Part 2 (1/2)

13. Women and the Emotions

The fact that women have a greater capacity than men for controlling and concealing their emotions is not an indication that they are more civilized, but a proof that they are less civilized. This capacity, so rare today, and withal so valuable and worthy of respect, is a characteristic of savages, not of civilized men, and its loss is one of the penalties that the race has paid for the tawdry boon of civilization. Your true savage, reserved, dignified, and courteous, knows how to mask his feelings, even in the face of the most desperate a.s.sault upon them; your civilized man is forever yielding to them.

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary. Wars are no longer waged by the will of superior men, capable of judging dispa.s.sionately and intelligently the causes behind them and the effects flowing out of them. They are now begun by first throwing a mob into a panic; they are ended only when it has spent its ferine fury. Here the effect of civilization has been to reduce the n.o.blest of the arts, once the repository of an exalted etiquette and the chosen avocation of the very best men of the race, to the level of a riot of peasants. All the wars of Christendom are now disgusting and degrading; the conduct of them has pa.s.sed out of the hands of n.o.bles and knights and into the hands of mob-orators, money-lenders, and atrocity-mongers. To recreate one's self with war in the grand manner, as Prince Eugene, Marlborough and the Old Dessauer knew it, one must now go among barbarian peoples.

Women are nearly always against war in modern times, for the reasons brought forward to justify it are usually either transparently dishonest or childishly sentimental, and hence provoke their scorn. But once the business is begun, they commonly favour its conduct outrance, and are thus in accord with the theory of the great captains of more s.p.a.cious days. In Germany, during the late war, the protests against the Schrecklichkeit practised by the imperial army and navy did not come from women, but from sentimental men; in England and the United States there is no record that any woman ever raised her voice against the blockade which destroyed hundreds of thousands of German children. I was on both sides of the b.l.o.o.d.y chasm during the war, and I cannot recall meeting a single woman who subscribed to the puerile doctrine that, in so vast a combat between nations, there could still be categories of non-combatants, with a right of asylum on armed s.h.i.+ps and in garrisoned towns. This imbecility was maintained only by men, large numbers of whom simultaneously took part in wholesale ma.s.sacres of such non-combatants.

The women were superior to such hypocrisy. They recognized the nature of modern war instantly and accurately, and advocated no disingenuous efforts to conceal it.

14. Pseudo-Anaesthesia

The feminine talent for concealing emotion is probably largely responsible for the common masculine belief that women are devoid of pa.s.sion, and contemplate its manifestations in the male with something akin to trembling. Here the talent itself is helped out by the fact that very few masculine observers, on the occasions when they give attention to the matter, are in a state of mind conducive to exact observation.

The truth is, of course, that there is absolutely no reason to believe that the normal woman is pa.s.sionless, or that the minority of women who unquestionably are is of formidable dimensions. To be sure, the peculiar vanity of men, particularly in the Northern countries, makes them place a high value upon the virginal type of woman, and so this type tends to grow more common by s.e.xual selection, but despite that fact, it has by no means superseded the normal type, so realistically described by the theologians and publicists of the Middle Ages. It would, however, be rash to a.s.sert that this long continued s.e.xual selection has not made itself felt, even in the normal type. Its chief effect, perhaps, is to make it measurably easier for a woman to conquer and conceal emotion than it is for a man. But this is a mere reinforcement of a native quality or, at all events, a quality long antedating the rise of the curious preference just mentioned. That preference obviously owes its origin to the concept of private property and is most evident in those countries in which the largest proportion of males are property owners, i.e., in which the property-owning caste reaches down into the lowest conceivable strata of bounders and ignoramuses. The low-caste man is never quite sure of his wife unless he is convinced that she is entirely devoid of amorous susceptibility. Thus he grows uneasy whenever she shows any sign of responding in kind to his own elephantine emotions, and is apt to be suspicious of even so trivial a thing as a hearty response to a connubial kiss. If he could manage to rid himself of such suspicions, there would be less public gabble about anesthetic wives, and fewer books written by quacks with sure cures for them, and a good deal less cold-mutton formalism and boredom at the domestic hearth.

