A Small Sample from Weininger's
Sex & Character

In such a being as the absolute female there are no logical and ethical phenomena, and, therefore, the ground for the assumption of a soul is absent.

Since the soul of man is the microcosm, and great men are those who live entirely in and through their souls, the whole universe thus having its being in them, the female must be described as absolutely without the quality of genius. . . . There is no female genius, and there never has been one . . . and there never can be one. Those who are in favour of laxity in these matters, and are anxious to extend and enlarge the idea of genius in order to make it possible to include women, would simply by such action destroy the concept of genius. . . . How could a soulless being possess genius? The possession of genius is identical with profundity; and if any one were to try to combine woman and profundity as subject and predicate, he would be contradicted on all sides. A female genius is a contradiction in terms, for genius is simply intensified, perfectly developed, universally conscious maleness. . . .

. . . A woman's demand for emancipation and her qualification for it are in direct proportion to the amount of maleness in her. The idea of emancipation, however, is many-sided, and its indefiniteness is increased by its association with many practical customs which have nothing to do with the theory of emancipation. By the term emancipation of a woman, I imply neither her mastery at home nor her subjection of her husband. I have not in mind the courage which enables her to go freely by night or by day unaccompanied in public places, or the disregard of social rules which prohibit bachelor women from receiving visits from men, or discussing or listening to discussions of sexual matters. I exclude from my view the desire for economic independence, the becoming fit for positions in technical schools, universities and conservatories or teachers' institutes. And there may be many other similar movements associated with the word emancipation which I do not intend to deal with. Emancipation, as I mean to discuss it, is not the wish for an outward equality with man, but what is of real importance in the woman question, the deep-seated craving to acquire man's character, to attain his mental and moral freedom, to reach his real interests and his creative power. I maintain that the real female element has neither the desire nor the capacity for emancipation in this sense. All those who are striving for this real emancipation, all women who are truly famous and are of conspicuous mental ability, to the first glance of an expert reveal some of the anatomical characters of the male, some external bodily resemblance to a man. Those so- called "women" who have been held up to admiration in the past and present, by the advocates of woman's rights, as examples of what women can do, have almost invariably been what I have described as sexually intermediate forms. . . .

The further we go in the analysis of woman's claim to esteem the more we must deny her of what is lofty and noble, great and beautiful. As this chapter is about to take the deciding and most extreme step in that direction, I should like to make a few remarks as to my position. The last thing I wish to advocate is the Asiatic standpoint with regard to the treatment of women. Those who have carefully followed my remarks as to the injustice that all forms of sexuality and erotics visit on woman will surely see that this work is not meant to plead for the harem. But it is quite possible to desire the legal equality of men and women without believing in their moral and intellectual equality, just as in condemning to the utmost any harshness in the male treatment of the female sex, one does not overlook the tremendous, cosmic, contrast and organic differences between them. There are no men in whom there is no trace of the transcendent, who are altogether bad; and there is no woman of whom that could truly be said. However degraded a man may be, he is immeasurably above the most superior woman, so much so that comparison and classification of the two are impossible; but even so, no one has any right to denounce or defame woman, however inferior she must be considered. A true adjustment of the claims for legal equality can be undertaken on no other basis than the recognition of a complete, deep seated polar opposition of the sexes. I trust that I may escape confusion of my views as to woman with the superficial doctrine of P.J. Mobius - a doctrine only interesting as a brave reaction against the general tendency. Women are not "physiologically weak- minded," and I cannot share the view that women of conspicuous ability are to be regarded as morbid specimens.

From a moral point of view one should only be glad to recognize in these women (who are always more masculine than the rest) the exact opposite of degeneration, that is to say, it must be acknowledged that they have made a step forward and gained a victory over themselves; from the biological standpoint they are just as little or as much phenomena of degeneration as are womanish men (unethically considered). Intermediate sexual forms are normal, not pathological phenomena, in all classes of organisms, and their appearance is no proof of physical decadence.

