Saturday, April 17, 2010
What Do Women Disdain?

A Victorian lady once said that a woman who could not control her husband’s vote ought to be ashamed of herself. The reaction such a statement would elicit in a crowd of modern women is no mystery to anyone. The idea of feminine submission or even the use of subterfuge over force is so distasteful to women of the Left (and in parts of the Right) that they cannot tuck their abhorrence in for a moment on hearing it. This burst of emotion is very telling, and it reveals that what liberated women hate most intensely is not men per se, but the mystique of woman and the duties it entails.

It is worthwhile to look at feminine archetypes a moment, and gauge the reaction of womankind to such characters. One such type is the 'faërie princess,' a lovely ideal that adores her husband after being caught, is his intellectual inferior—yet cultivated enough to please him—and also inexplicably heroic in the face of suffering on his behalf and that of her children. Needless to say this image produces a great deal of sneering from both sexes for many reasons, but let us look at how one great female author viewed this archetype.

On perusing Middlemarch, the politically correct reader may find himself/herself bristling at Dr. Lydgate’s rather patronizing view of women. George Eliot probably did not expect such a reaction—or at least such a strong one—in her readers at the time. Even her friend and colleague, Anthony Trollope, espoused such views of women according to both his stories and his personal letters. In fact, looking at Eliot’s doctor through the lens of her period, he very aptly personifies (in a far more compelling way than Dorothea) the erstwhile great man doomed to unconsummated genius by the pettiness of the small people encompassing him.

Eliot probably intended Lydgate’s dismissal of women as the one flaw Aristotle requires in his definition of a tragedy. This 'flaw' is a blemish that may ruin a man, but must be forgivable, otherwise his downfall obviously will not be sorrowful, but celebrated. One may argue whether that theory covers all possibilities of tragedy, but Eliot undoubtedly believed it did, as she carried out the principle’s requirements to the letter in her The Mill on the Floss. She did so much so that many have said the ending was quite forced.

Lydgate certainly reaps every imaginable woes sewn by his condescension, as Oedipus reaped those of his rage, and both fell due to their wives. The spouse Eliot gives the idealistic doctor drives him towards professional misery and financial ruin with more tenacity than all three of the Greek Furies combined. far he had travelled from his old dreamland, in which Rosamond Vincy appeared to be that perfect piece of womanhood who would reverence her husband's mind after the fashion of an accomplished mermaid, using her comb and looking-glass and singing her song for the relaxation of his adored wisdom alone….There was gathering within him an amazed sense of his powerlessness over Rosamond. His superior knowledge and mental force, instead of being, as he had imagined, a shrine to consult on all occasions, was simply set aside on every practical question. _George Eliot, Middlemarch

Lydgate had found his ideal woman in Rosamond Vincy. Beautiful, mild-tempered, accomplished, and charming. The only flaw in her adorable person is that she has no soul whatsoever. She is wholly materialistic, manipulative, and sinfully reckless of the health and wellbeing of others.

How delightful to make captives from the throne of marriage with a husband as crown-prince by your side - himself in fact a subject - while the captives look up forever hopeless, losing their rest probably, and if their appetite too, so much the better!

Though Lydgate in the end bears all the suffering for his marital folly (his self-seeking wife breaks him and his dreams to conform to her wishes); which of the two as a literary character is condemned to fictional perdition by the omniscient reader?

Rosamond is most certainly the object of Eliot’s scorn, not Lydgate with whom she herself seems to be in love. Miss Vincy is mocked unceasingly in the tale by the likable, sensible Mary Garth, who never has a good word for her. Mary never once recollects some moment where Rosamond did something sweet for her, or shared something with her, or sided with her. One cannot live as sisters or cousins in one unmitigated round of scorn and rivalry, but in their case, this seems to be so.

The masculine world Eliot is so apt to satirize is of course infatuated with Miss Vincy. Her brother Fred, being a man who cannot have any romantic interest in her, is the only male character that sees through her from beginning to end. Will Ladislaw, who discovers what Rosamond truly is later, is also disgusted with her character.

As the omniscient one, Eliot herself certainly spares no pains in taking sides in her narrative. When it appears that Lydgate may have slipped her nets, and that she is not to marry him after all, the author likens her to Ariadne. For the briefest moment, Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne comes to mind. The sickened, chilled feeling of the abandoned woman, deserted by the man whom she herself had rescued from the labyrinth, gasping in horror at the sight of the disembarking ship, her clothes in disarray from sleep, grip the heart with sympathy. But it is not Titian’s Ariadne Eliot refers to, but a ‘charming stage Ariadne left behind with all her boxes.’

H. L. Mencken defined a misogynist as: 'A man who hates women as much as women hate one another.' Apparently he never encountered real sisters. Of course this opinion is to be discounted—the reasoning behind all broad sweeping statements are suspect—but there is some truth in the pithy witticism. Female rivalry does occasionally exist, and most bitterly where it concerns men.

