Portuguese translation here
Woman’s fundamental lack of taste is the fact to which . . . I ascribed the two myths of Pandora and Eve, in which woman is depicted as being the cause of the fall of man, and of the introduction of evil on earth. I demonstrated this fundamental bad taste by pointing to women’s inability to select and recognize the best men and their general preference for inferior men, the reason of this preference being the greater facility with which the latter are ruled and made amenable to women’s love of petty power.
I also showed that this bad taste is rooted in the attitude of the mother to her child, which, consisting as it does chiefly in a delight in the exercise of petty power over a helpless creature, causes women not only to prefer the baby in long clothes before the full-grown child but also frequently to prefer the crippled or the physiologically botched child before the hale and hearty one, because of the former’s more permanent helplessness. I showed also how women prefer lapdogs before large dogs for the same reason, and reminded the reader that the Romans wisely left it to the father to decide which of his children should survive and which should be suppressed, because they knew that women, having no taste and being guided only by what most gratified their lust of petty power, could not be trusted to make a decision wisely.
I also ascribed to the prevalence and ascendancy of women’s views and sentiments nowadays the fact that the world was growing so ugly and degenerate (physically), for only if we assume the woman’s attitude of irrational tenderness to cripples and the physiologically botched can we regard them with anything else than loathing and impatience.
What I did not do . . . was to show the connection between woman’s fundamental bad taste, or lack of taste, with the vital principle within her, and this I shall proceed to do now. This, however, will not prove difficult, for it amounts simply to emphasizing woman’s profound likeness to Nature in blindly pursuing life and its multiplication at all costs.
If we think of the immensely precarious situation of the newborn infant or animal, its lack of all means of protection, of mobility and of procuring nourishment independently, its lack of warmth and frequently of the very equipment for preserving warmth (clothing in the human infant, and fur and feathers in the young animal and bird respectively), we realize at once the immense importance to the species of an instinct in the mother which makes the provision of all these deficiencies a joy, a passionate need, in fact a delight worth fighting for.
If the newborn creature is to be preserved and the species is to survive, there must be no possible loophole, no conceivable crevice or chink, in the armor of the natural instinct through which any doubt, any hesitation whatever, may enter as to the immediate urgency and desirability of succoring it. The moment in the life of the young creature is too critical, the situation is too precarious. Here you have pitiable helplessness, pathetic dependence, extreme vulnerability. The future of the species depends upon these unreliable qualities being turned into reliable ones by the only creature in the young one’s neighborhood who, while being necessarily present at its birth, is in a position to offer first aid.
If then there were any excuse or pretext for indecision, any humming and ha-ing over the question of desirability, the ‘best of the brood’, the ‘most promising of the litter’, etc., life’s very future would be in the balance, the precious instinct which secures the safety and the survival of the young creature would be undermined or at least no longer impelled unreflectingly to do the right thing in the right way.
There must be an uncritical unreasoning impulse to succor, to warm, to protect and to feed, otherwise the speed, the precision and the earnestness with which these functions have to be performed would be fatally impaired, disastrously hampered. Let the struggle for existence be ever so severe subsequently, one thing must remain assured and inviolable, and that is that the mother’s instinct must not have any excuse to fail, it must not even be able to pause to question, to pick or to choose. Discernment at this moment would make survival doubtful, but there cannot be, there must not be, any doubt.
Besides, if organic evolution be true, it depends upon the operation of three factors: (1) the survival of the fittest through the action of (2) natural selection, with (3) occasional appearance of variations from type.
Now, if the female of the species is to exercise discernment before she succors her young, if her action is to be deliberative and not impulsive, what becomes of these variations which, when happy, lead to a new development of the species or actually to a new variety of species? Happy variations are just as odd, qua type, as unhappy variations. But if the female’s instinct is to preserve life, it will preserve one just as passionately as the other. Discrimination would prove fatal to both. The very process of organic evolution, if it be a fact, therefore depends upon the lack of discrimination in the motherly instinct, and the hypothesis of organic evolution certainly assumes it.
