TCS: Feminism FOR MEN – in 1914

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Welcome to The Coffee Shop, just for you early risers on Monday mornings. This is an Open Thread forum, so if you have an off-topic opinion burning a hole in your brainpan, feel free to add a comment.

At present the ordinary man has the choice between being a slave and a scoundrel.



Tomorrow, the Fourth of July, America will celebrate Freedom, but a lot of us are worried about how much longer there will be something to celebrate.

Every morning, when I turn on my computer monitor, I am confronted by yet another image of the Orange Menace, another petulant ill-phrased tweet. All Americans are affected by the barrage of anti-policies coming from this Occupant of the Oval Office who wants to sell off the Federal government piece by piece, but much of his vendetta falls heaviest on women.   

The unending struggle for gender equality has largely been fought by women, but we have always had some male allies, men who feel the roles Patriarchy imposes on them are a straitjacket just as much as the roles forced on women. This article from 1914 seems remarkably pertinent to the current ‘War on Women’ — a reminder that women are not the only casualties of the longest conflict between people in human history. 


Feminism for Men

by Floyd Dell

First published in The Masses (July 1914)

Feminism is going to make it possible for the first time for men to be free.

At present the ordinary man has the choice between being a slave and a scoundrel. That’s about the way it stands.

For the ordinary man is prone to fall in love and marry and have children. Also the ordinary man frequently has a mother. He wants to see them all taken care of, since they are unable to take care of themselves. Only if he has them to think about, he is not free.

A free man is a man who is ready to throw up his job whenever he feels like it. Whether he is a bricklayer who wants to go out on a sympathetic strike, or a poet who wants to quit writing drivel for the magazines, if he doesn’t do what he wants to do, he is not free. . . .

And this will be true so long as women as a sex are dependent on men for support. It is too much to ask of a man to be brave, when his bravery means taking the food out of the mouth of a woman who cannot get food except from him. The bravest things will not be done in the world until women do not have to look to men for support.

The change is already under way. Irresistible economic forces are taking more and more women every year out of the economic shelter of the home into the great world, making them workers and earners along with men. And every conquest of theirs, from an education which will make them fit for the world of earning, to “equal pay for equal work,” is a setting free of men. The last achievement will be a social insurance for motherhood, which will enable them to have children without taking away a man’s freedom from him. Then a man will be able to tell his employer that “he and his job can go bark at one another,” without being a hero and a scoundrel at the same time.

Capitalism will not like that. Capitalism does not want free men. It wants men with wives and children who are dependent on them for support. Mothers’ pensions will be hard fought for before they are ever gained. And that is not the worst.

Men don’t want the freedom that women are thrusting upon them. They don’t want a chance to be brave. They want a chance to be generous. They want to give food and clothes and a little home with lace curtains to some woman.

Men want the sense of power more than they want the sense of freedom. They want the feeling that comes to them as providers for women more than they want the feeling that comes to them as free men. They want some one dependent on them more than they want a comrade. As long as they can be lords in a thirty-dollar flat, they are willing to be slaves in the great world outside. . . .

In short, they are afraid that they will cease to be sultans in little monogamic harems. But the world doesn’t want sultans. It wants men who can call their souls their own. And that is what feminism is going to do for men—give them back their souls, so that they can risk them fearlessly in the adventure of life. . . .

When you have got a woman in a box, and you pay rent on the box, her relationship to you insensibly changes character. It loses the fine excitement of democracy. It ceases to be companionship, for companionship is only possible in a democracy. It is no longer a sharing of life together—it is a breaking of life apart. Half a life—cooking, clothes, and children; half a life—business, politics, and baseball. It doesn’t make much difference which is the poorer half. Any half, when it comes to life, is very near to none at all.

Reprinted in The Baffler (January 2014)

Floyd Dell (1887-1969) — American novelist, playwright, poet and journalist; radical liberal and feminist; editor at The Masses (1914-1917)


“The March of the Women” was composed by Ethel Smyth in 1910, to words by Cicely Hamilton:



About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for over 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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24 Responses to TCS: Feminism FOR MEN – in 1914

  1. Malisha says:

    I have a different view of feminism from many of my colleagues. In my view, the freedom of men described generally as “not having to take care of women” would be much different, since men need to collectively “take care of” women in order to provide a safe environment for “their” [the men’s] progeny. I’m no sociologist and no psychiatrist (and no many-other-things) but it does seem pretty clear to me that patriarchal society has made it more and more unsafe for women to bring children into the world and this giant trend is actually peaking now, as we live. It may be irremediable now, in fact. Since I am unable to do much, if anything, about this big picture, I try not to worry about it. I just comment from time to time.

