Diagnosis: Emasculation

  • C. Heike Schotten


Thus far, I have attempted to make a cogent case for Nietzsche’s philosophy of (the life of) the body, arguing that his corporeal rhetoric of will to power is crucial to understanding a philosophy that treats modernity as itself a body, diagnoses its disorders and malfunctions as diseases, and offers solutions to those dysfunctions in the form of a revolutionary therapeutic treatment. Indeed, on my telling thus far, Nietzsche is the unabashed philosopher and advocate of the body. He offers physiological analyses of even seemingly nonphysiological phenomena, like religion— which he suggests may have developed as an interpretation of epilepsy1— and skepticism, which he claims is caused by a nervous disorder.2 He understands all intellectual processes to be matters of physiology and appropriates digestion as the primary explanatory metaphor for psychic functioning. More generally, Nietzsche locates the origins of philosophy and science (Wissenschaften) in the “entrails,” and declares without a hint of irony that “all prejudices come from the intestines.”3 Of Socrates, that exemplar of idealist philosophy, Nietzsche muses that his rationalism may be the result of rickets, his daimon an “auditory hallucination.”4


Female Body European Woman Male Domination Ascetic Ideal Sick Woman 
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  1. 7.
    Eric Blondel, Nietzsche, the Body, and Culture: Philosophy as a Philological Genealogy, trans. Seân Hand (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991), 220.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    Meaning, therefore, that femininity or womanhood is a disease. On this issue, see Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English’s classic For Her Own Good: 150 Years of the Experts’Advice to Women (New York: Anchor Books, 1978), 101–33. More on this in the section of this chapter entitled “Truth as Femme Fatale.” Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    Nancy Leys Stepan, “Race and Gender: The Role of Analogy in Science,” in Anatomy of Racism, ed. David Theo Goldberg (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990), 40.Google Scholar
  4. 16.
    With few exceptions (not all of them feminist), an unspoken consensus has emerged in Nietzsche scholarship since Kaufmann that Nietzsche’s views on women and gender are either to remain undiscussed or else be defended, excused, or complicated out of existence (those exceptions include Laurence Lampert, Nietzsche’s Teaching [New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001];Google Scholar
  5. Kelly Oliver, Womanizing Nietzsche: Philosophy’s Relation to the “Feminine” [New York: Routledge, 1995];Google Scholar
  6. Frances Nesbitt Oppel, Nietzsche on Gender: Beyond Man and Woman [Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2005];Google Scholar
  7. Ofelia Schutte, Beyond Nihilism: Nietzsche Without Masks [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984]). While this shift toward either disavowal or disinterest constitutes a perhaps necessary corrective to Kaufmann’s myopic dogmatism on the issue, the result has been that a central claim of Nietzsche’s philosophy has been either ignored or rationalized away for precisely the same reason that Kaufmann tried to hide it altogether: it is simply too difficult to take Nietzsche’s misogyny seriously as a central, animating principle of his thought. Hence the multitude of explanations, whether defensive or deferential, for Nietzsche’s obviously misogynist pronouncements regarding sex and gender. To take only a handful of examples from an already substantial literature: Robert Solomon and Kathleen Higgins find that Nietzsche’s reputation as a misogynist is an unfortunate rumor, the fame and inaccuracy of which is second only to the widespread belief that “Nietzsche was crazy”Google Scholar
  8. (Robert Solomon and Kathleen Higgins, What Nietzsche Really Said [New York: Schocken Books, 2000]), while Higgins herself argues that The Gay Science “presents an entrée into gender theory that is genuinely exciting,” claiming Nietzsche as a “pioneer in gender theory”Google Scholar
  9. (Kathleen Higgins, “Gender in The Gay Science,” in Feminist Interpretations of Plato, ed. Kelly Oliver and Marilyn Pearsall [University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998]). John Richardson has attempted to recruit Nietzsche for the ranks of care feminism, arguing that his claim to be the first psychologist of the Eternal-Feminine means he saw himself as possessing traditionally feminine qualities like empathy and psychological insightfulness, the basis for his assertion that he “knows” women so wellGoogle Scholar
