The Second Sex By Simone De Beauvoir Summary

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The basis of women’s oppression has been through sex. After being assigned female at birth, most will spend the rest of their lives socialized as girls, eventually as women. A woman is confined by her sex while a man is liberated through his. In Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex”, she argues that the subjugation of women is socially conditioned as opposed to something innate to the female sex. Instigated by men who throughout history have positioned themselves as neutral observers to the world around them, women have been relegated to the role of the “Other”. Their position as the “Other” leaves women in some sort of bizarre space where their experiences are defined by and in relation to men. This brings us to Naomi Weisstein’s “Kinder, Küche, Kirche as Scientific Law: Psychology Constructs the Female”, in which she outlines how the nature of women has been defined in psychology through the socially constructed ideas of what a woman should be. Both of these works bring to light how “woman” has been defined and the prejudices innate to such a definition that makes her experience a by-product of man’s. De Beauvoir writes, “… in speaking of certain women, connoisseurs declare that they are not women, although they are equipped with a uterus like the rest” (Schneir, 6). Being female is not the only requirement for being a woman. “Woman” is socially defined; there are certain behaviors and actions relegated to the role of a woman that we are encouraged to learn and perform to a certain degree. Femininity is the defining characteristic of a woman. What a man is not, a woman is. To be masculine is to be forceful and brash, moving without fear of consequence. Femininity is posited as the lack of these traits; submissive, always acted ... ... middle of paper ... ...ey are and what they are supposed to do” (Schneir 224). Before we can begin to understand the true nature of women, we must take into account the roles forced on them and for what purpose. What other benefit is there to portray women as neurotic other than to make them dependent on someone else? To strip women of their autonomy is to force them into the exact roles created by men in the first place. Both de Beauvoir and Weisstein assert that “woman” has been, and continues to be, defined by man. De Beauvoir asserts this through sex, that being female is the first strike followed by the imposition of the role as woman, conveniently framed as the antithesis to man. Weisstein takes this constructed image of the woman and criticizes psychology’s attempt to posit it woman’s true nature, as opposed to attempts to merely confirm what has been suspected by men all along.
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