Simone De Beauvoir
Simone De Beauvoir Addressing the Concept of Old Age in the Coming of Age
Simone De Beauvoir goes into great detail on the concept of aging in “The Coming of Age”. Beauvoir’s main objective in part one is to explain to her readers how the elders live and what happens inside their minds. Beauvoir focuses on the biological aspect of aging and includes the different views of aging throughout various cultures. Throughout “The Coming of Age” Beauvoir has multiple objectives and describes it as “old age seen from without” or “old age seen from the point of view of the outsider.” In order to understand what Beauvoir means by the “outsider” the readers must pay close attention to the details Beauvoir provides. The point of view from the outsider” that Beauvoir describes means how society and citizens view old age. The outsider are contains citizens of a community and the society as a whole. Beauvoir provides several examples of how the outsiders treat the elders. .
The concept of old age is seen as a big hole that is not independent because it governs one another. One of Beauvoir’s major points in the first part is in order to understand what it means to be old Beauvoir we have to look at the biological meaning, historical time, and different cultures. To be considered being old varies among ages, but Beauvoir states old age at fifty-six years old. There is a biological decline in the body as we age because aging brings a decline to the body. For example, we lose strength, we cannot reproduce, and eyesight decline. The chances of survival decreases and the biological changes can diminish our existence. There are also physical changes with aging, such as wrinkles,etc. There are different concepts of the body due to different theories with aging. Old age becomes an object of scientific analysis and then leads to the discovery of gerontology. Beauvoir explains the scientific differences between supernatural and non-sciences. Also, identifying the conditions that must be identified for old age and the how biological age is an object of science. Most importantly, Gerontology contrasts with “being in the world of old age.”
Beauvoir goes into great detail on how different cultures view the old population. Some cultures respect their elders because they are seen as wise and can teach the younger generation some of their wisdom. For example, in Greek civilization when the king was helped by a council or elders. Homer, one of the men was associated with wisdom because the passage of time had given him experience, wisdom, and authority. Also, in different cultures they believe that the elders have magical powers and respect them because they fear their magical powers. Although, in several cultures the old population is seen as a burden to society. It is observed on certain cultures how the young try to get revenge on the old because of a grudge they hold against them when they were getting raised. Some of the young individuals leave their elders to die and in certain cultures they kill them because they are only another mouth to feed. It is seen as a waste of food to provide the old with nourishment when they are useless and cannot provide anything in return.
Elders are dehumanized and seen as if they are a different species. Beauvoir provides several examples how the old population is out casted from society. For example Beauvoir states, “There are books, periodicals entertainments, radio and television programs for children and young people: for the old there are none (pg3).” As a society, we outcast the elders and do not make the effort to provide them with the same respect or dignity that they deserve. As a society we automatically outcast and stereotype the old. Aging is seen as a taboo in society, but aging is inevitable and will occur sooner or later. It is almost a silence we carry and refuse to talk about aging.
Whether we mean it or not we tend to stereotype the old age and view them as grumpy, boring, and useless. We already have the image of what it looks to be old, such as white hair, wrinkles, not attractive, slow, etc. As a society we do not attempt to walk in the shoes of an old person or perhaps how they feel when we do not even see them as humans just because of their age. Beauvoir goes into the concept of reciprocity and how the other should be the means of a transcendent end, which is death. For example, children still are young and have ends to meet, such as goals and their own decisions to make. As for the old, they have only one end and that is death. Since the old are not working and do not have any projects to accomplish. The old are retired and seen as useless. The old lose their identity by losing the job that they once identified themselves with. Therefore, they must adapt himself to his own identity without having that specific title. For example, someone who once identified himself as a doctor now has to give up that title and role and identify himself as his own being. The elders confront an obstacle when trying to adapt to a new situation, since they do not like change and are used to how their life used to be when they were young and full of life.
