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Episode #089 ... Simone De Beauvoir - The Second Sex

2016-08-16 | 🔗

Today we discuss the revolutionary work of Simone De Beauvoir entitled: The Second Sex

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, everyone, I'm Steven W. This is philosophize this. We don't have a sponsor this week, but I'll tell you what we do have folks. We have a patreon page that you can go to right now and learn everything you could ever possibly want to know about how to support the show. We also have an Amazon banner, the banner I get it. Everyone has an Amazon banner. Now the ice cream man asked me to go through his banner the other day I get it, but in this world and this cold war, it's filled to the brim, with ice cream and and Amazon banners. I really appreciate you going through this particular Amazon banner at all adds up, helps, keep the show going. Today's episodes on a lot things, but it's centered, most notably around Simone De Beauvoir and her revolutionary book entitled the second sex. I hope you love the show today. So whenever I make one of these things, my absolute worst nightmare, is for you to come out on the other side of the episode, having not learned anything having never quite
didn't you already thought you knew about whatever topic we're discussing that week now this is a pretty easy task to accomplish and we're just talking about some Obscur Neoplatonist Philosopher right, I mean, I mean sure you being somebody that scrubs toilets at a Neoplatonist Museum Everyday Day, probably going to be some sort of novelty. You can get out of that episode, but topics like we're talk about today, are a little bit more difficult because when it comes to a topic, that's as ubiquitous as feminism is each and every person listening already has their own ideas. Already have their own snapshot of. What feminism is based on all the prior experiences they've had with the threat life and what makes it even more difficult is that there's not many out there that are just sort of ambivalent about the topic excited to hear about. It, in fact, is every listening to this right now currently has a very personal relationship with feminism and most feminism is either your best friend in the world one of your worst enemies so for the
if so today, just like when we do one of these episodes on God, and I ask you to try everything that you already think you know about God, so we can have an open minded discussion without bringing too many biases to the table. Today, I'm going to ask you to take your views on feminism and think of them as like a hat. Let's just take that hat off. Send it over here on that, Don't worry, I'm not going to kill your head still going to be there Monday, so we can put it right back on and go on about your day when it's all over, but for the next thirty minutes, or so, let's just set that hat over to the side. Let's about the philosophical underpinnings of what is largely considered to be one of the most, massive liberation movements and the history of the world the second wave of feminism now real quickly. Second wave was I mean what you talking bout waves. Well. The history of modern feminism in the United States and most of the western world, for that matter is typically broken down into things called waves or
a time where were progress, surges forward rapidly and then slows down for a bit period of time, where massive breakthroughs occurred now most commonly think of feminism in terms of three big waves that have happened, something we're currently in the fourth wave feminism. Maybe when the history books are written, it will be When did the episode today, let's just think of it. In terms of three right now can see examples, first wave of feminism way back, really all the way back to the beginning of the 1800s in some cases, but when people reference the first wave most of the time they're talking about the breakthroughs made during the women's suffrage movement exactly years depend on the civic country you're talking about, but in general, this wave in the early years secured things like women's right to vote the declaration of rights and sentiments to continue to make progress all the way to the decades following world war, two, when it started to become very difficult to justify the idea that the role of woman is to just stay at home, sweeping the floor all day I mean it was world war. Two not that far removed from a world where total war is being declared when you're, not that far from times in practice,
every able bodied woman was working tirelessly in factor to produce all the tanks artillery aircraft ammunition, all the vital things we need to be able to win the war again, you can start to feel a little bit, ridiculous, supporting a law where women don't have access to education or jobs. This brings us to the beginning of the second wave of feminism a person considered to be one of the the the founding mothers of the second wave and really come on well, maybe a little bit biased because she's a she's kind of a hero of mine, but there's a case to be made that any other idea put forward during the second wave is ultimately building on the foundation that Simone De Beauvoir laid out in her book. The second sex now, regardless of how read it, you want to get rid of the books. Influence was undeniable. I mean it's not often that we see if philosophers work, that is so relevant and so compelling during its time that the person that wrote it is actually see the effects of their ideas had on culture during their lifetime. This is one of those times I mean. What does that happen? I feel lonely.
