Quacks, free silver, and feminism

There’s a well-known bit from Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier – a bit which motivated Victor Gollancz to disown the book, if I remember correctly. It was written as a Left Book Club selection and Gollancz inserted a disclaimer because of remarks like this one:

One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

He prided himself on that kind of philistine “good old bluff Englishman” scorn – but at any rate it’s always struck me as significant that he lumped feminism in with sandal-wearing and fruit-juice drinking. Significant and also unpleasant. I’m not fond of that kind of unembarrassed contempt for the rights of other people.

Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas? quotes US Senator John J Ingalls in 1890:

For a generation, Kansas has been the testing ground for every experiment in morals, politics, and social life. Doubt of all existing institutions has been respectable. Nothing has been venerable or revered merely because it exists or has endured. Prohibition, female suffrage, fiat money, free silver, every incoherent and fantastic dream of social improvement and reform, every economic delusion that has bewildered the foggy brains of fanatics, every political fallacy nurtured by misfortune, poverty and failure, rejected elsewhere, has here found tolerance and advocacy. [p 34]

Uh huh. Women voting – you can’t get much crazier than that.




  1. atheist says

    Votes for women?! An economy controlled by a central bank that issues fiat money?! Clearly, all of that stuff is crazy.

  2. says

    You make a good point. This is part and parcel of how marginalization works. Some people are acceptable targets. Like with the “ally” discussion — if they’re Nazi’s, then of course we don’t want them, but if they just think women are harpies, meh, we’ll let ’em in.

    The battle is pretty much all about changing what’s a generally acceptable prejudice into an unacceptable one.

  3. Al Dente says

    Apparently all that Dave Silverman needs for someone to be his ally is for that someone to be atheist, non-Nazi and breathing. I prefer to be more discriminating.

  4. Jackie Papercuts says

    Jack, I think that’s essentially it. We’re just women after all. Dave is happy to let bigotry against us slide, because we just do not matter. What this tells me is that Dave’s real problem with Nazi’s must be with the way they treat male Jews. His problem with racists is only with racists mistreating men of color. Because when the targets of hate and bigotry are women, we should just take it for the sake of his movement as if it is our duty and anything less is selfish and petty.

    I’m not interested in a movement like that.

  5. says

    Jackie @4: I’m not interested in a movement like that.

    Beyond this, how is it a “movement” if all it’s saying is “let’s keep the status quo just as it is, cause it’s all kinds o’ peachy keen for me!”? That’s downright reactionary, and is the opposite of a movement.

  6. says

    Took issue with someone on Facebook the other day, who lumped feminists in with conspiracy theorists. This apparently stemmed from his feeling that there isn’t any such thing as the “patriarchy”; apparently, we just made it up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *