The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir Essay

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir Essay

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In her introductory lines of The Second Sex, De Beauvoir says: “One wonders if women still exist, if they will always exist, whether or not it is desirable that they should, what place they occupy in this world, what their place should be.” (Solomon, page 296) De Beauvoir claims that woman should not be a biological category, but rather an existential category, with which I agree. De Beauvoir’s primary thesis is that men oppress women by characterizing them as the Other, defined in opposition to men. Man is essential, absolute, and transcendent, while woman is inessential, and incomplete. In this paper I shall summarize De Beauvoir’s take on womanhood, and her proposition on what womanhood should ideally be. I will also acknowledge the plausible objections to this claim and try to answer them within the existentialist perspective.
De Beauvoir begins with a primary question “What is a woman?” (Solomon page 296) Women make up half of the population, but what is it that makes this half ‘women’? Our first thought would be a biological definition: a woman is someone with a uterus. However, that would be the definition of a female, and not a woman. De Beauvoir writes that “connoisseurs” do not believe every human with a uterus to be a woman. (Solomon page 296) This shows that every female human being is not a woman. De Beauvoir analyses the existence of a woman as an entity rather than a biological outcome. She emphasizes the existing prominent differences between men and women physically, but says that these parts are not characteristics that define the sexes. The biological and physical aspect does not provide sustenance in differentiating one from the other. Beauvoir then writes that to be considered a woman “she must share in that...


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...ook into every group, each group displays duality. For example, when we consider black man and woman, the man is still the subject, while the woman is the object. This is true in the case of a white man and woman, or a brown man and woman as well.
In conclusion, Beauvoir put forth a compelling argument of the woman as the Other. She shows why it is necessary for women to break out of this image and seek liberty and equality. Beauvoir believes that womanhood is a stage in a social evolution; it didn’t exist everywhere in human history, and may disappear in the future. Beauvoir sets two prerequisites for liberation. First, women need not embrace femininity if they don’t wish to, and second, living like men will not make them equals. Women need to stop getting influenced by society, and need to find their individual identity. Only then will they become true equals.


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