain an unattainable goal and the glass ceiling will remain in place. It is also becoming a new factor confirming man in his traditional role of provider and preventing him from liberating himself from the one-dimensional slave-life he is condemned to lead. Men have no choices in life. If they want regular sex, a wife and children, they must be breadwinners, and devote their whole lives to doing it well. Their lack of choice is what drives them to achieve.

The persistent advantage of men in the corporate working world – a good part of the famous earnings gap, related to the greater number of men in top jobs – is therefore not mainly due to a male conspiracy, but simply to an ambition gap: more men try harder for longer. For every one woman who is single-mindedly determined to get to the top, there are ten men. And the reason more men try harder is that they have no choice, because women have no instinct to provide for men, while men do have an instinct to provide for women. This does not mean most women will ruthlessly divorce a husband who has become unemployed. It does mean they will hesitate to marry one, whereas a man will usually not give a thought to the fact that his prospective wife is unemployed, or has little earning potential. If he does think of her in this way, he will be despised as a mercenary sleaze, whereas it is accepted for a woman to see a man’s earning potential as an important quality. As soon as a woman becomes pregnant, no matter how “liberated” she may be, she begins to see her man primarily as a provider of the material comfort and security she and the baby will need. This instinct is so deep-rooted in women that they feel an attraction towards rich men even when they are well-off themselves. This sharpens men’s appetite to succeed. Now while the feminists have tried with some success to destroy the male’s instinct to provide for the female (by supporting gold-digger divorce laws which enable young, childless ex-wives to fleece ex-husbands), they cannot create a female instinct to provide for the male. It is a rare woman (outside the milieu of prostitutes and pimps) who takes pride in keeping her husband idle at home, or paying for his shopping sprees in the fashion boutiques. Women are so uncomfortable earning more than their partner that Scandinavian studies have found that the higher a woman’s salary compared to her husband’s, the greater her tendency to divorce – the divorce rate hugely increases once she earns more than her husband. (We may call this the “What am I doing with this poor jerk?” syndrome.) The husband’s higher salary, on the other hand, correlates inversely with the divorce rate, and is a factor for marriage stability. 47 The lack of any instinct in women to provide for a man will forever prevent complete economic equality, because it gives men a motivation – fear – that most women do not have. Men know that if they fail as breadwinners then what probably awaits them is divorce, loss of their children, loneliness, and in many cases depression, alcoholism, Skid Row and death in the gutter. Most women are not faced with that fatality. If they fail professionally, they can always depend on their husband’s salary if they want, because he really doesn’t mind keeping them. This asymmetry will always make jobs seem more important for men than for women – both in their own eyes, and in the eyes of those handing them out, or deciding who is going to lose them.  





















            The main consequence of the feminist revolution in the roles of men and women has been, at its simplest, the emergence of the slave society. The mass entry of women into the work market has meant a rise by a third in the amount of human energy that goes into paid work in Western societies, as opposed to family life, child-raising or leisure activities. And astonishingly, instead of individual working hours being reduced as a third more people work, working hours have increased for most men as well. The question that cries out for an answer in any debate on work roles is this:  why in an age of ever-increasing productivity, and with the largest proportion of the population in the work-force in human history, should we be working longer hours than thirty years ago? What fuels this frantic competition, which has accelerated noticeably over the last decade and which the term “globalization” is used vaguely to account for? Why should middle-ranking executives who thirty or forty years ago worked a forty hour week now be working a fifty or a fifty-five hour week? Why do a quarter of British men (and seven per cent of British working women) work more than 49 hours a week?

People generally explain this by saying that we live in a highly competitive business environment. But what does this mean exactly? It means that the economies of the industrialized nations are in a stage of permanent oversupply of goods and services, in relation to market demand. Quite simply, there are too many companies out there, with too much  capacity,  competing for a limited  market. Hence the countless bankruptcies as one or another goes under, the jockeying for better market positions through mergers and acquisitions (followed by cost-cutting layoffs), the constant pressure on employees to be more productive than their competitors, work longer hours, give more time to the company, have less time for families, etc. There is too much capacity, too great a supply of goods and services for the demand, so each supplier must try harder and harder to get his piece of the market – both by drenching the population in advertising campaigns to consume, and squeezing more work out of his employees. This has reached the point where for every car sold today, half of its price represents the cost of marketing and sales – that is, the colossal effort required to persuade the customer to buy something that he feels very little real need for. The countries with the highest growth (seen as the most successful) are those which have developed a frantic materialistic consumer life-style, with non-stop shopping and very high personal debt, like the USA and Britain. Societies which resist frantic consumerism, such as Germany and Japan, have low-growth or stagnant economies, and their industries only succeed by exporting. Newly industrializing countries like China, which also have relatively weak consumption because of low wages, depend largely on their massive exports to the frantically-consuming USA, which is running up dangerously high trade deficits. Western companies now produce more and more of their goods in China and other low-cost Asian countries, increasing the disproportion between an ever-growing supply of goods and a stagnant or even shrinking Western demand, as Western workers lose their jobs. The much-touted “globalization” or removal of tariff barriers in recent years has increased the pressure of competition even further by removing any last geographic or political limits to it. It has also functioned as a whip to hold over employees’ heads by making it clear that the situation of oversupply of goods and services and frantic competition is now permanent and all-pervasive, since no country or region can any longer be protected from it.

Now defenders of today’s capitalism regard this ferocious level of competition as a perfectly natural phenomenon. They think it merely demonstrates the ruthless Darwinian nature of the capitalist system. They think it keeps the system healthy by eliminating the weaker enterprises and keeping up efficiency (and keeping down wages) by the threat of unemployment held over workers’ heads. But what is the human benefit of this intense level of competition? Lower prices? But if wages are held down while working pressures increase, if you are pushed to work and consume more and more and have less and less time to enjoy what you have, this hardly results in any gain in well-being. Nor is there any great human benefit if this alleged lowering of consumer prices through more efficiency leads to more bankruptcies, more lay-offs, higher unemployment, constant stress and insecurity, and a life spent merely trying to keep head above water for the majority of the population. This frantic level of competition is something new, with particular causes.  It did not exist in the 1960’s, for example, when capitalism functioned with maximum efficiency and benefit to all because it was serving real expanding demand. The problem now is the mismatch between supply and demand. Demand is not expanding as fast as supply, and this poses the same danger it did in 1929, when low workers’ wages meant that the main consumers were a quite small middle class. A sudden shrinkage in their purchasing power through the stock market crash meant the bottom fell out of the market for goods. It could well do so again. Today’s excess of supply over demand is caused by three things. First, the huge surplus of labour, due mainly to women’s mass entry onto the labour market without any cut in working hours, as well as high immigration policies designed to keep wages low (the five million unemployed in Germany are the latest proof of that surplus labour, even in the world’s leading exporter.) Second, constant rises in productivity through new technology. And third, more recently, the entry into the world market of new low-wage manufacturing nations, whose workers are used by Western companies to make goods for Western markets but are paid wages too low to help consume those goods. All this adds up to an excessive production of goods and services relative to real world demand. In America these goods are only absorbed by constantly pushing consumers to outrageous levels of spending, even at the risk of enormous personal debt and zero savings. There is even pressure to reduce the taxes that fund social services and public infrastructure so that this money can go into buying more goods. (The shift from public to private education and health care all over the West is an example of this, and it is clearly also a shift towards more inequality.) In Japan, where the people in recent years have refused to be pushed to over-consume, the result of the over-supply of goods has been falling prices or deflation. Japan avoided this in the 80’s by phenomenal levels of exports, and is trying to do this again. The problem is, the only method we have at present of cutting production to the level of real demand is by bankruptcies – and these cause higher unemployment, which is socially unacceptable. Unemployment makes welfare budgets and deficits rise, as in Germany at the moment, and also increases crime, as in Britain in the 1980’s. It is also economically disastrous, because when unemployment rises, even those people with jobs become scared of the future and cut their spending. Hence the market shrinks even further, demand is even more inferior to supply, and the result is more bankruptcies and job losses, in the familiar downward spiral of a recession. How do we get out of this bind?

If we want to reduce production to the level of real demand what we have to do is to create a form of unemployment which is socially acceptable and does not scare those with jobs into cutting their spending (and further reducing demand.) The only kind of unemployment that fits this bill is to reduce the working hours of everybody.

This is the logic that has been screaming to be heard for the last thirty years. We had this kind of “benign unemployment” in the 1950’s and early 60’s by leaving most married women economically “idle” at home. The mass entry of married women into the work market pushed the proportion of people working or wanting work from around 38 per cent of the population to 50 per cent in most Western countries. No modern economy can actually keep 50 per cent of its population employed (three quarters of them full-time) for any sustained period, especially with rapidly rising productivity through new technology – except by frantically dumping its goods abroad, as Japan did in the 1980’s. Of course there has been some growth in part-time work already, especially for women, but it has not been general enough. For everybody who works 20 or 30 hours a week, there is someone else forced to work 50 or 60. Only a quarter of working people in Britain work less than 30 hours a week, and most of them are women. A quarter of men work more than 49 hours. Nor are things going to be solved when the baby boomers hit retirement age and we have a huge proportion of retired people. This will again reduce the proportion of people working to even lower than 38 per cent of the population, but the idle majority will not be children and wives living in households with a breadwinner happy to support them, but old people living alone who will have to be paid pensions. The social security burden will then become intolerable. To imagine that people will give huge amounts of their salary to the taxman and pension funds with the same willingness as men once gave it to their wives and children is utopian. Tax and pension burdens of this size will discourage people from working. The only sane course is to reduce working hours now for everybody while there is still time to encourage family life and higher births before the pension and ageing crisis strikes with full force. Reduced working hours will not just rebalance supply and demand: they will also rebalance our lives and enable us to have children again, thus re-balancing the population.

The complacency with which European governments have accepted the fall in birth-rates to an average of around 1.5 children per female (1.2 in some countries) as something “inevitable” is scandalous. It is the same spirit of helpless, gutless resignation that leads some Third World governments to accept starvation, corruption, the AIDS epidemic or soaring crime rates as “inevitable” and to give up trying to deal with them. The reasons for the fall in Western birth rates are crying out: the stress of the modern lifestyle of overwork, the lack of time for family life, the enormous difficulty and cost of getting child-care for the two-career family, the outrageous expense of children as clothes, toy and video-game companies ruthlessly target child consumers, the soaring divorce rate caused by the stress of overwork, the impossibility of coping with divorce with more than two children, the exorbitant cost of housing in most European cities so that nobody can afford space for large families, the frantic competition for jobs so that career women no longer dare to stop work to have children for fear of permanent exclusion from the job market, and hence limit themselves to a quickie single child – all of these reasons, which any young couple contemplating children will enumerate, are linked to the work system. The sheer cowardice, dishonesty and irresponsibility of politicians in dealing with this question are astounding. The argument that nothing can be done to change people’s minds about having children is like the argument that nothing can be done to change people’s minds about taking drugs, or spreading AIDS through unprotected sex or by exchanging dirty needles. It is like the argument that nothing can be done to stop people becoming homeless or sleeping in the streets. It is sheer abdication. It is a refusal to see that these things do not happen by an act of God or as a result of human wilfulness or some inevitable historical development. They happen because of the irrational and mindless organization of the society people are forced to live in.

The connection between birth-rates and working hours is clear. In the 1950’s and early 1960’s, the last period when all European countries had replacement level birth-rates, the average couple worked less than fifty hours a week between them – men worked forty hours, and only a small number of wives worked at all, and most of them part-time. Couples today in Britain work an average of seventy hours a week between them, and some couples work a hundred hours a week. That is why there is no time left for children, who, as any parent will tell you, take time. It seems extraordinary that so few people in power seem to have noticed that the feminist drive to make all women work has left nobody to look after the children. That means simply having fewer children. If there are to be more children, there must be more time at home with them, by one parent at least, which means cutting working hours per couple. It is clear that government action on working hours can have an impact on birth-rates. France is a good example: reduced working hours (the famous 35 hour week) combined with high child allowances for a third child and other family-friendly measures appear to be responsible for a birth-rate among the strongest in Europe. At about 2 children per female, close to replacement rate, this rate is all the more surprising in a country with a long history of weak natality. It is hard to know how much of this robust birth-rate is due to the ten per cent of Arab and African immigrants, as this data is not available, but it looks as if white families are also playing a major part. The Swedish government has also had a very definite impact on birth-rates, by deliberate pro-natal policies. These include shorter and more flexible working hours, very long maternity (and paternity) leaves guaranteeing that parents taking time off for babies can keep their jobs, generous child allowances, the right to take time off for sick children, as well as state child-care for children from two years old. These measures led to a boom in Sweden’s birth-rate during the 1980’s, to a high of 2.14 children per female, or around replacement rate. However, in the 1990’s with economic recession and some cutbacks in the generous benefit system, the birthrate fell sharply to below 1.5 children per female, the European average.1 It is now rising again as the economy improves, but the sudden fall perhaps indicated an unintended effect of the Swedish system.

Some argue that measures in Sweden to make women financially independent of men by transferring the support system for children from the husband to the state (through the provision of almost free crèches and nursery schools) has undermined the psychological urge to have children, even while it has removed the material obstacles. Marriages in Sweden are decreasing in number, divorce-rates are very high and most children are born to unmarried couples. Marriage is being replaced by unstable cohabitation (which is sometimes a sign of the man’s lack of commitment to family.) It may well be that having created the material conditions for having larger families, the Swedes have undermined the emotional satisfaction in being a father. If the man’s transfer of resources to his family no longer takes place individually but collectively through the high taxes he pays, it does not engender the same satisfaction or the same bonds of gratitude, love and pride as it does when he makes this investment in his family personally. It is rather less satisfying to have fifty per cent of your salary taken away and given to all the women and children in Sweden collectively, than to give this money individually to your own wife and children. By eliminating all notions of dependence in the marriage relationship, the feminists think they have eliminated “inequality” and given the wife “rights”. But they have also eliminated all the emotional satisfaction coming from the sense of effort, sacrifice and long-term investment in those you love, as well as the sense of a shared life project that binds the couple together. It is perhaps the loss of these things which is causing marriage to become unstable – to become a mere temporary arrangement which lasts while the pleasure lasts – and birth rates to fall again, as men lose much of the personal satisfaction in being fathers. In replacing the man’s “providing instinct” with state provision, the Swedes may well have undermined the man’s biological urge to have children. The instinct of fatherhood may be more closely bound up with the man’s instinct to protect and provide for those dependent upon him than fashionable ideologies would like to think. When you remove the “paterfamilias” or the “patriarch” in man, what is left may not be a docile house-husband but a feckless playboy. Remove the family’s dependence on the man and you remove much of his sense of duty towards it, as well as the couple’s sense of their responsibility to stay together. The utopian aim of removing all financial dependence from the marriage relationship in order to make its continuation a free choice by each partner may in fact leave it so shallow and hedonistic that it may be abandoned by one of them at the first hurdle or the first temptation. Thus the Swedes’ child-care policies, by shifting responsibility from the father to the state, may well have undermined the parental instinct and the stability of marriages, even while making families easier to have. This may well have neutralized the positive measure of reduced working hours, which is the single most effective way of increasing births – giving people time to invest in family. 

How this reduction of working hours is to be achieved is the critical question. Both  companies and trade unions are still stuck back in a rigid, century-year old structure of full-time work leading after forty years to a one-time, definitive retirement at 60 or 65. Company pension funds still encourage a life-long stay in the same job. This no longer corresponds to contemporary reality. We live in a world of periodic company layoffs (even for managers), restructuring, take-overs, bankruptcies, career changes, all of which demand flexibility, multiple jobs over a lifetime, and ease of transition from one job to another. Nor does it correspond to what most people now want. Most people in their fifties and early sixties (like young parents in their twenties) want to work fewer hours, and most retired people want to keep working part-time. Companies will only create this flexibility if they are forced by governments to do so, since no company will innovate in ways that might reduce their competitiveness in relation to others. In the largest companies no CEO will take the risk of major innovation of uncertain benefit: his focus is on his own company’s profits, not the health of the whole work system. Governments have got to start by reducing hours globally as the French did. A first step has got to be an absolute ban on overtime. There should be a ban on work for more than 40 hours a week, even by managers, unless they are themselves the owners of a company. These extra hours should be done by employing someone else. The fact that salaried managers say they want to work long hours should not be an excuse. We should stop people engaging in self-abuse, and a work week of longer than 40 hours should be defined as self-damaging behaviour, the same as drug addiction. It represents a short-term view of life, ignoring that ten years down the line the person may bitterly regret the sacrifice of personal and family life to short-term ambition. And in undermining family life this behaviour (if it is generalized) is a threat to the future of the nation.

The reason we should ban this behaviour is the same reason we should ban the use of drugs in sport. If we let some people do it, we in reality compel everyone to do it, just in order to compete. A huge number of people are being forced to sacrifice their family and marriage to a life of slavery, merely because those competing with them are doing it. If companies can easily find somebody else prepared to put in a 55-hour week, then you are obliged to do it or lose your job.




There is therefore an absolute logic in a move by governments to cut working hours, since companies are never going to do it themselves. The recent French socialist government should be saluted for reducing weekly hours to 35. This policy has been criticized for not producing the new jobs counted on. But the reason for this is that this “left-wing” measure can only work if accompanied by “right-wing” measures: reducing the burden of red-tape on companies, making firing easier and therefore hiring less risky, and removing the crippling social charges which deter employers from hiring people and new companies from setting up. No measures of this kind were taken, so naturally the reduction of hours created no new jobs (though it probably helped raise birth-rates.) The subsequent right-wing government in France, instead of adding the necessary right-wing measures, has repealed the left-wing one – thus demonstrating that stupidity is equal on both sides of the political divide. The right-wing electoral slogan : “We will not become more competitive by working less” won the debate and the last French election. And it was fundamentally misguided. It is not by improving one’s own competitive position within a system heading for the wall that one will save the whole system. It is only by reducing the total amount of work done in order to keep everybody gainfully employed at the hours they want that we are going to reduce the supply of goods and services to the level of real market demand and ease some of the suffocating pressure of cut-throat competition – without scaring people into cutting their consumption (as happens with bankruptcies and unemployment.) Because society demands for its social stability (i.e. keeping low unemployment) a level of production which exceeds the level of demand, we have ferocious competition, insane pressures to consume, constant bankruptcies and a climate of fear. The only way to solve it is to change the terms of the equation and to reduce the level of production required to keep everybody employed. And this cut in working hours (and increased flexibility) will not only sharply reduce unemployment, but will raise birth rates as couples can breathe once again and take time for their children. 

The complication we face is how to bring about these changes in one country alone without losing competitiveness, at least temporarily. In the globalized market, with WTO and European Union rules stopping any form of protectionism, there is reluctance to take steps that may lead to a competitive disadvantage – especially given the dependence of all economies now on multinational companies violently against these changes (and threatening to shift factories away from any country that innovates in this way.) Yet if we look at Norway and Sweden, we see they have managed many of these innovations – a maximum six-hour day for parents of small children, for example – without any loss of competitiveness at all. This is largely because their own companies, including major multinationals based there, share the progressive, pro-family ideology – that family must be favoured by the work system. The philosophical and moral commitment of Scandinavian business people to the wider human goals of society is what has led them to make every effort to make these changes work. Unless we can persuade business people in other Western countries of the need for similar pro-family policies there will be no progress in reducing working hours.

