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Perlunya Tafsir Ulang atas Agama dalam Diskursus Politik

K.H.Husein Muhammad: Perlunya Tafsir Ulang atas Agama dalam Diskursus Politik

Modern

Pada 22 Mei 2007, Redaktur Buletin Kebebasan mewawancarai Direktur Fahmina Institute, K.H Husein Muhammad

tafsir agama kaitannya dengan dikursus politik modern. Berikut petikan wawancaranya.

Bagaimana pandangan Anda mengenai sekularisme hubungannya dengan konsep-konsep dalam Islam?

Pertama-tama, saya tidak ingin terjebak dalam terminologi mainstream terhadap istilah sekularisme. Karena terminologi

mainstream melihat istilah sekularisme secara sangat negatif. Namun saya ingin melihat istilah sekularisme secara

positif sepanjang saya bisa memberi makna tersendiri mengenai istilah ini. Sekularisme oleh masyarakat dipandang

sebagai paham yang ingin memisahkan antara agama dan negara. Ini diilhami dari sejarah masyarakat Barat yang

mengatakan bahwa “urusan kaisar untuk kaisar dan urusan Gereja untuk Gereja”. Namun, saya tidak

melihat hal seperti itu dalam Islam. Karena dalam teks-teks Islam sendiri sudah menyebut dua hal tersebut: fî al-dunya

hasanah wa fî al-âkhirati hasanah, sehingga, menurut saya, keduanya sangat positif.

Apakah Islam memandang antara dunia dan akhirat harus dipisahkan? Bagi saya, tergantung dari aspek mana kita

melihat agama. Kalau kita memandang agama dari aspek tafsir atas agama yang kemudian ingin dijadikan sebagai

hukum negara, maka terlebih dulu harus dilihat apa yang menjadi kepentingan pandangan keagamaan atau tafsir atas

agama tersebut: apakah terkait dengan urusan-urusan personal atau terkait dengan urusan-urusan sosial? Apabila

terkait dengan urusan personal, saya menganggap tidak perlu aspek-aspek tersebut masuk ke dalam ruang negara.

Biarkan itu menjadi urusan privat masyarakat. Akan tetapi jika terkait dengan aspek sosial, relasi antarmanusia atau

aspek muamalat, menurut saya, bisa dimasukkan dalam ruang publik, urusan negara, namun harus tetap

memperhatikan pluralitas dalam masyarakat. Jadi tidak bisa sebuah pandangan keagamaan tertentu diterapkan begitu

saja ke dalam masyarakat yang multikultural atau yang plural.

Pendeknya, persoalan ini harus disandarkan pada sebuah paradigma besar Islam, yaitu keadilan, kesetaraan manusia,

dan penghormatan terhadap manusia. Apabila pandangan keagamaan ataupun bukan sudah merefleksikan prinsipprinsip

di atas, maka atas nama apapun, menurut saya, sudah sah. Tidak mesti harus ada teks agamanya, seperti teks

al-Qur’an atau teks fikih. Substansi keadilan, penghormatan terhadap manusia, menurut saya, adalah substansi

agama.

Bahkan, menurut saya, negara Indonesia – tidak seperti yang digambarkan orang: bukan sebagai negara agama

dan juga bukan negara sekular – adalah negara agama. Karena prinsip-prinsip yang dibangun sebagai dasar

negara ini sudah memenuhi prinsip-prinsip dasar agama. Jadi negara kita bisa disebut sudah memenuhi kesatuan antara

agama dan negara.

Ada pemaknaan lain, misalnya dâr al-Islâm dan dâr al-harb. Namun, bagi saya, Islam di situ tidak harus dimaknai dalam arti

teologi Islam, melainkan dipandang sebagai konsep negara yang aman dan damai. Jadi, dasar atau pandangan apapun

kalau itu bertujuan untuk kondisi yang aman dan damai, saya kira, sudah masuk dalam kategori Islam. Tidak harus ada

teks agamanya, baru kemudian bisa disebut Islam. Begitulah saya memahami sekularisme.

