In the positive woman only those vices may be recognized which are inseparable from her functions as a promoter and preserver of life, for all the other vices she may or may not have in common with man. Those that are constantly characteristic of her are: (1) duplicity and an indifference to truth, (2) lack of taste, (3) vulgarity, (4) love of petty power, (5) vanity and (6) sensuality.
These six cardinal vices have been recognized in her in all ages; they have been censured and deplored, but no-one so far, to the best of my knowledge, has ever traced them to a basic vital principle within her. No-one has ever said of them, for instance, what I say of them: that to attempt to eradicate them from her nature would amount to an attack on the most solid guarantee we possess of human survival.
While discussing the derivative and minor vices that descend from these six cardinal vices I shall, however, also show the connection of the latter with woman’s innate vital principle, as in some cases this is not obvious at first sight.
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Unlike man, whose nature is more variegated and more subject to variation, woman is possessed of a primum mobile that we can recognize—that is to say, she is actuated by a mainspring, a ruling motive, that we can observe in operation. As we have seen, this primum mobile constitutes her the chief custodian and preserver of life, and the chief promoter of life’s multiplication. In fact, these two functions constitute her principal importance, and endow her with her great power and her great value. Everything else in woman is of minor significance. If, therefore, we assume at this stage in our treatise—for the point has been demonstrated often enough—that the positive woman’s incessant and unconscious impetus is in the direction of life and its multiplication, we may expect to find in woman all the virtues that guarantee the survival of the species, and all the vices which life itself reveals in the pursuit of this same object.
Seeing that the pursuit of life and its multiplication is in Nature an activity that is untrammeled by any moral consideration whatsoever, we may ask ourselves, whether in view of the difficulty of improving upon Nature’s methods in this respect, and in view, moreover, of the fact that woman is a child of Nature, we are not justified in recognizing in woman a primum mobile that is also completely amoral.
If we are so justified, then it follows that all woman’s deeper characteristics, as Nature’s characteristics, are not moral but immoral, not social but unsocial, not lawful but lawless.
Let us proceed to examine this statement more narrowly. A woman’s deepest characteristics are termed by us unmoral. What does that precisely mean? We have admitted that what constitutes woman’s greatest value and her greatest power is that she is the chief supporter of the vital functions: the promotion and preservation of life. If, therefore, she is also immoral, it must mean that in the fulfillment of her destiny she has often to run counter, as Nature does, to our standard of moral integrity. Therefore, that if she were moral this would be a hindrance and an obstacle in the way of her destiny. But how will she reveal this immorality or amorality? My reply is: in being, like Nature, utterly unscrupulous in the means she adopts to achieve her vital end—that is to say, more intent on the vital end than on anything else, such as truth, honor, justice, fair play, etc., etc. For morality means scruples, it involves the necessity of regarding scruples as obstacles in the way of certain actions. If, therefore, we can show that woman, like Nature, is unscrupulous in her promotion and preservation of life, we will have gone some way towards establishing the fact of her immorality.
Before, however, we proceed with this inquiry, we should like to remind all readers, who at this point may begin to feel their cheeks mantling with indignation, that, since from the optimist’s point of view it is desirable for the human species to survive, a very high sanction indeed prevails over woman’s vital unscrupulousness, however surprising and unexpected its consequences may prove to be. For instance, if, as we hope we have already abundantly shown, woman’s chief and deepest concern is the multiplication and preservation of life, it is obvious that, when confronted by a situation in which a lie will secure her vital end, and one in which truth will defeat it, she will naturally and instinctively choose to lie; not because she necessarily prefers to lie, but because she is more concerned about the end in view than the means she adopts to achieve it, and every lie to her is a ‘white’ lie that secures her vital end. If, then, from a vital indifference to truth she ultimately reveals an ordinary indifference to truth in the common and less vital circumstances of everyday life, we must blame not a fundamental perversity of her nature, which would seem to suggest that moral obliquity is a deep-rooted and ineradicable element of her psyche, but a self-preservative characteristic of the race which, although manifesting itself, as it were, unnecessarily and provokingly in everyday affairs, nevertheless, if absent altogether, would prove the most serious menace to the survival of humanity. In the form of a simile we might say that, just as the good army marksman annoys us when in peacetime he disturbs our quiet moments with his incessant revolver or rifle practice, and his insatiable desire to pot anything and everything, yet we applaud and defend his love of his firearm and his skill with it when in time of war he and his like defend our homes and ourselves by accounting for numbers of the enemy.