Woman is neither high-minded nor low-minded, strong-minded nor weak-minded. She is the opposite of all these. Mind cannot be predicated of her at all; she is mindless. That, however, does not imply weak-mindedness in the ordinary sense of the term, the absence of the capacity to "get her bearings" in ordinary everyday life. Cunning, calculation, "cleverness," are much more usual and constant in the woman than in the man, if there be a personal selfish end in view. A woman is never so stupid as a man can be.

But has woman no meaning at all? Has she no general purpose in the scheme of the world? Has she not a destiny; and, in spite of all her senselessness and emptiness, a significance in the universe?

Has she a mission, or is her existence an accident and an absurdity?

In order to understand her meaning, it is necessary to start from a phenomenon which, although old and well recognized, has never received its proper meed of consideration. It is from nothing more nor less than the deep, her only vital interest, the interest that sexual unions shall take place; the wish that as much of it as possible shall occur, in all cases, places, and times.

. . . After mature consideration of the most varied types of women and with due regard to the special classes besides those which I have discussed, I am of opinion that the only positively general female characteristic is that of matchmaking, that is, her uniform willingness to further the idea of sexual union.

Any definition of the nature of woman which goes no further than to declare that she has the strong instinct for her own union would be too narrow; any definition that would link her instincts to the child or to the husband, or to both, would be too wide. The most general and comprehensive statement of the nature of woman is that it is completely adapted and disposed for the special mission of aiding and abetting the bodily union of the sexes. All women are matchmakers, and this property of the woman to be the advocate of the idea of pairing is the only one which is found in women of all ages, in young girls, in adults, and in the aged. The old woman is no longer interested in her own union, but she devotes herself to the pairing of others. This habit of the old woman is nothing new, it is only the continuance of her enduring instinct surviving the complications that were caused when her personal interests came into conflict with her general desire; it is the now unselfish pursuit of the impersonal idea. . . .

The effort of woman to realize this idea of pairing is so fundamentally opposed to that conception of innocence and purity, the higher virginity which man's erotic nature has demanded from women, that not all his erotic incense would have obscured her real nature but for one factor. I have now to explain this factor which has veiled from man the true nature of woman, and which in itself is one of the deepest problems of woman, I mean her absolute duplicity. Her pairing instinct and her duplicity, the latter so great as to conceal even from woman herself what is the real essence of her nature, must be explained together. . . .

I believe myself that what may be called a psychological sexual traumatism is at the root of hysteria. The typical picture of a hysterical case is not very different from the following: A woman has always accepted the male views on sexual matters; they are in reality foreign to her nature, and sometime, by some chance, out of the conflict between what her nature asserts to be true and what she has always accepted as true and believed to be true, there comes what may be called a "wounding of the mind." It is thus possible for the person affected to declare a sexual desire to be an "extraneous body in her consciousness," a sensation which she thinks she detests, but which in reality has its origin in her own nature. The tremendous intensity with which she endeavors to suppress the desire (and which only serves to increase it) so that she may the more vehemently and indignantly reject the thought - these are the alternations which are seen in hysteria. And the chronic untruthfulness of woman becomes acute if the woman has ever allowed herself to be imbued with man's ethically negative valuation of sexuality. It is well known that hysterical women manifest the strongest suggestibility with men. Hysteria is the organic crisis of the organic untruthfulness of woman.

I do not deny that there are hysterical men, but these are comparatively few; and since man's psychic possibilities are endless, that of becoming "female" is amongst them, and, therefore, he can be hysterical. There are undoubtedly many untruthful men, but in them the crisis takes a different form, man's untruthfulness being of a different kind and never so hopeless in character as woman's.

This examination into the organic untruthfulness of woman, into her inability to be honest about herself which alone makes it possible for her to think that she thinks what is really totally opposed to her nature, appears to me to offer a satisfactory explanation of those difficulties which that aetiology of hysteria present.

Hysteria shows that untruthfulness, however far it may reach, cannot suppress everything. By education or environment woman adopts a whole system of ideas and valuations which are foreign to her, or, rather, has patiently submitted to have them impressed on her; and it would need a tremendous shock to get rid of this strongly rooted psychical complexity, and to transplant woman from that condition of intellectual helpless- ness which is so characteristic of hysteria. . . .

