Simone De Beauvoir
- The overarching question of Beauvoir�s The Second Sex is �What is woman?� A major part of her
answer is that to be a woman is to be the Other or at least an Other. How does she begin to develop
this thesis in her Introduction to Part One? Be sure to address the following statements: (a) �the
category of Other is as original as consciousness itself,� (b) �No group ever defines itself as One
without immediately setting up the Other� opposite itself�, (c) �The relation of two sexes is not of two
- One of the principal contemporary notions for understanding the relationship between different forms
of discrimination is Kimberl� Crenshaw�s notion of intersectionality. Explain this notion and how it
was anticipated by writers such as Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, bell hooks, and the Combahee River
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According to Simone Beauvoir, feminism has already been tainted to an extent that there
seems no hope of talking about the subject. Though a lot has been said about feminism, little
improvement has been seen in women and they are still subject to men. A woman no longer
exists as a fellow man, but lives in the shadow of a man. Though a woman is just a fellow human
being like a man, society has made her less significant such that there are no definite
characteristics relating to a woman as it is for a man (Simone, 1949). The author wondered
whether women still existed, if they are supposed to exist, and if they existed, what place would
the society place them.
In her introduction, Simone Beauvoir develops her thesis by claiming that women are a
lost course and tries to give different characteristics given to a man to show that there is no
definite place for a woman in the society. Though women make half of the human population,
they are normally encouraged to be and behave like women, and men are often viewed as
superior human beings. It is often said that a woman cannot exist without a man though a man
can exist on his own.
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The author gives definitions of a woman depending on how the society perceives her.
One of the definitions is that a woman is characterized by a womb. However, some scholars
oppose the definition by claiming that although some women have a womb, they cannot be
referred to as women. The very parts that make a woman are the same parts that happen to
imprison her. Ovaries, uterus, and glands make women seem weak to a man to an extent that
Aristotle claimed that a woman is a human being that has certain physical defects. Men view
themselves as having an original connection with the world and rule over it albeit the fact that
they also have glands and other physical features as a woman. Although both men and women
are categorized as human beings, a woman is treated as inferior.
The author admits that women also fail to recognize their importance by making men
superior such that they exist under the shadow of a man. A wife is named after her husband and
the society always considers a woman to be autonomous to a man. A woman cannot live or think
without a man, but a man can exist and think without a woman (Simone, 1949). It is not possible
to hear of a man who is named after a woman, but a woman is referenced with a man. To a man,
a woman is just a sexual being and nothing else. Therefore, man is the superior and absolute
human being while a woman is just the another human being.
In addition, the author continues to describe a woman as just another human being by
saying that relationship of two sexes is not like electrical poles. Electrical poles are in an equal
measure and size, but in the case of a relationship between a man and a woman, the two are
separate and unique individuals. A man is the overall designator of a human being and represents
both the positive and neutral sides. On the other hand, a woman is only defined by the negative
side as she is deemed to lack some components as compared to a man. Whenever there is a
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discussion, women are viewed as weak by men and if a woman takes a certain side, it is said she
did so just because she is a woman. A man is the only one supposed to be right and if he sides
with a woman, it is not because she is right but because she is just a woman. It is right to be a
man, but it is considered wrong to be a woman. A man is the only rightful human being, but a
woman exists as an incomplete individual.
For consciousness to exist, the self must be present. Therefore, the other is as original as
the one who in this case is the man. The implication of otherness is just a human thought that is
not defined by ancient things and situations. Having a self and the other, is not supposed to
divide human beings to different sexes but it’s something that has been formulated by society.
For this reason, it implies that a man and a woman are a dual that depend on each other for
survival and existence. A man is born off a woman and he cannot exist without the former.
Although a woman is defined as the other, she is in the likeness of a man and shares same
privileges as a man.
The author also noted that for a group to set itself as the one, it has to be against the other.
If one group considers itself privileged, it is because it views the other group as inferior.
Consequently, the reason why a woman is defined as the other is because a man has set himself
against her for he does not want to be equal to a woman.