The instinct in the female to succor young life of any kind, therefore, is useful to Nature’s scheme. It is an indispensable factor in Nature’s plan. In the lower animals it is demonstrated by the ease with which a female of one species can be made to act as foster-mother to the young of another. Books on natural history mention many such cases: cats that have reared leverets and young squirrels, hens that rear ducklings, and the classical natural instances of birds like the pipit, the water wagtail, etc., rearing the young of the cuckoo. The latter, of course, is a parasitic abuse in Nature of the female’s undiscriminating instinct to succor, but it is nevertheless an excellent example of the fact I have been trying to establish.
It is true that in the human species this lack of discrimination in the female operates as a preserver both of desirable and undesirable varieties, but as in all modern civilizations the father is no longer allowed, as he was by ancient Sparta or Rome, to override the female’s lack of taste in this matter, and unsuccessful variations from type are more common than geniuses, it follows that the female’s point of view, now that it is supported by the state and public opinion, must lead to the survival of a vast number of undesirable human beings in our midst.
Thus, although the human female’s instinct is seen to be a vital one, and though her lack of taste must be regarded as part of the general scheme of life, it must tend nowadays to an enormous amount of degeneration.
This, however, is not precisely our point. The facts we wish to establish are, in the first place, that in woman’s role of mother the blind instinct to succor, to protect and to preserve the helpless creature that she bears is of vital importance to the race; and, secondly, that this blind instinct necessarily involves a deep-seated and incorrigible lack of taste.
The fact that subsequently—that is to say, when the undesirable offspring, be it cripple, cretin or idiot, grows up—it is frequently cherished by the mother more than her whole and hearty children is but a confirmation of the point I am attempting to make, for it shows that what appeals to the true mother, and what according to our whole argument must and ought to appeal, is not the particular excellence of a given child, not its claim to any particular form of desirability, but simply its helplessness.
And since in the cripple, the cretin and the idiot helplessness is prolonged to a much later age than in the healthy child, it is the former to which unsophisticated and simpleminded motherhood naturally inclines.
The consequences of this fundamental and vital lack of taste in women are, of course, considerable.
When we read in Manu’s Book of Laws that ‘women do not care for beauty’, when Lombroso and Ferrero, in discussing woman’s taste, state that ‘in general, beauty and intelligence leave them indifferent’, and when we find Rousseau saying ‘women in general do not like or appreciate art’, we feel inclined to object, because we know of individual instances of women who have shown a marked feeling of beauty.
Neither Lombroso, Manu nor Rousseau tells us, however, that their respective statements only refer to a specific and superficial manifestation of a deep and unalterable law. When once we realize that law, we see that these men must be right; not, however, because individual women have shown an indifference to beauty, but because the sex as a whole has no taste, and that, wherever discernment for beauty is pronounced in a woman, she either diverges from type or has undergone some special educating influence.
We are better able to understand now why the forms of art have all been man’s invention, although they have sometimes been successfully imitated by women (in the novel), and why clothes, even those that fill the wardrobes of women, are all derived from an original masculine designing center in London or Paris. We can also see why women are so prone to select and to associate with the worst and most unpromising type of men, why they have no flair (except on the sexual side and even that is by no means infallible) where men are concerned, and why even their palates and their stomachs have never assisted them in development of the culinary art, when they had it entirely in their own hands. But let us remember again that we cannot have it both ways, and that if we educated tastelessness away in women, we should be undermining one of the most valuable and fundamental of female instincts, the consequences of which alone can we safely hope to correct, without attempting to eliminate their cause.
From The Lost Philosopher: The Best of Anthony M. Ludovici, ed. John V. Day (Berkeley, Cal.: ETSF, 2003), available for purchase here.
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January 8, 1882–April 3, 1971