Newly Translated And Unabridged In English For The First Time, Simone De Beauvoir S Masterwork Is A Powerful Analysis Of The Western Notion Of Woman, And A Groundbreaking Exploration Of Inequality And Otherness This Long Awaited New Edition Reinstates Significant Portions Of The Original French Text That Were Cut In The First English Translation Vital And Groundbreaking, Beauvoir S Pioneering And Impressive Text Remains As Pertinent Today As It Was Back Then, And Will Continue To Provoke And Inspire Generations Of Men And Women To Come

10 thoughts on “Le deuxième sexe: I. Les faits et les mythes, II. L'expérience vécue

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    The fact that we are human beings is infinitely important than all the peculiarities that distinguish human beings from one another it is never the given that confers superiorities virtue , as the ancients called it, is defined on the level of that which depends on us. My life has led me to develop a love for thought, a love heavily dependent on the context of reality and my personal view of such, a love that has been, is, and will continue to grow through heavy doses of words both spoken and printed I will admit to being biased towards the printed, as well as to being biased in many things as a result of characteristics both physical and mental the fault of nature and nurture, neither one of which I can help very much My method of coping with having a love for thinking, while being aware of the inherent inaccuracies of said thinking, is a rabid interest in argument, debate if you will, on many fronts that concern me.Being a woman concerns me With that, let us begin.I am a white middle class female undergraduate who has spent all twenty two years of her life in the United States I did not read this book for a class I do not in any way claim that this book speaks on all women s issues, or deem women s issues important than those of any other oppressed group, whether via race, sexuality, financial security, et al I simply don t have the firsthand experience with other issues that, I believe, would accredit me to speak on them to such length Account for the inherent biases as you see fit.Females are biologically different from males in the interest of propagation of the species, resulting in imposed monthly cycles that involve a whole host of painful and bloody side effects, as well as the inconvenient and sometimes dangerous states of pregnancy and giving birth Females also have a difficult time of building up muscle mass and other aspects lending to physical movement, due to the consequences of puberty and resulting chemical development The bearing of maternity upon the individual life, regulated naturally in animals by the oestrus cycle and the seasons, is not definitely prescribed in woman society alone is the arbiter The bondage of woman to the species is or less rigorous according to the number of births demanded by society and the degree of hygienic care provided for pregnancy and childbirth Thus, while it is true that in the higher animals the individual existence is asserted imperiously by the male than by the female, in the human species individual possibilities depend upon the economic and social situation.We are now acquainted with the dramatic conflict that harrows the adolescent girl at puberty she cannot become grown up without accepting her femininity and she knows already that her sex condemns her to a mutilated and fixed existence, which she faces at this time under the form of an impure sickness and a vague sense of guilt Her inferiority was sensed at first merely as a deprivation but the lack of a penis has now become defilement and transgression So she goes onward towards the future, wounded, shameful, culpable. In the United States, the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920, which declares that The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex This occurred 144 years after the US declared independence, 137 years after the US was recognized as independent, and 132 years after the Constitution itself was ratified In masculine hands logic is often a form of violence, a sly kind of tyranny the husband, if older and better educated than his wife, assumes on the basis of this superiority to give no weight at all to her opinions when he does not share them he tirelessly proves to her that he is right For her part, she becomes obstinate and refuses to see anything in her husband s arguments he simply sticks to his own notions And so a deep misunderstanding comes between them He makes no effort to comprehend the feelings and reactions she is not clever enough to justify, though they are deeply rooted in her she does not grasp what is vital behind the pedantic logic with which her husband overwhelms her On June 20, 2013, many news organizations issued articles discussing a report released by the World Health Organization titled Global and regional estimates of violence against women Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non partner sexual violence The results One in three women has faced intimate partner violence or sexual violence 40% of women killed worldwide were slain by the partner And therein lies the wondrous hope that man has often put in woman he hopes to fulfill himself as a being by carnally possessing a being, but at the same time confirming his sense of freedom through the docility of a free person No man would consent to be a woman, but every man wants women to exist.Man has no need of the unconditional devotion he claims, nor of the idolatrous love that flatters his vanity he accepts them only on condition that he need not satisfy the reciprocal demands these attitudes imply He preaches to woman that she should give and her gifts bore him to distraction she is left in embarrassment with her useless offerings, her empty life On the day when it will be possible for woman to love not in her weakness but in her strength, not to escape herself but to find herself, not to abase herself but to assert herself on that day love will become for her, as for man, a source of life and not of mortal danger In the meantime, love represents in its most touching form the curse that lies heavily upon woman confined in the feminine universe, woman mutilated, insufficient unto herself The innumerable martyrs to love bear witness against the injustice of a fate that offers a sterile hell as ultimate salvation. There is currently in the US a widespread political machination in many states aiming towards the eradication of legalized abortion, in essence granting living women less rights to their bodies than dead individuals who in life chose not to donate their bodies to science modern woman is everywhere permitted to regard her body as capital for exploitation The fact is that a true human privilege is based upon the anatomical privilege only in virtue of the total situation.That the child is the supreme aim of woman is a statement having precisely the value of an advertising slogan.the distortion begins when the religion of Maternity proclaims that all mothers are saintly For while maternal devotion may be perfectly genuine, this, in fact, is rarely the case Maternity is usually a strange mixture of narcissism, altruism, idle day dreaming, sincerity, bad faith, devotion and cynicism Also current in the US is the discussion of rape culture and slut shaming in light of the events of the Steubenville High School Rape Case, where media outlets offered biased coverage that sympathized