point. (See, for instance, “When FeminismnFailed,” by Mary Anne Dolan,nThe New York Times Magazine, Junen26, 1988.)nAmerican women do vote slightly tonthe left of men on average, but thisneffect is minor, commonly on the ordernof five percentage points. This muchballyhooedn”gender gap” did nothingnto prevent the landslide election ofnERA- and abortion-foe Ronald Reagannagainst the near-perfect feminist ticketnof Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraronin 1984. It is, moreover, notnnecessarily a sign of superiority. Thenkind of short-term compassion idealizednby Carol Gilligan, grounded innimmediate feelings of sympathy, maynbe highly destructive when planningnmatters of state, as compared to morenabstract approaches grounded in anlonger view.nIn short, the main arguments thatnwere used to promote female suffragenare false.nA better claim is enjoyed by thenargument from equity: that it’s only fairnthat women get the vote. The argumentnfrom equity is often associatednwith the claim that women’s self-imagesnare poor, and will be improved bynwomen feeling that they are “responsiblenmembers of society.” Aileen S.nKraditor, the noted feminist historian,nadmits at the end of her major work,nThe Ideas of the Woman SuffragenMovement, that women’s suffrage conferrednno practical benefits whatever.n”The addition of women to the electorate,”nshe wrote, “has not significantlynaltered American voting patterns as thensuffragists predicted it would.” But shennonetheless attributes “an enormousnchange” to the adoption of femalensuffrage: it did away with the suffragists’n”intense shame” at not having the votenand gave them “a new respect fornthemselves.” Kraditor’s rhetoric cannotnhelp but remind one of Olive Chancellor,nthe extremely unattractive and extremelynbelievable feminist character innHenry James’s The Bostonians, whontells her charge Verena Tarrant that shenfeels the absence of the vote “all thentime, like a stain on one’s honour.”nVerena, a far more typical, femininenwoman, is totally indifferent to the votenand is in this regard probably morenrepresentative of the women of herntime. Whether such women are morenhelped or hurt by sexual homogeniza-ntion is a critical question, one that hasnby no means been answered in anconvincing manner by the conventionalnwisdom.nAgainst the argument for equity,none can make the case that women arendisadvantaged by a society that refusesnto make gender distinctions. To thenextent that this is tme, respecting womennmeans cultivating gender distinctions.nYet advocates of female suffragen(such as Olive Schreiner and Margueritende Witt and many others) makenvery clear that the suffrage was only thenopening wedge to the elimination ofnsex roles. In this regard, they manifestednthe equality/specialty split that isnendemic to feminism: the suffrage wasnneeded to eliminate social gender, butnalso to express women’s special (especiallynmoral) qualities.nIn the view of many antisuffragists,nfemale suffrage does not simply extendndemocratic sovereignty on the basis ofnequity; instead, it represents a fundamentalnchange in the basis of politicalnrepresentation. Where universal manhoodnsuffrage prevails, society is representednby families. Under the circumstances,na man of even the slightestnsensibility will vote with a profoundnsense of the responsibility laid on him.nUniversal suffirage, however, changesnthe basis of political representationnfrom the family to the individual. Thenvoter now represents only himself andnthe family is opened to political intrusion.nLike the Equal Rights Amendmentnin the 1970’s, female suffrage wasnactively opposed mostly by women. Asnthe feminist Beatrice Forbes-RobertsonnHale reported in 1914 of the Americannantisuffrage groups, “The numbernof men in these organizations is apparentlynfew.” It is curious that nobodynasked women whether they wanted tonbe given the vote. There was ho referendum.nBeatrice Forbes-Robertson Hale (innWhat Women Want, 1914) goes on tongive one of the most succinct definitionsnever provided of “the averagenAmerican male” in his attitudes towardnfeminism: “He, in truth, is today onlyninclined to oppose the ambitions ofnwomen when they may interfere withnhis business; otherwise he watches theirnactivities with an indulgent smile. Havingnbeen trained to give them whatevernthey ask for, he sees little reason tonnnrefuse their demand for the vote. He isnno longer anti-feminist, but merelynindifferent.”nThe ideal state makes gender distinctions,nand the ideal society developsnthese into a rich matrix of humannpossibility. To the extent that it representsnan assault on gender distinctions,nit is by no means clear that femalensuffrage is a net benefit. Thomas Jefferson,nthe most socialistic of America’snFounding Fathers, explicitly opposednfemale suffrage: “Were our state a purendemocracy, there would still be excludednfrom our deliberations women,nwho, to prevent deprivation of moralsnand ambiguity of issues, should notnmix promiscuously in gatherings ofnmen.”nIt is possible that Jefferson’s rathernlimited reasons against female suffragenconceal a sound instinct, in the Hayekiannsense that most of the essentialnstructures of society’ remain beyondnour ken. You can oppose Nature, butnshe will always have her revenge in thenend. One of the earliest Americannantifeminist works, Horace Bushnell’snWomen’s Suffrage: The ReformnAgainst Nature (1869), argued that ifnfemale suffrage were to be adopted, itnwould signify the approaching end ofnthe American experiment. Peoplenwould then, Bushnell argued, benforced to cast about for new shores.nNicholas Davidson is author of ThenFailure of Feminism (PrometheusnBooks).nFor Immediate Servicen•nChroniclesnNEW SUBSCRIBERSnTOLL FREE NUMBERn1-800-435-0715nILLINOIS RESIDENTSn1-800-892-0753nOCTOBER 1989/53n