In conclusion, we view the old population from the view of the outsider. Since we do not like to see ourselves as old, when in reality we are. There is anger built up when we hear someone say we are old. We like to believe we are young because we feel young and we are going to stay young forever, which is unreal. Society is in denial when we refuse to acknowledge that we are getting old ourselves. It is easier to point to others for their flaws than to look at the flaws we carry within ourselves.
Simone De Beauvoir’s Woman as Other and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s the Yellow Wallpaper: Comparative Analysis
What society perceives as an affectionate way for a man to treat a woman is a subtle form of women’s oppression. In her text, “Woman as Other,” Simone de Beauvoir, a feminist, argues that women have been oppressed by religion, language, myths, and science. As a result, women have accepted a lesser role in society. In her fictional story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a women’s rights advocate, writes about a woman, Jane, who is supposedly treated affectionately by her husband, John, but that eventually leads to her insanity. In this story, which is mostly based on her personal experience, Gilman argues that the way in which men treat women is a form of oppression. Gilman’s story supports de Beauvoir’s idea of master and slave which is shown, in Gilman’s story, through Jane’s dependency on John for getting better. De Beauvoir’s idea of otherness is represented in Gilman’s piece through her being stopped from expressing herself in almost anyway and being laughed at when she does. Simone de Beauvoir’s ideas of the dichotomy of master and slave, of otherness, and of subordination of women help to understand Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s fictional story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” in which she argues that what seems like a normal way for men to treat women is actually oppression.
de Beauvoir’s idea of master and slave, that the slave is dependent upon the master, but the master could do without the slave, is present in Gilman’s story through the way John treats his wife and makes her feel as if she needs him while he can be fine without her. Jane is made to feel that she has to satisfy her husband’s wants whereas whatever she says is disregarded by John. At one instance, when Jane requests that she be moved to another room due to the horrid conditions of her room, John takes her in his arms and calls her “a blessed goose” (Gilman 663). Which goes to show that John does not take her seriously, but, rather, treats her like a child, he’s showing her affection, not importance. He shows that he does not need to fulfill anything she wants, whereas she has to be considerate of making him uncomfortable. Beauvoir discusses this idea of master and slave by saying that although the master needs the slave, he does not show it, on the other hand, the slave shows dependency, in his “hope and fear” (Beauvoir 804). The condition of Jane and the slave are very similar, whenever she brings up her want to move to more comfortable room in the house, John treats her like his happiness is more important and she accepts in fear of being a “burden” on him. She accepts that her needs hold little importance in relation to him.
Beauvoir’s idea of otherness, that in men’s view women are defective in some way, and because women are regarded as the “Other,” explains why John thought Jane had no idea how to take care of herself, in Gilman’s story. In society, while men do not need to be defined, women do. This is what de Beauvoir points out in her text when she says, “No group ever sets itself up as the One without at once setting up the Other over against itself” (803). For man to be recognized as the “essential,” he has to define woman, specifically, as the “Other,” the “inessential.” This idea of women being the “Other” is present in Gilman’s story, where Jane stays at home, in the attic, for days without seeing him, and says, “I take pains to control myself—before him” (Gilman 661). It is evident here that society demands that woman exercise self-control in order to please the man, because of the woman’s being the inessential. Furthermore, John is away from home for a number of days, he has complete freedom over what he wants to do and he can decide when to come back to Jane for his own satisfaction. That is not the case for Jane, who is left in the attic, alone, which leads to nothing but her madness.
