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746 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1949
The fact that we are human beings is infinitely more important than all the peculiarities that distinguish human beings from one another; it is never the given that confers superiorities: ‘virtue’, as the ancients called it, is defined on the level of ‘that which depends on us’.My life has led me to develop a love for thought, a love heavily dependent on the context of reality and my personal view of such, a love that has been, is, and will continue to grow through heavy doses of words both spoken and printed. I will admit to being biased towards the printed, as well as to being biased in many things as a result of characteristics both physical and mental; the fault of nature and nurture, neither one of which I can help very much. My method of coping with having a love for thinking, while being aware of the inherent inaccuracies of said thinking, is a rabid interest in argument, debate if you will, on many fronts that concern me.
The bearing of maternity upon the individual life, regulated naturally in animals by the oestrus cycle and the seasons, is not definitely prescribed in woman - society alone is the arbiter. The bondage of woman to the species is more or less rigorous according to the number of births demanded by society and the degree of hygienic care provided for pregnancy and childbirth. Thus, while it is true that in the higher animals the individual existence is asserted more imperiously by the male than by the female, in the human species individual 'possibilities' depend upon the economic and social situation.In the United States, the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified on August 18, 1920, which declares that: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. This occurred 144 years after the US declared independence, 137 years after the US was recognized as independent, and 132 years after the Constitution itself was ratified.
We are now acquainted with the dramatic conflict that harrows the adolescent girl at puberty: she cannot become 'grown-up' without accepting her femininity; and she knows already that her sex condemns her to a mutilated and fixed existence, which she faces at this time under the form of an impure sickness and a vague sense of guilt. Her inferiority was sensed at first merely as a deprivation; but the lack of a penis has now become defilement and transgression. So she goes onward towards the future, wounded, shameful, culpable.
In masculine hands logic is often a form of violence, a sly kind of tyranny: the husband, if older and better educated than his wife, assumes on the basis of this superiority to give no weight at all to her opinions when he does not share them; he tirelessly proves to her that he is right. For her part, she becomes obstinate and refuses to see anything in her husband's arguments; he simply sticks to his own notions. And so a deep misunderstanding comes between them. He makes no effort to comprehend the feelings and reactions she is not clever enough to justify, though they are deeply rooted in her; she does not grasp what is vital behind the pedantic logic with which her husband overwhelms her.On June 20, 2013, many news organizations issued articles discussing a report released by the World Health Organization titled Global and regional estimates of violence against women: Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. The results? One in three women has faced intimate partner violence or sexual violence. 40% of women killed worldwide were slain by the partner.
And therein lies the wondrous hope that man has often put in woman: he hopes to fulfill himself as a being by carnally possessing a being, but at the same time confirming his sense of freedom through the docility of a free person. No man would consent to be a woman, but every man wants women to exist.There is currently in the US a widespread political machination in many states aiming towards the eradication of legalized abortion, in essence granting living women less rights to their bodies than dead individuals who in life chose not to donate their bodies to science.
Man has no need of the unconditional devotion he claims, nor of the idolatrous love that flatters his vanity; he accepts them only on condition that he need not satisfy the reciprocal demands these attitudes imply. He preaches to woman that she should give—and her gifts bore him to distraction; she is left in embarrassment with her useless offerings, her empty life. On the day when it will be possible for woman to love not in her weakness but in her strength, not to escape herself but to find herself, not to abase herself but to assert herself—on that day love will become for her, as for man, a source of life and not of mortal danger. In the meantime, love represents in its most touching form the curse that lies heavily upon woman confined in the feminine universe, woman mutilated, insufficient unto herself. The innumerable martyrs to love bear witness against the injustice of a fate that offers a sterile hell as ultimate salvation.
...modern woman is everywhere permitted to regard her body as capital for exploitation.Also current in the US is the discussion of rape culture and slut shaming in light of the events of the Steubenville High School Rape Case, where media outlets offered biased coverage that sympathized with the rapists and rarely focused on the victim.
The fact is that a true human privilege is based upon the anatomical privilege only in virtue of the total situation.
That the child is the supreme aim of woman is a statement having precisely the value of an advertising slogan.
...the distortion begins when the religion of Maternity proclaims that all mothers are saintly. For while maternal devotion may be perfectly genuine, this, in fact, is rarely the case. Maternity is usually a strange mixture of narcissism, altruism, idle day-dreaming, sincerity, bad faith, devotion and cynicism.
As a matter of fact, the privileged position of man comes from the integration of his biologically aggressive role with his social function as leader or master; it is on account of this social function that the physiological differences take on all their significance. Because man is ruler in the world, he holds that the violence of his desires is a sign of his sovereignty; a man of great erotic capacity is said to be strong, potent - epithets that imply activity and transcendence. But, on the other hand, woman being only an object, she will be described as warm or frigid, which is to say that she will never manifest other than passive qualities.In the US, prostitution, the ‘business or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment’, is illegal.
It is a mistake to seek in fantasies the key to concrete behaviour; for fantasies are created and cherished as fantasies. The little girl who dreams of violation with mingled horror and acquiescence does not really wish to be violated and if such a thing should happen it would be a hateful calamity.
Masculine desire is as much an offence as it is a compliment; in so far as she feels herself responsible for her charm, or feels she is exerting it of her own accord, she is much pleased with her conquests, but to the extent that her face, her figure, her flesh are facts she must bear with, she wants to hide them from this independent stranger who lusts after them.
Man encourages these allurements by demanding to be lured: afterwards he is annoyed and reproachful. But he feels only indifference and hostility for the artless, guileless young girl...she is obliged to offer man the myth of her submission, because he insists on domination, and her compliance would only be perverted from the start.