  10. (John Richardson, Nietzsche’s System [New York: Oxford University Press, 1996], 192). While analytic philosophers fall more often on the side of defending Nietzsche, continental interpreters have reliably found Nietzsche’s remarks about women less groundbreaking than evasive; thus, David Farrell Krell determines that Nietzsche’s full examination of the “convergence of sensuality and death in the figure of woman” is perpetually deferred (David Krell, Postponements: Woman, Sensuality, and Death in Nietzsche [Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986]), while Babette Babich declares that “throughout all of Nietzsche’s texts, women, truth, and even philosophers are concinnously double played, or, at the very least, double voiced,” implying that whatever Nietzsche says about women he indirectly declares of himself, and vice versa (Babette Babich, “Nietzsche and the Condition of Postmodern Thought: Post-Nietz-schean Postmodernism,” in Nietzsche as Postmodernist: Essays Pro and Contra, ed. Clayton Koelb [Albany: SUNY Press, 1990], 261). Jacques Derrida has of course argued that “there is no such thing as a woman, as a truth in itself of woman in itself. That much, at least, Nietzsche has said” (b‘perons/Spurs: Nietzsche’s Styles, trans. Barbara Harlow [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978], 102–3) (an interpretive certainty Oliver rightly notes is inconsistent with Derrida’s overall claim that all of Nietzsche’s text may be “monstrously” indeterminate, of the same (in)essential character as his scribbled notebook remark, “I have forgotten my umbrella” [Womanizing Nietzsche]). Sara Kofman, following Derrida, reiterates that there is no woman-as-such in Nietzsche, stating that there are rather “types” of women, all of whom are historical constructs (Sara Kofman, “The Psychologist of the Eternal Feminine,” Yale French Studies 1995 [87]), and attempts to save Nietzsche from the charge of misogyny by staking a claim for the ultimate “ambivalence” of his “many heterogeneous texts on woman” (Sara Kofman, “Baubô: Theological Perversion and Fetishism,” in Nietzsche’s New Seas: Explorations in Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Politics, ed. Michael Gillespie and Tracy Strong [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988]). In this regard, Oppel’s recent book is a breath of fresh air, offering an innovative defense of Nietzsche’s views of both women and gender from an avowedly feminist perspective that forsakes neither interpretive care nor the necessary confrontation with Nietzsche’s most unsavory remarks (Oppel, Nietzsche on Gender: Beyond Man and Woman). For my part, I find Nietz-sche’s remarks on women and gender to be neither ambiguous nor defensible, but nevertheless basic to his thought and his overall project—as basic as the body, health, and will to power.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 17.
    Martha Nussbaum claims Nietzsche’s views regarding women and gender can be forgotten because Nietzsche—unlike, say, Rousseau—lacks a fully developed argument regarding women and gender, and that his scattered and fragmentary remarks amount to nothing more than “the silly posturings of an inexperienced vain adolescent male.” Martha Nussbaum, “Is Nietzsche a Political Thinker?” International Journal of Philosophical Studies 5, no. 1, [1997] 5. While the latter may be true, the former surely is not, and the latter may in fact be quite important if Nietzsche is engaged in a project of massive autobiographical projection (which he claims all philosophy necessarily is).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 18.
    Leslie Thiele, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of the Soul: A Study of Heroic Individualism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 89–90. In a similar vein, Alan Schrift has carefully pointed out the ways in which Nietzsche disavows the reality of oppositional values and refuses the stark and graceless divisions of binary opposites, seeing Nietzsche as a crucial precursor to Derridean deconstructionGoogle Scholar
  13. (Alan Schrift, Nietzsche’s French Legacy: A Genealogy of Poststructuralism [New York: Routledge, 1995]). Oppel argues that Nietzsche’s views on gender offer an opening into the deconstruction of gender binarism itself (Oppel, Nietzsche On Gender).Google Scholar
  14. 31.
    GM I:10; emphasis added. This aside makes good sense, for there is no way in which any deed could be purely active, undetermined by any force or consideration other than itself. Such an acknowledgement suggests (that Nietzsche knows) the ultimate uselessness of “active” as a description of deeds or forms of life at all. Although Rüdiger Bittner has argued that Nietzsche fetishizes a notion of creativity that only God can be said to possess—that is, creation of the utterly and entirely new ex nihilo—it seems that here, at least, Nietzsche explicitly acknowledges its impossibility. Rüdiger Bittner, “Masters Without Substance,” in Nietzsche’s Postmoralism: Essays on Nietzsche’s Prelude to Philosophy’s Future, ed. Richard Schacht (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  15. 53.
