Henry Kissinger? M. Z. Remsburg? James Thurber? Ann Landers? Robert Orben? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: There is a joke about the uneasy relationship between the sexes that has been told for decades:
Nobody will ever win the battle of the sexes. There’s too much fraternizing with the enemy.
In the 1970s this statement was attributed to the U.S. foreign policy specialist Henry Kissinger, but I suspect that the quip existed before the 1970s. Would you explore its provenance?
Quote Investigator: A version of this jest was circulating by the 1940s. In February 1944 a newspaper in Lubbock, Texas printed the following as a short filler item. No specific attribution or acknowledgement was given: 1
“One war that will never be won by either side is the continual war between the sexes,” declares a columnist. That’s true, mainly because there is so much fraternizing with the enemy on the part of both sides.
Only part of the text was placed between quotation marks because there were two participants in the joke. The quoted words of the columnist were followed by the humorous reaction of a second unidentified person. The common modern versions of the joke simplify the presentation so that there is only one speaker.
In August 1945 a newspaper in Covina, California printed an instance of the quip and named an editor as the source, but QI suspects that the editor was simply relaying a pre-existing joke. The semantically redundant phrase “on the part of both sides” in the 1944 version has been omitted from most later instances: 2
According to word from editor M. Z. Remsburg of the Vista Press, the reason the war between the sexes will never be ended is that there is too much fraternizing with the enemy!
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.