Sexism – Feminism “No group ever defines itself as One without immediately setting up the Other opposite itself.” This statement is the beginning of The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir’s and is her description of the Other (woman.) “… it is not the Other who, defining itself as Other, defines the One; the Other is posited as Other by the One positing itself as One. But in order for the Other not to turn into the One, the Other has to submit to this foreign point of view.” In layman’s terms, Simone de Beauvoir explains an evident pattern in society where man represents the ‘Self,’ the essential, or the transcendent, and woman embodies the Other, the inessential, of the sex. Man is expected to be himself; he is expected to be completely autonomous and rewarded for his efforts. Women are expected to be weaker than men, have limitations and give their time, effort and energy to nurture others toward success. It should be pointed out that society expects women to limit their own freedom, thus limiting their future. However, it is interesting if the above is so, woman is the endowed “creator” of man. There would be no men if women did not carry human beings in her womb to give birth. Therefore, women should stand up and reach for their highest aspirations in order to gain their own freedom.
Simone de Beauvoir outlines the many ways in which women are perceived as “Other” in our society of male dominance, where women come second to men. The author in her book sheds light on feminism, sexism, oppression, and freedom. She educates women not to embrace their status as the Other in society nor remaining complacent towards men. A line from the text reveals “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” the role that we associate and assign to women is not given to them at birth. By virtue of their biology, women are socially constructed and become the expected norm. Women are taught what they are supposed to be in life, what kind of roles they can or cannot perform according to be the second sex.” The author observed women and their role in life leading up to the year of 1949 when she wrote The Second Sex. Society allowed women to give up their time, effort, and freedom for everyone else’s benefit. For many centuries this was the common way of life for many women. They were expected to be the submissive Other; while men were looked at as individuals who can and should be enabled to do as they wish. During this time period women were given less opportunities in life as it was the social norm.
Women like Queen Elizabeth I helped change the overall image of women’s role in society. The role of women after the 1940’s to now has seriously been redefined, as women became valued within traditionally male contexts and were allowed freedom to participate in aspects of social life that had previously been denied them. Additionally, African-American women were allowed much more freedom to join these groups than they had before World War II. Things had certainly begun to change for the positive. Though I was not born during this time of oppression it is evident that women in the past have paved the way for their sex. Women have now become enabled and educated giving them greater opportunities allowing their freedom to enable them to accomplish goals, say no without feeling guilty and have roles in politics as an example of their successes. Simone de Beauvoir is not blaming men for the plight of women. She is saying in our culture men and women both expect a little less out of women, limiting their freedom. Women choose what they choose to do and because of their choices they end up asking a little less out of themselves; they do not live up to their full potential to reach their freedom. She notes that men define their own world, and women are meant to live life within those boundaries.
She remarks on the oppression experienced by women in regard to men’s and women’s biological differences, the psychological perspective that differs between the two sexes, and finally, through the lens of historical tendencies. When considering human biology, de Beauvoir notes that the sexes are defined in opposition to each other; man is not a woman and woman is not man. The differences between men and women are intangible at the basic cellular level of life. Therefore, the main differentiation of the two genders is demonstrated through sexuality. She shares that “The liberated woman must free herself from two shackles: first, the idea that to be independent she must be like men, and second, socialization through which she becomes feminized.
The first alienates her from her sexuality.” Simone de Beauvoir goes on to argue that women’s passive role in procreation reflects her passive role in society, and that society trains women to become subjugated from the very day of their birth. Further, despite the two sexes’ cooperative role in creating new members of the species, men are regarded as those who provide “the stimuli needed for evoking new life” and women simply enable said new life “to become lodged in a stable organism.” This reinforces stereotypical notions of the virile male and the passive female, notions that are reflected in society as a woman taking the backseat and allowing man to do “what man is supposed to do”. The author of The Second Sex focuses on the freedom of woman as her main issues to be addressed. She considers oppression and dominance to be one of the main issues that are connected to women’s ability to be free. She defines freedom as a human being surpassing themselves today and being allowed to transcend and go beyond in life. This includes projecting one’s self into an open future. She argues that women have been deceived into believing that they are second class humans.
The text shares that “woman is a womb” and certain women declare that they are not women, because they want to be men, although they are equipped with a uterus. The above is an example of how women have become brainwashed into devaluing themselves. Western culture, according to de Beauvoir, teaches us that women are missing an element of the self that allows men freedom. Being an African-American woman I have experienced being categorized as the Other. At my place of employment many male employees have decided to question my physical ability to perform the required job duties of my position. This position does not require a specific sex to be able to do the job. A woman like me probably has no business pursuing a position that requires one to latch heavy hoses onto a plane and drive a 15k tonker truck filled with jet fuel. My decision to fuel airplanes, as my summer job, has allowed me to step out on faith and try something new working in a male dominated field. Without the works of many women like de Beauvoir I would have refrained from applying for manual labor jobs that requires one to use their physical ability. Having this position enables me to become more diverse and well equipped to deal with the opposite sex, after my graduation, in my chosen profession.
Overall, men are said to be the trailblazers and in all my 19 years of life I have seen male political figures, actors, and family members assume this position very proudly. However, women of the 22nd century are changing this norm and reaching their potential and achieving their freedom. As we see the Other’s roles in life changing, women have begun to understand that their power lies within. A woman has to recognize her freedom in order to make life changes for the better of all womankind and themselves. This does not mean man gives up his independence and happiness; it means that both sexes will be able to function at a higher level of respect and freedom. Humans having equality allows person to person relationships to flourish. Gender inequality issues are improving around the world because female advocates, actors and workers have persevered to receive equal wages and equal access to business and property. Things have improved within the last decade as women have begun to take risks to expose the truth in regard to sex inequality from being the inferior Other. Women now have more courage to speak the truth about their victimization and experiences with men. When one woman takes the risk of speaking up about the truth things begin to improve because women are joining together and becoming one voice. An example of this would be the “Me too.” campaign that hit the media inside and outside of the United States. This movement campaigned against sexual harassment and sexual assault. It followed sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly with the women they victimized coming forward and telling the truth about the abuse these men had perpetrated on them. Sexual violence survivors are speaking out about their experiences and are supporting each other; the goal being advocates and survivors creating solutions to stop sexual violence. Women of today have been able to take the situation they are experiencing and reaching for the unexpected in order to achieve freedom. They do not give up their femininity, happiness, families or themselves in order to have freedom and success in the year 2019.