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v I I | . W , I K | or downward movcMiienl, from the lowc .1 m i l vice versa, in his Republic? K ' l i - i i u x T . i c y ? Did he think it was desirable? ' • i ,u l o r d i n g to Plato? |Uitice" . is applied to the individual and the st.ilr' ' • ' i • .Hi',.••. |ho state (i.e., society) to decline? ' • ' " || |, v n,,ture a political animal." What does h < > !' 'i !•. i h c function of the state? 1 -' I • 111.11 some men are by nature free, and others ' i . li'.ir" thnt some should be slaves and also thai I i'"i I " - > ili/ens?

Political Consequences of Biological Differences
Beauvoir, Plato, and Trebilcot

The political reality is that there is such a thing as sovereignty, that is, the power to dominate. Beauvoir asks, "Why is it that women do not dispute male sovereignty?" The concept of sovereignty implies at least two major parties, the one that dominates and the one that is dominated. There is always the primary party and then various other individuals or groups, classes or races that are dominated. There are, for example, whites, blacks, Jews, Chinese, and the proletariat. All these parties are what they are because they fit into the category of "the other." What Beauvoir notices about these examples of the other is that they do not include the sexes. The relations between the sexes do not resemble the relations between any other set of parties that make up the sovereign and the others. Even though "otherness" is considered a fundamental category of human thought, there is something unique about the otherness of women. In a small town, those who do not belong to the village are "strangers"; to natives of a country, those who live in other countries are "foreigners"; Jews are "different" for the anti-Semite; proletarians are the "lower class" for the privileged. In all these cases, the other either is a minority or has become the other by virtue of an historic event such as a revolution. In short, the other is "made" the other by the dominant party. The other could have enjoyed dominance or equality in the past, but some historical event transformed it into the other, as though even now there is the possibility of reversing this process whereby the other becomes once again either equal or dominant. For woman, says Beauvoir, the cause of her otherness is none of the
For biographical information regarding Simone de Beauvoir, see pp. 562-563.


Moreover. that every female human being is not necessarily a woman. are merely the human beings arbitrarily designated by the word woman. But conceptualism has lost ground. it is hardly patentable. but on the contrary an organ of no great biological importance. I he substance of men's acts and sentiments. women. There are about as many women as there are men on this planet. this division "is a biological fact. then. Women do not constitute a separate group similar to the proletariat or bourgoisie which as a class can think of themselves as separate from other classes. For there are also at work many creative forces. Beauvoir is not convinced that such dominance is as necessarily fixed as is the biological fact." Women are women. to be so considered she must share in that mysterious and threatened reality known as femininity. It is not nature that defines woman. says Hr.mvoir. ." Then1 is. "woman is a womb. It would appear. ." Although woman's status as the other. and the cleavage of society along the line of sex is impossible. of rationalism. connoisseurs declare that they are not women. [Again] we must ask: what is a woman? "Tota mulier in utero. and. today as always they make up about one half of humanity. we are exhorted to be women. says Beauvoir. become women. to them. she is a female—this word is sufficient to define her. or the Negro. but the division between the sexes is not the product of an event in history. plays in it a part of the first rank. For. for example. women are not a minority.i whole world of signific-amv which exists only through woni. . . then it never existed. It is frequently described in vague and dazzling terms that seem to have been borrowed from the vocabulary of the seers." Reading The Second Sex Simone de Beauvoir Simone de Beauvoir. has historically had the political consequence of male domination. :. then. ". Is this attribute something secreted by the ovaries? Or is it a Platonic essence. The biological and social sciences no longer admit the existence of unchangeably fixed entities that determine given characteristics. i l call out their free activity." says liis fellow being. And yet we are told that femininity is in danger. she says. If today femininity no longer exists. All agree in recognizing the fact that females exist in the human species. . a product of the philosophic imagination? Is a rustling petticoat enough to bring it down to earth? Although some women try zealously to incarnate this essence. although they are equipped with a uterus like the rest. have no specific content? This is stoutly affirmed by those who hold to the philosophy of the enlightenment." But in speaking of certain women. instead. the incarnation of all (lie values l h . But does the word woman. . an ovary. and indeed in the times of St. Not only are women not a say the fanciers of simple formulas: she is a womb. of nominalism. Many American women particularly are . based on biology. like the clitoris." That male and female stand opposed is a "primordial" reality. "throughout history they have always been subordinated to men. Thomas it was considered an essence as certainly defined as the somniferous virtue of the poppy. it is she who defines herself by dealing with nature on her own account in her emotional life.hc i:. unlike African Americans or Jews. both blacks and Jews were originally independent and in some cases have today regained independence. male and female "is a fundamental unity with its two halves riveted together. says Beauvoir by virtue of their anatomy and physiology. such as those ascribed to woman. (Pierre Boulat/Time/Life Pictures) above. For one thing.152 153 woman llu> ()lher as Naluiv iiiul . remain women. the fact that "man seeks in Woman? Very simple. the Jew. experienced situation: thus the structure of the egg is not reflected in it. There are biologically essential features that are not a part of her real. Woman is a female to the extent that she feels herself as such. Science regards any characteristic as a reaction dependent in part upon a situation.

