What does female spirit mean

The mind becomes increasingly feminine

The statistics on the number of students show that the humanities and other subjects are becoming more and more feminine. The downfall of "male culture" seems unstoppable. By Manfred Schneider, literary scholar

What gender is the spirit? The answer to this question may first be sought from the grammarians. The spirit that, according to the world creation story of Genesis, floated over the waters and breathed into all living things, is called "ruach" in Hebrew and grammatically belongs to the female sex. The corresponding word in ancient and modern Greek is “pneuma” and is neuter, while the history of European language otherwise uses the Latin “spiritus” with its many descendants (“spirito”, “esprit”, “spirit” etc.) and the Germanic “spirit” »(A brother of the English« ghost ») male thought.

If the observation changes from the grammatical to the natural sexes, it becomes clear that the spirit that carries the humanities of our time has long since become feminine. The majority of the students there are female, the majority of the teachers and soon also the professors are female. This also applies to the spiritual world of law. More and more female lawyers are moving into the law firms as well as the judicial and academic offices. Does this observation have any more than political and statistical significance?

Nature has not arranged the human world everywhere according to the principles of justice, but it does ensure that about the same number of boys and girls are born. When, at the beginning of population statistics in the 18th century, a few boys were counted more than girls, this was interpreted as a trait of Providence: Because wars always melt away a bit of the men, the balance in the end balances out again.

Today nobody believes in a providence of nature, and we have learned that there is not only a natural but also a cultural gender. Indeed, women have long been denied access to male-dominated jobs by ascribing “female” gender characteristics.

So it seems that the modern age is being taught cultural justice in that the natural principle of distribution now applies to all male domains, and that even the former relationship is reversed and women dominate. Who wants to object to it politically?

But questions arise. Does the mind change with the new dominance of women? Probably sciences such as mathematics or mechanical engineering are gender-neutral, while in the disciplines of art, law or philosophy, women also have a different spirit. Can you describe this change without using gender stereotypes? Indeed, myths and platitudes are very slowly emerging from the debate on this subject, so that anyone who speaks is under suspicion.

It is only too well known that spirit, “spirit”, “pneuma” not only carry the meaning of breath, breath, wind, but were also kneaded as religious, philosophical and medial terms in thousands of writings of the Church Fathers and Philosophers. Certainly the great thinker Hegel gave the philosophy of spirit its intellectually highest expression. In his Phenomenology of Spirit from 1806, for example, there is nothing about a natural or cultural gender of the spirit, but Hegel thought that the principle of development and progress is division. Only this division of the spirit leads to the separation of the world into female and male domains. That was in 1806.

But with these key words of division, dialectic, and conflict, elementary moments of development and dynamics are named, which - certainly clichéd - could rather be considered masculine. Of course, nobody in the universities and courts wants the old cock fights back, and it worries even less that today no scientist is dueling his opponent anymore, as sometimes happened in the 19th century.

But there is no longer any trace of the old agonal passions and affects in the humanities. Hardly any professor still believes that a spark of his or her own activity could spill over to the salvation of the world; at most to the salvation of third-party funding quotas, where the decision of “approved” and “not approved” has meanwhile replaced the distinction between “true” and “false”. Only if one believes that the spirit blows as a mild breeze does the humanities rightly bear their name.

Nobody there gives the impression that something is at stake. A potpourri of pop, gender, media and theoretical skirmishes is currently setting the agenda in cultural studies, and if you look at the philosophical seminars, the former administrators of the logo are sitting there on the lap of neuroscientists, hoping to translate philosophical terms such as spirit and consciousness in neuro-speech to be able to lick the bulging pots of money of the brain researchers.

One gets the impression that our world, which is in flames in many corners and threatened, does not affect the spirit of the humanities. It is not the spirit that is driven out of the humanities, as Friedrich Kittler said decades ago, but the agonal, namely the sense that something is at stake in these sciences too.

What does that mean? It may explain the unease and the indisputable fact that men do not aspire to female-dominated occupations. They avoid kindergartens, elementary schools and increasingly also high schools or clinics, not because they do not like children or even women, but because they are less able to develop their hard-earned behavior towards cultivated arguments, but also because they are less able to balance things out. The downfall of "male culture" seems unstoppable. She will not be saved by Unesco. Thus, according to Freud, there is an uneasiness of the masculine spirit in culture.

Prof. Dr. Manfred Schneider teaches German literature at the Ruhr University in Bochum. In 2013, Matthes & Seitz published his book “Transparency Dream”.