Fascism and Woman
Fascism marks certain deviations from liberal trends in so far as woman is concerned, but such deviations are more in the nature of a return to tradition than revolutionary departures. These deviations are often more imaginary than real, or they are largely differences of definition of the same reality. The most important fact about these deviations, however, is that they are in progress the world over as a result of sociological and technological changes which, in no sense, are peculiar to fascism. But for the fact that so much publicity and credence has been given to absurd misrepresentation of the fascist philosophy about woman, it would hardly seem necessary to devote so much space to the subject.
The role of woman is a matter of biological and social necessity. This necessity is paramount to any social doctrine or personal preference. Problems involving women should not be thought of as presenting choices as to what to do for women to please women or men, but as presenting always, and only, a great series of exercises in making women play their roles suitably in the given social scheme. More women will be pleased as a result of policies designed to enable them to play their indicated social roles suitably in a rational social scheme than will be pleased by policies designed to satisfy individual and group demands.
A good deal of the nonsense about fascism and woman is expressed, in questions like the following: “Will fascism put woman back in the kitchen?”, “Will fascism end careers for women?”, or “Will fascism end economic independence for women?”. As for women and the kitchen, it need only be said that the majority of women have never left the kitchen, are not likely ever to leave it under any social order, and could not leave the kitchen without detriment to the community and themselves. Whether ten or forty per cent of all women remain outside the kitchen is relatively unimportant, and is likely to be determined by conditions over which governmental policy will exercise no positive control. Should fascism increase the percentage of women in the kitchen a few per cent, that fact would not warrant most of the wild charges made against fascism in this connection.
As for careers and economic independence for women, these phrases are used most deceptively by the critics of fascism and by the feminists. Marriage, of course, is, and remains, woman’s chief career, a fact for which fascism is in no way responsible. Equally obvious is the fact that other careers and occupations have never been entirely barred to women, nor are they barred to women by fascism. Fascism believes in marriage as a career into which a large percentage of women should be assisted or guided, and into which all eligible women should be encouraged. Still, it cannot be said that liberalism has ever officially discouraged marriage. It would not be fair to liberalism to associate with it the absurdities of the feminism of twenty years ago. Liberalism has grown so feeble of late, however, that it has been allowing the most preposterous feminists to identify their theses with those of liberalism in a general attack on fascism.
There is no need to undertake a formal defense of marriage, child-bearing or the home. It is appropriate, however, to offer some explanations of the new emphasis on these institutions and the consequent decline of feminism.
We can well begin these explanations by pointing out certain false implications conveyed by the usual questions asked by the feminists about careers and economic independence for women under fascism. First, it is implied that employment outside of marriage is available for those who need it, that it is ordinarily well remunerated, and surrounded with satisfactory conditions. Second, it is implied that marriage is less generally satisfactory than employment and that, of all bosses a woman can have, the husband is by far the worst. The facts are that employment for women is not always, or even usually, available for those who need it most; wages, hours, and conditions of employment for women are far from satisfactory; the employed woman usually has an exacting boss, whereas the married woman is usually the boss of the man; and there is doubtless more unhappiness experienced by women in employment than in marriage, but of this there can be no scientific measurement.
From the point of view of pure self-interest for women, it seems obvious that, if a woman is looking for the best chances of finding wealth and power (the essentials of what is called economic independence) or simply personal happiness, marriage is her best bet. To confirm this conclusion as to wealth and power one has merely to look around among the rich women, who are a numerous company, and most of whom got their money through marriage.
Most of the absurd implications about careers and economic independence for women seem less absurd when worded more ambiguously or when considered in the light of special cases and individual comparisons. They seem plausible in terms of the comparison between the exceptionally bad husband and the exceptionally good job. They do not seem so plausible in terms of the comparison between the best marriage and the best job. But such comparisons are not made by the feminists. Then, again, during a period of heavy demand for labor, these implications seemed more plausible when certain women who needed an income, or who were unsuited or indisposed to marriage, found life’s problems less difficult by reason of easily finding a good job. But it was not feminist propaganda or liberal doctrine which created those favorable conditions for woman’s employment. Rapid industrialization, rapid increase in mechanization, a large migration from country to city, and the World War, drew large numbers of women into industry. Fascism is not now crowding them out but, rather, the decline of liberal capitalism and the necessity of readjustment to another order.