    • Ron Stokes says:

      I think this ‘War on Women’ stuff is gettin’ a little old. Women already have power over men. Put 10 men in a room, give them a subject to discuss then have an attractive woman enter that room. Every guy in there changes. She owns the room. She can take home whomever she chooses and they will readily go. We all know in any male-female relationship who the ‘boss’ is. Oh the guy may think he’s having his way but only if she agrees with that way. If not, she may make his life miserable. Stop the whinin’… is dinner ready yet? LOL

      • wordcloud9 says:

        In your scenario, only “attractive” women have any power. And many women never whine because they’ll get a fist in the face or a broken arm if they do.

        Surely we can all do better.

        • Ron Stokes says:

          The more attractive, the more the attention, the more the power. ‘S not a denigration, It’s a fact of nature. Were I to enter a room with Brad Pitt, no-one would notice me. PLAYBOY never approached Rosie O’Donnel for a photo-shoot. The Elephant man could sing like Sinatra and guess what? …Right.

          • wordcloud9 says:

            But it does nothing to get women equal pay for equal work, which all the gorgeous women in Hollywood have found out – there are fewer leading roles for women,they get paid less than male stars, and their peak earning years are about 20 years shorter than the male stars. Some “power.”

            Since when is physical attractiveness the most important measure of the worth of any person anyway? By that standard, Elizabeth Warren is a less worthy human being than Kim Kardashian. If you really think that, then I pity the women in your life.

      • What if the woman is “unattractive” by current standards? We have already seen how women have been ‘dissed’ by the current Occupant of the WH West Wing.

        • wordcloud9 says:

          Our current society decrees wrinkles and graying hair on a woman turn her into a hag – on a man, they’re “distinguished.”

          So the “power” of that woman who turns mens’ heads is short-lived – as she ages, it disappears, and she is replaced by a younger model.

          • Ron Stokes says:

            ‘S been that way since an aging Og looked out of his cave and saw that young, fine, uni-browed, hairy thing by the stream fetching water. I became invisible a few years ago and it wasn’t easy but now I can slide through society at my pleasure. The phrase to oneself, “Fuck ’em,” comes with a chortle. And Ladies… relax, many a cougar has peered over my shoulder past me at that fresh young thing at the bar.

        • Ron Stokes says:

          I see no dissing… women have no idea how their men talk when ‘with the guys’.

          • wordcloud9 says:

            Oh, I think we have a pretty good idea of how some men talk about women – especially after the Orange Menace spilled the beans.

            It is not how my husband talks. How do I know this? Because he’s just as disgusted by that kind of “locker room talk” as I am. And no, he isn’t just putting on a front – he was my best friend before he was my husband, and we’ve been married for 34 years. Some men actually like women as people.

          • Some guys apparently don’t have any idea either, Ron. I’m a manly man who has engaged in some very manly activities over the years. Not only did me and my manly friends never talk that way about women – even in the locker room – most of us would have beat the snot out of the obnoxious little pricks that did. Because we all had moms and sisters and girlfriends (and later wives) that we liked and/or loved and respected as people and we treated them as such. Don’t presume to speak for all men, Ron. Sure, some of our gender are misogynistic simple minded narcissistic douche nozzles incapable of thinking with organs other than their penis, but some of us were raised to be decent humans. Women often had a part in that upbringing.

            Also, whether or not Dolt 45 is a decent human is not analogous to a difference in artistic aesthetics concerning abstract expressionism. He has all the ethics of a degenerate (or worse, an Objectivist) and this can be proven with a pencil and a piece of paper based upon publicly displayed behaviors. It isn’t a matter of “taste”.