    See, for example, Ann McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Context (New York: Routledge, 1995).Google Scholar
  16. 55.
    See Gregory Moore, Nietzsche, Biology, and Metaphor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. and George Mosse, Nationalism and Sexuality: Respectability and Abnormal Sexuality in Modern Europe (New York: Howard Fertig, 1985).Google Scholar
  18. 56.
    That these bourgeois norms were inevitably formed through constant negotiation with the project of empire has been persuasively demonstrated by McClintock (Imperial Leather); Ann Laura Stoler, Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995);Google Scholar
  19. Lora Wildenthal, German Women for Empire, 1884–1945 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. and Susanne Zantop, Colonial Fantasies: Conquest, Family, and Nation in Precolonial Germany, 1770–1870 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997). The consideration of how Nietzsche in particular has specifically engaged “the East” as a foil and counterpart to Europe and European decay, however, remains unexplored thus far in either Nietzsche studies or postcolonial studies.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 60.
    GS §377. Hysteria, which literally means “womb” and names a condition in which a mental disturbance manifests itself physically (that is, an illness that is “all in your head”), was the late nineteenth-century diagnosis of pathological femininity. See Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage, 1978), 104; Moore, Nietzsche, Biology, and Metaphor, 129;Google Scholar
  22. Elaine Showalter, Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997). A clear (if deeply ineffective) expression of upper-class white women’s resistance to patriarchal control and subordination, it was alleged to have been caused by the woman’s own unruly womb, metonymously wandering around her body and refusing to stay in its “proper place.” Ehrenreich and English, For Her Own Good; Showalter, Hystories.Google Scholar
  23. 70.
    As indicated already (see Chapter 2), Nietzsche has a remarkably solipsistic view of Europe’s health and development—he does not see it as part of a larger international, hemispheric, or global context. Thus, it is no surprise that the kind of “feminism” he is most worried about is the kind that was taking root in Europe and which is now often referred to in the West as feminism’s “first wave,” characterized primarily by the movement for white/ European women’s suffrage, a movement that actively excluded indigenous, colonized, native, slave, and other women of color in its movement for political enfranchisement. See Wildenthal, German Women for Empire, 1884–1945; Louise Michele Newman, White Women’s Rights: The Racial Origins of Feminism in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  24. 75.
    As Elaine Showalter has shown, this reconfiguration of gender roles was widely considered to be a dramatic cultural crisis throughout both Europe and the United States. Elaine Showalter, Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle (New York: Viking Press, 1990). As McClintock (The Education of Desire), Stoler (Imperial Leather), and Wildenthal (German Women for Empire) make clear, these concerns are inextricably related to the interests of European Empire.Google Scholar
  25. 141.
    Nietzsche says that “as for that exception, Socrates—the malicious Socrates, it would seem, married ironically, just to demonstrate this proposition.” Yet Socrates may be the exception that proves Nietzsche’s bizarre rule that truly masculine sexual desire ought not be fulfilled, merely relished for the unconsummated longing it is. The only difference is object choice: Socrates is famous for his sexual abstinence with regard to the men he desired. This possibility, however, simply does not register for Nietzsche (despite his scholarly infatuation with Greek life and culture) because he is really just rather traditional in his conceptualization of sexuality in general. Despite the current fashionableness in asserting Nietzsche’s (conscious or repressed) homosexuality (as exemplified by Joachim Köhler’s tellall biography Zarathustra’s Secret: The Interior Life of Friedrich Nietzsche, trans. Ronald Taylor [New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002), “intercourse” in Nietzsche’s texts is only ever figured as the married, heterosexual, traditionally gendered, reproductive kind, and Nietzsche neither expresses sexual desire for men in his published texts nor takes any position whatsoever as to whether such a desire should be gratified. For more on this subject, see my “Nietzsche/Pentheus: The Last Disciple of Dionysus and Queer Fear of the Feminine,” differences: A Journal of Feminist cultural Studies 19, no. 3 (August 2008): 90–125.Google Scholar

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© C. Heike Schotten 2009

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