But it may be asked, with reason, why all women are not hysterical, since all women are liars? This brings us to a necessary inquiry as to the hysterical constitution. If my theory has been on the right lines, it ought to be able to give an answer in accordance with the facts. According to it, the hysterical woman is one who has passively accepted in entirety the masculine and conventional valuations instead of allowing her own mental character its proper play. The woman who is not to be led is the antithesis of the hysterical woman. I must not delay over this point; it really belongs to special female characterology. The hysterical woman is hysterical because she is servile; mentally she is identical with the maidservant. Her opposite (who does not really exist) is the shrewish dame. So that women may be subdivided into the maid who serves, and the woman who commands.

The servant is born and not made, and there are many women in good circumstances who are "born servants," although they never need to put their rightful position to the test! The servant and the mistress are a sort of "complete woman" when considered a "whole."

The consequences of this theory are fully borne out by experience. The Xanthippe is the woman who has the least resemblance to the hysterical type. She vents her spleen (which is really the outcome of unsatisfied sexual desires) on others, whereas the hysterical woman visits hers on herself. The "shrew" detests other women, the "servant" detests herself. The drudge weeps out her woes alone, without really feeling lonely - loneliness is identical with morality, and a condition which implies true duality or manifoldness; the shrew hates to be alone because she must have some one to scold, whilst hysterical women vent their passions on themselves. The shrew lies openly and boldly but without knowing it, because it is her nature to think herself always in the right, and she insults those who contradict her. The servant submits wonderingly to the demands made of her which are so foreign to her nature; the hypocrisy of this pliant acquiescence is apparent in her hysterical attacks when the conflict with her own sexual emotions begins. It is because of this receptivity and susceptibility that hysteria and the hysterical type of woman are so leniently dealt with: it is this type, and not the shrewish type, that will be cited in opposition to my views.

Untruthfulness, organic untruthfulness, characterises both types, and accordingly all women. It is quite wrong to say that women lie. That would imply that they sometimes speak the truth. Sincerity, pro foro interno et externo, is the virtue of all others of which women are absolutely incapable, which is impossible for them! . . .

The current opinion that woman is religious is equally erroneous. Female mysticism, when it is anything more than mere superstition, is either thinly veiled sexuality (the identification of the Deity and the lover has been frequently discussed, as, for instance, in Maupassant's "Bel-Ami," or Hauptmann's "Hannele's Himmelfahrt") as in numberless spiritualists and theosophists, or it is a mere passive and unconscious acceptance of man's religious views which are clung to the more firmly because of woman's natural disinclination for them. The lover is readily transformed into a Savior; very readily (as is well known to be the case with many nuns) the Savior becomes the lover. All the great women visionaries known to history were hysterical; the most famous, Santa Teresa, was not misnamed "the patron saint of hysteria." At any rate, if woman's religiousness were genuine, and if it proceeded from her own nature, she would have done something great in the religious world; but she never has done anything of any importance. I should like to put shortly what I take to be the difference between the masculine and feminine creeds; man's religion consists in a supreme belief in himself, woman's in a supreme belief in other people. . . .

Woman is not a free agent; she is altogether subject to her desire to be under man's influence, herself and all others: she is under the sway of the phallus, and irretrievably succumbs to her destiny, even if it leads to actively developed sexuality. At the most a woman can reach an indistinct feeling of her unfreedom, a cloudy idea of the possibility of controlling her destiny - manifestly only a flickering spark of the free, intelligible subject, the scanty remains of inherited maleness in her, which, by contrast, gives her even this slight comprehension. It is also impossible for a woman to have a clear idea of her destiny, or of the forces within her: it is only he who is free who can discern fate, because he is not chained by necessity; part of his personality, at least, places him in the position of spectator and a combatant outside his own fate and makes him so far superior to it. One of the most conclusive proofs of human freedom is contained in the fact that man has been able to create the idea of causality. Women consider themselves most free when they are most bound; and they are not troubled by the passions, because they are simply the embodiment of them. It is only a man who can talk of the "dira necessitas" within him; it is only he could have created the idea of destiny, because it is only he who, in addition to the empirical, conditioned existence, possesses a free, intelligible ego. . . .