The Cinderella myth flourishes especially in prosperous countries like America. How should the men there spend their surplus money if not upon a woman? Orson Welles, among others, has embodied in 'Citizen Kane' that imperial and false generosity: it is to glorify his own power that Kane chooses to shower his gifts upon an obscure singer and to impose her upon the public as a great queen of song. When the hero of another film, 'The Razor's Edge', returns from India equipped with absolute wisdom, the only thing he finds to do with it is to redeem a prostitute.The Equal Pay Act was signed into law in the US in 1963. The male-female income difference in the US was in 2010 at a female-to-male earnings ratio of 0.81, medium income in full-time year-round workers being $42,800 for men compared to $34,700 for women.
One remarkable fact among others is that the married woman had her place in society but enjoyed no rights therein; whereas the unmarried female, honest woman or prostitute, had all the legal capacities of a man, but up to this century was more or less excluded from social life.
Sewers are necessary to guarantee the wholesomeness of palaces, according to the Fathers of the Church. And it has often been remarked that the necessity exists of sacrificing one part of the female sex in order to save the other and prevent worse troubles. One of the arguments in support of slavery, advanced by the American supporters of the institution, was that the Southern whites, being all freed from servile duties, could maintain the most democratic and refined relations among themselves; in the same way, a caste of 'shameless women' allows the 'honest woman' to be treated with the most chivalrous respect. The prostitute is a scapegoat; man vents his turpitude upon her, and he rejects her. Whether she is put legally under police supervision or works illegally in secret, she is in any case treated as a pariah.
When he is in a co-operative and benevolent relation with woman, his theme is the principle of abstract equality, and he does not base his attitude upon such inequality as may exist. But when he is in conflict with her, the situation is reversed: his theme will be the existing inequality, and he will even take it as justification for denying abstract equality.The history of literature is dominated by male writers. Since 1901 when the first annual Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded, out of the 109 individuals that have received it, twelve were female. More women have been awarded the Nobel in this field than any other, save for the Nobel Peace Prize, of which fifteen of the 101 recipients were female.
Woman is shut up in a kitchen or in a boudoir, and astonishment is expressed that her horizon is limited. Her wings are clipped, and it is found deplorable that she cannot fly. Let but the future be opened to her, and she will no longer be compelled to linger in the present.
When he describes woman, each writer discloses his general ethics and the special idea he has of himself; and in her he often betrays also the gap between his world view and his egotistical dreams.Feminism is, well. You tell me. I have to say, though, bra-burning and unshaven legs seem empty condemnations in comparison to rape and domestic abuse.
…the categories in which men think of the world are established from their point of view, as absolute: they misconceive reciprocity, here as everywhere. A mystery for man, woman is considered to be mysterious in essence.
And while her lover fondly believes he is pursuing the Ideal, he is actually the plaything of nature, who employs all this mystification for the ends of reproduction.
'Pendants have for two thousand years reiterated the notion that women have a more lively spirit, men more solidity; that women have more delicacy in their ideas and men greater power of attention. A Paris idler who once took a walk in the Versailles Gardens concluded that, judging from all he saw, the trees grow ready trimmed.'
The truth is that just as—biologically—males and females are never victims of one another but both victims of the species, so man and wife together undergo the oppression of an institution they did not create. If it is asserted that men oppress women, the husband is indignant; he feels that he is the one who is oppressed—and he is; but the fact is that it is the masculine code, it is the society developed by the males and in their interest, that has established woman’s situation in a form that is at present a source of torment for both sexes.I thought about keeping a list of how many authors/philosophers/lauded historical people I’d have to completely boycott due to misogyny. That action makes as much sense as completely boycotting those who favor feminism. Think about it.
It is perfectly natural for the future woman to feel indignant at the limitations posed upon her by her sex. The real question is not why she should reject them: the problem is rather to understand why she accepts them.
Pregnancy is a long waiting in which you learn what it means completely to lose control over your life. There are no coffee breaks; no days off in which you regain your normal shape and self, and can return refreshed to your labors. You can’t wish away even for an hour the thing that is swelling you up, stretching your stomach until the skin feels as if it will burst, kicking you from the inside until you are black and blue. You can’t even hit back without hurting yourself. The condition and you are identical: you are no longer a person, but a pregnancy. (69)
[the fetus is:] an enrichment and an injury; the fetus is a part of her body, and it is a parasite that feeds on it; she possesses it, and she is possessed by it; it represents the future and, carrying it, she feels herself vast as the world; but this very opulence annihilates her, she feels that she herself is no longer anything. (emphasis added, 495)
. . . but in the mother-to-be the antithesis of subject and object ceases to exist; she and the child with which she is swollen make up together an equivocal pair overwhelmed by life. Ensnared by nature, the pregnant woman is plant and animal, a stock-pile of colloids, an incubator, an egg; she scares children proud of their young, straight bodies and makes young people titter contemptuously because she is a human being, a conscious and free individual who has become life’s passive instrument. (495)
The self, which is constituted by thought and created by an act of thought, by the separation of mind and body, is driven to master nature, because the self cannot ultimately deny its material character or dependence on nature. Despite Descartes’ claim, the body reasserts itself, at least at the moment of death. (28)
The unthought hurts. It’s uncomfortable because we’re comfortable in what’s already thought. And thinking, which is accepting this discomfort, is also, to put it bluntly, an attempt to have done with it. That’s the hope sustaining all writing (painting, etc.): that at the end, things will be better. As there is no end, this hope is illusory. (84)