You see it happens when there's some sort of obvious injustice that somebody points out and something needs to be done now, that's a special kind of genius. I think now ISM is far from a single doctrine that can be distilled down into a single tagline. It's incredibly nuanced lot of different competing schools of thought there all aiming for slightly different goals, but they're all based on what seems to be a pretty uncontroversial statement to make that, for whatever reason, women have not had the same rights or opportunities that men have had over the course of history pick whatever one. You want whether it's not having access to education, whether it's being considered a piece of your husband's property, rather than a self, whether it's not being able to have a political voice of the right to vote whatever one you want to pick. Women have not had the same opportunities as men now when somebody gets hit with that reality. For the first time in your life, it's got to be a little confusing at first I mean first question that most pop into your head is why
would anyone want to do that? I mean it seems clear that a culture that takes fifty set of their potential brainpower, an immediately relegates into a status of staying at home vacuum the floor, cooking, hamburger helper all day. It seems like that culture is a weaker culture. For having done that, it seems like this decision wasn't made by somebody that had the best interest of the culture in mind. Maybe they had some other interest in mind it wasn't a decision that somebody made at all. This is the place. A lot of schools of feminist philosophy diverge it's in their answer to this question who or what is responsible, for women not having the same rights or opportunities that may have had throughout history and there's tons of theories about this right. It's far from black and white, the whole spectrum. You see feminists falling pretty much everywhere on it. Some feminists believe that it's not that there's a particular person or group of people, that's responsible for it. It's just you know times have changed. We used to live
very different times Hunter Gatherer Times times when it behooves us to have certain gender roles for the woman would stay at home and she didn't share that. The next generation was going to prosper and that, by taking care of everything on the home front, that allowed her physically stronger male counterpart to spend more of his time securing some of the limited resources at their disposal which increased her odds of surviving, which increased his odds of coming home with that particular days. Headless beaver point is it was a symbiotic relationship and when civilization started to come along the idea that women just stay at home and men just go out and try to impose their will on the world. We don't really think about. It was just sort of a Natur extension of those gender rules that we never questioned. These feminists would say it's absolutely wrong that that's the case. Women does. Equal rights and opportunities, we should be doing everything we can to try to fix it, but maybe it wasn't a concerted effort, bridge upon women by some group now, just as, trust you have that kind of feminist and then there's other feminists that literally believe in some sort of you know like a like a
text Illuminati. You know like a ball of men at the the backroom meetings pulling the puppet strings throughout history, and they pass this giant leather book down from generation to generation, so they can keep women these voiceless sex robots that clean up after them either. One of these- maybe the truth, Simone De Beauvoir tends to fall somewhere in between, to put it simply, sheath the subjugation of women was done deliberately by men and the interest, having a monopoly over all the positions of economic or personal power, but that really doesn't whole story, now understand the details of our position. We have to talk about a couple of different philosophical concepts, one of which is something called. The subject. Object dichotomy talked about Descartes. Everyone Descartes looks at everything that exists in the world and he's trying to find a way to organize it in your eyes, at the idea that things can be broken down into one of two types of things. Something is either a subject or an object, thought or extension mind or matter to Descartes. Something is either
subject yeah a thinking thing. You know the mind of an individual like you or me, or it's an object, something made of matter, something that has a spatial dimensions but can't make choices. Something like a like a chair or a wheelbarrow, an object to become sort of like a a monument in our subjective thinking thing experience of the world a nice neat way the people like to put it is that subjects, act and objects are acted upon number that well, it was back in the good old days. My friends back, back when things were better back when a man would tell you he's either a subject or an object, and it meant something back then. Unfortunately, over the hundreds of years between Descartes and Simone De Beauvoir Alot, things have taken a look at this idea of subjects and objects. People like Heidegger Foucault and will probably do an entire episode on it. One day. Important thing we need to understand now is that as people lot more and more about this relationship between subjects and objects in the world. Things started to get a little weird. It starts to look like there's, not such a clear cut distinction between subjects.
