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Transcript of De Beauvoir
Women are treated like live dolls.
Only once women realize that these
are mere constructions, are they
free to escape the oppression
and determine their own paths to a meaningful existence.
The Second Sex
"One is not born, but rather becomes, woman"
woman as socially constructed
Deeply religious as a child, at one point intending to become a nun; experienced a crisis of faith at age 14, after which she remained an atheist for the rest of her life
9th woman to receive a degree from the Sorbonne
Life-long partner to Jean-Paul Sartre (never married)
Led a very turbulent, often scandalous life
Trio Pattern (teaching license revoked)
De Beauvoir died of pneumonia in Paris, aged 78
In an interview with Betty Friedan, De Beauvoir said: "No, we don’t believe that any woman should have this choice.
No woman should be authorized to stay at home to bring up her children
. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one. It is a way of forcing women in a certain direction.
Beauvoir speaks of the war as creating an existential rupture in time. She underwent a conversion and concluded that she can no longer afford the luxury of focusing on her own happiness and pleasure. Having come face to face with
forces of injustice beyond her control
, the questions of evil takes on a pressing concern.
The Second Sex gave us the
and concepts for analyzing the
social constructions of femininity
and a method for critiquing these constructions.
It is an adaptation of the first rule of phenomenology: identify your assumptions, treat them as prejudices and put them aside; do not bring them back into play until and unless they have been validated by experience.
One possible way to understand ‘woman’ is as a sex term: ‘woman’ picks out human females and being a human female depends on various biological and anatomical features (chromosomes, sex organs, hormones and other physical features).
Many feminists have understood ‘woman’ differently: not as a sex term, but as a gender term that depends on social and cultural factors (social role, position, behavior or identity).
The main feminist motivation for making this distinction was to counter biological determinism or the view that biology is destiny.
Geddes and Thompson (1889)
Women supposedly conserve energy (being ‘anabolic’) and this makes them passive, conservative, sluggish, stable and uninterested in politics. Men expend their surplus energy (being ‘katabolic’) and this makes them eager, energetic, passionate, variable and, thereby, interested in political and social matters.
These biological 'facts' were used not only to
explain behavioral differences
between women and men but also to justify existing social and economic arrangements (i.e. withholding the right to vote from women).
Women are the weaker sex
What assumptions ground this conclusion?
upper body strength
average body size
By attending to the ways that patriarchal structures used the sexual difference to deprive women of their “can do” bodies, Beauvoir made the case for declaring this deprivation
. Patriarchy alienates women from their embodied capacities.
What does that mean?
dolls get stressed up, made pretty...
they are objects that lack agency
the doll is submissive
the doll is left behind when the child goes to school
dolls get replaced by newer dolls...
The woman is taught to
win a husband through her beauty and maintain it, so he doesn't abandon her
quietly listen to his problems without expecting any emotional support in return
wait for him at home while he is at work
To be a flesh and blood accessory, supporting his success and validation.
the beauty industry is a constant reminder of our responsibilities as accessory...
Do you think we have done better or worse since 1949 in this respect?
Which assumptions would you add?
Without God creating meaning and value for us, we are totally and inexcusably responsible for our actions.
We begin our existence in security of a metaphysically privileged time. As children, we depend on others and are offered
a world already endowed with meaning
. This is a world of
ready made values
and established authorities.
Emerging into the world of adults, we are now called upon to renounce the serious world, to reject the mystification of childhood and to take responsibility for our choices.
Some of us evade the responsibilities of freedom by choosing to remain children, that is, to submit to the authority of others. This is the condition of
Women and Bad Faith
Women are encouraged to remain in the metaphysically privileged world of the child. They experience the happiness brought about by bad faith—a happiness of not being responsible for themselves, of not having to make consequential choices. From this existential perspective women may be said to be
complicitious in their subjugation
This prezi heavily leans on the SEP entry 'Simone De Beauvoir'
Liberation must be women’s work. It is not a matter of appealing to men to give women their freedom, but a matter of
women discovering their solidarity
, rejecting the bad faith temptations of happiness and discovering the pleasures of freedom. Only then will men recognize women as free subjects.
The liberated woman must free herself from two shackles
the idea that to be independent she must be like men, and
the socialization through which she becomes feminized.
Women must be socialized to engage the world.
They must be allowed to discover the unique ways that their embodiment engages the world.
The myth of the woman must be dismantled
How we become women...
Interestingly, beings like us are capable of responding to how we are classified. Our classificatory schemes, at
least in social contexts, may do more than just map pre-existing groups of individuals; rather our attributions have the power to both establish and reinforce groupings. How we classify things can have a
on people, so they those described in a certain way become increasingly similar and come to constitute a kind or group. The are similar because we treat them the same way, whether they were originally similar or not.
Haslanger (2006) writes
what do you see in the picture?
Women develop (through socialization) the need to be admired and to exist for others. She exists to herself as object...
The various expectations of what it means to be a woman
one another and hence cannot be achieved.
Sexy Seductrice versus Virgin Saint
Women cannot cultivate a coherent and healthy identity of their own.
De Beauvoir argues that the world has been constructed to benefit men. If civilization is to advance, women must be treated as the equal of men. She examines the harmful ways in which women have been socialized and asks women to free themselves of those social pressures!
Aristotle on the essence of being a woman
"[T]he male, unless constituted in some respect contrary to nature, is by nature more expert at leading than the female, and the elder and complete than the younger and incomplete." [Politics]
"[T]he relation of male to female is by nature a relation of superior to inferior and ruler to ruled." [Politics]
"The slave is wholly lacking the deliberative element; the female has it but it lacks authority; the child has it but it is incomplete." [Politics]
How would you best sum up Aristotle's statements?
Plato about the role of women
"Women and men have the same nature in respect to the guardianship of the state, save insofar as the one is weaker and the other is stronger." [Republic]
"[T]he relation of male to female is by nature a relation of superior to inferior and ruler to ruled." [Republic]
"What I theorize about is: what could race, gender, disability be if it isn’t a set of purely natural differences between us? Can it be understood primarily in terms of social difference? Not really, because there is a
presumed connection to the biological
These are the kinds of categories I’m most interested in, where perceived or imagined physical differences are such that they give rise to social differences in a particular context. The belief or the
perception of someone having a particular skin color
has an effect on what their social opportunities are and how they’re positioned socially in relation to others."
... Headless women of Hollywood.
Is Beauvoir still relevant?