Human, All-Too-Human

Woman and Child

by Friedrich Nietzsche
Published 1878
Translation by Helen Zimmern
Published 1909-191


The perfect woman. The perfect woman is a higher type of human than the perfect man, and also something much more rare.

The natural science of animals offers a means to demonstrate the probability of this tenet.


Friendship and marriage. The best friend will probably get the best wife, because a good marriage is based on a talent for friendship.


Parents live on. Unresolved dissonances in the relation of the character and disposition of the parents continue to reverberate in the nature of the child, and constitute his inner sufferings.


From the mother. Everyone carries within him an image of

woman that he gets from his mother; that determines whether he will honor women in general, or despise them, or be generally indifferent to them.


To correct nature. If someone does not have a good father, he should acquire one.


Fathers and sons. Fathers have much to do to make amends for the fact that they have sons.


Refined women's error. Refined women think that a subject does not exist at all if it is not possible to speak about it in society.


A male's disease. The surest aid in combating the male's disease of self-contempt is to be loved by a clever woman.


A kind of jealousy. Mothers are easily jealous of their sons' friends if they are exceptionally successful. Usually a mother loves herself in her son more than she loves the son himself.


Reasonable unreason. When his life and reason are mature, man comes to feel that his father was wrong to beget him.


Maternal goodness. Some mothers need happy, respected children; some need unhappy children: otherwise they cannot demonstrate their goodness as mothers.


Different sighs. A few men have sighed because their women were abducted; most, because no one wanted to abduct them.


Love matches. Marriages that are made for love (so-called love matches) have Error as their father and Necessity (need) 1 as their mother.


Women's friendship. Women can very well enter into a friendship with a man, but to maintain it-a little physical antipathy must help out.


Boredom. Many people, especially women, do not experience boredom, because they have never learned to work properly.


An element of love. In every kind of female love, something of maternal love appears also.


Unity of place, and drama. If spouses did not live together, good marriages would be more frequent.


Usual consequences of marriage. Every association that does not uplift, draws downwards, and vice 'versa; therefore men generally sink somewhat when they take wives, while wives are somewhat elevated. Men who are too intellectual need marriage every bit as much as they resist it like a bitter medicine.


Teaching to command. Children from humble families must be educated to command, as much as other children to obey.


To want to be in love. Fiancés who have been brought together by convenience often try to be in love in order to overcome the reproach of cold, calculating advantage. Likewise, those who turn to Christianity for their advantage try to become truly pious, for in that way the religious pantomime is easier for them.


No standstill in love. A musician who loves the slow tempo will take the same pieces slower and slower. Thus there is no standstill in any love.


Modesty. Women's modesty generally increases with their beauty.


Long-lasting marriage. A marriage in which each wants to attain an individual goal through the other holds together well, for example, when the woman wants to be famous through the man, or the man popular through the woman.


Proteus nature. For the sake of love, women wholly become what they are in the imagination of the men who love them.


Loving and possessing. Women usually love an important man in such a way that they want to have him to themselves. They would gladly put him under lock and key, if their vanity, which wants him to appear important in front of others, too, did not advise against it.


Test of a good marriage. A marriage is proved good by its being able to tolerate an "exception."


Means to bring everyone to everything. One can so tire and weaken any man, by disturbances, fears, excessive work and ideas, that he no longer resists any apparently complex matter, but rather gives in to it-that is something diplomats and women know.


Honor and honesty.2 Those girls who want to owe their whole life's maintenance to their youthful charms alone, and whose cunning is prompted by their shrewd mothers, want the same thing as courtesans-only the girls are more clever and less honest.


Masks. There are women who have no inner life wherever one looks for it, being nothing but masks. That man is to be pitied who lets himself in with such ghostly, necessarily unsatisfying creatures; but just these women are able to stimulate man's desire most intensely: he searches for their souls - and searches on and on.


Marriage as a long conversation. When entering a marriage, one should ask the question: do you think you will be able to have good conversations with this woman right into old age? Everything else in marriage transitory, but most of the time in interaction is spent in conversation.


Girls' dreams. Inexperienced girls flatter themselves with the notion that it is within their power to make a man happy; later they learn that it amounts to disdaining a man to assume that he needs no more than a girl to make him happy.

Women's vanity demands that a man be more than a happy husband.


Faust and Gretchen dying out. As one scholar very insightfully remarks, educated men in present-day Germany resemble a combination of Mephistopheles and Wagner,3 but certainly not Faust, whom their grandfathers (in their youth at least) felt rumbling within them. So (to continue the idea), Gretchens do not suit them for two reasons. And because they are no longer desired, it seems that they are dying out.


Girls as Gymnasium students. For heaven's sake, do not pass our Gymnasium education on to girls too! For it often turns witty, inquisitive, fiery youths-into copies of their teachers!


