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- Simone de Beauvoir, The second sex.
From the excerpt De Beauvoir is communicating to people how a woman is characterized because of her gender. A woman is the other, the object while a man is the subject. Whenever she tries to communicate her views, thoughts, ideas they are dismissed off just because she is a woman. Much thought is not put in them though they may be true. The behavior of men, De Beauvoir, portrays is brought about by the fact that since time immemorial woman has been a symbol of strength, a giver of life, to some extent the boat on which the world floats. Nature, countries, are given the pronoun ‘she’, may be a reason why men feel the need to dismiss and exert their masculinity to the women. Man has made himself a god, he is essential while a woman is of little need if any. Through out centuries, women have had the subordinate roles in society. They have been perceived to be of little, fickle minds; they are viewed to be fragile weak, highly incapable of anything but nurturing, and nothing else. In a way, women are treated as slaves, as maids needing nothing and lacking nothing. Men view women as “a menace to their morality and their interests”. They have been given the status of ‘the other’. In the text given De Beauvoir, says that “A man never begins by presenting himself as an individual of a certain sex, it goes without saying that he is a man.” On the other hand a woman has to present herself as an individual of a particular sex, before she is considered. For instance, in the work place a woman has to put in twice the effort as that of a man in order to be recognized, its as if the woman is the negative, the man both the positive and neutral. Women are oppressed by men by, being characterized on every level. The people with more power hold more position, opportunities, and that is the men, women are completely incapacitated. Though people know the rights, and freedoms entitled to women, they do not pursue them. Therefore, in trying to define a woman, De Beauvoir finds herself in a dilemma, because even though woman exists it is as though she is a nonentity. She argues that for women to move forward, develop themselves personally, achieve their goal, and dreams the have to be considered equal at least in mind. The notion of a woman being the other also has to be let go off especially by the men.
- Nawal el Saadawi, The daughter of Isis.
The book ‘A daughter of Isis’ by Nawal el Saadawi speaks about the author and her life growing up. Being the pioneer of feminism is Egypt she writes about the inequality of women to men. She is outraged by the fact that men are viewed as higher beings compared to women. In her book, she expresses the practices in her country that fail to acknowledge a woman as an entity, a person, able to think and decide without the help of another. The excerpt is talking about how her mother would give birth year after year without ever realizing the pleasure of sex. It is as if her mother had become a sexual object, a baby giving machine, one that would not be given the chance to know and feel her union to the husband. The mother gave birth to sons, but as she grew up among them she noticed that she was treated differently from them, together with her sisters based on her gender. Nawal says that women were considered as nothing and cultural rites such as female genital mutilation were exercised. In the book, she depicts the horror of the practice saying she felt the pain she never knew any part of her body would feel. After she became a doctor she understood the consequences of female genital mutilation and tried to stop it. It is unfortunate that the women condoned the practice, thinking it is the will of God. Women were neither empowered nor educated so as to know how the practice was detrimental to their health. She had to convince her parents to allow her to continue with her studies, because it was not important for women to be learned. She says that critical decisions such as choosing of partner were made for girls at the tender age of 10 or 11. A woman was not given the chance to choose to make up their minds, weigh options and go with one they felt was best for them. Nawal I her autobiography wants for women to see how feminism has been fought for and not take it for granted rather use it as a tool to progress in life, despite the challenges.
- Copjec Joan, The untitled films of Cindy Sherman.
In Cindy Sherman’s untitled films, she sets up the studio, does her on makeup and poses in different photographs, appearing in all of them. She asks, ‘how can someone be the same if all her appearances are different?” Cindy Sherman seeks to show that women view themselves in the images produced by the society. She implies that women have decided to adapt to the stereotypes laid down by the society. A woman no longer views herself as she is but as others see her. Copjec Joan sites one of Freud’s concepts such as narcissism and how he was misunderstood. She takes her illustration from Cindy Sherman’s untitled films concerning sublimation and corporeality. She says that femininity is seen as finite. In her psychoanalysis she explains how masquerade of femininity is not a semblance that hides a being beneath, but that semblance or appearance is what feminine being is.
In conclusion feminism has been completely misunderstood as a way of putting men down, or demeaning them so to speak. Being female is viewed wrongly, and women are perceived differently from men. Throughout, female activists have fought for women’s rights and freedoms, the efforts are slowly bearing fruit as more women pursue their dreams, others vie for office and are elected amidst a lot of opposition and lack of confidence in them.
El-Saadawi, S. (2014, February 22). The Hidden Face of Eve, Part 1: The Mutilated Half. Retrieved.
Copjec, J. (2004). Imagine There’s No Woman: Ethics and Sublimation. MIT Press. (Vol. 26, pp 159-161).
De Beauvoir, S. (1991). The second sex. (C.Borde & S. Malovany-Chevallier, Trans.). Random House.