Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1st pub. Tue May14, 2002; Substantive revision Fri Aug 9, 2013
(6) Simone deBeauvoir, The Second Sex, translated by H.M. Parshley (New York: Random House, 1972) p. xxx
...s and actions had on societies across the world remains undeniably recognizable today. Perhaps the power of her life's work flows from the fact that she lived what she believed and proclaimed. As writer Alice Schwarzer wrote, "In the darkness of the Fifties and Sixties, before new women's movement dawned, The Second Sex was like a secret code that we emerging women used to send messages to each other. And Simone de Beauvoir herself, her life and her work, was and is a symbol" (Okely 29).
In this paper, I will talk about De Beauvoir’s argument on how women became the Other in society and how this subconsciously affects them. De Beauvoir claims we have biases in society because of religion, philosophers, and writers, which all advocated for sexist ideas. She gives the example of Eve and Pandora—both brought evil into this world. Historical figures like Aristotle and St Thomas claimed women lack intelligence (28). As a result of the biases that are perpetuated in society, women are seen as lesser entities. Belonging to a specific gender should not determine anything about who one is or how he or she are allowed to act in society. De Beauvoir is anti-essentialist regarding gender. She claims being identified as masculine or feminine should not determine how one expresses them self in society.
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.
De Beauvoir’s central argument revolved around the concept of womanhood and femininity as fixed identities that are associated with not only with one being a female, but also with women representing the “other” in a society that was first and foremost divided based on the biological differences between the sexes. De Beauvoir argued that while Blacks, Jews, and the proletariat are also classified as the other, as are women, a part of that classification is due to the numbers of these minority groups compared to those in power. On the other hand, women represent half of the population, and yet, they historically lacked power.
The Second Sex narratives de Beauvoir's push to find the wellspring of these significantly imbalanced sexual orientation parts. In Book I, entitled "Actualities and Myths," she asks how "female people" come to involve a
In Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body and Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine differences between male and female roles in society become distinct. Through these differences, an intricate web of male and female characters seems to be woven, and we can see the clarity between gender roles. With the support of Churchill’s Cloud Nine by Jeffrey Barber, “You see, I am no stranger to love”: Jeanette Winterson and the Extasy of the Word by Celia Shiffer, and “Body Languages: Scientific and Aesthetic Discourses in Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body,” the idea of love and gender roles present in Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body and Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine become alive, and we see how these characters both form to and break from their assigned roles. The roles of the characters are exemplified by distinct differences between the genders through the presence of love and gender stereotypes, the dominant idea of nature, and the struggle between male and female characters with specific reference to sexual relationships and marriage.
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.
The topic of women’s equality to men has been a constant debate throughout the centuries. Women ave fought for equality and have reached many milestones and they are much more equal then they were, especially at the beginning of our nation’s history. This fight for equality has gained more support over the centuries and at this point the two sexes are more equal then they have ever been in the past however, even now, when this nation claims to be a land of equality for all, there is still inequality present. Letters written during the fight for women’s suffrage worded it this way, “Ah! how many of my sex feel in the dominion, thus unrighteously exercised over them, under the gentle appellation of protection, that what they have leaned upon has proved a broken reed at best and oft a spear.”(Grimke) The author will continue on to exclaim that womanhood is a bond because of men who believe the fairer sex to be inferior to them. This was evident in the poet Robert Browning’s poems My Last Duchess and Porphyria’s Lover which are both dramatic monologues expressing the position of a woman in resect to the men in her life. The speakers in both poems speak of a lover or wife who is happy and often smiles, both are jealous, and both kill and attempt to justify their actions in the poems. The poems seem to place women below men but on the underside of this topic they call attention to the disturbing actions that anyone can take or the drastic measures that may take place because of the simple jealousy or an attempt to justify ones actions when they are so clearly wrong.
Throughout history, woman’s self has been Other in discourse, literature, and doctrine. She has been designated this position in the world by those who hold social power. This dichotomy is maintained under a hierarchy that serves to benefit men. I will be attempting to support Beauvoir’s idea of the self as Other under a patriarchal society by looking at statements from philosophers and myths, as well as identifying shortcomings she may have.
De Beauvoir, S. (1949). The Second Sex: Introduction, The Independent Woman. New York: Vintage Books.