FAQs About Evolutionary Feminism
Q: Why would feminists object to Darwin's name being attached to this new pool of knowledge? After all, wasn't he the "father" of evolutionary thought?
A: Because, despite being the main force behind the theory of evolution,
and being a decent, devoted, religious family man, the cultural norms of his
social ranking, the consensus of his male colleagues in the science community,
and the whole of social norms in the religious atmosphere of Victorian England
most likely positioned him into declaring, in private correspondence, his belief
that women should not be given birth control information, thus, taking away
free choice for the female.
Secondly, there is a lively discussion within the evolutionary community that Darwin thought that the female 'selected' the male in the animal world through his other theory, sexual selection. But when it came to the human species, suddenly; it was the male that sexually selected the female. Thus 'flipping' millions of years of evolutionary selection when humans were concerned. Some in the evolutionary community believe it was because of the Victorian belief system at that time that the White, Evangalical Christian Male was at the peak of the evolutionary pile. To suggest otherwise, would most likely have gotten Darwin in more trouble than he alreadys was the the publication of The Origin of Species.
First, let's look at the evidence of Darwin's rejection of birth control:
The following citation is from Janet Browne's Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, pages 443 and 444. This masterpiece authoritative biography of Darwin's life is the second of two volumes; major portions of the work are taken from Darwin's personal correspondence.
"A frisson of scandal briefly fluttered on the horizon. For a moment he [Darwin] got embroiled in the notorious obscenity trial of Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant, the first a prominent atheist and author, the second popularly thought to be a freethinker in sexual matters. The impending trial alternately thrilled and agitated the nation…In a sixpenny pamphlet issued early in 1877, Besant and Bradlaugh had described the perils of over-population and recommended various methods of contraception….in Besant and Bradlaugh's hands, the pamphlet [issued] dire Malthusian warnings about degeneration, dissipation, and "unrestrained gratification of the reproductive instinct." By explaining the means of contraception to the masses they hoped to avert these calamities.
"…In June, Bradlaugh wrote from gaol to Darwin asking if he would testify in their support. Bradlaugh had every reason to believe that Darwin - who was a well-known secular thinker, author of The Descent of Man, and a prominent advocate for Malthusian views in nature - would be likely to defend the rational application of natural selection to mankind and verify the pamphlet's views on overcrowding. [from Charles Bradlaugh, 6 June 1877, DAR: Darwin manuscript collection, Cambridge University Library, #160].
Bradlaugh hoped in vain. Darwin responded immediately, declaring he would have nothing to do with either a subpoena or an obscenity trail. If called to court, he would vigorously tesify against Bradlaugh and Besant's case.
"I have not seen the book in question but for notices in the newspaper. I suppose that it refers to means to prevent conception. If so I should be forced to express in court a very decided opinion in opposition to you & Mrs. Besant…I believe that any such practices would in time lead to unsournd women & would destroy chastity, on which the family bond depends; & the weakening of this bond would be the greatest of all possible evils to mankind." [To Charles Bradlaugh, 6 June 1877, Darwin manuscript collection, #202, partly printed in Charles Bradlaugh: a record of his life and work, by Hypatia B. Bradlaugh, 2nd ed. 2 vols. London, 1894.
"Here, Darwin made it plain that he believed that civilized societies best advanced by childbirth taking place only within the respectable boundaries of marriage - a point of view that had also been the gist of Malthus's original remarks. Like Malthus, Darwin disparaged contraception, which he regarded as an impediment to natural processes. He thought easy access to contraception would lead to unfettered sexual activity outside marriage, which in turn would introduce licentiousness and vice, inadequate care of children, financial insecurity, death, and disearse. "If it were universally known that the birth of children could be prevented, and this were not thought immoral by married persons, would there not be great danger of extreme profligacy amongst unmarried women?" he wrote in a concerned manner to George Arthur Gaskell, an advocate of birth control." [Note: Dictionary term: Profligate: completely given up to dissipation and licentiousness (1647) -- 2. Widly extravagant]
The bottom line here is that Darwin could not conceive the concept that women were capable of making their own choices when it came to reproduction. Thus, I believe that I have strongly argued that Darwin was a captive of his social norms of his time. Because if he were not, then he would have champaigned female sexual selection in humans as he championed female sexual selection in The Origin of Species. I feel that is why he wrote that in the "animal world" the female selected the male, but when "humans" were involved, Darwin "flipped" and wrote that it was the male who selected the female.
Since birth control gives the human female freedom to make sexual choices, and Darwin was against birth control, that is why some evolutionary feminists do not want his name attached to "Darwinian Feminism."
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