But in order to make it possible to reduce working hours without losing competitiveness there must be a reduction in both the social charges on companies and the enormous burden of bureaucracy that stops them employing more people. The higher productivity, lower absenteeism and capacity to employ more people that should accompany shorter hours will only take effect if companies are freed of bureaucracy, freed of the whole burden of calculating the taxation, social charges and social allowances of employees, and are free to hire and fire. It is an irony that it is the socialist unions with their endless demands for more social benefits paid by employers that keep the capitalist company locked in a paternalistic role. If the whole system of taxation and social contributions from salaries were taken over entirely by the state, and the employer simply paid his workers a gross wage and told the state what he had paid them, there would be a gain in time and money for companies which would largely offset the reduction in working hours. In the era of national computer data bases there is no longer any excuse for using the employer as the instrument of taxation and social security. One of the reasons smaller French employers opposed the 35 hour week (and the hiring of more people to make up the hours) is because every French worker has an enormously complicated pay-sheet (often running to over twenty lines of deductions and allowances) which takes many hours each month to calculate. Every new employee means another pay-sheet and masses more paperwork. If this work were given to the state,  the employer would happily take on a larger work-force on a 30 or a 25-hour week, with two shifts of workers a day. Without this freedom from bureaucracy, he never will. And along with this removal of paperwork, the entire company pension system should be scrapped. Given today’s work pattern of multiple employers over a lifetime, there is no reason why they should be involved in retirement pensions, with enormously complicated transfers from one employer to another, and appalling consequences when companies go bankrupt. Company pensions should be replaced by individual pension schemes paid for by workers themselves, instead of treating them as children or half-wits too feckless to save for the future. The employer should simply pay a much higher gross salary, and the worker should take his own responsibility to set some aside for his own retirement, if he wants something in addition to the universal state pension. This will remove the absurd disadvantage from which older workers often suffer in getting another job – their higher company pension costs.    

Perhaps the most important step towards universal reduction of working hours would be to reduce them first for the over-sixties. In an age when most people live well into their seventies or eighties, retirement will have to be pushed back. The whole problem of the looming pensions crisis, the shortage of workers to pay for the retired baby-boomers, is one that can only be solved by taking a different view of work. Why should people stop working at 60 or 65? What politician, writer, artist or business tycoon ever retires at that age? They go on as long as they can because they love work. Retirement is social death: that is the message of every study done of it. It means exclusion, social isolation, mental decay, a sense of uselessness, and a feeling that life is already over. The argument that people deserve retirement, that they have earned twenty years of paid idleness, is grotesque pre-war socialist nonsense. It is like saying that someone has earned twenty years of unemployment. Even in a country like Switzerland, which pays its unemployed eighty per cent of their last salary for two years, very few people regard unemployment as a reward. Because for most normal people it involves a feeling of marginalization and exclusion, a loss of identity, a sense of worthlessness far more serious than any drop in earnings. How is retirement any different, except for the word? How can retirement be a reward if unemployment is a curse? The truth is that work is necessary to people’s sense of worth and of social integration, and all the more so since those over sixty-five are fitter and more energetic than ever before. The thing that is wrong with work is the stressful amount of it that people have to do. Cut the working hours of people over sixty to four hours a day. And let them work till they are seventy-five or until they fall ill. If France can be governed by a seventy-five year old president, the Catholic Church by an eighty-four year old Pope, and the American Supreme Court by an eighty-year old judge, then what is wrong with a seventy-year old shop assistant, teacher or hairdresser? That is the solution to the retirement problem. Abolish retirement, except for the ill and the very old. But make part-time work available for all levels of responsibility on decent conditions : good pay and reasonable job security (the need to give notice and pay indemnities proportionate to years worked.) It is high time we ended an absurd organization of work where forty years of frantic slavery is followed by fifteen to twenty years of total idleness and social exclusion, when children have already left the nest and no longer need the parents’ time. A reduction of working hours earlier in life when parents need time for their children, and part-time work in old age, would make both parenting and old age happier periods.  

This is the only way we can deal with the crisis of the ageing of the huge baby-boom generation over the next five to thirty years without financial disaster because of the pension shortfall, and without the social disaster of more immigration. But it will also have another effect. As younger people see the over-60’s enjoying a lifestyle of four hours work a day and the afternoon on the golf course, more of them will want the same thing for themselves. The norm of  part-time work for the old will convince the young of the benefits of a leisurely lifestyle. And companies will see that their work can be reorganized for part-time workers and will be more willing to see the system spread. As the young demand the right to work shorter hours, they will have more time for families and will have more children. The next step after part-time work for the old must be part-time work for all, a reduction of working hours to an average of twenty-five or thirty per week. This alone can restore family life and raise birth-rates again, as people have time to devote to their marriages and their children. A more varied, healthier and creative life will be possible for all, and in these conditions the desire to have children will return. There may be a time lag before birth-rates rise again, which may lead to a slight drop in the population after the baby boomers die. This would not be a bad thing. A  ten per cent per cent drop in the population of Britain and many other European countries would probably have benefits. A Britain, France, or Italy of 54 million people rather than 60 million would be a happier place. It would ease pressures on housing and traffic, making housing cheaper and more plentiful and commuting distances shorter. Pollution would fall and so would stress levels. With much cheaper housing (house prices only rise because of artificial shortages) a family could live comfortably on two part-time salaries. Larger families would be possible, which would then stabilize the population. No shortage of labour would result from this slight fall in population, if older people were kept in part-time work till they were at least seventy. There would still be enough young people to do all  the manual jobs. Students should pay their way through university with labouring jobs, as they used to do – a custom which helps to close class differences and motivates them to succeed.





The argument heard against reducing working hours is that we now live in a global economy and we will never compete with the emerging economies of Asia if we work fewer hours than them. But the idea that employing more people on reduced hours will increase costs is simply false. If salaries are proportionate to work done, and there are gains in productivity and paperwork, and lower welfare and tax burdens as the unemployed are absorbed, costs will fall. But more fundamentally, this argument is a misunderstanding of how capitalism functions. It is extraordinary how the belated emergence of some of the poorest and most backward nations of the earth into the industrial age is now represented to Westerners as a deadly threat to their future, rather than a wonderful achievement, which we have spent billions in aid trying to bring about. The emerging countries are seen purely as competitors, not as new customers. This attitude rests on an obsolete Darwinian world-picture of ruthless competition for a fixed, limited market, and prosperity as a zero sum game (you can only become rich by making someone else poorer.) It ignores the essential interdependence of economies, and how they function as one another’s markets as well as competitors (just as workers also function as consumers, so it is not in your long-term interest to keep their wages low.) You do not prosper by making other countries poorer, but by making them richer so they are able to buy your goods. If you want to sell expensive goods, you will be better off trading with Switzerland than with Bangladesh – so surely it is better if Bangladesh becomes more like Switzerland. The global market can only be expanded by sharing work more equally between the West and the underdeveloped world in order to give them the means to buy what we produce. The argument that unless we are prepared to work the same hours (and even, logically for the same pay) as they work in Indonesia or China then companies will move production to those countries and we will lose jobs, is a simplistic one which presupposes there is only one kind of work that we are all competing for. This argument is used to increase pressure on the work forces of advanced countries, in a kind of backward drive towards Victorian working conditions, or a “race to the bottom”. In reality, the transfer of a certain number of manufacturing jobs to low-wage countries is not only inevitable but highly advantageous for all of us in the long term. It will help to even out the unfair distribution of wealth in the world, which is above all an unfair distribution of work. Letting the less developed world do more of our work will generate wealth for them and enable them to buy more of our goods and services. If it enables us to concentrate on high-value-added jobs which we do better, we will gain from this process. It is absurd to see European socialists fight tooth and nail against transferring factories to the Third World and in the next breath call for more Western aid and investment in poorer countries. French leftists in particular violently oppose the transfer of any French factories to low-wage countries, but they have proposed a tax on financial transactions in order to create a fund to give the poorer countries more “development aid”. What do they expect this aid to “develop” in these countries if not industries, which will then compete with their own and put some of them out of business? How will the result be different from simply transferring the factories there in the first place? (Though perhaps we should see this as mere cynicism: the leftists know that development aid will simply go into the pockets of bureaucrats in the poorer countries, and will never result in any productive jobs or rise in their exports, as factory transfers certainly will.)

            But it is one thing to see both the inevitability and the long-term benefits of globalization and job transfers to poorer countries; it is something else to believe that we are going about it the right way. The way this is happening today, this process is a potential disaster. This is partly because Western countries have just spent the last fifty years importing Third World immigrants, many of them with low qualifications, to do precisely the factory jobs that are now being transferred abroad (and the multiculturalist liberal-left supports still more immigration, more asylum seekers, more imported marriage partners, at a higher level than ever before, long after there are no more jobs for them.) What are we going to do with these populations as the unskilled jobs all move abroad? Raise the educational level of Bangladeshi factory-workers in Britain till they all become IT geniuses? Transform the black drug-pushers on French housing estates into company lawyers? But this will take at least another generation, if not two or three. The transfer of jobs abroad is happening right now, not in a generation. There is an even more fundamental problem. If Western countries were simply facing competition from lower-cost countries, they could respond by using their ingenuity and intelligence to innovate and create high-valued-added jobs in their own country. (They could respond as the Swiss did to the Japanese and Hong Kong watch offensive of the 1980’s: bring out a cheap but technically sophisticated watch as a fashion icon, using their design savvy, and sweep the Asian market.) But the fact is today Western companies are not competing only against Chinese companies. They are mainly competing against their own companies installed in China. Sixty per cent of China’s exports are from Western-owned and managed companies. This means that all the technical innovation of Western brains is no longer going into finding the answer to Chinese competition; it is going into increasing the sophistication of Chinese competition. The moment a young Western entrepreneur thinks of a brilliant idea, his instinct is not to put that idea to work in a Western high-tech factory to counter Chinese competition, but to put it to work in a Chinese high-tech factory where costs are several times lower. We have in a sense fallen into a trap in which China’s open door to Western investment has become a drain on the investment in money and brains that should be going into our own economies – to invent the high-value work that should be replacing the low-level work we are losing. And when one considers that the key components of China’s success are an artificial exchange rate which amounts simply to cheating by massively subsidizing exports, a 44 dollar a month minimum wage, a docile work force with token official unions that cannot strike for higher wages, and a totalitarian system in which millions still languish in the gulags for religious convictions and political offences, it is extraordinary that this transfer of allegiance by the Western economic elite is taking place. A communist country, with a communist dictatorship and gulag system still in place, has managed to persuade a large proportion of the capitalist class of the Western world to transfer the investment of their money, brains and energy into the Chinese economy instead of their own, and in the process to drive their own economies slowly bankrupt. It is an extraordinary conquest of capitalism without firing a shot. The Chinese have simply appealed to greed, the chance of massive profits and the exploitation of an inexhaustible supply of slave-labour, and they have succeeded in winning over the economic elite and brains of the capitalist West to work for them instead of for their own nations. There has been no more craven moral capitulation by Western capitalists to the temptation of cheap, servile labour since the 18th century African slave trade. And nor has there been a greater example of economic treason by the elite. The Chinese communists read the Western capitalist mind and soul and concluded that the capitalists would sell out their own  children and grandchildren for instant profit. And they were absolutely right.

            This means that the conventional argument of the pro-globalization camp – that globalization is good for everyone because the loss of low-tech manufacturing jobs to Asia will be made up for by the creation of new high-tech jobs for ourselves – does not reflect what is happening at the moment. There is very little Western creation of new high-tech jobs for our own workers going on. Our high-tech brains are not going into our economies. They are going into the Chinese economy, and increasingly into the Indian economy, as it becomes the software centre of the world. Our workers are left unemployed or flipping hamburgers for the minimum wage. The revitalization of Western economies by a new round of innovation is not taking place, because our innovative brains no longer feel any loyalty to their own workers, their own economies or their own nations. They are just as ready to put their innovations to work in India or China and create work for them at one twentieth of the cost in wages.  But the problem is that they are still relying on the buying power of Western people to buy all these goods being produced in low-cost countries – while that buying power is being eroded steadily by the loss of Western jobs. For Germany, still in 2005 the leading exporter on the planet, to have over five million unemployed (around 12 per cent) should have set alarm bells ringing. With this level of unemployment, clearly there is not enough buying power left in Germany for it to consume its share of the surplus goods the world is producing. Even some advanced industrial countries are beginning to resemble the high export, low consumption profile of China. The only sector where the West is still able to create or at least maintain jobs is the financial services sector. As Asia becomes the world’s manufacturer, the West is becoming the world’s banker and insurer.  But is that enough? Will it be enough to keep up enough mass buying power in the West to absorb the vast quantities of goods now being made in the East? It is very doubtful. We are heading for a situation like 1929: the over-dependence of all producers on a small market of well-off consumers, which, if it undergoes the slightest contraction (as it did in 1929 with the stock market crash), will send the world economy into a tailspin. Today this small rich market is the Western population: and the inevitable shrinkage in its buying power as it keeps losing jobs means that the factory closures in the West will soon be followed by mass factory closures in Shanghai.

            The capitalist system has historically had two tendencies: we might call them two-tier capitalism and mass consumer capitalism. Two-tier capitalism is based on the principle of using the cheapest possible labour to make goods for buyers who are a different category of people from the workers themselves. This type of capitalism wants to keep wages as low as possible so as to maximize the profit margin when goods are sold to a rich class of consumers. It was the system whereby early Victorian workers were paid starvation wages to produce goods for a rich upper class. But a second kind of capitalism, mass consumer capitalism, was given its great impetus by Henry Ford, who in 1915 doubled his workers’ wages to unheard of levels because he wanted them to be capable of buying the cars they were making. This kind of capitalism is based on a single-tier society, where workers and consumers are more or less the same people. The wages of the workers are sufficiently high to enable them to buy the goods they make, in a sort of benign equilibrium between production and consumption. This is the kind of capitalism which was embraced by social democratic parties in Europe after the Second World War – a kind which believes in stimulating economic growth by expanding mass purchasing power, that is, by raising the wages of workers. This social consensus emerged after the experience of the Depression of the thirties had made the failure of two-tier capitalism clear to all: the small class of consumers didn’t have enough buying power to absorb all the goods being produced by low-wage workers. A sudden shock to their confidence and willingness to consume (when a stock market crash wiped out the savings of some of them) and there were suddenly not enough prosperous customers left to buy all the goods being churned out. Factories tried to compete by cutting wages, laying off workers, and finally began closing, all of which reduced consumption even further, in a downward spiral nobody knew how to get out of – until John Maynard Keynes suggested pumping purchasing power back into the economy by state deficit spending on public works (which is exactly what Roosevelt did.) This laid the foundation of the system of mass consumer capitalism of the past half-century – jump-started by the unifying effect of the war and the spirit of gratitude to the returning working-class soldiers, providing them with fair wages and low-cost mortgages to build the homes fit for heroes. We shifted to this system of mass consumer capitalism, where wages are high enough to enable workers to be major consumers, because the older system of two-tier capitalism had proved its fragility and collapsed.

But there is always a tendency among capitalists to want to return to the two-tier system by the back door. They seek by all means to recreate a system where they can make huge short-term profits by uncoupling the worker from the consumer: employ one set of people on starvation wages to produce, and sell the goods to another set of people with high incomes. No sooner had mass consumer capitalism raised wages in the 1950’s than the capitalists tried to get round it by means of immigration – importing people from very poor countries willing to work for very low wages, while selling to the rest of the population. It had limited success because the immigrant workers after a few years began demanding (and getting) the same wages as the rest (thus imposing a need to keep importing more fresh immigrants with lower expectations.) In the past  decade they have hit on a far better solution. Instead of importing the workers from poorer countries, they export the work itself to even poorer countries still. Set up the factory in a country where wages are rock bottom and can be kept low permanently by a dictatorial government. Thus with globalization the more ruthless capitalists have succeeded where even with immigration they failed: a permanent separation between worker and consumer – shifting their production to low-wage countries, while continuing to sell their goods in high-wage ones. They have reproduced on a global scale the fatal imbalance of the 1920’s and 1930’s : the jobs of millions of poor workers depend on the capacity of a small rich elite to buy all the goods they produce. It is a new global two-tier system: poor Asian workers produce while rich Westerners consume. But unless measures are taken to make this global two-tier capitalism evolve rapidly into mass consumer capitalism – by paying Asian workers high enough wages to become major consumers of the goods they produce – we are heading for another crash. Sooner or later the transfer of jobs away from the West will reach a critical point where Western consuming power shrinks drastically – as American middle class consuming power did in 1930. When that happens the entire world economy will sink into a deep depression. It is probable that, as in the 1930’s, this depression will push certain nations into violent nationalism. The dictatorial rulers of China, fearing mass upheavals, revolution, and national disintegration as factories close, may well play the nationalist card and become an aggressive, expansionist regime. Nuclear war with the USA, notably over Taiwan, will then become a serious possibility.

            The problem is that globalization is happening without any rules to make it fair. Some countries are simply cheating, by pegging their currencies at absurdly low rates, giving them huge cost advantages, and keeping their wages down by repressive police state systems that do not allow collective wage bargaining or strikes. The West was so happy to see communist China enter the global market system instead of remaining a dangerous maverick state that they allowed it to do so on conditions that are now totally unacceptable. All countries in the WTO should be required to have floating currencies. They should also be required to allow free trade unions. If not, the difference between China’s present wages and what their wages would be if free unions were allowed should be charged in tariffs on their goods. Otherwise a race to the bottom in wages is inevitable. It is all very well for the global corporate capitalists to take a harsh line with “spoilt, over-paid Western workers” and demand that they take a cut in salary to more “realistic” world levels. They seem to forget that they depend on the buying power of these same overpaid Western workers to buy the masses of goods which their companies are producing with state-subsidized Chinese slave labour. The corporate globalizers are wanting to have it both ways: cut Western wages and buying power, yet keep selling masses of goods to the West. It can’t last. There will either be an economic crash or the system will have to change. If Western governments will not impose fair rules on China (a free-floating currency exchange rate and fair collective wage-bargaining), then the only way for Western workers to protect themselves will be to start boycotting Chinese-made products. A new Boston tea-party in which Chinese imports were thrown into the sea would start to give the multinationals pause for thought. It might lead to a more serious approach by the West to imposing a level playing-field by making the Chinese stop subsidizing their exports with an artificial exchange rate and slave wages. No country should be allowed into the WTO without a free-floating currency. Since the yuan is pegged to the dollar at a rate roughly three times lower than its real internal buying power, there should be a 300 per cent tariff on all imports from China. Yet as with the Japanese export offensive of the 1980’s when every bureaucratic tactic was used by the Japanese to keep out Western imports (French skis and American baseball bats were all too dangerous for Japanese conditions, or not the regulation size), Western officials, economists and politicians seem incapable of defending their own interests. They seem terrified of being accused of protectionism as though it were a cancer – because of the popular right-wing myth that protectionism caused the Depression of the thirties. This is false: the cause was low wages and a downward spiral of wage-cutting and job-cutting, depressing demand. (The American economy shrank by a third in the early thirties, yet had never depended on foreign trade for more than ten per cent of its volume.) In fact Western governments and economic experts seem to want to use the Chinese export offensive as a stick to beat their own workers into submission, and they accept blatantly unfair practices by China without serious protest. Western self-hatred is at work even in our own governments, economists and corporations. They don’t seem to grasp that the fat, overpaid Western workers they despise are keeping the new Asian slave-economy going by buying its products. And they won’t be able to do it for much longer if the fanatics of globalization keep driving down their wages by immigration, transferring their jobs abroad, and throwing them out of work.