with the rapists and rarely focused on the victim As a matter of fact, the privileged position of man comes from the integration of his biologically aggressive role with his social function as leader or master it is on account of this social function that the physiological differences take on all their significance Because man is ruler in the world, he holds that the violence of his desires is a sign of his sovereignty a man of great erotic capacity is said to be strong, potent epithets that imply activity and transcendence But, on the other hand, woman being only an object, she will be described as warm or frigid, which is to say that she will never manifest other than passive qualities.It is a mistake to seek in fantasies the key to concrete behaviour for fantasies are created and cherished as fantasies The little girl who dreams of violation with mingled horror and acquiescence does not really wish to be violated and if such a thing should happen it would be a hateful calamity Masculine desire is as much an offence as it is a compliment in so far as she feels herself responsible for her charm, or feels she is exerting it of her own accord, she is much pleased with her conquests, but to the extent that her face, her figure, her flesh are facts she must bear with, she wants to hide them from this independent stranger who lusts after them.Man encourages these allurements by demanding to be lured afterwards he is annoyed and reproachful But he feels only indifference and hostility for the artless, guileless young girlshe is obliged to offer man the myth of her submission, because he insists on domination, and her compliance would only be perverted from the start. In the US, prostitution, the business or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment , is illegal The Cinderella myth flourishes especially in prosperous countries like America How should the men there spend their surplus money if not upon a woman Orson Welles, among others, has embodied in Citizen Kane that imperial and false generosity it is to glorify his own power that Kane chooses to shower his gifts upon an obscure singer and to impose her upon the public as a great queen of song When the hero of another film, The Razor s Edge , returns from India equipped with absolute wisdom, the only thing he finds to do with it is to redeem a prostitute One remarkable fact among others is that the married woman had her place in society but enjoyed no rights therein whereas the unmarried female, honest woman or prostitute, had all the legal capacities of a man, but up to this century was or less excluded from social life.Sewers are necessary to guarantee the wholesomeness of palaces, according to the Fathers of the Church And it has often been remarked that the necessity exists of sacrificing one part of the female sex in order to save the other and prevent worse troubles One of the arguments in support of slavery, advanced by the American supporters of the institution, was that the Southern whites, being all freed from servile duties, could maintain the most democratic and refined relations among themselves in the same way, a caste of shameless women allows the honest woman to be treated with the most chivalrous respect The prostitute is a scapegoat man vents his turpitude upon her, and he rejects her Whether she is put legally under police supervision or works illegally in secret, she is in any case treated as a pariah. The Equal Pay Act was signed into law in the US in 1963 The male female income difference in the US was in 2010 at a female to male earnings ratio of 0.81, medium income in full time year round workers being 42,800 for men compared to 34,700 for women When he is in a co operative and benevolent relation with woman, his theme is the principle of abstract equality, and he does not base his attitude upon such inequality as may exist But when he is in conflict with her, the situation is reversed his theme will be the existing inequality, and he will even take it as justification for denying abstract equality.Woman is shut up in a kitchen or in a boudoir, and astonishment is expressed that her horizon is limited Her wings are clipped, and it is found deplorable that she cannot fly Let but the future be opened to her, and she will no longer be compelled to linger in the present. The history of literature is dominated by male writers Since 1901 when the first annual Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded, out of the 109 individuals that have received it, twelve were female More women have been awarded the Nobel in this field than any other, save for the Nobel Peace Prize, of which fifteen of the 101 recipients were female When he describes woman, each writer discloses his general ethics and the special idea he has of himself and in her he often betrays also the gap between his world view and his egotistical dreams the categories in which men think of the world are established from their point of view, as absolute they misconceive reciprocity, here as everywhere A mystery for man, woman is considered to be mysterious in essence.And while her lover fondly believes he is pursuing the Ideal, he is actually the plaything of nature, who employs all this mystification for the ends of reproduction Pendants have for two thousand years reiterated the notion that women have a lively spirit, men solidity that women have delicacy in their ideas and men greater power of attention A Paris idler who once took a walk in the Versailles Gardens concluded that, judging from all he saw, the trees grow ready trimmed Stendhal Feminism is, well You tell me I have to say, though, bra burning and unshaven legs seem empty condemnations in comparison to rape and domestic abuse The truth is that just as biologically males and females are never victims of one another but both victims of the species, so man and wife together undergo the oppression of an institution they did not create If it is asserted that men oppress women, the husband is indignant he feels that he is the one who is oppressed and he is but the fact is that it is the masculine code, it is the society developed by the males and in their interest, that has established woman s situation in a form that is at present a source of torment for both sexes.It is perfectly natural for the future woman to feel indignant at the limitations posed upon her by her sex The real question is not why she should reject them the problem is rather to understand why she accepts them. I thought about keeping a list of how many authors philosophers lauded historical people I d have to completely boycott due to misogyny That action makes as much sense as completely boycotting those who favor feminism Think about it.Alternative Title Woman Fucks Fucking Terrifies Man A Treatise

