Shit Philosophers Say About Women

Philosophy has been around about as long as humans have been thinking. But, like most academic subjects, from its inception until maybe fifty odd years ago, it’s been dominated by men. These men were often misogynists, and if prostitution is the oldest profession, being dicks to women is the oldest hobby.

So here’s a list of the top eight cucking funts of philosophy and their weird arse views on women. Enjoy

  1. Plato

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He starts off pretty strong, saying in The Republic,

“Women and men have the same nature in respect to the guardianship of the state, save insofar as the one is weaker and the other is stronger.”

He thinks that men and women should be equal citizens in the state, not that that counted for much. He was also kind of a modern adopter of eugenics, wanting people to be purposefully matched to breed the best children, and then have them raised away from their parents in a kind of collectivist baby farm. Oh, and you were only allowed to shack up with the allotted person, during the allotted mating festival. The pairings would be chosen by the guardians of the state, but they pretended it was a random lottery, a sex tombola, if you will. You couldn’t have sex with anyone else or any other time of year. Outside of mating festivals, sex would be illegal. So… that’s not so great.

2. Thomas Aquinas

That famous philosopher/theologian was bound to think poorly of women, since it’s our fault for original sin and all that. Sorry. He also had some unique ideas about reproduction. 

“As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power”. – Summa Theologiae

Basically he believed good sperm makes boy babies. Defective sperm makes girl babies. I’d say this is ridiculous but people also used to believe if you planted your sperm in a pot of earth at just the right time, you could grow a homunculus (a tiny human).

3. David Hume comparing women to books:

“It is with books as with women, where a certain plainness of manner and of dress is more engaging than that glare of paint and airs and apparel which may dazzle the eye, but reaches not the affections.”

This might just be the douchiest way of saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” ever.

cover of book

4. Kant

“Nothing of duty, nothing of compulsion, nothing of obligation! Woman is intolerant of all commands and morose constraint. They do something only because it pleases them, and the art [of moral education] consists in making only that please them which is good…I hardly believe that the fair sex is capable of principles.”

Oh, Kant.

5. Jean Jacques Rousseau

“The women’s entire education should be planned in relation to men. To please men, to be useful to them, to win their love and respect, to raise them as children, care for them as adults… these are women’s duties in all ages and these are what they should be taught from childhood.” – Emile

It’s uncertain whether this is meant to be taken seriously. Rousseau often wrote sardonically, but it’s hard to trust the word of any man who has a fancy for flashing women in the street and demanding that they spank him in public.

6. Nietzsche.

You can always rely on Nietzsche to say some awful things about women. It’s no wonder he didn’t have much luck with them. If alive today, I’m sure he’d be blogging about the tragedy of the friendzone.

“A real man wants two things: danger and play. Therefore he wants woman as the most dangerous plaything. Man shall be educated for war, and woman for the recreation of the warrior: all else is folly.”

“When a woman has scholarly inclinations there is usually something wrong with her sexuality.”

Well, screw you Nietzsche. At least I don’t have a dead squirrel on my upper lip.

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7. Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer is far worse than Nietzsche. Also unlucky in love and very bitter about it. He believed our “will to life” drove us to pursue people who were genetically great for healthy children, but not good for us as people. You could either have healthy children and an unhappy marriage or a happy marriage and unhealthy children.

“The fundamental defect of the female character is a lack of a sense of justice. This originates first and foremost in their want of rationality and capacity for reflexion”. – On Women

“Only a male intellect clouded by the sexual drive could call the stunted, narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped and short-legged sex the fair sex.”  – On Women

I wonder if he hatred women because he was rejected so often, or if he was rejected because he was so awful about women… I can tell you in his later years he kept a series of pet poodles and preferred them to other people. He was so attached to them, neighbourhood children started calling one poodle Mrs Schopenhauer.

8. Kierkegaard

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He was cool. I like him. He understood the paradoxical way society views women.

“It belongs to her nature to be more perfect and more imperfect than man. If one would indicate the purest and most perfect quality, one says ‘a woman’; if one would indicate the weakest, and most feeble thing, one says ‘a woman’; if one would indicate innocence in all its lofty greatness, one says ‘a woman’; if one would point to the depressing feeling of sin, one says ‘a woman.’ In a certain sense, therefore, woman is more perfect than man, and this the scripture expresses by saying that she has more guilt” – Either/Or

But then he goes and says he hates the idea of women’s emancipation, and I have to be sad again.

9. John Stuart Mill

It’s not all bad though. Some men, though few and far between, wrote pretty good things about women, J.S. Mill especially. He wrote (probably co-wrote with his partner Harriet Taylor Mill) The Subjection of Women, which called for their enfranchisement.

“I consider it presumption in anyone to pretend to decide what women are or are not, can or cannot be, by natural constitution..….No one can safely pronounce that if women’s nature were left to choose its direction as freely as men’s …. there would be any material difference, or perhaps any difference at all, in the character and capacities which would unfold themselves.” – The Subjection of Women

Cheers, Mill.

But most disturbing of all is the absence of women in so much philosophy. Philosophy is a broad subject but it contains questions about how to best order society, the nature of humanity and how we should act ethically. To ignore women in all of this discourse is worrying, because as much as we imagine philosophy to be abstract or pointlessly focused on minutiae,  it shapes us more than we really know.

  • Nicholas Fisher

    Stumbled across this while looking for funny Nietzsche pics. Great article.

    I’m a Nietzsche fan from way back, but I have to admit that the best thing I could say about his attitude to women is that it’s not as bad as Schopenhauer’s 😐