May 18, 2018

Source: Bigstock

In Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman, her 2001 book, Phyllis Chesler gives example after example of women mistreating fellow women. Some of the cruelest examples concern women mistreating their daughters-in-law, and here, as so often is the case with women and moral issues, there is a palpable element of women’s maternal character, mothers going to extreme lengths to try to ensure that wives are worthy of their sons, even if that should entail doing horrible things.

Although marred by the standard cant about the “patriarchy,” Chesler’s book is a useful corrective to the silly binary mentioned above. And certainly Chesler herself merits respect for outgrowing her former belief that, in a moral sense, women are better than men. Neither sex is better than the other, is her more mature and reasonable opinion. (Chesler should also be commended for her principled opposition to the treatment of women in the Islamic world.)

The moral differences of men and women are fascinating. It is evident that women, with their maternal endowment, are more altruistic and given to pity than men. And as the greater female support for open borders suggests, women are also more universal in their moral conceptions. It seems, though, that with respect to moral phenomena on a person-to-person basis, women on the whole are less fair-minded than men. Why shouldn’t this be so? Moral thought systems, with all their abstract rigor and sense of duty, are male creations, and indeed, just as women’s greater cunning and dissimulation have a probable evolutionary basis, so perhaps women’s lesser sense of fairness on an individual level serves the same purpose. After all, it is the instinct of women to be deeply partial, most of all to their children; whereas, outside the realm of local affection, getting at a sense of the objective good requires the most exacting impartiality, a trait in which there is nothing maternal.

A lesser sense of fairness in individual relations is also consistent with female hypergamy. For it is natural for women to be ruthless in their efforts to obtain powerful and highly fit (with respect to survival) men. In this regard, Ernest Hemingway’s great short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” (1936), which might aptly be titled “What Women Really Want,” is very illuminating. As his facetious name implies, Francis Macomber, like most Western men today, is a weak fellow, easily manipulated and controlled by his wife, Margaret, who is much stronger in mind and will than him. While on vacation in Africa, the couple goes on a safari with an alpha male indeed—a literal lion hunter—whose courage among the lions and other beasts stands in humiliating contrast to the cowardly Francis, who has no such chops and panics when a wounded lion charges at him. Margaret, acting on her determining hypergamy, is smitten and soon sleeps with the heroic Robert Wilson, whose masculine superiority she had earlier rewarded with a kiss.

Now Francis feels even worse, betrayed and impotent. At length, however, he overcomes his weakness as the two men continue to hunt, and feeling manly at last, he decides to leave Margaret. Whereupon she in her wicked guile decides that Francis must “accidentally” die. And so he does, his wife shooting him. The hunter Wilson, though not an abettor of the deed, cynically pretends to believe her subsequent false account. Nor is he troubled, believing the brutal turn of events is all in the nature of things.

The superbly ironic title refers to the brief moments when Francis is a real man (finally having self-mastery and refusing to let Margaret dominate him)—that is, just before his wife kills him, since she has resolved to punish him for his newfound freedom. If only, like Robert Wilson, he had been a real man all along, rather than a chump whom Margaret profoundly resented, then Francis would have fared better—that, perhaps, is the lesson of this dark tale.

It is in eros, anyway, that we can most clearly see this truth: that “equality” is the last thing women want.

Comments on this article can be sent to the .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and must be accompanied by your full name, city and state. By sending us your comment you are agreeing to have it appear on Taki’s Magazine.


Sign Up to Receive Our Latest Updates!