Looks like we used to think when you look at how we interact with objects. You look at how other let's see themselves as subjects become objects in your active experience with the world. You look at how your subjective experiences. Made possible by an object, meaning something with spatial dimensions and can't make choices. You know your body, you look at all this stuff and it doesn't seem to be a subject. Object, dichotomy, subjects, can't Without objects and objects can't exist without subjects, there's an interconnectedness to it. Our existence guarantees We are simultaneously both subject and object, but what if you could remove the subject from someone? What would that make them very simple, math problem folks, I mean subject and object. Minus subject equals that's right and object. I am hilarious through an object. There an object,
just an object, that's the point, something that's acted upon, something like a chair or a wheelbarrow, something that we sat on or use for. Whatever purpose you want to use it, for this is what is called objectifying a person Simone de Beauvoir would say that when you look at the history of the world anytime, whether it was a ruthless dictator, an imperialistic regime anytime people have been enslaved the party response so before enslaving them has cyst matically removed their subjectivity. They've objectified, this group of people I'm going to feel so bad about treating them like there, a wheelbarrow now lucky for us, and I guess lucky for any aspiring dictators out there. That may be listening. Get your pen and paper. My future benefactor lucky for you. Philosophy has created a concise field manual for all the fun creative ways. You can objectify a person there's seven of them. I'm reading this from the Stanford Encyclopedia philosophy, I link to it in the page that corresponds with this episode. Alright, I refuse to call it show notes. I will never call them show notes. Number one is
mentality the treatment of a person as a tool for the objective hires purposes. Two is that the about Tanami treatment of a person is lacking in autonomy or self determination. Number three is a nervous. Treatment of a person is lacking in agency number for fun to bill. The dream of a person as interchangeable with other objects, number five viability, tripping of a person is lacking and boundary integrity, number six ownership, that's a big one. Treatment of a person is something that is owned by another me. If they can be, bought and sold a number seven is the denial of subjectivity. Treatment of a person is something who experiences and feelings of the world need not be taken into account so These are the ways that you remove that subject from someone turn them into merely an object. And I'm sure, hearing those you guys can look back at various throughout history. People have been enslaved and you can spot at least one of those and the tactic that was used to objectify them. I'm sure you can even just see it in the world around you everyday life right, for example, guy be sitting on the couch watching tv, he sees a girl, provocatively dance,
in a music video and he may look her, as though she is just a piece of meat as a tool for the objectifies purposes, right, a girl might look at a guy, like he's just a a blob of muscle yeah. This forklift that supposed to just carry heavy objects for me again, a tool for the active fires purposes now in the ethics of Simone De Beauvoir, freedom is something that we should be always striving for, and what that means to her is that any prob We undertake anything that we decided to do in this world. It's very simple, It's either getting yourself in other people, further away from freedom or it's getting yourself and others closer to freedom. As we talked about before freedom is not just being able to walk down the street, go to the convenience store and buy a bag or It's also about understanding why you want to walk down the street and buy a bag of Oreos we don't understand why you may be
I have to any number of processes, advertising addiction, anything now, one things for certain about this process of becoming free. It's not a passive process. Is it I mean think of somebody. That's physically enslave the shackle or like you're not going to free yourself from those chains. If you're just sort of pass going along with your life as a slave know, it takes action, it takes revolution. It takes you embracing and showing that subjectivity that you know you possess. That was robbed from you with the person that objectified you it takes. You imposing your will upon the world now. The bad part about this testimony before is that that whole process of being a subject that burns a lot of calories, there's a lot of effort involved in being a such a lot of reading and who reads anymore, really it's hard being a subject and because it's so hard Simone Human beings often have this temptation to sacrifice their, objectivity and move towards just being an object. It's easy to be an object, it's easy to just
think about anything ever get a job that produces much value for people, never educate yourself about the political or economic climate. You live in. It's so easy to just be an object, that's enslaved, It takes away that onus that you have to strive for true freedom, in other words, there's tension created by the fact that we are both subject and object, Simone DE thinks this tension is I didn't want to be able to study it, so she creates two collections of behaviors each one of them, respect really embodying one side of this tension of being subject and object. She calls these two behavior sets transcendence and eminence trance since embodying all the virtues that go along with being a subject in the world and Eminem embodying all the virtues that go along with being an object in the world transcendent and imminent. To be transcendent is to strive for freedom to be
hidden understanding freedom to reach out into the future, to impose your will upon the world to have a strong voice to be imminent is to be the opposite of that. It's to be stagnant. It's to be passive submissive, self, effacing, modest, voiceless. Now think about that, for a second which of those would you rather be? Would you rather be more transcendent or imminent? If, when your friends ask advice on how to live their life, which would you tell them to be more transcendent or more imminent, what sort of advice do you think these existential philosophers we've been talking about would give well think about it? They they talk about. You know living on, sent to clean. They talk about rigorously doing an inventory of your thoughts and freeing yourself from the self imposed chains that come with the way that you look at the world. They talk a lot about freedom, don't they when you're lost in a finite you're, not free you're in slave by some, as Aspect of culture that you're just blindly going along with when you're lost in the infinite you're? Not free you're, incapable of taking action because you're enslaved to the process of decision making