            We are therefore faced with a paradox. Globalization in its present form is a disaster for the West, even though we know that in the long term it ought to be a good thing – the transfer of some Western jobs to poorer Asian countries will spread wealth more fairly, expand the world market and provide us with new markets for our goods. But this long-term benign effect is dependent on several conditions. First, that the playing field is level, and some countries (like China) are not simply cheating by subsidizing their exports through artificially low currency exchange rates, keeping wages low by totalitarian repression, and keeping their own internal markets closed to outsiders. Second, that the developing countries allow their wages to rise through free wage bargaining by free trade unions (otherwise they will never become consumers of our goods in their turn.) As we saw with South Korea, the shift from an entirely export-oriented economy to one with a healthy internal consumer market only happens when  democracy develops and free trade unions are able to push wages up. We will not see this shift in China unless democracy is allowed to develop there as well. But there is a third condition: that there is an effort by Western innovators to create the new sophisticated jobs in the West to replace the old low-level jobs we are losing. If this does not happen, but all our innovators put their energies into Asian-based enterprises not Western ones, then we will be net losers from globalization. If these three conditions are not present, but we allow this mass transfer of Western jobs to Asia to accelerate, then we are heading for a global economic crash.

The loss of jobs in the West will soon reduce Western purchasing power and make the West unable to continue absorbing the masses of goods produced in these low-cost countries. If the wages of these Asian countries do not rise quickly, they will not be able to buy their own goods instead, and their factories will begin closing. Having created a more interdependent world, with more economic specialization in each country, and more export-dependent economies, we have also created a world system that will collapse faster into general dislocation when things go badly wrong in one part of it. The great global depression will probably come sometime during the years 2012-2025 when the mass of Western baby-boomers retire and a huge part of the Western population shifts from being high-earning and high-consuming workers to low-earning and low-consuming retirees. The consumer binge of America in particular, which has sustained the world economy for so long with its buying power, will suddenly come to an end, leaving a debt-ridden, deficit-ridden, high-tax economy. The low-wage Hispanic immigrants who are replacing the childless baby-boomers will no longer be able to keep up the frantic consumption – and the Asian exporting countries will be left high and dry. There will be mass unemployment and mass unrest throughout Asia. And the chances are that their political systems (especially in China) will not be able to deal with mass unrest without barbaric repression or a fascist foreign policy. 

            We have already seen the measures required to prevent this: imposing free-floating currencies and free wage-bargaining to level the playing field and raise Chinese mass consumption. If this is done the West will be able to deal with its own major problem of falling birth-rates by cutting working hours and shifting the emphasis in life back to family. This will allow Westerners to have more children (who will have the cultural background to become highly educated and skilled), instead of importing more unskilled immigrants for unskilled jobs that will no longer exist. A start would be to replace retirement by part-time work until the age of seventy or more, and then gradually spread part-time work to all sectors of the population, so that full employment on reduced hours can be maintained without over-capacity, over-production and frantic competition. Third World immigration of any kind, whether arranged marriage partners or economic migrants disguised as asylum seekers, must be stopped. No Western country needs more unskilled labour, and no Western nation has the right to syphon off the skilled labour of poorer countries. Only an absolute end to immigration will allow the integration of existing immigrants, by stopping the constant reinforcement of their culture of origin by newcomers. This is the only way of maintaining social cohesiveness, national unity and ultimately democracy itself. And as the work system is rationalized on shorter working-hours, the West, and particularly Europe, will have to limit and partly reverse globalization by returning to more local production and consumption. This is the only way to prevent the environmental damage and the waste of energy involved in the unnecessary transportation of masses of goods continent-wide and world-wide. Global warming can only be stopped by attacking its economic causes: unnecessary trucking and shipping, because of globalized trade. Taxing transportation at its real environmental cost and banning cross-border mergers would be a good start in the return to economic decentralization. At the same time a movement of people away from the mega-cities of the centralized economy will lead to healthier living conditions in smaller, less polluted towns, with more space and cheaper housing, conducive to larger families.

The world we should strive to build should be the exact opposite of that being built at the moment by the gurus of globalization. It should be a decentralized economic system which produces and consumes more locally, stops mega-mergers and the formation of gigantic, all-powerful multinationals, preserves the environment from needless transportation of goods, saves energy (especially increasingly scarce petrol), puts human values, families and stable birth-rates first and preserves the variety and distinctness of human cultures by limiting immigration and avoiding the risk of inter-community political rivalry and violence. If immigration is stopped completely then the population of Europe will probably fall temporarily as the baby boomers die. This will be a positive thing, and will contribute to a sustained, long-term rise in birth-rates as more and cheaper housing becomes available and an environment with more space, less pollution, less traffic, less stress and less overcrowding triggers the baby-making impulse again. Decades of misguided high-immigration policies and cramming people into huge cities, exacerbated by the EU single market with its industrial concentration, have induced a sense of overcrowding and a consequent psychological sterility in Europeans – as stress and overcrowding does with rats. People crammed into high-rise city apartments, living stressful, overworked lives, amid traffic congestion and pollution, have fewer children than those living in small towns with spacious houses and gardens (and one parent at home or working part-time.) A decentralization of the economy is essential – with a decentralized tax system on Swiss lines, giving incentives to companies to set up in smaller towns. We should encourage people to consume locally, instead of a few giant Euro-companies supplying the entire continent and trucking goods thousands of miles. The cult of trade for its own sake is an environmental disaster, and it its time we made the connection between the EU single market and high pollution levels in Europe caused by excessive trucking of goods from a few gigantic industrial centres.

Only if we make this shift to a new type of balanced society, where work and the raising of families are given equal time and importance, will we be able to adapt to the loss of a certain  number of manufacturing jobs to the developing countries. And only if we impose the above conditions on “globalization” will it lead to a growth of consumption in the developing countries (expanding the global market for all our goods) instead of permanent dictatorial regimes of slave labour, producing for export and buying nothing, so as to make a few capitalists obscenely rich and dangerously powerful. Our problem is not globalization but the lack of political will to impose the conditions necessary to make it a positive development for all.





At the moment the Darwinist ideology of frantic, unrestrained competition, and the delusion that this leads to endless progress and prosperity, dominates completely the new century and millennium that has just begun – with its battle-cries of globalization and free trade. What are the chances that the mass of Westerners will ever understand the need to move away from this suicidal ideology, and the sterile, childless, neurotic, over-worked, demographically doomed society it has created? What are the chances of a new movement to reduce working hours in the West so that production is in balance with the level of real demand, and people have time for families again? Despite the all-pervasive propaganda of the Darwinist version of capitalism, there are some signs mentalities are changing. On the ecological front anxiety is rising about the effect of the over-producing, over-consuming society on the environment – especially with growing evidence of global warming. It cannot be ignored forever that policies such as the EU’s single market, aimed at encouraging cross-border trade and industrial concentration, have enormously increased the amount of truck traffic on Europe’s roads, a major source of greenhouse gases. As industry concentrates in a few main centres, as large multinationals operating across borders put small local businesses out of work, the distance from factory to market grows ever greater. When a few companies supply the whole continent, it means more trucking, more pollution, and the climate change that results. It would be better to replace the ludicrous bureaucratic shuffling of pollution allowances known as the Kyoto Protocol with a policy to reverse the EU single market and to decentralize Europe’s economy once again by banning cross-border mergers and taxing long-distance trucking at its real cost to the planet. A three per cent tax on the value of goods per hundred kilometres transported would be a good beginning. As oil begins to run out over the next twenty years and the price of petrol soars, this sort of tax on transportation will become inevitable.

On the social front, people are also beginning to voice resistance. Associations of fathers in Britain are denouncing the long hours they have to work and the effect it has on their families. Parents of small children in Britain have obtained the right (in theory) to special flexible working hours, even if total hours have not been reduced. The Scandinavians have gone a lot further, giving the right to all parents of small children to demand a maximum six-hour working day. This is the way forward: to limit the hours that employers can ask people to work, starting with parents and then extending the right to other adults. Moderate feminists campaigning for more family-friendly working hours, associations of fathers, ecologists and family-values conservatives have got to work together on this: it is the long hours of work that are the common enemy. The trade unions in Britain are finally showing signs of moving on this subject. The trade union Amicus launched a campaign in late 2003 aimed at ending Britain’s opt-out from the 48-hour weekly maximum imposed by the European Union. The Blair government argued for this opt-out because out of the 4 million Britons working more than 48 hours a week, some 1.6 million are paid overtime: ending the opt-out will lead to a pay cut for these workers. What the union tried to show was that most of these workers do not work these long hours willingly. They are obliged by their companies to work 60 or 70 hours a week, and would be prepared to take a pay cut to avoid it.2 The cult of overwork is an inherent part of the macho culture which the employers use to manipulate the working class. “You can take it, you’re a man,” is the Neanderthal argument used to pressure men to sacrifice their family life and their marriages. The advantage for the company is to be able to cope with rises and falls in demand without having to hire and train more workers: you just overwork those you have. It is time that this most barbaric and ruthless aspect of British capitalist practice was ended, and it can only be done by imposing the more civilized rules of the European Union. Unfortunately, this campaign failed, and the British government obtained the extension of the opt-out. But all over the West a drive must be made to reduce working hours even further: a goal of a thirty or even a twenty-five hour week is reasonable, give the enormous rises in productivity since the 40-hour week became the norm fifty years ago. And with both husband and wife working a 25-30 hour week, the working week per couple will still exceed that of the 1950’s, when only the man generally worked.    





If we do not succeed in cutting working hours so that life in the Western world can be better balanced between work and family, so that families of three or four children become possible again to balance the couples with none, the consequences will be catastrophic. If everybody is having either one child, two children, or none, then birth rates will continue to fall below the one point five children per female at which they stand on average throughout Europe – they may fall to the depths already registered in Spain, Italy and much of Eastern Europe of around one point two children. Since replacement rate is two point one children per female, in many countries each new generation will shrink by forty per cent compared to the one before. Because the old live longer, this will not affect overall population figures drastically for the next few decades, but after the middle of the century there will be a virtual population collapse in Europe. Already over the next forty years the proportion of working age people will decline sharply. Providing financial support to the rising proportion of the over 65’s (who will comprise 30 per cent of the European Union population by 2050) will become increasingly difficult. Since capitalism cannot function with a rapidly shrinking labour force unless radical structural adjustments are made (which we will certainly be too stupid to make) the pressure to bring in more Third World immigrant labour as a quick fix will become irresistible. The pressure on the borders of Europe from the unemployed masses of Africa, victims of incompetent and corrupt regimes unable to provide jobs for them while their numbers rise exponentially because of Western aid and medicine, will also become irresistible. But a huge increase in the non-white populations of European countries will lead to more social tensions, the disintegration of nations into rival ethnic communities, each with a militant sense of its own cultural identity and its own victim status, and widening political polarization. Despite the left’s support for mass immigration, the first casualty of this will be the chief value the left believes in: social solidarity. The increasing militancy of immigrant groups, demanding the right to assert their own culture and values in the heart of Western societies, is gradually putting an end to the sense of a single unified community which was the basis of the welfare state – the impulse of the strong to provide for the weak. Once the strong see themselves as a different ethnic community from the weak, once the rich are a different colour from the poor, flying different mental flags, owing different cultural allegiance, the sense of social solidarity breaks down. This is what lies behind the blank refusal of American society to fund a decent public health, education or welfare system. The richer half of society refuses to be taxed to pay for people of other races. The ruthless inhumanity, ethnic marginalization and ghetto violence of contemporary America should have been a warning to Europeans of the downside of the multi-racial society – solidarity stops at the racial fault-line. The welfare state was the product of racially homogeneous, cohesive, highly nationalistic European societies emerging from a catastrophic world war where the powerful biological impulse of tribal solidarity was felt to extend to the whole nation. Once that national unity gives way to a landscape of proliferating ethnic communities, solidarity goes out the window. It appears that we have no biological impulse to make other races prosper at our own expense. It is wishful thinking to imagine we will ever develop one, however relentless the brainwashing. And the gradual dismantling of the welfare state safety net all over the West, the inevitable alignment of all societies, starting with Britain, on the American dog-eat-dog model, is the consequence of forgetting the roots of the European social-welfare system in a homogeneous, cohesive nation-state, with a high enough birth-rate to remain one.  

But the political consequences of further mass immigration may be even more serious. As white populations gradually become alarmed at the prospect of one day becoming a minority in their own country (which at present rates of immigration and birth-rate differentials will occur well before the end of the century in Britain and France), feelings will begin to run high between immigrants and natives. Already the left regards all opposition to immigration as racism and fascism. All over Europe “anti-racism” laws have been used to silence, marginalize and discredit anti-immigration parties. People are being prosecuted for expressing opinions on a policy issue which every citizen has the right to debate and decide on – how many foreigners are to be allowed to come and live in his country, and the future ethnic mix of his own nation. The leftist mindset is that if you are opposed to further immigration, then you are by definition hostile to the immigrants already present and you are inciting discrimination or even violence against them. Your point of view must be silenced in the interests of social peace. The only morally acceptable view of immigration is to call for more of it. The label “extreme right” is now attached automatically to any party or persons opposed to more immigration, no matter what their social or economic views may be. They are routinely referred to as racists, fascists and Nazis, and are reviled as morally repulsive beings. Given an atmosphere where this issue cannot even be openly and rationally debated, clearly immigration will continue to increase. The six million non-whites installed in Britain will continue to import marriage partners for their sons and daughters from their country of origin with the residence permit thrown in as part of the dowry. The Blair government has increased this influx by removing the primary purpose rule, which had prevented the importation of arranged marriage partners when the marriage was deemed to be primarily for the purpose of immigration. Along with the abandonment of any serious attempt to expel rejected asylum seekers, and a new generosity in the granting of work permits, Blair’s government has doubled immigration levels to over two hundred thousand non-white immigrants a year – a rate which corresponds to two million a decade, the highest level in history, and double the heights reached during the period of “primary immigration” of the 1950’s. 3 Blair’s government alone has in ten years brought in nearly two million non-white immigrants (including an estimated half a million illegals. There have also been well over a hundred thousand white immigrants a year, largely from Eastern Europe, but they have only balanced the exodus of British whites to Spain and elsewhere, and will have little impact on the culture or community tensions of the country.) Whether or not this policy was deliberately aimed at increasing the number of Labour voters, the fact is that the non-white minority has now reached a proportion of the population where it has become dangerous to alienate it by any moves to restrict immigration. Its capacity for mass street demonstrations is now formidable. Britain, like the USA, may have already passed the point of no return where stopping immigration has become politically impossible. In both countries immigration policies are being decided in terms of pure electoral advantage, and all major parties are scrambling to get the votes of immigrants by promising to keep the door open for the relatives and fellow-countrymen of new voters, and stigmatizing anti-immigration voices as “racist”. The influx is thus likely to go on indefinitely and to snowball as a larger and larger mass of established immigrants with growing political influence calls in even more relatives and marriage partners in an endlessly expanding process. 

By the mid-century, the non-white population of Britain will have risen from six to about seventeen million (assuming a fertility rate of 2.8 children per female, a third lower than the present Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrant fertility rate of around 4, and a level of non-white immigration of 150,000 a year, a quarter lower than at present.)4 By 2090, if the same rates of immigration and fertility continue, non-whites will number well over thirty million. By the same year white numbers, at the present white fertility rate of 1.6 children per female, may have already dropped to below thirty million. You only have to multiply 54 million by 0.8 three times to get a rough idea of the speed of the fall, which is a halving of generation size in three generations. Add the factor of accelerating white flight from a racially tense society, and the prognostic of less than 30 million whites by 2090 is a reasonable one. Many British children born today will die in a society with a non-white majority. The last white prime minister of Britain may well take office before the end of the century. After that the primary qualification for the post will probably be colour (as it is in South Africa today) – depending on how much racial hostility accompanies the change of majorities, and how polarized communities become. It is likely that the transition to a non-white majority will be turbulent. As immigrant numbers grow, their support will become crucial to one major political party. Despite efforts by the other party to compete for its share of the immigrant vote, sooner or later it will be taken over by the white anti-immigrant electorate, frustrated and made more radical by its long exclusion from politics. And once political parties polarize along racial lines, one party supported by non-whites, the other by whites, democracy itself will be in danger. When elections pit one community against another, democracy does not last for long. The civil wars both in Northern Ireland and in Lebanon were caused by the threat to a declining community of losing its majority status and having to hand over power permanently to a more prolific community with a different view of the nation. Democracy does not survive this kind of transfer of power, because it depends on a conviction that the electoral majority and minority, whatever their political differences, are the same nation with the same sense of collective historical identity. Once the supporters of two major political parties see themselves as separate communities having different ancestors, a different sense of history, and a different myth of the nation, then democracy will collapse. Every election will seem to the losers like a loss of their national identity, and those likely to lose will resort to force or fraud. The stakes of victory will become too high to keep playing by the rules. Each side will deny the other’s legitimate right to govern. The ballot box will be replaced by armed struggle – as happened not only in Lebanon and Northern Ireland, but also crucially in Yugoslavia. The underlying cause of the recent Yugoslav civil wars was that many of the Serbs, who had dominated the federal state, refused to accept minority status in breakaway states ruled by another ethnic group, and tried to reattach their areas to Serbia by force. Even the most civilized peoples, when their sense of national identity is threatened, descend into violence and barbarism with astonishing speed. The main source of conflict in our age is not religion (as it was in the 17th century), nor class (as it was in the 19th and early 20th century) but ethnic and cultural identity (as reflected in the problems of Northern Ireland, the Basque country, Catalonia, Belgium, Chechnya, Kurdistan, Lebanon and former Yugoslavia.) This kind of community conflict will spread in most Western societies if Third World immigration continues to be seen as the only remedy for falling birth-rates. That is to say, if Western societies fail to change their way of life and system of work to make normal-sized families and replacement-level birth-rates possible once again.

The return to an emphasis on family and raising children rather than work and material consumption is not therefore something merely desirable for reasons of pious sentiment or philosophical values or lifestyle preference. It is a question of the survival of a cohesive nation-state, which appears to be the necessary condition for democracy and even for  civilization itself.

The so-called multi-racial and multi-cultural societies of the West have only lived in peace and democracy so far because one community (the native white population) has had an overwhelming majority (still in 2007 over ninety per cent in every European country, with the possible exception of France, where figures are not kept, and Britain which is right on the limit.)  This majority race, moreover, was inspired by enlightened anti-racist ideals and misplaced historic guilt to tolerate the influx of immigrants of other races because it never imagined they would ever reach the numbers where they might become the majority. As that becomes increasingly likely, given current fertility rates and immigration levels, this tolerance and enlightenment will erode. The notion that non-whites will simply be accepted as individuals in a colour-blind society has been made impossible by the multiculturalist policy of encouraging them to maintain their cultures of origin. This implies having a sense of collective identity different from the majority. The multicultural model means that immigrant communities, as they grow in numbers, assimilate far less, become more publicly assertive of their own values and culture, and more intolerant of anything that offends them. European governments, in order to make immigrants feel at home, have encouraged not only the building of hundreds of mosques, but the importation of imams from the Muslim world who are determined to prevent the assimilation of their flocks to a godless society by instilling in them a permanent hostility to the culture around them. As this nation within a nation grows in numbers and begins to threaten the dominance of the white community, conflict is inevitable. It is a paradox that the Blair government permitted the influx of more Muslims than any other government in British history, while invading two Muslim countries and alienating the very minorities it brought in in record numbers. The terrorist bomb attacks on the London tube by British-born Islamist extremists in July 2005 were condemned by most of those who claimed to speak for British Muslims, but they often added that they “understood” the “anger” of the terrorists at British policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. 5 Islam is in a phase of militant assertiveness even as the West is in a phase of intellectual self-hatred and cultural retreat. The few Westerners who dare to criticize the growing cultural encroachment of Islam are either prosecuted and jailed for racism or they become the targets of violence. The Dutch have already found this to their cost, with assassinations of politicians and film-makers who were critical of Islamic attitudes to women and gays, and the Danes more recently in the rioting and sacking of embassies over the cartoons of Mohammed. Islamists in the West are perfectly willing to use the mass violence of their co-religionists in other countries to practise political and economic blackmail against the Western countries they live in. Many see themselves not as part of Western culture but as a rival culture installed in the heart of the West with the long-term goal of taking control of it by demographic means. As one Belgian Islamic militant Abou Jahjah remarked: “I don’t believe in a host country. We are at home here and whatever we consider our culture to be also belongs to our chosen country. I’m in my country, not the country of the Belgians.”6 This apparently means that Belgian laws and customs have no right to regulate, for example, the Muslim community’s treatment of women in Belgium. Such attitudes make clear that assimilation (now a dirty word) and a colour-blind society are not the future. Immigrants have installed themselves in Europe not as individuals but as communities with their own values and an assertive sense of  their own cultural identity. Given the unwillingness of governments to curb this ever-increasing cultural militancy, it is clear that the long-term European future will be one of community conflict.

