Note on Woman as other

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Source: Simone de Beauvoir
Source: Simone de Beauvoir

Woman as Other

Simone De Beauvoir is a radical feminist. She advocates the issue related to the women. She further says that women is not born but made. It means that they are born as female but not women. The word women have something negative connotation that somebody is weak, indecisive, coward, submissive and imperfect. This patriarchal concept is not natural but constructed by the society. The distinction between men and women or masculine and feminine made by the patriarchal society. Masculine is something powerful and decisive but feminine is something weak and dependent. Men represent both neutral and positive but women represent all the unwanted qualities. The separation between men and women is formulated by the unjust male dominated society as Beauvoir claims.

In this essay woman as other the Beauvoir explores the historical oppression of women in patriarchy society. She examines the concept of women and man in relations to the larger concept of humanity like social, economical, political, spheres etc. in a male dominated society women are not born as women as such but she is made women, she is exploited, dominated and confined within domestic life. Women do not have an identity, individuality, and authentic existence. Beauvoir concludes that women status is not simply a matter of definition but a fundamental way of thinking that has political consequences. Beauvoir begins her essay with a question what is a woman? By this question, she means in male dominated society a man does not have to say he is a man but women have to say she is a woman to define herself. It is so because women are subordinated and dominated in the society. Commonly, men represent positive qualities but women represent negative qualities. Society creates opposite to define men and women. It is said that men are on the right being men, it is the women who are wrong. Women have ovaries, uterus so that they are limited by her own nature. According to Beauvoir society considers women think with their glands and men think with their mind. Beauvoir criticizes this idea and says men also have glands, testicles, and the secret hormones. A man thinks of him as he has a direct and normal connection with the world which he thinks can understand objectively whereas he regards the body of women as a hindrance, a prison, and inferior to his body. The notion of woman as weak and emotional is a social construct. As Aristotle said that female is a female by virtue of certain lack of qualities, we should regard the female nature as afflicted with the natural defectiveness.

Beauvoir says in this sense the whole human world is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him, she is nit regarded as an autonomous being. Man can think of himself without a woman. A woman cannot think of herself without a man. And a woman is simply what a man thinks. She appears essentially to the man as a sexual being. She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not the man with the reference to her. She is incidental, the inessential. A man is absolute; he is the subject whereas she is the order. The writer states that the category of the other is as primordial as consciousness itself. In the most primitive societies, in the most ancient mythologies, the duality of the self and the other can be found. In this duality, a male is self and female is other. Self is respected and the other is ignored. Beauvoir argues that the category of other is always dominated.

Beauvoir argues that no one is superior and on one is inferior by nature. But a woman from primitive ages has been defined as other as opposed to one. Beauvoir argues that in fact, this is the other which gives value or meaning of male. It means it is the female who gives the value of male or it is the male who gives the meaning of female. But this relation of mutuality has not been recognized. Obviously, there are a certain group of people that has been able to dominate another group completely for a time. For example, the majority imposes its rule upon a minority. But Beauvoir argues those women are not a minority like the American Negros or the Jews. There as many women as male on the earth. Even then women have become the victims of male domination. Man and woman are still unaware of each other existence. The stronger has always subjugated the weaker. Throughout the history, they have always been subordinated to man. Beauvoir compares a woman with the proletariats and says proletariats has not always existed in the history whereas a woman has always been there. Even woman is dominated and oppressed then.

Beauvoir says that not only male and society bear the blame for the domination of women. Women themselves are also responsible for this. If a woman seems to be the inessential which never becomes the essential, it is because she herself fails to bring about this change. The man says women and women use the same word to refer themselves. Women had gain only what men have been willing to grant, they have taken nothing by their own effort, they have only received. Beauvoir argues the reason behind their backwardness id woman lack concrete means for organizing themselves into a unity which can stand against the dominating force that is patriarchy. A woman does not have history, past or religion of their completely own and they have no such solidarity of work, ethic and interest. They live dispersed among the males involve in residence, housework, domestic work and family circle. If they belong to the bourgeoisie, they feel unity solidarity with a man of that class, not with a proletarian woman. If they are white there assimilation is a white man not with the Negro woman. Women are in a complex bond with their oppressor. Even if they desire, they cannot exterminate males. The division of a sex is a biological fact, not an event in human history. Woman and man stand opposed since primordial age, a woman has but broken it. The couple is fundamental unity with its two halves combine together. The division of society along the line of sex is impossible. Still, women are other in the totality of which the two components are necessary to each other.

By nature man and woman are equal but this mutual feeling has not also been recognized to bring liberation of women. Male and female are united only I the sexual case. In truth, a woman has not been socially emancipated through man’s need that is sexual desire and desire for offspring which makes the male dependent for satisfaction upon the female. Otherwise, their relationship is like that of master and slave. A woman has always been man’s dependent. The two sexes have never shared the world in equality. And even today woman is heavily handicapped. Almost nowhere she is in legal status the same as man is and it is most to her disadvantage. Even in official document woman rights are recognized in an abstract way. At the present time when women are beginning to take part in the affairs of the world, it is a still a world be dominant would be for a woman to give up all the other, to refused to be dominant would be for the woman to give up all the advantage given to them by the superior male.


Lohani, s. (2012). Western Intellectual Tradition.Kathmandu: M.K. Publishers.

  • A woman in the society is supposed as weak, domestic, emotional, inferior and subordinate.
  • Beauvoir examines the concept of woman and man in relations to the larger concept of humanity like social, economical and political spheres.
  • Both man and woman need to share the world in equality.
  • The superior, sovereign and masterful status of man in patriarchy is signified by the word subject.
  • By nature man and woman are equal but their mutual relation has not been recognized to bring liberation to a woman.






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