10 February 2012

Book Review

In Defense of Women by H.L. Mencken

For those familiar with the game-o-sphere, reading In Defense of Women is like getting a double whammy of Heartiste’s philosophizing on the greater socio-sexual implications of gender dynamics and Ferdinand Bardamu’s screeds against the general terribleness of modern American women.  Of course, Mencken’s style is a little more archaic and erudite (not dissimilar from, say, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s whimsically erudite style) than Heartiste’s and Bardamu’s, and more enjoyable to boot.

Defense is an impressive book, not solely for its content, but also for its presentation.  Were one to attempt to distill the wisdom of modern-day philosophers into an easily digestible treatise on the subject, it would strongly resemble Mencken’s work.  This is to say, those familiar with Game will not find anything new in the book, per se, but they will find the wisdom of the ages neatly distilled, logically expounded, and concisely explained.

But more than that, the entire book is not merely a useful reference to the way of the woman, but it is quite quotable.  Consider his stance on man-hating feminists:

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.

And his stance on female calculation:

the average woman is well-aware that marriage is far better for her than celibacy, even when it falls a good deal short of her primary hopes, and she is also well aware that the differences between man and man, once mere money is put aside, are so slight as to be practically almost negligible. Thus the average woman is under none of the common masculine illusions about elective affinities, soul mates, love at first sight, and such phantasms. She is quite ready to fall in love, as the phrase is, with any man who is plainly eligible, and she usually knows a good many more such men than one.

And his views on hypergamy:

As a popular philosopher has shrewdly observed, the objections to polygamy do not come from women, for the average woman is sensible enough to prefer half or a quarter or even a tenth of a first-rate man to the whole devotion of a third-rate man. Considerations of much the same sort also justify polyandry—if not morally, then at least biologically. The average woman, as I have shown, must inevitably view her actual husband with a certain disdain; he is anything but her ideal. In consequence, she cannot help feeling that her children are cruelly handicapped by the fact that he is their father, nor can she help feeling guilty about it; for she knows that he is their father only by reason of her own initiative in the proceedings anterior to her marriage. If, now, an opportunity presents itself to remove that handicap from at least some of them, and at the same time to realize her ideal and satisfy her vanity—if such a chance offers it is no wonder that she occasionally embraces it.

And his views on the legal system:

Now view the situation of the husband. The instant he submits to marriage, his wife obtains a large and inalienable share in his property, including all he may acquire in future; in most American states the minimum is one-third, and, failing children, one-half. He cannot dispose of his real estate without her consent; He cannot even deprive her of it by will. She may bring up his children carelessly and idiotically, cursing them with abominable manners and poisoning their nascent minds against him, and he has no redress. She may neglect her home, gossip and lounge about all day, put impossible food upon his table, steal his small change, pry into his private papers, hand over his home to the Periplaneta americana, accuse him falsely of preposterous adulteries, affront his friends, and lie about him to the neighbours—and he can do nothing. She may compromise his honour by indecent dressing, write letters to moving-picture actors, and expose him to ridicule by going into politics—and he is helpless.

And his views on feminism and politics:

Once the women of Christendom become at ease in the use of the ballot, and get rid of the preposterous harridans who got it for them and who now seek to tell them what to do with it, they will proceed to a scotching of many of the sentimentalities which currently corrupt politics. For one thing, I believe that they will initiate measures against democracy—the worst evil of the present-day world. When they come to the matter, they will certainly not ordain the extension of the suffrage to children, criminals and the insane in brief, to those ever more inflammable and knavish than the male hinds who have enjoyed it for so long; they will try to bring about its restriction, bit by bit, to the small minority that is intelligent, agnostic and self-possessed—say six women to one man. Thus, out of their greater instinct for reality, they will make democracy safe for a democracy.

Truly, In Defense of Women is not mere commentary; it is prophecy (it was published in 1918).  Moreover, it is horror.  Mencken rightly predicted what would happen when women were given equality (he even foretells the sexual revolution), and he correctly observes the true nature of women.  This book, then, provides a sobering read, for it begs the question of what would have happened if people had actually taken the time to listen to him, way back in the day.  Could this mess have been avoided?

At any rate, Defense is a highly recommended read.  It is brilliant, insightful, and sobering, and also somewhat brief.  Best of all, it is available for free in Kindle format at Amazon.

4 comments:

  1. I don't understand how the last paragraph you quoted fits in. Is this a sidelong reference to civil service tenure de facto disenfranchising everyone?

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  2. @Olave- the last paragraph is a prediction that women will use democracy to disenfranchise men of their rights. More generally, the prediction is that government will become less democratic (and, implicitly, more centralized). You can judge the accuracy of this prediction for yourself.

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  3. 'they will certainly not ordain the extension of the suffrage to children, criminals '

    Both of those things are already happening in the UK. If I recall correctly, prisoners are allowed the right to vote under the EU Human Rights Acts, and there is a drive to lower the voting age (the argument is that 16 year olds can create and kill life - have sex and join the army - so why not allow them the vote?).


    'they will try to bring about its restriction, bit by bit, to the small minority that is intelligent, agnostic and self-possessed—say six women to one man.'

    Which is basically the way thay female ant and bee colonies exist: as female populations with a small number of male drones to act as sperm donors. Females are herd like by their nature. If women are allowed to have a dominant influence in society, then men will become a numerical minority, whether as a small Elite class, or a small sperm donor class. This is why women should never be allowed into any positions of power, as it will only lead to the downfall of men in one form or another.

    - Luther Burgsvik

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  4. "This is why women should never be allowed into any positions of power, as it will only lead to the downfall of men in one form or another."

    Well said. Women are not designed to rule, and allowing them to rule inevitably ends up being a serious mistake.

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