when you living your life, based on starters, bad faith. You are enslaved to some convenient story. That you're telling yourself point is all of these different ways. Coming a true self. Rather than a passenger, they all involve these transcendent virtues. Don't they not me? Once again, if you have a shackle around your ankle, freeing yourself Those chains involves you being transcendent actively going out are imposing yourself on the world, certainly not imminent sitting back passive submissive, voiceless right now. Here's the key point Simone De Beauvoir, would say how convenient that transcendent qualities- are all the qualities that we see as masculine qualities and the imminent qualities are all the ones we see is feminine she looked around with the women overtime and realized that practically everyone is relegated to the status of not having an education, not having a job. The woman
role is to stay at home and clean stuff. The woman's role is to be passive into always yield to the man of the house was the final say to submit to the will of the man. It's not lady like to be loud and opinionated order. Argue politics at the dinner table. It's not late! like to not be modest. You know these are some great cookies. You made her message, Johnson, oh no, it's too you're too nice, I just thrown together. It's really nothing! It's nothing, not lady, like to say, yeah, damn right, those are some good third place at the county, fair. Thank you very much, gotta ribbon. That gave me a ribbon for my cookies, when I do sometimes when I'm in home alone, I like to wear that ribbon around the house. That's what I do not very lady and in this world, where it's, the role of the woman in a relationship to stay at home and just keep quiet in that world. The woman embodies all of these in characteristics and if he doesn't have the choice of whether or not to be less imminent, he's Essentia Lee forced into a relationship with a really lopsided balance of power? I mean think about it. If
the guy decides he wants to sleeping around with the secretary. What can the woman really do about that? Just have an education. He doesn't have financial independence She is completely at his mercy, but Does she really have I mean she has to decide whether she's satisfied with husband sleeping around or what really what she leave him move back in with her parents, I mean find some other guy. Dependent on where is Hearst subjectivity her ability to impose yourself upon the world. Where is horrible, to transcend Simone DE. I would say that we commonly think of as feminine qualities are a social construct construct created in a calculated way to ensure that we stay slaved to remove their subjective. And make them into an object, a doll. As we often give little girls dolls to play with, and it's kind of funny 'cause it sort of forced? what their role is going to be when they get older. Your job is to get dressed up comb your hair, just so keep quiet over there in the corner, while bending
Well, whatever wants to play with you at that moment she says: you're not born a woman, you're made to become one. She says women are the by product of two histories? One is the history that we talk about in history books. You know the cultural context. She was born into the expectations about the role of women that have been laid out so far and the second history own personal history, her childhood, her up, bring all these feminine qualities. These expectations about how she should be behaving are force fed into her by her parents, friends, family teachers, everyone. So we talked about studies that they've done scientists look at the way the parents interact with little boys versus little girls, and it seems like there's a clear difference. In the way that people interact with boys versus girls. Apparently people are much more likely to be firm and aggressive. When they're disciplining a boy they're much more likely, run around with the little boy and play with me Mama's little monkey, whereas with girls parents are much more likely to give her something like a coloring book. You know something quiet that passes the time there
Likely when she does anything good to tell her that she's a beautiful little girl giving her this repetitive cue that her worth in the way the people view. Her is directly connected to how good she looks. There's tons of examples of these differences and Simone saying: don't underestimate the that. This has on the behavior of these kids when they become adults. Now it gets crazier than that. I mean think about this. For a second like it's not like the, Consider giving these kids these cues are bad people that are trying to act. If we marginalized women, know they're just doing it, how their parents did it in their eyes? This is just how you treat little girls, girls behave in our culture, and this is how boys behave, but where did that come from who created this standard of how we're supposed to be behaving as Simone's right that this is some sort of organized. Operation to make women into these submissive objects were had been organized. This I mean they have some sort of constitute convention one day where they figure all this stuff out some kind of say that the root cause, what made it even possible for me to create this standard of
being feminine is happened along time ago in a completely different world. We talked about that world earlier the world used to be organized in such a way that how economically prosperous you were was directly related to how physically strong you are. It really was that simple, I mean look, you could be four foot eight inches tall. It would be the best rock thrower in the world. You can be the best in the world at throwing set, bunnies and just stockpiling a ton of food, but if some six foot eleven dude shows up on your front porch, those are his bunnies. Now now, biologically men have a. Huge advantage over women in the area of physical strength.