As these minorities, aggressively asserting different cultural values, become dominant in certain cities, the spectre of their becoming dominant overall will begin to haunt the majority. Muslims will dominate the four biggest cities in Holland within twenty years. London may have a non-white majority by the mid-century. Britain is already racially tense with around ten per cent of non-whites, because they are concentrated in certain cities where their proportions are much greater. At thirty per cent of non-whites (likely by 2060) the country may well be torn apart. As for a nation divided up the middle into equal numbers of whites and non-whites (as will happen to both Britain and France before the end of the century), we simply do not know if democracy can survive it. But in all cases so far of societies divided into two cultural communities of equal numbers – not separated into autonomous regions, as in Switzerland or former Czechoslovakia, but living all together, as in Lebanon, Northern Ireland, and Fiji – democracy has failed this test. Northern Irish Protestants and Catholics enjoy normal European levels of education and are physically indistinguishable from one another, yet their perception of each other as distinct communities, with a different cultural allegiance and different historical myths of nationhood, locked in a fight for power as they approach equality in numbers, has been enough to transform them into hate-driven savages. When the same kind of polarization and rivalry for dominance occurs between communities visibly distinct, of different race, very different culture and with an even greater sense of historic victimization on one side and territorial defensiveness and resentment at invasion on the other, the violence and hatred will be on a scale that will make democracy permanently impossible.





The left has for the past forty years rejected any argument against immigration as racist, fascist and Nazi. For the leftist there can be no debate on immigration, because one side of the debate is by definition evil and must be silenced. When you try to get leftists to specify how much non-white immigration they would like into a country like Britain or France – ten million immigrants? Twenty million? Thirty? – you get no answer. What would the ideal proportion of non-whites in the population be? Twenty per cent? Thirty per cent? Fifty? Again, they refuse to say. All they know is that immigration is good and must continue, but the goal it is heading towards is something they refuse to discuss. Like European Union integration, this is a perpetual process which must be supported even though its final goal is something it is taboo to speculate about. This means that they also refuse to accept that there is any level of immigration where it would be legitimate for people to say  “Enough!” Quite literally they believe there can never be enough. To say “Enough!” at any stage – even when immigrants begin to outnumber natives – would be racist and evil, because it would imply hostility to the immigrants already present. If the multiracial and multicultural society is good, then more and more immigrants must be good. To deny the second proposition is to reject the first. For opponents to point out that the influx of two hundred thousand new non-white immigrants a year into Britain is driving down wages, pushing up housing costs through soaring demand, worsening living conditions, straining welfare budgets, increasing crime and violence, and suppressing any urge among whites to have children is denounced as “making immigrants a scapegoat for our problems.” To argue too strongly that they might actually have something to do with these problems could land you in jail. It is one of the axioms of the new globalist capitalism and its multicultural leftist allies that growth must be the  goal in every domain, including population. It is assumed without question that more people must be good for the economy, even though all the evidence points to the opposite. In some of the most overcrowded countries on earth, where there is entrenched popular opposition to building new roads or housing in what is left of the countryside, cramming more and more impoverished people into large cities is only increasing social problems and therefore state spending. To claim that this is a solution to falling birth-rates, when it is clearly making them fall further by degrading living and working conditions and making it more difficult for Europeans to have children at all, is one of the greatest follies of  the age.

It is difficult to comprehend why exactly the liberal-left establishment adopted the policy of favouring immigration. It is by nature a policy designed to serve the interests of capitalist industrialists. It is the latter who wanted to import cheap labour that could be exploited more easily than the increasingly unionized workers of the 1950’s – and the workers opposed immigration from the beginning. They saw it at once as merely a capitalist strategy to resist their demands for higher wages, and to keep uneconomical industries going with dirty, dangerous jobs, by using desperate people, ready to work in any conditions, instead of investing in new technology. The argument that “nobody else will do the jobs” should have been a reason for improving the job conditions and raising the wages. Instead the capitalists were allowed to import  what amounted to slave labour to make profits without investment. Why did the leftist parties all over Europe betray their own constituency, condemn the protesting workers as racists, and side with the capitalists? There are several reasons for this betrayal, and they go to the heart of some of the great ideological delusions of the 20th century.

For the more extreme Marxists it was perhaps a desire to have a more alienated and revolutionary working class than the white workers, who were now growing greedy and bourgeois under the post-war welfare state and mass consumer capitalism. Marxism had moved to its global imperialism theory: the whole white race was now the exploiting class, and the Third World the global proletariat. Their idea was to bring this proletariat into the country to radicalize the struggle. Because Marxism is wedded to the notion of a mass worker revolt, the goal is not to improve workers’ conditions (which will only make them more bourgeois, complacent and conservative) but to radicalize them by worsening their conditions. The mass influx of cheaper workers to beat down their wages was meant to achieve this goal, while all the time blaming the capitalists. There was also a peculiar belief, following the American civil rights movement, that multi-racial societies were the only path of righteousness, and that racial minorities had to be imported just to prove one had nothing against them. Even though the importation of foreign slave labour was pioneered by the Nazis, using slaves from Poland and other occupied territories to work German farms and factories, once the post-war capitalists began doing the same thing the Nazi origins of the whole system were forgotten, and it became a “progressive”, liberal-leftist policy. Moreover, after Nazism, racial prejudice took on diabolical significance. Being in favour of black immigration became a proof of anti-racism; opposition to it made you a moral pariah. This provided a perfect alibi for a capitalist policy of importing slave labour. The left thus provided the ideology to justify the most cynical exploitative policies of capitalism. This is the grotesque spectacle we still see today in Spain, where there is over 20 per cent real unemployment, among the lowest wages in Europe, and where nearly half the working population have precarious, short-contract jobs, and yet where a socialist government is importing Third World immigrants by the hundreds of thousand because their economy “needs more workers”. The kindest explanation for this is that the multi-racialist ideology has blinded the left to the social consequences for their own workers of what they are doing. Even the argument of low birth-rates and the need for more people is a fallacy. It is the economic insecurity and precarious jobs of a country flooded with cheap labour, where job-seekers are forced to migrate to crowded, expensive cities away from the grandmother child-carer, that is undermining birth-rates in Spain. Immigration, in short, is making native Spanish birth-rates fall still further.

For many liberal-leftist intellectuals in the sixties supporting immigration was a way of assuaging their misplaced guilt over the colonial past. (Why a process of colonisation which involved tens of thousands of doctors, nurses, engineers, bridge-builders, railway-technicians, architects, teachers, judges, administrators and policemen going out to live in Asia and Africa in often primitive conditions to bring Western knowledge to backward regions should be seen as a cause for guilt is one of the mysteries of the post-colonial rewriting of history. If colonialism was a lucrative, profit-making enterprise, why was it abandoned by the colonial powers when they were bankrupted by war?) Some Western liberals no doubt felt an impulse of Christian kindness towards the needy, rejected immigrant. Others reacted to their society’s rapid industrial growth and prosperity with a deep sense of guilt about the poor of the planet – and they began seriously to believe that their wealth must have been based on the exploitation of other nations. (In fact it was based on the century-long exploitation of their own workers – the very people they began putting out of jobs by importing cheaper immigrants as soon as they started demanding decent wages. British liberal sympathy for the exotic foreign poor has always been an alibi for their contempt for their own workers.) But among middle class liberals what appears to have played a surprisingly important role was a peculiar, frivolous impulse to satisfy their taste for exotic restaurants and cultural tourism without leaving home. The number of times the pro-immigration politicians today mention the variety of exotic restaurants in London as a justification for high immigration is extraordinary (admittedly restaurants are one of the few places the elite actually encounter the foreigners they have self-righteously imported and thrust into the workers’ neighbourhoods.) Apparently Blair’s Labour government believes that the importation of nearly two million additional Third World immigrants (expanding the non-white population by fifty per cent) in the space of ten years and the transformation of London into the crime capital of Europe with countless illegal immigrants living off the land, is a price worth paying to have a few hundred exotic restaurants for the politicians’ culinary pleasure. Yet this range of culinary choice is something which every provincial capital in the world now boasts, and it requires around five thousand foreigners at the most.

But underneath these rational reasons why the left favoured immigration there was perhaps a more profound impulse of racial and cultural suicide which acted on an unconscious level. We have already touched on the origins of white leftist racial self-hatred and their desire to drown their race in a sort of redemptive hybridization, so that they can be purified of the evil, colonial, racist instincts they see as inherent in white genes. The entire pro-immigration, multiculturalist position is based on a racist view of history. It blames the white race for all the past evils of the planet, and seeks atonement for colonial sins through slow demographic suicide. This alone can explain the paradox that the intellectual leaders of every other race, nation and ethnic group on earth seek to promote the interests, numbers and influence of their own race, while white intellectuals and politicians do the opposite. They work actively against their own race and have instituted discrimination against it in most Western countries. Part of this is because of a grotesque misunderstanding of the nature of racism. The left sees racism as a single phenomenon of criminal or pathological origin – which attains in the leftist mind the proportions of absolute evil. For the left racism is forever associated with colonialism and its supposed contempt for inferior peoples; they never see the role racism also played in anti-colonialism, and in many past struggles against oppressors or invaders of another race and culture (as in the long Balkan and Slavic struggle against the Turkish empire, or various Asian struggles against European empires.) The notion that racism, in the sense of preferring to live with one’s own race and within one’s own culture on one’s own territory, might be a natural and universal instinct, is something that does not compute in the leftist’s brain. He insists on seeing every manifestation of racial preference for one’s own people (something displayed by every race and nation on earth) as the product of wicked ideologies of race superiority – a cross between Victorian colonial contempt for the backward races, American contempt for their black slaves, and Nazi race theories and programmes of genocide. Whenever traditional racial hostility is found among non-white peoples (as, for example, between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda), the leftist proclaims that it must have been learned from the wicked white colonialists – since only white people can possibly have the evil ideological virus of racism. The leftist cannot grasp the idea that racism has always existed everywhere, and has many different forms and causes that are not connected and do not necessarily add up to any diabolical ideology. The racism based on the historical enmity of neighbouring peoples who have long fought each other for territory or dominance (such as that between Greeks and Turks, or Turks and Arabs, or Koreans and Japanese) has nothing to do with the physical dislike of peoples of very different appearance (felt by both Chinese and Japanese for Africans, despite the absence of past conflict or even contact between them.)7 The racism based on very different cultural values and practices (often felt between Europeans and fundamentalist Muslim Arabs, especially over attitudes to women) has nothing to do with convictions of race superiority (such as the Chinese and Japanese have always tended to feel towards all others.) Racism as a desire for genetic survival (expressed in parents’ hostility to their children marrying someone of very different race, and drowning out their own traits in their grandchildren) has no necessary connection with the racism of territorial defensiveness, felt by every people faced with mass immigration (such as Palestinians faced with the Jewish influx of the 1930’s, or Fijians faced with the influx of Indians.) It is this last type of racism – territorial instinct – which appears to have been behind the hostility of whites in Britain to the first waves of black and Asian immigration in the 1950’s, and not any throwback to colonial attitudes or Hitlerian race theories. The proof is that exactly the same hostility is now expressed by established West Indian, Kashmiri and Pakistani communities in Britain towards Kurdish or Somali newcomers, who are seen as disruptive and threatening to the local culture. The same insults (“dirty”, “lazy”), the same accusations of sexual harassment of women, are thrown at these recent economic refugees by established non-white communities as the latter had to face fifty years ago.8 Leftists scramble to explain this embarrassing fact as “the adoption of white racism” by older immigrant communities – a regrettable form of assimilation to a wicked white model. The fact is that tribal defence of territory against invasion is a universal instinct that goes back to our ape ancestors, and is not confined to any one race or culture. But the conviction that underneath all opposition to immigration lies some sinister Hitlerian white-supremacist ideology is a fixation of the leftist mindset. Instead of seeing opposition to outsiders as a grassroots expression of a community’s territorial instinct, the leftist sees it as an evil ideology to be combatted, by inflicting even more immigrants on the wicked racists to make the point that they will not be allowed to win.

In short, a good deal of the pro-immigration policy has been an extension of the age’s obsession with racism – a consequence of the horrors of the Nazi genocide, later compounded by the African-American and South African civil rights struggles, which were watched by the whole  Western world as the great moral dramas of the age. The elevation of racism to the level of a universal, all-pervasive evil meant the confused lumping together of very different kinds of hostility between peoples – historical, cultural, physical, territorial – as all manifestations of the same diabolical impulse. Racism became a modern version of witchcraft, an insidious, ubiquitous force which every person had to constantly struggle against, be on the watch for, identify and denounce in his neighbours, his family, and even in himself. Since racism is, at least in some of its forms, a universal instinct, its eradication is a project that will require a totalitarian brainwashing of the population, a constant persecution of the recalcitrant by the zealous bureaucrats of the various equality commissions, and the ruin of countless lives by bogus criminal charges. Britain, the society most given over to the new sect of anti-racism, has embarked on the criminalization of some of the most natural instincts of human beings. It has even brainwashed its police force to make this moral sin its priority, while its real violent crime rate spirals out of all control. And as part of this systematic criminalization of racism, any opposition to further immigration has become a jailable offence.

The unfortunate fact of nature is that human beings are tribal animals who seem to have an instinctive preference for people that resemble them (physically, but also culturally, in their   language, behaviour and manners.) This is probably because most human societies arose from tribes and clans with common ancestors, which fought against neighbours and invaders. There is evidence that culture and even language developed as a tribal differentiation mechanism to prevent cross-breeding and exclude outsiders, thus preserving a distinct gene pool. This profound instinct does not mean people will always be murderously hostile to those of different ethnic groups. It simply means they will be less friendly to them than towards their own “tribe”. There appears to be a universal instinct of  “kin preference”, a biological urge to help one’s own genes succeed. People are far more likely to risk their lives for their relatives, and to leave their money to them, than to people not related to them.9 This same kin preference leads to the expectation of benevolence from those who resemble us closely. Because they look vaguely like kin, we extend some elements of kin preference to same-tribe individuals, and we expect the same benevolence from them. This instinct is biologically sound: two Swedes share more genes than either shares with an African. In a room full of strangers of different races, people gravitate towards those of the same race as themselves. Physical resemblance is a claim on the benevolence of others, just as sharing a language, an accent or a place of origin is a claim on their benevolence. Even in those supposed melting pots, American universities, the tendency of racial groups to stick together to form friendships is something commented on by many observers.10 With marriage it is even more marked. In America in 1960, 99.6 per cent of people married within their own race. In 2000, after forty years of anti-racist education, integrated schools, and mass immigration, 94.6 per cent still did – and most of the mixed marriages were between whites, Hispanics and East Asians (who are more similar in appearance) and not between whites and blacks.11 This mirrors the behaviour of other species: different varieties of bird seldom cross-breed, even though they are capable of it. All visibly distinct varieties seem to have an instinct to preserve their separate gene pool intact. Without that instinct, different varieties or races could never arise or survive within a species, except by geographic isolation, and most evolution would never have occurred. In most multi-racial societies, racial or ethnic communities still live largely separate lives, partly because of the preservation of cultures of origin and the desire to live within their own culture, but also because of the desire to live with people who look like themselves and can be counted on to show instinctive friendliness towards them out of kin preference. The logic of this universal human instinct is for each people or ethnic or cultural group to want to have its own separate homeland. This was the driving force behind the whole movement of European history in the 19th and early 20th centuries – the rise of national independence movements, the break-up of multi-ethnic societies such as the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, and the struggle for independence of nations like Greece, Italy, Serbia, Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Ireland or Norway from other nations that had dominated them. Later this same drive for national liberation and independence precipitated the break-up of the European colonial empires, and more recently the USSR and multi-ethnic Yugoslavia. The creation of new multiracial or multiethnic societies in the late 20th century (largely influenced by the dominant American model based on imported slaves and immigration) has thus been an extraordinary reversal of what had been the overwhelming trend of history for the past two hundred years – for each people to have its own independent territory, where its own culture prevails, and to rule itself through the democratic decision-making rendered natural by the sense of being a single national community. The formation of these new multi-racial societies has been a counter-current to the prevailing tide of history, which still urges Basques, Palestinians, Kurds, Montenegrins and Kosovans to want their own separate nations.  

The problem is that this instinctive human preference to live with one’s own kin (or those who resemble kin) and within one’s own ethnic and cultural community, has not ceased with the unexpected creation of these new, ideologically-driven multiracial societies. This same instinct has gone on being exercised within these societies – and lies at the root of “multiculturalism”. This instinct has been at work both in the formation of ethnic residential neighbourhoods, cultural separatism and in various forms of “discrimination”. People prefer to live with their own kind, with whom they share the cultural customs basic to any social life. They want to live with people who wear the same clothes, eat the same food, speak the same language, share the same religion and sexual code, provide suitable spouses for their children, and are physically attracted to them. “Ethnic neighbourhoods” are not the result of “discrimination”; they are by and large chosen by immigrants who want to live within their own culture of origin and among people who are naturally well-disposed towards them out of kin preference. This instinct of African and Asian immigrants to form ethnic communities in Western countries so that they can live with their own people within their own cultural framework is accepted as legitimate by the new ruling anti-racist sect. However, the sect refuses to grant the same right to whites. If whites want to live with their own people and within their own cultural framework (by excluding blacks), this is deeply evil – a manifestation of wicked racism and rejection of “the other” (a peculiar philosophical fetish invented by Jean-Paul Sartre which has infected discussions of race ever since, but is only ever applied to white attitudes, never black.) It is worse when the same tribal instinct surfaces in the workplace. Just as people like to live with those who resemble them and share their culture, they like to work with them too, since work has a social aspect. In nearly every multiracial society, therefore, unemployment is highest among minority races. The riots in France in 2005, fuelled by high unemployment in immigrant communities, highlighted the problem. It is basically insoluble. The whole legal panoply of positive discrimination, employment quotas, top jobs for token blacks, prosecution of employers for “discrimination” (such as Britain has gone in for), may help on the surface, but all this will also cause resentment by native populations, and increase hostilities underneath. You cannot make people show benevolence which they do not feel. The majority in European countries did not ask immigrants to come there, and see no reason why they should have to employ them in preference to those of their own race who have lived in the country for over a thousand years and need jobs just as badly. The popular attitude is that people should wait in line and the last come should be the last served. The argument often heard that European nations “asked immigrants to come there to work” is almost laughable. No electorate was ever consulted on the subject, and popular opposition was manifest from the very first. The policy was decided by politicians serving the interests of capitalists who wanted to import cheap labour, and their fanatical leftist pawns, who were ready to crucify as a racist anyone who protested. Certainly the mass influx that has continued for the last forty years was not wanted by the majority in any European nation, and was noisily opposed by most working classes. Instead of this popular opinion being heeded, it was criminalized as racism and overruled by political leaders. Anti-immigrant politicians were expelled from mainstream parties, and marginalized into extremist groups universally reviled as a danger to democracy, so that voters were frightened away from them. Europe now has to deal with immigrant populations that were never wanted by the majority, and are largely superfluous to its economic and labour needs. As a result the grievances of unemployed immigrants do not evoke much sympathy in the average European. Their attitude tends to be: “If there are no jobs for you here, then go home. Who asked you to come?” A rising sense of social injustice among immigrant communities such as that in France is meeting a total refusal by many whites to engage in the guilt-feelings and breast-beating that the multicultural left expects all white people to display towards non-whites. The racial guilt with which the liberal-left has drenched Europeans for half a century is beginning to dry out, and white people are beginning to say for the first time in fifty years: “This is my country, where my ancestors have lived and worked for a thousand years, not yours – none of us asked you to come here, you were well aware how bitterly we opposed it, so if you’re not happy now, sod off.”  