Menurut Anda, apakah Islam mempunyai konsep mengenai negara, khilafah misalnya?

Islam tidak mempunyai konsep apapun: apakah itu konsep negara, konsep ekonomi atau konsep sosial. Islam hanya

merumuskan prinsip-prinsip dasar. Akan sangat mereduksi kalau kemudian ada yang menganggap ada konsep negara

Islam, ekonomi Islam, sosiologi Islam dan seterusnya. Pandangan seperti ini akan sangat mereduksi Islam.

Saya sepakat bahwa Muhammad tidak pernah mendirikan negara Islam. Akan tetapi Muhammad mendirikan sebuah

komunitas atau masyarakat yang menghargai nilai-nilai kemanusiaan. Konsepnya disesuaikan dengan konteks

kebudayaan masing-masing. Jadi model negara Madinah yang seperti itu, bagi saya, hanya khusus untuk Madinah,

sehingga tidak bisa diterapkan di tempat lain dan di waktu yang lain. Yang bisa diterapkan dalam ruang yang lain dan di

waktu yang lain adalah prinsip-prinsip dasarnya, misalnya musyawarah. Akan tetapi, segera saya harus memberi catatan

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pada konsep musyawarah.

Istilah musyawarah pada awalnya mempunyai makna yang umum, namun kemudian dimaknai secara lebih spesifik.

Oleh karena itu, apakah kemudian musyawarah sama dengan demokrasi? Kalau musyawarah dimaknai secara spesifik

seperti pernah diterapkan pada masa yang lalu, maka ia tidak sama dengan demokrasi. Tetapi jika musyawarah

dimaknai secara lebih luas, misalnya sebagai bentuk hak-hak rakyat atau partisipasi rakyat secara luas, yaitu dengan

menganggap bahwa derajat setiap orang sama, sehingga pendapatnya perlu dihargai, maka musyawarah bisa dianggap

sama dengan demokrasi. Jadi kalau kita sepakat untuk mengatakan bahwa demokrasi adalah sistem kenegaraan yang

baik, terlepas ada sesuatu yang kurang dari demokrasi, bagi saya, itu adalah sistem negara Islam.

Jadi Islam tidak mempunyai konsep yang spesifik perihal negara. Ia hanya memberikan paradigma dan prinsip-prinsip

dasar. Model khilafah selama ini dimaknai sebagai model kepemimpinan yang global dengan satu kriteria

kewarganegaraan berdasarkan agama. Pandangan ini sulit sekali untuk bisa diterima. Bagi saya itu tidak islami. Sebab,

ketika kewarganegaraan hanya diukur berdasarkan agama, etnis atau identitas lainnya, sangat mungkin akan

memunculkan diskriminasi. Kalaupun dianggap ada khilafah, tentunya konsep tersebut tidak dimaknai sebagai

kepemimpinan tunggal untuk seluruh dunia, melainkan dalam arti pengelolaan masyarakat dunia secara demokratis. Jadi

harus dibedakan antara konsep khilafah fî al-ard dengan khilafah dalam arti pemimpin sebuah negara. Jadi khilafah

dalam pengertian umum inilah yang dikehendaki Islam, yakni upaya untuk menyejahterakan orang, menata dunia, dan

lain sebagainya dengan prinsip-prinsip kemanusiaan.

Menurut Anda apakah ada sumber dari Islam yang menunjukkan bahwa Islam tidak bertentangan dengan nilai-nilai

sekularisme?

Sebenarnya pandangan ini muncul dari konsep tawhid, monoteisme. Konsekuensi logis dari konsep monoteisme adalah

bahwa ada dualitas: pertama, Tuhan sebagai realitas yang absolut; kedua, manusia dan dunia sebagai entitas yang

relatif. Di hadapan Tuhan, dalam konsep tauhid, manusia semuanya setara dan semuanya harus dihargai sebagai

makhluk Tuhan. Saya kira, ayat wa laqad karromna banî Âdam merupakan petunjuk bahwa semua bani Adam harus

dihormati. Itu berarti bahwa monoteisme Islam harus melahirkan konsep kesetaraan manusia, keadilan di antara

manusia, terlepas dari komunitas yang berbeda-beda. Dan semua itu merupakan realitas yang sifatnya sekular.