Today in the United States the number of women gainfully employed is about equal to the number of unemployed men. A rational fascism for America would not proceed to drastic disemployment of women to create jobs for men. But, in the readjustments which have to be made, as well as in view of the fact that our potential output with the same number of man-hours can be further increased enormously, a large but gradual transfer of women from the office and factory to the home is clearly indicated. If the now unemployed men produced what the now employed women produce, the same output would be maintained and, in addition, the now employed women might be adding to the total social dividend their contributions to domestic well being to whatever extent they found happy adjustment into family life, chiefly through marriage.
Most of the now employed women could not, as a practical matter, be married in a year or two, and not all of them could ever be married. So there will be, for some time to come, a large number of women needing employment, and always some women needing life-long employment outside the home. There will always be jobs which only women can fill satisfactorily. These jobs should be made to take care of the women who need employment. But there is no reason to allow the number of women in employment forever to be determined entirely by the play of market factors, or to remain unmodified by state intervention to increase the percentage of the married and decrease the percentage of women competing with men.
Fascism clashes with liberalism as to whether the major stress shall be on the values of wifehood, motherhood, and the family, or on the values which women can achieve outside of wifehood and motherhood. No reasonable fascist will deny that some women, usually the exceptionally endowed, achieve desirable values outside of, and frequently in addition to, wifehood and motherhood, or that the family values are definitely out of the reach of a small minority of women. But the fascist insists on ranking far above all other values attainable by women those of good wifehood and good motherhood. He holds that the paramount objectives of public policy, so far as women are concerned, should be to make good wives and mothers and not to make as many soft berths as possible for old maids and thus to put a premium on the avoidance of marriage.
Liberalism does not exactly declare that subsidizing spinsterhood and sterility is one of the objectives of public policy. But it is evident from a study of the vital statistics of graduates of advanced institutions of liberal learning, subsidized by the liberal State, that one of the effects of liberal public policy is to encourage spinsterhood and sterility among the classes best suited to reproduce. Fascism says that it is one thing to provide training and jobs for women unable to marry and without means of support, or to provide training and opportunities for women of exceptional talent who have special contributions to make to the community outside of marriage; but that it is quite a different thing to allow educational and cultural institutions and leaders to exalt and promote spinsterhood and sterility.
It is too often forgotten that the vast majority of women in all callings, exactly like the vast majority of men, are mediocrities whose services or contributions are not unique. Most women gainfully employed, indeed, are doing less work and doing it less skillfully, less rapidly, and less well, than the average male mediocrity could do the same work. Most of these women get the job simply because their labor is cheaper. And their labor is cheaper because many of them are partially subsidized by their families or others. These women are doing ordinary work which could be done a little better by ordinary men, while they could be doing most essential and distinguished work as wives and mothers, or work which the most extraordinary men cannot do.
It is only fair to the feminists to say that they have asked only equality of work, pay, and opportunity in industry, and equality of opportunity for preparation for every career. Fascism finds it impossible to accept their thesis of equality between the sexes because fascism finds it impossible to escape the implications of sex and biological differences. Fascism can see no sense to discussing the sexes in terms of equality and inequality, not any more than there would be to discussing the forces of electricity and gravity in terms of such comparisons. Men and women are different, not equal or unequal to each other. Women must be thought of in terms of their relation to society and its implications, rather than in terms of the hypothesis that women are free persons who are at liberty to disregard the indications of their biological specialization to any extent their tastes may dictate.
The fact is that personal tastes in such matters are the products of social conditioning. And social conditioning is a process which the State must control in the public interest. If young women prefer jobs to marriage, where there are no extraordinary conditions indisposing them to marriage and pre-disposing them to a career, it is not to be supposed for a moment that such preferences are the spontaneous expressions of the will of free spirits. It is natural for women to prefer marriage and not to prefer to avoid it. If certain young women do not prefer marriage, most likely it is because they have been given by education and certain social pressures to suppose that a woman is better off in employment, or more to be envied and admired with a Ph.D., or pounding a typewriter, than with a baby or, cooking her husband’s breakfast. Feminism has not limited itself to championing the relief of the unfortunate woman who has needed employment to escape the tyranny of a brutal husband or the woman who has needed an opportunity to express her genius. Feminism has become a cultural force tending to bring marriage and child-bearing into disesteem among young women and to make them esteem more highly a career free of the responsibility and cares, but also bereft of the joys and compensations, of wifehood and motherhood.