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    Reading De Beauvoir s seminal feminist manifesto has allowed me to compose my genealogical tree, for The Second Sex is a book about my mother and the mother of my mother and the mother of my grandmother and of all my female ancestors in endless regressive progression who rebelled before obeying and who ended up capitulating like slaves shackled to the indomitable future of preordained inferiority Thus humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him she is not regarded as an autonomous being 16 Reading De Beauvoir s concentric lines of argument framed within the existentialist discourse about the inward and outward implications of being a woman in a world devised by the masculine mind has glued the fragmented selves of my dispersed persona back together My inner cracks have been filled with irrefutable evidence amalgamated from diverging fields of study infused with patriarchal metanarration such as the scientific, in its medical, biological and psychoanalytical aspects and the humanistic, taking philosophy, mythology, literature and historical materialism as pinpointing references One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman 295 What I inferred to be particular quirks and shortcomings of my own character like the incessant urge to please, the lack of firmness when I voice out my opinions, the sense of displacement in my professional life, the unavowed guilt of my indecision on motherhood and many other details turn out to be the partial result of centuries of alienation from a position of imbued dependence and subservient otherness in relation to man, whose gender inherently assigns the role of the essential and the independent to him.The female, on the other hand, achieves fulfilment finding her reason to be in the free conscience of the masculine figure Man is the mirror where women seek their reflection.Reading De Beauvoir s subversive account on the status of women in the context of the modernized Western societies has revealed the double trap of the socio political organizations in developed countries where women have reached equality, economic autonomy and a relevant presence in the public institutions only in appearance but not in ethos Women s voices must be not only generalized and active but also questioning and disruptive in order to reinvent the endemic hierarchy of a society culturally and traditionally built on the oppression of half of its population Are my ambitions, dreams and yearnings my own Or are they the result of subliminally indoctrination passed through generations of tamed female mentality Reading De Beauvoir has put me on the ropes, reminding me of my privileged situation compared to the atrocious and reiterative abuse inflicted upon women, victims of dogmatic fundamentalism or totalitarian governments in most countries of the world cases of ablation, rape, physical and psychological maltreatment saturate the media, tragic facts that back up De Beauvoir s theory that femininity is neither essence nor destiny but an artificial construction of the cultural, societal and historical requirements of time and place.Reading De Beauvoir has sharpened my feminism, rekindled my empathy and opened my eyes to the impending call to redefine the socio political, economic and cultural frames of a so called democracy, which is only de jure and not de facto, and to avoid the postmodernist doctrine of the difference feminism that allots innate and intrinsic qualities to the feminine gender, to establish a collective front that will guarantee new models of egalitarian coexistence for women, inside and outside the public and private spheres A collective outcry arises from the underground that joins many others, a dull murmur gathering momentum from those living on the fringes of society women, immigrants, those of another race, the others, the marginalized, whose voices have been chocked by gratuitous despotism for centuries, start intonating a demand in unison Don t you hear it It s the canon of collective indignation roaring to achieve individual emancipation Resignedness is only abdication and flight, there is no other way out for woman than to work for her liberation 639

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    To seem, rather than to see, to appear, rather than to be this, in a nutshell, has been woman s existential project thus far, according to de Beauvoir Woman s historic destiny has prohibited her from developing into a self, understood as an autonomous ontic unit and agent Instead, hers has been a merely instrumental existence defined entirely by her social roles Never a maker of meaning, her success in life was defined to the extent that she was a suitable canvas for receiving others meanings This philosophical document is first of all, whatever else it might be, a sustained exploration of what it means to know, to be, to make, and ultimately to become a self De Beauvoir starts from the perplexing situation in which she encounters her selfhood as somehow incomplete, and deeply problematic to herself From this starting point, she can ask the million dollar question of philosophy anew and for our benefit and namely, What does it really take to know a self, our self The first thing one should note about this book is that it was not originally intended as a political treatise it wasn t made with the intention of shouting shrill slogans over a megaphone Its aim is philosophical understanding of the human condition, not political expediency As such, it eschews neat and tidy ideological divisions in its essence, and prefers to obliquely cast a searching light on the rich ambiguity of this queer dual nature we experience as sexual beings, and the implications this has for our sense of identity and our experience of meaning De Beauvoir s work finds insight not in ideological formulations, but in the poignant and possibly unanswerable questions brought up by the tensions and dualities that seem intrinsic to the human condition, and that, perhaps, the ideologue in his her search for the perfectly defined political dogma will always and of necessity gloss over Her highest strength as a thinker attempting to venture in this gender minefield is that she guides herself therein less by a pursuit of ideological neatness, and by an effort to attain a philosophical consciousness that can comprehend a perhaps intractable ambiguity The impulse to Know thyself is shown here to cut across all artificial barriers of specialization de Beauvoir comes to herself through biological and historical research hormones and hearth, glands and cosmetics , literary and mythological critique, with all of this capped by philosophical reflection She shows how, in the effort to know our condition, philosophy can contain, inform and direct all partial disciplinary inquiries and perspectives a modern and biographical take on the traditional ideal of philosophy as a queen of the sciences.When most people think of self knowledge, they tend to conceive this process in purely subjectivist terms, in short, in terms of looking into material accessible only to the individual consciousness Somewhere in the swarmy mess of impulses, affects, personal memories, belief commitments and gut feelings, you are told, you shall find Your Self In contrast, I suspect she would sympathize with Mann s insight in The Magic Mountain A man lives not only his personal life, as an individual, but also, consciously or unconsciously, the life of his epoch and his contemporaries As such, the work goes far beyond our culture s subjectivist approach to self knowledge, in order to illuminate us to ourselves in our guise as participants in the unfolding of larger historical patterns.Our lives are shaped by the accreted sediment of decisions made by past generations within the domain circumscribed by those decisions, we exist And some of the most fundamental decisions we make and inherit are decisions regarding meaning, or about how to shape our human experience The semantic tools available for the shaping of self are our most critical inheritance from the past Self knowledge thus implies far than insight into personal experience it necessitates developing a historical