Term Paper: Nietzsche's Woman Is by Turns

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[. . .] In Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche clearly shows his views of woman as inferior, in his discussion of the capabilities of men and women to form interpersonal relationships. He argues that having a friend makes a man vulnerable, and that this must be carefully guarded against within any friendship. However, he argues relatively forcefully that women are not yet capable of forming friendships. He justifies this by arguing that women's desire for love interferes with the ability to keep and make friends, and that this trait is much more commonly present amongst women. Ultimately, he comes to the conclusion that the love of a woman is truly interior to friendship with another man. Here, he clearly argues that women are inherently inferior to men, and in fact attacks and insults men simply by comparing many unfavorable male behaviors to those of women. Based on these passages, Nietzsche's attitudes toward women are clearly sexist, and based on conventional views of women.

Further, Nietzsche further reveals sexist attitude in the terms that he uses to refer to women. He repeatedly refers to women as cows, cats, and birds, an especially strong insult in the language of the time, which saw these as lower animals that were far inferior to man in many important ways, chief among them the use of reason and intellect.

Disturbingly, in On Little Old and Young Women he espouses many sexist attitudes that were prevalent at the time of writing. Disturbingly, the old woman urges men to use the whip, a euphemism for violence, against women in order to keep them under control.

Further, in On Child and Marriage, Nietzsche argues that marriage is largely a pointless institution unless its ultimate goal is the production of a superior child. Going even further, he argues that marriage can clearly be a destructive force on men, presumably getting in the way of his undeniable will to power. Here, as in his discussion on friendship, it is clear that Nietzsche fails to see woman as a suitable and worthwhile companion on her own merits. He seems to argue that the only worthwhile function for a woman is as the bearer of a superior male child, who may go on to achieve his will to power.

Throughout his works, Nietzsche repeatedly fails to see women as individuals, and instead consistently refers to them as a constant type. Further, he seems to be completely unaware or uninterested in the achievements of great women. Throughout his works, Nietzsche often seems to view the woman as "other" or separate from man, and also as clearly and implicitly inferior to man (Diprose).

Further, Nietzsche argues that as women are essentially inferior to men, women act as an impediment to men's will to power. He would likely feel that today's society, where women are in many ways equal to men, simply reflects the loss of man's natural and undeniable quest for the will to power.

Importantly, Nietzsche argues that the natural manner of women is willingness and compliance. In contrast, he notes that the natural manner of men is will, and in particular the will to power. Nietzsche sees woman at heart as essentially dangerous and full of deceit. In contrast, he argues that men prefer women who are quiet and peaceful, but also, and completely inconsistently, seems to argue forcefully that men are more attracted to a woman with the potential for revenge (Mariani).

Nietzsche seems to feel that gender relations are based largely on misunderstanding and the playing of games. Certainly, his discussion about the concept of woman's appeal from a distance, and the appeal of her capacity for revenge is part of this argument. Notes Nietzsche in the Gay Science, "The sexes deceive themselves about each other- - because at bottom they honor and love only themselves" (70).

Some of Nietzsche's telling attitudes towards women and the relationship between the sexes are revealed in his famous text, Beyond Good and Evil. Here, Nietzsche argues that philosophers must learn to love a womanly truth, and to love truth as a gentleman possesses a woman. The woman (truth) must give itself willingly, and the philosopher must offer himself willingly to truth, and accordingly seduce the truth (Lampert).

Nietzsche's views of women are not always so negative and uncomplimentary. In The Gay Science, he argues, "Perhaps truth is a woman who has reasons for not letting us see her reasons?" (Preface). Here, he seems to liken women, or the feminine, to truth, that which he most sought to expose in his writings.

He also compares life to a woman, in greatly flattering terms. In The Gay Science, he notes that life is "covered by a veil interwoven with gold, a veil of beautiful possibilities, sparkling with promise, resistance, bashfulness, mockery, pity, and seduction." Poetically, he argues that life is indeed a woman.

Interestingly, Nietzsche seems to feel that many of his important teachings should be addressed to woman as equals to men, an idea that is completely contradictory to his often and clearly stated belief that women are men's inferiors. In Thus Spake Zarathustra, Zarathustra's teachings are directed equally to women and men. Nietzsche notes, "Thus do I want man and woman: the one able to wage war, the other able to bear children, but both able to dance with head and with legs."

Essentially, Nietzsche's views on women are largely contradictory and confusing.

He seems to see women as an impediment to men's will to power, and as inherently inferior to men. Yet at the same time, he argues that women are beautiful and appealing, and shows an insightful sensitivity to female sexual repression.

Nietzsche's views on women differ significantly from many other important philosophers. Despite this difference, both Mill and Nietzsche's views on women are based in their fundamental views of the ideal society. Mill argues that in an ideal society is based on a moral conscience, and strive for freedom and creativity. Thus, Mill sees women as potentially equal companions to men in creating such a society. In contrast, Nietzsche sees the ideal society as reverting to a state where the high and noble humans are in conflict with lower humans. Thus, his views of women as lower humans means that they constantly stand in the way of higher humans (males) achieving their will for power (Costa).

The well-known philosopher Simone de Beauvoir's analysis of women was even more different from Nietzsche's than Mill's understanding of the female sex. De Bauviour, companion to Jean Paul Sartre, the father of existentialism, is most famous for her groundbreaking work, The Second Sex. She noted that "One is not born, but becomes a woman," and argued strongly against the myth of femininity. While Nietzsche's treatment of women was largely based on common stereotypes and traditional conceptions, de Beauvoir and the feminists who followed in her footsteps radically challenged existing ideas about the role of women in society, and the very nature of women. In describing traditional attitudes towards women (such as those held by Nietzsche) de Beauvoir notes in The Second Sex:

Woman has ovaries, a uterus: these peculiarities imprison her in her subjectivity; circumscribe her within the limits of her own nature. It is often said that she thinks with her glands. Man superbly ignores the fact that his anatomy also includes glands, such as the testicles, and that they secrete hormones. He thinks of his body as a direct and normal connection with the world, which he believes he apprehends objectively, whereas he regards the body of woman as a hindrance, a prison, weighed down by everything peculiar to it.

Interestingly, modern feminist philosophers like Kelly Oliver call into question the very fundamental basis of much of the work of older philosopher's, including that of Nietzsche. Hansen notes that Oliver argues against the traditional philosopher's tendency to assume that ethics are necessary to prevent humans from destroying each other, and further notes that there is not necessarily a break between nature and culture, a view fundamentally different from Nietzsche's works. In Womanizing Nietzsche: Philosophy's Relation to the "Feminine," Oliver convincingly argues that Nietzsche erroneously excludes femininity in order to develop his notion of subjectivity (Oliver).

Despite the limitations of his comments on women, Nietzsche's contribution was nonetheless important, and perhaps strong enough to override his many sexist comments (Patton). Further, in spite of his limited and contradictory view of women, the works of Nietzsche have even been adopted within feminist thought. Ansell-Pearson argues that Nietzsche, despite his often sexist and unappealing comments on women, can be "of use to a noble and courageous feminist politics of difference" (31).

Lea notes that Nietzsche began a slow decline into insanity after finishing the third part of Thus Spake Zarathustra. He eventually fell into nihilism and the negative, despite his valiant struggle to become a positive force (Lea). One cannot help but consider that his negative views on women may simply have been a reflection of this creeping negativity and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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