De Beauvoir, Nietzsche and the Boundary

In this blog post I will often refer to the present. In some cases the present means today and some it means the 1900’s or the 1800’s.

For the most part I agree with Simone de Beauvoir,¬†The Middle Sex, especially with what she writes in the introduction. Women are and have been oppressed by men of all races and creeds, they can’t organize to fight because they are scattered and don’t have a flag. This was true up until the early 1900’s but before this being a woman was not a cause for unification, it was not a matter of identity.

I found that the movement to undo this has to be led by women. It is true that men are contributing to it but it still ahs to come from women because men are the oppressors. They can help, some of them, but it will not be as effective. The southern plantation owner would’ve never freed their slaves willingly, a little extreme example but not really. If women are inferior in terms of opportunities, education, independence it is because men made forced them to be that way, not because they are inferior in their abilities. It made me think if that is what Nietzsche was saying about women: He did think them shallow, stupid, vain etc. but he thought women were this way because men made them so. Is this possible? Is it true? I don’t know but something in my mind doesn’t add up when people say Nietzsche is a misogynist. All those aphorism against women are misogynistic but they have to be saying something else. He might not like women but he is too smart to say such nonsense.

Finally something that perplexed me was the boundary between femininity and oppression against women. ¬†Beauvoir thinks it degrading and enslaving to carry a man’s child, it might be so in certain cases where women are treated as objects of procreation. She doesn’t think the term woman is empowering but entrapping. Is it not okay for a woman to want to be feminine, to embrace being a woman? To put it in a modern world example: the famous Nivea soap. They use pink bottles for the woman soap and blue for men’s. Is it not okay for a woman to like the color pink, to like barbies, to like dressing like a woman and looking beautiful? Is it not okay for a woman to want to have children and raise them? I think it is. Just as it is okay for a woman to be the opposite and to not want to have children, with what that implies. I don’t like to weigh in on these topics for I am not a woman and don’t know. I do it here because in seminar it might feel out of place. I think it is okay for a woman to be whatever she wants to be, even if what she wants is that traditional gender role.

1 Thought.

  1. I really appreciate your thoughts here, Vicente, and I don’t think they’d be out of place in seminar. In fact, I think they would be great things to say. But of course I’ll leave that up to you.

    I don’t know what I think about the claim that men should leave women to engage in emancipation activities for women. It’s a really tough question and I don’t have strong feelings one way or the other b/c I can see both sides. I can see how it might be difficult for those who are in a superior position in relation to an oppressed group to be able to work towards the emancipation of that oppressed group, in part because they may harbor oppressive beliefs or ways of speaking without even realizing it. With the best of intentions, they may end up furthering oppression. I worry about this in myself when I talk about issues having to do with race, ethnicity, nationality, religion…because I’m part of the dominant group, and fear that I just don’t “get it” in some ways and may mess up.

    But at the same time, it seems like having allies in the dominant group would be a good thing for the oppressed group. Because otherwise it can seem like it’s just those “whiny people” who are clamoring for something and the dominant group doesn’t need to listen. If there are significant numbers of people in the dominant group telling their peers to listen, maybe some of their peers will be more likely to listen. For example, if someone were misogynist they might not really take women’s claims and efforts at emancipation seriously, but they might if it was a male they respected.

    On whether women can like “female” things–I completely agree with you. The part in Beauvoir’s text about how the female body enslaves us to the species, how being a mother is a matter of “servitude,” etc., are the parts I like least of what she has to say. We don’t have to interpret these biological facts in quite this way, and I’m not sure why she does.

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