Sources are limited and this forced women to have to be economically dependent on men. Time went on men control the resources, so naturally they control the government and actually they're the ones who write the laws about what women are able to do and actually they're the ones that write the books that depict women through the ones that talk about what it means to behave as a woman behaves. Maybe there was never an organized constitutional convention for it, but men were born into a similar world of two histories, one where they were told that the role of women is when were they enjoy having the fruits of all of this political and economic power. I mean, let's be real, what survival oriented creature doesn't enjoy controlling certain aspects about their existence now finding themselves born into this position, men at first through physical strength and then systemically through laws and culture, kept women in this place, where their role is to be dependant objects one. Make some own unique among feminist philosophers, is that she talks a lot about the. Why of all this, because a few
really interesting reasons for why men would do this to women. She says uhm. Well, here's how she sets it up. She says in the sense women are capable of being transcendent, they personify This concept, we often talk about philosophy called the self, but what is that make women? They are capable of being transcendent. Sentence to this status of being an object. Women aren't selves really in a philosophical sense. There's sort of this other thing she says woman is the other. He says, being a human being seems to mean being a man because being a woman is being this other thing being this collection of characteristics. That's everything that the self rejects, passivity, submissiveness, voicelessness, etc, This sets up to make a pretty interesting point. I think she said that one of the main reasons why men might have done this to women is because deep down, their biggest fear is that they become engineered for women to become passive submissive. Leaves to the world around them with no voice to really change it, maybe
by making women embody this eminence when men, have control over women. Maybe they feel like they have control over that thing that they fear the most. Now some of you may be saying. Ok, I get I get where you're coming from Simone feminine traits are a social construct, but isn't this a little bit of a chicken or the egg thing? So what I mean is certainly men wrote all the books, but did men write books about passive submissive women? An engineer these feminine qualities ordered men, just write books about the way that women naturally behaved? In other words, is life imitating art or is art image? in life couldn't it be that women are just naturally less competitive than guys are going to be the just like staying at home at tending to the nest buying decorative buying decorative target. Couldn't it that women just care a lot more about raising a child and they do about changing the world. This is a key. And it's at the heart of the issue. It's the question of gender essentialism and, by the way, real, quick, it's not
the only people who would ask a question like that? Are people that believe women are weaker than men? No feminist thinkers fall on that side of it too. There are differential list. Feminists and they'd be the kind of person. That would say something like you know why we gotta pretend, like everyone is the same all the time. Why do we gotta pretend like men and women are exactly the same thing? No, it's not a crazy belief. It's not a sexist belief to think that maybe men and women are with different essences, different predispositions that account for the vast differences between male and female behavior differentials. Might say that we should embrace these differences separate but equal under the eyes of the law right. So when you look at one of the study, talk about? How only one percent of ceos are women and we're do to fix it? Some feminists would say not a very reasonable way to go about identifying sexism. After all, men women are, by their very nature, different. He can't gauge body based on how many women are just doing what guys want to do, maybe never reason when women have all the options available to them. They just choose different career paths in men do now so
former for more on the side of the galaxy, and feminists are people that think. Yes, we do We have certain biological differences and, yes, those differences account for a certain variance in behavior, but they certainly don't lane the massive chasm that separates how culture expects men and women to behave. Femininity is a social construct, not so imbued into women at conception. That's a key point. Remember Simone De Beauvoir is an existentialist. She believes that existence priest essence, he doesn't believe in some sort of ordained set of personality traits or essential properties that make you you it's interesting to think about all the different places people might fall and answering these questions right mean I often run into people that agree with the notion that there is no preordained essence to what they are. They they agree that existence precedes essence.
