Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘mystical ecstasy

“The Second sex” by Simone de Beauvoir (Written in September 21, 2007)

Note:  It is a long fat book.  I reviewed what I have read so far.

The Second Sex is of two books; the first book is on Destiny, History and Myths, and the second book discusses the formative years, Situation, Justifications, and toward Liberation.

I started at page 282, chapter 3 of the first book about Myths and Reality.

A myth is a transcendent Idea that escape the mental grasp entirely, and is confused with the recognition of significance in the object:  the significance of an entity is revealed to the mind through a living experience.

Few myths have been more advantageous to the ruling caste than the myth of woman: it justifies all privileges and authorizes their abuse.

The first static myth is the division of humanity into two classes of individuals, male and female.

The myth on women is sublimating an immutable aspect of the human condition and project into the realm of Platonic ideas a reality that is directly experienced.  In place of facts, value, significance, knowledge, empirical law, it substitutes a transcendental Idea, timeless, unchangeable, and necessary.

This myth Idea is indisputable because it is beyond the given and is endowed with absolute truth. Against the dispersed, contingent, and multiple existences of actual women, mythical thought of two classes opposes the Eternal Feminine, unique and changeless.

If a woman does not match this conception the woman is not feminine, instead of considering that the myth of Femininity is wrong.  It is the mutual recognition of free beings who confirm one another freedom; the relation is a struggle between conscious beings each of whom wishes to be essential.

The second myth is to define Woman with Altruism, and thus to guarantee to man absolute rights in the devotion of his woman.  Altruism is to impose on women a categorical imperative. Paternalism that claims women for hearth and home defines his woman as sentiment, inwardness, and immanence.

When paternalism offers the woman’s existence no aim, or prevents her from any aim, or rob her of his victory then this transcendence falls back into immanence. This lot assigned to women is in no way a vocation, any more than slavery is the vocation of the slave.

It is not reality that dictates to society the choices but society’s needs in every period.  Very often, society project into the adopted myth the institutions and values to which they adhere.  Patriarchal society centered upon the conservation of the patrimony; this implied that women should not take property away and put it in circulation.

Men who swindle and speculate are repudiated by the group of men; women employing erotic  attraction can induce men to scatter their patrimonial and still be within the law.  While society view women who use their attraction to influence men are regarded as evil and called “bad women”, these women are considered within their families as the guardian angels who saved them from destitution.

Since a man can show his love actively by supporting his woman financially, or giving her a social standing, or making her presents then man economic and social independence allow him to take the initiative.

For example, very often the man is busy and the woman idle: he gives her the time he passes with her… Does the woman accepts these benefits through love or self-interest?  One thus can almost judge the degree of man’s affection by the total picture of his attitude,but a woman hardly has means for sounding her own heart: she submits passively to her sentiments and moods.

When the situation is reversed and she becomes the bread-winner then the mystery is reversed.  Kept on the fringe of the world, woman cannot be objectively defined through this world, and her mystery conceals nothing but emptiness.

A woman is taught from adolescence to lie to men, to scheme, to be wily; she wears an artificial expression on her face, she is cautious, hypocritical, and learns play-acting because her situation as servant is to turn toward her master a changeless smile or an enigmatic impassivity; the mystery belongs to the slave. 

Mystery is never more than a mirage that vanishes as we draw near to look at it.

The third myth is to assimilate women to Nature and to simply act from prejudice.

Humans are rooted in nature but women are more enslaved to the species than are males and thus, woman’s animality is more manifest. Men need not bother with alleviating the pains and the burden that physiologically are women’s lot, since these are “intended by nature“.

Man use this myth by making his woman work like a beast of burden and refusing to grant her any rights to sexual pleasure. Man has written the laws under this bloody epigraph: “Woe to the weak“.

The fourth myth of feminine “mystery” in essence is firmly anchored in masculine hearts, surely “mysterious as is all the world”.

Instead of admitting ignorance, man is happy to substitute an objective resistance for a subjective deficiency of mind.  A capricious behavior in a woman or a stupid remark is excused on ground of mystery.

In the company of a living enigma, man remains alone with his dreams, his hopes, his fears, his love, and his vanity…the active relationship is replaced by mystical ecstasy. The opacity of knowing oneself is thus denser in women because of her complex physiological nature, a body where she feels a stranger most of the time.

