The Family Does Not Exist, by Maximilienne

[This article was kindly translated by Jesse Cohn.]

The Family Does Not Exist
La Revue Anarchiste 1 (Dec. 1929)

“The Family,” “The French Family”…

These are so many cliché words, ready-made phrases, that serve the solid citizens when their spirits feel the need of some good, solid prop to lean on…

“The Family”; “The Fatherland”; “Morality”; so many beautiful mannequins draped in their formal attire of prejudice, ignorance, stock opinions…

Today, I would like to strip a few rags off of the “Family” mannequin…

Although the idea of family has changed profoundly in modern times, the remnants of all the hypocritical conceptions heaped upon it still give it quite a glamorous aura.

“The Family,” it is said, “is the foundation of Society.” Perhaps that’s so.

And perhaps it’s even because society has a poor foundation that it has become so sick!

However, it has so far found nothing better on which to found itself.

No doubt these are the considerations of public order that have cast an almost mystical aura around this famous institution.

But what remains of this respect when we analyze it? What can remain of it?

For some time, curiosity led me to collect news items under the heading of what are commonly called “family stories.”
The ugly, the painful list!

Let us revisit them…

Yesterday, there was a girl from a good family, who, faking a robbery, stole jewelry from her mother to deliver to her lover.

The day before, the Assize Court of Cher sentenced to 5 years in prison a person who, after raping his stepdaughter, a child of fourteen, had forced his wife to take part in their sad antics.

At Onecourt, a drunken son seriously wounded his father with a gunshot; at Nancy, a husband stabbed his wife to death, and near Périgueux, a father saw his barn and crops burned down by his own offspring.

On October 19, in Montpellier, a divorcée stripped of her maternal rights obtained permission to see her child, a little boy of nine, whom the father had placed in a sanatorium.

Taking him for a walk, she threw him to the ground, and trampled him savagely…

In Bordeaux, meanwhile an unfortunate deserter was tried, a man who had disappeared so successfully that his name was listed on the monument to the dead. The poor fellow gave as the reason for his disappearance the terror he felt… of his wife, and and he made his case so convincingly that the judges, moved, inflicted a paltry sentence on him.

On the same day, the Chamber of Indictments in Limousin made a dismissal in favor of a son who, with the help of his mother, had done his father to death.

On the 18th, the criminal court of Bordeaux condemned a couple of farmers who left their children, ages five, seven, two years, and six months, without care or food.

Also on the 18th, a day-laborer from Saint-Denis cracked the head of his sleeping wife with an axe.

A day or two before the Assize Court of La Charente-Infèrieure sentenced a milkmaid to five years in prison for drowning her child in the river – because her husband had criticized him for having won a trial selling adulterated milk!

A woman struck her husband with an axe; an alcoholic wounded his sick wife with a revolver for refusing to get out of bed, then blew his own brains out. A 19-year-old Italian threw himself under a train after having, in the course of a squabble, severely injured his sister and killed his brother-in-law, an excellent worker and father of three infant children.

This was around the time of the trial of Marcel Lobjois, a poor little orphan, who killed the brute who had married the sister who had so tenderly raised him, and whom he adored. We recall that Lobjois was acquitted.
The day before, parents who hid in their house the skeletal remains of a six-month-old baby who had been starved to death were arrested in Perpignan.

In Paris itself, a young man of twenty-seven killed himself by jumping out of the window in despair over the death of his youngest son. He had never been able to get his young wife to stop going out shopping in order to take care of their two children, and he took into the void with him the heartbreaking certainty that if the little one, who had been ill, had died, it was because her mother had not wanted to bother to care for him.

To top it all off, here is the story that one of our colleagues told us:

A girl of 18, having been “seduced,” had two children.

The “seducer,” moreover, wished only to provide his partner and children with all the guarantees offered by the Civil Code: he was ready to marry her.

However, the wedding could not take place, and the girl remained disgraced, the bastards remained bastards…
Why?

