Ernest B. Bax describes (below) how feminists argued for women’s rights on the basis of difference between the sexes, while on other occasions argued for rights on the basis that men and women were identical. The difference narrative was especially exploited, proving that sentimental appeals to sex-difference gained women the most power because differences, especially those implying weakness and vulnerability, evoked chivalry. – PW.
Modern Feminism would fain achieve the feat of eating its cake and having it too. When political and economic rights are in question, such as involve gain and social standing, the assumption of inferiority magically disappears before the strident assertion of the dogma of the equality of woman with man – her mental and moral equality certainly! When, however, the question is of a different character – for example, for the relieving of some vile female criminal of the penalty of her misdeeds-then Sentimental Feminism comes into play, then the whole plaidoyer is based on the chivalric sentiment of deference and consideration for poor, weak woman.” [Chapter V: The “Chivalry” Fake, in The Fraud of Feminism 1913]
Feminists only claim equality with men in so far as it has agreeable consequences for women. And this applies all along the line… I would advise woman’s-righters to choose the one side or the other. If they stick to the weakness of woman physically as ground for woman’s privileges and immunities, let them give up prating of equality otherwise. If they contend for equality let it at least be an even equality all round. [‘Female Suffrage’ – in Social Democrat, Vol.8, no.9, pp.533-545 1904].
The bulk of the advocates of woman’s rights are simply working, not for equality, but for female ascendency. It is all very well to say they repudiate chivalry. They are ready enough to invoke it politically when they want to get a law passed in their favour – while socially, to my certain knowledge, many of them claim it as a right every whit as much as ordinary women. [‘No Misogyny But True Equality’ – in To-day, pp.115-121 1887]