            Feel free to like him all you want. You are not only entitled to your own opinion, you are indeed free to express it. You are also entitled to be as wrong as you like. Or would you like it if him and that Bush chimp had been talking about your daughter? Or your mother? Or your wife?

            Those were rhetorical questions.

            Just sayin’,

      • Malisha says:

        I believe you didn’t get what I was trying to say, if you thought I was after women having power (or more power) over men. But I sense that women-having-power-over-men is a big issue for you, and for other men, and really, there is nothing a woman can do about that, no matter what your relationship with her is like. It is in the nature of men, probably, to worry about women having power over them. If in fact you have to wait for your dinner, that may be a real reason to worry.
        Fortunately, I don’t have to wait for my dinner.
        Do you know why women have power over men, in the final analysis? Because women, and only women, gestate and bear children. So men cannot really control the means of production. This is a bind that none of the men have yet been able to unbind. (Perhaps the geneticists are getting close now but it’s a race against many kinds of time.)
        It reminds me of a story from my past. My kid was oh, about 7, and we were at a Thanksgiving celebration with a nearby family who lived on a farm. The wife was Australian and her brother was visiting the US for a few months. I was a single mother and he was a single man. He began a discussion after everyone at the party (except the children and me, because I don’t drink at all) was happily drunk. His discussion for some reason focused on “men are better than women because…” and the reasons all had to do with physical feats of strength and endurance that he was sure I, personally, couldn’t match but that he had accomplished (he worked oil rigs in five countries).
        “Can you carry a 120-pound barrel up 19 flights?” he would demand.
        “NO!” I would respond. “Can you gestate and birth a baby?”
        His question would vary a bit but my response stayed the same.
        After about 20 rounds, he said, “You know, you’re very pretty!” [I’m NOT.]
        Everyone laughed uproariously. My kid stopped playing with their Rhodesian Ridgeback and demanded, “What’s funny?” I told him, “Kevin said I was pretty!”
        Ron Stokes, this shouldn’t be about the war between men and women. We’re in a situation now, in the world, where our responsibilities have to outweigh our rights. If that doesn’t happen, the next several generations won’t have much of a chance to reconcile themselves to each other, each others’ genders, OR the remains of the earth.

        • Ron Stokes says:

          Gene, I think you should go outside that locker-room and make sure it says, “MEN” on the door. A little too much hatred and self-righteousness in that post. Your halo is makin’ my horns ache.
          Malisha, I was never speakin’ of a war ‘tween men and women. I was talkin’ about how people act, human nature. Nothin’ can surpass childbirth, never said it did. I’m speakin’ of the whinin’ about a lack of power and this faux quest for equality. You know damn right well that whatever relationship you are in now that you are in control.
          OK Guys, here’s hopin’ you have a cool Independence day… Later.

          • Ron, I don’t know how to break this to you.

            Before you pick a fight with Gene, there is something you should know. He is a polymath who graduated from a Jesuit law school. Argumentation is like breathing for him.

            As for his personal interests, lets just say he spent a lot of time in the Far East studying some rather esoteric arts and skills. He and my grandson had a great time exchanging tongue twisters….in Japanese and Mandarin. However, the skill set he learned from monks was…..more physical than verbal.

            Enter at your own risk.

          • Malisha says:

            Oh, maybe I got confused about what YOU were saying. I thought I was following your thought when you said, “I think this ‘War on Women’ stuff is gettin’ a little old. Women already have power over men.”
            Women DO have power over men. Every mother’s son had “power over him,” if that’s how you see it, upon birth, and automatically. But when men feel powerless in a relationship they can become really dangerous.
            As I say, I am considered what may be called an atypical feminist, but I am fiercely feminist. I don’t think women should be equal to men; I don’t think it is possible. For women to grant men equality, they’d have to have a very long, strictly monitored probationary period, considering how they messed up last time, so many millennia back.
            For instance, when the Internet blew up with reports of the Saudi cleric quoted as saying if women were permitted to drive, they would destroy the family, ruin their society, and bring about war. Everyone was appalled and called him out for that but I commented that I agreed with him. “Look at history,” I said. “Men have always been allowed to drive and what has happened? Destruction of the family, ruination of society, and constant wars.”