But since every male has a relation to the idea of the highest value, and would be incomplete without it, no male is really ever happy. It is only women who are happy. No man is happy, because he has a relation to freedom, and yet during his earthly life he is always bound in some way. None but a perfectly passive being, such as the absolute female, or a universally active being, like the divine, can be happy. Happiness is the sense of perfect consummation, and this feeling a man can never have; but there are women who fancy themselves perfect. The male always has problems behind him and efforts before him: all problems originate in the past; the future is the sphere for efforts. Time has no objective, no meaning, for woman; no woman questions herself as to the reason of her existence; and yet the sole purpose of time is to give expression to the fact that this life can and must mean something. . . .

The last and absolute proof of the thoroughly negative character of woman's life, of her complete want of a higher existence, is derived from the way in which women commit suicide.

Such suicides are accompanied practically always by thoughts of other people, what they will think, how they will mourn over them, how grieved - or angry - they will be. Every woman is convinced that her unhappiness is undeserved at the time she kills herself; she pities herself exceedingly with the sort of self-compassion which is only a "weeping with others when they weep."

How is it possible for a woman to look upon her unhappiness as personal when she possesses no idea of a destiny? The most appallingly decisive proof of the emptiness and nullity of women is that they never once succeed in knowing the problem of their own lives, and death leaves them ignorant of it, because they are unable to realize the higher life of personality.

I am now ready to answer the question which I put forward as the chief object of this portion of my book, the question as to the significance of the male and female in the universe. Women have no existence and no essence; they are not, they are nothing. Mankind occurs as male or female, as something or nothing. Woman has no share in ontological reality, no relation to the thing-in-itself, which, in the deepest interpretation, is the absolute, is God. Man in his highest form, the genius, has such a relation, and for him the absolute is either the conception of the highest worth of existence, in which case he is a philosopher; or it is the wonderful fairyland of dreams, the kingdom of absolute beauty, and then he is an artist. But both views mean the same. Woman has no relation to the idea, she neither affirms nor denies it; she is neither moral nor antimoral; mathematically speaking, she has no sign; she is purposeless, neither good nor bad, neither angel nor devil, never egoistical (and therefore has often been said to be altruistic); she is as nonmoral as she is nonlogical. But all existence is moral and logical existence. So woman has no existence.

Woman is untruthful. An animal has just as little metaphysical reality as the actual woman, but it cannot speak, and consequently it does not lie. In order to speak the truth one must be something; truth is dependent on an existence, and only that can have a relation to an existence which is in itself something. Man desires truth all the time; that is to say, he all along desires only to be something. The cognition- impulse is in the end identical with the desire for immortality. Anyone who objects to a statement without ever having realized it; anyone who gives outward acquiescence without the inner affirmation, such persons, like woman, have no real existence and must of necessity lie. So that woman always lies, even if, objectively, she speaks the truth. . . .

Woman has no limits to her ego which could be broken through, and which she would have to guard.

The chief difference between man's and woman's friendship is referable to this fact. Man's friendship is an attempt to see eye to eye with those who individually and collectively are striving after the same idea; woman's friendship is a combination for the purpose of matchmaking. It is the only kind of intimate and unreserved intercourse possible between women, when they are not merely anxious to meet each other for the purpose of gossiping or discussing every day affairs.

The emancipation of woman is analogous to the emancipation of Jews and Negroes. Undoubtedly the principal reason why these people have been treated as slaves and inferiors is to be found in their servile dispositions; their desire for freedom is not nearly so strong as that of the Indo-Germans. And even although the whites in America at the present day find it necessary to keep themselves quite aloof from the Negro population because they make such a bad use of their freedom, yet in the war of the Northern States against the Federals, which resulted in the freedom of the slaves, right was entirely on the side of the emancipators.

Although the humanity of Jews, Negroes, and still more of women, is weighed down by many immoral impulses; although in these cases there is so much more to fight against than in the case of Aryan men, still we must try to respect mankind, and to venerate the idea of humanity (by which I do not mean the human community, but the being, man, the soul as part of the spiritual world). No matter how degraded a criminal may be, no one ought to arrogate to himself the functions of the law; no man has the right to lynch such an offender.