There would appear then to be a case for arguing that the multiracial and multicultural experiment in Europe has failed, and that the damage should now be limited. That is, immigration by non-Europeans should be stopped, and time taken to fully integrate the immigrants already present, to break down the multicultural separatism that has been foolishly allowed to develop, and try to re-establish some form of national and cultural unity, where whites and non-whites share the same sense of collective identity. Instead, the multicultural, anti-racist, pro-immigration lobby are promoting an endless increase in immigration, jailing those who oppose it as racists, encouraging a more extreme assertion of cultural identity by each ethnic group, and bringing about the disintegration of society into warring communities. At a moment when unemployment stands at ten per cent throughout Europe and a good number of the unemployed are immigrants or of immigrant origin, the influx continues at higher rates then ever before and politicians call for even more of it – on the grounds that they “need more people” in the most overcrowded countries on earth. Their latest argument is the falling European birth-rate, but immigration is only causing it to fall further as overcrowding and housing shortages turn off the baby-making impulse in whites, who demand more space and security than Third World people before they are willing to have children. If the fanatical pro-immigration sect is not stopped, then many European countries may descend into chaos and civil war within the lifetime of children born today.

The leftist support for immigration is all the more astonishing because it is so profoundly against the interests of the underdeveloped countries the immigrants come from. Despite the temporary benefits of money sent home (a kind of drug which makes whole countries dependent on expatriate aid), no underdeveloped country gains in the long term when its most skilled and enterprising people emigrate – especially if they are doctors, nurses, engineers and teachers desperately needed in their own countries. It should be considered morally wrong to steal the brains of poorer countries by letting these people in. But the left has joyfully welcomed this mass theft of brains for the sake of swelling its own electorate – since immigrants generally vote for the party that poses as pro-immigration and anti-racist. In fact the ordinary people have shown considerably more sense of genuine morality than their leaders. The racist hostility often shown by the ignorant masses against immigrants of other races and cultures (an instinct universally felt by all races faced with immigration) will perhaps one day be viewed not so much as a moral evil but as an ecological balancing mechanism. It is perhaps nature’s way of pressuring the cleverest individuals to stay home and serve their own nation, not take their qualifications abroad where they can earn fifty times more and abandon the people who gave them their schooling. Racism is nature’s short-cut towards global social justice: making the most intelligent individuals stay and serve their own people, because they will be rejected elsewhere. It is both absurd and immoral for Asian and African doctors and nurses to be flocking to Europe and America to earn high salaries, and expect Westerners to pay for the medical care desperately needed in Africa and Asia. People should be made to feel responsible for their own countries. Development begins with that benign form of nationalism where the most privileged individuals feel solidarity with their own nation. Without that there can be no social justice in underdeveloped countries – no end to corruption, no willingness of the rich to pay reasonable taxes, no motivation to invest in the future of their own nation. For the most talented individuals to stay and serve their own people, whose needs are greatest, is the most elementary instinct of public service. Emigrating to find work where the salaries are highest is the most selfish form of capitalist individualism. And yet the Western left has been pushing Third World peoples towards the latter behaviour, not the former. It has created an entire Third World middle class whose chief goal in life is to abandon their own country and go to the promised land elsewhere – instead of working to create it where they are. The appalling effects of this are now seen even more clearly in Eastern Europe. Economies are being devastated by the loss of their skilled people, their hospitals have been emptied of their doctors and nurses, who have all gone to feather their nests in Britain and other countries selfish and unprincipled enough to let them in. By contrast, Western European popular racism (if anti-immigration feeling can be called this) can be seen as merely another aspect of the intense tribal and national solidarity which allowed the welfare state to come into existence after the Second World War. The more you love your own people to the point of being willing to share your earnings with them in high taxes, the more hostile you are to other people coming in and profiting from the solidarity that you intended for your own tribe. And, paradoxically, this very hostility is the force needed to make other people develop their own sense of national pride, and of solidarity with their own nation, which is the only way poorer countries will ever develop and progress.





The curious idealization of the multiracial, multicultural society as the model that all Western nations must move towards (the European Union will impose it soon on all of Europe as they unleash seventy million Turks on the continent and make it illegal for any country to keep them out) is all the more bizarre when one considers the enormous human problems inherent in immigration. The problems of cultural adaptation, cultural identity and the sense of belonging are such that one must seriously doubt whether immigration contributes to human happiness (except where the immigrants mostly come from neighbouring states and are racially and culturally similar, as in a country like Switzerland.) It is a paradox that the same European elites who criticize the lack of culture and sense of history of the Americans are busy transforming their own people into clones of Americans: droves of rootless nomads from the four corners of the earth who have given up any connection with the past for a shallow dream of individual wealth in a dog-eat-dog society without moral rules or limits. The apparent attractions of a society of multiple cultures are largely illusory. Superficially, the mix of cultures may seem enriching, with its colourful diversity of languages, customs, clothes, restaurants and festivals, like one big international jamboree. But this merely conceals long-term underlying problems. The first generation immigrants (if they come from a very different culture) seldom have any intention of swapping their culture for that of their host country. They want to live in that geographic space while remaining in a cultural and mental world of their own. This means simply colonizing areas of the host country. To preserve their cultural identity they have to stick together in communities. Culture is not an individual but a collective, social phenomenon. If it does not survive as the collective, dominant social code of a whole district, then it dies. Its survival is therefore a question of numbers and concentration in certain areas, where its language may still be spoken, its food bought, its clothes worn without embarrassment. The tendency of immigrants to live in their own areas is an attempt to retain their culture, by creating a space where it is dominant and respected, instead of being laughed at or viewed as an oddity. But this inevitably creates issues of territorial rivalry with other ethnic groups, especially the natives who were there first. Either they find themselves outnumbered and finally driven out of the area by the incoming culture, or they resist the intrusion with open hostility. Whenever territories cannot be clearly established and defended by physical force in the streets, and several cultures compete in the same area, the prevailing atmosphere is one of tension. Each community feels a sense of pressure from other groups devaluing and eroding their culture, and an answering resentment and distrust towards all others. The atmosphere of multicultural societies is frequently one of a perpetual armed truce, ready to explode into violence whenever one community feels its dignity has been offended or its territory encroached upon. 

But as time passes, it becomes more difficult for any immigrant culture to enforce traditional practices upon the next generation in order to remain alive. The young are caught between the pressure to conform of their own community and the pressure to conform of the wider society. The second generation may therefore go through an identity crisis. They may reject their parents’ attempt to impose their own cultural values, which are rooted in a way of life they no longer live in the West. They are compelled by circumstances to a partial integration. They learn the speech around them like natives, and look down on their own parents’ poor grammar or foreign accents as semi-literate. The young may stop respecting the moral guidance of elders who seem so hopelessly at sea in the society they live in. They may seek their own accommodation with this culture they have been brought up in the midst of, even if they retain a sense of otherness, of belonging to a group apart.

This would seem to be an opportunity for the school system to try to assimilate second generation immigrants into the host culture, to imbue them with its values, its ideals, its sense of history, to make them identity with its struggles for democracy and freedom, to tell the story of the rise and dismantling of European empires as part of the tragic complexity of human progress rather than a simplistic Marxist fable of white wickedness. Unfortunately, the prevailing doctrine of multiculturalism prevents schools from doing this. Any attempt to assimilate immigrants into the cultural values of the host country or lead them to take any pride in its history or achievements is seen as wicked imperialism. School headmasters who were guilty of this in Bangladeshi areas of Britain in the 1980’s were hounded out of their jobs on charges of racism. 12 The most the schools allow is a benign neutrality of mutual respect for difference, without any evil attempt to glorify a European culture and history which is now seen chiefly through the prism of colonialism, slavery and racism. White students are taught not pride in their history but shame, guilt and the need for atonement for their ancestors’ sins. The goal is not the assimilation of immigrants to the European culture, but the assimilation of whites to the new multicultural society, and to an acceptance that their history and identity is nothing to be proud of, and has no more right to attention than that of their non-white classmates.

But this abdication by schools of the role of assimilating immigrants into a sense of pride and identification with their host country’s culture does not make young immigrants immune to the influence of the society around them. It simply means that as the school fails to integrate them upwards into the best of the host culture, they will be integrated downwards by the pub, the gutter press, MTV and the porn video shop into the worst of it. While a few intellectual immigrants may, by their own efforts, come to appreciate the “high culture” of the Western host nation, its literature, art, philosophy and history, the mass of young immigrants will be integrated, if at all, only into the low culture – a common-denominator gutter culture of fast food, consumerism, pop music, street fashions, pubs, binge drinking, casual sex, drugs, petty crime and gang violence – the culture of their young working-class contemporaries, unmediated by any adult guidance. This popular gutter culture – often dreaded by immigrant parents as a social poison that will corrupt their children if they let them out on the street – becomes the only shared culture among the young of diverse ethnic groups in the urban jungle. Some adopt it more readily than others – often depending on how well their own culture accepts alcohol, drugs and casual sex. Some communities (such as Bangladeshis) may resist the surrounding decadence so stubbornly that the young sometimes end up with more conservative values than their cousins in their country of origin. 13 Those individual immigrants who finally succumb to the temptations of the surrounding commercial gutter culture may do it with mixed feelings, because they feel deep down what their parents feel – its shallowness and emptiness. They may end up adopting the common-denominator gutter culture not with pride but with a vague sense of shame and humiliation, of having given in to the prevailing decadence. They do it because the fight to preserve their own ancestral culture seems hopeless, and condemns them to perpetual conflict with ignorant outsiders (as well as perpetual subjection to their parents’ bigotry and intolerance.) There may be a bitter taste to “integration”. The emancipation from their parents’ old-fashioned cultural oddity and religious narrow-mindedness may also seem like capitulation to the surrounding crassness and vulgarity – and to a set of Western vices (alcohol, drugs and casual sex) which part of them despises. The loss of their own values may then be blamed on the decadent society around them. 

This is what sometimes leads to a violent revolt of the opposite kind: a sudden, militant reassertion by a second generation immigrant of the culture he is losing, often in an extreme, born-again, fundamentalist form. What motivates his revolt is a sense of revulsion from the empty, hybrid, bastardized, rootless creature he is becoming. This is the psychological type that some of the September 2001 terrorists seem to belong to – young Saudi men from well-off families, students at Western universities, half-integrated into a Western way of life and ashamed of their cultural apostasy. They can only reassert their cultural allegiance by violence against the source of their own contamination and bastardization. The British-born Muslims who put bombs on the London Underground in July 2005 are even more typical examples of this phenomenon. Adrift in a culture without being assimilated into it, they were easy prey to those who wished to imbue them with a violent rejection of the society which they had been transplanted into physically and materially but not mentally or spiritually. But even without evoking the spectre of terrorism (which is linked above all to political events in the Middle East), this situation of being adrift between two cultures can only lead to a permanent identity crisis charged with conflicting impulses – and capable of exploding even two or three generations down the line. Of course the intellectual immigrant may find the situation of being between two cultures enriching, because he can relate to the intellectual culture of the host country, its books, its thought, its history. What of the ordinary immigrant who simply feels lost – for whom the culture of his ancestors begins to seem unreal and out of touch, while that of the society around him remains alien, empty and meaningless? The intellectual immigrant may end up with two cultural identities. The ordinary immigrant may end up with none.





The problem is that assimilation as a goal has been abandoned by the education systems of many European countries, out of a misguided principle of “the equality of cultures”. But there can be no equality between the culture which must provide the overarching framework of values of a society, and the various cultures of origin of people coming to live in it. If a set of ideals and moral values are not imposed, if the emotions of the young immigrant are not engaged by an identification with the highest achievements of the host country, its literature, its history, its moral and political values, its struggles towards enlightenment, political freedom and social justice, then part of him will remain alienated and even hostile towards the society he lives in. If he is taught that this society has done nothing but colonize and oppress other peoples, what motivation will he have to feel part of it? The paradox is that the great model of a “nation of immigrants” (which politicians in Britain and France want their countries to be and now falsely claim they have always been) was the America of the 19th and early 20th centuries. But that was a society full of pride in its achievements, convinced it was the greatest society on earth, and determined to turn every immigrant into an enthusiastic American. A rigorously intolerant policy of assimilation was pursued, with kids being beaten up in the playground for any signs of foreignness. It was brilliantly successful. Despite the appalling poverty, injustice, violence, racism and social inequalities of America in that age, immigrants learned to love America and feel American and identify with its heroic history, and with what they called the American dream.  In contrast the mass immigration into Europe over the past forty years has taken place during the post-1960’s cultural and political crisis of Western society – a period of neo-Marxist control of the universities and of education, and a profound cultural self-hatred among the intellectual class. The history of the West is taught as a guilt-ridden tale of oppression, colonialism, racism, and enslavement of other peoples. In short, it is presented to immigrant pupils not as a culture to identify with and be proud of, but to reject and morally condemn. Not only assimilation but even integration becomes a dirty word in these circumstances; it is actively discouraged as a capitulation to a wickedly oppressive society. 

To give a simple example: the bi-centenary of the British abolition of the slave trade in 1807 might, you would think, be an occasion to celebrate Britain’s historic role in putting an end to the universal, age-old institution of slavery. But that is not quite the slant it is being given. One Dr Alan Rice of the University of Central Lancashire urges projects “to highlight the historic role of black people in Britain and show the way that past injustices ensure legacies of continued racism….. Next week schoolchildren launch a slave-trade trail at the local museum. Helped by historians and curators, the children have devised a tour that highlights the presence of black people locally and shows how Lancashire’s wealth was built on the exploitation of slave labour.”14 Now most people probably thought that Lancashire’s wealth was built on cotton and the sweat of English mill-workers, and that whether American farmers used black slave labour or low-paid workers to pick their cotton did not change the supply of it to Lancashire mills in any way – since it continued just the same when they switched from one to the other in 1865. But no opportunity must be lost to drum guilt into every English child from birth: “Your wealth was based on other people’s blood and suffering. There is nothing in your past to be proud of. Nothing you possess is yours or your parents’; it all belongs by rights to the black people you exploited, who have now come here to get their own back.” This self-hating, breast-beating distortion of the past (there was never any significant black slave labour in Britain, only a handful of black domestic servants whose slave status was generally denied by 18th century courts) is apparently to be the message of the bi-centenary of one of the most important acts of humanitarian enlightenment in the history of the world. The entire emphasis will not be on the extraordinary fact that the British (against all their economic interests) abolished the slave trade and later slavery itself, but on the totally banal fact that before doing so they wickedly practised it (like nearly every other nation on earth, including African nations – though this detail may well escape attention.) The entire affair will be another opportunity for a wallowing in white guilt and self-flagellation. It is doubtful whether the role of the Royal Navy’s West Africa Squadron in arresting over a thousand slave ships of other nations throughout the 19th century until they forced other governments to go along with the ban will even get a mention during the bi-centenary. It is certain that schoolchildren will not be taught how many African rulers became extremely rich from the slave trade (a long tradition on their continent), and how stubbornly they resisted its abolition by Britain. 15

Now what, one might ask, is the aim of teaching this self-hating, guilt-ridden, distorted view of the past? Is it supposed to enlighten white schoolchildren and overcome their “racial prejudices”? Its probable effect is rather to sap their sense of identity and self-worth, to provoke resentment, and push a few of them towards the skinhead “No Remorse” stance. As far as the immigrant children are concerned, it can only confirm a sense of righteous grievance against the country they have come to live in, and reinforce the negative picture of the Satanic, racist society around them which the fundamentalist imam at the local mosque is eager to give them. (How successful the alliance between the leftist teacher and the fundamentalist imam has been can be seen by the actions of the July bombers, products not just of fanatical mosques but of British schools.) This brainwashing in guilt and undermining of all pride in their past is throwing young whites into the same cultural vacuum and sense of a loss of values and ideals that the immigrants have already been thrust into by their move from one culture to another. The only ideal held up to the young British white today is self-hatred and guilt for the past; he is urged to identify with a multicultural society built essentially on self-rejection. Anti-racism, a kind of vindictive, inquisitorial hunt for thought-crime by the new Thought Police, is the only moral principle of this new society, and it has replaced all the other moral values that were once instilled by education. This grotesque ideology is based on confusing two completely different things: the natural territorial resentment of a people faced with the influx of millions of visibly different foreigners of different culture, and the genocidal theories of racial superiority of Adolf Hitler. Not only are children being taught that the entire history of the British Empire was one long racist crime morally comparable with the Holocaust. They are taught that they are committing this same wicked crime all over again every time they resent being driven out of their own neighbourhood by an alien community. They are told that the mildest feelings of territorial defensiveness put them in the same moral category as an SS camp guard. This identification of territorial instinct with genocidal evil is a pathological confusion. It is imbuing people with guilt for the most natural of human impulses. And this castration of natural instincts may well have something to do with the crippling of the nation’s moral sense that has occurred over recent decades. 

         The basis of most moral behaviour is pride. “I don’t do that sort of thing” is the commonest basis for rejecting temptation, whether to theft, dishonesty, cruelty, betrayal, drug-trafficking or prostitution. Much of that sense of pride, of being above certain despicable acts, comes from a collective identity, a sense of the moral standards of the family, culture, religion, or nation one belongs to. A nation that is robbed of its pride and sense of identity by being brainwashed in guilt and self-hatred is thus robbed of one of the keystones of its moral sense. Instead of collective pride there is merely a thuggish demand for “respect” for one’s individual capacity for violence and mayhem. This partly explains the extraordinary descent of Britain into the crime-ridden, drunken, drug-addicted, money-obsessed society of yobs and sluts it has become over the past four decades. Forty years ago Britain was the safest country in Europe; now it is the most violent and dangerous. Forty years ago the British working class was among the most peaceable and law-abiding; now it is the most crime-prone. The English used to be reputed for their politeness and good manners; now they are known for their rudeness and mindless aggression. A good deal of this is due to the collapse of any sense of pride in their own community among the working class. White working-class communities have been destroyed by forcing alien communities into the midst of them, with all the confusion and disruption of value systems that implies. The loss of a sense of territory where the rules of a community are respected means the loss of a sense of identity, of self-respect. Whole working-class districts of cities have been taken over by visibly foreign populations, with the white workers forbidden to resist this encroachment on pain of imprisonment. Many working-class Englishmen do not dare set foot today in the streets where they grew up. They now belong to other races. People’s sense of continuity, of tradition, of roots, of belonging has been lost. A working class who were urged on all the battlefields of the 20th century to be proud of their glorious military history have been driven like vermin from the streets where they were born. A vague and violent sense of resentment has resulted – a sense above all of dispossession. A rootless underclass of both white and black has been invented by immigration – transient people, without values or culture, driven to affirm their existence by violence. The British working class in the past forty years have developed all the characteristics of the Irish immigrant working class of the 19th and early 20th century: brutal, violent, ignorant, destructive, embittered, drunken and loutish. It all comes from the same cause: dispossession, rootlessness, and humiliation. European working-classes are developing all the characteristics of immigrant populations, which, of course, in their majority they soon will be. This is the kind of rootless people that the global capitalists and their multicultural leftist allies want to transform all humanity into – transnational flotsam and jetsam, nomads, immigrants, a restless, drifting, mobile population, to be shifted about the planet as factories open and close, without any sense of ancestral links with the place they live in. The pride of such populations is gradually transformed into a defiant self-destructiveness, a capacity for ever more mindless violence. So far the resentment of the white working classes has remained incoherent: it is expressed in crime, hooliganism and drunkenness. That may well change as they begin to understand how they have been betrayed by a political elite which has thrown them onto a multicultural rubbish tip in order to give itself (in its all-white leafy suburbs) a good liberal conscience – and dirt-cheap labour.  