Because the father of the poor girl stubbornly refused his consent. Now this father, an inveterate alcoholic, was serving a prison sentence for raping another of his daughters …

The courts had forgotten to rule on his deprivation of paternal rights over her, or deemed it unnecessary.

In just ten days, so much blood, so many tears on the dress of this beautiful symbolic figure, the Family!

And I have deliberately overlooked all the “crimes of passion,” all the dramas of jealousy, all the shootings between spouses, fiancés, lovers…

What a dark mass of hatred and grief this proliferation of murders suggests in the countless families where things have not quite risen to the level of crime!

Households disunited; brothers made enemies; children morally or physically tortured; parents the victims of their sons and ungrateful or unnatural daughters; alas, haven’t these all been common currency ever since the Greek legend of the Atreides established the frightful prototype of the Family?

The Family! But it does not yet exist, it cannot yet exist …

Obviously, not all familial associations are like those that we see in the police blotters, and chance, which presides over marriages as well as births, sometimes creates charming and perfect households…

But why must this, to such a large extent, be left up to chance?

The Family, the true family, worthy of respect and envy, will only exist when enough men and women are sufficiently advanced to make an honest and thoughtful pact in which friendship and esteem will will share that love, in which considerations of interest and caste will be hunted. None will need laws then: convicts are chained to one another, but we do not chain friends.

When a couple thus formed has – voluntarily – given birth to a child, all the more loved for having been expected, they will form a family, and when these couples become numerous, Society will have a chance to take shape.

But until then, for a family, what ugly couplings, what shoddy compromises! Let us try, at least, to destroy the hypocrisy that would have us take them for the beautiful, noble reality. And let us find the strength to look the meanness and wretchedness in the face today, so that tomorrow may be more beautiful …

Maximilienne

Marriage or Free Love, Madeleine Pelletier

Marriage or Free Love

Dr Madeleine Pelletier

Le Libertaire

1921

In “La Voix des Femmes”, Madeleine Vernet talks about the disadvantages of free love for women. “Men”, she writes, “who advocates free love. The male sees, in this theory, a way t satisfy his instinct which drives him towards change. Women, on the contrary, is despoiled, since if there are children, they remain her burden. Even without children, she is still despoiled since, while men’s love is first of all sensual, while women’s love is mostly sentimental; when she is abandoned, she always suffers. It is therefore with reason that women envision suspiciously some ideas which are beautiful only as long as they are detached from reality.”

All this is true, but are the realities of marriage much better? That is not sure.

Those men who, like dogs or cats, only wish to leave, once their passion is quenched, legal union manages to keep them, most of the time. But when the chains feel too heavy on them, they express their discontent, at home, without any reason, through sweet and sour words, often through insults and even blows.

Every household is not like that; it happens that friendship survives love in couples. And this friendship can only be owed to the legal ties; without marriage, the man would have left his partner, but he has a commitment, so he stayed, and, with habit, he ended up liking the home which was first a burden to him.

All things considered, however, the life of married women in the working class is far from enviable; they stand their condition however because they have children to feed and above all because she has been brought up in the idea that she cannot survive on her own. She believes that there are no means of existence for her without support.

Women get attached, obviously; she has been fed illusions. She has been made to believe that friendship is the rule when it is only an exception; we must teach women, as well as men by the way, to be self-sufficient, both morally and materially.

Family, despite the praises it gets, s far from bringing ideal happiness. It is only good among the bourgeoisie, where people know how to stand each other. Among the working-class, family is considerably reduced and the protection it offers is very often an illusion.

The young woman who wants to practice free love must first get rid of all her old ideas: the nest, the home, the strong shoulder to lean on, etc. If that is what she is looking for, she’s making a mistake, she should marry.

But if a good worker, clerk, teacher, etc. has a trade which ensures her existence, she can easily look for men, like men look for women.

She won’t be cheated, or at least not much if she’s only looking for comradeship with a little extra something in her relations.

Women are cheated because they make a huge deal from sexual union which is only a small thing. They build their whole lives around it, whereas, in life, everyone only has themselves to rely on.

What about children? Obviously, a woman who practices free love would better not have any. Children, on top of being a burden, have the great disadvantage to limit freedom; for them, women would do anything.

