Formulation of Gender in Philosophy


  The difference of sex constitutes the existence of human in both the biological and ontological terms. It is not just about finding the biological compliance of both sexes, but also about understanding through the procedure which through resigning the individual characteristics penetrates to the base constitutive plane of the phenomenon.[1] For centuries, not only in times when philosophy was ruled by the Scripture, but in fact until now, Europe's political power was based on the paternal and patriarchal power. At the theoretical level, the dogma of patriarchal structure was challenged by John Locke. While political power is based on the voluntary association and consent of the subjects, the family relationships are prehistoric and natural, and thus are not part of the civil society. Father has no political power over their children, only a duty to properly educate them, the subordination of women is thus not of political, but of "matrimonial" nature, so it is natural.

  Locke's "natural subordination" of women in marriage was opposed in 1700 by English philosopher Mary Astell in her Some Reflections upon Marriage, Occasion'd by the Duke and Duchess of Mazarine's Case, which is also considered, which rejected the application of double standards: one for the political and another to the private sphere. In the book Serious Proposal to the Ladies, Parts I and II. Wherein a Method is offer'd for the Improvement of their Minds she demanded in 1694 (the second edition was published three years later) establishing Protestant monasteries in which women would engage in religion, education, training and meditation.[2]

  Enlightenment as a consequence of the requirement of individual freedom and autonomy of the subject comes with the claim that men and women are rational beings, are therefore potentially subjects. It thus newly postulated the matter of the relationship between man and woman, which accentuated the idea of "natural" differences between both sexes.[3] Since the late 18th Century, concepts of family were formed reflecting the new circumstances and anchored philosophically its traditional image based on the paradigm of the "public" man, providing the family income and participating in the processes of political decision-making, and the "private" woman working in the sphere of the household.[4] Emil Rousseau identifies the gender differences on the basis of gender hierarchy in the family - the father is in the position of the legislative ruler and his mother is subordinated.
  Philosophical thoughts at the turn of the 18th and 19th Century pose first and foremost the question of the law, the legal anchorage of the relationship between the man and woman, the matter of marriage. We find it with Ficht, Kant as well as Hegel. Kant, following Rousseau's Emile, described later in his Anthropology the female sex with two goals determined by the nature: first, conservation of the species, and second, cultivating the society and its refining through feminity. A crucial role played by Hegel's (Phenomenology of Spirit, 1807; Elements of the Philosophy of Right, 1821, etc.) division of space to the public and domestic, the philosopher sees division as a division of the two "rationalities". The first of them seeking autonomy and directs its activity towards the state, science and work, the other is anchored in passivity and concrete individuality, it is directed towards the family and morality. Both are in a dialectical unity, which can be both harmonious and conflicted. In the being divided between the family and the community, it is just a man who moves between the two spheres. As far as equality or inequality is concerned, a woman may be a daughter, wife, mother, sister; only in this latter position she is equal in the relationship with the man. Both Kant and Hegel believe that the woman is equal to the man, but they both respect Rousseau's hierarchy of sex; hence the subordination of women's sense in favour of the aim that transcends it, hence Kant's conviction of the permanent juvenility of woman.[5]