consciousness of the inherited patterns of meaning making that we have available for shaping our individual consciousness of self as it emerges at this given moment in time So, to understand the female self as it has been historically constrained to develop, she targets her philosophical analysis to the representational tools and their limits that she has had available for her self construction.The problem of incompletely formulated selfhood that she starts from, de Beauvoir takes great pains to suggest, is not merely a piece of her idiosyncratic subjective biographical trajectory, but is, in a sense, our problem as well, to the extent that we are inheritors of a cultural heritage that does not afford us with the semantic tools that we need in order to lay claim to our experience through its shaping It is in this effort of shaping that autonomy is slowly consolidated and that we become a genuine acting unity, or a full fledged individual A guiding thematic thread in her work is the exploration of how various cultural myths restrict woman to the contrary of autonomy, which she calls a state of immanence This state of immanence is, for her, a stultifying state for a human existent to occupy, whose inward striving relentlessly impels her to a transcendence through autonomy The inherited semantic tools, far from helping woman shape her experience so as to converge on an autonomous perspective, instead restrict her to an immanent identity wholly defined by her contingent web of relations She must ever define herself as daughter, as mother, as wife, as friend, as helper, as nurturer, as muse, as treacherous slut The one position that is off limits is her own, that is, her knowing of herself as irreducible existent and autonomous center of meaning Her knowing of the one thing that no one can give to her, nor take away from her, is unavailable to her as so long as she operates through the inherited, self alienating semantic paradigm This centrifugal, purely contingent existence, de Beauvoir persuasively argues, is a humanly incomplete mode of being As long as we only know to look outside ourselves for our psychological substance, we are lost to ourselves We never fully come to be, as a self.The trouble is that, for a woman coming to consciousness, the collective heritage she finds is invariably an inheritance of scars, caricatures, and symbolic deformations A young woman, growing to consciousness of self, must find herself in relation to an inheritance of meanings predominantly shaped by her male Other, for whom she can only figure as an object that exists solely in relation to his aspirations and needs Her fulfilment as an existent as well as her fitness in the world are both defined in instrumental terms, in relation to her capacity to fulfil his need for meaning The pressing existential issue becomes, for her, to mould herself so as to become meaningful to him, whatever meaning he might need for her to embody It is a queer sort of destiny, to exist only insofar as one is an object for the perception and appreciation of another De Beauvoir lingers on this strange self alienation, say, in a woman s use of self ornamentation, in which she reflexively comes to see herself from the outside in The reductive mirror image becomes internalized, creating a profound sense of dissociation from herself The lived body, as Merleau Ponty calls it, becomes merely an object to contour just so, for another s gaze She can seldom ever just be she must ever seem, through some kind of relentless necessity, even as in so doing she merely starves herself of her true sustenance Such can only be provided by a richer relationship with her world, established intrinsically, through the taproot of her autonomy The eyes of others our prisons their thoughts our cages, Woolf aptly put it, and de Beauvoir concurs others gazes determine to a very profound extent the shape of our destinies as women There are so many painfully surgical descriptions here of the growing woman s developmental history as she finds herself sliced up, bit by bit, by others glances, and hedged into what becomes her place The young girl feels that her body is getting away from her On the street men follow her with their eyes and comment on her anatomy She would like to be invisible it frightens her to become flesh and to show flesh Thus, a growing woman learns that she, as an embodied being, is not just a locus for meaning making, but, even urgently for her survival and flourishing in the world, is an object for others She must continually extrude herself from Herself, and shape herself as an object of perception and evaluation for the Other The goal of life is for her not learning to see, but managing how others see her it is not coming to realization, but being instrumental to others As she matures, woman is progressively constrained to inhabit her subject stance only partially, to the extent that meanings gleaned from the Other s, often alienating perspective afford her indirect access to her self She must ever seek herself through his eyes As such, she is doomed to encounter herself only as image In phenomenological parlance, her stance is self objectifying, never fully subjective De Beauvoir s extensive analysis here of how background mythical constructs of Nature regulate the alternative ways women are perceived is brilliant Through the identification of woman as an instrument of nature, she acquires the characteristics positive or negative ascribed to Nature itself This makes some psychological sense Aside from our own bodies, nature comes closest to our minds in our confrontation with the other sex The other sex is nature to us, nature come terrifyingly ecstatically close and yet, nature that remains ungraspably other and alien to our consciousness The problem here, is of course, that it is only the male that is the center of perspective the female is the absolute other, and is thus identified with pure inhuman nature She is either the nurturant mother nature, the all encompassing nurturant principle of sympathy, or else, nature as the beast that ensnares merely to devour She thus finds herself in a rather impossible position, internalizing a tradition of self alienating representations made of her, which supposedly exhaust her nature, while nonetheless being radically alien to this tradition in the innermost truth of her experience, for which she has inherited few clear words that she can make entirely her own, few artistically embodied meanings, and almost no usable philosophical formulations What self can she scrounge up out of such scattered fragments This dissociation from lived experience and personal meaning making is a big price to pay for social survival And if Mary Pipher is correct in Reviving Ophelia, this same fate of premature developmental arrest due to internalizing a self alienating perspective still awaits young girls today The choice is grim a girl must choose between love and belonging, on the one hand, and full self development, on the other The situation s rigged such that she often cannot have both As Pipher ruefully notes, when questioned, people define feminine development and full adult development in antithetical terms Thus, to be a properly feminine woman, as per our cultural norms, is to be a psychologically disabled adult, incapable of agency or of self directed logical judgment In short, she must choose between the demands of her relational self and those of her autonomous self, between alienation and amputation The tension created