Volume II: Situation. Part Two. Chapter 10. Woman’s Situation and Character. (653-80)
[This is part of a chapter by chapter re-reading of Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex”. You can find all the posts here.]
Just by way of orientation, this chapter will bring to an end Part Two (“Situation”) and next up will be Part Three (“Justifications”).
SdB opens this chapter by listing some of the ‘negative’ characteristics attributed to woman (selfish, self-serving, actress, liar…) and noting that these are not predestined or dictated by nature, but are suggested by her situation. Here, she says, she wants to try to “grasp the ‘eternal feminine’ in her economic, social and historical conditioning as a whole” (653). [She puts this another way a few pages later, and I’ll include that quote here:
“Many of the faults for which they [women] are reproached — mediocrity, meanness, shyness, pettiness, laziness, frivolity and servility — simply express the fact that the horizon is blocked for them.” (658)]
Although the ‘feminine’ world can be contrasted with the ‘masculine’, she writes, it must be said that women “have never formed an autonomous and closed society; they are integrated into the group governed by males where they occupy a subordinate position” (653).
“The woman herself recognizes that the universe as a whole is masculine; it is men who have shaped it, ruled it and who still today dominate it; as for her, she does not consider herself responsible for it; it is understood that she is inferior and dependent.” (654)
“A syllogism is not useful in making mayonnaise or calming a child’s tears; masculine reasoning is not relevant to the reality she experiences.” (655)