Femininity Essay Example

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Simone de Beauvoir is arguably the most renowned novelist and feminist of the 20th century. One of her most famous and controversial works is the book entitled ‘The Second Sex’, which she wrote in 1949 (Mahon 1997, pp.15). In this book, Simone de Beauvoir does a detailed analysis of femininity and the role of the woman in the society (Card 2003, pp.8). Up to today, this book still sparks off mixed reactions and heated debates in the society.

De Beauvoir introduces her book by asking the fundamental question; ‘what is a woman?’ (De Beauvoir 1997, pp.13) In a bid to answer this question, she starts off by arguing that biological and social sciences no longer admit the existence of unchangeably fixed entities that determine given characteristics such as those of women, Jews and Black people (De Beauvoir 1997, pp.14). Thus, believes that there is no universal or standard definition of femininity. On this point I concur with her. It is easy for one to point out that a person is a woman since she possesses a womb or ovaries, but there is more to being a woman than just wombs and ovaries. In a bid to define womanhood, De Beauvoir turns towards Hegel’s concept of ‘self’ and ‘other’ (De Beauvoir 1997, pp.16). She explains the concept of otherness by saying that a subject can be posed only in being opposed in the sense that the subject sets itself as the essential, as opposed to the other, which is the inessential object (Mahon 1997, pp.17). From her explanation of Hegel’s concept one comes to understand that a subject defines an object, not the other way round. De Beauvoir uses this concept to explain the nature of the relationship between men and women in the society. From this relationship, she shows us how women are seen as the second sex, right from the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. To demonstrate this, she gives the example of Aristotle and St. Thomas who regarded the woman as an imperfect man (De Beauvoir 1997, pp.16). The woman is thus defined with relation to the man, who is seen as the absolute. The woman is not seen as a sovereign being and this poses a problem for them since it is hard for them to step out in a world dominated by men in almost every way. Because of this, De Beauvoir points out that some women are haunted by their femininity and they spend most of their time with men so as to be considered as an equal (Card 2003, pp.10). However, she points out that man cannot be the judge and party in his own case, neither can women. De Beauvoir concludes the introduction by saying that men and women should work together and treat other with mutual respect even though there are differences between them (De Beauvoir 1997, pp.27-28).

De Beauvoir’s introduction in her book ‘The Second Sex’ can be compared to Natalie Gyte’s article that was published in the Huffington post on 25th May 2013, entitled ‘Masculinity Defines Men, Rather Than the Reverse: Why the Masculinity Debate Is So Important’ (Gyte 2013). These two articles concur that women are not inferior to men and that gender equality should be upheld.

Gyte kicks off her article by acknowledging that men have always enjoyed social and economic privileges as a result of socially defined ‘masculinity’ (Gyte 2013). She justifies her point by noting that Man’s image has been used to define God, his viewpoint to define education, his physiology to define sports and many other examples (Gyte 2013). Just like De Beauvoir, Gyte points out that that the world is set up in favor of men. De Beauvoir points out that it’s a man’s world and everything from biology to religion and biology being in favor of men. Both agree that this system is very unfair to women. This article also points out the fact that masculinity has been used to define femininity, and thus like De Beauvoir, concluding that the woman is seen as the other sex while the man is portrayed as the absolute sex. Gyte’s goes ahead to point out that through history, the idea of masculinity has been long associated with physical toughness, bread winning and the likes, and thus subordinating the role of the women (Gyte 2013). This is exactly what De Beauvoir does by pointing out that Aristotle and St. Thomas define a woman as ‘an imperfect man’ (De Beauvoir 1997, pp.16). Gyte disapproves of this notion by arguing that women have also played the role of the bread winner during hard economic times when men have lost their jobs (Gyte 2013). However, during such times, violence against women is often higher since men feel that their masculine role is under threat (Gyte 2013).

Gyte also points out in her article that women should not be viewed as objects, especially sexual objects. I agree with her since it is morally wrong and it would not be a good example for the upcoming generation. Gyte says that the main consequence of valuing women less is violence against women (Gyte 2013).

Gyte concludes her article by saying that there is no place and reason for gender stereotyping in the modern world if the gender problems in today’s world are to be eradicated. She says that women should also be allowed to get into positions of power and leadership, and I do agree with her since women are also capable of making exceptional leaders. Good examples of notable female leaders in today’s world include Angela Merkel the Chancellor of Germany, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner who is the president of Argentina and Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil among others (Pak 2013). Gyte notes that the government also has a big role to play in enhancing gender equality. She says that some of the things the government can do include changing the school syllabus to be more genders sensitive, putting in place pornography legislations as well as putting in place affordable childcare policies among other things.


De Beauvoir, S., 1997. The Second Sex. Vintage Publishers

Card, C., 2003. The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir. Cambridge University Press

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/natalie-gyte/masculinity-defines-men_b_3352371.html June 2013, th, accessed 4Huffington postGyte, N., 2013. ‘Masculinity Defines Men, Rather Than the Reverse’ — Why the ‘Masculinity’ Debate Is So Important.

, London: Macmillan Press publishersExistentialism, Feminism and Simone de BeauvoirMahon, J., 1997.

Pak, E., 2013. Women Presidents From Around the World. Bio, Accessed 4th June 2013, http://www.biography.com/bio-now/women-presidents-from-around-the-world-21145269