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In Defense of Domineering Women


Franz von Stuck, "Kiss of the Sphinx," 1895

1,505 words

Woman’s love of petty power is obvious and hardly requires demonstrating. It arises from the species’ urgent need of some adult animal which, when the offspring is born, will take an instinctive delight in looking after it. Apart from the pleasant sensations that the healthy female, whether animal or human, derives from suckling, there must also be an instinct which makes it a pleasure to nurse, to fondle and to tend the infant of the species.

This instinct can be examined under its two aspects, either as a love of petty power or as a love of deal­ing with something pathetically helpless. And, indeed, if some of the deepest chords in the female’s being were not moved by helplessness, where on earth should we be? What would become of our babies and our children?

As far as her relation to the child is concerned, therefore, there can be no doubt whatsoever concerning the utility to the species of woman’s love of petty power, and away from the child it is revealed in a hundred different ways: woman’s pronounced preference for lapdogs, her fondness for teaching (when children play at school it is invariably a little girl of the party who plays the part of teacher), her conscious preference for the grown-up schoolboy as a husband (that is to say, the man who is easily led by the nose), her tendency to desire to give advice to relatives and friends, in everything, so that virtually she directs their lives (this is admirably depicted by George Eliot in her descrip­tions of Maggie’s aunts in The Mill on the Floss), and finally her ten­dency to excessive self-assertion and to interference with other people’s concerns.

It is only in its ramifications that this vital instinct in woman has a deleterious influence if it is not kept in check, for her desire for petty power is always out of all proportion to her capacity for wielding any power whatsoever. For instance, in its tendency to make her favor the grown-up schoolboy type of man as a husband, it acts as a distinct drawback to the race. Because, although he proves an easy man to rule, he is by no means a desirable type from the standpoint of virile virtue. He is [. . .] a man who has no mastery of life, very little depth or understanding, and who is gifted with the qualities of the lackey rather than of the leader. The prevalence of this type of man today, together with the paucity of men of the masculine and leader type, is another sign of the extent to which women are having their own way. He is a man who knows nothing about women, but he is usually athletic, breezy and fond of games—i.e., he is harmless. The fact that he now stands as the pattern of the ‘manly’ man reveals the influence of the female standpoint in our modern communities, as does the fact that the other type of man (the masculine and manly type who understands woman, and who shows that he does) is now vilified everywhere as the ‘prig’.

Truth to tell, woman is less happy with the grown-up schoolboy type than with the latter type, but this she only finds out later. Her conscious choice, supported by the values of the age, inclines her to the type over which she can exercise petty power, and this man, who believes in ‘chivalry’, who believes in playing ‘cricket’ (or ‘playing the game’) with his womenfolk, and who accepts the whole of the tinsel of false sentiment that women have succeeded in drawing over the natural relations of the sexes, has become the beau ideal of Anglo-Saxon society.

Ultimately, of course, woman suffers excruciatingly, not only as an individual, but also as a whole sex, when this type of man becomes supreme, because, since he has no mastery over life and no understanding of life’s problems (the sex problem is only one of the many he creates), the societies in which he prevails gradually get into such an appalling muddle, and reveal in all their aspects such a tragic absence of the master-mind, that life in all its departments becomes ever more and more difficult. A century in England of the prevalence of this type of man has brought us to our present hopeless plight, and yet there are very few men, and no women, who seem to be aware of the fact that it is the prevalence of this alleged ‘manly’ man that is to blame.

A moment’s thought, of course, reveals at once how ridiculous even the terminology of this womanly ideal of man really is, for truly manly men are not ruled by their women. And yet, in the most successful novels of the day, in the most exalted circles of the land and in the hearts of all unsuspecting virgins, he continues to be upheld as the paragon for all times and climes.

This is what we have had to pay for woman’s point of view becoming paramount.

Do not let it be thought, however, that the cure would consist in curbing, uprooting or correcting woman’s love of petty power. This should not be attempted for one instant, even if it were possible. Woman’s love of petty power is much too valuable to the species to be tampered with. The only practical cure would be the breeding of a type of masculine men over whom woman’s love of petty power could not avail.

Thus, woman’s lack of taste on the one hand, her vulgarity and her love of petty power on the other, are all seen to be exercising a deleterious and dangerous influence on modern society. They are harmful because they exert a continuous pull downwards against the aspiring efforts of the age; they are dangerous because they may lead to a degree of degeneration from which it may prove impossible ultimately to re­cover, and they are difficult and delicate to handle because, while they are persistent and incorrigible, they are, as we have seen, too vital to be tampered with without jeopardizing the survival of the species.

What in the circumstances is the solution?

The only advisable solution lies in the direction not of changing woman—that would be suicidal to the species—but in limiting her power, in controlling her influence. Feminism, therefore, which aims at the opposite ideal, is wrong—wrong to the root. There must be a revulsion of feeling, or we perish. Woman must be redefined. Her sphere must once again be delimited and circumscribed, if her vital and pre­cious instincts are not, in their effort to extend out of bounds, to drag us steadily down into the abyss.

If woman were happier as she is, than with her influence controlled, if feminism had brought bliss instead of anguish to millions of women, there might be at least one remaining argument—a purely hedonistic one—in favor of this nineteenth-century madness. But seeing that this is not so, in view of what everyone now knows and can see and feel with his own unassisted senses, that woman has grown every day more wretched, more neurotic and more sick with every advance that feminism has made, the last and only possible word remaining in its favor, the plea even of hedonism, is shown to be as inadmissible as the rest.

When, therefore, we read in the old canon of the Brahmins, ‘He who carefully guards his wife, preserves the purity of his offspring, virtuous conduct, his family, himself and his means of acquiring merit’; when we read, ‘Day and night women must be kept in dependence by the males of their families . . . her father protects her in childhood, her husband protects her in youth, and her sons protect her in old age, a woman is never fit for independence’, we shall surely be taking a very heavy onus of responsibility upon our shoulders if we declare this policy madness and our own wisdom. Is there anything beyond our own prejudice to show that we are more wise than the Brahmins were? Is there anything in the organization of our society to show that it is more successful than that of the Brahmins? If we choose to interpret these texts merely as the unjust doctrines of a race ‘hostile’ to women, it should be incumbent upon us to prove that, in point of fact, our women are happier in their anarchy than those women are or were in their Brahministic order. But, truth to tell, the Brahmins were a very wise race, a race that meant to last longer than we mean to last, and which, in fact, has achieved a degree of permanence far exceeding that which any European race has achieved, or can hope to achieve, unless it make a rapid volte-face in almost all its most cherished beliefs.

From The Lost Philosopher: The Best of Anthony M. Ludovici, ed. John V. Day (Berkeley, Cal.: ETSF, 2003), available for purchase here [2].