de Beauvoir’s idea of the subordination of women is present in Gilman’s story through the cure that she receives for her illness. Jane’s brother and John, both physicians, regard themselves as the authority on medicine that can never be wrong about the cure for Jane’s illness because they are men and professionals. She has to take the “resting cure,” meaning she is not allowed to do any type of work, in order to cure her nervous depression. She says, “I believe, that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.” (Gilman 661). While if a man was to experience such illness, he would not have been prescribed this cure. The medical practices also support stopping woman from being themselves, hence giving her a lesser status, and results in increasing her illness. Complaining about John’s extremely rational way of thinking and of evaluating situations, Jane mentions, “He scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures” (Gilman 660). This shows that John believes that Jane cannot carry out tasks for herself, or even think for herself, and she needs to do what he prescribes for her because it has to be for the better. John scoffing at anything that might not seem rational to him shows that he does not appreciate Jane’s creativity and imagination. Beauvoir shows men’s idea of woman’s defectiveness by saying that men think that a woman “thinks with her glands” (Beauvoir 801). This idea goes to show that women are not considered, by men, to be smart and to be innovative in doing things that are good for them, like in Jane’s case, if not for others. They automatically think that anything that comes from a women must be bad because she is not as intelligent as them. Furthermore, Jane being stopped from working, especially from writing, shows that men think women have to be validated to do almost anything. Even though it might seem like John cared for her, he was subconsciously being condescending. Instances like these occur throughout Gilman’s story, which shows that men think that, without their direction, women would be worse off.
Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir: Disparity Between Men and Women
The Situation of Woman
Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex is a keystone narrative that addresses and posits the disparity between Man and Woman. Due to different sexual characteristics, de Beauvoir states that the issue at hand arises from the ideological impositions that society creates—primarily, the subjugation of Woman under the control of Man. Using The Second Sex as the basis of critique, the solution to balancing the gender gap of power will be explored through ontological, self-reflective, and normative means.
While there are only two main characters being studied, it is the Woman’s inadequacy in regards to Man that provides the basis of the problem. However, while most problems arise from an event, according to de Beauvoir, there was no occurrence that spurred the ranking of the sexes: “Alterity here appears to be an absolute, partly because it falls outside the accidental nature of historical fact” (de Beauvoir 8). Though there is an argumentative flaw in the way de Beauvoir disregards history and other possible matriarchal cultures, her main point is that Woman has, as far back as human history lends itself, always been lower than Man. Therefore, while there is no point in time that Woman was put in this state, the fact that Woman remains in this position is that, “Women lack concrete means for organizing themselves… they have no past, no history” (8). The effect of this mindset is that Man has become the benchmark for society. Woman is now compared to Man, in all aspects, no matter if it is positive or negative: “She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her” (6). There is no individuality for the Woman, instead she is always going to be a shadow to the Man—sometimes she will be larger in size and encompass the Man, but nevertheless she will always remain attached and lesser like a shadow.
The Man and Woman dichotomy largely affects the attitudes that are created towards this sexual separation. Regardless of the fact that the only difference between the two is merely biological, the Woman is still oppressed by this ideology. She has been categorized as the “Other” while Man, who was uplifted by the separation, “is the subject, he is the Absolute” (6). This distinction, as characterized by Hegel’s master-slave dialectic, puts the Man into the position of master and the Woman in the position of a slave. Furthermore, the same distinction of the One versus the Other is an example of a clean cut between male and female, respectively. Due to the nature of what the cut divides, the cut itself has significant depth because of the long lasting hegemony between sexes: “The devaluation of femininity was a necessary step in human development” (756). In this case, the development is necessary for Man because, without the subjugation of Woman, the Man would have no source of recognition that is vital to maintain his position as master. However, as de Beauvoir points out, there is a solution to remedy this incision: “Woman is defined neither by her hormones nor by mysterious instincts but by the way she grasps… her body and her relation to the world” (761). In other words, the liberation of Woman is brought about by the redefinition of the obligations placed on her, thereby also allowing her to redefine her entire situation and escape from the cuts created by society.
Ultimately, it is this liberation of Woman that will give rise to the role reversal between master and slave. As Simone de Beauvoir expresses, the switch allows for a power balance through the ascendancy of potential for Woman and the opportunity of humility for Man. This not only diminishes the idea of the One and the Other, but also redefines the “necessary step in human development” from the denigration of females to the equilibration of the sexes, making it an issue important to everyone—Woman or Man.