by attempting to inhabit a subject stance only through self alienating representational tools is only part of the conflict de Beauvoir finds in a woman s coming to consciousness A further tension is added by the very duality of human, sexual nature, which introduces an additional, and deeply ambiguous constraint through the relational mutuality of the sexes De Beauvoir finds, with a kind of surprise and it seems to me also understandable dismay that she is first and foremost a woman Yet am I first a woman when I close my eyes and think Is our sexuality really the primal reality of our conscious experience When I sit down and reflect, and there s nobody in the room, I seem to myself to be just a good ole thinking thing A light flickering in the darkness I seem to myself indivisible, the center of my phenomenal experience, a sort of singularity Wittgenstein seems to have got it better than de Beauvoir The philosophical I is not the man, not the human body or the human soul of which psychology treats, but the metaphysical subject, the limit not a part of the world I become a aware of my sexuality only when confronted by another, and shoved back into being just a partial being, one item of the duality of human nature a woman Does Simone de Beauvoir really mean to say that walking in the forest, alone, with only the trees for her companions, she really feels the word woman has any meaning when applied to her conscious experience Well, no, as she describes those rare moments in nature when one fully inhabits oneself as a center of meaning making consciousness, uncircumscribed by any Other s gaze From her text I glean that sexuality is a kind of polarization we undergo when mingled with others it is the form of our being in relation We get pushed into one pole to complement the encountered other and to balance out the interaction There is the same sort of difference here as between the dark expansiveness that Woolf s Mrs Ramsay To the Lighthouse encounters in herself when she rests contained in her unreachable solitude, on the one hand, and her gushy all nurturing effusiveness when circumscribed within her role as mother wife society pillar, on the other This implies a strange double meaning for her foundational self recognition as a woman she is, simultaneously, one part of the sexually dual form human nature manifests, and an autonomous, irreducible unity in her own right She is fundamentally free, yet also fundamentally a self emerging and constructing itself in relation to an other This brings me to the central difficulty I have with her argument The former is in keeping with her Existentialist commitments absolutely autonomous, free choice is the stuff of human life.The latter suggests a teleological ordering of the sexes into a structure of essential relatedness and interdependence The former divides the world into sovereign individuals, each initiating contractual relations through the sheer force of personal choice unmotivated by any natural impulse to relate the latter makes of us community animals, as both sexes are partial beings, each requiring union with the other for its completion The whole drama of this conflict comes out in sharp relief in her description of the queer metamorphosis of selfhood that is motherhood Pregnancy is above all a drama that is acted out within the woman herself She feels it as at once an enrichment and an injury the fetus is part of her body, and it is a parasite that feeds on it she possesses it, and she is possessed by it it represents the future and, carrying it she feels herself vast as the world but this very opulence annihilates her, she feels that she herself is no longer anything Ensnared by nature, the pregnant woman is plant and animal, a stock pile of colloids, an incubator, an egg she scares children proud of their young, straight bodies and makes young people titter contemptuously because she is a human being, a conscious and free individual, who has become life s passive instrument Motherhood is just such a time when one s usual notion of autonomous, individual selfhood is terrifyingly overthrown At such a time, a woman becomes swamped by immanence, she feels herself to be a mere passive instrument of life She is completely absorbed into the relational function of her subjectivity Here, in motherhood, de Beauvoir comes in headlong collision with the critical problematic of female identity, and its seemingly intractable struggle to preserve a sense of independent self that survives the pressures of impinging relationships, for motherhood is the ultimate of all impingements Your sense of self before and after cannot remain the same The birth of my two children, at least, was experienced as a crisis moment in which I myself was tasked to a rebirth, a movement from independent to interdependent selfhood.How DO you reconcile these two Well, she doesn t It seems to me that she gives perfect expression to the whole problem of our dual nature both uncompromisingly autonomous and intrinsically relational , without truly recognizing it as a problem, never mind venturing a solution Learning to simultaneously honour the self in its autonomy and in its full capacity for self giving relationship, or to reconcile, in short, the seemingly conflicting demands of self actualization and relational self transcendence, would bring greater harmony to a society deeply divided between these two currently conflicting trajectories A lot of the meaning of woman and man, she says, was written over and distorted by a great deal of symbolic mechanisms gone wrong and taking on a life of their own, thereby blocking the spontaneous expression of our true sexual nature When we abolish the slavery of half of humanity, together with the whole system of hypocrisy it implies, then the division of humanity will reveal its genuine significance and the human couple will find its true form Just so, the full realization of one element of the duality empowers the other to find his true form, in a relation that now manifests its true form for the first time.What if we have never really spoken truly about ourselves, about our experience, and about the true nature of our relations This thought haunts much of her work, and I respect that Thus, she very profoundly partakes of the modern project to re define the fundamentals of the human condition, or, at least, to re explore, once , what seemed to be a foreclosed issue Her philosophical work is a clearing ground for accreted symbolic clutter that lives on only by a kind of inertia and distorts all that is seen and felt, thereby blocking out deeper reserves of meaning It is for us to ponder the means to a larger perspective that can contain the intractable ambiguities that she has so faithfully recorded for us here Her work provides a map that lays out what it takes to genuinely know and fully become our own selves Her unique historico philosophical approach to self knowledge encourages us to know our lives by placing our most intimate personal experience in the context of the broadest perspective attainable at our historic moment Like all great thinkers who had anything of value to teach about self knowledge, de Beauvoir holds before us the image of a great tree In order to understand our particular twig, we must recover a map of the larger tree that holds us in place The meanings that shape us and limit us can be seen truly only in this perspective of historical depth This map is the surest ground on which we can lay out our personal stories.