Bagaimana dengan konsep ahl al-Kitâb?

Konsep ini tetap diterima hingga kini sekalipun Nabi telah meninggal. Jelas sekali dalam al-Qur’an mereka

disebut sebagai umat yang memiliki dan meyakini kitab suci yang turun dari Allah. Sebab, saya melihat bahwa prinsipprinsip

dasarnya sama. Semua nabi diutus Tuhan dengan prinsip yang sama. Yang berbeda hanyalah syariatnya.

Syariat di sini diartikan sebagai jalan menuju Tuhan. Oleh karena itu, saya beranggapan bahwa terdapat kesamaan

keyakinan dengan ahl al-Kitâb, meskipun dengan syariat yang berbeda. Tetapi, syariat yang mereka amalkan adalah

jalan-jalan atau pilihan-pilihan menuju Tuhan.

Dalam Islam, syariat, sejatinya, hanyalah jalan yang menjadi ketentuan pada masa Nabi saja. Pada masa setelahnya,

syariat semata menjadi fikih. Karena apa yang kita amalkan selama ini adalah tafsir. Sebab, tidak mungkin apa yang

dilakukan oleh Nabi pada waktu itu kita ambil apa adanya, karena akan sangat tidak relevan.

Fenomena kebangkitan agama seringkali berwajah menyeramkan dan menjadi sumber konflik. Apakah agama, terutama

Islam, masih memberikan harapan bagi kita yang hidup di zaman modern ini?

Menurut saya, yang menjadi fenomena sekarang, dari praktik dan sikap keberagamaan sekarang, memang tidak

menguntungkan bagi agama, terutama bagi Islam. Saya yakin bahwa agama muncul untuk kepentingan kemanusiaan.

Selama itu tidak tercermin dalam praktik-praktik kehidupan, maka itu adalah tafsir orang atas agama. Jadi mesti ada

tafsir lain atas agama. Sehingga, fenomena Islam “galak” sangat merugikan Islam dan itu, menurut hemat

saya, bukan Islam. Karenanya, kita harus membangun kembali citra Islam yang damai dan adil; citra Islam yang

menghormati orang lain.

Kalau Islam yang kita kemukakan adalah Islam dalam konteks yang terakhir – dengan membawa citra damai, adil

dan menghormati orang lain – maka akan sangat relevan dan sangat dibutuhkan oleh masyarakat modern. Justru

masyarakat modern harus diarahkan pada konsep agama yang membawa perdamaian. Modernitas sebetulnya juga

ingin mewujudkan perdamaian. Namun bahwa kemudian pada praktiknya muncul tafsir yang kental dengan nuansa

kepentingan-kepentingan kelompok tertentu, itu semua tidak bisa mengatasnamakan modernitas atau agama.

Bagaimana mengkontekstualisasi prinsip-prinsip dasar Islam dengan pelbagai nilai modern seperti Hak Asasi Manusia

(HAM), demokrasi, kesetaraan, perdamaian dan lain sebagainya, dengan tanpa mengabaikan perbedaan ruang dan

waktu?

Saya ingin mengutip dua pandangan dari dua pemikir Islam, pertama al-Ghazali. Al-Ghazali mengatakan di dalam kitab

al-Mustasyfâ: tujuan agama tidak lain adalah kemaslahatan. Kemaslahatan yang ia maksud adalah untuk melindungi lima

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prinsip. Pertama, hifdu al-dîn adalah perlindungan terhadap keyakinan keagamaan. Ini harus dimaknai sebagai

perlindungan terhadap siapapun. Tidak seperti yang kita baca dalam tafsir yang selama ini digunakan, yaitu untuk

menjaga agama Islam saja, sehingga orang Muslim tidak boleh murtad. Sedangkan kalau ia murtad akan dihukum. Inilah

tafsir yang selama ini berlaku, dan sebenarnya keliru.

