Davison’s Response, December 15, 1912, To the Editor of The Morpeth Herald, “The Woman Suffrage Question”
This is the final letter in the Davison-Knox exchange, where she pulls no punches.
Sir, –Mr. Knox is just as illogical as most of his sex when, after stoutly affirming that he is of the same opinion still, he, curiously enough, asserts that he fails ‘to see the reasonableness of rejecting good evidence that was ever vouchsafed to men’ (sic!), and yet himself rejects the evidence of the great anthropologist Broca (not Brocus, as he writes).
The same criticism rises to our minds when Mr. Knox argues that ‘if women are so well equipped as men in the size of brains, the average weight of a group of women ought to be equal to the average group of men’ (sic!). In this sentence his meaning and language are terribly obscure, but his argument seems to infer that he considers that brains are co-extensive with height! Is Mr. Knox so ignorant that he does not know that some of the cleverest men (and women) in the world have been the smallest in height?
In spite of all his elaborate disclaimers of the value of medical statistics, Mr. Knox seems to have been obliged to grub hard among them, and has then made the same error of allowing himself to be led off the track. As it is necessary to bring him back to the point at issue, I must briefly lay down the results arrived at: –(a) Size of brain is no proof of capacity of brain, amply shown by the fact that some of the largest and heaviest brains belong to lunatics: (b) in comparing brains, it is necessary to take all facts into consideration together: (c) quality is more important than quantity.
Now argument (a) at once takes the force out of Mr. Knox’s long list of statistics as to the greater brain weight of men, for it may, indeed, only point to their greater lunacy! Argument (b) also puts a tremendous discount on Mr. Knox’s statistics, because he has not co-ordinated all his facts: he has only taken brains relatively (1) as to height of body, (2) as to weight of body. That he makes this error wittingly is proved by his own summary of the matter, in asserting that ‘when women and men are of equal height or equal weight, the men have something like 10 per cent. More brains than the women.’ But this gives his case completely away, for if he will take as much trouble to verify his facts as he has apparently taken to get these statistics, which, as usual in anti-suffragist arguments, are only partial and misleading, he will find that a man and woman of the same height of body are never of the same weight of body; and, per contra, a man and woman of the same weight are rarely, if ever, of the same height. But it is this meretricious form of argument of which anti-suffragists are almost always guilty, forgetting that the wits of women are far too nimble to be deceived by it. And it is this fact which is constantly being attested to to-day which displays the quality of women’s brains and reasoning capacity, and which proves my arguments.
dMr. Knox, it is true, has ‘endeavoured’ very hard indeed to prove ‘the quality in the male to be superior to that of the female,’ but I am afraid that he has not managed to do it, for again and again he has allowed himself to be led away into ‘terminological inexactitudes,’ as, for example, when he asserts that reason and will are identical: and, again, when he goes out of his way to state that ‘no amount of female education can overcome the natural and fundamental distinctions of sex.’ All the way through this controversy it is I who have reminded him that ‘men are men and women are women,’ and that, therefore, it is the men who all along the line have been trying to overcome the natural and fundamental distinctions of sex by forcing women into one groove. What we suffragists are fighting for is that women, qua women, should have the same opportunities and facilities to develop that men have, qua men. The fact that Mr. Knox and his like ignore is that women are not at present free to develop as women, and it is that which is wrong. Whilst confessing that they do not understand women, men impose their ideals or limitations on women, and therefore women are as far from being what they might be naturally, as is the domestic animal from its wild progenitor. And that brings me back to the point with which I started, namely, that men will not acknowledge the common humanity of man and woman: and still keep up the error that ‘man has a sex, but woman is a sex,– [no final quotation mark]
EMILY WILDING DAVISON