“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
Underneath, you can read a quote from Nietzsche about morals. He was an atheist and as such. Nietzsche didn’t believe that the moral rules we should follow came from a God-like figure. Nietzsche almost always approaches his subject from different directions, making it difficult for the casual reader to understand where he is going. Whenever I read Nietzsche in English, I will read one of the more modern translations, but if I quote him a lot, I will fall back on the earlier translations because they are copyright-free. It is always fun to see what the different translater make of the original text. I cannot be the arbiter because my German is not that good, especially compared to scholars that have studied German and philosophy.
The first sentence: One becomes Moral—but not because one is moral! One way you could read this is, and he elaborates on this more in this aphorism, is that you obey a set of rules because you will get a reward later, like an entrance to heaven or acceptance by the community. You start to act morally but not because you chose to do it out of yourself. Like I said before, in the rest of the aphorism, he gives some causes.
This is the original text:
“97. One becomes Moral—but not because one is moral! Submission to morals may be due to slavishness or vanity, egoism or resignation, dismal fanaticism or thoughtlessness. It may, again, be an act of despair, such as submission to the authority of a ruler; but there is nothing moral about it per se.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Morgenrote/Daybreak translation 1911
The other two texts are underneath the post.
This blog post was not meant to be about morals or Nietzsche but the origin of the man or woman in us. I had the idea to look for one of Nietzsches shorter quotes (just because I have all his books as ebooks on my computer) and change some of the words with man or woman. It was meant to be as a fun exercise and curiosity for the result.
This is the altered text: One becomes a man—but not because one is a man! Submission to manliness may be due to slavishness or vanity, egoism or resignation, dismal fanaticism or thoughtlessness. It may, again, be an act of despair, such as submission to the authority of a ruler; but there is nothing manly about it per se.
In this alternate text, the first sentence makes sense if you believe, like I do, that much of being a man or woman is a construct, a blueprint or mold. We are put in this mold because our bodies show clear signs of gender; you automatically get treated a certain way depending on your gender. But besides the typical characteristics of the female and male body, you will find that men and women are more alike than you might think, but that is another story. To stick with the first line of that alternet quote: One becomes a man—but not because one is a man! Being a man in my culture means something else than in your culture or a culture from 10 000 years ago. So you might be born with the body of a man or woman, but what you become is determined by the place and time you were born.
In other cultures, you will still be called a man or a woman, but what you do and how you act and behave can be radically different from the culture next door. Most people think of a man, especially when they lived thousands of years ago, as the rough and tough warrior that brings home the meat. His woman would care for the children and maybe forages in the woods for some scraps. So this is one way of looking at the two roles, but there were, and are, societies or tribes where the woman hunts while carrying a newborn, and the man takes care of the household. That the traditional role is more prevalent comes mainly because women get pregnant and are out of commission for a while, so to say. When agriculture became the main source of food, one person could feed a family, which led to more pregnancies, and the typical roles we still see most were sealed. That most societies these days have these traditional roles is hard to deny, but that doesn’t mean that it is a rule or law, something that is unavoidable.
You can find many books about the roles men and women have played through the ages. If you are interested, I would recommend a book that is not too old because we humans and scientists are also humans, tend to interpret an ancient society in a way that looks suspiciously like their own.
While writing, I realize that the time I have to write is not enough to go into detail and find all the sources I have read in the past so I can give accurate quotes and sources. I have to keep it relatively short because of time, but I also write this blog post for myself as some sort of note that I can use later, when I have the time, as a basis for a more elaborate story about gender, in this case. Why do I write about gender now? There are several reasons but what happened in Afghanistan is the main reason. Can you imagine being a woman with relative freedoms, an education, career, and suddenly some man takes over, and they send you straight back to the kitchen, all because they take the role they play too seriously. I just want the world to know that the fact that you act like a man or woman for your whole life doesn’t mean that you should take that role seriously. It might be true that we have played these roles for thousands of years now, but it is still a play born out of circumstances. It will be hard to shake off these traditional roles, but we, humanity, have done it before, and we still do with many other perceived truths.
“A gender line… helps to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage.” Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“Class, race, sexuality, gender and all other categories by which we categorize and dismiss each other need to be excavated from the inside.” Dorothy Allison
“Different though the sexes are, they inter-mix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above.” Virginia Woolf
“97. To become moral is not in itself moral. – Subjection to morality can be slavish or vain or self-interested or resigned or gloomily enthusiastic or an act of despair, like subjection to a prince: in itself it is nothing moral. translation R.JHollingdale 1997
“97. Man wird moralisch, — nicht weil man moralisch ist! — Die Unterwerfung unter die Moral kann sclavenhaft oder eitel oder eigennützig oder resignirt oder dumpf-schwärmerisch oder gedankenlos oder ein Act der Verzweiflung sein, wie die Unterwerfung unter einen Fürsten: an sich ist sie nichts Moralisches.” Nietzsche was German so this is the original text from 1881.