Is that clear? In plain English, to take an extreme case, if a girl is to be equipped with that ability for wiles and small deceptions which, despite adverse circumstances, are to enable her to secure a lover and a husband and a large family early in life; if, moreover, she is to be prepared to go to extreme lengths to defend and promote the welfare of her children (as all good mothers are), and also to secure their survival and success over the heads of other and possibly more deserving or better children (as all good mothers are prepared to do); if, moreover, in her relations with her husband and her children, she is to display that tact and diplomacy which always secure her the victory in domestic negotiations; then, it seems to me, we have a creature whose special gifts will extend beyond her family and its vital concerns, and invade all the other circumstances of her life, and who will inevitably practice wiles and small deceptions in those conditions where life, its multiplication and preservation are not necessarily in question.
The fact, however, that such a creature may be detected again and again in some act of unscrupulousness, not necessarily concerned directly with life or some vital interest, does not mean that she is perverse or depraved for the sake of perversity and depravity, as ends in themselves, but simply that her vital unscrupulousness cannot well be confined to the business of life and its multiplication, and cannot exist as a useful characteristic of her being, without manifesting itself in conditions and circumstances where no vital consideration is at stake. In other words, if you are to have a good house-dog who will protect you from burglars at night, you must warn your milkman and your dustman, although they have no dishonest intention in entering your garden, not to go too near him, for his useful characteristic is bound to manifest itself in circumstances and conditions where its usefulness is not vital.
When from folklore and myth, from national proverbs and tradition, and from the textbooks of the oldest religions, therefore, we learn that woman is two-faced or false or treacherous or disloyal, while we cannot expect these sources of information to give us also their reasons for their verdict, we have at least a hint that something deeper is in question than an obliquity of mind. For one would have thought that centuries of schooling would have eradicated these characteristics from women and that, if they have failed to do so, something more essential to woman’s nature than a mere perversion of mind may be suspected. Neither is it enough to point, as Lombroso does, to woman’s relative weakness, to her periodical functional disturbances, to her modesty, etc., to account for a trait so universally attested.
The positive woman who is disloyal to her absent husband is not disloyal from weakness: she is disloyal owing to the vital impulse of her large and important reproductive organs, which, after a spell of idleness, clamorously demand employment. The woman who lies about her age, or about her antecedents, or about any other circumstance of her life, in order to secure a husband or a lover, does not do so because she is relatively weaker than the man she wishes to secure, but because, again, her unconscious mind urges her to procure fertilization at all costs.
The unfairness of the attitude of most psychologists and other men to the phenomenon of unreliability and deception in woman consists in the fact that they condemn it without understanding it; while those who neither condemn it nor understand it, stubbornly, stupidly and sentimentally deny it in the face of all the overwhelming evidence in proof of its existence. But when once you admit that duplicity and disloyalty in women are part of a vital principle making for the multiplication and preservation of life, and serving the best interests of the species, you are no longer even entitled to condemn those same characteristics when they happen to operate in circumstances and conditions inconvenient to yourself. You cannot always expect to have it both ways, and if the species profits by a certain principle in the female it must expect to pay for that principle somewhere, somewhen.
To attempt to make woman perfectly honest and upright would therefore be to attack the most vital impulse within her—that impulse which causes her to be eager to the point of unscrupulousness in securing and preserving a multiplication of life. And yet there are many wise fools, both men and women, who have solemnly set themselves that object, and are striving to achieve it by every means in their power.
If we observe Nature herself engaged upon the same task that constitutes woman’s principal concern in life, we observe the same unscrupulousness. Nature stops at nothing to achieve this end. All means are good to her: rapine, deception, falsehood, usurpation of rights, bullying, stealth, robbery, invasion and complete indifference to quality and desirability.
Life in Nature is a continuous process of interracial and intraracial struggles for power and supremacy, with no principle, except the one of ‘more life’ in each race or species, governing the whole. Every species behaves as if it alone had the right to exist on earth, irrespective of all other claims. The fact that there are more species of parasites than of any other kind of organism shows that this universal process of rapine and deception is pursued without any natural exercise of favor for what, from the human standpoint, can be called desirability. The parasite kills the human genius just as readily as it kills the cow, and the locusts devour the food which is the only sustenance of the ewe and her lamb. Without scruple and without favor, Nature’s one cry is ‘life!’ and evermore ‘life!’, and whether the success of the struggle falls to what we should call the ‘nobler’ species or to the ‘inferior’ is a matter of utter indifference to her . . .
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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