The way a women sees herself is that of a construct of men. A woman sees herself as a woman because society placed that title. The idea that is primarily generated by males, that a woman must look or act a certain way. In a short video by BBC titled, Feminine Beauty: A social construct? It highlights Simone de Beauvoir that others peoples expectations are what make a women, feminine. Beauvaoir states that “women are expected to strive for beauty,” this causes women to be seen as submissive and makes them seem less than capable of being near men’s standards. This falls into the image of a women and how she must because of history of them being passive. Society sets the rules that all females should be ready for the “male gaze” as mention in the video. They have to meet the expectations of being beautiful all the time and must have a certain figure to say the
Simone de Beauvoir brought about the idea that one is not born a woman, but becomes one. Other thinkers of phenomenology such as Merleau-Ponty frame the body as an historical idea rather than a natural species. In viewing the conception of the body body as different from its physiological form, the social construction of gender can be understood. This social construction is what Judith Butler discusses in her essay: “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution”
She tells the girl to “walk like a lady” (320), “hem a dress when you see the hem coming down”, and “behave in front of boys you don’t know very well” (321), so as not to “become the slut you are so bent on becoming” (320). The repetition of the word “slut” and the multitude of rules that must be obeyed so as not to be perceived as such, indicates that the suppression of sexual desire is a particularly important aspect of being a proper woman in a patriarchal society. The young girl in this poem must deny her sexual desires, a quality intrinsic to human nature, or she will be reprimanded for being a loose woman. These restrictions do not allow her to experience the freedom that her male counterparts
For centuries women have been perceived as overshadowed figures who remain in a separate sphere from men. The term “separate spheres” refers to the distinct, conventional characteristics associated with gender differences. The public sphere of men is associated with commerce whereas the domestic sphere for women is linked with the household. However, there is more than just one perspective on feminism. The feminist view is influenced by three main voices: the French, American, and British. French feminists focus their attention on language; American feminists analyze the literary aspects; and British feminists examine the historical processes (Murfin 296-299). Using these perspectives, we can see the oppression of women conveyed in many different texts throughout literature and in history. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, for instance, exhibits not only a feminist view in the text, but also in society during Shelley’s time period as displayed by her negotiations with the separate spheres. Voltaire’s Candide also conveys powerful gender differences and reveals the oppression of women throughout the novel. Therefore, a correlation can be seen between the view of women in the two novels and how it reflects the culture and time period in which the novels were written.
Historically, power has been manifested hierarchically within the social training of genders. Simone De Beauvoir’s concept of ‘otherness’ has theorized how individuals’ personal manifestations of self are influenced deeply by their social position and the available power to them within these circumstances (2000:145). She remains one of the first to develop a feminist philosophy of women. In her book The Second Sex (1950), Beauvoir provides “a philosophical account of the development of patriarchal society and the condition of women within it” (Oliver, 1997:160). Beauvoir’s fundamental initial analysis begins by asking, “what is woman” and concludes woman is “other” and always defined in relation to man (Beauvoir, 2000:145). “He is the Subject,
There has been a long and on going discourse on the battle of the sexes, and Simone De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex reconfigures the social relation that defines man and women, and how far women has evolved from the second position given to them. In order for us to define what a woman is, we first need to clarify what a man is, for this is said to be the point of derivation (De Beauvoir). And this notion presents to us the concept of duality, which states that women will always be treated as the second sex, the dominated and lacking one. Woman as the sexed being that differs from men, in which they are simply placed in the others category. As men treat their bodies as a concrete connection to the world that they inhabit; women are simply treated as bodies to be objectified and used for pleasure, pleasure that arise from the beauty that the bodies behold. This draws us to form the statement that beauty is a powerful means of objectification that every woman aims to attain in order to consequently attain acceptance and approval from the patriarchal society. The society that set up the vague standard of beauty based on satisfaction of sexual drives. Here, women constantly seek to be the center of attention and inevitably the medium of erection.
In terms of Crawley’s argument of illegitimacy when it comes to the construction and idealizing of gendered norms, which she personally counteracts with butchness, Simone De Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex” (1949) supports the idea that we create what men and women value. Beauvoir looks at gender not as a natural occurrence, but rather the normalization and expectations related to female bodies; women should be feminine and adapt to physical responsibility different from men.
According to “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language”, the word “feminity” is defined as “the quality or condition of being feminine or a characteristic or trait traditionally held to be female.” Further speaking, feminity is formed by various socially-defined and biologically-created gender roles played by women influenced by a number of social and cultural factors. For example, the traditional gender roles of women include nurturer, birth giver, homemaker and caregiver. However, marked by a series of women's rights movements starting from the 19th century, women’s gender roles, as well as the ways how society and men perceive women, have been largely changed. This significant change, described as a process of female awakening, was widely reflected in many contemporary literature works. This essay will specifically focus on the construction of feminity in two short stories, “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway and “The Stoy of an Hour” by Kate Chopin through examining how the authors define “feminity” in their treatment of female characters.
Charlotte Perkin’s Gilman and Simone de Beauvoir is both forward thinking authors who through their writing captured the concept of women being represented within society as a secondary sub species of man. Gilman through her literary work “The Man-Made World: Our Androcentric Culture”, and de Beauvoir in her work “The Second Sex”. Both of these women presented strong arguments that explored the dehumanization of women throughout history, and explored how language and thought processes during their times continued the process of women being viewed as an “other” in reference to men.
In de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, there are many references made to true, verifiable sources. Granted that she makes use of nearly all possible spectrums of existence in terms of beings she chooses to cite, there is an underlying tone of definite truth in her work. She cites these people in packs and lists, using context to categorize her groups. “Some isolated individuals – Sappho [c. 610-c. 580 b.c.], Christine de Pisan [1364-1431], Mary Wollstonecraft [1759-1997], Olympe de Gouges [1748-1793] – have protested against the harshness of their destiny,” (de Beauvoir). “Joan of Arc (1412-1431), Mme Jeanne-Marie Roland (1759-1793), Flora Tristan (1803-1844)…Figures important for their political or revolutionary activity,” (Jacobus: footnote, p 179). In the first case, we see a list of four sure-fire sources, all of whom “protested against the harshness of their destiny.” We find out later in the work that these four people were all authors. In the second case, we see true-life people, all of whom were some how politically involved. De Beauvoir hits us with a rapid-fire bombardment of undeniable truths. When she uses a fictitious character, however, it is usually alone. “The suicide of Lucretia has had value only as a symbol,” (de Beauvoir). Here we see a not-so verifiable citation. It is alone in the text, an island surrounded by a sea of de Beauvoir’s own words. This name is by itself.
The women in both Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness are seemingly presented with traditional feminine qualities of inferiority, weakness and sexual objectification. However, the power that they hold in male-female relationships, and their embodiment of traditional male roles, contests the chauvinistic views of society during Conrad and Hardy’s era. While Conrad presents powerful female characters through their influences over men, the reversal of traditional gender roles is exemplified more by Hardy’s character, Tess, yet both authors present revolutionary ideas of feminism, and enlighten readers to challenge the patriarchal views of society towards women.
Irigaray, Luce. "This Sex Which Is Not One." Feminism: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism. Ed. Robyn R. Warhol and Diane Price Herndle. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1991.
Irigaray, Luce. “That Sex Which is Not One.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford Books, 1998. 1467-1471.