James Fitzjames Stephen was a forthright kind of guy. Blunt, even. As such he offers a useful window into the most forthright kind of imperturbable contempt for women.
From chapter 5 of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, in which he disagrees with John Stuart Mill’s views on gender equality.
Now, if society and government ought to recognize the inequality of age as the foundation of an inequality of rights of this importance, it appears to me at least equally clear that they ought to recognize the inequality of sex for the same purpose, if it is a real inequality. Is it one? There are some propositions which it is difficult to prove, because they are so plain, and this is one of them. The physical differences between the two sexes affect every part of the human body, from the hair of the head to the sole of the feet, from the size and density of the bones to the texture of the brain and the character of the nervous system. Ingenious people may argue about any thing, and Mr. Mill does say a great number of things about women which, as I have already observed, I will not discuss; but all the talk in the world will never shake the proposition that men are stronger than women in every shape. They have greater muscular and nervous force, greater intellectual force, greater vigor of character.
See what he did there? It’s not just that women are physically smaller and less muscular and strong, it’s also that they’re stupid and generally feeble. They’re just less in every way.
This general truth, which has been observed under all sorts of circumstances and in every age and country, has also in every age and country led to a division of labor between men and women, the general outline of which is as familiar and as universal as the general outline of the differences between them. These are the facts, and the question is, whether the law and public opinion ought to recognize this difference. How it ought to recognize it, what difference it ought to make between men and women as such, is quite another question. The first point to consider is, whether it ought to treat them as equals, although, as I have shown, they are not equals, because men are the stronger.
See what he did there? He hadn’t “shown” anything, he’d simply announced it.
I will take one or two illustrations. Men, no one denies, may, and in some cases ought to, be liable to compulsory military service. No one, I suppose, would hesitate to admit that, if we were engaged in a great war, it might become necessary, or that if necessary it would be right, to have a conscription both for the land and for the sea service. Ought men and women to be subject to it indiscriminately? If any one says that they ought, I have no more to say, except that he has got into the region at which argument is useless.
See what he did there? Of course you do.
But if it is admitted that this ought not to be done, an inequality of treatment founded on a radical inequality between the two sexes is admitted, and, if this admission is once made, where are you to draw the line?
Where it seems best to draw it, which will probably change over time. It’s not some tragic permanent imponderable, it’s a practical question that can be discussed and figured out, and subject to improvement with experience and changing ideas. That’s been happening.
Turn from the case of liability to military service to that of education, which in Germany is rightly regarded as the other great branch of state activity, and the same question presents itself in another shape. Are boys and girls to be educated indiscriminately, and to be instructed in the same things? Are boys to learn to sew, to keep house, and to cook, as girls unquestionably ought to be, and are girls to play at cricket, to row, and be drilled like boys? I cannot argue with a person who says Yes.
See what he did there? Again?
A person who says No admits an inequality between the sexes on which education must be founded, and which it must therefore perpetuate and perhaps increase.
But I didn’t say No, I said Yes, and you refused to argue with me. I call that feeble.