Kimberley Crenshaw used inter-sectionality theory to show how gender and racial
discrimination was experienced by black women. Intersectionality is a theory that studies
overlapping discrimination. In her study, the author noted that black women faced gender and
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race-based discrimination, especially in the work place. If black women had a lawsuit resulting
from race discrimination, they were not favored since it would be ruled that other blacks were
not discriminated. In addition, gender discrimination would be ruled out since not all women
were discriminated. Thus, the American Black women faced discrimination due to their gender
and race. Facing both types of discrimination is what Kimberley Crenshaw coined as
Legal concepts could not defend Black women since it was either race discrimination or
gender discrimination, but not both. Also, feminist activists only explored discrimination
experienced by only the white privileged women who co-existed with powerful men; thus, it was
not possible to know the issues faced by other women. The women activists preferred having
privileges given to them by white men at the expense of the needs of women of color; hence,
making discrimination to the latter intersectional as described by Kimberle (1989).
Bell Hooks is another writer that talked about intersectionality discrimination. According
to the writer, privileged white women were selfish in their activism as they only sought to
advocate for their needs since they wanted to enjoy the same privileges as men. For instance, the
white women advocated for abortion but did not advocate against involuntary sterilization of
women of color, a vice that was becoming wide spread. The women considered as essential to be
in male dominated roles as opposed to taking their roles as wives and daughters and fighting for
the rights of women and feminism for all women.
Also, discrimination is faced by women of color on the basis that they are overworked in
workplaces while the white women fail to advocate for their rights, but instead try to outdo men
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in the workplace. Since white women were busy during the day and had chores to take care of
after work, they instead took in the women of color and made them their domestic workers.
Eventually, women of color faced discrimination due to their race and gender. Having no right
over reproduction as well as the lack of advancement in the workplace is a form of
discrimination faced by women of color since it is based on the fact that they are black and
female (Bell, 2000).
Audre Lorde noted that having social privileges is one of the reasons why feminists and
activists join the oppressors into oppressing the underprivileged. The feminists are assured by the
antagonists that they will share power, and instead of helping the minority, they end up being
used to deprive them of their rights. The author suggested that feminists should take it upon
themselves to understand unrelated connections that women have due to oppression so that they
can liberate all the oppressed. According to the writer, it is not possible to liberate one group and
leave another; hence, intersectionality can help to reveal the unrelated experiences that women of
color have as a result of oppression.
Combahee River Collective talked about how black women were not included in
liberation movements due to their color and gender. The movements did not address all the
issues faced by black women, but just highlighted a few. A black woman’s identity was in terms
of her color, race, and sex and not who she was. Intersectionality came to exist in the States
when black women tried to take up social and political positions. Also, the concept came to
being when they were excluded from liberation movements. Women had to fight for their
identity since they were treated based on their race and color instead of integrating all the
identities that characterized an individual (Jayme, 2015). Combahee River Collective was
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formed to help liberate black women so that they can be respected similar to fellow human
Adrianne Rich noted that white women who were in a position to liberate and advocate
for women of color did not do so as they were busy struggling to fit in the shoes of their male
counterparts. Lesbians, white women, and women of color started liberation movements on
behalf of women, but the white women were deceptive as witnessed in the US and Canada (Ana,
2008). Instead of the three groups working together, the white upper-class women still liaised
with men and neglected their duties as wives so as to belong in powerful positions. The upper-
class white women chose their careers and powerful positions at the expense of their fellow
white women, lesbians, and women of color; thus, the voices of the minority were not heard and
they continued to be discriminated against.
Simone, Adrianne, Combahee River, Bell, and Crenshaw wrote about women and are
some of the popular feminists that advocated for the rights of women. All of these women claim
that a woman is as powerful as a man and should be given equal rights and privileges. As per the
intersectionality theory, black women and other women belonging to minority groups such as
lesbians are often victims of overlapping discrimination and there seems to be no law that
protects them from it. Therefore, the writers advocated for the rights of women so that they
would not be discriminated against with regards to race, sexual orientation, or gender.
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Anna Carastathis (2008). Intersectionality and feminism.
Audre Lorde (1980). The uses of anger. Women responding to racism.
Bell Hooks (2000). Feminism is for everybody. Cambridge: South Press.
Jayme Nicole (2015). Combahee River Collective: Exploration of intersectionality.
University of Chicago.
Simone Beauvoir (1949). Introduction: Woman as other.