But when a woman reaches the age of 27 or 28, it is not a bad idea for her to have a child. She will be alone to raise them, but whatever; it will cost her a little money but she will save on other things.

In her mature years, the child will be a consolation to her; she will be less alone and they will give a sense of purpose to her life.

All of this is transitory; free love will only fully bloom when society substitutes family in raising children.

Free Love, Madeleine Vernet

Free Love
Madeleine Vernet
1907

I.
Is it really necessary to try and prove that love can only be free, when artists paint it as a winged child, and poets, in their gay, fantastic or sad songs, depict it as capricious, fickle, changing, always looking for new horizons and new sensations?
…Love is a child of Bohemia!
And that is true. No-one can guarantee the stability of love. More than any other human feeling, it is changing and transient because it is not only an affection of the heart, but also a sensual desire and a physical need.
Let’s not mistake love for marriage. Marriage is a social convention; love, a natural law. Marriage is a contract; love, a kiss. Marriage is a prison; love is self-development. Marriage is the prostitution of love.
In order to preserve its beauty and dignity, love must be free; and it can only be free if it obeys a single rule. There cannot be on this issue any material or moral considerations: two beings love each other, desire each other, tell each other so; they must have the absolute right to give themselves to one another, without the intervention of any reason foreign to their desires, just like they must have the most absolute right to leave each other when they no longer desire each other. And I am not saying “when they no longer lover each other”, but indeed when they no longer desire each other. These are two distinct things. We can stop desiring a woman but still love her; we can no longer wish to be her lover, but stay true to our friend.
This is too well-known a psychological fact for me to insist, but the aspect I would like to stress is how this issue applies to women.
Women’s sexuality, it is commonly accepted, does not exist or is subordinated to the sexuality of the male – whether legal or not – companion she chose. She must live and feel through him, be passionate if he is, remain indifferent if he is cold.
To this day, man has considered sensual desire ruling him essentially, refusing to recognize women as beings morally and physically organized as he is.
This is the first issue I will address in this study on Free Love.

I said before that, to study the great natural laws seriously, it was necessary to go back to primitive sources and study nature in animal life. Among animals, females have their own sexual life; they have sexual needs, sexual desires which she satisfies, with the same freedom and frequency as males.
No-one will contest that the physiological rules which animals obey are the same as for humans. Why not then admitting for women the same physiological similitude with animals that we admit exists between men and animals? Why refuse women their own sexual lives? Why make love an exclusively male need?
To this day, self-proclaiming himself on this issue as on every other, man has answered: “Because women don’t have needs; because she does not desire; because she doesn’t suffer from the privation of carnal satisfactions.” But what does he know, whether women have needs or not? Who better than women can judge and decide on this?
For my part, I still have in mind this sentence from a doctor: “Celibacy for women is just as monstrous as celibacy for priests. To condemn women to countenance is unfair, as it is to prevent the integral development of the female being.” Therefore, as this doctor confesses, prolonged virginity of women cause a stop in their intellectual and physical evolution.
And, if there really are some women without needs, frigid women, without sensual desires, what does it prove? There are also men who are disinterested in sensuality. But they are not a majority; and, if I can claim so, it is not the majority of women either who are disinterested in love.
Nowadays, by the way, with the kind of education they get, women themselves can be a bad judge of their sensations and desires. They don’t analyse their internal lives, and often suffer without knowing why.
The exuberantly healthy virgin whose boiling blood burn her cheeks and redden her lips might not even know it is her virginity which makes her nervous, disquieted, dreamy. She might not even know that it is the need for love which makes her cry or laugh without reason; but the fact she doesn’t know how to define it doesn’t make it less true that it is this natural law of love which is attacking her.
Brutally, what she ignores, marriage will teach her; marriage to which she went blindly, only because she evoked two cuddling arms in which to find a refuge. Then, when at least she “knows”, when, initiated into sexual life, her flesh has become consciously vibrant, she will realise she is linked to a man who she might not even love any more. And, according to her temper, she will go towards her lover and resign herself to conjugal duty.
And if she resigns herself, if she accepts the duty without love, even if she confessed to others and to herself that she has no desires, that she has no lustful needs, she would simply be fooling others and herself. Sexual needs will have existed in her, but, for a lack of the conditions to its development, it will have atrophied and fallen asleep. If this same woman had lived freely; if, leaving the companion who did not meet her desires, she had gone to the one who would have made her fully live her life as a lover, it is most likely that she would have never become a cold woman.
In our current customs, it is much easier for a man to judge whether he is frigid or not. Free to express his desires, he will be able to make an informed judgement for or against sensuality – after having known the embrace of different women. But women – condemned only ever to know one man – cannot actually know if what she did not experience in this man’s arms, she wouldn’t have felt in another’s.
Consequently, we cannot say exactly what women are from a sensual point of vie. However, if we refer to animal life, we will see that the anomaly of non-sensuality rarely presents itself in females. It never happens in wild species, and, if it happens in domesticated species, it is because domestication has deformed them. We can actually observe that female dogs, deprived of sexual satisfaction, fades away and shortens her lifespan y a fourth.
No doubt if women lived normally, if they hadn’t been also deformed by physical and moral constraints, no doubt the number of frigid women would be much restricted. However, even if there were only 50% of truly sensual women, I think these 50% are allowed a full life, and it is simply unfair to condemn them to the mutilation of part of themselves for the simple reason that there are 50% others fully content with their fate.
Absolute freedom in love – for women as well as men – is nothing but elementary justice. This does not force the frigid to become passionate, but this will allow the passionate no longer to suffer in the captivity of social and conventional laws.