9) FEAR OF DROWNING         


            How quickly the workers of Europe develop an understanding of the depth of their betrayal by the multi-cultural left is what will determine the shape of European politics over the next fifty years. Most demographic experts now agree that if present trends continue there will be a non-white majority in Britain and France before the end of the century. Up till now the political alliance between the global capitalists and the neo-Marxist academics, politicians and journalists has been so successful in conditioning white people to accept this as inevitable, that it is assumed they will continue to be successful even as the fateful moment draws nearer. The globalist establishment has managed to skip adroitly from the soothing reassurance that it will never happen to the equally soothing reassurance that if it does it will make no difference. Because it is seen as historically inevitable, this development must be seen as normal. But as with death, which we all accept as inevitable and normal, the attitude to it may change drastically when we suddenly realize how close it is. What we took for granted when it looked a distant prospect may inspire fear as it draws nearer. As the reality gradually sinks into the minds of ordinary white people over the next decades that their children will grow old as a minority in their own country, how will this fear be expressed?

            One manifestation of it will simply be white flight. White flight from British cities is already a growing phenomenon, fuelled by rising urban violence and crime, especially black on white crime. Eventually it will become white flight to other countries (Ireland, an independent Scotland, Spain, Australasia, even one day a revitalized Eastern Europe.) 16 This is happening already in the Netherlands, as prosperous whites flee the growing ethnic tensions and violence of the multi-cultural cities for a hopefully safer life in Canada, New Zealand or Australia (though these societies, as well as America, are already on the same path of cultural disintegration, and their gloating at Europe’s problems will be short-lived.) In 2004 about 120,000 whites left the Netherlands while 90,000 mostly non-whites arrived.17 As immigrant populations increase, as their assertion of their own cultural identity takes on a more aggressive character, white flight will accelerate, and hasten the day of the non-white majority. It will also leave behind those whites unable to flee because no other country will take them – the poorer, the less educated, the less skilled. Among these people the psychosis of fear will take a different form. The origin of most racism among Europeans today is not any sense of racial superiority or even dislike of other races, but simply a territorial instinct, a sense of invasion of their cultural and geographic space by visibly different people with a different culture and collective identity. This sense of invasion is bound to intensify as non-white numbers approach a majority. And if certain non-white groups (such as Indian businessmen in Britain) become dominant economic classes on whom whites depend for jobs, the resentment will take on a toxic character like the anti-Semitism of the 1930’s. As the most intelligent whites flee the country, the rump of the white population, filled with a bitter sense of dispossession and betrayal, will fall prey to the crudest demagogues. It is highly likely a spate of Nazi-style political movements will emerge, and civil war between communities will only be a matter of time. 

The future we are heading into, where present high levels of immigration are being defended and advocated by politicians all over Europe as a solution to the problem of falling birth-rates and bankrupt pension funds, is potentially catastrophic. Politicians do not appear to realize the seriousness of what they are doing. They are placing human beings in an unprecedented situation of loss of control of their own country where primeval territorial instincts may suddenly be aroused. Nobody today has any idea how whites in the future will react to suddenly becoming a minority. But nobody thirty years ago could have predicted the recent Yugoslav civil wars, as the Serbs refused to accept minority status in breakaway states (something which Western politicians still fail obtusely to understand, but self-righteously condemn as evil – as though the people of Kent would react any differently if suddenly told they were now part of France.) What the politicians are doing is an unprecedented experiment with millions of human lives, with a bloody civil war at the end if it goes wrong. To assume that the present success of multiculturalist brainwashing will continue as whites gradually lose control of the countries they have lived in for thousands of years is a reckless gamble with the lives of whole communities. Western guilt and self-hatred is a post-colonial hangover of the baby-boom generation; it is not clear how long it will last after this generation dies off. Militant anti-racism has its roots in the experiences of one or two decades; when those experiences are forgotten, a new generation may well look around and analyse the world quite differently. There is no guarantee that the present conditioning of the white population in cultural self-hatred, historic guilt, and a duty to commit collective suicide will continue to work. Once the proportions of communities reach a certain critical level, other instincts may well rise to the surface. Already it is the youngest male adolescents all over Europe who join the skinhead gangs and feel the most resentment of the immigrant populations – and that may not be an accident if there is a link between testosterone and tribal territorial instinct. The complacent, masochistic attitude of the white middle class towards losing their “dominance” – as if this were a wicked colonial concept – may suddenly change as people realize that what is at stake is losing control of the countries they have lived in for centuries – and seeing them dominated by people with very different values who have neither affection nor fellow-feeling for them, but merely an amazed contempt that they have allowed themselves to be reduced to a powerless minority. When that moment of truth comes, a large part of the white population may suddenly wake up and want to take their country back. 

It is inevitable that there will be a point where the biological survival instincts of the European populations are finally triggered again. The superstructure of multiculturalist brainwashing may then be blown away by far more primitive urges. But if this happens only in the mid-century when non-whites already make up a third of the population in Britain, France and the Netherlands, then the consequences will be catastrophic. 

It is a peculiar paradox of present day politically correct thinking that anyone who warns of the danger of the course we are on is accused of being an evil person wanting to incite the hatred of other races, while those who are actually bringing the calamity about are seen as moral idealists with the love of all humanity in their hearts.  But there is no greater evil than to bring about a situation where social peace can only be kept if people become selfless idealists dedicated to a beautiful dream of racial and cultural harmony – where nobody cares which community  dominates and which cultural rules prevail. Human beings are very unlikely to become these moral paragons any time soon. It is better to make plans for their actual nature, rather than plans which depend on them undergoing a miraculous conversion to sainthood – for which Europeans have shown little vocation in the past. The power of brainwashing and conditioning of the education system, even in a totalitarian society, has limits when it runs up against biological instincts. The Soviet communists tried for seventy years, using the heaviest totalitarian methods imaginable, to condition people out of the wicked instinct of private property. They failed disastrously, despite killing tens of millions of those who resisted. The leftist attempt to condition white people out of their sense of racial, national and cultural identity, their genetic survival instinct and their territorial sense (while encouraging immigrant populations to maintain all these things) will also probably fail. But not before it has caused the same kinds of horrors that communism caused, and changed the entire future of human civilization.





If the Western nations are to avoid the danger of cultural and political disintegration over the next generations, there will have to be a radical change in mentalities. The disastrous fall in European births is the consequence of an insanely unbalanced society where work and consumption have become the only values, and women have been brainwashed against motherhood by a sect of neo-Marxist, anti-family fanatics. If we are once again to have a birth-rate that enables us to survive, a change in the work system will be necessary. Working hours must be reduced until family life in the old sense becomes possible again, and families of three or four children are no longer a dream feasible only for the very rich or for feckless slum-dwellers. Our only hope of survival as a civilization is to restore balance to our way of life, and place family and human relationships back at the centre of our concerns. It is unlikely that either men or women will be able to revolt with any success against the anti-family culture of overwork unless they do so together.

Most women have a natural interest in bringing about the kinds of change we are talking about – away from work and towards family. Unfortunately the feminism which dominated most women’s movements in the late 20th century was tainted from the first by its Marxist ideology:  its view of men as “oppressors”, and its hatred of family as the expression of “patriarchy”. Only those moderate currents of feminism which renounce its fanatical anti-male and anti-family attitudes, which renounce its impossible goals of equal lifetime earnings for all women and men and total interchangeability of the sexes, and accept that there will always be a greater tendency for most men to work more and most women to spend more time with family, will find any common ground with men. They can both then militate for a shift in the whole focus of society away from work and towards family, so that both men and women can have a more human life, but in the work/family proportions that they are happiest with as individuals – without any attempt to impose identical gender roles as a social goal. In short, what is needed is something along the lines of the Third Way carved out by social democracy in some European countries. The social democrats recognized belatedly that they had to keep a balance between the employer’s interest and the worker’s or they would drive companies bankrupt and increase unemployment. Similarly some moderate feminists are beginning to recognize that attacking the male “patriarchal” breadwinner role is only making men more feckless and indifferent to family. Men deprived of their traditional father-provider role are not going to become docile house-husbands but irresponsible playboys. This may be the goal of the radical feminists – a “matriarchy” where men have nothing to do with family but function only as sperm donors – but the majority of women would prefer to raise their children with a man, and one who shares family responsibilities. Already in some of the moderate feminist groups campaigning for more family-friendly working hours we see the makings of a Gender Equality Third Way – a movement of both men and women to bring about changes to the benefit of both (a good example is the Equal Justice Foundation based in Colorado.) Such movements would not only deal with issues of fairness in areas such as divorce law, child custody, and domestic violence (where most Western men now suffer from laws grossly biased against them), but also fight for the provision of cheap child care, some form of salary or major tax breaks for the parent who stays home, and militate for the reduction of working hours by law. A ban on overtime, a maximum of 40 hours per week even in managerial jobs, would be a start. The provision of part-time work for the old as retirement is postponed would be a second step (and the old should be given more of a role in child-care facilities, as surrogate grandparents.) Once a more family-friendly work schedule becomes a new trend, it will snowball and more people will demand shorter hours as they suddenly realize the possibilities it offers of a fuller life. The goal must be a situation where no shop or office works all day with the same staff, but instead opens for 10 hours on two shifts of five hours. We would at last get back to the 40-hour or 50-hour week per couple worked in the 1950’s – only with several times greater productivity than then.  

What would be the advantages of a work system with two shifts of five hours? For a start people would be able to shop, play sport, go to the dentist or take the kids to their music lesson more conveniently since they would all have half a day off every day. A healthier lifestyle for all, with far lower levels of stress, would cut back on health costs, absenteeism, medical insurance costs, hospitals, car accidents, alcoholism, violence, drug addiction, obesity, child neglect, child abuse, street crime, unemployment, vandalism, policing costs, prisons, social services and courts. We have come to accept as the inevitable scourges of modern life what are in fact the sicknesses of a system of overwork, where people are permanently tired, bad-tempered and under stress, where they blame their marriages for their frustrations and divorce at the drop of a hat, and where children are neglected and grow up angry and aggressive. It is unnatural to live in a state of chronic stress and overwork, afraid to protest for fear of losing one’s job. This state of slavery, kept in place by the fear of joining the droves of unemployed on the scrap heap, and the terror of the new bugbear of globalization or competition from Third World slave labour, is the origin of most of the social problems that we have to pay taxes to deal with. The elimination of those problems, and all unemployment, would reduce taxes. More time during the day would allow far more people to walk to work (or take public transport), causing less traffic, less pollution, more convivial streets. (The slight fall in population as immigration is ended and before the birth rate picks up again will lead to cheaper and more available housing, and people will live closer to where they work.) People would have time to practise more sport, leading to less obesity and less illness. More time for families would make many people realize they can in fact manage three children, and a healthy birth-rate would return, thus averting the looming pensions crisis as well as the long-term social catastrophe of high immigration. More time for voluntary work would mean people would have time to visit the old, the sick, the handicapped, to baby-sit the neighbours’ kids, and get emotional rewards out of helping others instead of simply a higher tax bill from the government. Fewer people would fall into isolation, alienation, alcoholism, drug addiction, if the social fabric was just a little more closely knit. Both care for older parents (as people live longer) and care for young children (if we want families of normal size again) require a society with more free time to devote to family members. And voluntary activities of all kinds would help people to develop new talents and skills as well as a new sense of counting in the lives of others. The American conservatives who are keen to see voluntarism and charity revived as an alternative to the welfare state would do well to reflect on the impact of long, stressful working hours on the capacity of people to engage in these activities. Since in the “idyllic” 1950’s and early 60’s it was wives staying at home who did most of the voluntary work, a new move back towards such activities has got to either persuade more women to stay home again, or else reduce working hours for both men and women (and the second looks like a more realistic option.) The prerequisite for neighbourliness and helping the old and weak, as well as giving children a proper upbringing, is time. And once work is reduced to proportions that people enjoy as a form of social participation rather than a stressful rat-race, there will be no need for retirement until old age or illness seriously strike at seventy or seventy-five. And with most old people continuing to work part-time, the whole pension crisis will disappear.

A gathering in September 2005 of social philosophers and thinkers from many different countries at St Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia, Canada, tried to define and measure happiness and what promotes it. They all agreed that, beyond a certain basic level of material comfort, happiness is utterly unaffected by wealth in itself. 18 What counts for happiness is the respect and admiration of others and the sense of self-worth. While these things may be connected with relative wealth, they are not connected with absolute wealth. Having more than others is more important than any absolute amount, which shows that it is not wealth itself but the opinion (or imagined opinion) of others and the personal sense of achievement wealth symbolizes that counts most. And that good opinion and sense of achievement can be gained far more by other things – by doing things people admire. Having more time to interact with others, whether it is time to chat to the elderly neighbour, to teach your nephew the guitar, or to spend a year building wells in an African village is far more important to happiness than a rise in income, a new set of furniture or a new car. This applies as much to business tycoons as to anyone else. Building and sponsoring a bush hospital in Africa would give the CEO of a big company far greater satisfaction than buying a bigger yacht – as people like Rockefeller and Ford discovered, and Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are finding out now. Happiness is human interaction which affirms one’s worth by affirming one’s power to spread happiness. The power to make others feel good is the only power it is worth having. But achieving happiness requires having time, and we are doing ourselves out of time through our obsession with work and money.









The feminist movement, in conjunction with the sexual revolution and its destabilisation of marriage and the family, has brought about an enormous change in the way Westerners have lived over the past thirty-five years. We have seen how unbalanced this change has been – how the increased work-role of women has simply multiplied the amount of human energy going into the production of goods and services in an already over-supplied market, while reducing the amount of energy that is going into family life, love relationships, and raising children, with disastrous effects on the Western birth-rate. Of course the feminists argue that it is men who should put more energy into these things, but this requires a reduction in working-hours for men which has been made more difficult by the very atmosphere of ferocious competition which this over-supply of labour, goods and services has brought about. Feminism, by integrating women into the present work system without changing that system (by reducing working hours), has made it more difficult than ever to change it.

The feminists, realising that many women are not much happier in the over-stressed lifestyle they have brought about, have expended a lot of energy trying to get men to take on a fairer share of the housework. The problem, they think, is that men have not adapted to the fact that women now work: they should be doing half the cooking and cleaning, and thereby lighten the women’s now famous double burden. Of course this does happen in some couples. But surveys are forever conveying the bad news that men are still largely shirkers in this field. A September 2004 survey by the American Department of Labour shows that married women who work full-time do twice as much daily housework as their husband  (an hour and a half as against forty-five minutes.) But it also shows that men actually spend an hour and a quarter longer at work (nine hours as opposed to seven hours forty-five minutes for full-time working women.) This would indicate that the alleged “unfairness” of men over housework is merely the same role division as before – he works more at the office, and expects her to work more in the house. Why should he do as much as her at home if he is still expected to work longer hours and bring in more money? In fact these figures show that men work half an hour longer overall (paid work plus housework) than women in full-time jobs do. It seems that women want their husband to be a “new man” only if he continues the life of overwork and higher earnings of the “old man” at the same time.  It is now men, according to these figures, who are expected to carry a double burden, not women. Women’s chronic sense of injustice may well be misplaced.

There may also be another factor in the endless argument over sharing housework. It tends to be forgotten that till recently the man’s work at home was outdoors: doing the garden, mowing the lawn, maintenance of the car and the outside of the house (repainting, roof repairs), while the woman took care of indoors. Apartment living has often removed the man’s maintenance work (or professionalized it, as he takes the car to the garage) leaving him little to do in the way of “man’s work” – that is, mechanical, technical or heavy – except programme the video-recorder. As the wife demands that he should take a greater share in what he still regards as “her” tasks, he cannot avoid the feeling that this is an imposition, even a power grab, which places him under her orders – an incompetent worker at tasks where she is the expert. The home, which the wife previously kept as her castle, where her husband was like a privileged guest basking in her warm hospitality, is now a new work zone or combat zone where she fires off a constant barrage of instructions to a clumsy apprentice. His response to this new psychological discomfort zone at home may be to get out as often as possible and spend even more time at the office, where he is in control. This desertion by the man of the centre of family life increases the reluctance of both partners to have children (he lacks “commitment”.) As marriages become more tense and rancorous, with expectations at cross purposes, the idea of having more than two children is for many unthinkable. One or two children is the maximum a divorced wife can carry in her baggage and have any hope of holding down a job, let alone finding another man.





The feminist movement has also poured a good deal of energy into a certain number of social issues, relating to women’s role as mothers. One area in which feminism made a concerted and successful effort was on the subject of abortion. As we saw, there is a long tradition in 19th century feminism of seeing motherhood as a male plot to keep women down, and maternal instincts as a form of treason to the movement. One may suspect a variety of motives among those who have made it their special task to persuade as many women as possible to end their pregnancies. “Women’s right to control their bodies” is the slogan by which they seek to liberate women from their oppressive biological destiny, within which men, of course, try to imprison them – the regrettable tendency to get pregnant. No doubt there is among many feminists a genuine concern for the welfare of women who become pregnant without wanting it or being in a position to support a baby (though nothing prevents them giving the baby up for adoption to a caring, sterile couple.) But the ideological animus against maternity itself, as though women must resist this insidious biological tyranny, has transformed many women from the makers and nurturers of babies into the chief advocates of the right to kill them. The right of women to control their own bodies has led to a blanket approval and advocacy of an ongoing massacre of hundreds of thousands of healthy foetuses a year, some of them already viable, all over the West. To question this has become taboo. It is to ally oneself with religious fundamentalists and fascists. And yet one may well support something as a right in an individual case, and still find it disturbing when it becomes a mass phenomenon on a scale of millions. To take a parallel example, one may support the right to kill in self-defence; but if this right is suddenly invoked by millions of people a year who kill somebody, there is a problem that needs to be looked at. The scale of a thing changes its nature. The pro-abortionists are right when one looks at the individual case of distress of an unmarried pregnant teenager. The anti-abortionists are right when one looks at the mass phenomenon of millions of healthy foetuses being butchered throughout the West every year. There has got to be another solution. 

When one looks at the parallel problem of hundreds of thousands of childless, sterile couples in Western countries desperate to adopt a baby, the solution is staring us in the face.  Get more of the women with unwanted pregnancies to have the baby and give it up for adoption. And since this is time-consuming, expensive, disruptive to their lives and emotionally harrowing, then pay them to do it. 

