Reading Beauvoir

We’re reading, in my Feminist Theory class, The Second Sex as our first text of the semester. Last night we discussed the Intro, the Independent Woman, and the Conclusion of the text. One paragraph elicited some heated discussion, and I want to take a bit of time to try to work through some of my thoughts on the following from page 712:

Woman is in any case deprived of the lessons of violence by her nature: I have shown how her muscular weakness disposes her to passivity. When a boy settles a dispute with his fists, he feels that he is capable of taking care of himself; at the least, the young girl should in compensation be permitted to know how it feels to take the initiative in sport and adventure, to taste the pride of obstacles overcome. But not at all. She may feel herself alone in the midst of the world, but she never stands up before it, unique and sovereign.

What we have here, at face value, is Beauvoir providing another example of how her situation prevents woman from transcending, from realizing herself wholly as Subject. In the final sentence she says woman “can feel herself alone” as an individual in the world. She can feel herself unique, but she cannot feel that she can take charge, that she can project herself onto the world, that she can change the current state of reality; she feels herself incapable of boldly standing up to the world as sovereign Subject. Beauvoir implies that woman’s lack of “lessons of violence” contributes to this position in relation to the world. She has not felt that she can “take care of” herself, and for that reason, she does not.

What’s interesting here is that throughout the Independent Woman Beauvoir is making the case that woman simply playing man is not sufficient, is not transcendence. Woman must succeed on her own terms and in her own right. She provides phenomenologies of women imitating man, but falling short or remaining unfulfilled. She is constantly aware that physical differences in the sexes do exist, and that this in itself is not a hindrance and to acknowledge it not a wrong. In this paragraph, however, the patriarchal value of violence seems to prevail. Why is it that Beauvoir neglects to tear down, here, the lofty place of physical force in our collective weltbild? She seems here to simply accept that physical force (be it in the form of violence, sport, adventure, etc) is in some way necessary to the realization of oneself as the One, and not that this is just another construct of the masculine weltbild of which we are heirs.

One could argue that physical force is such a thing; that it is a necessity in this realization because it is such a tangible and accessible representation of ones ability to transcend. If you can move the impediment from your path with physical force you can at once witness your ability to affect reality; you can at once realize your sovereignty.

I think that there is something much more subtle going on here, though. The distinction between masculine violence as the “boy settles a dispute with his fists” and the girl who “takes initiative in sport and adventure” is purposeful. This distinction is not solely in place to say that this might be what society would allow at this given point in time given the situation that woman finds herself in, for if that were the case then what would be the point of the entire text, the entire project? Beauvoir constantly pushes that line, why would she hold back here. I think the distinction is a subtle reminder, actually, of what I said earlier…that the author recognizes the real differences that exist and that woman, once again, must, even in physical force, find her own way and not the masculine way. Woman must learn from the outset to use the body she has to overcome physical obstacles, and in doing so the young girl, as the young boy using his fists, can feel herself to be in control, capable of affecting reality. She can feel herself “unique AND sovereign.”

Untuk pemesanan, hubungi kami melalui kontak yang tersedia berikut:

Chat WhatsApp Kirim SMS Telpon

Komentar (0)

Posting Komentar