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    The part of this book that has affected me the most in the ten years since I ve read it is most certainly the introduction, where de Beauvoir says that in order to define herself to herself she must start with, I am a woman This surprised her then as it surprises me now when I realize that that is how I must start, too Although I grew up in a post feminist you can have it all type of environment, it was eye opening and disconcerting to learn that women are considered the other as opposed to the default, regardless of how I choose to see myself.The book is divided into philosophical, literary, and biological reflections of the feminine While the biology hasn t necessarily stood the scientific test of time an inevitable danger when you combine science and philosophy , de Beauvoir still brings up interesting points Similarly, although I hadn t read nor have I bothered to read since many of the authors that she delves into in the literary section, the book has had the effect of making a sort of gender studies media critic out of me, always asking how and why women are represented in the larger culture For me, the most solid part of the book was the philosophy section which one might expect from a philosopher The ideas that de Beauvoir has put forth about what it means to be a woman, not in a trite Mars and Venus kind of way, but at a fundamental level and seen through the lens of society, have encouraged me to look at the world and my place in it in a thoughtful and rigorous manner.

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    As a feminist, it s been recommended to me for years that I read Simone de Beauvoir s 1949 book, The Second Sex As a regular person, though, I have always felt like it wasn t the right time to read it.What does that even mean As someone living as the second sex myself, there is no excuse for this I was lazy, bottom line It s a big book, and while big books do not normally frighten me, I was worried I wouldn t be smart enough for Simone de Beauvoir She was, from what I understand, a highly intelligent and talented existentialist writer, and here I am practically picking my nose while I decide what kind of cereal I want to eat for dinner tonight I mean, I m not the dimmest light in the pack, but I m also not the brightest I m just regular.But as I am pushing 40, it s been on my mind that I should really read this book There s probably never the right time, maybe the time is right now We read this as a group here on GR, and I m afraid to say I sort of disappeared during any discussion of it because life got in my way, but I persevered anyway because I was finally ready to commit to Simone.And what a commitment it was.I read Betty Friedan s classic The Feminine Mystique a few years back and what was surprising to me about that book was that it read so easily and smoothly I think for that reason alone Friedan may have reached of her audience than Beauvoir did, though this does not automatically mean we should be ignoring Beauvoir Quite the opposite, really.The book is large, yes And it is dense, yes Beauvoir insists her readers give a bit of themselves in order to read this book, I think She covers a lot of ground in this book, than Friedan, though the comparison is unfair since they achieved different things with their writing and came at it from slightly different angles.Beauvoir s approach covers biology, philosophy, religion, history, you name it There s very few stones that Beauvoir did not turn in the process of writing this book She begins with the science of gender and sexuality, and then she walks the reader through the entirety of a woman s life, from her young days to maturity to old age Beauvoir was 41 when this book was published Just how long did it take her to write this Because I m 38 and she was probably writing this at that age based on the size and the amount of research she did , and this makes me feel like a colossal failure.The information here may seem dated to a reader today There s also so much information that it s easy to glaze over at times Beauvoir was a French writer, and her lack of love for the Americans is evident in several places in sometimes subtle other times not so subtle ways It s amusing to look back at it now, but the point is she wasn t even wrong She may have written things in a condescending manner, but she still hit the nail on the head.Much of her information is still relevant today There was a section I especially recall in which she talks about abortion, a topic discussed openly way less often back in 1949, and she writes about it in a very matter of fact manner The part that I especially love is that she pointed out how so many people want to prevent abortions, and they encourage many to keep their child And then, once the woman carries the baby for the greater part of a year, and gives birth to this thing, those same people who encouraged her to keep the baby are suddenly nowhere to be found to help ensure that she and the baby receive all the financial and other support that they need This is a still a topic of debate today, how conservatives want to tell women what to do with their bodies with lots of promises to help , and then when the time comes they shrug and say Not my problem I m totally paraphrasing here Beauvoir was much too classy to write Not my problem I do recommend this book to, well, anyone who can manage to get through it It s not the easiest book to read because it just seems too boring Well, I m sorry that a woman s life is boring to you Beauvoir s point was and should still be that women are here, we are the other part of the population, and we have a history and a voice of our own.

