There is a great difficulty in writing of the women of the first ten years of the twentieth century. This is to be the Woman’s Century. In it she is to awake from her long sleep and come into her kingdom; but when I look about me I find myself surrounded by the most terribly contradictory facts. We know there is to be a revaluation of all values—we know that old rubbish is to be burnt up, that the social world is to be melted down and remoulded “ nearer to the heart’s desire “; but at the same time we have to recognize that in spite of the enthusiasm of the alchemists and the transmuters of base metal into gold, the main body of society is as yet hardly aware of the fire that is to burn it.
In writing of this change I have to explain to one set of women, who will think me outrageously advanced, my opinions of another set of women, who will think me absurdly conventional.
I think I had better own up at once that as an artist I am prejudiced against the exhibition of the necessities of nature. I am like Mr. Galsworthy’s little toy terrier, who disliked the strong odours of real life. Yet at the same time I have a passion for the discussion of life; the salt of wit makes me enjoy the strongest flavours. So I present myself and my limitations to my readers, hoping that my fervid faith in the delight of the communion of thoughts, emotions, and sympathies will make up for my lack of conviction in some other directions.
Before we proceed any further I think I ought to point out that the degradation of women in the past originated in the region of the country round Mount Ararat. The lowering of their status occurred when the white races adopted the Assyrian Semite’s Scriptures. The Christian religion brought us that curse cowering behind its gospel of glad tidings; and it is most remarkable to trace the way in which the Jews’ religion crept into Europe under the cloak of Christianity. In heaven, the Gospel says, there is love, but neither marriage or giving in marriage. Are we to wait for heaven or the millennium before the present system of marrying and selling in marriage shall be abolished? Everyone who has read a modern encyclopædia is familiar with the fact that the first chapters of Genesis are made up of two different narratives. One, called the Priestly narrative, from the beginning to the first part of the fourth verse of the second chapter of Genesis, and continued in the first five verses of the fifth chapter. There is nothing derogatory to women in this narrative. The unpleasant details about Adam and Eve are in the Prophetic narrative, which is given from the second part of the fourth verse of the second chapter to the twenty-sixth verse of the fourth chapter. The Jews have taken advantage of the confusion of these two contradictory stories to fix the blame of all social evils on Eve, just as the Hesiod, influenced by Eastern legend, fixed it on Pandora. These myths come from the same region, a region in which women were kept entirely for the amusement and service of men, and were humbled by every kind of insult that the Semite mind could invent. Women have a very long score to settle with the Jews and the Mahommedans. Even Hindoo women were comparatively respected and free until the Mahommedans brought their ideas into Hindostan. And I am told that in nearly every city of ill-fame in the world the profits arising from the procuring of girls are collected by the Chosen Nation. The Semites founded their opinion of women on fabulous legends and false science. They assert that man gives the spirit and woman the matter to the child. Embryology has now taught us that the parents make exactly equal contributions of chromatin, or the active element, to the original cell from which a child develops. It has taught us that, originally, cells are capable of self-reproduction; that sex is not always a vital necessity, but often a device for securing variety. It has taught us by experiment that boys come from their mother’s right side, and girls from her left side, and in a healthy mother the rhythm of sex is regular. The symbolism of the Fall might indeed apply to the history of the cell which at first contains its own force of reproduction, but in the case of a female ovum deliberately parts with some of its original power in order that it may be replaced by the vital power of a male. The male cell also rends itself apart, and becomes quite unfit for reproductive purposes until it can find another cell with which to join. In the simple facts which have been observed through microscopes there is no place for the overweening pride of the Semite race in the virtue of maleness; and I can only hope that it was ignorance and not malice that led the Jews and the Arabs to spread false doctrine on the subject of sex. It is unfortunate that the first patriarchs, from whom they proudly count their descent, had much in common with the primitive goat worshippers, who were responsible for the one-sided arrangements for sexual contentment common in harems and the other patriarchal institutions I have mentioned.
In the great mediæval revival, the real age of chivalry and troubadours, the knights carried their ladies’ colours to victory in vain. The old lies are in our blood—we still believe in Eve and her shame. White men have fought in the past, and it remains for white women to fight now, and at last rid their sex all over the world of the ignominy of this false doctrine.