Without rivals. Women easily notice whether a man's soul is already appropriated; they want to be loved without rivals, and resent the goals of his ambition, his political duties, his science and art, if he has a passion for such things. Unless he is distinguished because of them: then they hope an amorous tie to him will also make them more distinguished; when that is the case, they encourage their lover.


The female intellect. Women's intellect is manifested as perfect control, presence of mind, and utilization of all advantages. They bequeath it as their fundamental character to their children, and the father furnishes the darker background of will. His influence determines the rhythm and harmony, so to speak, to which the new life is to be played out; but its melody comes from the woman.

To say it for those who know how to explain a thing: women have the intelligence, men the heart and passion. This is not contradicted by the fact that men actually get so much farther with their intelligence: they have the deeper, more powerful drives; these take their intelligence, which is in itself something passive, forward. Women are often privately amazed at the great honor men pay to their hearts. When men look especially for a profound, warm-hearted being, in choosing their spouse, and women for a clever, alert, and brilliant being, one sees very clearly how a man is looking for an idealized man, and a woman for an idealized woman-that is, not for a complement, but for the perfection of their own merits.


A judgment of Hesiod's4 confirmed. An indication of the cleverness of women is that, almost everywhere, they have known how to have others support them, like drones in a beehive. Just consider the original meaning of this, and why men do not have women support them. It is certainly because male vanity and ambition are greater than female cleverness; for, through submission, women have known how to secure for themselves the preponderant advantage, indeed domination. Originally, clever women could use even the care of children to excuse their avoiding work as much as possible. Even now, if they are really active, as housekeepers, for example, they know how to make a disconcerting fuss about it, so that men tend to overestimate the merit of their activity tenfold.


Short-sighted people are amorous. Sometimes just a stronger pair of glasses will cure an amorous man; and if someone had the power to imagine a face or form twenty years older, he might go through life quite undisturbed.


When women hate. When feeling hatred, women are more dangerous than men. First and foremost because once their hostile feeling has been aroused, they are inhibited by no considerations of fairness but let their hatred swell undisturbed to the final consequences; and second, because they are practiced in finding sore spots (which every man, every party has) and stabbing there: then their rapier-sharp mind performs splendid services for them (while men, when they see wounds, become restrained, often generous and conciliatory).


Love. The idolatry that women practice when it comes to love is fundamentally and originally a clever device, in that all those idealizations of love heighten their own power and portray them as ever more desirable in the eyes of men. But because they have grown accustomed over the centuries to this exaggerated estimation of love, it has happened that they have run into their own net and forgotten the reason behind it. They themselves are now more deceived than men, and suffer more, therefore, from the disappointment that almost inevitably enters the life of every woman-to the extent that she even has enough fantasy and sense to be able to be deceived and disappointed .5


On the emancipation of women. Can women be just at all, if they are so used to loving, to feeling immediately pro or con? For this reason they are also less often partial to causes, more often to

people; but if to a cause, they immediately become partisan, there­ by ruining its pure, innocent effect. Thus, there is a not insignifi­cant danger when they are entrusted with politics or certain areas of science (history, for example). For what would be more rare than a woman who really knew what science is? The best even nourish in their hearts a secret disdain for it, as if they were some­ how superior. Perhaps all this can change; for the time being it is so.


Inspiration in the judgments of women. Those sudden decisions about pro and con which women tend to make, the lightning-fast illuminations of personal relationships by their eruptions of liking and disliking, in short, the proofs of female injustice have been enwreathed by loving men with a glow, as if all women had inspirations of wisdom, even without the Delphic cauldron and the laurel: long afterwards, their statements are interpreted and explained like a sibyl's oracle. However, if one considers that something positive can be said for any person or cause, and likewise something against it, that all matters are not only two-sided, but three or four-sided, then it is almost difficult to go completely astray by such sudden decisions; indeed, one could say that the nature of things is arranged in such a way that women always win the argument.


Letting oneself be loved. Because one of the two loving people is usually the lover, the other the beloved, the belief has arisen that in every love affair the amount of love is constant: the more of it one of the two grabs to himself, the less remains for the other person. Sometimes, exceptionally, it happens that vanity convinces each of the two people that he is the one who has to be loved, so that both want to let themselves be loved: in marriage, especially, this results in some half-droll, half-absurd scenes.


Contradictions in female heads. Because women are so much more personal than objective, their range of ideas can tolerate tendencies that are logically in contradiction with one another; they tend to be enthusiastic about the representatives of these tendencies, one after the other, and accept their systems wholesale; but in such a way that a dead place arises whenever a new personality later gains the upper hand. It could happen that all of the philosophy in the head of an old woman consists of nothing but such dead places.