  8. says:

    Knocked Up Preggers Up the Spout A Bun in the Oven The word pregnant is pregnant with connotation And for women often viewed in bodily terms than men nothing foregrounds a woman s body than pregnancy It s interesting to consider what Simone de Beauvoir, dubbed the mother of modern feminism, thought about motherhood itself Given what she writes in The Second Sex, Beauvoir would probably concur with my friend s attitude A number of years ago, a friend of mine spoke to me of her desire to have a baby She felt being in her early thirties she should get on with it but would not consider being pregnant while she was still in graduate school When I asked her why, she responded that pregnancy made you into such a body, and in the environment of graduate school, she would feel like a body among minds Her fear encapsulates a number of assumptions A mother is a body A body does not think Intellectuals graduate students, faculty, writers think Mothers do not think A woman as a graduate student or a professor writes, talks, produces, thinks from the position of a daughter, that is, from the position of a female body still unencumbered enough to think Pregnancy or maternity, besides being a position traditionally at odds with intellect consider the old caveat the baby or the book , also represents loss of control and a resultant discomfort with the body somatophobia Marianne Hirsch, in The Mother Daughter Plot, isolates both lack of control and somatophobia as two areas of avoidance and discomfort with the maternal 165 often apparent in feminist rhetoric In The Women s Room, one of Marilyn French s characters sums up pregnancy as a time when a woman loses control of her body and, by extension, her mind as well as her identity Pregnancy is a long waiting in which you learn what it means completely to lose control over your life There are no coffee breaks no days off in which you regain your normal shape and self, and can return refreshed to your labors You can t wish away even for an hour the thing that is swelling you up, stretching your stomach until the skin feels as if it will burst, kicking you from the inside until you are black and blue You can t even hit back without hurting yourself The condition and you are identical you are no longer a person, but a pregnancy 69 With pregnancy, you are no longer a person, you are no longer you Logically, the next question is, Will you still be you when you become a mother For Simone de Beauvoir the answer would be No pregnancy and motherhood rob a woman of her identity and her intellect Over and over again, in her interviews and in her books, Beauvoir refers to mothers as slaves reduced to bodies and cut off from intellectual pursuits Beauvoir s description of pregnancy, from her influential book, The Second Sex 1949 , sounds very much like the description quoted above from The Women s Room While French s character emphasizes how much pregnancy overtakes a woman s identity, Beauvoir goes further and depicts pregnancy like a disease that ultimately annihilates awoman the fetus is an enrichment and an injury the fetus is a part of her body, and it is a parasite that feeds on it she possesses it, and she is possessed by it it represents the future and, carrying it, she feels herself vast as the world but this very opulence annihilates her, she feels that she herself is no longer anything. emphasis added, 495 In this theorization, a woman not only loses her former identity in the process of pregnancy, but actually loses her mind, as Beauvoir illustrates when she describes the pregnant woman in less than human terms but in the mother to be the antithesis of subject and object ceases to exist she and the child with which she is swollen make up together an equivocal pair overwhelmed by life Ensnared by nature, the pregnant woman is plant and animal, a stock pile of colloids, an incubator, an egg she scares children proud of their young, straight bodies and makes young people titter contemptuously because she is a human being, a conscious and free individual who has become life s passive instrument 495 Beauvoir s perspective in the above quotation attracts comment Though The Second Sex ostensibly is presented as an objective critique there is no attempt at objectivity here In what often amounts to an emotional tirade, Beauvoir relentlessly focuses on the pregnant woman s body, equating it with an animal or a stockpile of colloids and then rather gratuitously states that a pregnant woman scares children and makes them titter contemptuously Beauvoir s descriptions of pregnancy illustrate her attitudes about the pregnant body and the resultant disintegration of the mind and identity she sees occurring with maternity Beauvoir s attack on motherhood is surprising unless you ve read Beauvoir s autobiographical works There, you can see how Beauvoir systematically rejects the body particularly a woman s body in favor of the life of the mind And Beauvoir s research on motherhood proves less than scientific While she presents her findings in The Second Sex as though they are objective and backed by evidence from broad samplings, her viewpoints on motherhood rest largely on her observations of a few friends, quotes from novels, and her own personal life Beauvoir, for instance, posits that the nausea women suffer in pregnancy demonstrates that pregnancy is not a natural state for human women given that nausea is unknown for other mammals 498 In evidence for this conclusion, Beauvoir preemptively cites herself, referring the reader to an earlier point in her own text Whatever groundbreaking work Beauvoir accomplishes in The Second Sex needs to be balanced against Beauvoir s privileging of the mind over the body as well as her evident distaste for women s bodily processes and pregnancy in particular Further, Beauvoir s desire to erase the body doesn t work Ironically, as Jane Flax points out, the search for truth in the world of pure mind ultimately leads right back to the body The self, which is constituted by thought and created by an act of thought, by the separation of mind and body, is driven to master nature, because the self cannot ultimately deny its material character or dependence on nature Despite Descartes claim, the body reasserts itself, at least at the moment of death 28 And, can one really separate the mind from the body Jean Fran ois Lyotard provocatively explores this question in his essay, Can Thought Go On without a Body Lyotard considers whether technology could create machines to make thinking materially possible after our bodies are destroyed 77 Lyotard concludes that not only is thought impossibly entwined with the body but that the body actually creates thought Thinking