To say, not that a woman is silent, but that her language is not understood, hidden behind veils, then the mystery is carried to the level of communication. One can say that a woman is good or bad in her work, an actress not that talented and thus, a female colleague is without mystery unless the mystery is shrouded in the nature of economy.

Discrimination between the imaginary and the real can be made only through behavior.

The myth of woman is a luxury and in large part explained by its usefulness to man.  The more relationships are concretely lived, the less they are idealized; the fellah (peasant), the Bedouin, the artisan, and the day worker of today has in the requirements of work and poverty relations with his particular woman companion which are too definite for her to be embellished with an auspicious aura. 

The epochs that have been marked by the leisure of dream, such as the period of feudal chivalry or the gallant 19th century, have been the ones to set up the images, black and white, of femininity.

Man would have nothing to lose if he gave up disguising woman as a symbol. Quite the contrary; cliché are poor and monotonous affairs beside the living reality.

To discard the myths is not to destroy all dramatic relation between the sexes; it is not to deny significance, to do away with poetry, love, adventure, happiness, and dreaming.

It is simply that behavior, sentiment, and passion be founded upon the truth. The 18th century regarded women as fellow creatures: the heroines were without mysteries and women were truly romantic.

The men of today are readier to accept women as a fellow, an equal and claiming autonomy, but they require women to remain the inessential, to be object, to be the Other.  It is disturbing to contemplate woman as at once a social personage and carnal prey.

It is becoming very difficult for women to accept at the same time their status as autonomous individuals and their womanly destiny.

It is more comfortable to submit to enslavement than to work for liberation, to be the sisters in intimacy without ulterior thought of exploitation, to regain her place in humanity, a free human being.

The sexual relation that joins woman to man is not the same as that which he bears to her:  the bond that unites woman to her child is unique.  Thus, women plights were not created by the bronze tool alone, and the machines alone will not abolish her and we cannot be blind to woman peculiar situation.

De Beauvoir rejects the sexual monism of Freud that interpret all social claims of woman as phenomena of the “masculine protest”; she also reject the Marxist historical materialism in its explanation of women plight that perceives in man and woman no more than economic units, woman sexuality expressed in relation to economic situation.

Thus, Simone view is that the categories of “clitorid” and “vaginal” like the categories of “bourgeois” or “proletarian” are equally inadequate to encompass a concrete woman.

Freudianism derives its virtue from the fact that the existent is a concrete body and the Marxian thesis’ virtue is derived on the basis that the project for becoming (ontological aspiration) of the existent take concrete form according to the material possibilities offered, mostly opened up by technological advances.

There must be an existentialist foundation that alone enables us to understand in its unity that particular form of being, which we call a human life. The contributions of biology, psychoanalysis and historical materialism can discover woman when they exist concretely for man only in so far as he grasps these contributions in the total perspective of his existence, when they are defined only in a world of values.  The basic project is that the existence seeks transcendence.

When two human categories are together, each aspires to impose its sovereignty upon the other.

Existentialist philosophy says that man acts to transcend life by risking life for a project such as to protect his family, his clan, his business, or his future. The warrior put his life in jeopardy to elevate the prestige of the horde, the clan to which he belonged.  Man has worked not merely to conserve the world as given… he has broken through its frontiers and laid down the foundation of a new future.

Because of its peculiar biology, woman, lacking birth control, was reduced to give birth almost every year and care for the offspring at her dwelling.

Although woman could not take part in the hunting and warriors’ expeditions, she still recognized her existence and the need to create and thus, she celebrated wholeheartedly with the warrior and bread-winner and shared his values and never set up female values in opposition to male values.

Woman was destined for the repetition of Life while man had to create values and get involved in a project for transcendence.

While women lot was very hard in the primitive horde and the offspring did not enjoy men’s attention, the situation changed when early man settled down to tilling the soil. 

Property, even in a communal setting, offered man a purpose for caring for his offspring in order to inherit them continuity in his life effort, to achieve survival through the land and that they would exploit.

Since man was still not perceived to have any bearing on the procreation of women, but that women gave birth through the medium of spirit, the woman was given a mystical position of fertility that extended to the harvest.