I have a feeling that the husband of this sort--he is very common in the United States, and almost as common among the middle of England, Germany and Scandinavia--does himself a serious disservice, and that he is uneasily conscious of it. Having got himself a wife to his austere taste, he finds that she is rather depressing--that his vanity is almost as painfully damaged by her emotional inertness as it would have been by a too provocative and hedonistic spirit. For the thing that chiefly delights a man, when some woman has gone through the solemn buffoonery of yielding to his great love, is the sharp and flattering contrast between her reserve in the presence of other men and her enchanting complaisance in the presence of himself. Here his vanity is enormously tickled. To the world in general she seems remote and unapproachable; to him she is docile, fluttering, gurgling, even a bit abandoned. It is as if some great magnifico male, some inordinate czar or kaiser, should step down from the throne to play dominoes with him behind the door.

The greater the contrast between the lady's two fronts, the greater his satisfaction-up to, of course, the point where his suspicions are aroused. Let her diminish that contrast ever so little on the public side--by smiling at a handsome actor, by saying a word too many to an attentive head-waiter, by holding the hand of the rector of the parish, by winking amiably at his brother or at her sister's husband--and at once the poor fellow begins to look for clandestine notes, to employ private inquiry agents, and to scrutinize the eyes, ears, noses and hair of his children with shameful doubts. This explains many domestic catastrophes.

15. Mythical Anthropophagi

The man-hating woman, like the cold woman, is largely imaginary. One often encounters references to her in literature, but who has ever met her in real life? As for me, I doubt that such a monster has ever actually existed. There are, of course, women who spend a great deal of time denouncing and reviling men, but these are certainly not genuine man-haters; they are simply women who have done their utmost to snare men, and failed. Of such sort are the majority of inflammatory suffragettes of the s.e.x-hygiene and birth-control species. The rigid limitation of offspring, in fact, is chiefly advocated by women who run no more risk of having unwilling motherhood forced upon them than so many mummies of the Tenth Dynasty. All their unhealthy interest in such noisome matters has behind it merely a subconscious yearning to attract the attention of men, who are supposed to be partial to enterprises that are difficult or forbidden. But certainly the enterprise of dissuading such a propagandist from her gospel would not be difficult, and I know of no law forbidding it.

I'll begin to believe in the man-hater the day I am introduced to a woman who has definitely and finally refused a chance of marriage to a man who is of her own station in life, able to support her, unafflicted by any loathsome disease, and of reasonably decent aspect and manners--in brief a man who is thoroughly eligible. I doubt that any such woman breathes the air of Christendom. Whenever one comes to confidential terms with an unmarried woman, of course, she favours one with a long chronicle of the men she has refused to marry, greatly to their grief. But unsentimental cross-examination, at least in my experience, always develops the fact that every one of these suffered from some obvious and intolerable disqualification. Either he had a wife already and was vague about his ability to get rid of her, or he was drunk when he was brought to his proposal and repudiated it or forgot it the next day, or he was a bankrupt, or he was old and decrepit, or he was young and plainly idiotic, or he had diabetes or a bad heart, or his relatives were impossible, or he believed in spiritualism, or democracy, or the Baconian theory, or some other such nonsense. Restricting the thing to men palpably eligible, I believe thoroughly that no sane woman has ever actually m.u.f.fed a chance. Now and then, perhaps, a miraculously fortunate girl has two victims on the mat simultaneously, and has to lose one. But they are seldom, if ever, both good chances; one is nearly always a duffer, thrown in in the telling to make the bourgeoisie marvel.

