De beauvoir and the second sex. 'It changed my life!'.



De beauvoir and the second sex

De beauvoir and the second sex

Her book The Second Sex radically challenged political and existential theory, but its most enduring impact is on how women understand themselves, their relationships, their place in society, and the construction of gender. This requires people to achieve freedom, yet our temptation is to actually shy away from the responsibilities of our freedom, even to the point of wanting to be more like an object than a human being.

Members of oppressed groups have an even more difficult time of achieving freedom. Their oppression limits their ability to act: Their destiny may even be shaped by the appearance that oppression is natural.

De Beauvoir discusses many forms of oppression, including that of the working class by the bourgeoisie, that of blacks by whites, and the oppression of Jews, but it is the oppression of women which concerns her in The Second Sex. Women are oppressed as women, but separated from each other, and often have more in common with men of their social class than they do with other women from different classes. Are females biologically inferior to males? Do women follow the path of subservience described by psychoanalysis?

Is it a consequence of their role as mothers or potential mothers? After examining and rejecting purely biological, psychoanalytic and economic explanations, de Beauvoir turns to ontology. Girls growing up are taught by society how to be as women, ie, passive and object-like. A woman is a free being mystified into believing she is confined to particular roles, thus limiting freedom. Using existentialist language, de Beauvoir says that woman has been defined as Other.

Immanence is stagnation within a situation, while transcendence is reaching out into the future, through projects that open up freedom. We are all embodied consciousnesses: This happens in every case of oppression. De Beauvoir refers to the start of the menstrual flow as a reminder to a girl of her immanence. Menstruation is a monthly reminder of her attachment to the body as servant to the species via reproduction.

They are subject to the vicissitudes of their bodies in a way that men are not. The One is the standard, the norm. Any deviation from the standard marks you out as Other. It is important to note that the Self needs the Other for its identity. The Self is the Self in relation to that which is Other. Conversely, the Other gets its identity from the Self: In part it is the recognition of this relationship which compels the Self to maintain the oppression of the Other.

In addition, man sees in woman that which he lacks, and he desires it. Thus he must subordinate her to possess that which he lacks via control or domination. But the Other also poses a sort of existentialist threat to the Self, because the Other is a living example of what could happen to the One.

It is important to remember here that de Beauvoir does not think that women are the only oppressed social group. Blacks are oppressed in relation to whites, and the poor are oppressed in relation to the rich. Here whites and the rich become the norm and blacks and the poor deviate from the norm and become the subordinate Other.

But in addition to the fact that women have always been oppressed there is another important difference between the oppression of women and oppression based on class or race. Women are complicit in their own oppression. In existentialist terms, women internalize the male gaze, and with it the expectations of the gender.

In other words, they become just what they are expected to become: It begins the second half, wherein de Beauvoir redescribes the life of women from birth to adulthood. This is especially revealing when read alongside her account of existentialist ethics in The Ethics of Ambiguity.

De Beauvoir first takes us through childhood, commenting on such things as the dolls girls play with which prepare them for their future role, into adolescence, where girls realize both that they are free and that their oppression sets up a situation where acting on that freedom is nearly impossible.

According to de Beauvoir, all women believe they ought to try to play the feminine role. The prostitute is the absolute Other, ie the object. She is also, however, the exploiter. She is a prostitute for both money and for the recognition of her Otherness she receives from the men. As you might guess, this analysis met with no small amount of criticism from a variety of camps.

The narcissist is similarly unable to be a subject, that is, unable to freely pursue projects and goals for herself. She turns instead to her Otherness, and becomes an object for herself.

The mystic tries to lose herself in God, to become identified in God. She seeks to be possessed rather than seek freedom. As an existentialist, de Beauvoir denied there was any essence of woman: Her identity is socially constructed. In other words, society keeps women blocked from freedom or transcendence. Therefore liberation is both an individual and a social transformation. Woman must see herself, like man, as subject and not object. She must embrace her freedom, and embrace projects which further disclose freedom.

But women must also recognize themselves as a social group. Women must recognize their unity in their shared circumstances of oppression. Failing this assists in maintaining oppression. Three strategies de Beauvoir suggests to aid women in their path to transcendence and subjectivity are: By describing in vivid detail the countless ways women experience the limitations of femininity, she opened the way for women all over the world to recognize the social and political import of their personal experiences.

Sally J Scholz Sally J. Scholz is Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University. Her publications include On de Beauvoir Wadsworth, She co-edited The Contradictions of Freedom:

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What is Woman? (de Beauvoir + Metroid) – 8-Bit Philosophy



De beauvoir and the second sex

Her book The Second Sex radically challenged political and existential theory, but its most enduring impact is on how women understand themselves, their relationships, their place in society, and the construction of gender. This requires people to achieve freedom, yet our temptation is to actually shy away from the responsibilities of our freedom, even to the point of wanting to be more like an object than a human being. Members of oppressed groups have an even more difficult time of achieving freedom.