The problem of woman and the problem of the Jews are absolutely identical with the problem of slavery, and they must be solved in the same way. No one should be oppressed, even if the oppression is of such a kind as to be unfelt as such. The animals about a house are not "slaves," because they have no freedom in the proper sense of the word which could be taken away.

But woman has a faint idea of her incapacity, a last remnant, however weak, of the free intelligible ego, simply because there is no such thing as an absolute woman. Women are human beings, and must be treated as such, even if they themselves do not wish it. Woman and man have the same rights. That is to say that women ought to have an equal share in political affairs. From the utilitarian standpoint such a concession, certainly at present and probably always, would be most undesirable; in New Zealand, where, on ethical principles, women have been enfranchised, the worst results have followed. As children, imbeciles and criminals would be justly prevented from taking any part in public affairs even if they were numerically equal or in the majority; woman must in the same way be kept from having a share in anything which concerns the public welfare, as it is much to be feared that the mere effect of female influence would be harmful. Just as the results of science do not depend on whether all men accept them or not, so justice and injustice can be dealt out to the woman, although she is unable to distinguish between them, and she need not be afraid that injury will be done her, as justice is always the same whether for man or woman. No one has a right to forbid things to a woman because they are "unwomanly"; neither should any man be so mean as to talk of his unfaithful wife's doings as if they were his affair. Woman must be looked upon as an individual and as if she were a free individual, not as one of a species, not as a sort of creation from the various wants of man's nature; even though woman herself may never prove worthy of such a lofty view.

Thus this book may be considered as the greatest honor ever paid to women. Nothing but the most moral relation towards women should be possible for men; there should be neither sexuality nor love, for both make woman the means to an end, but only the attempt to understand her. Most men theoretically respect women, but practically they thoroughly despise them; according to my ideas this method should be reversed. It is impossible to think highly of women, but it does not follow that we are to despise them for ever. . . .

Men will have to overcome their dislike for masculine women, for that is no more than a mean egoism. If women ever become masculine by becoming logical and ethical, they would no longer be such good material for man's projection; but that is not a sufficient reason for the present method of tying woman down to the needs of her husband and children and forbidding her certain things because they are masculine.

For even if the possibility of morality is incompatible with the idea of the absolute woman, it does not follow that man is to make no effort to save the average woman from further deterioration; much less is he to help to keep woman as she is. In every living woman the presence of what Kant calls "the germ of good" must be assumed; it is the remnant of a free state which makes it possible for woman to have a dim notion of her destiny. The theoretical possibility of grafting much more on this "germ of good" should never be lost sight of, even although nothing has ever been done, or even if nothing could ever be done in that respect.

The basis and the purpose of the universe is the good, and the whole world exists under a moral law; even to the animals, which are mere phenomena, we assign moral values, holding the elephant, for instance, to be higher than the snake, notwithstanding the fact that we do not make an animal accountable when it kills another. In the case of woman, however, we regard her as responsible if she commits murder, and in this alone is a proof that women are above the animals. If it be the case that womanliness is simply immorality, then woman must cease to be womanly and try to be manly.

I must give warning against the danger of woman trying merely to liken herself outwardly to man, for such a course would simply plunge her more deeply into womanliness. It is only too likely that the efforts to emancipate women will result not in giving her real freedom, in letting her reach free-will, but merely in enlarging the range of her caprices. . . .

A woman who had really given up her sexual self, who wished to be at peace would be no longer "woman." She would have ceased to be "woman," she would have received the inward and spiritual sign as well as the outward form of regeneration.

Can such a thing be?

There is no absolute woman, but even to say "yes" to the above question is like giving one's assent to a miracle. Emancipation will not make woman happier; it will not ensure her salvation, and it is a long road which leads to God. No being in the transition stage between freedom and slavery can be happy. But will woman choose to abandon slavery in order to become unhappy? The question is not merely if it is possible for woman to become moral. It is this: is it possible for woman really to wish to realize the problem of existence, the conception of guilt? Can she really desire freedom? This can happen only by her being penetrated by an ideal, brought to the guiding star. It can happen only if the categorical imperative were to become active in woman; only if woman can place herself in relation to the moral idea, the idea of humanity.

In that way only can there be an emancipation of woman.

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