The Woman Suffrage Movement
The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage In the early twentieth century, Britain was experiencing a potentially revolutionary social and cultural change. The Woman Suffrage Movement was fighting to procure the vote for women. In the same period, in response to the concept of women voting, Almroth Edward Wright, an English physician, wrote “ The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage”.
In Wright’s book, he refutes the Woman Suffrage Movement’s right-to-vote claim by arguing that woman suffrage would be pernicious to the state due to a woman’s inability to represent the physical force and prestige of the nation, a woman’s intellectual defects, and defective moral equipment. Furthermore, he illustrates that women’s rights activists may actually be hindering women with their demands that would ultimately result in women being placed in a far more disadvantageous position than they were before getting the vote.
Wright begins by saying “ The primordial argument against giving woman the vote is that that vote would not represent physical force”. Wright argues that the vote is a symbol of civility, law and order, and imbued with the spirit of a nation to ward off enemies both foreign and domestic. The introduction of a political co-partnership would likely lead to a degeneration of the British Empire into a weak and sickly shadow of its former self. The British Empire would likely exhibit the same symptoms of the latter stages of the Western Roman Empire that competitors would piecemeal steadily over time.
The result would be that leadership to uphold law and control over British subjects and colonies would crumple leaving the door wide open for any other Imperial power to snatch the defenseless British holdings. As such, entrance of women voters would bring an end to the old and familiar Victorian England and usher forth a culturally different England that Wright considers a “social disaster. ” It seems Wright believes that Britain would sustain a detrimental blow to its prestige in the eyes of their colonies and dominions as well as the world, if English women could vote.
This means that women would inhibit the spirits and morale of the British armed forces and would introduce effeminate elements into the masculine dominated British Empire, turning it from “Old Jack” into a “Mary Ann. ” In addition to these concerns, Wright illustrates that a woman’s intellectual defects are because of her minds inability to derive solutions with evidence, which results in an unreal picture of the external world. He also argues that a woman is constrained by her thought process. This is because a woman’s mind is linked to emotional reflex response center.
Wright further explains that because of this link, women cannot give sound judgment and give a critical intellectual analysis without being under severe distress. As a result a woman’s mind gives in to congenial emotional responses that gives them gratification to which Wright points out, women’s minds can serve them only as a tool to comfort and gratify her with mental thoughts that are not too strenuous. Wright continues by illustrating that women and even intelligent women have all sorts of misconceptions about their abilities.
Wright argues that women are delusional in believing that they are physically equal to men to any task. It is quite a grievous mistake that one would believe that women could perform physically strenuous jobs such as coal mining or heavy lifting on a day-to-day basis. Being mentally strain coupled with physical stress, Wright would say that emergencies of the job would be faced continually. It seems that Wright is saying that women overestimate themselves in comparison to men at physically demanding task that they wouldn’t be able to handle it long term.
This would explain why emergencies would happen frequently because accidents would happen weekly if not a daily basis. For that reason, it is improbable to allow women to vote should they also demand to work in jobs that they are realistically incapable of performing over a long duration. This information would serve as ammunition for the industry heads and naysayers to argue that the economy is suffering due to low levels of efficiency and increase expenditure from the government to the DOLE to cover all these accidents; consequently the whole nation suffers.
A third argument that Wright brings up is that women are equipped with defective morals. He explains that women are incapable of putting aside their own interest in favor of the good of the nation and only an uncommonly number of women are able to put aside their personal bias by voting in favor of something that benefits the nation. It seems he is alluding to the fact that women, when put to the vote would most likely vote for positions that would be favorable to anything that has to do her family and would consider anything else frivolous.
The picture painted of women voters’ canvases an extremely selfish and self-absorbed group of people that would not only cause Britain’s foundation to splinter from blatant corruption but summarily result in execution of egregious acts that might as well kill king and country themselves. Wright continues his critique by saying , “ There are no good women, but only women who have lived under the influence of good men. ” Meaning that since women can only use morally defective equipment, women would be congenial creatures that would be easily swayed by their father, husband, or an influential man.
And vote for whatever she has been persuaded to vote for which would consequently inflate propositions perhaps even passing legislation that would have otherwise fallen flat. Because of this he goes on to blatantly say that women, because of their domestic almost animal morality cannot be trusted with the vote for they would not be able to exercise diligently with the exception of a select few. Wright takes the Women’s Suffrage Movement’s claim of a right to the vote and presents it in an exaggerated way.
He first explains that because there are more than three million women in England, these women experience sexual restrictions causing an inbred sense of hostility towards the opposite sex, which Wrights explains that the Suffrage Movement takes advantage these women so that they could achieve their ultimate goal of economic independence of women. However, to attain this goal, they want to have everything from the universities and jobs to every governmental positions open to them.
He claims that they want a radical feminist revolution that throws the very nostalgic English traditions that have been set in stone for centuries out like yesterdays garbage. And replace it with an English egalitarian society that just might as well be a Communist or Fascist state. It’s interesting that Wright takes just the idea of women wanting to vote and morphs the idea in to women wanting to outright dismantle all the mores of society and remove all the distinctions between a man and a woman.
But women later rebuke this argument by saying that they only want the vote, not a revolution and they are good mothers and wives who are raising the British citizens of tomorrow. Wright subtly carts in again the notion of equality for women. He explains that if the government gives in to the demands of women activist, the government would actually be doing a disservice to women in general. Women would have to compete with men for these highly skilled jobs and would most likely not be able to compete with men, which would increase the wealth gap between men and women.
Consequently, this would leave women in a very disadvantageous position of being chronically poor and forced to take odds jobs to survive. Furthermore, women would likely lose their financial support from their husbands and/or fathers because women would now be economic equals to men therefore they must go and find jobs to support themselves. Another problem that Wright points out is that men and women have rarely worked in the same workspace before and with the introduction of equality of work in to mainstream society, the implications of whether or not men and women can work in intimate association raises serious questions.
He continues to explain that before that even occurs, the intellectual immoralities and limitations of women including their sexual character would interrupt intellectual intercourse between men. Interestingly enough, he introduces various examples that synergies his argument. For example, when two men are having a stimulating intellectual conversation, an appearance of a woman in their proximity would put an end to their discussion. So the hypothesis here is that women being admitted in to male dominated intellectual societies and universities would undoubtedly suppress if not bring an end to a pipeline of intellectual growth.
As a result, the proposal of bringing man and woman to work together not only is radical, it maybe detrimental to nation. Wright’s The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage” uses a lot of cynical language and seemingly logical explanations to refute women’s right to vote. At the beginning, Wright stabs the issue right in lungs and expounds why it is the way it is and that the vote of women can and will cause unnecessary burdens on the state and the very people trying to protect them.
However, near the end of his piece, he begins to give a very consoling but backhanded compliment of women. It’s painted as if these changes are going to occur, it will undoubtedly cause more hardship for women and that’s why Wright and these naysayers are fighting so hard to protect these ignorant women from themselves. However, Wright’s arguments logical explanations would later succumb to the growing clamor for reform that would eventually culminate in women getting the vote in 1918.