Kedua, hifdu al-nafs, yaitu perlindungan terhadap jiwa. Artinya, setiap manusia tidak boleh dibunuh, dilukai, atau yang

lainnya. Ketiga, hifdu al-‘aql. Prinsip ini tidak bisa direduksi maknanya hanya terbatas pada pelarangan meminumminuman

keras, ganja, narkoba, dan lain sebagainya sehingga terjaga akal sehatnya. Bagi saya, pemaknaannya tidak

seperti itu, meskipun tafsir yang muncul selama ini seperti itu. Menurut saya, tafsirnya harus lebih luas lagi, yakni

“kebebasan berpikir”. Jadi prinsip ini sebenarnya menegaskan kebebasan berpikir, mengeluarkan

pendapat, berkumpul, dan lain sebagainya harus dijunjung dan dilindungi.

Keempat, hifdu al-nasl, saya memaknainya sebagai perlindungan terhadap hak reproduksi atau kesehatan reproduksi.

Tidak dimaknai seperti tafsir yang berlaku selama ini, yakni tidak boleh zina dan lain sebagainya. Tetapi prinsip tersebut

juga harus dimaknai tidak boleh melecehkan dan merendahkan orang lain, dalam hal ini perempuan. Jadi prinsip ini

harus dimaknai sebagai perlindungan terhadap kesehatan reproduksi.

Kelima, hifdu al-mâl adalah perlindungan terhadap kepemilikan. Prinsip ini sebenarnya tidak hanya berbicara mengenai

masalah mencuri, tidak boleh ghasab, tetapi juga ihwal kebebasan orang untuk berkarya dan berusaha. Lima prinsip

dasar ini saya maknai sama dengan prinsip dasar HAM. Elaborasinya bisa seperti yang sekarang dikembangkan oleh

PBB, misalnya. Tetapi kelima prinsip ini bisa ditambah, misalnya dengan hifdu al-bî’ah, yakni perlindungan

terhadap lingkungan. Jadi, prinsip ini, menurut saya, sesuai dengan HAM, meskipun ia lebih dulu ada.

Pendapat yang kedua datang dari ibn Qayyim al-Jauziyyah, seorang murid ibn Taimiyyah. Saya kagum sekali dengan

tokoh ini. Saya tidak sependapat dengan anggapan bahwa tokoh ini sangat tekstualis. Dia mengatakan fa inna

syarî’at al-Islamiyyah mabnâha wa asâsuha ‘alâ al-hikami wa masalihi al-‘ibâd, wa hiya ‘adlun

kulluha, wa masalihun kulluha, wa rahmatun kulluha, wa hikmatun kulluha. Fa kullu mas’alatin kharajat ‘ani

al-‘adl ilâ al-jawd, wa ‘ani al-maslahati ilâ al-mafsadah, wa ‘ani al-rahmati ilâ dhiddiha, wa ‘ani alhikmati

ilâ al-abats, fa laysat min al-syarî’ah wa in dukhilat fî hâdzihi al-ta’wîl. Artinya, Islam dibangun

berdasarkan keadilan dan kemaslahatan hamba-hamba Allah fî al-ma’âsyi wa al-ma’âd, di dunia dan akhirat.

Semuanya harus adil, maslahat, rahmat, dan bijaksana. Maka, setiap masalah yang keluar dari yang adil menjadi tidak

adil, dari yang maslahat menjadi kerusakan, dari rahmat menjadi tidak rahmat, dan dari hikmah menjadi kesia-siaan

bukanlah termasuk syariat Islam, meskipun ditafsirkan dan dilakukan dengan atas nama Tuhan.

Oleh karena itu, kita harus mengembalikan semua tafsir yang sekarang berkembang untuk dikoreksi atau ditafsirkan

kembali sesuai dengan konteks kehidupan modern. Karena saya prihatin terhadap kondisi Islam yang sudah lama

mengalami degradasi sehingga tidak ada yang menguntungkan sama sekali dari apa yang dipraktikkan oleh kaum

Muslimin. Itulah yang kita sebut dengan kemunduran, kemiskinan, kebodohan, keterbelakangan, dan sebagainya.