I said earlier that we should not confuse love and marriage. Well, before leaving the issue of physiology, I will go further and say we shouldn’t confuse love and desire.
Love is the complete communion of two brains, two hearts, two sensualities. Desires is nothing more that the fancy of two skins shivering from the same voluptuousness. Nothing is as fleeting and unstable as desire, yet none of us are foreign to it. If every woman is honest to herself, they will confess that they have already sometimes thrown themselves at men they’ve only met for a few hours – or even a short moment – and whose feelings and whose name they didn’t know. But only a touch, a glance, the sound of a voice even, was enough to spark desire; and, whether we like it or not, the woman who felt such a desire went with this previously unknown man whom she will have forgotten the day after.
We cannot better master our sexual desire than the pangs of hunger. Both are inherent to our physicality: they are the result of two natural needs, just as legitimate as one another. And hunger is not mastered, it is quenched.
And I insist further on the difference between love and desire, because we are always inclined to confuse them, or assimilate them to each other, and this confusion often leads to sad and grievous results.
“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” the Gospels say. Certainly, yes, the flesh is weak. What time does desire need to become an act? And is this act always made willingly and consciously? There are times when the notion of reality disappears, when nothing exists in us anymore other than the feeling of the moment.
Those who have live in nature know it full well: when in springtime the sap flows back up to the branches, when the scents of life gush out all around – from the earth, the sun, wood, and plants – desire too runs under the skins and make breasts shiver. And, in the heavy summer nights, in the hot and scented nights, who would deny that the need for voluptuousness is more intense? Passionate people who, on such a night, have been alone, know it well and they will tell you how much they suffered from their loneliness on such nights.
Since there are days and hours when sensuality is exacerbated in a way, it is not surprising in the least that “the flesh is weak”. You only need complicit chances to place two individuals of different sexes facing each other.
But this is not love, it is only desire. Desire which, sometimes, wears all the appearances of love, but which, once quenched, leaves the two lovers as perfect strangers to one another, like the hungry man leaves table without regret once his hunger is appeased.
Do not conclude from this last sentence that I condemn desire. Why would I condemn it since I just proved it was naturally linked to our sexual life? The only thing I wanted was to firmly ascertain the difference between desire and love.
II.
So, marriage, love, desire, are three different things:
-marriage is the chain which makes a man and a woman prisoners of one another.
-love is the full communion of both of them.
-desire is the fancy of two sensualities.
I leave marriage aside, as I oppose it, to go back to the issue of free love.
I said that love must be fully free , for women as well as for men. And I add more: love can only truly exist if it is free. Without absolute freedom, love becomes prostitution, whatever name we call it.
Selling our bodies for such and such a price, to a large number of clients, is not the only form of prostitution. Prostitution is not only for women, men also prostitute themselves. He prostitutes himself whenever, for any reason, he caresses someone without feeling desire.
Not only is legal marriage prostitution when it is an act speculation of one partner on another, but it is always a form of prostitution since the virgin doesn’t know what she’s doing when she marries. As for marital duty, it is nothing other than prostitution again. Prostitution is being submissive to a husband; prostitution is resignation and passivity. Prostitution is also a free union, when it passes from love to habit. Prostitution is every relation between sexes outside of desire and love.
One of the reasons why love must be absolutely free is precisely this similarity between desire and love I mentioned earlier when asking people not to confuse both terms.
Rationally, can two people contract any commitment when they are unable to know whether they will be able to fulfil it? Can we bond two elements when we don’t know what affinity there is between them?
In legal marriage, someone is always fooled: the wife, and sometimes someone disappointed: the husband who doesn’t find in his wife the woman he believed he could find. Yet, they are bound to one another.
And even marriage can be based on reciprocal love and still soon become a burden on both spouses. This means that love was only desire which possession extinguished. And if the spouses had given themselves to each other freely, before making it legal, the experiment would have proved them they were not made for living together, and it is likely they would have made it legal. This if proof of the need for free love.
From desire, love can bloom, but you can never be sure it will. When love becomes sensual after it has gone through the brain and heart, it has much better chances of lasting, but when it is based only on sexual desire, it is likely to be soon extinguished, if it doesn’t reach the brain and heart while it lasts.
Finally, since I am doing an analytical study, I must go to the bottom of the truth, and say that sexual desire alone can unite two people for a very long time without ever engendering full love. A man and woman can have intimate relations without ever being pulled together by anything else than this sexual desire. Their feelings and ideas can be in complete disagreement while their flesh vibrates in harmony.
