by Arthur Schopenhauer
In his chapter “On Women” of the very brilliant collection published in English as Essays and Aphorisms, Schopenhauer wrote the most insightful thoughts about women I have ever read, of which I’ll quote some sentences (no ellipsis added between excerpts):
Women are suited to being the nurses and teachers of our earliest childhood precisely because they themselves are childish, silly and short-sighted, in a word big children, their whole lives long: a kind of intermediate stage between the child and the man, who is the actual human being, “man”.
In the girl nature has had in view what could in theatrical terms be called a stage-effect: it has provided her with superabundant beauty and charm for a few years at the expense of the whole remainder of her life, so that during these years she may so capture the imagination of a man that he is carried away into undertaking to support her honorably in some form or another for the rest of his life, a step he would seem hardly likely to take for purely rational considerations. Thus nature has equipped women, as it has all its creatures, with the tools and weapons she needs for securing her existence, and at just the time she needs them; in doing which nature has acted with its usual economy.
The nobler and more perfect a thing is, the later and more slowly does it mature. The man attains the maturity of his reasoning powers and spiritual faculties hardly before his twenty-eight year; the woman with her eighteenth. And even then it is only reasoning power of a sort: a very limited sort. Thus women never see anything but what is closest to them. To consult women when you are in difficulties, as the ancient Teutons did, is by no means a bad idea: for their way of looking at things is quite different from ours, especially in their propensity for keeping in view the shortest road to a desired goal and in general what lies closest to hand, which we usually overlook precisely because it is right in front of our noses.
It is for this reason too that women display more pity, and consequently more philanthropy and sympathy with the unfortunate, than men do. Thus, while they possess the first and chief virtue [compassion], they are deficient in the secondary one [reason] which is often necessary for achieving the first.
Fundamentally, women exist solely for the propagation of the race. Men are by nature indifferent to one another; but women are by nature enemies. Because in our case a hundred different considerations are involved, while in theirs only one is decisive, namely which man they have succeeded in attracting. Another reason may be that, because they are all in the same profession, they all stand much closer to one another than men do.
Man strives for a direct domination over things, either by comprehending or by subduing them. But women is everywhere and always relegated to a merely indirect domination, which is achieved by means of man, who is consequently the only thing she has to dominate directly. Thus it lies in the nature of women to regard everything simply as a means of capturing a man, and their interest in anything else is only simulated, is no more than a detour, i.e., amounts to coquetry and mimicry.
Nor can one expect anything else from women if one considers that the most eminent heads of the entire sex have provided incapable of a single truly great, genuine and original achievement in art, or indeed of creating anything at all of lasting value. What there ought to be is housewives and girls who hope to become housewives and who are therefore educated, not in arrogant haughtiness, but in domesticity and submissiveness.