I read this little e book, “In Defense of Women” by H. L. Mencken the other day. It’s an elegantly written little book, with a certain amount of charm and a pleasant cadence. I am all about the language, the rhythm and the music of the words and I was delighted.
It was also somewhat humorous, this for example, “A man’s women folk, whatever their outward show of respect for his merit and authority, always regard him secretly as an ass, and with something akin to pity. His most gaudy sayings and doings seldom deceive them; they see the actual man within, and know him for a shallow and pathetic fellow.”
There are elements of truth there, although I do believe the author underestimates the depth of love that women have for men, the patience and tolerance we often show for their foibles. Men do tend to think highly of themselves and women do tend idolize men…..but then reality comes crashing down on us all and we realize we are only human after all. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. I often speak of how women call men to their higher selves, a tricky balancing act for women indeed because, with few exceptions, we aren’t stupid. We may see Batman’s potential, but also see the “actual man within” at the same time.
He goes on to say, “This shrewd perception of masculine bombast and make-believe, this acute understanding of man as the eternal tragic comedian, is at the bottom of that compassionate irony which paces under the name of the maternal instinct. A woman wishes to mother a man simply because she sees into his helplessness, his need of an amiable environment, his touching self-delusion.”
Again, elements of truth there, although most women I know do not really want to mother men, it is more like a compulsion, blurred lines, maternal instinct crossing with romantic love. Very few women enjoy this for long periods of time, men as helpless, tragic comedians in need of mothering becomes an emotional burden that can breed resentment and kill romance. No one really wants to have a long-term relationship with a puppy dog or a man-child.
There is quite a bit packed into this little book, some I rather disagree with, some that made me laugh outright, but I’ve just highlighted two concepts that I speak frequently of, two things that tend to erode relationships, women’s weaknesses, if you will. The culture has jumped on the bandwagon too, and some men have been influenced negatively and learned to play off these two cultural errors.
The first is the idea that man is an ass, a bit of a buffoon and definitely incompetent. Slightly stupid really, and unable to function without a woman around. TV sitcoms are full of this, as are commercials. It isn’t true and it’s also rather unhealthy because it infantalizes men. If you are proven incompetent no one ever expects anything of you. The problem being women will then pick up the emotional weight…..and with it the accompanying resentment. Disrespect sets in and then often outright contempt. It’s a double whammy becasue women often feel no attraction to men we have no respect for and men generally do not feel loved if they do not have our respect. When we perceive a man as a buffoon, we kill our own desire. When we can not express our admiration for him, we kill his love.
Mothering and maternal instinct goes along with having an incompetent buffoon around. As women we are designed to mother the helpless, the pitful, to create that amiable environment for our young. The problem being, we are also designed to not feel attracted to or the least bit romantically interested in the object of our nurturing. If a man is too needy, maternal instinct will kick in and romantic love will flee.
There are several things in this book that I do not endorse, that gave me pause, but all in all it was an enjoyable read, taken all in good humor and with a grain of salt. Towards the end he says, “Women may emancipate themselves, they may borrow the whole bag of masculine tricks, and they may cure themselves of their present desire for the vegetable security of marriage, but they will never cease to be women, and so long as they are women they will remain provocative to men. Their chief charm today lies precisely in the fact that they are dangerous, that they threaten masculine liberty and autonomy, that their sharp minds present a menace vastly greater than that of acts of God and the public enemy—and they will be dangerous for ever. Men fear them, and are fascinated by them. They know how to show their teeth charmingly; the more enlightened of them have perfected a superb technique of fascination. It was Nietzsche who called them the recreation of the warrior—not of the poltroon, remember, but of the warrior. “
Works for me. Just remember to be wise in how you conduct your warfare.