Each book that I have read this year has been a firm or gentle exploration of the philosophical ideas underlying race, gender, human rights, and more. In The Second Sex (part 1) by Simone de Beauvoir, we focus on women and their role as human beings first and functioning members of society second. Realistically, my expectation of this text was that it would be dense and a slower read for me, and I was right. That’s not to say that reading at a steadier pace connotes a boring read, but the subject matter was one for which I felt the need to draw in as much as I could, instead of reading in a rush.
The Second Sex (part 1) by Simone de Beauvoir
Simply put, The Second Sex acts as a detailed examination of the state of being a woman and interpreting woman as “other.” Simone de Beauvoir was an existentialist, and her view on the separation between a human’s ‘essence’ and their ‘being’ is exposed early on as she refers to the female as prey.
“The female is the prey of the species; for one or two seasons, depending on the case, her whole life is regulated by a sexual cycle–the estrous cycle–whose length and periodicity vary from one species to another.”
This situated the rest of part one to focus on the idea of defense, a role women have been playing for centuries. Through her explorations of biological, historical and literary analysis, de Beauvoir begins to unravel the depths of the figure that is woman and her treatment both by external figures and herself. I deem this twentieth-century book as a primary resource in juxtaposition to the clouded view our twenty-first century continues to have about feminism and women’s rights. Women throughout history have been subjected to explicit and corroding subordination, which de Beauvoir comments upon, as well as how women’s subservience was a manipulation and form of slavery. She also discusses how woman is deeply rooted in art and thinking, yet she is on the fringes, and in order for their to be real, lasting changes in the women’s movement, woman must be at the center of society, deeply immersed. Simone de Beauvoir’s confidence in the subject matter, factual declarations and intimacy with the subject–for which she spent fourteen months researching–captured me. Additionally, I’m inspired and in awe of de Beauvoir herself, as this book was written and published in the late 1940s, a time period in which feminism was just blinking its eyes again for change. She was and continues to be a spearhead for the feminist movement and an exceptional figure of strength.
“There is no way to directly oblige a woman to give birth: all that can be done is to enclose her in situations where motherhood is her only option: laws or customs impose marriage on her, anti-conception measures and abortion are banned, divorce is forbidden. These old patriarchal constraints are exactly the ones the U.S.S.R. has brought back to life today; it has revived paternalistic theories about marriage; and in doing so, it has asked woman to become an erotic object again: a recent speech (late 1940s) asked Soviet women citizens to pay attention to their clothes, to use makeup, and to become flirtatious to hold on to their husbands and stimulate their desire.”
Now at the precipice of change, men and women must decide if their strengths combined can create a unified front for equality among sexes. Solidarity.
Some facts and extra commentaries from the text:
- Antifeminism strikes in the early 17th century.
- “In 1906, 42 percent of working-age women (between eighteen and sixty) worked in farming, industry, business, banks, insurance, offices, and liberal professions. This movement spread to the whole world because of the 1914-18 labor crisis and the world war.”
- “The most oppressed minorities in a society are readily used by the oppressors as a weapon against the class they belong to; thus they at first become enemies, and a deeper consciousness of the situation is necessary to that blacks and whites, women and male workers, form coalitions rather than opposition.”
As for edibles, I decided before finishing the first part of this book that a delightful cup of calming tea would be best. After taking in such heavy material, there could be nothing better than calming your mind and relaxing with a cup of tea. I searched my tea drawers and discovered that though I have many calming blends, I wanted to make one of my own that spoke to what my palette was yearning for. Many chamomile tea blends are mixed with hibiscus flower, lemongrass or other citrus notes, but I wanted to create something smooth, sweet and with a hint of vanilla. I took inventory of what I had on hand and stocked up on what I needed–thanks to the Mr. for doing some last-minute shopping for me while I scurried around trying to get everything together. I made dried chamomile flower the base of the tea, accented it with rooibos, and the rest is tea history. When you’re digesting the wrappings of de Beauvoir’s ideas, sip on this tea to enhance the educational and enlightening experience.
Thoughtful Dreamy Tea
- 2 tbsp dried German chamomile flower [or any type of dried chamomile flower]
- 1 tbsp loose rooibos tea
- 1 tsp dried lavender flower
- 2 inch piece of vanilla bean [seeds scooped out]
- 1 tbsp dried currants
- 1 gram powdered stevia [about 1 individual package]
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl
- Bring filtered or spring water to a boil
- Measure about 3 tsp of the tea mixture into a tea infuser [I used a biodegradable tea bag and stapled the top]
- Place the infusing device or tea bag in your teapot
- Pour water (12 oz) over tea bag and cover
- Let steep for 5 minutes
- Pour tea in your favorite cup, sip and enjoy a thoughtful, dreamy night’s sleep or afternoon nap.
- Feel free to reuse the tea mixture 2 or 3 times (flavor will change with each brew)
- Use a higher tea-to-water ratio for a stronger tea
- 1 1/2 tsp tea mix per 6 oz water
- I enjoyed this tea hot, but you could brew the tea and chill
“To say that woman was the Other is to say that a relationship of reciprocity between the sexes did not exist: whether Earth, Mother, or Goddess, she was never a peer for man; her power asserted itself beyond human rule: she was thus outside of this rule.” [about the Golden age of Woman being a myth]
The Second Sex (part 1) imbues an intellectual sturdiness and prowess that challenges both men and women to recognize patriarchy’s role in history and asserts that women’s rights are human rights to be addressed by all. I’m very happy to have finally read this book (at least the first part) and I’m looking forward to jumping into the second part at a later date. Let me know how your tea concoctions turn out and what you think of the recipe. It’s my first time experimenting with making my very own tea combination and I look forward to hearing your opinions and critiques. Join me in my next reading selection, Blankets by Craig Thompson, for a trip down the graphic road once again. And remember…bite responsibly!