Modern Engendering: Critical Feminist Readings in Modern Western Philosophy

By Bat-Ami Bar On | Go to book overview

Nietzsche's Psychology of Gender Difference

Ofelia Schutte

Different perspectives of feeling. --What does our chatter about the Greeks amount to? What do we understand of their art, the soul of which is--passion for naked male beauty! It was only from that viewpoint that they were sensible of female beauty. Thus their perspective on female beauty was quite different from ours. And similarly with their love of women: they reverenced differently, they despised differently.

( Daybreak, § 170) 1

Nietzsche's philosophy, like the Greek passion for beauty of which he speaks here, is male oriented. Thus it would make much more sense to speak of what he thinks of man (in the gender specific sense of the term) than what, by contrast or default, he thinks of woman. While his conception of man admits of plurality and difference, his conception of woman tends to be reductionistic. In this essay I shall explore some key aspects of Nietzsche's view of the gender difference, that is, the categories he uses to differentiate between men and women. I suggest that the specific structure of his psychological perspective on gender lies at the foundation of his narrow views on women.

Departing from this analysis of the gender difference I will consider two other questions of special concern to feminists. First, what is Nietzsche's position regarding equal rights for women in society? In particular, how are his views on women's role in society influenced by his view of femininity? A second question of interest in this essay is Nietzsche's position on women's writing. It is thought sometimes that because Nietzsche was a rather unorthodox writer who called into question important dogmas in the Western tradition, he would also be supportive of women writers who question the "tradition" of sexism. Since he wrote from his own experience, outwards, to a society differing from his views, my question is, did he also consider women ought to have an opportunity to do something

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