But in that same conversation will reference gender and, let's say something like that's just how girls are that's just how guys are it's interesting reminds me of how people often talk about about human nature. They'll, say things like look at history our bloody past. It is obviously just human nature to be selfish and war like and do not care about your fellow man and to conquer as much land as you possibly can, but think about that for a second. To think about is imagine human history where, instead of being predominantly at the helm of society. Imagine it was all women now. How different would the history of the world be Would there be as much war if we had these passive, modest submissive peep? all the positions of power when say something like human nature. Aren't women, half of whatever that Human nature thing is so is it just the nature of? meant to be more like. So can women really take credit for being so much less war, like I mean having just been conditioned to be passive and submissive, would women be
just as war like his men, if they were fed the same cues from birth, that boys are or is there some s to there being, that would have made it different. Is there some essence to there being that just makes them like cinnamon candles from bath and body works? Is there something there just and to think about now. The echoes of Simone De Beauvoir still ring out to this day and the world is a very different place now than it was before she wrote. The second sex really is a testament to her greatness. Now, certain there's been tons of progress made in terms of women having equal rights and opportunities. The question that sort of pervades. The modern dialogue is how much more progress still needs to be made. I mean sure it's great how far we've come, but how much further do we have to go? I guess the better question is Can you accurately quantify one instance of sexism, because the world replace now than it was at the time of our right, I mean back, then you could easily define point. It was a very obvious forced
style of being disenfranchised. I mean it was very clear back then that women were being marginalized in today's world and, of course, I'm talking about the western world here shut on the ladies out there holding it down in places that the second wave hasn't reached. Yet in today's world, it's not as obvious as it was back then the problem in today's world? If there is one is much more insidious, its covert? It exists in the minds of the voters exists in the minds of people that are at the head of industry or hiring for these field allow someone to impose their will upon the world. For example, if you're a woman, you want to be a scientist and you want to be one of these fields or you can exercise your transcendence and you're really smart and you have a employment, history and letters of recommendation Phd the whole thing and you go in for an interview. When you pass the initial interview and they narrow down the four applicants, you wait around for weeks after weeks waiting weeks. Tell you that sorry, you didn't get the job, we're the to go in another direction. You find out on Facebook in two weeks it was given to a man here's the insidious nature of sexism in our modern society, the guy making
our decision. He could be sexist, no question it could come down to your application in the other guys application you looked at both inside. You know what boys don't want. Somebody crying all the time around here somebody crying I go home to my wife and my right here the other guy and said you know what man you got a great resume great work history, but I think both know why you're getting this job brother simplify, simplify brother fist bump. He could have done all that stuff, but on the other hand, maybe the other guy was just a better fit. Maybe he was just more qualified. This creates a dynamic where you can assume for the rest of your life. The only reason you didn't get that job, because somebody else is more qualified than you when in reality it was just that the guy, The hiring was a covert sexist the inverse is also true right, it creates or you can go the rest of your life thinking. The only reason you didn't get that job was because you are a woman when the guy- May I just thought that the other applicant was more qualified now, in both these scenarios, all I William James, nothing changes, conscious experience of what actually occurred the only thing
changes is what you're in for is going on inside that guys head. This is the plight of the modern feminist. I think How do you reliably quantify one bounty of sexism, usually relies on you inferring somebody else's motives. I I think this is why it's so common in our society when somebody says something, and if it even comes close resembling something that you could even interpret as sexist, then the witch hunt begins then the burden of proof is on that person. They're called a sexist thought of as a sex Now, it's their job. To convince everyone Why they're not a sexist anyway, there's many more so we can do on this subject. Obviously, just comes down really. What people want from me send me an email requesting what you want to hear about think of it as one vote in a democratic process that will create what the next episode is. Maybe I could sum it up like this. What seems clear is that the future of feminism,
has its own unique challenges, but I think the genius of Simone De Beauvoir and our impact on the world. I think that remains unchallenged, whether you think it's more insidious and difficult to quantify than ever before, or whether you think the problem is better than it ever has I guess in the mind of this humble observer, that still has tons more to learn this life. Maybe it's both. Thank you for listening I'll talk to you next time,
Transcript generated on 2019-10-31.