Feminism is on the wane, not so much because its arguments have been refuted by fascist or other arguments, as because of the fact that nothing so far has happened under liberal capitalism to deliver women from the fate of being women. The so-called emancipation of women has left them still women and subject to all the necessities, spiritual and physical, of that quality. The feminist revolt against being women has won a series of wholly Pyrrhic victories. The men have made all the concessions demanded, but nature has not made a single concession, and the concessions of the men have not filled the cups of loneliness. Nature has rather handed some of the feminist rebels a few hard knocks, as only mental and physical examinations can adequately reveal. Fascism is the bane of feminism chiefly because fascism offers no deliverance for the woman who seeks escape from her sex. On the contrary, fascism makes a virtue and a glory of the necessity for women to be women. In this respect fascism combines some features of traditionalism and most of the indications of modern science.
An American fascism would involve no change in the political status and rights of women, either as voters, property owners, or parties to domestic relations. It would, however, undoubtedly find it necessary to initiate important changes of policy in respect to the encouragement of marriage and the discouragement of employment by women which is against the public interest. The employment of women would be made subject to a social control requiring for the qualification of every employable woman proof that the employment sought was in the public interest and, for the admission of women to advanced courses of specialized or professional training subsidized by the State or institutional funds, evidence that the applicant was exceptionally well suited for, or needed in, the field for which preparation was sought. Fascism would enforce some measure of vocational guidance equally on men and women. But it would not apply to both sexes the same standards of eligibility, for the good reason that both sexes are not the same.
The following qualifications could be recognized as entitling a woman to qualify for an employment license: (1) Need by the particular applicant of an earned income; (2) need by the community of a woman for the particular job; (3) need by the community of the special qualities or talents of the particular applicant; (4) and absence of objection to her employment founded on considerations of public policy. Under such rules, all women who needed earned incomes would, ipso facto, be entitled to work where qualified and needed. Conversely, a woman who did not need an earned income, and who had nothing special to offer, would not be allowed to qualify for work a man could do quite as well, merely to provide herself with extra pocket money. On the other hand, a woman wishing to qualify for an employment for which a man would not be suitable, such, for instance, as a chorus girl or a matron in a woman’s institution, would be subject to no State-imposed disqualification.
In cases of women who asserted a right to work at a given job or career because of special artistic talent, there would naturally arise some disagreements with the public authority. The public authority might find that a woman ought not to be allowed to play a saxophone in a dance orchestra, unless she had no other means of support, though it would authorize her performance as a talented artist. Another source of frequent disagreement would be cases of women without children or heavy responsibilities who might wish to engage in extra-domestic activities for a salary or wage. In some cases such employment would be against the public interest, for it would involve the displacement of a family breadwinner from employment. In other cases it would not. In the cases of women who wished to engage in economic activities financed by themselves or their relatives or friends, there should be no objection to their doing so. Such economic activities would be no different from personal expenditures.
The net results of regulating the employment of women in the public interest would include the elimination from the competitive labor market of large numbers of women who do not need the money, or who have their labor at low rates partly subsidized by family, community, or other persons. If it is objected that social regulation and licensing of employment by women would involve considerable expense and administrative difficulty, it need only be said in reply that the relief of jobless heads of families involves quite as great administrative difficulty and more expense. Another objection can be disposed of by pointing out that nothing in employment regulation need prevent the mobilization by industry, in time of special need for extra workers, of as many housewives, actual or potential, as high wages could lure from their homes into factories and offices. During such an emergency the licensing policy would be modified to allow any desired number of additional women workers to enter industry.
Before leaving the subject of social control of employment, it is well to give a final word of emphasis to the point that free market determination of the number of women employed, of the jobs on which employed, of their hours and conditions of employment, lays on the community a concealed set of charges which it is nearly impossible to calculate with exactness, but which it would be hard to exaggerate. Classical economics claimed for free market determination of employment conditions a set of advantages which are wholly illusory today. When the head of a family is thrown out of work by a girl living in a hall bedroom on next to starvation wages, or by a girl living partly on her family, a slight economic gain may be netted thereby for the employer and his branch of production, but the taxpayers have the costs of relief for the unemployed head of the family. Moreover, in such cases, the taxpayers have also added costs for the health and welfare of the girl who has been lured from a comfortable country home or small town home, where most of her problems were economically and fairly well taken care of, to the large city, where she is apt to become a public charge or a social menace the day after she loses her job, or even while she holds it.
