The Role of Women in Society According to Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Camus, and Leo Tolstoy
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I am beautiful and mysterious. I take joy in the simple pleasures of life. I have no desires higher than appearance and beauty. I am intelligent, but there is no need for me to show my intellect. In fact, showing my intellect would ruin me; it would diminish my sexual desires and defy my beauty. My intelligence would destroy my desirability. I am filled with fear. It is this fear that defines my womanhood; this fear helps me fulfill my womanly role. The darkest parts of my being are kept in check by my fear. If I were to conquer this fear, I would lose the dearest parts of myself. I would no longer chase away worries, lighten burdens, or find joy and grace in day-to-day living. I am passionate and wild. My passions are stirred by love and hate. When love or hatred is stirred up inside of me, I am moved to action. I become fierce and strong, even more barbarous than men. These passions ignite in me that which is sometimes beautiful and sometimes ugly. I can love like no other; I can take revenge like no other. I am seductive. My greatest art is the lie, and I use that art to deceive men. I have the power to make them love me. I hide my intellect, my ugliness, my quest for truth, all in order to deceive the opposite sex. My greatest enemies, however, can be found within my own gender. Watch how I interact with the other members of my fair sex. I ridicule them; I pick at their desires; I detect their faults and detest their beauty. I have a personal contempt for women. I am living proof that woman is most despised by herself. I am dissatisfied with my secondary role. I resent the fact that I am inferior to men. I have in me a fear of them, yet slowly society is trying to drain me of that fear. I long for self-reliance. As a result, I no longer desire the role that used to satisfy me. Not only am I intensely dissatisfied with my role, but I despise what it has done to me. Society has filled me with a dissatisfaction that I desperately want to do something about. Instead, I find myself falling into the stereotypes the world has created for me.
I am either “schoolmarmish” or superficial. I am either filled with licentiousness and immodesty, or I am intellectual and sexually-repressed. I live up to the extremes society has created. I am never a combination. I am an “either” or an “or.” I am a possession of man. There is no equality present between the two of us. The biggest cause of tension between a woman and a man is the claim of equality. Men are scared that I might one day discover some aspect of equality, so they treat me as a bird they cannot let fly away. I feel trapped. I am confused. I do not know which role I am supposed to fill. I do not know whether to be fearful, or to unlearn my fear. I am retrogressing; slowly, I am degenerating. Society has confused me; man has tried to tame me; and other women hate me. I am Nietzsche’s woman. (Nietzsche 82-88, 162-170)
I am beautiful and mysterious. I take joy in the simple pleasures of life, yet I believe true joy and happiness can only be found in loving a man. A man does not have to make much effort to bring me happiness; I am satisfied simply by his being present in my life. I am attracted to what most would call the “wrong kind of man.” I flaunt my sexuality in front of him; I long to be with him. For some reason, I think I can make the “wrong kind of man” the “right kind of man.” I, like Bonaparte, have always believed that I might be able to succeed where others have constantly failed. I have learned that intellect will not achieve much with the opposite sex. I hide my intellect, but allow my outward beauty to show. My appearances will win men over; my intellect will cause them to run away. I enjoy being the center of attention. I will ultimately give myself to the man who wants me, but first I long to be wooed. I want conversation and flattery. As a result, men find it easy to deceive me into bed. I will do whatever it takes to make a man love me even more. I am desperate, and I am passionate. The idea of true love confuses me. I no longer know what it is that men desire; I have changed myself to play the game. I am Camus’ woman. (Camus 56-68)
I am beautiful and mysterious. I take joy in the simple pleasures of life. I delight in day-to-day living. I am happy when everyone else is happy. I cannot understand why others love me, but I am grateful for their love. Like men, I long for adventure. I am willing to complete almost any task if it means I am helping a friend. I am stubborn; I do not always listen to instruction. I am lively and gracious. I love passionately. I understand that love is not always poetic and romantic, but I have the capacity to love deeply despite that fact. I have a powerful imagination, but I welcome reality. I love my husband intensely; I cannot bear to see his pain. I can discover the good in anyone. I am optimistic in nature, so of course I bring joy to a monotonous existence. I am imperfect. I make mistakes. I make sacrifices for those that I love, and I do not think twice about making such sacrifices. I find the greatest happiness and the most fulfillment when I love. Loving is what I do best. I take joy in my children. I play a vital and active role in my home. I decorate my home with grace and good taste; I complete my housework with vigor. I hide my hurts and my pains. I do not want to bring trouble to the lives of others, so I suffer in silence and agony. I am smart, but I am also impetuous. When I get an idea for a task in my head, I want to complete it. I am determined and strong. I am confused, not by my role, but by how I fulfill my role. By all outward appearances, I am happy. Yet my truest joy lies in my husband and my children. When they are gone, I have nothing. I feel empty, and so I am confused. I am Tolstoy’s woman. (Tolstoy 123-150)
I am beautiful and mysterious. I take joy in the simple pleasures of life. I am trustworthy. I fulfill people’s needs. My ultimate aim is good; I do not wish harm on those around me. I work diligently with my hands; I have no problem completing hard tasks. I complete my many tasks with energy. I am not lazy. I get up early to take care of others; I am selfless. I am wise with my time and with my money. I am resourceful and respected. I am confident in myself. Like other women, I enjoy the beauty in life; I myself long to be beautiful. While I want to be attractive, I realize what is truly important, and I focus on my inner beauty first. I advise others when I am asked to do so. I talk with my husband, and I share in his burdens. I love my children and teach them. I watch over them and make sure they are taken care of. I do not worry; instead, I comfort. I do not discourage; instead, I encourage. I do not dread the inevitable; instead, I look forward to my future with joy. I respect my husband and the unique role he plays in society. More importantly, I recognize that women have a clearly defined role to fill. I am not confused about my womanhood; my femininity is secure. My truest joy comes from being what I am and what I was made to be—God’s woman. (Prov. 31:1-31 NCV)