The Joy of Suffering: Nietzsche, theodicy and women's

  • L Brown


I use Nietzsche's work on theodicy to explore gendered valuation systems around women's bodies. The notion of theodicy provides a different entry point to questions of ideology, as it begins with an account of people's attempts to find meaning in their lives. Nietzsche traced humans' propensity to look for and create stories that give meaning to their lives, even when this meaning is one that may ultimately oppress them or celebrate something negative, such as suffering. For him it is not the suffering that torments humans, but rather its meaninglessness. In the slums of Northeast Brazil, Afro-Brazilian women invest in the Christian glorification of suffering in a context where they experience their bodies in terms of loss, shame and alienation. I explore how, through a process of creative deception, this suffering comes to be experienced as pleasure. That is, the women reconstruct their bodies using two dominant stories to which they have access: Christianity and glamorous Brazilian soap operas.

South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 26 (1) 2007: pp. 31-43

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eISSN: 0258-0136