And this, I would like to point out, can in no way be compared to prostitution, since the feeling which brings together these people – although exclusively sensual – is sincere on both parts. There can only be prostitution where there is selling, constraint, ignorance or passivity. This is not the case since both lovers are attracted to each other by the same feeling, and that they feel pleasure and satisfaction in the relationship freely accepted by both of them.
But the truth I just exposed leads to condemning monogamy. From a diversity of feelings stems a diversity of desires, and if we accept this diversity as an essentially natural law, we cannot support the injunction to monogamy. Monogamy is yet again a type of prostitution: prostitution of a man to a woman and of a woman to a man.
There can therefore be on this issue of people’s sexual lives only one moral law for both sexes: the absolute freedom of love.
The union of the flesh, which cannot be ruled by a single rule, identical for every individual, which is subjected to no immutable determining law, must not consequently create duties or constitute rights, if we want to preserve the full freedom of love.
Isn’t it most illogical to link the word ‘duty’ to the word ‘love’? Do we not already sense there the whole irony of this sentence from morals books for children: “The first duty of a child is to love their parents.” Do we not say, in everyday morals: “A mother must love her children. A wife must love her husband.”
These words are absurd. Can love, of whatever order, ever be a duty? Is it not natural for achild to love the mother who raised them; for a woman to love the child who cost her some pain and suffering and who is a dear reminder of caresses received? Is it not natural also for a woman to love her chosen companion, the friend who made her his wife? If a child doesn’t love their mother, if a mother doesn’t love her children, if a woman doesn’t love her companion, what can we do? Nothing. All the sanctions from the penal code, all the moral and religious declarations will not make love spark if it hasn’t been born naturally.
Just as it cannot create duties, love cannot give birth to rights. A husband’s rights on his wife, a wife’s rights on her husband, are oppression and oppression is love. A slave cannot love their master; they can only fear them and try to please them.
The fact that a woman loved a man and had sex with him should grant him no privilege over this woman; no more than the fact of having sex should be, for this woman, a reason to have authority on her partner. They were free before they met, they loved each other freely, man and woman must find themselves free after their relation, once desire no longer attracts them to each other, and that love ceased uniting them.
To sum up this whole study, I would conclude thus:
-Love must be entirely free, no moral law must rule it or submit it in any way.
-No difference must be made between sexes concerning love.
-Finally, sexual relations must not create obligations, duties or rights between people.
III.
I know that, when they read it for the first time, my theory on love will seem completely immoral to many people. Some of them will see it as the consecration of debauchery, the apology of licentiousness, the excuse for all disorders.
But if they try to think and study the issue, they will agree that free love, far from being a source of immorality, will become a natural regulating body of morality.
First of all, what is immorality? To define it, we must once again get rid of the atavism which makes us consider as natural law what is only social conventions.
In my opinion, immorality is everything which constrains individuals with purely conventional rules, it is everything which hinders the development of human beings (…)
Immorality is prostitution – legal or otherwise; it is is forced celibacy for women; it is selling the female body; it is the submission of wives; t is the lie of a husband toward someone he has stopped loving.
But free love cannot be immoral, as it is a natural law; sexual desire cannot be immoral since it is a natural need of our physical existence.
If sexual need is immoral, we can then call hunger, sleep, in a word, every physiological phenomenon which rules the human body immoral.
If we consider our current habits, what source of immorality can we not uncover? Loveless marriages in which men buy a dowry and women buy a situation; adulteries from husbands and wives; rapes of all kinds; flesh trade, lies from our flesh and our brains, different contracts which give unknowing women to lechers and poor women to exploiters who speculate on their hunger.
If free love became the rule, there certainly couldn’t be more immorality than already exists. Admitting that the situation would not change in depth, it would be at least more honest in its form.
But I am personally convinced that free love will be the moral emancipation of individuals, because it will free people from both sexes from physical constraints and servitudes. Why should we believe free individuals to be immoral? There is no immorality among free animals. They do not know any of the physical disorders which are the prerogative of humans, precisely because animals do not submit to any law apart from natural law.
What creates immorality is the forced lies of humans to other humans and to themselves; and free love, by freeing humans from lies, will precisely put an end to disorders and debauchery.
When people will be truly free, when they will be regenerated by a better education, they will find in themselves a natural balance of their physical and moral faculties and will become normal and healthy beings.

