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Feminism: Simone Beauvoir
According to Simone Beauvoir, feminism has already been tainted to an extent that there seems no hope of talking about the subject. Though a lot has been said about feminism, little improvement has been seen in women and they are still subject to men. A woman no longer exists as a fellow man, but lives in the shadow of a man. Though a woman is just a fellow human being like a man, society has made her less significant such that there are no definite characteristics relating to a woman as it is for a man (Simone, 1949). The author wondered whether women still existed, if they are supposed to exist, and if they existed, what place would the society place them.
In her introduction, Simone Beauvoir develops her thesis by claiming that women are a lost course and tries to give different characteristics given to a man to show that there is no definite place for a woman in the society. Though women make half of the human population, they are normally encouraged to be and behave like women, and men are often viewed as superior human beings. It is often said that a woman cannot exist without a man though a man can exist on his own.
The author gives definitions of a woman depending on how the society perceives her. One of the definitions is that a woman is characterized by a womb. However, some scholars oppose the definition by claiming that although some women have a womb, they cannot be referred to as women. The very parts that make a woman are the same parts that happen to imprison her. Ovaries, uterus, and glands make women seem weak to a man to an extent that Aristotle claimed that a woman is a human being that has certain physical defects. Men view themselves as having an original connection with the world and rule over it albeit the fact that they also have glands and other physical features as a woman. Although both men and women are categorized as human beings, a woman is treated as inferior.
The author admits that women also fail to recognize their importance by making men superior such that they exist under the shadow of a man. A wife is named after her husband and the society always considers a woman to be autonomous to a man. A woman cannot live or think without a man, but a man can exist and think without a woman (Simone, 1949). It is not possible to hear of a man who is named after a woman, but a woman is referenced with a man. To a man, a woman is just a sexual being and nothing else. Therefore, man is the superior and absolute human being while a woman is just the another human being.
In addition, the author continues to describe a woman as just another human being by saying that relationship of two sexes is not like electrical poles. Electrical poles are in an equal measure and size, but in the case of a relationship between a man and a woman, the two are separate and unique individuals. A man is the overall designator of a human being and represents both the positive and neutral sides. On the other hand, a woman is only defined by the negative side as she is deemed to lack some components as compared to a man. Whenever there is a discussion, women are viewed as weak by men and if a woman takes a certain side, it is said she did so just because she is a woman. A man is the only one supposed to be right and if he sides with a woman, it is not because she is right but because she is just a woman. It is right to be a man, but it is considered wrong to be a woman. A man is the only rightful human being, but a woman exists as an incomplete individual.
For consciousness to exist, the self must be present. Therefore, the other is as original as the one who in this case is the man. The implication of otherness is just a human thought that is not defined by ancient things and situations. Having a self and the other, is not supposed to divide human beings to different sexes but it’s something that has been formulated by society. For this reason, it implies that a man and a woman are a dual that depend on each other for survival and existence. A man is born off a woman and he cannot exist without the former. Although a woman is defined as the other, she is in the likeness of a man and shares same privileges as a man.
The author also noted that for a group to set itself as the one, it has to be against the other. If one group considers itself privileged, it is because it views the other group as inferior. Consequently, the reason why a woman is defined as the other is because a man has set himself against her for he does not want to be equal to a woman.
Kimberley Crenshaw used inter-sectionality theory to show how gender and racial discrimination was experienced by black women. Intersectionality is a theory that studies overlapping discrimination. In her study, the author noted that black women faced gender and race-based discrimination, especially in the work place. If black women had a lawsuit resulting from race discrimination, they were not favored since it would be ruled that other blacks were not discriminated. In addition, gender discrimination would be ruled out since not all women were discriminated. Thus, the American Black women faced discrimination due to their gender and race. Facing both types of discrimination is what Kimberley Crenshaw coined as intersectionality notion.
