A Ku Indeed!

Feminism and Weakness

Posted in Course Material by Chris on June 16, 2007

Catchy title, eh?

Anyway — as some of you know, I teach Feminist Theory here at Drury, so I’ve thought quite a bit about the various feminist movements that have sprung up over the years. What I think is interesting is to try to apply — as DruryDude does in his/her blog this week — the Nietzschean “paradigm” of master-slave to the way feminism has emerged over the years. Can you use N’s schema to analyze social movements? It’s a very interesting question. One would think that it should be applicable. What you’d be looking for is this basic setup:

1. Group X is oppressed by group Y, and Y has more power than X.
2. The meaning of the lives of people X and Y are determined by the stories and meanings created by Y (this just is power, for N).
3. Group X revolts (in a way), by creating a new story that gives a different meaning to the lives of X and Y.
4. The new meanings for Y are negative is orientation; meaning that X’s way of seeing Y’s qualities sees them as bad or evil or inauthentic or something of that sort.
5. Group Y’s qualities are the reverse of X’s, and thus, by extension, they become good and authentic.

Feminism, I think, did go through a period like this (for some it’s not a period, it remains true). Or one might just attach this label to “some feminist individuals” as opposed to a movement. Here it is:

1. Women are oppressed by Men, and Men have more power than Women.
2. The meaning of the lives of Men and Women are determined by the stories created by Men (this is Patriarchy in general).
3. Women revolt, and create new stories that give different meanings to the lives of Men and Women (feminist interpretations).
4. These interpretations include seeing men as evil, or inauthentic, mostly because they are aggressive, dominating, wanting to see things in terms of reason and not emotion, men are overly “individual” about their identities, etc. So to acquire these qualities is bad, and a good person avoids them.
5. Women are caring, nurturing, relational, emotional, etc., the reverse qualities and thus, by extension, good.
6. Conclusion: goodness means to be more like a woman than a man.

Note here that I’m not attacking feminism at all. First, not all feminist movements unfurled this way. But some did (matriarchical systems, particularly). And it seems to me that a Nietzschean analysis can be applied here. Moreover, the tables can be turned on anti-feminist movements; many of them, I think, can be given a slave interpretation as well, but from a different perspective — one of the weakness of dogmas (life-negating ideals) that avoid difference (only want neighbors and not “good friends”).

There are two interesting questions, I think.

1. Do all social movements go through a stage of slave mentality? Is this inevitable (and understandable)?
2. If (1) is true, then how does a social movement become, afterwards, more noble in character?


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