that is enough to make vaguely hostile "others" out of all the rest of the passengers on the train. and occupations are manifestly different. In truth. In the midst of an abstract discussion it is vexing to hear a man say: "You think thus and so because you are a woman". interests. Michelet writes: "Woman. then we must face the question: what is a woman? To state the question is. If three travelers chance to occupy the same compartment. It would be out of the question to reply: "And you think the contrary because you are a man." said Aristotle. God and Lucifer." And she is simply what man decrees. a uterus. She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he "with reference to her. the relative being. so there is an absolute human type. Negroes. It amounts to Iliis: just as for the ancients there was an absolute vertical with reference to which the oblique was defined. as on legal papers. but it was for love of a militant male whose equal she wished to be. . for man represents both the positive and the neutral. but rather a flight from reality. If her functioning as a female is not enough to define woman. provisionally. thus she is called "the sex. like man. . My idea is that all of us. that women do exist. she is not regarded as an autonomous being. Modern Woman: The Lost Sex. separate individual. right and left. She was denying her feminine weakness. such as the testicles. no less. these peculiarities imprison her in her subjectivity. A man would never get the notion of writing a book on the peculiar situation of the human male." and if nevertheless we admit. Sun-Moon. should be regarded as human beings. Perhaps these differences are superficial. women exist today—this denial does not represent a liberation for those concerned. Surely woman is. defined by limiting criteria. It is revealed in such works as that of Granet on Chinese thought and those of Dumezil on the East Indies and Rome. Thus it is that no group ever sets itself up as the One without at once setting up the Other over against itself. Dorothy Parker has written: "I cannot be just to books which treat of woman as woman." And St. . For him she is sex—absolute sex. Thus humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him. which in other respects has its irritating features. He is the Subject. which he believes he apprehends objectively. and that they secrete hormones. faces. . a preliminary answer." And Benda is most positive in his Rapport d'Uriel: "The body of man makes sense in itself quite apart from that of woman. Man superbly ignores the fact that his anatomy also includes glands. but I know that my only defense is to reply: "I think thus and so because it is true. This is symbolized in Genesis where Eve is depicted as made from what Bossuet called "a supernumerary bone" of Adam. without reciprocity. . in the most ancient mythologies. But in order to gain this privilege she made use of her husband's influence! Women who assert that they are men lay claim none the less to masculine consideration and respect. . "we should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness. I recall also a young Trotskyite standing on a platform at a boisterous meeting and getting ready to use her fists. whereas woman represents only the negative. perhaps they are destined to disappear. Woman has ovaries. In regard to a work. . is not to deny that Jews. il a backward individual still takes herself for a woman. circumscribe her within the limits of her own nature. A man is in Ihe right in being a man. UranusZeus. It is often said that she thinks with her glands. he is the Absolute— she is the Other. whereas the latter seems wanting in significance by itself. bodies. Otherness is a fundamental category of human thought. her friends advise her to be psychoanalyzed and thus get rid of this obsession. to go for a walk with one's eyes open is enough to demonstrate that humanity is divided into two classes of individuals whose clothes. if we decline also to explain her through "the eternal feminine. She cannot think of herself without man." by which is meant that she appears essentially to the male as a sexual being. a human being. to the native . one finds the expression of a duality—that of the Self and the Other. as is indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general. in spite of her evident fragility. whereas he regards the body of woman as a hindrance. The fact is that every concrete human being is always a singular. To decline to accept such notions as the eternal feminine. Some years ago a well-known woman writer refused to permit her portrait to appear in a series of photographs especially devoted to women writers. The terms masculine and feminine are used symmetrically only as a matter of form. men as well as women. the black soul. and Day-Night than it was in the contrasts between Good and Evil. the Jewish character. smiles." thereby f removing my subjective self from the argument. But if I wish to define myself. gaits. I must first of all say: "I am a woman". but such a declaration is abstract. He thinks of his