“The Second Sex” – An interpretation in the Modern Context

The second sex is obviously not the second attempt of sexual intercourse. The second sex is not about securing second position in the act of consummation. It is about the categorization of the two existing sexes – Male and Female. The female is the “second sex”.

The one who is placed second in the hierarchical order solely divided on the basis of sexuality- A woman is nothing but ‘Of Man’. The existence of a woman is based on the presence of the vagina she possess and no other talent or ability is brought to the fore to be considered as a medium of placing her second in the row.

The Second Sex is a novel by Simone De Beauvoir which was published in the year 1949 and is considered to be the seminal work under the feminist discourse. But the thoughts and opinions which were articulated almost decades back have deep resonances in the present as well. Reading this book, no one fails to disagree with the content of the text.

According to the biblical story, Adam created Eve out of his rib and thus he should be considered higher to her in rank as God is considered higher to Adam because he created him. According to this logic, women are denied the opportunity to be an equal. Even if Adam’s rib became the source of Eve’s creation, it was God who created her and not Adam. If the creator of both the sexes is same how can one (Adam/Male) continue to dominate the other (Eve/Woman).

The author in her text is bringing this division through the means of the presence of an “ovary” in a woman which distinguishes her and disregards her status of being privileged to the “penis” possessed by the man. The “othering” of the female self is the question which is of deep concern. When half the population constitutes of the women folk, how is it then presupposed then she deserves a lower status than man?

Some theorists and practitioners might rule this argument by saying that what is written in the text is a century old word which cannot be considered true in the present context; Women have equal opportunities today and they have created a room for themselves. But even then who will answer to the status of such women who are subjected under marriages, exploited at work place or are just discarded by saying “ You are woman, You cannot do it”.

The primary level of segregation takes place at the time of birth itself when the doctor says “It’s a girl”. The division based on gender is problematic not only at the personal and moral level but on a larger social and global level as well. The upbringing is based upon the gender of the person.  The color pink is for women and the color blue for men.

Shakespeare’s favorite ink was pink colored but do we ever consider him as a woman?

The entire notion of demarcating boundaries on the basis of the seed germinated from the womb is the cause of worry. Not only this division affects the social standing of an individual but also marginalizes them at the level of psychology. The well-known phrase of “Mad Woman in the Attic” is attributed to the ‘woman’, why not man? Why it is that the diseases like hysteria is said to be germinating from the womb?

Women’s sexual exploitation is not a new concept. It can be considered new only in the context that now women stand for themselves and ask for justice. Just because of a hanging, poking penis men consider themselves powerful and authoritative enough that they can rape a woman and claim their masculinity. Through such hideous crimes they try to articulate how strong their personality is and if women try to overpower them they have to bear such brutal consequences.

The problem lies not with being a man or a woman but at the level of psychology where even women have moulded themselves to be inferior to men.  The mothers teach their daughters to be home before its dark, not because it can be dangerous in night but because they are ‘daughters’ i.e. ‘females’. The fear of being attacked and harmed by a male persona is rooted deep within the minds of the people. This problem of division is not particular but universal.

The resolution is nowhere but in the society. It is important to understand that a woman is much more than an owner of a ‘vagina’. If at all there is a need of hierarchy it should not be based on the basis of biological sex but certain quality which is justifiable. The dehumanizing of the woman on the basis of sexual difference has and is a continuing hideous act which has to be stopped from further continuation in the near future.