About a hundred and eighty years ago, a philosopher by the name of Arthur Schopenhauer wrote a short essay on women. Strangely enough, he called it “On Women”. The essay has been held up as both a poster child for misogyny, and as a stark, honest, and true assessment of the female or our species.
I’m not going to cut and paste the entire piece here. Those who are intellectually curious will go look up the entire work, and those who are not intellectually curious will not. Your choice, Buckaroo. But… here’s one of the first paragraphs….
“One need only look at a woman’s shape to discover that she is not intended for either too much mental or too much physical work. She pays the debt of life not by what she does but by what she suffers—by the pains of child-bearing, care for the child, and by subjection to man, to whom she should be a patient and cheerful companion. The greatest sorrows and joys or great exhibition of strength are not assigned to her; her life should flow more quietly, more gently, and less obtrusively than man’s, without her being essentially happier or unhappier.”
And so it goes… deeper and deeper into Schopenhauer’s brilliant world of pessimism.
This particular essay is well-known amongst both philosophers and feminists, and the obvious question that might pop into your mind is, “Who cares?” Well, we care because Schopenhauer said it, and Schopenhauer was a fucking genius. He was the first major philosopher to be openly atheist, and probably the first real proto-existentialist. His works, such as “The World as Will and Representation” had a profound effect on twentieth-century thinkers, and he still captivates us with his no-holds-barred approach to life and philosophy.
But Schopenhauer, in his essay on women, confounds me. I’ve always seen myself as a radical feminist. A radical feminist, not because it was a hip thing to do, or even as a way to seduce women, but because feminism, as I understood it, made sense. But it doesn’t make sense anymore, because the women of the newer generations have abandoned feminist thought and history.
Why? Hell, I don’t know. And to be honest, it doesn’t really matter why they have abandoned it. They have abandoned it, and at some point if it needs to be “fixed”, then they’re going to have to buckle down and go back to work. You can only blame men for so long. After that, you’re gonna have to start taking some blame.
For me, Schopenhauer was the last straw that broke the feminist’s back. I wasn’t looking for it, and I certainly didn’t expect it. The first read sent me straight into angry rejection… “How could he say such things!?” I mentally apologized for Schopenhauer, because, even though he was a certified genius, he was just as obviously a creature of his culture (early 19th century Germany). But then I read it again… and again… and again…
I gave it a thoughtful read. I connected many of the things that Schopenhauer had written (previously and afterward) with this particular piece, and… it made sense.
He was right, and he still is.
And that is… too bad.
I’ve always thought of my wife as mechanically challenged. She has survived over the years by having only one tool in her toolbox… a man (women cook, men fix shit). But then the oddest thing happened….
Through some odd circumstances, I came into the possession of a couple of old Briggs and Stratton small engines, and I thought it would be a neat project to rebuild them (men fix shit) from the inside out. I asked my wife, out of sheer politeness, if she would be interested in helping out with the project. Much to my surprise, she accepted.
By the time we finished the first engine, she was hooked. A small-engine addict if I’ve ever seen one. When we opened up the second engine, she was livid….
“Plastic gears? Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Uh… I think they’re nylon, Honey.”
“Plastic lobes on the camshaft! And look! They put together the shrouding with pop-rivets! What the hell?”
“I think that they… uh… were trying to save on costs.”
“Have they no dignity? Have they no pride? What kind of person would build something like this?”
And so it went, and so it goes. I read Schopenhauer… and I have a wife who knows more about small engines than the majority of young males. I’m confused.
Have a day.
primum vivere, deinde philosophari.