          • The halo isn’t why women love me, Ron. It’s because I smell like fresh baked cookies. Besides, I usually leave the batteries out of the thing as it keeps me up at night.

            As for the name on the door, well, perhaps you should master the basics of English before attempting to weaponize it. To wit:

            manly (adj.)
            1 : having qualities generally associated with a man : strong, virile
            2 : appropriate in character to a man

            Being a manly man in a locker room illustrates that I am indeed male and in the men’s locker room as “male” is my gender identity. Your feeble attempt to impune my masculinity because I had the audacity to call you on your misogynistic bullshit is hilarious. What’s next? Going to try to anger me? Talk bad about my penis? Call me (gasp!) a girl? Oh my. What will I ever do? Besides continue to make you look like a ridiculous dinosaur that is?

            Those were also rhetorical questions.

            As I said before, you are not only entitled to your own opinion, you are indeed free to express it. You are also entitled to be as wrong as you like. You are not free, however, to speak without consequence. How do I know this? Because I wrote the rules for this place based upon Constitutional principle. Free speech, like all rights, comes with duties and responsibilities. In this particular instance, authors here have a heightened level of duty than commenters. Free speech does not, however, come with a right to not be challenged nor a right not to be offended. It also only applies to government action. You want to act like a misogynist butthead? You’ll get treated like one. However, I would suggest you read the rules here before you run afoul of them.

            Have a nice day.

  2. wordcloud9 says:

    Thanks Malisha –

    Globally, women do far more work than men – it would be better if each person got paid based on how much work we do and how well we do it,instead of our gender. Even here in the U.S, where it’s getting harder and harder for the paycheck of one worker to support a family.

    A society should be responsible collectively for supporting its children – it does take a ‘village.’

    • Malisha says:

      But we refuse collective responsibility for children, in our society. It’s just a nice phrase; it is not a plan of action. Some super-counties do some of it, and within the local governments, you can find pockets of decent village-ness, always vulnerable of course. But in general, our idea is still, “Those parents need to [whatever the local prejudice bears]” and never, “That child needs [whatever his life interest would need to develop].”
      Most of this has, historically, been the result of not making sure that the mothers of all children have resources that they can independently access without the backing of a credentialed male. Whenever the idea has been floated that supporting mothers is generally good policy for society at large, it has been identified as a sort of theft on the part of bad, lazy, ignoble, or wicked mothers. Terribly harmful and dangerous to the young.

      • wordcloud9 says:

        I totally agree with you – our society’s attitude is as if women get pregnant “all by themselves.” Then if they get left holding the baby by a disappearing man, they have to wade through huge amounts of red tape for only small amounts of governmental support, under constant threat of even that disappearing if they commit any refraction. They get reviled by strangers in grocery store lines,who feel it’s their business to see what the “welfare cheat” has in her cart.

        Bragging about being “the richest country in the world” while hundreds of thousands of children go hungry is morally bankrupt. We have the means, and must find the political will, to do better.

  3. Ron Stokes says:

    The orange menace… but looks don’t matter, huh? When your husband first saw you and thought you attractive, believe me, he wasn’t lookin’ for a best friend. That it turned into 35 years is great but I guarantee that there were times he rolled his eyes with his back turned to you and thought, “Women!”

    • wordcloud9 says:

      There are much worse things I could call the Occupant in the Oval Office, and they have nothing to do with his looks!

      When my future husband and I met, I was in a relationship, and he was married, so we were just friends for a couple of years. By the time my relationship broke up, we were best friends.. When he filed for divorce, we were still best friends. We saw each other through some tough times as friends, so believe me, it’s been about a lot more than looks.

      And he doesn’t turn his back – he rolls his eyes and says “Women!” right to my face. And I’ve rolled my eyes, thrown up my hands and said “Men!” to him. It’s actually kind of a running gag in our marriage, because it’s so ridiculous, we always end up laughing.

      • Ron Stokes says:

        Y’ve got a courageous man there …made me laugh m’self, thanx.

        • Ron Stokes says:

          Guess we’ll have to agree that to us Trump is a Pollock painting. Both lauded and loathed at the same time depending on the observer.

          • wordcloud9 says:

            Sorry I think you just insulted Jackson Pollock – and his wife Lee Krassner, also an artist!

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