body as a direct and normal connection with the world." But nominalism is a rather inadequate doctrine. Man can think of himself without woman. the masculine. What is certain is that right now they do most obviously exist." an "incidental" being. at once. she wished to be counted among the men. lucky and unlucky auspices. A man never begins by presenting himself as an individual of a certain sex. Thomas for his part pronounced woman to be an "imperfect man. In actuality the relation of the two sexes is not quite like that of two electrical poles. "The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities. The fact that I ask it is in itself significant. This duality was not originally attached to the division of the sexes.155 prepared to think that there is no longer any place 1 lor woman as such. it is the woman who is in the wrong." for il I is understood that the fact of being a man is no peculiarity. The attitude of defiance of many American women proves that they are haunted by a sense of their femininity. . The category of the Other is as primordial as consciousness itself. on this truth must be based all further discussion. a prison. In the most primitive societies. to me. it was not dependent upon any empirical facts. In small-town eyes all persons not belonging to the village are "strangers" and suspect. weighed down by everything peculiar to it. and the antifemininists have had no trouble in showing that women simply are not men. she is the incidental. it goes without saying that he is a man. . The feminine element was at first no more involved in such pairs as Varuna-Mitra. the inessential as opposed to the essential. to suggest.

the nature ol things is no more immutably given. She had hard work to do. and woman has not broken it. the introduction of slavery into America. housework. . however. there is created between them a reciprocal relation. but woman cannot even dream of exterminating the males. in defining himself as the Other. the more so as they are better informed and less never been anything more than a symbolic agitation. The couple is a fundamental unity with its two halves riveted together. has some advantage. And instead of a single historical event it is in both cases a historical development that explains their status as a class and accounts for the membership of particular individuals in that class. men say "women. This . they have taken nothing. It is therefore understandable that man would wish to dominate woman. Why is it that women do not dispute male sovereignty? No subjivl will readily volunteer to become the object. but it might seem that a natural condition is beyond the possibility of change. no history. and the cleavage of society along the line of sex is impossible. economic condition. they have only received. The parallel drawn by Bebel between women and the proletariat is valid in that neither ever formed a minority or a separate collective unit of mankind. In these cases the oppressed retained at least the memory of former days. Again. The reason why otherness in this case seems to be an absolute is in part that it lacks the contingent or incidental nature of historical facts. The proletarians have accomplished the revolution in Russia. and social standing to certain men—fathers or husbands—more firmly than they are to other women. into "others. it is because she herself fails to bring about this change. Negroes also. the workers of Saint-Denis. they possessed in common a past. and a sufficiently fanatical Jew or Negro might dream of getting sole possession of the atomic bomb and making humanity wholly Jewish or black. But proletarians have not always existed. The reason for this is that women lack concrete means for organ i/. l l i c IndoChinese are battling for it in Indo-China. other cases in which a certain category has been able to dominate another completely for a time. . In truth. But women are not a minority. Negroes are "inferior" for American racisls. the ghetto Jews. as the Negroes of Haiti and others have proved. establishes the One. If one of the two is in some way privileged. they transform the bourgeois. Regarding themselves as subjects. Whence comes this submission in the case ol woman? There are.156 ( 'htlpU'r '' 1 ' o l i l i t i l l ( 'nMM('i|iii'iuvs ol Dlologlcnl I ) i l I n v i u v. But we shall be able to understand how the hierarchy of the sexes was established by reviewing the data of prehistoric research and ethnography in the light of existentialist philosophy. It is peculiarly difficult to form an idea of woman's situation in the pre-agricultural period. They do not authentically assume a subjective attitude. . aborigines are "natives" for colonists. 