It is in regard to the training of women, however, that fascism is likely to work the most sweeping changes in this country. These changes will take two principal forms. In the first place, greater stress will be laid on training for wifehood and motherhood and, in the second place, training for both sexes will be given with greater regard for social needs than at present. Training for wifehood and motherhood will begin in the upper grades of grammar school and continue through all subsequent courses of instruction. There is a grotesque absurdity in present-day training of thousands of girls to be stenographers who have not the requisite intelligence quotient or basic knowledge for satisfactory performance of such duties. Many of them, of course, never hold steady jobs. It leaves these girls wholly untrained for the duties of wife and mother, for which they are suited and to which most of them are destined.
Correlating education with social needs is too large and technical a subject for extensive discussion here. Suffice it to remark that, at present, the ruling theory and practice of American liberal democracy is to try and give every one the kind of schooling he or she demands, whereas, under fascism, the attempt will be made to give every one the kind of education which corresponds to the national plan into which every one has to be fitted, both for his good and the good of the community.
This educational theory does not mean an entire disregard for personal preferences, and certainly not any disregard for personal aptitudes. It does mean, however, that if ten times as many women apply for training for law or stenography as there are places for them in these employments, all the applicants will not be given the training they seek, partly or wholly at public expense, merely because they want it. It means, also, that if boys or girls without the requisite intelligence or cultural background for serious work in the higher studies still insist on having a try at it, or at wasting a few years in college, the admission standards will not be lowered to admit them, and the examinations in the courses will not be lowered to enable these unqualified ones to get passing marks.
There is no intention here to class women candidates for instruction with the mentally more deficient candidates, and it is fully recognized that the scholastic records of women compare favorably with those of men. It must be acknowledged, however, that any intensification of competition for places in educational quotas is likely to eliminate from the higher branches a larger percentage of the present number of female than of male candidates. And any correlation of training quotas with occupational opportunities is certain to reduce even more drastically the percentage of women candidates admitted. But such correlation of training quotas with social needs cannot be said to exclude women from careers or training for a career.
In conclusion, it remains only to generalize briefly on certain high points of the outlook for woman under a planned society in which human necessities are rationally provided for and the necessary provisions are duly dignified. Fascism is not creating or intensifying woman’s biological specialization. Fascism is rationalizing and dignifying it, not trying to offer woman an escape from it. The results of attempting either an extreme economic equality, or an extreme equality in sex relations, are invariably bad for society and worse for women.
It is being discovered in communist Russia, where the feminists had pretty much their own way at the start, that the socialist State, like any other State, needs the family and all that it stands for; that if both sexes are allowed legal and conventional license to divorce and remarry as often as they please with a minimum of formality, the men will be getting most of the fun, the women most of the hardships, and the family most of the detriment. Both in economic and domestic relations, the more equality there is between the sexes as regards special duties, obligations, and protection, or the more equal freedom there is for making and breaking contracts by both sexes, the greater will be the inequalities for the members of the two sexes, in the long run, in the matter of opportunities for realizing the good life. A satisfactory measure of distributive equality, so far as achieving the good life is concerned, can only prevail between the two sexes on the basis of some scheme of rights and duties which clearly recognizes sex differences. Such a scheme of rights and duties greatly restricts woman’s freedom both in economic and marital contracts. But it also restricts the man’s freedom.
The institution of the family is essential not only to the State but to the happiness of men and women. The family requires for its preservation a degree of State oversight, or the opposite of laissez faire, appropriate to the needs of the situation. If extreme economic laissez faire, or sex freedom and equality, be practiced for any length of time, women will get the worst of the bargains in business and in sex relations, because men as a whole have an advantage in bargaining power in both spheres. Woman’s biological specialization and peculiar physical and spiritual limitations handicap her both in the liberal free market and in the feminist’s free sex mart. Man’s chivalry and protective attitude towards woman is partly connected with property rights and partly connected with man’s need of the family. Feminism makes the mistake of seeing in differential treatment of the sexes an insulting inequality, which it has sought to replace with a legal equality in economic and domestic relations. Fascism holds that, in making a good and great nation, it is essential to provide for the development of good and great men. and women, not just good and equal persons. Feminism says that women are just folks. Fascism says that they are women. The feminists may want to be legal persons, but most women, who are feminine rather than feminists, prefer to be women.