and suffering overlap 82 Thought, Lyotard posits, attempts to create endings, to once and for all silence the discomfort of the unthought The unthought hurts It s uncomfortable because we re comfortable in what s already thought And thinking, which is accepting this discomfort, is also, to put it bluntly, an attempt to have done with it That s the hope sustaining all writing painting, etc that at the end, things will be better As there is no end, this hope is illusory 84 The impasse of artificial intelligence thus hinges on desire thought without body has no impetus Indeed, Lyotard questions why machines designed to mimic human minds would ever start thinking without the discomfort of the unthought making their memory suffer 85 We need, he continues, machines that suffer from the burden of their memory 85 , i.e., machines with bodies But it is precisely this burden, the burden of memory, the burden of the body, Beauvoir hopes to silence as she fashions her life into a trajectory of pure intellect Increasingly, Beauvoir identifies herself with the life of the mind she associates with the male sphere while simultaneously excising all that connects her to her female body Though Beauvoir points out many of women s inequities in A Second Sex and argues that women have often been viewed as the lesser or other sex, ironically, it is a sex that Beauvoir seems to reject as well adapted from a prior publication

  9. says:

    it seems it has taken me almost a year to finish this book in my defense it s 701 pages.for as long as i can remember, since first i heard her name and after when i knew that there is a book called the second sex written by a French woman and i admire the french , i have wanted to read it.the years passed by, i was playing with the idea of learning as much french as i can to read it in the original but alas, so little time, so many books to read and i also have a fetish for books in paper and i search all over the world before i resign to reading a PDF of a book well i searched and searched and then searched some but no signs of this book and the Persian version doesn t count cause let s face it when things get tough, translations get rough.anyways, as a student of English Literature and discovering myself through the years, i realized the i live, the i see, the i read, the i feel that i am a feminist, so i picked up or got stuck with my thesis subject Difference Feminism, and NOW i had to read this book, let s face it This woman started Feminism and so it began, my one year journey to reading this masterpiece.first chapter and i was blown away, even though it s all about biology the first chapter , she talks about the female of a lot of species but even that is interesting in the next chapters she looks at women from every single possible view, within, without, social, biological, philosophical, historical, cultural, she probes everywhere, the conscious and the unconscious, she goes deep and then deeper than you knew existed, to explain the why and the how and the when of why women are the way they are, who is doing this to us, why hasn t it changed through the years, who benefits from all this and then after 600 pages of fabulous reading, comes the sweet conclusion of how to fix it, how to change it, how to overcome and i love how she just like Woolf is not interested in separating men and women, she believes in difference and equality no one needs to hate, we don t need to fight, we just need to look deep inside and find our answers, because no matter how hard you fight it, the future IS coming, and the future is equal.

  10. says:

    No Wonder Intrigue and Strife Abound A Man never begins by representing himself as an individual of a certain sex it goes without saying that he is a Man Man represents himself as both the positive and the neutral He represents Woman as the negative Man represents himself as objective He represents Woman as subjective Ironically, Man is the Subject, but objective Woman is the Object, but subjective Aristotle defines a Woman in terms of a certain lack of qualities and therefore as defective Woman is defined relative to Man Man is not defined relative to Woman Yet, both together constitute a pairing, a duality, a totality of which the two components are necessary to one another A pairing does not necessarily imply the permanent subjection or submission of One to the Other Yet, a certain level of subjection is present in all relationships The category of the Other is as primordial as consciousness itself It derives from the duality of the Self and the Other De Beauvoir argues that subjection would be incomprehensible, if in fact human society were simply a Mitsein or fellowship based on solidarity and friendliness However, according to Hegel, we find in consciousness, the ego, itself a fundamental hostility toward every other consciousness the subject can be posed only in being opposed Thus, there is subjection, but it is not simply in one direction The Subject opposes the Object It defines itself as the essential as opposed to the inessential However, the other consciousness, the other ego, makes a reciprocal claim In its the second consciousness perception, it is the Subject and the first consciousness is the Object Each Subject is the Master and each Other is the Slave Willy nilly, individuals and groups are forced to realise the reciprocity of their relations De Beauvoir asks the killer question, How is it, then, that this reciprocity has not been recognised between the sexes, that one of the contrasting terms the Male is set up as the sole essential, denying any relativity in regard to its correlative the Female and defining the latter as pure Otherness Why is it that Women do not dispute Male sovereignty No Subject will readily volunteer to become the Object, the inessential it is not the Other who, in defining itself as the Other, establishes the One The Other is posed as such by the One in defining itself as the One But if the Other is not to regain the status of being the One, she must be submissive enough to accept this alien point of view What, then, is the origin of Woman s submission What is the origin of Man s domination of Woman Why does Man stabilize Woman as Object and doom her to be overshadowed and forever transcended by another ego conscience which is essential and sovereign The drama of Woman lies in this conflict between the fundamental aspirations of every Subject ego who always regards the Self as the essential and the compulsions of a situation in which she is the inessential What circumstances limit Woman s liberty and how can they be overcome Although built on a philosophical foundation, The Second Sex seeks concrete answers to these questions.