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Leopard

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Taiga?s True Views: The Language of Landscape Painting in Eighteenth-Century Japan by Melinda Takeuchi (1994-06-01)
Melinda Takeuchi
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David Hume
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Richard H. Popkin
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Marcus Tullius Cicero, Raphael Woolf, Julia Annas
Das Goldene Vlies: Dramatisches Gedicht in Drei Abteilungen
Franz Grillparzer
Euripides IV: Rhesus / The Suppliant Women / Orestes / Iphigenia in Aulis
Charles R. Walker, Frank William Jones, William Arrowsmith, David Grene, Euripides, Richmond Lattimore
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Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jesse Coulson
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An Early View on the Status of Women by Simone de Beauvoir

Here is an early view (1947) of the condition of women by Simone de Beauvoir, taken from a discussion about those who are not afforded the possibility of an "authentic life," those for whom the existentially necessary exercise of the individual's freedom to choose and value on his/her own is not possible. Two years later she would return to the condition of women in her important Le deuxième sexe.

 


There are beings whose life slips by in an infantile world because, having been kept in a state of servitude and ignorance, they have no means of breaking the ceiling which is stretched over their heads. Like the child, they can exercise their freedom, but only within this universe which has been set up before them, without them. This is the case, for example, of slaves who have not raised themselves to the consciousness of their slavery. The southern planters were not altogether in the wrong in considering the negroes who docilely submitted to their paternalism as "grown-up children." To the extent that they respected the world of the whites the situation of the black slaves was exactly an infantile situation. This is also the situation of women in many civilizations; they can only submit to the laws, the gods, the customs, and the truths created by the males. Even today in western countries, among women who have not had in their work an apprenticeship of freedom, there are still many who take shelter in the shadow of men; they adopt without discussion the opinions and values recognized by their husband or their lover, and that allows them to develop childish qualities which are forbidden to adults because they are based on a feeling of irresponsibility. If what is called women's futility often has so much charm and grace, if it sometimes has a genuinely moving character, it is because it manifests a pure and gratuitous taste for existence, like the games of children; it is the absence of the serious. The unfortunate thing is that in many cases this thoughtlessness, this gaiety, these charming inventions imply a deep complicity with the world of men which they seem so graciously to be contesting, and it is a mistake to be astonished, once the structure which shelters them seems to be in danger, to see sensitive, ingenuous, and lightminded women show themselves harder, more bitter, and even more furious or cruel than their masters. It is then that we discover the difference which distinguishes them from an actual child: the child's situation is imposed upon him, whereas the woman (I mean the western woman of today) chooses it or at least consents to it. Ignorance and error are facts as inescapable as prison walls. The negro slave of the eighteenth century, the Mohammedan woman enclosed in a harem have no instrument, be it in thought or by astonishment or anger, which permits them to attack the civilization which oppresses them. Their behavior is defined and can be judged only within this given situation, and it is possible that in this situation, limited like every human situation, they realize a perfect assertion of their freedom. But once there appears a possibility of liberation, it is resignation of freedom not to exploit the possibility, a resignation which implies dishonesty and which is a positive fault. 

 

From Pour une morale de l'ambiguïté