16. A Conspiracy of Silence

The reason why all this has to be stated here is simply that women, who could state it much better, have almost unanimously refrained from discussing such matters at all. One finds, indeed, a sort of general conspiracy, infinitely alert and jealous, against the publication of the esoteric wisdom of the s.e.x, and even against the acknowledgment that any such body of erudition exists at all. Men, having more vanity and less discretion, area good deal less cautious. There is, in fact, a whole literature of masculine babbling, ranging from Machiavelli's appalling confession of political theory to the egoistic confidences of such men as Nietzsche, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Casanova, Max Stirner, Benvenuto Cellini, Napoleon Bonaparte and Lord Chesterfield. But it is very rarely that a Marie Bashkirtsev or Margot Asquith lets down the veils which conceal the acroamatic doctrine of the other s.e.x. It is transmitted from mother to daughter, so to speak, behind the door. One observes its practical workings, but hears little about its principles. The causes of this secrecy are obvious. Women, in the last a.n.a.lysis, can prevail against men in the great struggle for power and security only by keeping them disarmed, and, in the main, unwarned. In a pitched battle, with the devil taking the hindmost, their physical and economic inferiority would inevitably bring them to disaster. Thus they have to apply their peculiar talents warily, and with due regard to the danger of arousing the foe. He must be attached without any formal challenge, and even without any suspicion of challenge. This strategy lies at the heart of what Nietzsche called the slave morality--in brief, a morality based upon a concealment of egoistic purpose, a code of ethics having for its foremost character a bold denial of its actual aim.

III. Marriage

17. Fundamental Motives

How successful such a concealment may be is well displayed by the general acceptance of the notion that women are reluctant to enter into marriage--that they have to be persuaded to it by eloquence and pertinacity, and even by a sort of intimidation. The truth is that, in a world almost divested of intelligible idealism, and hence dominated by a senseless wors.h.i.+p of the practical, marriage offers the best career that the average woman can reasonably aspire to, and, in the case of very many women, the only one that actually offers a livelihood. What is esteemed and valuable, in our materialistic and unintelligent society, is precisely that petty practical efficiency at which men are expert, and which serves them in place of free intelligence. A woman, save she show a masculine strain that verges upon the pathological, cannot hope to challenge men in general in this department, but it is always open to her to exchange her s.e.xual charm for a lion's share in the earnings of one man, and this is what she almost invariably tries to do. That is to say, she tries to get a husband, for getting a husband means, in a sense, enslaving an expert, and so covering up her own lack of expertness, and escaping its consequences. Thereafter she has at least one stout line of defence against a struggle for existence in which the prospect of survival is chiefly based, not upon the talents that are typically hers, but upon those that she typically lacks. Before the average woman succ.u.mbs in this struggle, some man or other must succ.u.mb first. Thus her craft converts her handicap into an advantage.

In this security lies the most important of all the benefits that a woman attains by marriage. It is, in fact, the most important benefit that the mind can imagine, for the whole effort of the human race, under our industrial society, is concentrated upon the attainment of it. But there are other benefits, too. One of them is that increase in dignity which goes with an obvious success; the woman who has got herself a satisfactory husband, or even a highly imperfect husband, is regarded with respect by other women, and has a contemptuous patronage for those who have failed to do likewise. Again, marriage offers her the only safe opportunity, considering the levantine view of women as property which Christianity has preserved in our civilization, to obtain gratification for that powerful complex of instincts which we call the s.e.xual, and, in particular, for the instinct of maternity. The woman who has not had a child remains incomplete, ill at ease, and more than a little ridiculous. She is in the position of a man who has never stood in battle; she has missed the most colossal experience of her s.e.x.

Moreover, a social odium goes with her loss. Other women regard her as a sort of permanent tyro, and treat her with ill-concealed disdain, and deride the very virtue which lies at the bottom of her experiential penury. There would seem to be, indeed, but small respect among women for virginity per se. They are against the woman who has got rid of hers outside marriage, not because they think she has lost anything intrinsically valuable, but because she has made a bad bargain, and one that materially diminishes the sentimental respect for virtue held by men, and hence one against the general advantage and well-being of the s.e.x. In other words, it is a guild resentment that they feel, not a moral resentment. Women, in general, are not actively moral, nor, for that matter, noticeably modest. Every man, indeed, who is in wide practice among them is occasionally astounded and horrified to discover, on some rainy afternoon, an almost complete absence of modesty in some women of the highest respectability.