157 ol . They are women in virtue of their anatomy and physiology. or the factory hands of Renault. if they are themselves into a unit which can stand face to face with the correlative unit. the Negroes in 1 laid. but what advantage has enabled him to carry out his will? The accounts of the primitive forms of human society provided by ethnographers are extremely contradictory. they feel solidarity with men of that class. but the women's ellorl h. If they belong to the bourgeoisie. II woman seems to be the inessential which never becomes the essential." But women do not say "We." and women use the same word in referring to themselves. not to Negro women. always in a state of tension. were not as well developed as in man. and hence their dependency is not the result of a historical event or a social change—it was not something that occurred. The scattering of the Jews. no religion of their own. Jews . each aspires to impose its sovereignty upon the other. the conquests of imperialism are examples in point. Throughout history they have always been subordinated to men. and they have no such solidarity of work and interest as that of the proletariat. But a historical event has resulted in the' subjugation of the weaker by the stronger. than is historical reality. sometimes in amity. not an event in human history. or perhaps they recognized each other's autonomy. once for all. the' two groups concerned have often been originally independent. A condition brought about at a certain time can be abolished at some other time. to be sure. But if the Other is nol to regain the status of being the One. the whites. They live dispersed among the males.nv "different" for the anti-Semite.1. their allegiance is to white men. I have already stated that when two human categories are together. under conditions different from those of today." except at some congress of feminists or similar formal demonstration. Proletarians say "We-". We do not even know whether •woman's musculature or her respiratory apparatus. attached through residence. this one prevails over the other and undertakes to keep it in subjection. the inessential. They have gained only wlial men have been willing to grant. The Other is posed as such by the One in defining himself as the One. a tradition. Here is to be found the basic trait of woman: she is the Other in a totality of which the two components are necessary to one another. not with proletarian women. and none of the reasons hitherto brought forward in explanation of this fact has seemed adequate. sometimes in enmity. whereas there have always been women. This has always been a man's world. they may have been formerly unaware of each other's existence. They have no past. If both are able to resist this imposition. like the American Negroes or the Jews.) country all who inhabit other countries arc' "foreigners". . it is not the Other who. proletarians are the "lowerrrlass" for I lie privileged. . Very often this privilege depends upon inequality of numbers—the majority imposes its rule upon the' minority or persecutes it. sometimes a religion or a culture. and in particular it was she who carried the burdens. They are not even promiscuously herded together in the way that creates community feeling among the American Negroes. The proletariat can propose to massacre the ruling class. he must be submissive enough l < > •uvepl Ihis alien point of view. The bond that unites her to her oppressors is not comparable to any other. there are as many women as men on earth. The division of the sexes is a biological fact. Male and female stand opposed within a primordial Mitsein. .

for in the struggle' against wild animals he ran grave risks. Man's case was radically different. he furnished support for the group.ime forthwith instruments for enlarging his grasp upon the world I le did not l i m i t himself to bringing home the fish he caught in the sea: lirsl he l i . so confused. . such as she appears to man. and that is why woman found in them no reason for a lofty affirmation of her existence—she submitted passively to her biologic fate. . and woman was never permitted to take first place. and therein man gave recognition to his human estate. If blood were but a nourishing fluid. the bondage of reproduction was a terrible handicap in the struggle against a hostile world. Even in times when humanity most needed births. . As there was obviously no birth control. animal or human.ils bee. . through it I attain to the Whole. And her ambiguity is just that of the concept of the Other: it is that of the human situation in so far as it is defined in its relation with the Other. such as she seems to herself to be. the Other is Evil. Infanticide was common among the nomads. and many of the newborn that escaped massacre died from lack of care in the general state of indifference. He exploits her. closely spaced maternities must have absorbed most of their strength and their time. The warrior put his life in jeopardy to elevate the prestige of the horde. children were for them a burden. nevertheless.celebrated with festivals and triumphs. he has broken through its frontiers.158 I ' t i r l Two: I'olilic s r I l l i l j ' l i ' l '< I ' u l i l i i . But we know what ambivalent feelings Nature inspires in man. For it is not in giving life but in risking life that man is raised above the animal.IJ liiiN I com the beginning of lime' bec'n <in inventor: the stick and the club w i t h vvlneh he armed himself to knock down fruits and to slaughter .