The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir [Book Summary – Review]

What do I gain from it? Find out one of the first works of modern feminism.

Beauvoir writes in this influential piece of contemporary feminism that “one isn’t born; however, instead becomes a female.” The notion that femininity is an outcome of external impact, contrary to being an inborn feature, might look noticeable to a lot of people now; however, in the year 1949, at the time “Second Sex” disseminated this was extremely controversial and argued claim. Although over the past 60 years, the condition for females has gotten better in a lot of areas of the planet, de Beauvoir’s opinions stay significant today as well.

Throughout this book review, she goes back to the past of the duty of females in the human community– from olden days to her era– and talks about how the idea of “woman” grew, destined females to unassertive lives, resided under males’ shadows.

Before talking about that, we can take a glance at some of the ideas vital to the claims of Beauvoir.

The Other: Anything, or hypothesis, as well as has a contrary, or antithesis; in the absence of an antithesis, there won’t be any thesis and the other way round. For instance, if there is no slave, there won’t be any master because he wouldn’t have anybody to control, and if there is no master, there won’t be any slave, because slaves would have nobody to rule over them. Slaves constitute the “others” making masters conceivable. Likewise, females are “others” to males.

If there is no woman for a man to dominate, there would not be a man.

Transcendence vs. immanence: The latter is for talking about the area offered to women: an isolated field in which females are unassertive, still, and submerged in themselves. The former is the opposite field of males: strong, creative, active, productive, powerful, and spreading outwards into the outer world.

So, we have examined these two vital notions, now we can get started!

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Chapter 1 – Among species, females are different from males; however, this needn’t signify a status distinction.

At times you observe the majority of species, you will see that females differ from males. This is definitely correct for human beings, and people claim that the presence of distinctions like these shows that females and males need to possess a distinct ranking in public.

But, this claim is not valid. 

True, males and females are different biologically; however, these don’t validate the domination of men over women.

Human men are usually stronger physically, having more erythrocyte and muscle mass, as well as better lung capacity. However, these kinds of male features are just significant in a community where better physical volume is appreciated more than any other thing. Some cultures prohibit violence, hence weakening any efforts for men to rule over women with their bodily power. Certainly, it’s just when men are allowed to place their bodily strength in making other people accept the cruel assertion that men – with their muscly body – ought to control the roost.

Additionally to biological claims, psychoanalytical descriptions of the disparity of women and men have been suggested as well. These are somewhat weak as well.

Freud puts the start of the progress of the distinction among women and men at the genital stage, at the times a pubescent child begins to link pleasure with some else, usually a person of the contrary sex. The penis has been the limb of pleasure for the male, on the other hand, the female changes concentration of pleasure to vaginal from clitoral, turning the penis –as well as penetration – into an object for her to yearn. Also, Freud thought that women underwent penis jealousy – a feeling of having a penis one time, which makes females feel deprived and hurt, inferior to males.

However, Freud’s hypothesis has a vital error: it focused on men’s models. The idea of penis jealousy may just be real when male genitalia is regarded as the standard, and women genitalia is regarded as not having something – like the Other.

Therefore, if that is not psychology or biology that offers the foundation for the distinction in ranking among men and women, what provides it then?

Chapter 2 – Humanity changed into being patriarchal from being matriarchal that lay emphasis on a woman’s duty like the Other.

The majority of the present communities are patriarchal – meaning, men are in charge of most of the stances of power. Also, it’s usually thought of as something coming from the past. However, that was not the situation.

As a matter of fact, women had more strength than men at one time. A lot of ancient communities were matriarchal. Mainly derived from farming, such communities shared their belongings and considered children as priceless assets: the way of continuing society. 

Because females were the ones giving birth, they were offered a nearly sacred status. Certainly, kids would frequently have mothers’ family names – different from the present practice of having fathers’ family names. This significance put on females’ fertility was represented more by female gods revered by a lot of olden societies, such as Gaea, the Earth goddess from Greece, and goddess Ishtar in Babylon.

During this time, the man was scared and showed respect to the supernatural and peculiar woman. That assisted man from the concept of female to be the Other.

Also, when masculinity dominated, otherness worsened.

