Second Wave Of Feminism - THE SECOND SEX?

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Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986) is the lady most often recognized with ushering in the second wave of feminism. 

  • Beauvoir was a prominent thinker of the twentieth century, and her book The Second Sex (1949) was a groundbreaking examination of women's cultural beliefs, social norms, and living circumstances. 
  • She asks, "What is a woman?" using existentialism, a philosophical philosophy prominent in France in the twentieth century. 
  • In The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947), Beauvoir offers an explanation of existential ethics, which she utilizes as a technique in The Second Sex. 

Freedom is the most important virtue, and every endeavor that a person does should embrace freedom in some manner, allowing greater freedom for oneself and others. 

  • Another way to look about it is that through behaving in the world, each individual makes himself or herself. 
  • When a person behaves in a manner that restricts freedom, he or she begins to resemble an object rather than a person. 
  • For example, if a person decides to be a housewife and then allows that position to dictate her choices to the point that she no longer behaves as a free creature, she has effectively walled off her freedom. 
  • Of fact, in certain cases, the social environment may be the first to stifle freedom. 

Beauvoir highlighted the many ways in which women's circumstances limit their capacity to act freely. 

  • Women's oppression differs from other kinds of oppression, such as racism or classism, in that it seems to have no historical origins - women have always been oppressed. 
  • Women live and work in solitude when their societal responsibilities compel them to be spouses and mothers. 
  • This eliminates at least some of the options for solidarity. 
  • Because women live in separate homes, there is no solidarity of job interest, and there is no solidarity of location (as in ghettos) for the same reason. 
  • Women typically have more in common with their socioeconomic class's males than with other women. 
  • This makes collaborative emancipation attempts much more difficult. Beauvoir's goal in The Second Sex is to promote women's freedom, but she demonstrates that this is a difficult task. 


The book is divided into two sections, the first of which investigates why women are oppressed. 

She searches for a solution in all of the areas that others have mentioned — historical materialism, biology, and psychoanalysis – but none of them really answers the issue correctly or fully. 

  • Instead, she claims, women's whole position is oppressive: a slew of variables collide to produce the unique scenarios in which each woman finds herself. The book's second section details the circumstances of women. 
  • Beauvoir also dispels misconceptions about women, parenting, feminine sexuality, and other elements of women's life. 
  • She looks back in time to examine how women have been treated and what efforts have been done to liberate women from oppressive situations. 
  • She also provides a literature review to demonstrate how symbolic depictions of women become more than just representations; they become benchmarks by which actual women are judged. 


According to Beauvoir, woman is characterized as "other." 

  • Because they are both identical to and distinct from males, men are the One or the norm, while women are the Other. 
  • Women, like men, are free human beings who are also subject to nature. That is to say, humans are natural creatures with bodies that are often unexpected or uncontrolled. 
  • Men dread nature because they want to be free and establish their own meaning in the world; as a means to control it, they make woman the embodiment of nature via myth and tradition. 

To keep women oppressed, males construct the religion of the "feminine" or the "feminine mystery." 
  • Women are taught how to be women, i.e. passive, object-like, free creatures who have been misled into thinking that they are bound to certain "natural" roles that limit their freedom. 
  • As a result, a young woman is taught to think that her destiny is to be a wife and mother, and that she would be happy in these duties. 
  • Her independence, or her capacity to act on it, has been curtailed. 


To further describe women's position, Beauvoir used the ideas of "immanence" and "transcendence." 

  • Immanence is a state of stagnation in which monotonous tasks are constantly repeated (like dishes that once washed will get dirty and need to be washed again). 
  • Transcendence is extending its reach into the future via initiatives that promote liberty (like a profession that continually opens new possibilities). 
  • Despite the fact that every human being is both immanent and transcendent, and must engage in both types of activities, certain social practices may seem to trap one in immanence, preventing one from achieving transcendence. 

In every instance of tyranny, this is what occurs. 

