Le Deuxième Sexe - Context and ideas

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  • Created on: 12-04-21 17:20
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  • Le Deuxième Sexe - Context and ideas
    • Origins of the essay
      • Beauvoir started an intended autobiography in 1946
      • She asked herself what it meant to be a woman
      • Began to construct an essay on cultural myths surrounding femininity
      • Her questioning led her to other questions about women
      • The essay is a multidisciplinary work from lots of different directions
      • Draws heavily on theories of existentialism
      • One of the fundamental feminist texts of the modern day, huge influence on theorists around the world
    • Fundamental ideas
      • 3) Gender roles are socially and culturally constructed
        • Most powerful idea of the essay is that you're not born a women, you become one
        • Gender roles are constructed through myths, social codes and practises
        • Gender is a social construct and therefore a myth, and with it the supposed characteristics of woman as opposed to men
        • Distinction between sex and gender made - psychology is dependent on neither but has elements of both biology and social environment
        • Beauvoir is the creator of blank slate theory - the idea that there is no psychological difference between men and women
        • Believes that muscular and nervous control in women is imperfectly assured (a belief that has been proven false now)
        • Refusal of idea that 'biological data' constitutes for women a fixed destiny - supposed feminine characteristincs are a result of social conditioning
      • 2) women have been cut off from their freedom to construct themselves by men's need to construct them as Other
        • The Other is a philosophical, psychological and social catagory as named by Hegel
        • Hegel and Sartre believed that relationships are fundamentally freedom-limiting - partner's actions limit your freedom if you are one unit
        • There is a battle for dominance taking place between the self and the other in all forms of division
        • Otherness - no group ever defines itself without immediately putting the other against it
      • 4) Women are complicit in their oppression
        • Women are half victims, half accomplices
        • Oppression of women by men is very unique because in all other cases, oppressed groups have solidarity within themselves
        • Women are literally dispersed and are more psychologically aligned with husbands and families than other women
        • Women participate in their oppression and pass it onto their children by adopting and teaching gender roles
        • Men are also the victims of patriarchy as they are conditioned by myths to view women as the other and as inferior
      • 1) All humans are free to construct their own identities through actions and have the responsibility to do so
        • Adoption of existentialist view - l'être en soi vs l'être pour soi
        • being in itself and being of itself - physical existence vs existence that recognises itd own existence (unique to consciousness)
        • With l'être pour soi comes absolute freedom
          • Condamné d'être libre - we feel our freedom as a burden because it brings absolute responsibility, brings l'angoisse with it
          • We take refuge from absolute freedom in la mauvaise foi - telling yourself you're not free and that you're être en soi (passive), this brings conformism
        • Existence precedes essence - humans have no essence, we construct ourselves through our actions, we create our own essence


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