The growth of slavery changed women more like the Other. Because female work was not needed anymore, the woman was driven out of human resources. Also, as the man began to take charge of the workforce, he began to take charge of the cloud of ideas as well; ultimately, a childbearing woman stopped being regarded as a supernatural birth giver and was minimized into being the submissive receiver of men’s creative seeds.

This concept was represented by Aristotle, a philosopher from Greece who thought that the main mobile – the existence that initiated the invention of our world – was motion as a male rule. So, this male rule acted upon the female principle of the submissive article that just gets and cannot produce.

Patriarchy couldn’t eradicate the women goddesses completely; however, it did demote them to submissive gods of indwelling. For instance, Gaea turned into the submissive dwelling, although male gods such as Zeus realized their superior will.

With men dominating the world, a woman’s authority was gone and became dwelling: immobile, domestic, submissive, and submerged in herself. Meanwhile, a man started to rise into transcendence, dominating as he progressed.

Chapter 3 – Patriarchy has been fortified by structures such as marriage and inheritance all through history.

As males got to be regarded as the real power in producing life, the principles of society shifted to unite the force of masculinity as well.

One key change was the growth of individual possessions and family inheritance.

This is different from olden societies, which normally held every property together. However, masculine communities and the faith of men adoring private property, let the gathering of riches in just one family. Also, because man now transferred ancestry – and property – the woman was left out from any heritage. Women, excluded from getting property, turned into a kind of item themselves, an “object” rather than an individual with the agency. This change from joint to the exclusive, masculine property didn’t just separate female from the male; it separated her from the community at large.

Man retained dominance on the heritage by marrying as a means. The marriage didn’t just control the inheritance; however, it went to dehumanize women further, transforming them into yet another object. For instance, teenage females were firmly controlled by maybe their dad or the oldest family member; as soon as they got married, this dominance was given to the spouse. Also, in some areas, the marriage didn’t give females the property right when their spouses passed away.

For instance, the olden Greek organization made it mandatory for females, if their husbands die, to make a marriage with the oldest male person in the family of her husband, in order for the property to stay in the possession of the masculine. A more extreme practice was noted in Roman writing as prevalent in the olden Brittany. A lot of men from a single family were sharing females as joint property; when a man passed away, females would not be able to possess something from those men.

However, all these cases are from the olden eras. Definitely, everything is different now, right? Let’s read on to know.

Chapter 4 – Currently, the female’s role has gotten better; however, the female is still dominated by males.

We usually consider the past as a regular continuation, a sequence of growth until the happy days of today. However, is it valid for females? Not really, though there are aspects where a woman’s duty in the community has gotten better.

Women started to get a more leading place in life at the beginning of the fifteenth century. Women were still tremendously ruled by marriage; however, few women progressively discovered the means of accessing formerly male fields.

For instance, the women of France in the seventeenth century began talking about literature, philosophy, and arts. Also, in spite of not having any formal training – females were not permitted to attend university – authors such as Gournay and LaFayette ultimately got more popular than their spouses.

Females entered politics as well. d’Aiguillon was famous for being a strong power over Richelieu, who was the chief minister of King Louis, was considered by a lot of people as the leader of France. Females also got the top office in their countries, such as Elizabeth I became the Queen in the UK and Ireland, Furthermore, by staying unmarried, the Queen of Sweden, Christina was not dominated by a spouse’s will and because their dads were dead already, they could accomplish freedom formerly kept for the strongest of men.

However, in spite of these growths, most women still stayed in a submissive stance.

Although we get to the early 19th hundredth year, the stance of the woman stays lower than the man. For instance, in the US during the year 1918, women received less than 50% of what males obtained, and, during the exact same time, women miners around Germany received a ¼ less than males, although they gathered the same quantity of coal.

Also, women who, rather than becoming part of the workforce, gave birth to kids and managed chores, were regarded as inferior too –not capable of doing the jobs of male equivalents. Also, since labor inside the house is free, housewives stayed resting on spouses’ financial support. Certainly, a dead end.

Hence, although we have improved in some aspects, women do not have an equal balance with men yet.

Chapter 5 – Religion has a vital part in making females “the Other”.

