The Second Sex The Second Sex discussion


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Made me feel humiliated and ashamed to be a woman. Anyone else have this response?

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Anastasia This is long but I really wanted to express my experience somewhere public:

I am female. I LOVE this book -- can't put it down, but all in all it CONFIRMED rather than liberated my feeling that certain gender characteristics are more likely to be inherent than not. I understand this was not her point AT ALL but it is how I responded to it. I came away feeling almost misogynistic at times.

I am so thankful to have read this book because I feel much more knowledgable about this topic and also much more knowledgeable about how I relate and fit some of the descriptions that she paints. I feel as if I can trace the roots of many of my actions, thoughts, feelings, to unbecoming descriptions in this book.

While I am thankful for the knowledge I am profoundly ashamed at not having this self-insight earlier in my life, and also humiliated about and feel cursed for having to exist as a woman. It also left me feeling hopeless about my ability to change some of the patterns that I have-- I think because I feel now more firmly than ever that women have certain limitations that they really can't go beyond. I am ashamed at all my suffering over neurotic ways I've been (I'm thinking the section on "Women in Love," for example, but there are many other sections as well). I hate my pain because I feel it is proof of my inferiority.

Viewing the world through the lens of women being inferior in this way is the only thing that has made the world (and my role in the world) make sense. So many of my oversights and blind spots seem to be clarified. I feel like I've been pushing myself a million miles an hour in the WRONG direction due to having been incorrectly educated about "who I am supposed to be." It's like I've been following masculine role-models, assuming that eventually if I work hard enough i'll be like them, but I just don't think that's true anymore… AT ALL. I feel i have to girastically change what I can expect of myself and I'm not happy about it.

I try so hard to accept feminist interpretations and believe them whole-heartedly but I increasingly feel as though I am trying to convince myself to avoid having to face the fact that deep down I feel that the sexes are unequal at the level of ESSENCE. Despite growing up with a strongly feminist mother and family, I now feel increasingly comfortable perceiving women to be in fact, "the second sex." If we are talking about enlightened beings, maybe I would disagree, but for all intents and purposes I resonate strongly with masculine sentiments from the past about women's inferiority (I'm thinking Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, for instance) even if they are one-sided and only from a man's point of view. As Kierkegaard explains, men in fact possess more "spirit" than women. If I understand what he is saying correctly, I agree. Even if men and women have same access to "truth," I think that a sexist interpretation is more correct than not.

I realize what I said is very simplistic and shallow but to explain further at this time would take a million words.

Thinking and feeling these ways is difficult because I have a hard time supporting my sentiments (aside from just pointing-- "can't you see?!!!" -- I feel as if I have visceral proof) and because there don't seem to be very many people out there that will "hear me out." I've tried to write out in detail my thoughts with passages from the book but I got simply overwhelmed because there was too much to say to support this sense of inferiority. It could be simply my self-hate leaking out into my identification as a woman but I don't think that's it entirely.

I feel I strongly need to "humble" myself as a woman in order to continue developing as a spiritual person. It is humiliating, and shameful, but I feel it is what I need to do. And complaining about it only delays this renunciation from occurring. I also know that identifying myself too much with being a woman is a hinderance to my spiritual growth. I feel that maybe if I educate myself more that might help me reduce my strong feelings of self-hatred and hatred towards feminine existence. I feel that once I figure it all out, that my feelings will fit into place and I can be liberated from them by seeing the truth more clearly. Too bad I am drawn to do more research in misogynistic sources.

THAT is my experience.

Do any people relate? Thoughts?


Cait Keep in mind the timing and the context. I found myself disagreeing with de Bouvoir a lot, but it was mainly because at this time her understanding of woman as anything but cisgender and "inherently" stereotypically was limited both in academic and biological understanding. She does say a lot of valid and empowering things, but not in any sort of intersectional format...it is mainly centralized on white women, especially because in her time, anything but white straight and cisgender (that is, not transgender or gender nonconforming) wasn't readily understood or even spoken about. This is a good foundational text for feminism and understanding the female 'otherness,' however, it is incomplete but one must not get angry. This text is merely seminal to non intersectional discourse, but there is plenty of text available that has come out of Bouvoir's writings that more completely addresses the subliminal nature of womanhood as it applies to all who identify with the female qualifier.


Mizzou After reading Ms. de Beauvoir's book quite some years ago, I told a few close friends that I felt rather as though I had taken a Women's Studies course at the graduate level. I was really glad to have discovered the book, because of course there should be a "History of Womankind" book, a compendium worthy of respectful attention, both from women and from sociologists and cultural anthropologists. As Cait says, the work, seminal in its time frame, has now become an "elder sister" in a body of works that now includes a recent social history of American women from about "the Sixties" to the present day, "When Everything Changed", by Gail Collins, former New York Times editorial page editor, now a syndicated columnist. I recommend it strongly to readers concerned with that old, old question "What Do Women Want?


Anastasia Well, to follow up on my initial post, I've read quite a few things since this book, and have done a lot of "inner work" as I guess they call it and some healing. I really needed to come to an understanding of the feminine and I feel much closer to that, now. I'm in the middle of reading, "The Wounded Woman: Healing the Father-Daughter Relationship." It got great reviews so I check it out and it's actually remarkable how much it's helped. I recommend! And this is coming from someone who had a pretty swell Dad growing up. It's about masculine and feminine in the culture as well.

After the "Second Sex," I had a need to heal. I was so confused about gender and sex differences. And also hurt and judgmental towards myself and towards other women. I have a more intuitive grasp of what being female means and I'm committed to fully accepting that I am female and being the best that I can be within that confine, as it were. This latest read has helped me heal. Prior to that I read "Goddesses in Every Woman" and that helped, too.


Gargi Cait wrote: "Keep in mind the timing and the context. I found myself disagreeing with de Bouvoir a lot, but it was mainly because at this time her understanding of woman as anything but cisgender and "inherentl..."

This is exactly how I felt about the book, and because of such irrelevance to my times and my experiences, I found that I couldn't finish the book. While it's written quite well and she did good research, sometimes facts are presented as such, and no explanation is given as to how those situations would affect anyone who was not her or a part of her circle then.

At least I got a good understanding of white feminist discourse from this book!


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