The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

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Simone de Beauvoir, in her 1949 text The Second Sex, examines the problems faced by women in Western society. She argues that women are subjugated, oppressed, and made to be inferior to males – simply by virtue of the fact that they are women. She notes that men define their own world, and women are merely meant to live in it. She sees women as unable to change the world like men can, unable to live their lives freely as men can, and, tragically, mostly unaware of their own oppression. In The Second Sex, de Beauvoir describes the subjugation of woman, defines a method for her liberation, and recommends strategies for this liberation that still have not been implemented today.

De Beauvoir, in attempting to define the subjugation experienced by woman, notes that women lag behind other oppressed groups of her epoch, like Jews and blacks. She argues that women are behind in terms of civil rights mainly because they have not identified that they are indeed being oppressed, despite their lack of social and professional status. De Beauvoir writes that “the epithet of female has the sound of an insult,” (1) meaning that women experience discrimination and social inequity. Further, she asserts that man is responsible for the construction of a world based upon his values, his norms, and his capabilities. She is unsurprised by the fact that woman has achieved comparatively less – in a male-oriented culture, how could anyone possibly expect woman to accomplish as much as man?

This societal commentary transcends legal status. The acquisition of civil rights will not be enough to right the wrongs perpetrated upon woman as a whole, according to de Beauvoir. Liberalism, therefore, is also insufficient to address the problems wom...

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...ated socialism as a method of societal structure based on reciprocity, but our current system of capitalism fosters aggression and competition instead. The quest for material possessions and wealth as signs of power and success leads to endless competition. This runs counter to the induction of reciprocity into our society and therefore means that reciprocal relationships, defined by de Beauvoir as requisite to the emancipation of woman, are not the culturally accepted norm. To truly state that de Beauvoir’s vision has been realized, Western society would need to entirely scrap its capitalist system and redefine itself in terms of community, reciprocity, and sharing. This has definitely not happened yet, and until it does the world will continue to be defined on male terms.

Works Cited

Beauvoir, Simone De. The Second Sex;. New York: Knopf, 1953. Print.
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