Since the time that religion has been in existence, it has impacted the manner people use their brains and behave. It’s had a massive influence on the manner we see women as well.

Certainly, a lot of religions place women underneath men from the start.

Just consider Christianity and Judaism’s creation tale: Adam & Eve. We may understand, Adam is made to relish the Eden Garden easily. However, Adam becomes lonely by being on his own; therefore, God makes a partner for Adam, by taking from his limbs and creating a female, Eve.

Afterward, Eve persuades Adam to have the fruit from the Knowledge Tree and is held responsible for him eating that. It was Eve to blame for a mistake of a man causing his dismissal from Eden.

There was the vital message where the woman is shaped “the other”. Different from male – the independent, inventive spirit – the woman is degraded to sin and a body. According to Christianity, that sinful body creates sin, causing all newborns to be guilty before even giving birth.

However, this sinful perspective of the female body is not restricted to Christianity only.

In the Empire of Roman, for instance, it was an abomination for army members to sleep with spouses before going into war.

Romans assumed that the power of soldiers would be exhausted and consumed by the woman’s body. But, this perspective of women’s bodies isn’t about females generally. Prepubescent girls, as well as old women who have passed their childbearing times – non-sexual females, meaning– aren’t seen like this.

Chapter 6 – Myths surrounding women have fortified their duty being “the Other”.

Hence, is faith the sole root for our notions about women? Definitely not – non-religious tales exist too.

For instance, there are a lot of myths regarding menstruation, which is a thing only females go through. From the 1940s in Southern France, a lot of people assumed that, if a woman that is menstruating puts salt on pork, it would be cured for making ham or it could become worse. Although, nowadays this might look ridiculous to us, that kind of thinking is continued by words such as, “She is at that time for this month,” which means that menstruation owns a kind of mystical influence on females that they cannot dominate their actions anymore.

Apparently nice myths on females really usually aid to slightly raise female “Otherness”.

Consider the women muses of the mythology of Greece. They symbolize the notion that females are creatures that motivate, instead of produce, inventions of the mastermind. The woman is submissive, a being of indwelling who occurs to motivate the supernatural willpower of males.

Also, the motivating muse is usually regarded to possess a peculiar, unintelligible trait that hinders men from knowing living females, and helps to leave women more “Other”. It may take the apparently positive kind of Madonna, the holy virgin mom of Christ; however, as well as negative forms, such as a praying mantis, an insect that consumes her mate after sex.

This kind of oversimplified archetypes assists men to ignore the actual, human difficulties of women. The man may basically dismiss a woman’s rage and anger on the basis that females are basically incomprehensible beings, rather than attempting to know the things he had done to upset women.

Chapter 7 – Turning into a “woman” process begins in childhood.

Therefore, if a woman is a thing that is defined by myths, religion, and history, what is the way one turns into a woman presently?

The process starts immediately after birth. After children come into the world, their brains are exactly the same. However, when society separates them into boys and girls, it forms two really different manners of existence in this world.

While they are babies, girls and boys are handled similarly: they suck for milk, need diapers, and nearly always sleep. But, immediately the child stops breastfeeding, things begin to transform. Boys are being explained to “become men,” being free and powerful, whereas girls carry on to be handled like babies for an extended period. They are let to the laps of their parents, who spoil girls and name them like pets.

This separation is intensified when children know their sexuality. Males are permitted – and even allowed– to have games with themselves, furthermore, their ability to pee while being up offers them a feeling of appreciation. Whereas girls need to squat or sit, and are usually wanted to be careful when peeing. That lets them think that they have an abomination, which makes them feel embarrassed about their physics.

This separation extends all through childhood, forcing the female more and more into a submissive stance.

For instance, although males have their penis as a toy, females do not have anything and hence are handed a doll in its place. This understanding of a female like an injured male is especially obvious in French, as poupée can signify both “doll” and “band-aid” – the doll is basically a cover for a psychical injury. Having a puppet at a tender age emphasizes the communication that a female’s duty is to imitate her mom by getting ready to cater to future children.

However, this is only the way the procedure starts.

Chapter 8 – With females entering adolescence, they start to be more “woman,” changing more into being “the Other”.

Therefore, what occurs as females get age?

