De Beauvoir: The Second Sex

Hello to all you subjects and others! Today I want to talk about lecture today as well as what I all around thought of The Second Sex. Jill’s lecture was very interesting and of course, adding Ellen DeGeneres’ always adds some wit and humour to the mix. I suppose what stuck out to me in the book as well as lecture was actually Hegel’s notion of a slave and master dialectic. Of course, in relation to The Second Sex, we would translate the master into a man and the slave as the woman. This analogy is not a new concept when we talk about inequalities of the sexes, however, Jill brought up a very interesting point. I hadn’t considered the reason for why this power structure is so powerful. It was really interesting to consider that the master needs the slave as much as the slave needs the master. Although it seems like the master holds all power in the relationship, he relies on the slave to compare himself to in order to feel superior. In other words, his fragile position is dependent on the slave, but doesn’t realize this. From the slave’s perspective, she too relies on the master but is aware of it. Because of this, she is able to cater to the master’s needs in order to secure safety and well-being. It seems that because this system has been going on since Wollstonecraft’s time, women have adapted to it and used the ‘short end of the stick’ to harness a little bit of power. I couldn’t help but think about how Wollstonecraft highlights this power dynamic in her work. She highlights the danger in women pleasing their ‘master’ on pg.151 where she illustrates that power is temporary for women. Equality is what will bring about true freedom and liberation for both sexes, and we must stop playing games of deceit and cunning and make some new rules.

1 thought on “De Beauvoir: The Second Sex

  1. Nice connection of this point to Wollstonecraft! Those who are in the position of the “slave” get some degree of power by doing what the master wants, being pleasing, etc.; or, at least, they get treated well (usually) and get their needs met (usually). But in the case of women, if their way of being “pleasing” relies on their physical beauty then this is only going to be temporary. And at any rate, this relationship doesn’t allow the “slave” to exist for themselves, only for the master, so it’s not going to be any good for the slave regardless! To bring this back to Wollstonecraft, if we can’t be our own persons in the sense of using our own reason to make our own decisions, then we can’t actually attain moral virtue (b/c otherwise we’re just following what others tell us to do).

    And I agree–it’s really interesting to think about how the position of those who are “superior” is fragile and relies on the compliance of those who are “inferior.” The only way the latter will keep being inferior is if they don’t have much of a choice b/c they can’t support themselves on their own, for example (women in earlier centuries). But they really do have a significant degree of power, one might say, if the master’s power relies on them complying. It’s just that in some situations it’s hard for the “inferior” NOT to comply, because their living conditions won’t let them be their own persons. This reminds me of Fanon and his point about how blacks in the Antilles have a difficult time not trying to be white because that’s what’s considered the ‘norm.’

    Also, could you reactivate the plugin that allows commenters to check a box to get an email if there are any replies? Go to the dashboard, click on “plugins,” then activate “subscribe to comments.” Thanks!

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