  Despite the hypothesis that each sex dominates its sector, this model was at first sight asymmetric: while the family pays for the domain of women, according to classical concepts it is lead by her husband as the head of the family; moreover, the woman is excluded from the professional world and politics. While decisions taken in the political and economic fields touch women, they may not participate in the decision-making process themselves – the male head of the family presents the family outwards, the Enlightenment concept of the citizen applies to the man only. A cogent argument for non-participation of women in politics was female "specifics" based on a medical construct: sensibility and certain passivity, typical for a woman, may be allegedly best applied in the sphere of religious and educational. Both of these components organically blend in motherhood where there is the right place for the woman. Hierarchy of gender within the family stood in the relationship between spouses as well as in the relationship between siblings.
  The era of liberal feminism begins with John Stuart Mill, requesting freedom for all people and the resulting full gender equality.[6] Yet at the same time, he assumed that most women will continue on their own taking work in the family, and that, inspired by philanthropy or religion, she will transfer through the woman's sphere through social organizations to the public. Liberal feminism, the feminism of equal rights, raises three basic arguments. First, the belief that the current gender inequality is not determined only biologically, but historically as well: a woman is a product of upbringing and upbringing can be changed, second, that modern politics is related to the issue of electoral law, which belongs to women too and, finally, that the marriage law should be based on gender equality. This concept highlights the importance of power, social status and self-realization in the public sphere; it pays attention to the differences between it and the private sphere. It notes that women are pushed into the private sphere where there are many unpaid tasks: the care of the household, children, meeting social needs. He sees eliminating the problem, however, as a private matter resolvable in the legislation of a free society. Liberal feminism is developing in parallel with social feminism, which articulates its goals through social and political categories. It was inspired by ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Pierre Leroux, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Leroux, originally a typographic worker, then a journalist, philosopher, Saint-Simon's follower, one of the theorists of female emancipation, called for the right to love (he defined it as "a right in its most divine degree),[7] identity and difference between the sexes. Marx in his German Ideology points to the fact that the family is a historical phenomenon, and rejects claims it shall cease to exist; at the same time, he advocates for monogamy and divorce. Paid work is reportedly the first step towards women's autonomy; women's emancipation will therefore be based on economic rather than legal factors. Engels also explained subordinate position of women through their relationship to the means of production. Marxism made the requirement of equality of women one of the requirements of the proletarian movement. Proudhon - like Marx - wants to remove social and economic injustice, but it is the law that he sees as a starting point. Fellowship of men and women, according to Proudhon, is based on the economic dualism, with production on one hand and consumption on the other, and on dualism of the work itself: reproduction (household, consumption, frugality) is an attribute of women while production (workshop, shift) is an attribute of men. Though the basis of the state for Proudhon is not the family, but the workshop, he considers the family a heterogeneous part of the social life - peace prevails here based on "natural" inequality, it is free from conflict and antagonism, and it is based on the recognition of sexual duality. Thus in the epistemological level, is throughout-the-centuries petrified feminine gender disappearing as submissive in relation to the man, in practice by the end of 19th Century one may indeed find it unique to meet economically independent and free women.
  For public opinion, these works remain an indigestible mouthful; ambiguous response is evident for some thinkers. Eugen Düring in his work Der Weg zur höheren Berufsbildung der Frauen in 1877 considered the limitations of femininity to the profession of mother and housewife as the humiliation of women;[8] August Bebel in the work Die Frau und der Sozialismus of 1879 liberates the woman completely: in the new family is important only sexuality.[9] Positive perception of women's identity remained a minority. A part of thinkers warned that it will reverse the current situation where the man is a subject of the philosophical discourse while the woman is its object. Especially in Germany, aspirations of women for equality and concerns about the interchangeability of the sexes raised a negative reaction. Wilhelm Dilthey in 1890 said that the woman must be lead by practical sense while the man by legal sense.[10] Female identity firmly rejected misogynist philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche and Otto Weiniger. Nietzsche, some of whose works were translated into Czech in the early 20th Century, was a decisive opponent of feminism, which he called "masculine imbecility" and "erosion of women's instincts".[11] His views were resolutely refused by Masaryk, with sporadic reactions of the nascent Czech feminism.[12] Also Søren Kierkegaard and Auguste Comte gave the "female" matter quite a few pages.[13] In Kierkegaard's The Seducer's Diary we find a newly drafted gender construct: the woman is not reduced to her reproductive role, she is "a men's dream", "perfection in imperfection" nature, idea. Weiniger came with the discovery of bisexuality, which was later on adopted by Freud.
  In the Czech philosophical thinking, reflection of women's issues remained weak. Bolzano's lecture of 1810 O povolání a důstojnosti pohlaví ženského could not meet with any positive reception in its time – it was indeed confined to a limited audience. It was published in 1881 in Ženské listy;[14] an idea that "for a stable family, the man should be the head, he should consider his wife the first and important helper and friend," as Jesus and the Apostle Paul had ordained,[15] did not sound any radically in 1881 nor seventy years before. Emancipative tendencies in philosophical thinking elicited a rather negative response - Josef Durdík, one of the Czech Herbartists, accentuated the traditional model of womanhood as late as at the turn of the 19th and 20th Century; while he does allow for a possibility of a qualified female profession, he prefers women who are "strong, but again, as gentle and wise, knowing how to impress and satisfy men. [sic!] ".[16]

