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Simone de Beauvoir
Transcript of Simone de Beauvoir
Four Phases, or waves, of feminist ethnography
1. 1880-1920 Biological sex determined social roles and gender was not separate from sex.
2. 1920-1960 Sex and gender were separated because one was not determined to identify the other.
3. 1960's- 1980's: Ethnographers trying to change "male bias" of anthropology. Found that different societies organized biological facts into gender regimes.
4. 1980's- 1996: Gender becomes a social category. Anthropologists try to define gender but gender itself is a misplaced category.
What phase is de Beauvoir considered?
The Third Phase of Thought
"During the initial period of making women visible in the academic field, feminists drew on the burgeoning cross-cultural research into "women's roles" undertaken by female anthropologists. Many of them contributed to the paramount image of the "universal woman" who shares sisterhood with others through shared oppression. The notion that it needs a woman to study women was also quite popular and advanced in so called "standpoint theories" of the 1970s and early 1980s. In anthropology this concept has never lost its value, as many societies do not allow unfamiliar men to interact with their women." (Bratton 1998)
2000 Feminist Theories and Anthropology. http://lit.polylog.org/2/eah-en.htm, accessed on November 20, 2013
Current topics explored by Feminists Anthropologists:
Simone de Beauvoir
22 November 2013
January 9, 1908- April 14, 1986
Early Life and Influences
De Beauvoir was born in Paris, France to a catholic bourgeois family. Her mother and father were born wealthy although they experienced a "mild poverty" after World War I.
Attended a private Catholic school, Institute Adeline Desir, until age 17
However she rejected a belief in God at the age of 14
-Her loss of faith influences her existentialist philosophy
At 17 she decided to become a teacher and enrolls at the Institut Sainte-Marie. This was unaccepted and she was considered a "traitor to her class."
Becoming an intellectual was considered "a dangerous sec" because ideas of socialism, democracy, and equality were promoted and the field was previously reserved for men
At the Instiut Sainte-Marie she studied Latin and literature while attending lectures in mathematics at the Institut Catholique
A year later she enters Sorbonne, the University of Paris, and continues to study literature and philosophy
In 1928 (age 20) she begins to prepare for her agrégation in philosophy at the Ecole Normale Superieure. This was a higher education establishment outside of the university that prepares students to become teachers.
University of Paris Sorbonne
Relationship with Sartre
While at the university de Beauvoir begins to read Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, Bergson, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche
Applications to Anthropology
She scored second on the examination and Sartre scored the first.
control of resources
performance in school
What Is different now?
De Beauvoir's father had originally wanted to work in theater but became a lawyer to maintain the family's status. His love of literature, theater, and indifference to religion influenced Beauvoir's education.
Beauvior's mother was deeply religious and accepted the rigid moral conventions of the Catholic bourgeoisie. She was the cause of Simone attending prestigious private catholic schools at a young age.
A major impact on Simone de Beauvoir's work was her relationship with a close friend Elizabeth Mabille (Zaza).
Both were born into Catholic bourgeois families but Zaza did not reject the duties to her family like Beauvoir. Zaza had fallen in love with a man who was resented by her family. She had to struggle for years to maintain the demands of her lover and her family. Beauvoir believed her close friends death was caused from her physical and emotional exhaustion of bourgeois society.
Several of Beauvoir's writing have influences of Zaza. In her autobiography
The Dituful Daughter
she contributes many of her ideas to her close friend.
De Beauvoir meets Jean-Paul Sartre while preparing for her agrégation in philosophy. He was three years older than her.
De Beauvoir considered him her intellectual equal
They developed a life long relationship, never marrying, even though Sartre had proposed.
De Beauvior is critiqued for following many of the ideas of Sartre and not developing her own. This is a surprising critique because her ideas are very feminist!
She was able to convince women, at the time, that they are equally capable of choice and can achieve sexual and economic freedom
Relation to readings of Foucault
Feminist Anthropology formally recognized in 1970
So how does Simone de Beauvoir contribute to our understanding of culture?
In the 1900's prostitution was closely tied to the criminal system
Simone de Beauvoir would argue that " prostitution allows women an avenue of escape from dependency on men in a way that does not leave them victims, but empowered women" (Mussett 2010)
Sartre strong public influence made de Beauvoir's work more accessible.
de Beauvoir believed women's inferior role was a result of culture not natural inclinations.