\e iirlivity he put his power to the test. it is the gateway to the infinite and the measure of my finite nature. Their successes were. but she crushes him. it was because a man kept his hands free on the trail in order to defend himself against possible aggressors. man's superior strength must have been of tremendous importance in the age of the club and the wild beast. too many children were born for the group's resources. . He has worked not merely lo conserve the world as given. "To be a woman. therefore. so complicated. the gathering." says Kierkegaard in Stages on the Road of Life. . The woman who gave birth. u l to roiK|iier the watery realm by means of the dugout canoe fashioned l i o i u . r . it turns into the Good. and so it was man who had to assure equilibrium between reproduction and production. . The worst curse that was laid upon woman was that she should be excluded from these warlike forays. but by means of acts that transcended his animal nature. however strong the women were. but it also separates me therefrom. The primitive hordes had no permanence in property or territory. not a prized possession. she perpetuated it too generously. il I l i l l c l r l K V S | '-. . To maintain. but even so. For if woman is not the only Other. Here we have a first fact heavily freighted with consequences: the early days of the human species were difficult. In any case.uls loward them. which was perpetuated almost without change from century to century.miin. Necessary as she was for the perpetuation of the species. he is bom of her and dies in her. through biological behavior. Pregnancy. "is something so strange. and menstruation reduced their capacity for work and made them at times wholly dependent upon the men for protection and food. It would appear. Man seeks in woman the Other as Nature and as his fellow being. Here we have the key to the whole mystery. and hence set no store by posterity. his role was the more dangerous and the one that demanded more vigor. Homo faber . they produced nothing new. he found self-realization as an existent. childbirth. she felt herself the plaything of obscure forces. But in any case giving birth and suckling are not activities. not in the manner of worker bees by a simple vital process. Today he still manifests this pride when he h. he set up goals and opened up ro. did not know the pride of creation. it remains none the less true that she is always defined as the Other. And in this he proved dramatically that life is not the supreme value for man. but being necessary to the Good. but negatively." This comes from not regarding woman positively.iled. and as nature failed to provide women with sterile periods like other mammalian females. through her is made unceasingly the passage from hope to frustration. Under whatever aspect we may consider her. but on the contrary that it should be made to serve ends more important than itself. This is the reason why fishing and hunting expeditions had a sacred character. manual labor was the primary necessity. it would be valued no higher than milk. from evil to good. so that they were incapable of providing for the children they brought into the built a dam or a skyscraper or an atomic pile. hunting. she is the source of last fact is of doubtful significance. l l ( i i i r . it is likely that if she was assigned this function. the clan to which he belonged. that no one predicate comes near expressing it and that the multiple predicates that one would like to use are so contradictory that only a woman could put up with it. . he t re. but the hunter was no butcher. he has laid down the foundations of a new future. the extravagant fertility of woman prevented her from active participation in the increase of these resources while she created new needs to an indefinite extent. from good to evil. in brief. and fishing peoples got only meager products from the soil and those with great effort. from hate to love. he opened the future. that is why superiority has been accorded in humanity not to the sex that brings forth but to that which kills. they are natural functions. The domestic labors that fell to her lot because they were reconcilable with the cares of maternity imprisoned her in repetition and immanence. when maternity was most venerated. Early man's activity had another dimension that gave it supreme dignity: it was often dangerous. We need recall only the tales of Herodotus and the more recent accounts of the amazons of Dahomey to realize that woman has shared in warfare—and with no less ferocity and cruelty than man. and the painful ordeal of childbirth seemed a useless or even troublesome accident. no project is involved. they were repeated from day to day in an identical form. j i i i ' i H I ' N <>l I l i d h i r i . that in many cases the women were strong and tough enough to take part in the warriors' expeditions. And here lies the reason why woman incarnates no stable concept. As I have already said. it is this ambivalence that strikes us first. he burst out of the present.