  A significant impact on the stereotype of women's subordination and intellectual inadequacy was retained by the Catholic Church, maintaining a dominant position in the monarchy through 1855 Concordat enshrined legislatively. In the last decades of the 19th Century, in an already considerably secularized society, this standard was taken over by medical science....
  In our country, social feminism was represented by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk,[17] understanding both the "women's" and "worker's" matter as a matter of social questions. He became acquainted with the women's emancipation endeavour through his wife Charlotte who grew up in the emancipated North American environment.[18] Masaryk refused the period construct of feminity and considered women to be equal to men. He influenced some of his students too: in 1890, a Czech translation of the work by John Stuart Mill The Subjection of Women was published in Prague, at the expenses of the publisher of magazine Časopis českého studentstva, contributed by Charlotte G. Masaryková; the mutual respect and tolerance of the spouses had to make very unusual impression in the Czech environment.[19] Časopis českého studentstva presented "the subjection of women" as a state undignified even to men. The stereotypical perception of women was disturbed by Masaryk's lecturing and publishing of the last decade of the 19th and early 20th Century, Mnohoženství a jednoženství, Moderní názor na ženu, Postavení ženy v rodině a ve veřejném životě and Žena u Ježíše a Pavla. [20]

  Theoretical reflection of the woman as a being equal to the man, though being a wife and mother above all, did not change in a liberal and educated environment until the First World War. For Ellen Keyovou, whose work also appeared in the Czech environment at the very end of the 19th Century, a woman was "culture-penetrated creature", "full revelation of the deepest feminine", a being who "understands the seriousness of scientific work, strict research for truth, free thought and artistic creation." Yet she will "by her whole being desire [...] the happiness of love. [...] Heavy and beautiful art, be both a lover and mother, sacrificing her prominent and greatest force; a religion for her will be to prepare a blissful life ".[21]

  There is no doubt that the first Czechoslovak Republic had created favourable conditions for the development of free scientific research in which the women began to participate. However, neither of the sexes - with rare exceptions – gave the Czech philosophy a truly original thinker, let alone one that would subject the genesis of the women's issue to a careful analysis. Just one of the (few) Czech women-philosophers did so - although only after 1945: in 1948, the first edition of "female" radio lectures by Albin Dratvová was published in book form. Therein, she summarized the genesis of the women's issue in Europe and the Czech lands, characterizing the emancipation as "releasing of women for independent decision-making about themselves", and laid their origins in the French Revolution that may have with its slogans of equality, liberty and fraternity "given only little thought to the release of women: but these slogans certainly inspired many a woman.[22] From our perspective, it is an interesting attempt to create a typology of the "today's" woman, i.e. the woman of the first decades of the 20th Century. Dratvová notes that it is her own settlement with the fashion typology in medicine, particularly in psychiatry. He remembers former female archetypes: they were "auxiliary souls", "queens", "saints", "sinners", "ladies". In all the cases, according to Dratvová, the woman is a keeper of values, being always more emotional than a man and what always prevails with her is her "concreteness, not to say practicality of thought and action.[23] Dratvová's interpretation is primarily an evidence of resignation to a single construct of an all-embracing woman, a single general standard to inspire women's action. However, even for this (unmarried) woman-thinker dealing with a relatively wide range of subjects, from psychoanalysis, through the logic to the problem of causality in physics, the women's emancipation meant a certain threat of family breakdown and subsequent decline in population.[24]

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile ou de l´éducation. Paris 1874.

Bernard Bolzano, O povolání a důstojnosti pohlaví ženského. Ženské listy 1881, s. 141 an.

Albína Dratvová, Duše dnešní ženy. Praha 1947.



