Was Nietzsche a misogynist?

The question of whether Friedrich Nietzsche was a misogynist is a matter of interpretation and debate among scholars. Nietzsche’s views on women are complex and can be found across his writings. While some passages and statements appear to express derogatory views about women, it is important to consider the historical context and the nuance of his philosophy.

Nietzsche’s philosophy is characterized by his critique of societal norms and traditional values, including gender roles. He questioned the prevailing notions of femininity and masculinity, seeking to challenge and transcend societal constructs. Nietzsche emphasized the importance of individuality and personal empowerment, encouraging individuals to overcome limitations imposed by society.

Photo of Nietzsche by German portrait painter Gustav-Adolf Schultze, 1882

During his teaching spell at Basel University, he consistently championed programs that treated women as the equal of men. For example, he voted for having women admitted to the university. It is said that he was one of only four members of the faculty to vote in favor of the proposal. In his personal life, he viewed his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche in high regard, encouraging her to be critical of everything she read and develop the ability to think for herself.

Friedrich Nietzsche shared a strong bond with Malwida von Meysenbug, a renowned feminist who actively campaigned for women’s emancipation. The two intellectuals not only had a close relationship but also collaborated on plans to establish a school that would serve as a haven for free thinkers unwilling to conform to conventional views in philosophy and other disciplines. Their shared vision aimed to foster an environment where unconventional ideas could flourish, further highlighting Nietzsche’s support for challenging established norms and promoting intellectual exploration.

Through German writer Malwida von Meysenbug, Nietzche had the pleasure of meeting other feminists, suffragists, and free-thinkers, including Salis-Maschlins and Resa von Schirnhofer. Portrait of Malwida von Meysenbug by Franz von Lenbach

Thanks to his association with Meysenbug, Friedrich Nietzsche had the opportunity to meet and engage with various feminists, suffragists, and free-thinkers. Among them were individuals such as Salis-Maschlins and Resa von Schirnhofer, who shared similar ideals and actively championed progressive causes. These encounters allowed Nietzsche to expand his network and engage in fruitful discussions with like-minded individuals who were passionate about advocating for social change and challenging traditional beliefs.

Friedrich Nietzsche strongly supported educational programs aimed at empowering women. When restrictions on women attending Basel University were eased, he actively encouraged his sister Elisabeth and other female friends to take advantage of the opportunity and attend university lectures. Nietzsche recognized the importance of education as a means of empowerment and was enthusiastic about promoting equal access to knowledge and learning for women.

In a significant milestone for women’s education, Nietzsche’s feminist friend Salis-Marschlins achieved a remarkable feat in 1887 by becoming the first woman to obtain a PhD from a Swiss university. Likewise, another notable achievement was accomplished by Schirnhofer, who earned a PhD in philosophy.

These accomplishments highlight the pioneering efforts of these women in breaking barriers and paving the way for future generations of female scholars. Nietzsche’s association with such accomplished women in a way underscores his support for gender equality and his recognition of the intellectual capabilities of women.

While Friedrich Nietzsche’s works contain passages that exhibit misogynistic language and stereotypes, it is crucial to acknowledge that they were influenced by the prevailing attitudes of his time.

Therefore, it is important to approach Nietzsche’s writings with a nuanced understanding, considering the historical context in which they were produced.

Interpreting his works requires contextualizing them within the broader framework of his philosophy, as Nietzsche’s ideas encompass a wide range of themes beyond gender.

Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche

After Friedrich Nietzsche’s death, his sister Elisabeth took on the responsibility of curating and editing his manuscripts. Unfortunately, she used this position to alter his unfinished writings to fit her own German ultranationalist ideology, which directly opposed Friedrich’s expressed views and beliefs. Image: Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche

Recognizing these complexities allows for a more comprehensive and nuanced examination of Nietzsche’s views on women and avoids oversimplification of his philosophy.

The question of Nietzsche’s stance on women is multifaceted and subject to varying interpretations among scholars. It is essential to approach his writings with careful analysis, taking into account the broader scope of his philosophical ideas.

Drawing conclusions about his views on women requires a comprehensive understanding of his work and the contextual nuances surrounding his writings. By engaging in critical analysis, we can navigate the complexities and avoid oversimplifications when assessing Nietzsche’s perspectives on women.


Ultimately, the question of Nietzsche’s stance on women is a complex one, and opinions on this matter vary among scholars. It is crucial to approach his writings with critical analysis and consider the breadth of his philosophical ideas before drawing conclusions about his views on women.

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