Woman was viewed as the one capable of keeping the prosperity of the clan and man erected totems in the image of women. The Goddesses in that era were all-powerful and remained powerful until the Bronze Age when man acquired new realization that he can control matters and forge them to his desire and purposes.

This was a period of matriarchal society but it was man who wanted this matrilineal system of mystical elevation of women so that he keeps his freedom to act as the sole category relevant to the real world.

The transition from all-powerful Goddesses to all-powerful Gods was done incrementally as man asserted his victories over nature and comprehended his contribution to fecundity and his real input in increasing the output of the harvest in working the fields through his numerous ingenuousness in irrigation projects, improving the crops with different seeds, soil fertilization and letting the soil fallow.

Man encouraged exogamy (marriages outside the clan) because it had advantages to expanding commerce and a mean for communication with the outside; woman was a possession that could be traded or sold for improving the lot of the clan.  The religion of woman was bound to the reign of agriculture, of chance, of waiting, and of mystery. The reign of “Homo Faber” is of time management, of project, of action, and of reason.

Thus, from the day agriculture ceased to be an essentially magic operation and became creative labor then man laid claim to his children and to his crops.  Man put the legal system into harmony with reality of what he already possessed and conquered.

Aeschylus and Aristotle stated that man is “better and more divine” than woman because man is movement and woman just matter. Woman was referred to as the Evil as Pythagoras wrote: “There is a good principle, which has created order, light, and man; and a bad principle, which has created chaos, darkness, and woman“.

The laws of Solon give no rights to women.  The Roman code puts women under guardianship and asserts her “imbecility”.  Canon law regards women as “the devil’s doorway“.  Only when woman marries does she becomes a rivulet that join the main river.

How to make of the wife at once a servant and a companion is one of the problems that man seeks to solve.

The advent of private property dethroned woman and her lot became bound up with the property.

In Egypt, where land was the property of the Pharaoh and the noble casts woman kept her standing in society as an equal to man; when private property was established, marriage transformed into a contract because women would not relinquish their well established traditional privileges.

In Persia, families with no women and whose sons died could adopt a wife and her offspring belonged to the family that adopted her so that property survives.  Thus, when the system of private property took hold man instituted a system where property transcended his life and the owner could transfer and alienate his existence into his property and continue to exist beyond the body’s dissolution.

Man refused then to share with woman either his gods or his children and wives were shut away in the gynoecium where they could not mingle with men.

The Greek society did not include polygamy, but in practice man could satisfy his carnal pleasures as he wished. Demosthenes proclaimed: “We have hetaerae (modern women with artistic inclinations) for the pleasures of the spirit, concubines for sensual pleasure, and wives to give us sons.”

Thus, in ancient Greece, the concubine replaced the wife when she was ill, indisposed, pregnant, or recovering from childbirth; there were no differences with our more recent harem. Greek law assured the wife a dowry and thus the widow no longer passed like a hereditary possession to her husband’s heirs or the oldest male in the larger family but returned into the hands of her parents.

In the city of Sparta, since the land was communal, women were treated almost on an equal level, but could not participate in the public affairs.  Girls and boys were hoarded into military activities and the husband saw his wife fleetingly and occasionally at night.  The wife didn’t have to be confined in her husband domicile and the very idea of adultery disappeared when the patrimony disappeared. Woman underwent the servitude of maternity but no restraint was put upon her liberty.

Prostitution was rampant in all regions in the antiquity and the sacerdotal class made profit by allowing prostitutes in the temples for the maintenance of the religious institutions.

Herodotus relates that in the 5th century BC, each Babylonian woman was in duty bound once in her lifetime to yield herself to a stranger in the temple of Mylitta for money and thereafter she went home to lead a chaste life. The seacoast towns instituted the “dicterions” where portion of the proceeds reverted to the State and where sailors and travelers relieved their sexual needs.

In Rome, regardless of the strict laws of guardianship women enjoyed practically a god standing.  The wife sat in the atrium; she guided the education of the children and shared the labours and cares of her husband and she was regarded as co-owner of his property.

The legal status of the Roman woman was brought into agreement with her actual condition and gained a positive guarantee of independence; as Plautus said: “In accepting the dowry, the husband sold his power”.

Under Marcus Aurelius and after 178, the children were the heirs of their mother, triumphing over the male relatives….




June 2023

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