Their oppression limits their ability to act: Their destiny may even be shaped by the appearance that oppression is natural.

De Beauvoir discusses many forms of oppression, including that of the working class by the bourgeoisie, that of blacks by whites, and the oppression of Jews, but it is the oppression of women which concerns her in The Second Sex. Women are oppressed as women, but separated from each other, and often have more in common with men of their social class than they do with other women from different classes.

Are females biologically inferior to males? Do women follow the path of subservience described by psychoanalysis? Is it a consequence of their role as mothers or potential mothers? After examining and rejecting purely biological, psychoanalytic and economic explanations, de Beauvoir turns to ontology. Girls growing up are taught by society how to be as women, ie, passive and object-like.

A woman is a free being mystified into believing she is confined to particular roles, thus limiting freedom. Using existentialist language, de Beauvoir says that woman has been defined as Other. Immanence is stagnation within a situation, while transcendence is reaching out into the future, through projects that open up freedom.

We are all embodied consciousnesses: This happens in every case of oppression. De Beauvoir refers to the start of the menstrual flow as a reminder to a girl of her immanence. Menstruation is a monthly reminder of her attachment to the body as servant to the species via reproduction. They are subject to the vicissitudes of their bodies in a way that men are not.

The One is the standard, the norm. Any deviation from the standard marks you out as Other. It is important to note that the Self needs the Other for its identity. The Self is the Self in relation to that which is Other. Conversely, the Other gets its identity from the Self: In part it is the recognition of this relationship which compels the Self to maintain the oppression of the Other.

In addition, man sees in woman that which he lacks, and he desires it. Thus he must subordinate her to possess that which he lacks via control or domination. But the Other also poses a sort of existentialist threat to the Self, because the Other is a living example of what could happen to the One.

It is important to remember here that de Beauvoir does not think that women are the only oppressed social group.

Blacks are oppressed in relation to whites, and the poor are oppressed in relation to the rich. Here whites and the rich become the norm and blacks and the poor deviate from the norm and become the subordinate Other.

But in addition to the fact that women have always been oppressed there is another important difference between the oppression of women and oppression based on class or race. Women are complicit in their own oppression. In existentialist terms, women internalize the male gaze, and with it the expectations of the gender.

In other words, they become just what they are expected to become: It begins the second half, wherein de Beauvoir redescribes the life of women from birth to adulthood. This is especially revealing when read alongside her account of existentialist ethics in The Ethics of Ambiguity. De Beauvoir first takes us through childhood, commenting on such things as the dolls girls play with which prepare them for their future role, into adolescence, where girls realize both that they are free and that their oppression sets up a situation where acting on that freedom is nearly impossible.

According to de Beauvoir, all women believe they ought to try to play the feminine role. The prostitute is the absolute Other, ie the object. She is also, however, the exploiter. She is a prostitute for both money and for the recognition of her Otherness she receives from the men.

As you might guess, this analysis met with no small amount of criticism from a variety of camps. The narcissist is similarly unable to be a subject, that is, unable to freely pursue projects and goals for herself.

She turns instead to her Otherness, and becomes an object for herself. The mystic tries to lose herself in God, to become identified in God. She seeks to be possessed rather than seek freedom. As an existentialist, de Beauvoir denied there was any essence of woman: Her identity is socially constructed. In other words, society keeps women blocked from freedom or transcendence. Therefore liberation is both an individual and a social transformation.

Woman must see herself, like man, as subject and not object. She must embrace her freedom, and embrace projects which further disclose freedom. But women must also recognize themselves as a social group. Women must recognize their unity in their shared circumstances of oppression.

Failing this assists in maintaining oppression. Three strategies de Beauvoir suggests to aid women in their path to transcendence and subjectivity are: By describing in vivid detail the countless ways women experience the limitations of femininity, she opened the way for women all over the world to recognize the social and political import of their personal experiences.

Sally J Scholz Sally J. Scholz is Professor of Philosophy at Villanova University. Her publications include On de Beauvoir Wadsworth, She co-edited The Contradictions of Freedom:

De beauvoir and the second sex

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2 Comments

  1. She is also, however, the exploiter. When he is in a co-operative and benevolent relation with woman, his theme is the principle of abstract equality, and he does not base his attitude upon such inequality as may exist. Her parents sent her to the kind of Catholic girls' school that elite students used to joke about, as places "where one only goes to class once a week, and where the chorus of mothers and governesses at the back of the class whispers the right reply to the dear child".

  2. This occurred years after the US declared independence, years after the US was recognized as independent, and years after the Constitution itself was ratified. She decided to write about herself.

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