Legal concepts could not defend Black women since it was either race discrimination or gender discrimination, but not both. Also, feminist activists only explored discrimination experienced by only the white privileged women who co-existed with powerful men; thus, it was not possible to know the issues faced by other women. The women activists preferred having privileges given to them by white men at the expense of the needs of women of color; hence, making discrimination to the latter intersectional as described by Kimberle (1989).
Bell Hooks is another writer that talked about intersectionality discrimination. According to the writer, privileged white women were selfish in their activism as they only sought to advocate for their needs since they wanted to enjoy the same privileges as men. For instance, the white women advocated for abortion but did not advocate against involuntary sterilization of women of color, a vice that was becoming wide spread. The women considered as essential to be in male dominated roles as opposed to taking their roles as wives and daughters and fighting for the rights of women and feminism for all women.
Also, discrimination is faced by women of color on the basis that they are overworked in workplaces while the white women fail to advocate for their rights, but instead try to outdo men in the workplace. Since white women were busy during the day and had chores to take care of after work, they instead took in the women of color and made them their domestic workers. Eventually, women of color faced discrimination due to their race and gender. Having no right over reproduction as well as the lack of advancement in the workplace is a form of discrimination faced by women of color since it is based on the fact that they are black and female (Bell, 2000).
Audre Lorde noted that having social privileges is one of the reasons why feminists and activists join the oppressors into oppressing the underprivileged. The feminists are assured by the antagonists that they will share power, and instead of helping the minority, they end up being used to deprive them of their rights. The author suggested that feminists should take it upon themselves to understand unrelated connections that women have due to oppression so that they can liberate all the oppressed. According to the writer, it is not possible to liberate one group and leave another; hence, intersectionality can help to reveal the unrelated experiences that women of color have as a result of oppression.
Combahee River Collective talked about how black women were not included in liberation movements due to their color and gender. The movements did not address all the issues faced by black women, but just highlighted a few. A black woman’s identity was in terms of her color, race, and sex and not who she was. Intersectionality came to exist in the States when black women tried to take up social and political positions. Also, the concept came to being when they were excluded from liberation movements. Women had to fight for their identity since they were treated based on their race and color instead of integrating all the identities that characterized an individual (Jayme, 2015). Combahee River Collective was formed to help liberate black women so that they can be respected similar to fellow human beings.
Adrianne Rich noted that white women who were in a position to liberate and advocate for women of color did not do so as they were busy struggling to fit in the shoes of their male counterparts. Lesbians, white women, and women of color started liberation movements on behalf of women, but the white women were deceptive as witnessed in the US and Canada (Ana, 2008). Instead of the three groups working together, the white upper-class women still liaised with men and neglected their duties as wives so as to belong in powerful positions. The upper-class white women chose their careers and powerful positions at the expense of their fellow white women, lesbians, and women of color; thus, the voices of the minority were not heard and they continued to be discriminated against.
Simone, Adrianne, Combahee River, Bell, and Crenshaw wrote about women and are some of the popular feminists that advocated for the rights of women. All of these women claim that a woman is as powerful as a man and should be given equal rights and privileges. As per the intersectionality theory, black women and other women belonging to minority groups such as lesbians are often victims of overlapping discrimination and there seems to be no law that protects them from it. Therefore, the writers advocated for the rights of women so that they would not be discriminated against with regards to race, sexual orientation, or gender.
Anna Carastathis (2008). Intersectionality and feminism. Retrieved from http://kickaction.ca/intersectionality-feminism/
Audre Lorde (1980). The uses of anger. Women responding to racism.
Bell Hooks (2000). Feminism is for everybody. Cambridge: South Press.
Jayme Nicole (2015). Combahee River Collective: Exploration of intersectionality. Retrieved from https://prezi.com/4b-5xqe81uky/combahee-river-collective-exploration-of-intersectionality/
Kimberle Crenshaw (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex. Chicago: University of Chicago. Simone Beauvoir (1949). Introduction: Woman as other. Retrieved from https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ethics/de-beauvoir/2nd-sex/introduction.html