We have in ourselves an instinctive feeling which looks after us; the instinct of self-preservation. When we are no longer hungry, we stop eating, because we know the problems that might arise if we don’t; when we are tired from walking, we have the common sense to rest; when tiredness burns our eyelids, we know full well we should be sleeping. In the same way, we will find a natural regulation to our sexual lives in sexual exertion itself.

Animals obey this feeling of self-preservation; why would humans be inferior to them? I wouldn’t want to insult humanity by holding on to that last hypothesis.
No, the full development of a free individual could not be something immoral; What is truly immoral is to distort our understanding by distorting nature’s fundamental truths; immorality is to prevent someone from living a healthy and strong life in the name of dogmas, laws, conventions contrary to the harmony and beauty of life.

From Brownings to free love, Henriette Marc

From Brownings to free love

Henriette Marc

La Revue Anarchiste

1922

Brownings are fashionable. It has now replaced, in “honour” killings, the outdated sword, even the more innocuous fists, and as an ending to love stories, poison and vitriol.

“If I love you, beware!” Don Jose sings, louder than ever, his hand on his revolver-pocket. More often than ever, the custom is to hurt the person who has, first, been bored of a two-person romance. Times of the sorrows of love are gone, we won’t see the abandoned cry for the “fragile idyll” and make careful rimes from their tale of woe for posterity. Three warnings, a shot, and love is avenged.

Poor love which takes delight in the blood of the loved one, and suffers less from their death than from the sight of their new happiness!

