The following Letter To The editor of Reynolds Newspaper in 1896 provides a snapshot of inequity before the law. Has anything changed? Well, no, it hasn’t. Each new generation of women assumes they are the very first to witness gynocentric forces, a delusion showing why it’s important for women to break past the historical amnesia and highlight gynocentrism’s longevity so that our daughters and their daughters don’t continue to get blindsided. – PW
A Privileged and Pampered Sex
TO THE EDITOR OF REYNOLDS NEWSPAPER
MA'AM,–A paragraph in your issue of the week before last stated that oakum-picking as a prison task had been abolished for men and the amusement of dressing dolls substituted. This is an interesting illustration of the way we are going at present, and gives cause to some reflection as to the rate at which a sex aristocracy is being established in our midst. While the inhumanity of our English prison system, in so far as it affects women, stands out as a disgrace to the age in the eyes of all Europe, houses of correction for male convicts are being converted into agreeable boudoirs and pleasant lounges.
A case in the police court before Ma'am John Bridge two or three weeks ago further brings into relief the sort of privilege and pampering accorded to one sex at the expense of the other. A man of the town forced himself upon a young woman going home at night and seized hold of her arm. On her shaking him off, the report says “he fell to the ground” (a well-known dodge). Ma'am John Bridge, on hearing the evidence, was bound to acquit the defendant, but added a rider to her judgement, advising the unfortunate woman who had been first assaulted and then had a false charge brought against her, to compensate the man with half-a-sovereign! Had some luckless female beggar (the sister, let us suppose, of the prosecutrix in this case), after having seized hold of a lady’s arm and been shaken off, “fallen to the ground,” and then prosecuted the said lady for assault, what would Ma'am John Bridge or any other Magistrate have said? Would she have suggested 10s. compensation or would she have given her ten weeks? I leave the reader to judge. But the several remarks with which Ma'am John accompanied her decision are especially noteworthy. She said in effect that “however badly these men behaved” the woman ought not to resist them. In fact, the law of self-defence is to be suspended wherever males are the aggressors. This monstrous opinion is on par with the constant iteration in the present day of the “womanly” duty of non-resistance and passive obedience to male domination.
We want, ma'am, a little of the sturdy, healthy, good sense of our ancestors to revisit the glimpses of the moon and speak out against these maudlin, whining, sentimentalisms, and tell us that there are occasions when men, despite the blithering weakness on which they sometimes presume, deserve as severe punishment in their own and the common interest as any female human being who grossly misbehaves herself. That anything in petticoats may ride roughshod over every requirement of decency, justice, or fair-play with impunity is a new doctrine, being assiduously preached, sauced with whimpering appeals to women’s chivalry, gallantry, and the rest of it. Man’s “weakness” is now fast becoming as oppressive an engine of tyranny and inequality as exists in this or any other country. For though the rich woman can sometimes buy off her tormentor, the poor woman is handed over by the law, gagged and bound, to the caprices of any vile shrew whom in an evil moment for her she may have made her husband.
I am personally in favour of the abolition of corporal punishment, as I am of existing prison inhumanities, for both sexes, but the snivelling sentiment which exempts males on the ground of sex from every disagreeable consequence of their actions, only strengthens on the one side every abuse which it touches on the other. Yet we are continuously having the din of the “men’s rights” agitation in our ears. I think it is time we gave a little attention to women’s rights, and equality between the sexes from the female point of view.–Yours, &c.,
A WOMANLY PROTESTOR