Now ally. we must teach them the same things. seen as a requirement of nature.." assign their less talented offspring "to the station proper to his nature and thrust him among the craftsmen and larmers. . Come then. other than what is expected of her. and that the natures of man and woman are different. counter to all goodness. . I suppose we did. she is all the Other. . We did agree that different natures should have different occupations. 135. but she opposes him with her indifference. These assignments were not considered arbitrary but were. as this life itself. she is what opposes the Spirit. I'onlingence and Idea. and they must receive the same treatment. to make him sink down in silence and in death. should do the same things?" What is your answer to that." Ills heing and the realm that he subjugates to his will. from good to evil. without the smallest pity. she is the substance of action and whatever is an obstacle to it. says Plato. she is everlasting deception. And if it is so difficult to say anything specific about her. and yet we are now saying that these different natures are to have the same occupations. were he I'oiulemned to the most cruel disappointments. then. and yet she works to divert him from himself. . my ingenious friend? ." How. For this reason. the finite and the whole. M. . "if we are to set women to the same tasks as men." Yes. agreed that everyone should do the one work for which nature fits him. "But if so. Being all. So seriously did Plato take this stratification that he fashioned a I'or biographical note on Plato. see p. "And isn't there a very great difference in nature between man and woman?" Yes. . and she is the supreme reality. Wife. . Let us state his case for him. and as the over-yonder toward which life tends." This mobility of children to a lower level occurs also in the opposite direction so that if the parents among the farmers or artisans produce a child more gifted than themselves. surely you must be mistaken now and contradicting yourselves when you say that men and women. of course. Accordingly. "Socrates and Glaucon. Reading The Equality of Women Plato Plato Plato visualized an ideal society in which each individual was assigned a specific function. Knopf. She is All. on the plane of the inessential. rather. that is. you yourselves. and their opposites. Trans. and Idea. . the Rulers [those of golden mixture] "must." While expressing these views in his Republic. she is man's grasp on the world and his frustration. at the very outset of founding your commonwealth. she is never quite this which she should be. Nature is a vein of gross material in which the soul is imprisoned. the very deception of that existence which is never successfully attained nor fully reconciled with the totality of existents. while still others were to be farmers and artisans.I'. what he loves and what he hates. There is a whole world of significance which exists only through woman. now enemy. let us see if we can find the way out. the Rulers "will promote [them] according to 11 heir] value. the incarnation of . She incarnates all moral values. should this argument from nature affect the assignments of women? Plato raises the question using the analogy of watchdogs: "Should the females guard the flock and hunt with the males and take a share in all they do. It is understandable that. or should they be kept within doors as fit for no more than bearing and feeding their puppies?" Plato sees no reason why in his society women cannot be equal with men with the exception that some functions might be limited to men because of the difference in strength between the sexes. but he expects her also to be his audience and critic and to confirm him in his sense of being. even with her mockery and laughter. others were to be in the guardian class." he will say. that is because man seeks the whole of himself in her and because she is All. she i:. . From The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. surely. He projects upon her what he desires and what he fears." He acknowledged that children do not always possess the q u a l i t y of their parents. Woman sums up nature as Mother. she is the substance of men's acts and sentiments. . . having such widely divergent natures. . She is the good mediatrix between propitious Nature and man. . Reprinted by permission of the publisher. "Does not that natural difference imply a corresponding difference in the work to be given to each?" Yes. man would not be willing to relinquish a dream within which all his dreams are enfolded.irfl'v 161 prophecy that "ruin will come upon the state" if the ruler is drawn from the rl. Is that the charge against us? . Parshley copyright 1952 by Alfred A. as such she is the source and origin of all man's reflection on his existence and of whatever expression he is able to give to it. she is other than herself. they might be ridiculed as involving a good many breaches of custom. She is servant and companion. H. They must have the same two branches of training for mind and body and also be taught the art of war. . she appears as the dark chaos from whence life wells up. Plato was aware that "if these proposals are carried out. as the other. "there is no need for others to dispute your position.iss of those composed of "iron or brass" instead of from the offspring of "golden parents. and the Spirit itself.ill Hie values that call out their free activity. and she is the temptation of unconquered Nature. By nature some were qualified to rule. Inc. [ Woman] is all that man desires and all that he does not attain. And.