Now this simple solution, that it might be better, both ethically and socially, to actually pay women to have these babies and give them for adoption to childless couples rather than to kill them, has been drowned out by an hysterical chant of feminist principle: woman’s right to control her body and kill her foetus. Paying a woman to have her baby, or paying for a surrogate pregnancy, has actually been outlawed in some countries. We have the absurd situation in these countries where it is legal to kill babies (6 months into their uterine lives) but not to sell them to loving adoptive parents (at 9 months.) It is only when some enterprising Caribbean island-state decides to start a baby business, by building a good maternity hospital and bringing together pregnant girls and childless couples from all over the world and letting them do a deal for legal adoption, that the absurd taboo on paying for pregnancies will finally fall, and with it the appalling abortion rate. It is surprising no island-state has yet thought of doing this: offering a free beach holiday for pregnant girls with full medical and psychological support and a generous lump sum, all paid for by the grateful adopting couple. If the mother changed her mind and wanted to keep the baby, she could stay and work in the hospital for a few months to pay off her debt. Everybody would achieve their legitimate human aspirations in a fair, humane and decent way, at a reasonable cost. Fewer healthy foetuses would be butchered, and more sterile couples would be made happy. And attractive, intelligent but economically deprived young women from Eastern Europe, for example, would have a new source of income: making pretty blond babies for sterile Westerners, instead of falling into the clutches of the sex-trade Mafia. Who would lose from this but the religious fundamentalist lobby and the compulsive foetus-killers? The Christian fundamentalists object to this because it would be commercializing human life (as though this were worse than commercializing human death in private abortion clinics, where you pay to have your fœtus killed.) Moreover, these fundamentalist movements, kept going by TV shows and appeals for money, themselves represent the commercialization of religion on a scale never seen since the selling of indulgences. How can they object to commercializing babies when they commercialize Jesus? 

This issue is one example of how fanaticism on both sides prevents the reasonable compromises that could solve difficult human problems. Millions of childless couples who would make loving and caring parents are being needlessly deprived of happiness by a peculiar moral blindspot: it’s all right to kill a foetus, but not to pay the mother to give birth to it.   






The radical feminist attack on motherhood itself is part of a wider attack on the very notion of femininity and of the distinct personality of women. The desire to abolish the feminine character, because it is the mere product of a social conditioning designed to enslave women, goes back to the late eighteenth century. The earliest feminist tract, Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), was a long diatribe against the feminine personality as a frivolous, shallow, narcissistic, namby-pamby, sentimental, affected childishness which women should throw off for men’s more serious, vigorous character (and would, if given a decent education.) This argument was updated by Simone de Beauvoir in her 1949 book The Second Sex, which again called on women to drop their silly, vain femininity and adopt the rational, creative, dynamic character of men as the only way to fully participate in the great work of human progress. Though the fulsome eulogies of the male character which the naive, pre-feminist de Beauvoir indulged in would stick in the throat of any feminist today (given their new theology of men as the agents of Satan), her message is basically the same as theirs: all differences between the sexes must be obliterated – and essentially by women changing to become like men. On this all feminists seem to agree: diabolical though men are, women are paradoxically redeemed by coming to resemble them. Throughout twentieth century feminism there is a strong current of contempt for femininity. This is not merely a contempt for a mass-media caricature of femininity, or an exaggerated, manipulative feminine role-playing of the simpering kind that drove the mannish Wollstonecraft mad. It is  a contempt for any personality traits or behaviour that deviate from what is felt to be the masculine norm – prompting some writers to speak of feminist gynophobia, or hatred of women. Since these feminists systematically downgrade femininity as a slavish, soft, emotive, childish, sugary impulse of submission, the convergence of the sexes which they advocate can only take place by women adopting men’s character: strong, dominant, tough, rational, aggressive. We have the paradox of feminists wanting women to become men in all but the small detail of genitalia. The feminist ideal of a human being is a man with a vagina. (The term “female eunuch” used by Germaine Greer reflects a contempt for femininity as inferior because not virile and potent enough – a good example of feminism adopting an entirely masculine perspective.) Once women have adopted this male character, there will hardly be any difference between the sexes at all. Ultimately what is hoped for is a universal androgyny, a world where it is not clear from any outward sign of dress or behaviour who is male and who is female. This is the ultimate step in the entire women’s liberationist ideology of the past forty years: the notion that one day we will not only be freed from the wicked identities of religion, race, nation and class, but also of sex. People in the progressive utopia will apparently stop thinking that what sex they are forms any part of their identity. Here is one radical feminist expressing pious hopes for the disappearance of “gender” (by which feminists mean the visible, social expression of the difference in sex) :


When we no longer ask “boy or girl?” in order to start gendering an infant, when the information is as irrelevant as the colour of the child’s eyes (but not yet the colour of skin), then and then only will women and men be socially interchangeable and really equal. And when that happens there will no longer be any need for gender at all. 1


“No longer any need for gender at all”. To say that this is utopianism is putting it mildly. This expresses such a profound discontent with the law of life that governs all vertebrate animals – that they are born in two sexes – that one can only call it pathological. It is useless, I suppose, to ask such a person how she expects children to be born into the world. Are women no longer to become pregnant? Or no longer to breast-feed? Or are measures to be taken to prevent little girls from regarding this whole biological process as being of any importance, to stop the anticipation of motherhood from having any effect on their personalities or life-plans, to ban the manufacture of dolls (or force boys to play with them), or perhaps even to banish all knowledge of their probable destiny as mothers from girls’ consciousness until they reach maturity (rather like the Victorians suppressing any knowledge of sex till a girl was about to marry.) This sort of abolition of gender, this “interchangeability” of the sexes, can ultimately only be brought about by the abolition of birth itself, by replacing it with some sort of laboratory incubation, of the kind Aldous Huxley dreamed up in Brave New World. And this is precisely what more and more radical feminists fantasize about. Science will save women from the horrors of motherhood, and from the dreadful inferiority that pregnancy implies. Or else they gleefully look forward to the possibility of men becoming pregnant too as though this will inflict on the wicked male sex some of their own medicine. This kind of passage raises serious doubts about the sanity of some radical feminists.

            Now of course the radical feminists, like all neo-Marxists, have constructed a jargon- ridden closed system of their own, which provides glib answers to everything by verbal tautology. According to their system, gender and sex mean something different. Sex is the biological difference between men and women (that is, their physical difference in genitalia and bone structure) and gender is the social and behavioural difference, the sense of  a sexual identity and personality, all of which is by definition the construct of an evil patriarchal society. Abolishing gender, they claim, is merely abolishing a wicked social construct, the product of education and conditioning. With this construct gone, the two sexes would feel and behave in an identical fashion, have similar personalities, similar sense of identity, and even perhaps come to look the same. This is the central dogma of radical feminism and of the enormous ideological-academic establishment which now counts over six hundred Women’s Studies and Gender Studies departments and programmes in American universities. All of these programmes are dedicated to preaching this one doctrine: that “gender” is a purely social construct which must be abolished. (Gender Studies are one of the few fields of scholarship in academia, along with Black Studies, where the conclusions to be arrived at by the “studies” are all known in advance.)

The only problem is that science has now fairly convincingly shown that psychological and behavioural differences between the sexes (so-called “gender”) are not merely social constructs, but largely biological in origin. Abolishing “gender difference” would mean trying to eradicate characteristics which spring directly from male and female hormones, and from the different brain structures shaped by these hormones in the womb. The very phrasing of this quotation “to start gendering an infant” assumes that all the psychological characteristics a child possesses are the result of the way people treat it. This depends on a theory of the child as a blank slate, which nobody takes seriously any longer. All the evidence suggests that the child is not “gendered” by society but very largely “genders” itself through its own innate impulses. The parents and entourage do no more than respond to and reinforce the gender characteristics manifested by the child. The very existence of children who do not conform to gender type (and cause their parents great worry on this account) is the proof of how limited parents’ ability is to successfully impose gender-typical behaviour when it contradicts the child’s own biological impulses. The boy who insists on playing with dolls or the girl who insists on playing with trucks is not usually the product of the parents’ “gendering” behaviour but of a stubborn defiance of it (because of hormonal influences in the fœtal stage creating biological anomalies in these children’s brains.) And if a child’s non-conformity to conventional gender behaviour is not a result of parental conditioning, then nor is his or her conformity to it. In fact, both sex identity and gender behaviour are now known to be biological, not socially constructed by “gendering” – a verb which simply has no meaning, because what it claims to describe does not in fact happen.

For many years (as we mentioned in an earlier section) feminists cited the case of an American boy whose penis was destroyed in babyhood by a surgical accident, and who was then surgically remodelled and raised as a girl. They claimed that this involuntary sex-change was entirely successful, that the boy adjusted perfectly to a girl’s identity. They used the case as proof that “gender” is merely a social construct which the individual passively accepts. It is now known that this boy lived through agonies of self-hatred, rejected his girl’s body, tore off the dresses he was forced to wear, and was utterly convinced he was a boy. Finally, in adolescence his suicidal self-hatred at his lack of a penis led his parents to tell him the truth, whereupon he at once chose to live as a boy and later married a girl.2 Gender identity is clearly not something that can be imposed by upbringing. It is fixed forever by developments in the brain at the foetal stage, and it persists in spite of every attempt by upbringing to change it – even in spite of having genitalia at variance with it. Transsexuals are individuals whose brain sex-centre is at variance with the sex of their body because of a hormonal abnormality in the development of the fœtus. Its commonest form occurs when the male hormone (which in male foetuses transforms the basic female form of a foetus into a male) failed to masculinize the sex-centre of the brain while masculinizing the body. The individual thus has a mismatch between the mental sense of what sex he is (his “gender”) and the sex of his body, and seeks to bring the two into line. If the feminist thesis were correct, that “gender” is social not biological, then transsexuals would not exist, or they could simply be cured by conditioning and upbringing. The fact that transsexuals are incurable (except by surgery) is the living proof that gender identity is imprinted on the brain at the fœtal stage, and if people get the wrong one (one at variance with their body sex) no conditioning can change it afterwards. As experts in this field emphasize, there is no cure for transsexuals, only accommodation or a sex change. To pretend that this most profound aspect of a person’s identity – his sense of what sex he is – is a mere social construct which we can condition people into forgetting about so as to create a “genderless world” is quite simply lunacy. It has now been shown scientifically to rest on a totally false conception of what “gender” is.





What is interesting is that the use of the word “gender” in any but a grammatical context was first introduced in 1955 by John Money, a leading (New Zealand-born) American expert on hermaphroditism and other sex identity disorders – and, by an interesting coincidence, the man who recommended the sex-change of the baby boy mentioned above. He used the word “gender” to talk about people’s mental sense of being male or female, as distinct from what sex they are physically. 3 “Gender” was meant to represent the subjective feeling of sexual identity as opposed to its objective reality in genitalia – even though the two things are in harmony in over 99.9 per cent of cases. The term was invented to help describe the situation of a tiny handful of people – transsexuals – who suffer from a pathology where the two things (mental sex and physical sex) don’t go together (and the person thinks he is in the wrong body.) There was no assumption by psychiatrists who coined the term “gender” that this subjective feeling of sex identity was of purely social origin (most of them soon concluded it was probably biological – though not before Money had made some reckless mistakes in advising gender “reassignments” on the assumption that social conditioning would prevail over biology.) The feminists, however, soon seized on this new concept of “gender” and leaped to the conclusion that if this subjective sense of maleness and femaleness can be separate from (and at variance with) a person’s actual physical sex, then it must be a purely social construct, imposed by upbringing. They misunderstood the rare pathology of transsexualism and then generalized from it to the whole human race. Because gender (the subjective sense of what sex you are) is at variance with physical sex in the case of transsexuals, feminists concluded there must be no connection between the two: one is purely social, the other biological. In actual fact, the whole problem for transsexuals is that both gender and physical sex are biological in origin – the sex-centre in their brain is of one sex and their body is of the other, and no amount of socialization can bring the two into harmony. So the feminists arrived at their peculiar dogmatic distinction between “sex” and “gender” by a complete misunderstanding of the psychiatric term “gender” and the way it is used in this field. This distorted, muddled misunderstanding of the concept of “gender” as purely social is fundamental to the whole dogmatic structure of radical feminism as it exists in the Gender Studies departments of American universities today.

But the feminist ideology is based also on a second confusion. They confused the gender role-playing attacked by Wollstonecraft with gender itself.  In every age and culture gender role-play varies (just as the economic and social roles of men and women vary to some extent between cultures, as we saw in Herodotus’ description of the Egyptians.) In the late 18th century fashionable gender role-play took the form of all women trying to display the character traits of the most feminine women (spontaneous, childish, emotional, oversensitive) because they could see the enormous success these traits had in attracting men (who themselves engaged in gender role-play that was rather less masculine than now, judging by their clothes and manners.) Traits which were perfectly natural and spontaneous in very feminine women were play-acted and cultivated by all women in the 18th century as a seductive ploy. In the same way, in the 1950’s, all men tried to imitate the tough-guy John Wayne behaviour which is natural and spontaneous only in a minority of very masculine men – because they were the ones perceived as the most attractive to women. Now this gender role-play is of course based on the typical biologically-based character differences between the sexes. But it is social convention that determines which of these character differences of biological origin will be displayed (and in what degree) as the means of attracting the opposite sex. One may make the comparison with physique. Nobody doubts that male and female bodies have naturally different shapes, but every age develops a fashion or social convention as to which physical traits of each sex will be displayed and exaggerated for the seduction of the other. In the 16th century it was men’s legs and women’s breasts; and in the late 20th century, women’s legs and men’s shoulders (in padded jackets.) So it is with character traits: the emotive, spontaneous, childish, over-sensitive feminine character so decried by Wollstonecraft is undoubtedly a product of female hormone. But it is a matter of social convention and fashion which degree of this ultra-feminine personality will be considered attractive in a given age and thus deliberately adopted and play-acted by all women. In the 18th century this ultra-feminine personality was fashionable. Today it would be laughed at, as women are now supposed to adopt gender role-play that apes men’s behaviour (and have been since the First World War, when suntans and short hair for women came in, along with smoking cigarettes, playing sport, getting drunk, getting laid, and using laconic, tough-guy speech, in the manner of Hemingway’s Brett.) In the same way such traits as toughness, courage, aggressiveness, insensitivity, taciturnity, and a detached, promiscuous approach to sex, are certainly related to male hormone; but it is a matter of social convention what degree of these traits will be considered attractive in men in any period – and the 20th century pushed this male role-play to an extreme it had never attained for a thousand years. In other words gender role-play (the degree of masculine characteristics it is fashionable for men to display) is a social convention, but gender itself (the masculine characteristics) is biological, because related to male hormone. The radical feminists confused the two: because gender role-play is a social convention, they  imagined that gender itself is a mere social convention. This is quite simply false, and science in recent years has proved it false. But because you can change gender role-play by social convention and conditioning (the proof is that women no longer simper as they did in the 18th century) the feminists imagined you could change gender itself – the biologically-based mental and emotional differences that underlie the gender role-play. But slapping a little girl every time she simpers, or pushing women into the army, is not going to greatly improve spatial-navigational and mathematical skills in most women, nor will it reduce their superiority in verbal skills over men, or their better random visual memory, or their greater tendency to cry or to talk or to jump at loud noises, or to want sex to be associated with “romantic” emotions. There is a limit to how much these hormone-based mental differences will change as a result of a change in the fashionable gender role-play of a culture: there will be some change, as behaviour also affects hormones, but it will be limited. What may change more is the way the sexes relate to each other and how well they get along. Gender role-play in every generation seems to be a complex dance in which each sex positions itself in order to maximize its attraction to the opposite sex. When a fanatical ideology interferes in this process and conditions women into a gender role-play which does not attract men, while inhibiting men from engaging in the gender role-play that will attract women, then society suffers a complex breakdown in sexual relationships. When society tries to push women to be more masculine, while pushing men to behave in ways that only appeal to more feminine women, then there are problems. That is one way of seeing what has happened over the last few decades in the West, and may explain why sexual relationships are more problematic, confused and unstable than before.  

Attempts to root out both the sense of gender identity and the behavioural and personality differences between the sexes by a deliberate “non-gendering” upbringing have failed spectacularly, most notably in the early Israeli kibbutz system. This was an experiment by radical feminists and socialists to bring up children so that “gender” would be eliminated. It was a community where men and women shared work-roles and leadership roles with strict equality. Women were freed from the burden of child-care. Children were raised in mixed-sex dormitories, separated from parents, with strictly identical care for both sexes. They all wore the same clothes, underwent the same tough training, and any signs of gender role-play were suppressed. Boys and girls showered and undressed in front of one another, in order to prevent coyness and sexual self-consciousness developing. Mothers, dressed in man-like clothes and forbidden all feminine display, were allowed two hours of an evening with the children, but were encouraged to treat all children alike, and not favour their own. American academic Melford Spiro, who in 1950 visited a kibbutz and wrote glowingly of the experiment, discovered on a second visit in 1975 that the system had collapsed and reverted to conventional sex roles. 4 A gender division of work had returned. Women had shifted out of the hard agricultural labour into service and secretarial tasks and men had taken over the political leadership because women no longer showed up at the meetings. Women had returned to wanting their children with them and had begun various forms of feminine display (make-up and pretty clothes) strictly forbidden at the start. Even their characters had shifted to the softer, more empathetic pattern observed in women the world over. One of the earliest revolts against the system had apparently been carried out by the pubescent girls, who suddenly developed shame at nudity and objected violently to undressing and showering in front of the boys. This pudeur went totally against their upbringing and shocked the parents. As one critic concludes: “the modesty that girls develop at puberty is apparently not due to social guilt induction; much more likely it is an aspect of the female coyness which is biologically preprogrammed because it served the mating strategy of high partner selectivity and general sexual reserve.” 5 In other words, promiscuous nudity would suit a sexually promiscuous species. In a species where the female selects her mate very carefully for a long-term, supportive relationship, she will refuse promiscuous nudity. The entire history of the kibbutz is a rediscovery of the wheel: a re-enacting of the steps by which sex-roles and gender role-play come into existence, through the natural assertion of biology in the face of ideology. Girls brought up on the early kibbutzes were later on observed to be the most feminine of Israeli women, utterly allergic to the feminist, androgynous, mannish conditioning they were subjected to, and determined to assert their feminine identity.  

But like all neo-Marxist movements, the feminists cannot learn from failure. All a Marxist ever concludes from failure is that the ideology was not imposed rigorously enough, the outside influences were not stamped out ruthlessly enough, the backsliders were not eliminated brutally enough. Feminism is after all a branch of the ideology that killed a hundred and twenty million people in the 20th century in an effort to root out the property instinct, which can be observed in every dog with a bone. Such movements are not deterred by failure. Radical feminist academics continue to theorize about the possibility of eliminating gender, perhaps by sequestering the entire population of children from their parents and bringing them up by an even more strictly unisex method – this time making sure the care-givers are equally men and women (a fatal oversight among the Israeli kibbutzim.) 6 Some feminist academics insist that the goal must be to break forever the association between care-giving to babies and the human female: only babies cared for by men will grow up free of the wicked association of the female personality with the nurturing role. (Since another branch of feminism is busy attacking every man who kisses a child as a paedophile, this might prove complicated. Male nursery school and crèche attendants in Britain are given strict rules for their own protection: never be alone with a child and never hug one. A world of male child-carers would be one where children were totally deprived of physical affection – or else where the carers lived with the constant risk of being thrown in prison for paedophilia.) Others have suggested gender roles should be attacked at their base by imposing gender-role reversal. Proposals were made in London infant schools during the heyday of militant feminism to force the boys to dress in skirts and play with dolls, while the girls would dress in trousers and be encouraged to climb trees and fight. The hope was to produce children who would be more likely to be independent of gender bias – that is, more likely to be sexually confused and hopefully develop into homosexuals, transvestites, or even transsexuals. Most normal psychologists estimate that the psychic damage done to the children subjected to this kind of experimentation is considerable (Hemingway’s obsession with manhood was a good example of a violent male reaction to the childhood trauma of being dressed as a little girl – would feminists want to see Hemingway’s obsession generalized?) Boys and girls at a certain age have a strong need to identify themselves as boys or girls: to try to confuse them on this score can lead to lasting damage. But the radical feminists would argue that this is to equate sexual confusion with damage; whereas for them sexual confusion is positive, if it leads to homosexuality, transsexualism, or some profound malaise about their sexual identity. What the radical feminists and gay militants hope for is to bring up children who are profoundly unhappy with the sex they happen to be and who will therefore join the fight against “gender”. As one puts it: “Raising gender flexible children in a patriarchal culture does not isolate them from patriarchy but may help them see its flaws and provide them with a rich context for theorizing their own positions in relation to it.” 7 In short, the kids are to be brought up to be sexual cannon fodder in the culture wars – mentally and psychically detached from their sex so that they will grow up to criticize gender norms. The risk that they may be profoundly confused or insecure about which sex they are, leading them to suicidal self-hatred, self-mutilation or a lifelong struggle to change sex (and then accept their sterility), is simply the price they will have to pay to fight mummy’s gender wars for her.