Who suffers more? After a personal disagreement and quarrel between a woman and a man, the one party suffers most at the thought of having hurt the other; while that other party suffers most at the thought of not having hurt the first enough; for which reason it tries by tears, sobs, and contorted features, to weigh down the other person's heart, even afterwards.


Opportunity for female generosity. Once a man's thoughts have gone beyond the demands of custom, he might consider whether nature and reason do not dictate that he marry several times in succession, so that first, aged twenty-two years, he marry an older girl who is spiritually and morally superior to him and can guide him through the dangers of his twenties (ambition, hatred, selfcontempt, passions of all kinds). This woman's love would later be completely transformed into maternal feeling, and she would not only tolerate it, but promote it in the most salutary way, if the man in his thirties made an alliance with a quite young girl, whose education he himself would take in hand.

For one's twenties, marriage is a necessary institution; for one's thirties, it is useful, but not necessary; for later life, it often becomes harmful and promotes a husband's spiritual regression.


Tragedy of childhood. Not infrequently, noble-minded and ambitious men have to endure their harshest struggle in childhood, perhaps by having to assert their characters against a low-minded father, who is devoted to pretense and mendacity, or by living, like Lord Byron, in continual struggle with a childish and wrathful mother. If one has experienced such struggles, for the rest of his life he will never get over knowing who has been in reality his greatest and most dangerous enemy.


Parents' foolishness. The grossest errors in judging a person are made by his parents; this is a fact, but how is one to explain it? Do the parents have too much experience of the child, and can they no longer compose it into a unity? We notice that travelers in a strange land grasp correctly the common, distinctive traits of a people only in the first period of their stay; the more they get to know a people, the more they forget how to see what is typical and distinctive about it. As soon as they see up close, they stop being farsighted. Might parents judge their child wrongly because they have never stood far enough off from him?

A quite different explanation would be the following: men tend to stop thinking about things that are closest to them, and simply accept them. When parents are required to judge their children, it is perhaps their customary thoughtlessness that makes them judge so mistakenly.


From the future of marriage. Those noble, free-minded women who set themselves the task of educating and elevating the female sex should not overlook one factor: marriage, conceived of in its higher interpretation, the spiritual friendship of two people of opposite sexes, that is, marriage as hoped for by the future, entered into for the purpose of begetting and raising a new generation. Such a marriage, which uses sensuality as if it were only a rare, occasional means for a higher end, probably requires and must be provided with a natural aid: concubinage. For if, for reasons of the man's health, his wife is also to serve for the sole satisfaction of his sexual need, a false point of view, counter to the goals we have indicated, will be decisive in choosing a wife. Posterity becomes a coincidental objective; its successful education, highly improbable. A good wife, who should be friend, helpmate, child-bearer, mother, head of the family, manager, indeed, who perhaps has to run her own business or office separate from her husband, cannot be a concubine at the same time: it would usually be asking too much of her. Thus, the opposite of what happened in Pericles' times in Athens could occur in the future: men, whose wives were not much more than concubines then, turned to Aspasias6 as well, because they desired the delights of a mentally and emotionally liberating sociability, which only the grace and spiritual flexibility of women can provide. All human institutions, like marriage, permit only a moderate degree of practical idealization, failing which, crude measures immediately become necessary.


Women's period of storm and stress. In the three or four civilized European countries, one can in a few centuries educate women to be anything one wants, even men-not in the sexual sense, of course, but certainly in every other sense. At some point, under such an influence, they will have taken on all male virtues and strengths, and of course they will also have to take male weaknesses and vices into the bargain. This much, as I said, one can bring about by force. But how will we endure the intermediate stage it brings with it, which itself can last a few centuries, during which female follies and injustices, their ancient birthright, still claim predominance over everything they will have learned or achieved? This will be the time when anger will constitute the real male emotion, anger over the fact that all the arts and sciences will be overrun and clogged up by shocking dilettantism; bewildering chatter will talk philosophy to death; politics will be more fantastic and partisan than ever; society will be in complete dissolution because women, the preservers of the old custom, will have become ludicrous in their own eyes, and will be intent on standing outside custom in every way. For if women had their greatest power in custom, where will they not have to reach to achieve a similar abundance of power again, after they have given up custom?


Free spirit and marriage. Will free spirits live with women? In general, I believe that, as the true-thinking, truth-speaking men of the present, they must, like the prophetic birds of ancient times, prefer to fly alone.


Happiness of marriage. Everything habitual draws an ever tighter net of spiderwebs around us; then we notice that the fibres have become traps, and that we ourselves are sitting in the middle, like a spider that got caught there and must feed on its own blood. That is why the free spirit hates all habits and rules, everything enduring and definitive; that is why, again and again, he painfully tears apart the net around him, even though he will suffer as a consequence from countless large and small wounds-for he must tear those fibres away from himself, from his body, his soul. He must learn to love where he used to hate, and vice versa. Indeed, nothing may be impossible for him, not even to sow dragons' teeth on the same field where he previously emptied the cornucopias of his kindness.

