This essay about the propriety of gender roles and sexual
differences appeared in the first issue of the anit-suffrage publication, The Woman's
Protest in June 1912.
What is the thesis, the main argument, of this
essay? Judging from this piece, what did the anti-suggragists fear would happen if women
got the right to vote?
"THE ELIMINATION OF SEX."
THE Suffragist use of this extraordinary phrase is qualified by the added words,
"in politics," and that qualification has stamped it with a queer kind of
appearance of reality and given it such short-lived currency as a counterfeit may have.
The absurdity of the proposition to eliminate a fundamental, natural fact, or even to
eliminate the influence--which is, of course, the Suffragists mean--of one of the greatest
of natural forces from the conduct of human affairs is so overwhelming as to be a real proof of the complete lack of humor in the characters of
those women who gravely propound what can only arouse ridicule. When the record of this
movement comes to be reviewed at some far-distant day, surely no part of it will seem more
silly than this proposal of "elimination," which must provoke the laughter of
gods and men, and incidentally all sane women. When some ardent, if timid, Anti-Suffragist
has of late voiced a fear that suffrage would produce a hybrid type, it has certainly
seemed a needless anxiety, but now comes the declaration of just such an intention from
the suffrage side, to astound the temperate mind.
How, one wonders, do they intend to go abort this extraordinary business? As well
determine to eliminate the lungs or legs from participation in politics, decide to shut
out the sun, or 'conclude that we can do without the earth. No natural fact is more
definite no human condition has evolved to a full development more completely, than
has that of sex. Its influence, beneficent in the main, and surely in natural intent, is
felt in every walk, in every situation at every' moment of life. The bond between mother
and son, between father and daughter, between sister and brother is heightened
and strengthened by the psychic and aesthetic influence of sex. The persuasiveness of man
to woman and woman to man, is a perfectly natural, - useful, proper element in their
practical and friendly relations. It is only in misuse that danger lies, just as it lies
in the misuse of any other natural force or condition. It can not be eliminated anyhow, or
anywhere, and to ignore it is for the fool once more to play the ostrich, and cry out from
beneath a sandstorm of illogical, unfounded and impossible assertions, "I am not a
woman, I am a politician; I have eliminated sex!" Is it to be supposed that her
masculine competitor in the struggle for place and power is apt to mistake her for a
manor even a hybrid?
The proposal must also be recognized as disingenuous, for the behavior of the
Suffragists does not bear out the declaration of their determination to "eliminate
sex from politics." Go to Albany during the legislative session and watch the women
lobbying in favor of the Suffrage bills, and then ask whether the tactics they use are
those of men, whether their manner is that of men, whether they decline the courtesies
offered them as from men to women, or allow them to forget for
one moment that they are women, I do not criticize them adversely for this, but for their
repudiation and denial of it. They are entitled to a legitimate use of the persuasive
eloquence of their womanhood, and every one who has been before the Legislature, either in
committee or as a whole, in the interest of conditions needing betterment, knows that the
influence of one good woman, unhampered by political affiliations, with nothing personal
to gain. with no side-glance at possible political preferment, can carry more weight a
hundred-fold than her single vote could possibly do, implying as it would all sorts of
party responsibilities or political aspirations for herself or others.
Such names as Mrs. Wm. B. Rice, Mrs. Francis P. Kinneutt, Louise Schuyler, Mrs.
Florence Kelly, Mrs. Edward R. Hewitt, to name a few well known in our State and city for
their philanthropical and sociological work, are an incontrovertible proof of what women
can do without the ballot. Is it possible that any one can think for an instant that these
women could have accomplished such results if they had been deprived of that sex influence
which they have used in the highest and best way always, or that these names, to which
others from diverse places, as Josephine Shaw Lowell, Mrs. Cabot and Jane Addams, for
instance, could be added, and among this brief list some are for and some against
woman, suffrage, would stand out as they do in the record of great philanthropy and high
citizenship had their womanhood been eliminated and the vote given in exchange?
This proposition to eliminate sex, under any circumstances, or for any
purposeis such an insult to womanhood that if one could stop laughing at the
absurdity one must weep at the tragedy of misapprehension and misunderstanding.
From The Womans Protest, June 1912, page 4.
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