Thursday, March 24, 2022

E. Belfort Bax - The Anti-Feminist Sage Whose Warnings Went Unheeded

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Ernest Belfort Bax (1854-1926), a British barrister, philosopher, and journalist, almost single-handedly attempted to awaken the Anglophone world to the danger posed by feminist myths about women’s oppression. Very few listened at the time, and over a century later, Bax’s observations are more relevant than ever.

In 1896 (reprinted 1908), Ernest Belfort Bax published a book called The Legal Subjection of Men, which he co-authored with an anonymous fellow barrister. Based on Bax’s extensive knowledge of British law and court cases, the book was intended as a rejoinder to John Stuart Mill’s 1869 publication The Subjection of Women.

The book began with a caustic reflection on Mill’s feminist legacy, as follows:

Monday, March 21, 2022

John Stuart Mill, a Case Study in Male Feminism

Well-known 19th century English philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote, near the end of his life, a book in which he distinguished himself as a male feminist par excellence in his demand that women be given all the opportunities and privileges of men with none of their responsibilities or burdens—and he called that equality.

As barrister Ernest Belfort Bax would later claim, Mill’s feminist treatise was an “eloquent wail” that was all the more influential because it was “the reverse of legal truth” (Bax, The Legal Subjection of Men, p. 1).

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Could Men Legally Rape their Wives in the Nineteenth Century?

It is true that a man could not be criminally prosecuted for raping his wife in the 19th century English-speaking world, but it was not true that marital rape was accepted or that its harms were ignored.

One of the most popular and seemingly decisive pieces of feminist evidence of an oppressive patriarchal past is the claim that rape within marriage was legal until the second half of the twentieth century. It must have been the case, so the thinking goes, that wives were viewed as property and husbands given carte blanche to do whatever they liked with them. The real story is far more complicated.

Marital rape didn’t exist legally because man and woman were considered one person in marriage.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Were Marx and Engels Feminists?

One of the fundamental works of 19th century socialism took the Marxist analysis of workers under capitalism and applied it to the position of women in the family—with a lasting impact on feminist ideology.

In her book on the history of the nineteenth-century women’s movement, feminist Susan Kingsley Kent notes that “In their discourse on marriage, feminists borrowed terms and concepts utilized in discussions about the political economy of Victorian England” (Susan Kingsley Kent, Sex and Suffrage in Britain, 1860-1914, p. 85).