From this one can judge whether he is cut out for the happiness of marriage.


Too close. If we live in too close proximity to a person, it is as if we kept touching a good etching with our bare fingers; one day we have poor, dirty paper in our hands and nothing more. A human being's soul is likewise worn down by continual touching; at least it finally appears that way to us-we never see its original design and beauty again.

One always loses by all-too-intimate association with women and friends; and sometimes one loses the pearl of his life in the process.


The golden cradle. The free spirit will always breathe a sigh of relief when he has finally decided to shake off the maternal care and protection administered by the women around him. What is the harm in the colder draft of air that they had warded off so anxiously? What does one real disadvantage, loss, accident, illness, debt, or folly more or less in his life matter, compared with the bondage of the golden cradle, the peacock-tail fan, and the oppressive feeling of having to be actually grateful because he is waited upon and spoiled like an infant? That is why the milk offered him by the maternal disposition of the women around him can so easily turn to bile.


Voluntary sacrificial animal. Significant women bring relief to the lives of their husbands, if the latter are famous and great, by nothing so much as by becoming a vessel, so to speak, for other

people's general ill-will and occasional bad humor. Contemporaries tend to overlook their great men's many mistakes and follies, even gross injustices, if only they can find someone whom they may abuse and slaughter as a veritable sacrificial animal to relieve their feelings. Not infrequently a woman finds in herself the ambition to offer herself for this sacrifice, and then the man can of course be very contented-in the case that he is egoist enough to tolerate in his vicinity such a voluntary conductor of lightning, storm, and rain.


Pleasant adversaries. Women's natural inclination to a quiet, regular, happily harmonious existence and society, the oil-like and calming aspect of their influence on the sea of life, automatically works against the heroic inner urgency of the free spirit. Without noticing it, women act as if they were removing the stones from the traveling mineralogist's path so that he will not bump his foot against them-while he has set out precisely in order to bump into them.


Dissonance of two consonants. Women want to serve, and therein lies their happiness; and the free spirit wants not to be served, and therein lies his happiness.


Xanthippe. Socrates found the kind of woman he needed-but not even he would have sought her out had he known her well enough; not even the heroism of this free spirit would have gone that far. In fact, Xanthippe drove him more and more into his strange profession, by making his house and home inhospitable and unhomely; she taught him to live in the back streets, and anywhere where one could chatter and be idle, and in that way formed him into Athens' greatest backstreet dialectician, who finally had to compare himself to a pesky horsefly, set by a god on the neck of the beautiful horse Athens to keep it from coming to rest.7


Blind at a distance. Just as mothers cannot really perceive or see more than the perceptible and visible pains of their children, so wives of very ambitious men cannot bring themselves to see their husbands suffering, in want, and even disdained; while perhaps all this is not only the sign that they have chosen their way of life correctly, but also the guarantee that their goals will have to be attained sooner or later. Women always intrigue secretly against their husband's higher soul; they want to cheat it out of its future for the sake of a painless, comfortable present.


Power and freedom. As greatly as women honor their husbands, they honor the powers and ideas recognized by society even more; for thousands of years they have been used to walking bowed over in front of all forms of rule, with their hands folded on their breast, disapproving of any revolt against public power. That is why, without even intending to, but rather as if out of instinct, they drop themselves like a drag onto the wheels of any freethinking, independent striving, and in some circumstances make their husbands most impatient, especially when the husbands convince themselves that it is love that is really spurring the wives on. To disapprove of women's methods arid generously to honor the motives for these methods: that is man's way, and often enough man's despair.


Ceterum censeo.8 It is ludicrous when a have-not society declares the abolition of inheritance rights, and no less ludicrous when childless people work on the practical laws of a country: they do not have enough ballast in their ship to be able to sail surely into the ocean of the future. But it seems just as nonsensical if a man who has chosen as his task the acquisition of the most general knowledge and the evaluation of the whole of existence weighs himself down with personal considerations of a family, a livelihood, security, respect of his wife and child; he is spreading out over his telescope a thick veil, which scarcely any rays from the distant heavens are able to penetrate. So I, too, come to the tenet that in questions of the highest philosophical kind, all married people are suspect.


Finally. There are many kinds of hemlock, and fate usually finds an opportunity to set a cup of this poison to the lips of the free spirit-to "punish" him, as everyone then says. What do the women around him do then? They will cry and lament and perhaps disturb the thinker's twilight peace, as they did in the prison of Athens. "O Crito, have someone take these women away!" said Socrates at last.9

Next Chapter: A Glance at the State