Penyebabnya adalah karena umat Islam masih mempertahankan tafsir lama yang dianggap baku dan bahkan dianggap

sebagai ajaran Islam itu sendiri. Padahal tafsir-tafsir tersebut hanya bisa berlaku untuk konteksnya sendiri, tidak bisa

diterapkan dalam konteks yang lain.

Untuk itu, setiap tafsir orang dari masa lalu tidak bisa dibawa dan dipakai begitu saja untuk zaman sekarang, melainkan

harus dimaknai secara lain untuk konteks yang baru. Tentu saja, semua itu dengan tetap mengindahkan konsep dasar

dari al-Ghazali maupun ibn Qayyim al-Jauziyyah, sebagaimana telah saya tafsirkan. Sehingga rumusan apapun dan oleh

siapapun yang formatnya mengandung prinsip-prinsip tersebut sudah bisa dikatakan Islam. Jadi apa yang

dikembangkan di Barat, misalnya, bagaimana berdisiplin, menghargai orang, dan sebagainya bisa disebut Islam. Jadi

yang perlu dilakukan oleh umat Islam adalah merekonstruksi dan mereinterpretasi teks-teks parsial atau teks-teks

konsep, bukan teks-teks prinsip atau teks universal.

Saya membedakan dua teks keagamaan: ada teks keagamaan yang bersifat universal dan ada teks keagamaan yang

bersifat partikular. Teks keagamaan yang universal inilah yang seharusnya menjadi basis bagi teks-teks partikular.

Sebetulnya teks-teks partikular, termasuk yang ada di dalam al-Qur’an sendiri, adalah contoh penerapan prinsipprinsip

universal ke dalam konteks tertentu. Misalnya, bagaimana prinsip dasar tersebut diterapkan, katakanlah, di

Madinah, maka harus memperhitungkan konteks lokal di Madinah itu sendiri. Tetapi penerapan ini hanyalah langkah

pertama untuk bisa dilakukan transformasi terhadap kultur sebelumnya. Sehingga, proses ini belum selesai. Jadi, teks

partikular ketika diterapkan di Madinah memang tepat, tapi hanya pada saat itu dengan munculnya maslahat dan lain

sebagainya. Namun contoh penerapan ini tidak bisa begitu saja diterapkan ke dalam konteks yang lain. Jadi, Madinah

hanya satu contoh bagaimana satu prinsip dasar di terapkan pada waktu dan ruang tertentu.

Oleh karena itu, yang harus kita lihat di dalam teks partikular adalah logikanya. Sebab, setiap teks yang diterapkan pada

saat itu mengandung prinsip logika kemaslahatan. Karenanya, logika kemaslahatan itu yang harus dipindahkan ke

konteks yang lain. Dan formatnya bisa berbeda. Artinya, redaksi atau bentuknya bisa berbeda. Dengan begitu bukan

berarti kita menghapus teks yang lama. Saya beranggapan bahwa teks tersebut sangat bijaksana dan sangat tepat,

tetapi format yang seperti itu tidak selalu bisa diterapkan pada konteks yang lain. Bahkan bisa jadi kalau dipaksakan ia

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akan menjadi sangat tidak relevan, bahkan merugikan.

Saya kira, contoh-contoh penafsiran ulang sebenarnya sudah sangat banyak dilakukan oleh para Sahabat sepeninggal

Nabi. Kita tahu sepeninggal Nabi sudah tidak ada otoritas manusiawi yang tunggal untuk memutuskan kebenaran.

Sehingga akhirnya ukuran kebenaran menjadi sangat relatif. Tidak heran jika sering muncul perbedaan satu dengan

yang lain. Di sinilah kita mengambil contoh bagaimana para sahabat menerapkan semangat atau logika kemaslahatan

dalam konteks mereka sendiri. Misalnya, Umar punya konteks sendiri, Abu Bakar juga demikian, begitupun Utsman dan

‘Ali. Tetapi tujuannya sama, yakni bagaimana agar agama tetap relevan dan maslahat bagi semua orang.

