Finishing “In Defense of Women”

“In Defense of Men” should be the more apt title since throughout the book men are described as being defenseless in face of the scheming women in almost everything and especially in marriage. I don’t believe a word of it and I can hardly believe that Mencken believed in what he was writing. The book is saved from being ridiculous by his writing, which is so fascinating. Whatever he says, good or bad, agreeable or disagreeable, sound or unsound, he could make it so charming, so sarcastic, so outrageously unforgettable. Somehow his writing reminds me of C. W. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. I don’t know why. There’s no reason for this comparison, except one similarity that both books share–I laughed and laughed from the first sentence to the last. Both unbelievable, both weirdly funny, both knavish, both intentionally saying outrageous things–more so for C.W. Lewis than Mencken.

Mencken also reminds me of those popular talk show hosts who rail against women dating older men, women receiving big divorce settlement etc. I have a male friend who is very polite and helpful most of the time. However sometimes he would start a tirade saying things exactly like Mencken or the talk show hosts. Sometimes I would venture an opinion by saying “income equality, universal free childcare, matriarchy” may render these infuriating women obsolete. He’s actually a nice guy who enjoys a reciprocating conversation with women and only occasionally falls into the pitfall of monologue from which you can usually dig him up without much trouble, who can be fair minded in dealing with others in business and money matters. I wish all nice guys are liberal and vice versus, only to realize that the two don’t always cohabit.

If Mencken happens to be a talk show host and he’s railing against women like what he did in his book, I would still like to listen to him and enjoy every minute of it despite my opinions to the contrary. This is what language can do to a person. If the style is interesting and engaging, we disregard the content and the theme, and become happily deceived.

Towards the end, in the sections “women as martyrs” and “pathological effect”, he did have insightful observations about the fact that women often suffer psychologically in a society that’s built for men. Why can’t he adopt the same kind of sagacity to other chapters? Why is he against the women’s suffrage? And against it on such a shaky ground, in such a clownish way? His eloquence and humor could be applied in a more constructive way…

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