The book “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir discusses the treatment of women from birth until they become women. She describes and discusses little girls’ upbringing and all the things they will go through in comparison to little boys. Beauvoir says how a girl is taught to be women by her mother at a very young age and how her “feminine” destiny is imposed on her by society. This simply means a young girl has no control over what it is she wants to do with her life but rather what society or her mother says she should as defined by the social norm. Beauvoir says in the very beginning “In woman, on the contrary, there is from the beginning a conflict between her autonomous existence and her objective self, her 'being-the-other'; she is taught that to please she must try to please, she must make herself object; she should therefore renounce her autonomy. She is treated like a live doll and is refused liberty.” She also goes on to compare how a little girl is raised to be a housewife and assume all the duties of being one while a little boy doesn’t have to face the same pressure in being a man. A mother will raise her son but eventually respect his “masculinity” and allow him to be a boy and eventually a man whereas with her daughter she will push her to be the woman society expects her to be. Beauvoir says “The treasures of feminine wisdom are poured into her ears, feminine virtues are urged upon her, she is taught cooking, sewing, housekeeping, along with care of her person, charm, and modesty; she is dressed in inconvenient and frilly clothes of which she has to be careful, her hair is done up in fancy style, she is given rules of deportment: 'Stand up straight, don’t walk like a duck'; to develop grace she must repress her spontaneous movements; she is told not to act like a would-be boy, she is forbidden violent exercises, she is not allowed to light. In brief, she is pressed to become, like her elders, a servant and an idol.”
Beauvoir’s book “The Second Sex” resonates with me because I grew up in a traditional Spanish home where the little girls were my two young sisters and the boy whose masculinity would be respected by his mother would be me. This book touches on the goals of liberal feminism and why they fight so hard to correct this ideology as well as dives deep into how from birth until they become women; girls aren’t given the same respect or courtesies as little boys who eventually become men. I could relate very deeply to this book because when I was growing up I never had to do “house work.” My mother would always wash the dishes, cook all the meals, and wash all the clothes. As my sisters started to grow up she would pass that responsibility on to them. My mother always said for me to be a man, I needed to work and provide like my father did and a woman needed to be the support system in the house. My work when I was younger and contribution to the house consisted of taking out the trash, cutting the grass, raking leaves or shoveling snow. My sisters never had done those things, just like I never washed dishes, cooked meals, or washed laundry. As I got older it changed and realized I needed to do it, I now feel that this realization needs to be met by the rest of society and the people who still hold on to these old practices. Nonetheless, I watched my younger sisters live the life Beauvoir discussed in her book. They didn’t play any sports, they simply played with dolls or watched my brother and I play because they would fear messing up their hair or break a nail. Whereas I played all types of contact sports and was “doing what a boy does”. My mother would always point out how a woman needed to carry herself to my sisters and never really said anything to my brother or I in regards to how a man should be.
Although, I grew up watching my mother teach my sisters to live much of a similar life to the girl discussed by Simone de Beauvoir, my focus here is for both men and women to acknowledge what Simone de Beauvoir is claiming in her book “The Second Sex” and also to view how in my own life as an example her claims hold truth. The social norm or stigma of young girls being bred to just accept a “feminine” destiny being imposed on them by society or their family needs to be addressed and corrected. A woman is more than just a housewife or home support system, the gender roles they are expected to uphold is gender neutral and a man can do them too. In the future children both girls and boys need to be raised by their parents to simply be children and taught that the “traditional roles” between both sexes is gender neutral, not brought up to programmed to fit what the “social construct” is for being a “man or a woman.
-- works cited --
Beauvoir, Simone de. “Childhood.” In The Second Sex, translated by Howard Madison Parshley, 285–92. Jonathan Cape: London, 1953.