Feminists Even Handed Out White Feathers to Underage Child Soldiers During WWI

Currently reading ‘The Second Sexism‘, the important new men’s rights book that uses philosophical analysis to argue that males are experiencing disadvantages in society that are the result of sexism.  I’ll write a review sometime soon, but the couple of chapters I’ve read thus far have left me impressed.  Here, the author David Benatar is discussing the discriminatory pressure on males to enlist and fight in war :

One particularly graphic example of this is the campaign, during the First World War, of British women distributing white feathers – a symbol of cowardice – to young men who were not in uniform.  These were distributed even to adolescent boys who were technically too young to register.  One boy, Frederick Broome, who had succeeded in enlisting at age 15, fought in battle, was returned to England in a febrile state and then discharged at the insistence of his father, who produced his birth certificate to convince the authorities.  Then, while walking over a bridge in town, then age 16, young Frederick was accosted by four girls who gave him three white feathers.  He later recalled as follows :

“I felt very humiliated.  I finished the walk over the bridge and there on the other side was the Thirty-seventh London Territorial Association of the Royal Field Artillery.  I walked straight in and re-joined the army.”


Note that I have not sought the author’s permission to quote the above passage – I assume he will have no objections to me highlighting a small sample of his work on a men’s rights advocacy site.

The quoted quote from the boy soldier is taken from (according to the author’s notes) ‘We Will Not Fight‘, by Will Ellsworth-Jones.

In the notes section, David Benatar also reveals that the feminist icon Virginia Wooff dismissed, against all the evidence, the claim that white feathers were handed out during World War I in any great numbers.  She apparently attributed the belief to ‘male hysteria’.

You can read an interview with David Benatar on the subject of his book here in the Pink Paper.

**UPDATE : I have added a follow-up to this article which deals with the historical relationship between feminism and the white feather campaigns, something which redditors seem to be having a hard time believing :



5 thoughts on “Feminists Even Handed Out White Feathers to Underage Child Soldiers During WWI”

  1. Do you have any evidence whatsoever that the women who organized this campaign were, in fact, feminists, connected to feminist organizations in any way, or motivated by feminist thought or a feminist agenda?

  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christabel_Pankhurst

    On 8 September 1914, Pankhurst re-appeared at the London Opera House, after her long exile, to utter a declaration not on women’s enfranchisement but on “The German Peril”, a campaign led by the former General Secretary of the WSPU, Norah Dacre Fox in conjunction with the British Empire Union and the National Party.[4] Along with Norah Dacre Fox (later known as Norah Elam), Pankhurst toured the country making recruiting speeches. Her supporters handed the white feather to every young man they encountered wearing civilian dress and bobbed up at Hyde Park meetings with placards: “Intern Them All”. The Suffragette appeared again on 16 April 1915, as a war paper, and on 15 October changed its name to Britannia. There, week by week, Pankhurst demanded the military conscription of men and the industrial conscription of women into “national service”, as it was termed. In flamboyant terms she called also for the internment of all people of enemy race, men and women, young and old, found on these shores, and for a more complete and ruthless enforcement of the blockade of enemy and neutral nations.

    See also : http://itech.fgcu.edu/&/issues/vol1/issue1/feather.htm

    The justification for political involvement and military force was framed in gender specific imagery with sexually violent overtones. “Playing on the allegorical representation of Liberty as a woman, Allied artists repeatedly depicted a female Belgium stripped to the waist, bound and violated . . .” (Gullace, Sexual Violence 16). It was this kind of propagandized imagery that stimulated and popularized the war effort. Many of the very same negative characterizations (of men) which had been waged in the “sex war” by the suffragists were now employed to depict the “Teuton barbarian” in the fight against German aggression. The oppressors of both British women (in the fight for equality) and Belgium (in the fight for liberation) were characterized in a sexually aggressive manner. It was this kind of war propaganda, combined with an already fully mobilized feminine consciousness, that both ignited the imaginations of and guided the actions of the “White Feather Brigade.”

  3. OK

    If 16 year old boys are to torture, maim & kill 30 & 40 year old enlisted men & officers with flamethrowers, explosives & gut shooting with bullets..

    Then 30 & 40 year old men are to have sex (fundamentally being nice to each other) with 16 year old girls..

    Right..?… Am I right feminists?

  4. Virgina Wolff was insane and feminism itself is a psychiatric disorder. There was a BBC series on the Suffragettes and Pankhurst years ago. In the US these BBC productions were shown on PBS and the host was Alastair Cook who would introduce the episode and then say a few words afterwards. He did mention the white feather campaign and an incident where one of these females was harassing a man on a train only to discover that the man had had his legs blown off in the war.

  5. As I read this I am watching The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King on DVD, or more specifically, the scene where Eowin is complaining about being left behind while the men ride to war (of course, she is able to join the riders incognito later). It seems to me while men have historically tried to keep women away from the horrors of war, women have often been the ones keen, or even agitating, to send men into it. Yet it is men who are accused of “hating” women, and women are credited for their “peaceful nature”. Oh the bitter irony…

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