George Eliot betrays herself in The Mill on the Floss in a conversation between the lovely, brunette heroine, Maggie, and her informal tutor, Philip:

I'm determined to read no more books where the blond haired women carry away all the happiness. I should begin to have a prejudice against them - If you could give me some story, now, where the dark woman triumphs, it would restore the balance - I want to avenge Rebecca and Flora Mac-Ivor, and Minna and all the rest of the dark unhappy ones.
_Eliot, The Mill on the Floss

Maggie most certainly, albeit unintentionally, accomplishes this vengeance and to the ruin of all, in accordance with the tragedy that Eliot stated she wished to write.

Even without an angry woman authoring it, it is often very difficult at times to enjoy the fae beauties in other stories and through other media. 'New women' so often eviscerate the heroines, especially in opera. Again, let us narrow the field and take the example of the popular Tosca, who is dismissed as ‘a 19th-century male construct, a fantasy of the perfect female artist, as free and exciting in bed as she is on the stage’ (

Some feminist critics take a fiendish delight that Mario’s macho enjoyment of a woman pathologically obsessed with him is what de facto accomplishes his death, while others such as the author of the above quotation, more magnanimously observe:

One hundred years ago, a beautiful hysteric may have been an acceptable sex object; today, not even the most entrenched chauvinist would want to date a dame who carries on as Tosca sometimes does.
_Stephanie Von Buchau

Now why does it not occur to Ms. Von Buchau that Tosca, whom the author is aware is very religious, is tormented by the guilt of an extramarital liaison? ‘She hides nothing from her confessor’ so it is obvious that her confessor, unless he is a complete heterodox, has been telling her to give Mario up. Being the sort of passionate creature that seizes every opportunity to delight others, she would hide this misgiving from an atheist who, being also a devotee of Rousseau, thinks their affair is natural and perhaps even preferable to a Church witnessed union.

Then of course the fact that Mario is not bound to his dark Floria by any religious, social, or philosophical, principle renders the woman (and so many women sharing her circumstances) insecure to a fateful extreme. If Tosca’s hysteria is the reason for the opera’s tragic outcome, all who provoked it should have a share in the blame, but feminists only blame the woman for acting on her feminist instincts. In literature, film, and song, the same pattern repeats itself--scorn is poured on the woman that dares to have succeeded in feminine mystique.

Flitting from the Left to the Right, Laura Schlessinger is unambiguously anti-woman in her stance against the feminine. Instead of taking a balanced view of the good and bad in both sexes and their qualities, she essentially sides with the male. She agrees with feminists concerning what the best things in life are (careers, ambitions, etc.), but she thinks women are to blame for not dominating in them as men do. Henry Higgins monologue from the musical My Fair Lady, ‘Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?’ is her anthem. Many other women cut from her cloth also disdain feminine fluff and intone that women deserve to be subjected to man, as if as a punishment for their emotional irrationality.

When participating in the annual March for Life in San Francisco, I found that the middle-aged women who came to chide, insult, and occasionally scream at us, focused on the females in the group the most. Pro-life women are traitors after all, choosing sexual imprisonment over the extinction of another being’s life. Were the issue not so grave, it would have been comically ironic the way some brushed their right index finger over their left and schoolmarmishly said, ‘Shame on you!’ No doubt Maureen Dowd wears an expression of matronly disappointment every time she sees a woman wearing a shirt with ‘MRS.’ girlishly sequined across it.

In spite of all the ill feeling liberated women express against men and masculinity, one really ought not to take it seriously. As soon as men give these women what they want, they are more than forgiven for their gender. As a former Times contributor, Nina Burleigh said of Bill Clinton:

‘I would be happy to give him a b------ just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.’

This from a member of the same party that applauds itself on ending sexual exploitation of women!

It is not man that the new woman abominates, but woman. When the pyschiatrist, Karl Stern, wrote his epic work, The Flight from Woman, he naturally centred on men who despised the womanly, but he also spoke of women who abominated anything traditionally or 'stereotypically' feminine:

The female counterpart to all this (i.e., the uber masculine male) is frequently encountered today in the woman who finds it difficult to accept her womanly role. This is quite independent of the injustices imposed on women in many societies: it is rather an over-evaluation of masculine achievement and a debasement of values which one commonly associates with the aping of man. (Karl Stern, The Flight From Woman: Introduction, paranthetical note and emphasis is mine)

That abhorrence of the womanly much the same feeling the independent, pragmatic Laura Cheveley bears for Gertrude Chiltern in Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. For it is not Robert Chiltern, but his wife and her old schoolmate that Mrs. Cheveley actually despises: ‘I hate her. I hate her now more than ever.’ (Act III) Yet, even Lady Chiltern is not the real object of scorn, but the morality the woman represents. It is not so much the women of the past and the ‘young fogeys’ of today that feminists dislike, but the duties that imitating them entails. And what exactly are those duties?


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Warsaw, Poland
Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
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