But the hatred of gender, the desire to abolish gender, manifested by radical feminism is a sign of something a lot deeper. The feminists’ horror of gender is above all a horror of their own gender: it is linked to the contempt for femininity which runs through the whole feminist tradition (sometimes referred to as “gynophobia” or hatred of the female.) Feminists sometimes seem to view their female bodies with a degree of alienation which is not unlike the horror felt by Kafka’s hero when he woke up transformed into an insect. They have some of the characteristics of that Gender Identity Disorder, that sense of being in the wrong body, which in extreme form makes people transsexuals. Transsexualism, or gender dysphoria, a profound unhappiness with the sex one is, affects a few hundred people each year in Britain, and manifests itself as early as three years old. 8 It is not usually a function of upbringing (though some traumatic events such as bereavement in infancy can occasionally provoke it) but of biology. Now this mental disorder, in the acute form that leads a person to want to change sex, seems to afflict men more often than women. This is perhaps because the sexing of the male fœtus in the womb, dependent as it is on the right secretions of male hormone, is far more likely to go wrong. If the gender-centre of the fœtus’s brain remains female while the rest of the body becomes male (because the transforming action of male hormone was interfered with at that stage), the person can end up later on feeling like a female trapped in a male body. The same process can, of course, happen in reverse when a dose of male hormone (or a male-hormone-like chemical in the mother’s body) transforms the gender-centre of a female fœtus’s brain into a male one, without changing anything else. Now in the extreme form which creates a female to male transsexual (who feels like a male trapped in a female body) this sort of anomaly is extremely rare. But it may well be that this disorder occurs in less acute form in quite a number of females, where it leads not exactly to a desire to change sex, but to a sense of being ill at ease with their sex, or detached from it – what is often referred to now as being “gender-flexible.” Being “gender-flexible” is held up in gay, lesbian and radical feminist circles as some sort of ideal, as though it represented liberation from a wicked heterosexual narrow-mindedness (as though feeling totally one sex was a sign of evil prejudice against the other one.) In fact this “gender-flexibility” may be nothing more than a biological malfunction of the gender-centre of the brain, which gives people a less marked and profound sense of what sex they are than the average person, without going as far as transsexualism. It could perhaps be this that gives certain feminists their tendency to question the basis of gender identity. For them their gender feels assumed or even play-acted rather than natural. They feel it must be merely “conditioned” because they do not wholly identify with it. The alleged crisis of woman’s alienation from herself which some feminists have evoked may in fact be only their own personal crisis as individuals suffering from a mild form of Gender Identity Disorder. But rather than understand that they are particular cases, they are convinced that all women and men can be brought, by a suitable “non-gendering” education, to a similar detachment from their sense of what sex they are. They want to convince us that their own slippery sense of sex-identity is a liberating vision, a more profound understanding of humanity, a way of freeing ourselves from centuries of conditioned identification with rigid gender norms. And they do not grasp that their vision of things is that of a tiny minority who suffer from a particular biological disorder, in less extreme form than the transsexual, but nonetheless giving them a quite different sense of gender identity than most other people. It is significant that many radical feminists are deeply suspicious of transsexuals, because transsexuals are nearly always convinced of the biological nature of their gender-sense – and this is something radical feminists are in constant denial about. What they don’t want to see is their own similarity to the transsexual – victims of a biological abnormality in their brain’s gender-centre, and not heroic rebels against a society of conditioned gender norms. 

Those radical feminist academics who are obsessed with freeing people from the tyranny of “gender” may well, therefore, be suffering from a mild case of the Gender Identity Disorder which can, in more extreme cases, make people want to change sex. But unlike male transsexuals who simply try to get their penis removed and become women, these feminist GID sufferers cannot openly express a desire to become men, because their gender identity problems have made them gravitate towards a feminist movement which has defined men as the eternal enemy and oppressor. It would be an act of treason to want to change sex and join the enemy, responsible for all their misfortunes. Hence they project their discontent onto the very existence of gender difference, which they blame for all their ills. Of course they argue that what they are rejecting is a social construct, a conventional picture of a female character which is not them, but is being imposed on them. And this is exactly how it really is for them, because for them this gender identity is very largely a social construct, a play-act, since they lack the biological urge, in crude terms the level of female hormone, or the brain structure and personality shaped by female hormone, which would make them feel it was entirely natural.

But the desire of the radical feminists to “abolish gender” is not merely a wish to abolish gender role-play, stereotypes, or patterns of behaviour, which they think are socially imposed. It is ultimately a desire to abolish the public division of the human race into male and female, visibly identifiable as such, with different sets of names, different clothes, and different expectations as to how they will relate to one another. It is a desire for a world where we will no longer be able to tell who is a woman and who is a man – a world where the possession of certain genital equipment will carry no sense of collective identity or any group psychological characteristics, differences of dress, behaviour, etc. This is what this pious wish “there will be no need for gender at all” means: to abolish any outward sign of which sex one is, so that all individuals will look the same sex until they take their clothes off and surprise their intimate friends with the sight of their particular equipment. It will apparently then make no difference which kind of plug either body possesses. One will adapt one’s own attachment according to the holes or protuberances available, and happily engage in intercourse as either the plugger or the plugged, with perfect indifference. That this might take some of the fun out of sex does not appear to cross the mind of Judith Lorber and her ilk. The entire dramatic romance of male and female, the strong and the soft, the passionate and the sensitive, the embracer and the embraced, the penetrator and the penetrated, is to be abolished because of its wicked active-passive connotations, and replaced by a quiet session side by side on the sofa, alternately plugging or being plugged in an amiable and civilized exchange with a rational equal. Before climbing back into one’s unisex clothes and resuming a life where one’s sex has become as secret and clandestine as in former days one’s sexual orientation. This is Puritanism run mad. It is a rejection not merely of the human condition but of biological existence itself. 

Radical feminism, the entire ideology preached in the brainwashing centres of American universities, the Gender Studies departments, is not merely an elaborate falsehood, which flies in the face of today’s science. It is in many ways a form of collective insanity, something comparable to a fanatical sect. It is as scandalous that these centres of ideological superstition still have their prominent and untouchable place in American academia as it would be if there were six hundred university departments teaching Creationism, Islam or Scientology as the truth. The irony is that if these departments were shut down more young women might be persuaded to study serious fields like mechanical engineering (where there is a twenty to one predominance of men) and real progress might be made towards gender equality. Degrees in Gender Studies are the contemporary equivalent of degrees in Basket-weaving or Home Economics – a way of marginalizing hundreds of thousands of young women from the mainstream of serious intellectual endeavour and imprisoning them in a closed world of elaborate female fantasy. It is extraordinary that, in an age where women can study anything they like, so many of them have opted for a field which epitomizes female narcissism – the study of themselves, and why they are not doing better, and who can be blamed for it, and how they can fantasize another world. Wollstonecraft’s spirited tract calling two hundred years ago for equal education for women has been answered fully and her goal achieved. And instead of taking advantage of it, thousands of women study Wollstonecraft’s tract and base their whole world-view upon it, as if nothing had happened since then, and they were still excluded from all serious studies and all serious public roles. The result of total emancipation for women has been to wallow in a victim culture. The result of total educational equality has been to sink into embittered resentment, and develop a cult of almost demonic hatred of the men and the civilization that have given them this equality. Feminism is the demonstration of the bankruptcy and sterility of the Marxist mind, the cancerous effect of a cultivated delusion of oppression and fantasies of total revolution. Without feminism and Gender Studies departments there would probably be female leaders in half the nations of the Western world. It is the ideology which imprisons their minds that is holding women back, as it held back the Third World and the countries under Marxist tyranny for so long. 





One of the developments in feminism over recent decades has been its growing alliance with homosexual movements, and a convergence of their goals in opposing the “patriarchy”. We will examine in a later work the unprecedented “normalisation” of homosexuality which has occurred in Western society (and in Western society alone) over the past forty years. We may see this as part of the general movement of demographic suicide of Western man (rats subjected to the stress of overcrowding often show an increase in homosexual and paedophile behaviour, along with other neuroses.) But it can also be seen as part of the masculinisation of sexual relations. This may seem paradoxical in that many male homosexuals exhibit feminine traits. But the female is the sex that generally demands a playact of tenderness and affection to accompany the sex act. Getting rid of the female partner allows the male to transform sex into an expression of pure masculine aggressiveness, an impersonal, wholly physical act which reduces the partner to a mere object. A good deal of male homosexuality (that of the gay bathhouse collective shag or the chains and leather gay bars) is linked to sado-masochism – it associates sex with aggression rather than affection. Fist-fucking, the only sexual act invented in the 20th century, is a striking symbol of the homosexual fusion of sex and aggression. It testifies graphically to the masochism and self-hatred of the passive partner – perhaps because he lacks the exaggerated masculine characteristics demanded by the age, and can only participate in them by being the willing object of male violence. The active partner in turn destroys all feminine weakness in himself by brutalizing a sissy partner who shamefully displays it. Among young men (as well as women) who have been raped or sexually molested, there is often a reaction of masochism, a desire to hurt themselves, often by cutting or piercing, in order to punish themselves for their defilement, or for being too weak to defend themselves against it. But the repetition of the act of defilement is another way of punishing themselves for it. Homosexual acts thus become a compulsive masochism, defiling themselves for having defiled themselves, in the same way as prostitution (or porn movie-making) often becomes a girl’s way of punishing herself for the defilement of rape (and perhaps trying to gain some control over the experience by willing it.) This pattern of homosexual masochism seems common in prisons, where homosexuality is first imposed by rape and then becomes a masochistic addiction, as the victim punishes himself for submitting to his own rape by submitting to it again. Among women, homosexuality is even more obviously part of the masculinisation of the female character. The abusive, violent nature of nearly half of lesbian relationships makes clear to what extent the butch lesbian is animated by a real hatred of the female, a contempt for her own toolless female body, which she takes out in aggression against her sissy feminine partner. We will also examine the possible effect of dioxin pollution and stress on the pregnant mother in feminizing males in the fœtal stage and creating “biological” homosexuals predisposed to play a female role. But in general the new prominence, and possibly the increase, of homosexual behaviour will be seen within the context of the over-masculinisation of sexual relations in the modern age, as sex becomes an expression of masculine aggression and self-destructiveness, rather than feminine tenderness and affection. 

But this discussion will be left to a later work. The feminist glorification of homosexuality (for many militants feminism is only a half-way house before the adoption of the full anti-patriarchal ideology of lesbianism) is part of a general conviction that the difference between the sexes in character and behaviour (even sexual behaviour) should somehow be reduced. The feminist movement in general is against sexual dimorphism (or difference), or in favour of the smallest possible degree of it. They believe that the convergence of the two sexes in the middle is somehow the best way of sorting out the problem of differentiated roles, based on age-old stereotyping of character and behaviour. They want women to become more aggressive and masculine and men less so, so that women can compete more effectively with men in careers and politics, and men can take on the child-raising role. But this hope for convergence is unlikely to happen, and even if it did would not bring the results counted upon.

            The main reason is that it leaves out the entire dynamic of sexual attraction. Men, contrary to the pious hopes of the gender-bending brigade, are not going to become more feminine while women continue to become more masculine, without the two sexes becoming profoundly unattractive to each other. For men to move in a feminine direction, women must do so too, or they will no longer be attracted to the “new man”. The paradox of the feminist who despises the feminized “new man” as a wimp and is sexually attracted only to unreconstructed he-men is not a paradox at all. Since the feminist is usually a rather masculine woman (which is what leads her to reject the feminine stereotype), she will (if she is heterosexual) be sexually attracted to very masculine men – and those are generally men who will seek to dominate, compete, and conquer, and will be difficult to communicate with emotionally. Women are not going to be attracted to the kind of non-dominating men that will make their lives easier if they themselves continue to become more masculine. Only if women rediscover and revalorize their own femininity will they find relatively feminine men attractive. In short, only if women become more feminine can men do so. Men cannot adopt loving, gentle, tender, emotionally expressive characters if women now despise those qualities in themselves and imitate male hardness, toughness, cynicism and aggressiveness. Men have historically felt motivated to display feminine qualities only when women cultivated them to a high degree and expected them of men as a condition of their favours. In  heterosexual men various elements of feminine behaviour (wit, charm, gentleness, elegant dressing, courteous manners) have by and large been a sort of mimicry of women in order to win them over. We have argued that the traditional courtship pattern of the 12th century courtly love cult, in which the man sighs, weeps, pines and poeticizes, is merely ritual male mimicry of female emotions and behaviour in order to win a woman’s confidence. (It is analogous to adults adopting a childish voice to win over a child.) Men may even show nurturing behaviour towards children merely to impress women. Now if women abandon all these traditional feminine characteristics, men will have no reason whatsoever to adopt them. The feminine side of human nature can only be revalorized if women reclaim it first: this is one thing men are not going to do unless women take the lead. Otherwise, a shift of male character in a feminine direction and female character in a masculine direction will only lead to a Western population that is largely homosexual and condemned to die out. Like the Romans before us, we will bow out of history and give way to those races and cultures which are still capable of reproducing – the most primitive and “patriarchal”.  

The dynamic of attraction between the sexes is fairly clear. In any heterosexual couple, the man must be (or at least feel) several degrees more masculine than the woman in order for both of them to function comfortably together. In most happy couples there tends to be a constant distance between them along the scale of masculinity and femininity. A very masculine man wants a somewhat masculine woman (so that he can make love with a certain vigour and roughness without hurting her delicate sensibilities.) A very feminine woman wants a somewhat feminine man, so that he will make love with the sensitivity and finesse she needs. They both want a partner a few degrees along the scale from themselves, but in the right direction for their sex. That way they can also share the same tastes and interests, whether for art or for extreme sports, and understand each other’s characters and emotions easily, while still, when they choose, playing the instinctive gender roles of protector and protected which both of them find emotionally satisfying, whatever current fashions pretend. When great differences along the masculine-feminine scale exist within a couple, when one partner is tough, aggressive and loves high-risk sports and the other is a sensitive flower terrified of their shadow, it tends to work only if the man is the tougher one. This is because a tough woman will not respect a weak and fearful man, whereas a tough man may be attracted to a timid woman – it may arouse his male instinct of protectiveness rather than contempt. It is clear that the opposite combination – a tough female wrestling champion with an effeminate male hairdresser – raises at once the suspicion that they have in fact swapped sexual roles. Now while such bizarre combinations are politically correct flavour of the month, and are actively recommended by the gender-benders as an antidote to stereotypes, the truth is they are exceptional oddities which make most people feel profoundly uncomfortable to be in the room with. The cause of this discomfort is that the members of such a couple do not seem themselves to have grasped the psycho-sexual basis of their relationship. For a hilarious look at such unorthodox couples I can only recommend Nathalie Gittelson’s brilliant book, Dominus. 9





            It is this necessity for the male and female to be the right side of each other along the masculine-feminine continuum which explains why the masculinization of women over the past thirty years put a brake on the tentative evolution of men in a more feminine direction during the long-haired, hippie counter-culture period, and threw it into reverse gear. The last two and a half decades have seen men shift back towards a more masculine image. The long-haired, bead-wearing, laid-back, pacifist seventies male with artistic leanings and unambitious, anti-materialist life-style, woke up in 1980 to find himself facing a short-haired, ladder-climbing, karate-practising career woman – and suddenly realized he was on the wrong track. He had been wrong-footed by a female move in the opposite direction. He had to scramble to get back to the old male stereotype, to avoid being outflanked by women more masculine than him – and he rushed to join the yacht-racing golden boy stockbrokers. The female mimicry of male behaviour and character which is now compulsive throughout the Anglo-Saxon world, where the beer-swilling, swearing, loud-mouthed female jock is a standard prop in every pub and bar, is a constant pressure on the male to stay one step ahead in the masculinity stakes. If he rests for one moment and contemplates the tender joys of true love or caring fatherhood, he knows he may find himself outflanked by a female yob in combat boots. He has to keep bashing her around just to keep her from bashing him. Female marital violence (which now amounts to about half the domestic violence in Anglo-Saxon countries) is generally the violence of an aggressive woman against a gentle, non-aggressive husband, who cannot bring himself to hit a woman back, even if he is bigger and stronger than her. It is an awful warning to other men not to abandon all aggressiveness and let the new masculine woman dominate, or they risk becoming doormats.

But the attempt by Western men in the late 1960’s and 1970’s to shift away from the aggressive, competitive male character and towards the affective, nurturing, and sensual side of human nature, was counteracted not only by the feminist movement’s transformation of  women’s character in the opposite direction, but also by the effect this movement had on society and the economy. Women’s massive entry into the work market intensified competition – both the competition for jobs, and also the male economic competition for women, as the new high-earning women set their sights on men even more successful than themselves. A woman not only wants equal pay with men; she also wants a husband who earns more than she does. Even in feminist-ruled Sweden, 45 per cent of husbands earn over 60 per cent of the couple’s income, and only 7 per cent of wives do. And a woman’s tendency to divorce increases as her own income rises relative to her husband’s: it is twice as high among women who earn more than their husband.10 (We can call this the “I don’t need this poor jerk” syndrome, or the “What am I doing with a man who earns less than me?” syndrome.) The mathematical problem of providing every woman with a husband who earns more than her, while ensuring that all women earn the same as all men, may be technically insoluble, but it has undoubtedly resulted in one thing – increased male competition. This new, intense rivalry among the boys – not just for jobs (as women began to compete for these as well), but for more and more materially demanding women – meant that men were forced back into the masculine competitive mode with a vengeance. The BMW-driving golden boy of the eighties was the result. The pressures of work have increased steadily ever since. As corporate competition for limited markets intensifies, the working hours of both sexes have lengthened and life has become simply work. This is even more true than in the 1950’s and early 60’s, since the workaholic pressure is now on both women and men. The much trumpeted emergence of the “new man” in recent decades, of fathers who can feed and change the baby, is unlikely to lead to a much greater parenting role by men unless the work system gives them the time to play that role. The number of fathers who choose to  stay home with the kids while the wife works will always be small, and most people will continue to view them compassionately as a man who failed as a breadwinner and a woman who made an unlucky marriage. Women will continue to admire the diaper-changing house-husband in theory, while in practice running after the high-flying executive who can afford a nanny. Men know this and react accordingly. The main effect of feminism has been paradoxically to make men work longer hours, compete harder and try to climb faster. And that has left the woman holding the baby just as much as before, only now trying to juggle it with a high-stress job of her own.  

            There are other factors ensuring that a certain remasculinization of the male character has been underway since the seventies counter-culture died. The cult of masculinity is basically a response to a specific social condition:  the threat of violence. It is this which first made it necessary for the men of a tribe to develop their own potential for violence and aggression for the purposes of collective defence against enemies. But even as the threat of war in the