[1] Jaroslava PEŠKOVÁ, Role vědomí v dějinách, Praha 1997, p. 116-117.
[2] Bocková: Ženy v evropských dějinách, s. 42-46; for more details about Mary Astell see, downloaded 28. 10. 2008.
[3] Catherine Larrère: Le sexe ou le rang? La condition des femmes selon la philosophie des Lumières. In: Christine FAURÉ (ed..): Encyclopédie politique et historique des femmes.2 P. U. F., Paris 1997, p. 171 an.
[4] Herta NAGL-DOCEKAL: Filozofie rodiny u Rousseaua, Kanta a Hegela - klíč k pochopení dnešních životních forem. In: Hana Havelková (ed.): Existuje středoevropský model manželství a rodiny? Praha 1995, p. 9 an.
[5] Aleš PRÁZNÝ, K Nietzschově pojetí ženy. In: Kateřina ČADKOVÁ, Milena LENDEROVÁ, Jana STRÁNÍKOVÁ (ed.): Dějiny žen aneb Evropská žena od středověku do 20. století v zajetí historiografie. Proceedings of the 4th Pardubice Biennale, Pardubice 2006,s. 419.
[6] In 1866, he submitted to the Parliament a proposal to legalise women's suffrage, in 1869 The Subjection of Women was published.
[7] Geneviève Fraisse, Les femmes et leur histoire. Paris 1998, p. 110.
[8] PRÁZNÝ, K Nietzschově pojetí ženy, p. 419.
[9] FRAISSE, Les femmes et leur histoire, s. 110, 263; Georges DUBY, Michelle PERROT Histoire des femmes en Occident, IV. , Le XIXe siècle, Paris 1991, pp. 160 – 161, 486.
[10] PRÁZNÝ, K Nietzschově pojetí ženy, p. 419.
[11] Ibid, p. 423-424.
[12] For instance, Juliana LANCOVÁ, Nietzsche a ženy. Volná úvaha. Ženský obzor 7, 1907 – 1908, p. 5, 34 – 36. Cf. Urs HEFTRICH, Nietzsche v Čechách. Praha 1999, pp. 19, 31.
[13] Fraisse: Les femmes et leur histoire, p. 80.
10 Bernard Bolzano, O povolání a důstojnosti pohlaví ženského. Ženské listy, No. 9 - 9, 1. 9. 1881, pp. 141 – 144; 1. 10. 1881, pp. 157 – 160.
[15] Bolzano, O povolání a důstojnosti pohlaví ženského, p. 143, 157.
[16] "But look at their lives: a single continuous band of work as if that slender body was made of steel, unweariness and joyful resignation, anywhere where the welfare of family is concerned, sacrifice, mind soft and yet so much power in their endeavours! They are the heroines of the maternal love that have preserved us here."Josef Durdík, Karakter. Prague 19054, p. 48. The first edition of the publication dates back from 1872.
[17] Jana BUREŠOVÁ, T. G. Masaryk a emancipace žen. In: T. G. Masaryk, idea demokracie a současné evropanství, Part I, Praha, 2001, pp. 261-274. Ibid, Vztah Charlotty a Tomáše Garrigue Masarykových k ženským spolkům. In: Marie Neudorflová (ed.), Charlotta G. Masaryková, Praha, 2001, pp. 139-152.
[18] Masaryk své ženě. In: Věstník sokolské župy moravskoslezské, 1933, No. 5, p. 100; Karel ČAPEK, Hovory s T. G. Masarykem. Praha 19462, pp. 111-114.
[19] According to Jarmila Čapková's memories, Charlotte Masaryková was "a good and necessary wife to her husband, it was because he remembered her needs as those of a human of talent ..." Jarmila ČAPKOVÁ, Vzpomínky, Praha 1998, p. 242.
[20] T. G. MASARYK, Mnohoženství a jednoženství. Přednáška pořádaná spolkem Domovina dne 7. března 1899, Praha 1899; T. G. MASARYK, Moderní názor na ženu. Otisk přednášky z roku 1904. Brno 1930 aj.
[21] Ellen KEYOVÁ, Žena dvacátého století. Transl. Ad. L. Krejčík. Rozhledy 7, no. 19; 1. 7. 1898, pp. 888 – 890, herein p. 889.
[22] DRATVOVÁ: Duše dnešní ženy, p. 16.
[23] DRATVOVÁ: Duše dnešní ženy, p. 13.
[24] DRATVOVÁ: Duše dnešní ženy, p. 18, 74.