With the division between girls and boys getting more obvious, females sense being more stuck in their condition. Initially, they believe that giving birth would be a good thing since they notice the positive impact a mom’s upkeep has on kids. However, as they become older, and get less reliant on their moms, females start to regard being restricted to inside the house as unpleasant. 

Rather, they begin to yearn for the dad’s role, filled with potential and power. This yearning is shown in a surprising statistic: Havelock Ellis, an English physician revealed that although just 1% of boys wished to be female, more than 75% of girls wished to be male.

This yearning for not being a girl worsens as females’ physical appearance begins to transform into the bodily signs of women.

For instance, when their breasts begin to be structured, girls start to be seen as an item, as flesh. Now, she has obvious physical indications that differentiate her from males, which suffocates her more into “Otherness”.

Also, with menstruation, that change gets even more noticeable.

The first menstruation, usually something that is painful and is worsened by the environment of embarrassment and the abomination that has bordered female organs from their childhood. Also, it enforces females the understanding that her destiny is associated with her mom’s: she now turned into a prospective mom and needs to bear the burden of the dangers and repercussions of sexual intercourse.

Chapter 9 – Sexuality, as well as a sexual kickoff, are the last phases of stepping into being a woman.

For males and females together, the drop of virginity signifies the start into the environment of being an adult. However, for females, this incident is just one sign of the painful way to grown sexuality.

Firstly, the up-and-coming female has a bad understanding: she will engage in sex, and this notion causes a revulsion in her. The reason is what the male stare consumes – her flesh, her thighs, her breasts – are the real indications that realize females are under enemy control of male power. A lot of girls show this revulsion by hurting themselves, which lets them both penalty as well as take charge of the flesh. By doing this, a female can form a sense of power by reforming herself as the powerful man who causes harm to the submissive females.

The powerful male, the submissive female: these structures are ingrained in the usual ideas of sexuality. Male passion is usually displayed in powerful and militaristic names. Man-dominated woman, “releases” his seed, “pulls” girls to the bed, etc. The submissive female, after being figuratively stabbed by males’ look to her, is then basically stabbed by the male penis.

However, different from what a lot of people believe, a lot of women don’t relish the penetration, they even think it is painful. Although women themselves have a tendency to want clitoral satisfaction, the vaginal part of sexuality is emphasized when a man conquers women. This additionally highlights the female body as indwelling that can just feel pleasure with male activity.

Chapter 10 – Motherhood ends the girl’s change to “woman,” however, can be emancipating as well.

All of us understand what occurs when males and females love one another so much: babies. Also for women, this signals the last conversion to turning into a woman.

Pregnancy represents man’s transcendent energy to place the seed of a kid in the indwelling, woman body in a patriarchal society.

However, pregnancy as well as heightens the females’ indwelling by lessening what she requires to the requirements of her kid. Even before children’s birth, the requirements of the embryo take charge, and any first feelings of creation and transcendence that the female might have experienced are immediately changed with cravings, vomiting, and painful breasts. Wilhelm Stekel, a psychologist has gone really further as to explain morning illness as a sign of a woman’s unintentional willpower to force out the embryo similar to a badly eaten food.

With that being said, a lot of women experience a feeling of being one with their kids while they are pregnant. But, when the baby is given birth, this can cause an increased sense of loneliness. The fresh mom instantly understands that the baby is not hers like it formerly was; rather, it has her. She needs to give in to its requirements, to use her entire time caring and giving food to it.

But, turning into a mom may as well free a female from the burden of being a sexual item.

This is obviously represented by the way the typical worth of breasts transforms. Although it formerly was a sexual figure, breasts now turn into a symbol of caution, feeding, and tranquility. Because breasts are not objects of male pleasure anymore, women don’t need to feel embarrassed about their bodies while breastfeeding their kids in public.

Chapter 11 – The heritage of marrying continues to exist and provides females financial safety while at the same time locking them up.

We’ve understood how marriage has played a vital part in the history of women’s subjugation; however, how have women been impacted by marriage in more current eras?

In brief, little has transformed.

