Performance or a Dictate of the Society?

Simone de Beauvoir’s work entitled The Second Sex evaluates and describes the situation that women experience from the society. The author is known as one of the earliest proponents of the Philosophy of Feminism. The most important idea that is highlighted in Beauvoir’s book was the demand for equality and fair opportunities for women. According to Beauvoir, “the whole feminine history has been man made” and the female race had enjoyed no privileges or fair treatment from the males (128).

The roles that women are made to assume comes from the men and when women try to live differently for themselves and choose their own path, their actions are regarded as rebelling the social context given to them. Every sector of the society has direct impact and contribution to the oppression that women experience. Isn’t it usual that in every aspect, man is regarded as “the subject, he is the absolute” while she is labeled as the other” (Beauvoir 163). Women are limited and judged always because of their gender. They are believed to be secondary or weak when compared with men.

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And only when “the modern woman accepts masculine values” could they be given a chance to equality (Beauvoir 718). This does not reaffirm that male are indeed dominant, rather it proves that women are capable of toppling whatever prejudices are already existing. Beauvoir’s work concludes that until the society is able to bring out “the moral, social, cultural, and other consequences that it promises and requires, the new woman cannot appear” (734). The problem of equality is not only because of the restrictions on economic opportunities, although this is a great part because women cannot earn a living for their own selves.

What women need to change is the overall appreciation and outlook that the society has over them. And according to the author, this could only be done when women learned to fight or defend themselves against all discriminatory practices and actions of the society. Erving Goffman has also produced multiple works that explored the realities of gender, female representation, and the differences of males from females. In his work entitled The Presentation of Oneself, he tackled how each and every person play a role in the society they belong to.

This performance includes the activities individuals do everyday and wherein other people around them serve as the audience. While Beauvoir’s work emphasizes that gender difference was a result of the dictates of the man, Goffman’s works tries to define gender as something chosen or significantly made from each and everyone. Also, in Goffman’s other work entitled The Arrangement between the Sexes, he highlighted the idea of how “male-female is one social division that works in full and realistic harmony with our biological inheritance and is something which can never be denied” (Goffman, 302).

Female gender act the way they do because of their own personal choice of which social norms best fits them. This is a definite contrast to Beauvoir’s writings that firmly mentions how women are significantly abused and discriminated since the beginning of time. But of course, “it should be perfectly clearly that gender and sexuality are not the same thing” (Goffman, “The Arrangement between the Sexes”, 304). In gender, social roles and personal ideals are the most significant reasons behind our choices.

But, like what is highlighted in The Second Sex, men and women remain to be very different in sexuality. Although, sexual difference is still not a reason for women to experience unjust actions, discrimination, and exploitation Families, especially those with patriarchal set-up, are one of the biggest reasons behind the suffering of women because of their gender. “Maternal authority gave place to paternal authority, property being inherited from father to son, and no longer woman to her clan” (Beauvoir 54).

This reduces the role of women behind the male gender. Females cannot make decisions over how to build their families. But Beauvoir had also made several powerful and controversial statements in her work. She significantly remarked how even on places “where great sexual freedom exists, it is proper for the woman who brings a child into the world to be married” (Beauvoir 72). Also, Beauvoir described in her work how children with different sexes are oriented dissimilarly in households, even within the traditional nuclear families.

Goffman’s work also emphasized on the same idea, that young boys are treated differently compared to young girls, when he began describing the influence of families to gender formation. “The home training of the two sexes will differ, beginning to orient the girl to taking a domestic, supportive role, and the boy to a more widely based competitive one” (Goffman, “The Arrangement between the Sexes”, 314). Beauvoir significantly highlights in her work the sufferings that women experience due to the society that is dominated by men.

She places the blame to the unequal treatment that women receive because of their gender. Although, Goffman counters this in his works by emphasizing on how gender are roles people have personally chosen to perform. It is possible to change the roles, but it would entail also changing ideals. Works Cited De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. Trans. By Parshley, H. M. New York: Vintage Books, 1989. Print. Goffman, Erving. The Presentation of Oneself. New York: Doubleday Anchor Books, 1959. Print. Goffman, Erving. “The Arrangement between the Sexes. ” Theory and Society, vol. 4, no. 3. 1977. pp. 301-331.


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