In reality, love is a rare thing; most of the time, common search for pleasure, selfish possession of a being enviable by their beauty, wealth or mind, hides under its name. But the gift of oneself, the search for happiness of the loved one, how many can boast to have known that kind of love?…

On top of this, killing is a bad way to rekindle love, imposing it as well. When a new love comes, it is that the heart is free, and, therefore, why would the former occupant who couldn’t keep their place and does not have the courage to win it back be outraged? Poor happiness which is built on an abuse of sentimental power, poor satisfaction which destroys what does not reflect you any more.

No doubt there are times when any gesture of excess seems to alleviate the torturing anguish, the definitive void which the indifference of the person we love and who loves us creates, but then, even though it is not a solution and all of life protests against such an act, it would be more normal and human to disappear ourselves, leaving space for the new couple.

But crimes of passion have more general and deeper causes than love suffering. Prejudice which make love a sin and marriage a sacrament have their share in it.

What is jealousy, of not the feeling of ownership which extends from things to individuals themselves? As soon as a person gives themselves freely to another, will they be subjected for the rest of their life and will they not be allowed to take back their whole or part of their freedom without the jealous other, considering them their property, preventing them and punishing their attempt by death?

Some people are true by nature, others are changing and only feel truly alive when they follow their desires of the moment. Why, when the union is based not on fleeting interests or tastes any more, but on real and sustainable affinities, couldn’t each individual, confident in their partner’s trust, and conscious of their promises, live as they wish part of their sexual lives, since that is where most profound disagreements stem from? When weariness would start, earlier for some than for others, the loving hearts would reunite, without any arguments, any drama having torn them apart forever.

Maybe this would bring some fleeting pains, but o so few compared to those which result from the current prejudices, which push the individual, imprisoned in ideas of sin, to free themselves suddenly from an old love, even if they bitterly regret it when the joy of the new desire wears off.

In other words, could there not be, at the start of union, an implied acknowledgement of each other’s freedom?

People will cry that this is licentious, an orgy. Are the early evening meetings of our bourgeois women, the hospitable houses for the men, any more moral? But they are covered by the hypocrisy dear to the time of the Bérangers and Lamarzelles. Also, while virtue is now compulsory, the use of our freedom would not be, and everyone would act according to their tastes and possibilities.

People will object that this would endanger unions. Maybe, but less often than current liaisons; what is allowed is a lot less tempting and how many only leave their households to run after pleasures which are all the more desirable since they are forbidden.

For women especially, people will asked the sacred question of children. Let’s not dwell on it; any conscious person knows that, in the current society, pleasure cannot be lumped with procreation and that children are only desirable when we are sure we don’t have any other desire in us than their education, and especially the material means to provide for it.

In short, although there is for each individual personal ethics, we could wish for some greater freedom to intervene in love relationships, without duplicity, without lies. Also, that people get united only after having known each other, studied each other, to avoid painful discoveries which weaken love. That if some people don’t love any more, that the people sacrificed accept this fact and give them their freedom, easily and without a fight, to those who wish for it. Above all, that selfishness, the basis for relations between individuals, learn how to remain silent in those circumstances, and that the happiness of those we loved, if they truly found it, alleviate and not aggravate the suffering of the abandoned.

The Female Ego, Eugénie Casteu

The Female Ego

Eugénie Casteu

La Revue Anarchiste

1923

For a while now I have been meaning, comrade who signs “A Rebel Woman”, to point out the tendency of your articles to exalt the sacrifice of women in favour of men. If such is your revolt, I think it is a pretty dangerous one for our female comrades.

I quote, from n°13 of the Revue:

“The role of the woman, a difficult and magnificent role, is not only to share, through understanding, the intellectual life of man; but, through her constant and discreet love, to give him courage, to rekindle, if necessary, his self-confidence and fertile enthusiasm. When we truly love, everything becomes easy, the greatest sacrifices are accepted with joy.”

Thank you very much, we just had some: a Catholic, or Protestant, or “secular” preacher does not speak differently. In short, women must be the intellectual servants, the reflections of their men. You tell us about the “role of the woman”. I don’t know of any other than to be herself. A “role”, exterior to her individual longings, can only bring her, like for men, disappointment.