Requires women to take responsibility for themselves and the world they live in
“The category of Other is as original as consciousness itself. The duality between Self and Other can be found in the most primitive societies, in the most ancient mythologies; the division did not always fall into the category of the division of the sexes (...) No group ever defines itself as One without immediately setting up the Other opposite itself. It only takes three travelers brought together by chance in the same train compartment for the rest of the travellers to become vaguely hostile 'others'. Village people view anyone not belonging to the village as suspicious 'others'. For the native of a country, inhabitants of other countries are viewed as 'foreigners'; Jews are the 'others' for anti-Semites, blacks for racist Americans, indigenous people for colonists, proletarians for the propertied classes.”
She used Hegelian ideas to show that women are viewed secondary to men. The term "Other" was applied throughout her book to emphasis women's position in society.
In her book
The Second Sex
de Beauvoir argued that, "one is not born a women but becomes one" (Beauvoir 1989).
The Second Sex
Other Historical influences
Women could not vote in France until 1944
Basic ideas of Existential Feminism
Similar to Edward Said's concept of the Orient
"De Beauvoir explains that according to the philosopher Hegel, reality is made up of the interplay of opposing forces. Self-understanding is much the same. For a being to define itself, it must also define something in opposition to itself. “[A]t the moment when man asserts himself as subject and free being, the idea of the Other arises,” de Beauvoir states. For every subject, there must be an object. This reciprocal relation is a primary tenet of existentialist thought, and it points to the fundamental problem with the male monopoly on subjectivity." (Evans 1985)
Similar to Western superiority over the Orient, Simone de Beavior argued male superiority over women by using the term "other".
Edward Said had argued a similar problem with the western view of the Orient. He showed that the structure of orientalism placed humans into a "us versus them" mentality.
During World War 1 and 2 women were forced into the workplace and then forced out as the war ended.
Women could gain economic means to support their families and then are placed back in home
de Beauvoir believed women should have their own careers, be economically independent, and have a place outside of the home. She said this can happen only if women actively define themselves instead of allowing others to do so.
de Beauvoir is considered an existential feminist
Women are not always powerless and dependent on males
“womanhood as we know it is a social construct: that is, that the subordination of female to male does not represent an immutable state of nature, but is the result of various social forces"
Personal freedom is achieved when one begins to experience the world as an individual
Is this still true today? What if women are forced into a position of prostitution for economic gain and therefore are still dependent on a men for money?
The police determined which prostitutes to arrest and this caused prostitutes to not charge police for services.
Instead of prostitution being against woman's economic role "it was a system run strictly by men, for men. Female prostitutes were subject to brutal male dominance at every turn." (Fillingham 2007:134)
History of Sexuality
he wrote about the "repressive hypothesis" which stated the rise of the bourgeoisie caused sex to be frowned upon.
Margret Mead and Eleanor Leacock are anthropologists we have studied that explored the concept of gender in their field work
Study of Culture and Concept of Gender
Culture can be considered a system of shared meaning that is learned by members in a society
Gender is the meaning that has been used to differentiate males and females
When a child is born their sex determines how they are treated by parents. In interviews Simone de Beauvoir discusses how mothers teach girls to be passive while boys are free, and often encouraged, to play and get dirty.
2010 Simone de Beauvoir (1908—1986). accessed on November 19, 2013 http://www.iep.utm.edu/beauvoir/
1998 Simone De Beauvoir. New York: St. Martin's Press
Cottrell, Robert D
1975 Simone De Beauvoir. New York:Frederick Ungar Publishing Co.
Bennett, Joy and Hochmann, Gabriella
1949 Simone de Beauvoir An Annotated Bibliography. New York and London: Garland Publishing Inc.
1936 Simone de Beauvoir, a Feminist Mandrin. London and New York: Tavistock
Beauvoir, Simone de
1989 The Second Sex. New York: Vintage Books
1998 Feminist Anthropology. Indian University Anthropology Resources. http://www.indiana.edu/~wanthro/fem.htm, accessed on November 22, 2013
Simone de Beauvoir was one of the many feminists that brought gender issues into question. Without a movement in feminism anthropology would not have applied gender issues to research.
She showed how culture shapes our perception of what it means to be female or male
de Beauvior arguments is ambiguous because she believes women need to take control of their situation and she blames males for putting them in a oppressed position.
Her argument requires acceptance of existentialism and existentialism itself has no demonstrable truth.
Many people believe gender issues have been flipped. It is now males who are subject to unequal opportunities.
However, women still do not have access to economic gain in many countries.
It is still important in ethnographic research to consider how males and females are viewed in a culture.
She was the youngest student to pass the examination and the youngest to become a philosophy teacher