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For ages, many philosophers and thinkers were trying to determine whether there any differences in the nature of men and women, and if the answer is positive, what are they. This question was first raised by philosophers from ancient Greece, and it is still essential today. Before the 20th century, a lot of thinkers claimed that women are people of the second class; however, this idea changed drastically with the appearance of feminism. This movement changed not only the opinion about a woman’s nature but also her social role. Formerly, the main role of women was carrying children and doing the housekeeping; however, later, it became usual for women to take part in social, political, and cultural life. This paper will analyze and explain the difference between these two points of view from the perspectives of Beauvoir and Hegel; also, it will compare these theories and express the author’s point of view.
Simone de Beauvoir was a representative of the existentialistic movement, and she considered that existence exceeds essence; thus, a person does not come into the world as a woman but turns into her. In her research on the difference between man and woman, she focuses on the notion of the Other, which was introduced by Hegel. Other is the social interpretation of woman’s nature and the quintessential issue to the notion of women's suppression. Beauvoir claimed that women have the same rights to the freedom of choice as men, and thus, they can choose what to do in their life. Moreover, women started to move from the state of “immanence”, which was obligatory for them before to the state of “transcendence”. Transcendence is a condition in which a person puts on himself or herself the responsibility for the world and himself or herself, and where everyone can make a free choice. Simone de Beauvoir was not agreed that men had established the notion “Other” for women to present some kind of “mysterious” aura around them. She insisted that men applied this notion as a justification not to understand and appreciate women and their thoughts, feelings, and problems and not to assist them. She said that this is a usual stereotype, which always existed in societies among the highest and the lowers groups of the hierarchy. Beauvoir said that a resembling type of suppression by the class hierarchy also took place in other ranks of identification, such as class, religion, and race (Mussett). However, she wrote that in the case of gender, this suppression was especially strongly marked, and men used this stereotype for women and applied it only as a justification to establish patriarchy in the society.
Simone de Beauvoir claimed that over the course of history, women seemed to be anomalous, and irregular. She pointed out that some women philosophers, like Mary Wollstonecraft, believed men to be perfect, and women should consider them as idols. Beauvoir reckoned that women’s social success was restrained by this attitude that supported the thought that they were a declination from the norm, and they always felt like failures in their efforts to imitate “normality”. She considered that feminism will become a successful movement only if this hypothesis will disappear.
In the book The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir pointed three rules and established them toward the women’s position all over the world. Originally, her fundamental concept was based on the assumption that man is the Subject, and he is perfect, and woman is the Other. She says that man embodies humanism, and woman, by the ethical reason of being female, deflects from the humanistic norm. As a result, women always endure a morbid interference between their femininity and their humanity. Beauvoir supposes that both man and woman percept free. Nevertheless, when the status of the Other is inflected on woman, her situation is unfair and rigorous (Mussett). However, the state of freedom brings some liabilities: for example, when women conceded to their own suppression and aid to suppress other women, they are to be accused. For Beauvoir, the only gauge is certain freedom or right; thus, practices and institutions are estimated from the view of the specific possibilities they can propose to the person. Formal equality of rights (for example, the right to vote) is not sufficient. If women really want to make freedom a reality, they also should have the education, health, and funds, which are needed to use their rights. For the last, there is the conception that a person is not born a woman but becomes her. Also, she claimed that every community has formed both an extensive ideological and cultural material and apparatus consecrated to the promotion of femininity (Mussett). According to Beauvoir, a feminist is a woman that admits herself as the Other, and effeminacy is the mark of the bound state. In her opinion, if women want to be free, they have to depress the femininity from the inside. All theories and concepts of Beauvoir become the base of the modern feministic movement. Therefore, all modern feministic theories were built on Beauvoir’s attainment.
Unlike Beauvoir, Hegel regards that by nature, woman’s predestination is to perform the role of obedient implementation and handler of the family values. Thus, man is the counterpart who accepts the denial of forwardly transcending original insistence constructing a cultural domain of free ethic action, art, politics, religion, philosophy, and science. It is possible to say that Hegel was a sexist because his attitude toward women was rather negative, and he diminished their role in the family and in society. He stated that the two sexes have significant differences at physical, ethical, and intellectual levels. Hegel wrote that these differences have rational explanations. He said that in-state, man has a real and independent life, possibilities for learning and ability to reach a high level in every discipline. Moreover, man can work, and he can freely choose his specialization; also, he can break through all severities and difficulties. Unlike man, a woman has everlasting fate to care about family, doing housekeeping and another routine. Also, in Hegel’s opinion, at the ethical level, a woman is impregnated only with piety for her family and relatives and she cannot feel all abundance of lifelike man. He pointed out that women have abilities for education though they are limited, and women cannot reach the advanced level in science, art, and philosophy. Moreover, Hegel mentioned that women carry a menace to society because she is amenable with intrigues, feelings, and emotions, and in these moments, she cannot be responsible for her actions and their consequences. He claimed that because of these reasons, women’s role in society is inessential.
Hegel and Beauvoir have different opinions over the woman’s nature and her role in the community. Hegel was considering women from the sexist perspective, and Beauvoir was making it from the feminist one. However, Beauvoir borrowed the concept of the Other from Hegel’s theory and interpreted it from the feministic point of view. The common thing in their views is the idea that a woman is a person of the second class, but Beauvoir claimed that it is possible to overcome it if the woman will depress the femininity. She wrote that indeed, both sexes have the same rights and abilities, and in terms of history, men denied it because they were afraid to lose their dominance. In contrast, Hegel argued the opposite and claimed that man is the superior subject matter, which endued with different qualities that help him to rule, work, and making decisions. Moreover, he wrote that woman has to raise children and make a household; of course, she has some intellectual qualities, but they can be used only at the mundane level. Beauvoir understood Hegel’s and other similar theories only as an excuse for men and a demonstration of fear of women.
In conclusion, I want to point out that, in my opinion, the Beauvoir’s opinion is more persuasive because man and woman are equal, and Hegel is fully denied it. Moreover, Hegel’s point of view is old fashioned for the modern world, and such an approach prevails only in some countries. Beauvoir’s theory is the foundation of the feminist movement that is still actual today; however, it is difficult for me to agree with some of her ideas. The notion of femininity and its connection with the constrained state sounds ridiculous because these two issues cannot disturb each other. Femininity is common for women, and this quality distinguishes them from men at the behavioral level. Moreover, it is essential to highlight that these two points of view are radical, and if people want to come to some agreement, they have to find the balance between two extremes. Most of the feminists have forgotten that they are females and turned into the butch; so, in this case, a woman’s nature is defeated by the man’s one. Also, the total dominance of man can lead to disaster. That is why both sexes have to forget all dissensions and start to interact with each other on equal terms, and in this time, they should not forget about the peculiarities of both natures.