Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chesterton on Feminism

The Feminist (which means, I think, one who dislikes the chief feminine characteristics) has heard my loose monologue, bursting all the time with one pent up protest. At this point he will break out and say, “But what are we to do? There is modern commerce and its clerks; there is the modern family with its unmarried daughters; specialism is expected everywhere; female thrift and conscientiousness are demanded and supplied. What does it matter whether we should in the abstract prefer the old human and housekeeping woman? We might prefer the Garden of Eden. But since women have trades, they ought to have trades-unions. Since women work in factories, they ought to vote on factory Acts. If they are unmarried they must be commercial; if they are commercial they must be political. We must have new rules for a new world—even if it not be a better one.” I said to a Feminist once, “The question is not whether women are good enough for votes; it is whether votes are good enough for women.” He only answered, “Ah, you go and say that to the women chain-makers on Cradley Heath.”

Now this is the attitude which I attack. It is the huge heresy of Precedent. It is the view that because we have got into a mess we must grow messier to suit it; that because we have taken a wrong turn some time ago we must go forward and not backwards; that because we have lost our way we must lose our map also; and because we have missed our ideal we must forget it. There are numbers of excellent people who do not think votes unfeminine; and there may be enthusiasts for our beautiful modern industry who do not think factories unfeminine. But if these things are unfeminine it is no answer to say that they fit into each other. I am not satisfied with the statement that my daughter must have unwomanly powers because she has womanly wrongs. Industrial soot and political printer’s ink are two blacks which do not make a white. Most of the Feminists would probably agree with me that womanhood is under shameful tyranny in the shops and mills. But I want to destroy the tyranny. They want to destroy the womanhood. That is the only difference.

Whether we can recover the clear vision of woman as a tower with many windows, the fixed eternal feminine from which her sons, the specialists, go forth; whether we can preserve the tradition of a central thing which is even more human than democracy and even more practical than politics; whether, in a word, it is possible to re-establish the family, freed from the filthy cynicism and cruelty of the commercial epoch, I shall discuss in the last section of the book. But meanwhile do not talk to me about the poor chain-makers on Cradley Heath. I know all about them and what they are doing. They are engaged in a very widespread and flourishing industry of the present age. They are making chains.

What Is Wrong With The World - G.K. Chesterton


Anonymous said...

great quote, I love Chesterton, which book is this from?


John said...

Sorry, I meant to include that. It is from "What Is Wrong With the World."