“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”
‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman’, the freedom to choose who we areand
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My first encounter with Simone de Beauvoir took place in the late s, amidst student anti-war strikes, blazing ROTC buildings, and the mind-blowing challenges that feminism, black power, and the counterculture posed to my Midwestern rural beginnings. I was one of those young women Toril Moi describes in her review of the new translation of The Second Sex , eagerly devouring the book, awakened by something new. It was world-making. I am pleased to return to Beauvoir through the productive lens of these essays. While the new translation of The Second Sex occasioned this symposium, it does not limit the authors, who both focus on this text and range beyond it. These essays raise questions that we, as contemporary feminist and other critical theorists, need to ask: what tools does Beauvoir give us to work with?
One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman. Being a woman is not a natural fact, it is not explained by biology or by psychoanalysis. It is a cultural fact, the result of the action of processes of symbolic construction which are at the root of human history. Women today, who have acquired the rights of official equality, find, according to the French writer, that they are facing the enormous task of discovering who they are. No woman, in fact, can claim to put herself beyond her own sex: even a privileged woman like de Beauvoir directly experiences discrimination.
One Is Not Born But Rather, Becomes a Woman
Your complimentary articles. You can read four articles free per month. To have complete access to the thousands of philosophy articles on this site, please. Generally for existentialists, one is not born anything: everything we are is the result of our choices, as we build ourselves out of our own resources and those which society gives us. Simone de Beauvoir, although an avowed life-long existentialist, posits limits to this central existentialist idea of self-creation and self-definition, qualifying the absolute freedom Jean-Paul Sartre posited in Being and Nothingness. By contrast de Beauvoir presents an ambiguous picture of human freedom, in which women struggle against the apparent disadvantages of the female body.