  • Men inhabit the realm of transcendence inasmuch as they labor on important tasks that extend into the future, while women are relegated to the field of immanence due to oppression. 
  • The beginning of the monthly flow, according to Beauvoir, serves as a reminder to the girl of her immanence. 
  • Menstruation serves as a monthly reminder of her relationship with her body as a servant to the species via reproduction. 

This, among other things, distinguishes women as being more ‘natural' or susceptible to the vagaries of their bodies than males. 

  • Beauvoir also claims that women are culpable in their own enslavement, arguing that women absorb the male gaze and gender roles expectations. 
  • Women judge themselves and one another based on socially created and changeable attractiveness, behavior, activity, and sexuality norms. 
  • According to social myth, the ‘eternal feminine' is the imagined essence of femininity that all women are expected to posses. 
  • Of course, being an existentialist, she thinks that such an essence does not exist. 
  • Women and men, on the other hand, accept the myths as fact and judge one other severely for failing to live up to them. 


The famous statement by Simone de Beauvoir, "One is not born, but rather becomes a woman," serves as a focal point for The Second Sex. 

  • It represents a transition from her depiction of traditional myths to an examination of women's issues. 
  • She claims that each woman will be in a position that is unique to her because of her childhood experiences, her connection with her own sexuality, the social environment in which she finds herself, and cultural marital traditions or expectations. 
  • Although boys and girls seem to have similar levels of freedom in infancy, by adolescence, females have realized both that they are free and that their oppression makes exercising that freedom virtually difficult. 

According to Beauvoir, this is what creates the adolescent crisis. 

  • The dissatisfaction of not being able to act on one's independence may last throughout adulthood, or a woman may accept the responsibilities that have been assigned to her. 
  • Individual and societal transformations are equally involved in liberation. 
  • Woman must view herself as a subject, not an object, like a man. 
  • She must accept her independence and participate in initiatives that promote it. 

Women, on the other hand, must view themselves as a social group. 


Failure to do so aids in the perpetuation of oppression; women must see the unity in shared oppressive conditions, in other words, they must identify the mystification of the eternal feminine. 

(1)Women must go to work; 

(2) women must study and engage in intellectual activity; 

(3) women must express their sexuality in freedom; and 

(4) women must struggle to change society into a socialist society and seek economic fairness, according to Beauvoir. 


Beauvoir paved the path for women all over the globe to realize the social and political significance of personal experience by articulating the many ways in which women feel the limits of femininity in vivid detail. 

  • Because she had the guts to make women's social, family, physical, political, and cultural experiences public, her book ushered in a new era of feminist action. 
  • Even sixty years after the publication of The Second Sex, she wrote about topics that had previously been forbidden, and she talked with a clarity and honesty about women's bodies and sexuality that many people still find startling. 
  • Although some may dispute whether women are still the "Other" that Beauvoir portrays, reading Beauvoir's study of women's position may provide us with important insights into the form and substance of oppression. 
  • ‘Like the universe itself, representation of the world is the product of men; they depict it from their own point of view, which they mistake for ultimate truth.' 
  • The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir (1949) Similarly, Betty Friedan (1921–2006) is credited for reviving the feminist movement in the United States with her very important book The Feminine Mystique (1963). 


Friedan discovered what she referred to as a "problem without a name." 

The overall melancholy that many middle-class women felt in their households typified this issue. 

  • They had been taught to think that being a wife and mother would bring them happiness, but instead, they frequently felt sad, lonely, or unsatisfied. 
  • Friedan started her research for this book by surveying her Smith College class of 1942, an all-college women's in the United States. 
  • Despite the fact that her sample group was very restricted, the issues she covered in her book sparked a movement: many women learned they weren't alone in their feelings of dissatisfaction with family life and being dismissed by society. 
  • Friedan believed that women should work outside the home. She claimed that the issue was caused by the suffocating life of a housewife, rather than some hidden feminine illness that could only be discovered via psychoanalysis.
  • She advocated for a new perspective on family and a new social life for women. 


 ~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

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