In class this week I alluded to the belief that to take Nietzsche’s comments about women (in the GM or indeed any other text) as merely the expressions of a ‘man of his time’ was a mistake. In fact this (mistaken) view is exactly the one attributed to Walter Kaufmann by Kelly Oliver and Marilyn Pearsall in the introduction to their Feminist Interpretations of Nietzsche.
In addition to this, Nietzsche’s popular ‘bumper sticker’ reputation is that of a misogynist and of course it is not hard to find passages that, at a first glance, might support this reading. At the same time there a feminist philosophers that herald the famous German as an ally in their project, so things cannot be quite so obvious.In fact the more one reads Nietzsche, the less obvious this reputation’s deservedness becomes. It does certainly seem strange that a writer who put an unreasonable amount of thought into his metaphors elsewhere would use and celebrate feminine ‘birthing’ metaphors so readily.
Oliver and Pearsall helpfully separate two distinct, but not unrelated, areas of feminist Nietzsche studies. The first is concerning Nietzsche’s actual view of women, whether he is being ironic, hateful or something else in his comments about women, and the second investigates whether Nietzsche promises feminists helpful philosophical tools. At first glance, of course, there are a number of promising or fruitful considerations. In his denial that reason is faultless, objective and absolute or that ‘Truths’ (and even language) are something to do with power or even oppression Nietzsche must at the very least be interesting to feminist philosophy. The genealogical method itself is worth mentioning here. Further, as one credited with the ‘return to the body’ in Western Philosophy, the intrigue and promise of Nietzsche can surely only grow.
This book only arrived on my desk this week, and I look forward to reading it. For now it may be most beneficial as students to hear a little about the various view expounded, so you might think about them as we read the texts.
At the more ‘postmodern’ end of the scale in terms of reading Nietzsche, O&P describe Kofman as finding Nietzsche significant as she see him as denying the category of women ‘as such’. Likewise they interpret Derrida as finding Nietzsche refusing to understand sex (or perhaps gender) as something involving two polar opposites, whilst Higgins finds Nietzsche’s view of women “enabling” (10).
On the other hand, some readers find a thinly veiled parallel between male/female and master/slave morality respectively. Singer even sees that all women are ‘good for’ is mothering overmen and are even understood as “embodiments of ressentiment” due to their lack of manliness.
Tirrel reads Nietzsche as foreshadowing de Beauvoir in thinking it legitimate to talk of ‘woman’ not due to some ontological (natural) difference but because of the way cultures ‘create’ them. Wininger considers an ethical response to Nietzsche and adjudicates that feminist ethics must reject both slave and master moralities wherever it finds them.
This looks to be a brilliant collection of essays and could give rise to a very good IA or EE.