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Morality, Justice & Freedom After the War Poli 110DA 18 It is not in giving life but in risking life that man is raised above the animal.

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Presentation on theme: "Morality, Justice & Freedom After the War Poli 110DA 18 It is not in giving life but in risking life that man is raised above the animal."— Presentation transcript:

1 Morality, Justice & Freedom After the War Poli 110DA 18 It is not in giving life but in risking life that man is raised above the animal

2 Biology Male & female are facts of biology, but man and woman are socially constructed categories. But it is doubtless true that reproduction is very different for males and females (and men and women) The body itself means that men and women experience the world in different ways – Their situations differ at the biological level

3 For a man, puberty is (relatively) mild, and his reproductive system works essentially the same from then until he dies – Thus, a man can feel unity with his body, he is his body (26) But for women, sex & reproduction are entirely different – Menstruation often painful, affects moods – Sex is invasive, the Other within the One – Reproduction is painful and can be deadly, as the interests of the species and of the individual diverge – Pregnancy is literally the presence of another creature within the body – Menopause another strange & uncomfortable change, but only after it does a woman have roughly the same relationship w/her body that a man does Thus, woman, like man, is her body, but her body is something other than herself. (29) – This point runs throughout Beauvoirs analysis

4 Biology cannot explain why women have been othered. It offers only facts, but what matters here is the interpretation of facts. – These facts in turn can be changed. – Man not a natural species, but a historical idea – Under other conditions, these material conditions could have different meanings A taboo against striking women would mean that the male advantage in violence is neutralized. A matter of society & culture.

5 Psychoanalysis Whats good about psychoanalysis: The insight that no factor becomes involved in the psychic life without having taken on a human significance, it is not the body-object that actually exists, but the body as lived in by the subject. (38) – Not the brute fact of biology, but its meaning and interpretation that matters for the individual.

6 Whats bad about psychoanalysis: 1. Though presented as science, psychoanalysis assumes the very phenomena that it pretends to explain: – Example: Penis envy Girl sees boys penis, feels ashamed and lacking in her mutilation She feels inferior, but may stubbornly act as if she had a penis, thus acting masculine or becoming a lesbian. But why should she feel mutilated & ashamed? – This is possible only if the phallus is assumed to have an obvious positive import. Why should it? – Freud thus assumes the superior valuation of masculinity over femininity. If a girl feels envy of a boy, why should this not be for the simple reason that he is privileged over her? Moreover, why should a girl who climbs trees be imitating a boy? Why should she not simply been seen as liking to climb trees? Defines women by men

7 Whats bad about psychoanalysis: 2. In defining women by men, Freud simply maps male sexuality onto women. – The libido is essentially masculine Being But the difference in bodies means a different situation – Women dont experience sex or sexual development as a modification of the male experience Freud posits men as the default experience. – The fear of the pain in defloration, penetration, pregnancy and childbirth means that female sexuality is generally a mixture of apprehension and desire

8 Whats bad about psychoanalysis: 3. Freud argues that it is the normal that is to be striven for: you are healthy when you can function in society. – The power inherent in normal 4. But what if you simply choose not to be that way? – For Beauvoir, Freud presented humans as being only the battleground of compulsions and prohibitions. (45) For her, he denies the possibility of choice

9 Historical Materialism Whats good about it: – Understands that social roles and categories evolve in response to changing conditions across history. – Understands the influence of the past over the present and the future.

10 Engels Fundamental problem: In focusing only on material conditions, Marxists oversimplify the case. – When men invented bronze, gaining new productive power, they invented private property, and then slavery. All of a sudden, women & the domestic sphere seemed inferior. But modern technology allows women to be as productive as men. Thus, old forms of gender oppression should fall away.

11 Problems with Marxism Beauvoir: but why should this productive change have the character of making men superior to women? Where does this impulse come from? How can it be explained? – It has its roots in the human need for transcendence, to exercise control over the situation This is the root of the interest and prestige of property. But why did this mean that women became objectified, seen by men as the Other and useful only for reproduction? What is needed is an existential (experiential) story of history.

12 The Roots of Otherness Beauvoir sees the roots of womens Otherness as being the product not only of material development, but of the inherent desire of humans to transcend their situations. Biology has until now disadvantaged women in this desire. History frames our understanding of gender in constrictive ways.

13 Nomadic men In crafting tools (weapons, boats, nets) men worked in projects of transcendence. – In this activity he put his power to the test; he set up goals and opened up roads toward them; in brief, he found self-realization as an existent. (63) This is why hunting & fishing expeditions were sacred, and why one feels pride in accomplishing a project: you realize that you exist (stand out).

14 Nomadic Men Most importantly, in hunting, fishing, & fighting, men risked their lives. – This proves dramatically that life is not the supreme value for man, but on the contrary that it should be made to serve ends more important than itself… For it is not in giving life but in risking life that man is raised above the animal… (64) To be human is to value something more than just living. Mans design is not to repeat himself in time: it is to take control of the instant and mold the future. (65)

15 Nomadic Women But women were excluded from this by their biology. – Frequent pregnancy and childbirth Create a burden on the tribe: with no concept of property, children are not a legacy, only more mouths to feed. Absorbed most of a womans strength and time, limiting the extent to which she can participate in projects Childbirth is not a project – Only a natural function – Women feel themselves the plaything of obscure forces – Imprisons the woman in immanence and repetition. She does not transcend the situation, she only reproduces it endlessly. (63) – Does birth control change this?

16 Agricultural Woman By settling permanently on a piece of land, humans develop the concept of property. – In developing the concept of property, they develop the concept of history: the community is rooted in the past, and extends into the future. Men do not initially understand fertility, see it as magical both in farming and in human reproduction This means that women have increased status – Trace tribe, lineage through mother, as fatherhood not understood. – The earth is a woman, and womens reproductive power gives them a prestige. Children become desirable, as the individual wants to pass down property and the community wants to perpetuate itself.

17 Agricultural Woman But being the Mother-Goddess kind of sucks. – While women are venerated, it is still men who do the actual work (projects) – Their incomprehension of reproduction causes men to regard women as Other, not-me – The powers of women are all of the supernatural variety. They have not place in day-to-day government or wielding of power… (70) Women identified only with the biological role, it is her essence. Men remain much more.

18 Agricultural Man Eventually, men realize their ability to affect the fertility of crops through technique, and come to understand their own role in reproduction. At this time, father gods begin to supplant mother goddesses. – Women, already Othered, become subordinate. – Women are excluded from the realm of projects more because of this social and psychlogical experience than due to inability.

19 These attitudes influence each succeeding generation, until they become understood as what it means to be a man or woman. Example: Soviet women encouraged to behave femininely. This has always been bad faith, but the current moment is one in which social, economic, and technological changes enable new kinds of liberty for women. – Will they accept it? Will men acknowledge it? Or will they continue to act in bad faith? – Will women be acknowledged, and acknowledge themselves, as existents beyond the biological, ceasing to be defined by men?


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