The institution of marriage continues women’s passive duty in society. In the past, men are still normally regarded as the head of the household, whereby the wife embraces her husband’s name as well as religion. As late as 1942, surprisingly, France still had laws that required women to obey their husbands. Also, although this has changed in a lot of nations, there are still areas in the world where women need to follow the total authority of the husband.

Also, in liberal societies as well where marriage has less influence, the household carries on to stuck women in a cage of passivity.

Certainly, a woman is still required to do – and certainly still does – the most of the house chores. In 1947, a report revealed that women used 30 hours each week on household chores. The condition has gotten better; however, women are still the ones who do the majority of this free labor, which is one likely reason for the gender wage difference: women receive less since they have a smaller amount of time to commit to the workplace. Also, because they receive less, women are encouraged to remain with a man that can give them economic security.

A woman lives a life of immanence trapped in this cage. She doesn’t get the time to make anything for herself and rather needs to care for her husband and kids. She is secluded from the whole society, and from work as well the outside world. Caring for her family may give her some satisfaction; however, when she finds out that her husband, as well as children, are able to live without her, the woman gets overwhelmed with feelings of rejection and loneliness.

Chapter 12 – The dressing of women is a kind of domination that lasts until the woman is released when they get old.

Domination is not usually about financial matters. It shows itself in different forms as well.

For instance, a woman is compelled to dress up in a manner that satisfies the male stare– even when that kind of dressing is not comfortable. Short skirts permit less independence of motion than pants, and stilettos immediately result in blisters. Revealing lingerie doesn’t work for any useful purpose, whereas bodices make it hard to breathe. However, the male stare is really strong that a lot of women believe that dressing up gives the sense of wellness when as a matter of fact it is making females feel wanted by the stare that is driving them to be wanted in the initial instance.

As a woman becomes elderly, this stress gets more powerful as she attempts to carry on her vanishing desirability.

On the contrary to male standards of manliness, agency, and virility that persist or even grow as men become elderly, women’s standards such as being young and giving birth that signifies their appeal to males diminish as women grow older. A lot of women fight this destiny by attempting to regain their teens. This is actually a kind of regression: old females dressing as though they are teenagers in an effort to highlight the desirable part they played on time. This fight carried on since the day females pass away except a woman lets herself give in to the impacts of time.

When a woman does allow herself to become elderly, she may release herself from men’s stare.

This is likely since elderly females are not usually seen as sexual items, neither are they required to look after their children or husbands. Therefore, if she embraces her elder age, and does not attempt to fight the impact of time, the woman can take hold of the chance to release herself from the limitations of being “female.” Unluckily, this comes really late that the majority of the females cannot live to relish liberty.

Chapter 13 – Hooking legitimates marriage; however, it is only another kind of female bondage.

Thus, being a mother and marrying change girls into women; however, what of women that are not married? Are they not independent from the limitations of a culture dominated by a male?

Not at all.

A lot of females who appear liberated are really wearing shackles that are not visible. Consider the women take money with prostitution. A lot of people assume that prostitutes represent a kind of sexual independence. However, prostitution is really another kind of bondage based on the sexual abuse of women.

As a matter of fact, hooking is a manner of separating women in order for them to be very easy to defeat. Women who need to make use of their flesh as exploitable assets are belittled and referred to as loose, which allows an espousal marriage to look more desirable. Also, although some people believe sex workers pick their occupation, the reality is that it has usually been a kind of oppression and desperation.

That is the thing that occurs to individuals who are poor who are ready to do everything to live. in the year 1836, Parent-Duchâtelet a French doctor wrote regarding this topic: “Among every reason of prostitution, nothing is more dominant than not having a job and the suffering which is the unavoidable outcome of insufficient salaries.” In spite of his research being nearly at the age of 200, indigence is a key factor behind prostitution up till now.

During the author’s era, a lot of women who turned into prostitutes were slaves for the upper and middle classes. However, when having servants wasn’t common anymore, a lot of women saw themselves outside without jobs. During the last 19th hundredth year, 50% of all females who were put into prostitution were formerly servants or maids.

Chapter 14 – The condition of females makes it more difficult for females to stand up.

If the condition of females is really terrible, why can’t they just revolt?

