Woman in the Context of Existentialist Freedom: Simone de Beauvoir and The Second SexEsra Başak Aydınalp
Simone de Beauvoir, the writer of The Second Sex, as an activist, philosopher and feminist who profoundly influenced cultural and literary studies in the twentieth century, is a crucial committed and intellectual writer. The Second Sex, written during the Second World War in France, forced the intellectuals, not only in France but also those from all over the world, to reconsider the question of woman in details. In “The Second Sex”, Beauvoir examines the positioning of woman as the “other” against the man who is the “absolute “. In her oeuvre, she not only scrutinises in detail the cultural, social and historical layers of this positioning of woman as “Other” against man who is the “Absolute”, but also, she explores the lack of self-consciousness of woman and the imposition of this “otherness” by men. In this study, the Woman/Man dialectics will be read from immanence/transcendence, freedom/responsibility dichotomies in the context of the existentialist philosophy. The aim is to demonstrate the degradation of woman in a secondary position in patriarchal societies, the social and cultural conceptualisation of woman’s position. In this context, man defined the existence of woman freed from essential existential mechanisms. Nevertheless, in the existentialist philosophy, existence precedes essence. Beauvoir deciphers the reasons of woman to not reject the hegemony of man by revealing the status of the woman myth. The main objective is to search for the possibilities of woman existence founded on responsibility and freedom, and to retrace the reflections of these possibilities in today’s world.
Varoluşçu Özgürlük Bağlamında Kadın: Simone de Beauvoir ve İkinci CinsiyetEsra Başak Aydınalp
İkinci Cinsiyet’in (Le Deuxième Sexe) yazarı Simone de Beauvoir aktivist, filozof ve feminist olarak yirminci yüzyıl kültürel, edebi ve felsefi çalışmalarını derinden etkilemiş entelektüel ve angaje bir yazardır. 1949 yılında İkinci Dünya Savaşından hemen sonra yazılmış olan İkinci Cinsiyet entelektüel camiayı sadece Fransa’da değil, tüm dünya ölçeğinde kadın sorununu detaylı bir şekilde yeniden düşünmeye sevk etmiştir. Kadın sorununun tarihi, sosyal, felsefi ve kültürel katmanlarıyla ele alındığı bu eserde Simone de Beauvoir kadının “Mutlak” olan erkeğin karşısında nasıl “Başka” olarak konumlandırıldığını ayrıntılarıyla incelemekle kalmaz, öte yandan bu başkalık durumunun erkek tarafından tarihsel olarak dayatılışının ve kadının öz bilinçten yoksun oluşunun tarihi ve sosyal dayanaklarını açımlar. Bu çalışmada Beauvoir’ın Kadın/Erkek diyalektiği aşkınlık/içkinlik ve özgürlük/sorumluluk ikilemleri üzerinden varoluşçu felsefe bağlamında okunacaktır. Burada amaç özellikle Simone de Beauvoir’ın İkinci Cinsiyet kitabında ele aldığı “kadın durumunun”, kadının tarihsel ve kültürel olarak nasıl kavramsallaştırıldığını ve ataerkil toplumlarda nasıl ikincil bir duruma indirgendiğini ele almaktır. Bu bağlamda erkek, kadının varoluşunu özsel varoluş mekanizmalarından bağımsız olarak kültürel düzlemde tanımlamıştır. Oysa varoluşçu felsefede varoluş özden önce gelir. Beauvoir kadınların erkek egemenliğini reddetmeyişlerinin nedenlerini, oluşturulan kadın mitinden yola çıkarak gözler önüne serer. Temel amaç kadın varoluşunun Simone de Beauvoir üzerinden özgürlük ve sorumluluk temelinde olanaklarını aramak ve bu olanakların günümüzdeki yansımalarının izini sürmektir.
Simone de Beauvoir, as a French writer and feminist philosopher, is a figure who deeply influenced the philosophical, literary and intellectual life of the twentieth century. The Second Sex, written by her in 1949, has not only had an impact on the feminist theory in the second half of the century but has also been at the focus of modern feminist critics, literary, social and cultural studies. The book, dealing with the foundation of the gender problem in social, cultural, historical aspects, had further awaken the interest of feminist philosophers (Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Kate Millett, Luce Irigaray, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, Judith Butler, etc.).
The feminist movement could be considered in three distinct phases. In the first phase, feminists claim the equality, and in the second phase, the difference. According to the second wave feminism developed in 1960s that claims the difference among sexes, sexual differences are not differences developed by patriarchate but rather oppressed by them. They question the hegemony of the phallocratic approach in the symbolic system and the power relations beyond language on the sexes. In the third phase, feminists perceive the sexual difference as a point of convergence, and they do not consider the gender roles excerpt from other identity forms. They take into account sexual difference as an existential aspect embodied in other forms of differences such as ethnic, religious, etc. In this context, Simone de Beauvoir has a point of view according to which the equality among sexes is the base of woman freedom. She claimed equality among the differences, therefore, she had a great impact on the second and third wave feminist movements in the conceptualisation of gender roles.
In this context, we will analyse the experiences of Simone de Beauvoir in order to decipher the patriarchal mentality described in The Second Sex, to develop the selfconsciousness and the existential awareness of the woman who had been defined as the other by men who occupy the position of the absolute. The aim is to respond the questions above:
- How does Simone de Beauvoir analyse the question of woman in The Second Sex?
- How does Simone de Beauvoir approach the immanent position of woman?
- How the drama of woman deprived of means to construct herself as an essential being in social, cultural and historical dimensions against the man who has all kind of instruments in the dialectics of immanence and transcendence is defined?
- How could the self-consciousness of woman about her freedom and responsibility in her prisoned immanence be developed?
- How does woman experience her own existence in Simone de Beauvoir’s terms?
According to Beauvoir, becoming woman is not a biological feature, but is acquired culturally and historically. During the Second World War, Beauvoir, based on the responsibilities assumed against others and the nature of freedom, examined in The Second Sex the philosophical and historical dimensions of the power relations which define woman as “Other”. The Second Sex had influenced the intellectual scene worldwide. It had marked a new era in philosophical debates on the forms of woman being in America when it had been translated into English in 1953. In this book, she not only scrutinises in detail the psychoanalytical, cultural, social and historical layers of this positioning of woman as “Other” against man who is the “Absolute”, but also, she explores the lack of self-consciousness of woman and the imposition of this “otherness” by men. In this study, the Woman/Man dialectics will be read from the freedom/responsibility dichotomy in the context of existentialist philosophy. In this context, man defined the existence of woman freed from all essential existential mechanisms. Nevertheless, in the existentialist philosophy, existence precedes essence. Beauvoir deciphers the bad faith of woman and the reasons of woman to not reject the hegemony of man, and to reveal the status of the woman myth by social, cultural, psychanalytical, historical and anthropological means. The objective is to search for the possibilities of woman existence founded on responsibility and freedom, and to retrace the reflections of these possibilities in today’s world.
According to Beauvoir, woman should reject the position of a being deprived of freedom and should make man think also about his own mission in the world. Thus, The Second Sex made possible to reconsider gender roles in society, and established a suitable base for the reconceptualization of being women on ethical and ontological backgrounds as a gender. The book deciphered the dynamics and constituents that alienate women to herself, steps that free woman are approved among women and men as well. Therefore, The Second Sex is a milestone.