What! You then set as an example “Carlyle’s wife who, still young and admired, went to bury herself with him in a harsh and hostile retreat, accepting the hardest work, so that he, in necessary solitude, could accomplish his writer’s work.”

But such a woman is a monster, in my opinion; a person who abolishes herself, who renounces to herself, who mutilates herself for someone else, who is already stronger than she is!

You will object that Carlyle was a brain who… a brain whom… well, a bloke, socially more useful than his boring and overly devoted partner maybe. And then what?

Let’s suppose that it happened, happens, the other way round, that a woman is a fascinating, superior as they say, guy, superior especially to her man… That is where I wonder: in your opinion, should the man erase himself like Carlyle’s wife did, devote himself body and soul to the work of his partner?

If you tell me “no”, the matter is settled: you therefore admit the sacrifice of ordinary women to superior men, but not that of ordinary men to superior women; that you are among the supporters of men, the masculinists.

Or you tell me: “yes, I accept that an ordinary man sacrifices himself to ensure the cerebral production of his superior partner”, and then, your case is even worse, my lovely comrade, who call yourself a rebel and an anarchist… It means you accept that the weaker and poorer person sacrifices themselves to the person whom nature gave more! That you find fair the voluntary sacrifice of the weak towards the strong.

And I know nothing as pernicious as such an idea, not in the brain of the strong (where it doesn’t matter), but in the brains of the weak who want to give themselves to be eaten alive by the strong they love!
When I find on my way – and I found too many of them – some “Carlyle’s wife”, I hate them and I denounce them, I tell my younger female comrades: “look at this goose admiring her swan: do you know anything more sickening?”
It saddens me and outrages me to see a woman – who was not, obviously, from the start, a very strong personality – voluntarily resorb herself, fade away with pleasure in the overbearing, monopolising personality of so-called genius she “loves”.

This “loved one”, as great as they might seem to you, o dear comrade, appears to me like a murderer, of the same kind as the car-driver who runs over, at night or in speed, a pedestrian: he crushed a personality; maybe she was tiny, but he reduced her to mush.

And you would give those poor women the pride of sacrifice, the pride of nothingness, the pride of death?
No, no, and no! I shout at them: “Are you not ashamed of kneeling in front of this great man and his works? Instead of striving to understand him, try to protect yourself from his rays, to remain yourself; and if your ambition is to be his living reflection, let me tell you, o you superior caste of slaves, that I despise you!”

If we favour the absorption of the weak by the strong, by the regeneration of the old Salomon by his young girls (be it for blood or intellect), then we are aristocratic, but not anarchists. We do not want the tyranny of the weak either, of course: we want for each their share of the sun, without oppressors nor oppressed.

I know it, a strong personality has a tendency to suck energy from the meek, annex them, and it might be the most poisonous, the best hidden, the hardest to detect source of authority! But to glorify in words this sadly natural phenomenon, dangerous to the lives of both individuals and peoples, no! No deification of individual imperialism!

You tell us that poetry sang of the voluntary sacrifice of women?

Of course, poetry also sang kings, gods, wars… It often sang gestures accepted as custom, this old cow true to her stable, to the fenced off pastures, to the common watering hole!

Maybe one day it will sing the beauty of the novel gesture, the gesture which breaks the chains, which breaks ancestral habits of resignation and more or less enthusiastic servitude?…

As for me, I prefer, rather than the distinguished “Carlyle’s wives”, the plebeian women full of instinct, who tell their dear great man to go to hell and break away from his orbit. “Maybe to go to the cinema?” you’ll say bitterly.

Maybe; and if this agrees on that night with their nature, in reaction against the ethereal splendours of the great loved one? Isn’t that a sweet misery!

I know full well that not every revolt is an ascension; but I prefer a donkey who rebels than a dog who follows. How smart and how devoted is the dog, isn’t he? Well, I don’t love the slaves of love, even the very refined ones.

My dear young comrades, I beg you, be yourselves, don’t immolate yourselves on the altars of male genius, do not be trusting dogs, or “Carlyle’s wives”! Let him be free, and remain free yourself!