During the time that the writer was authoring, female rights were not a mass action yet. Also, even at the moment, in spite of a lot of struggle for rights, most females are still regularly dominated, which removes any sense of accountability for their conditions, and enables them to think that they do not have the power to alter it.

They think is true since, from a tender age, females are instructed that they cannot choose their lives, that its path has to be directed by outside forces. For instance, women require males to make them glad; hence how could females be in charge of their own sadness?

This point that males are vigorous and women are submissive ultimately turns into women’s daily reality. Also, in spite of its apparent unfairness to western discernments, still in a lot of nations women have restricted voting privileges or are prohibited from managing a business.

Women’s economic status is also another reason that hinders women from emancipating themselves. Because they depend on their spouses, they cannot stand up against them because they were putting the source of their income at risk.

This is the reason why women have to concentrate on the financial condition of every woman. Just joint movement, and not freedom, would let women free their chains and liberate themselves. Few women believe that they can evade the essential struggle by taking on traditionally male duties and growing in the grades of politics and business. Even though they accomplish this, though, females will still stay in a place dominated by males.

Chapter 15 – Love and narcissism are the means women vindicate being dominated by men.

Have you ever noticed romantic comedies in which females vindicate their relationships with some dude by stating, “However, he is my love!”

What is their reason for doing that?

Love has been a strong force that lets women vindicate their defeat.

When females understand they are distinct from males, and may never reach their respected position, she starts to long for what looks to her to be the “greatest” thing: having a boy’s love. Also, she immediately realizes that achieving the set duties of womanhood –such as being a mom or wife – could be realized by having a boy. With no other likelihood in view, a woman makes use of the strong feeling of love in persuading herself that the birdcage is valuable regardless of the pain.

However, when women change themselves into a thing of males pleasure, things may become awfully wrong.

At times women turn out to be narcissistic, vindicating their domination by symbolizing themselves. Embodying males stare really truly that she could just view herself as a thing of desire, the woman basically loves herself, rejoicing her body and charm.

For instance, Marie Bashkirtseff who was a Ukrainian sculptor was really loving herself that desired to make her beauty stay forever in statues that were created with the most beautiful marble. Also, Bashkirtseff reveals the way this narcissistic thought can make females stay in the cages of men: for her to be able to pay for that expensive marble and the spare time needed to create her sculptures, Bashkirtseff needed to get married to a rich man.

Chapter 16 – The two genders would never be identical until they both consider one another as peers.

Now, we have noticed the several forces that change females into women – a terrible structure. However, what of tomorrow? Is equity approaching?

In order to be really identical, women and men have to consider one another as friends, and that would need mutual acknowledgment of the inclination of both women and men. This entails that neither of both sexes may symbolize the other sex. For instance, consider an underwear commercial where the body of the body is turned into something of desire for females. This change of force may seem pleasant to women, however, actually, it just spreads antagonism among genders.

Also, a woman will have to grasp to free her immanence for her to discover her transcendence. Women may wish to retain the safety that comes along with being passive; however, if women wish to pass her being “the Other”, they have to free certainty and embrace a fresh, adventurous, energetic view.

Most significantly, both women, as well as society, have to know that women are social constructs.

We realized, the woman has not been an inborn identity; however, something you turn into. If we ever want to accomplish equality, the woman has to know and pass the social structure of her indwelling and submissiveness. For her to do that, she has to want the exact courage and possibilities in the office that has been demanded from the man.

However, the woman can’t change things by herself. The entire society has to change as well in order to liberate females in real life. This entails that laws have to defend women’s rights, offering them legitimate reach to controlling birth and if required, taking the baby; the female’s body belongs to her, and she is the only one that understands the best thing for her body. Likewise, childcare that is free, as well as paid leave after birth, has to be available therefore, the women who choose to have kids aren’t doomed to putting effort toward the continuance of the community for free of charge.

Basically, in order for our community to achieve gender impartiality, both women and men need to uphold their sister- and brotherhood.

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir Book Review

Nobody is a woman when they are born – that is something people turn into. Instead of a biological group, it is a construction of myths, religion, and history, which are regularly reproduced by social forces dominated by males. In order for females to be liberated, all of us have to know that females are nothing but just social fabrication.

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