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Akhmad Sudrajat : Let’s Talk About Education

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Quantum learning ialah kiat, petunjuk, strategi, dan seluruh proses belajar yang dapat mempertajam pemahaman dan daya ingat, serta membuat belajar sebagai suatu proses yang menyenangkan dan bermanfaat. Beberapa teknik yang dikemukakan merupakan teknik meningkatkan kemampuan diri yang sudah populer dan umum digunakan. Namun, Bobbi DePorter mengembangkan teknik-teknik yang sasaran akhirnya ditujukan untuk membantu para siswa menjadi responsif dan bergairah dalam menghadapi tantangan dan perubahan realitas (yang terkait dengan sifat jurnalisme). Quantum learning berakar dari upaya Georgi Lozanov, pendidik berkebangsaan Bulgaria. Ia melakukan eksperimen yang disebutnya suggestology (suggestopedia). Prinsipnya adalah bahwa sugesti dapat dan pasti mempengaruhi hasil situasi belajar, dan setiap detil apa pun memberikan sugesti positif atau negatif. Untuk mendapatkan sugesti positif, beberapa teknik digunakan. Para murid di dalam kelas dibuat menjadi nyaman. Musik dipasang, partisipasi mereka didorong lebih jauh. Poster-poster besar, yang menonjolkan informasi, ditempel. Guru-guru yang terampil dalam seni pengajaran sugestif bermunculan.

Prinsip suggestology hampir mirip dengan proses accelerated learning, pemercepatan belajar: yakni, proses belajar yang memungkinkan siswa belajar dengan kecepatan yang mengesankan, dengan upaya yang normal, dan dibarengi kegembiraan. Suasana belajar yang efektif diciptakan melalui campuran antara lain unsur-unsur hiburan, permainan, cara berpikir positif, dan emosi yang sehat.

Quantum learning mencakup aspek-aspek penting dalam program neurolinguistik (NLP), yaitu suatu penelitian tentang bagaimana otak mengatur informasi. Program ini meneliti hubungan antara bahasa dan perilaku dan dapat digunakan untuk menciptakan jalinan pengertian siswa dan guru. Para pendidik dengan pengetahuan NLP mengetahui bagaimana menggunakan bahasa yang positif untuk meningkatkan tindakan-tindakan posistif – faktor penting untuk merangsang fungsi otak yang paling efektif. Semua ini dapat pula menunjukkan dan menciptakan gaya belajar terbaik dari setiap orang (Bobby De Porter dan Hernacki, 1992)

Selanjutnya Porter dkk mendefinisikan quantum learning sebagai “interaksi-interaksi yang mengubah energi menjadi cahaya.” Mereka mengamsalkan kekuatan energi sebagai bagian penting dari tiap interaksi manusia. Dengan mengutip rumus klasik E = mc2, mereka alihkan ihwal energi itu ke dalam analogi tubuh manusia yang “secara fisik adalah materi”. “Sebagai pelajar, tujuan kita adalah meraih sebanyak mungkin cahaya: interaksi, hubungan, inspirasi agar menghasilkan energi cahaya”. Pada kaitan inilah, quantum learning menggabungkan sugestologi, teknik pemercepatan belajar, dan NLP dengan teori, keyakinan, dan metode tertentu. Termasuk konsep-konsep kunci dari teori dan strategi belajar, seperti: teori otak kanan/kiri, teori otak triune (3 in 1), pilihan modalitas (visual, auditorial, dan kinestik), teori kecerdasan ganda, pendidikan holistik, belajar berdasarkan pengalaman, belajar dengan simbol (metaphoric learning), simulasi/permainan.

Beberapa hal yang penting dicatat dalam quantum learning adalah sebagai berikut. Para siswa dikenali tentang “kekuatan pikiran” yang tak terbatas. Ditegaskan bahwa otak manusia mempunyai potensi yang sama dengan yang dimilliki oleh Albert Einstein. Selain itu, dipaparkan tentang bukti fisik dan ilmiah yang memerikan bagaimana proses otak itu bekerja. Melalui hasil penelitian Global Learning, dikenalkan bahwa proses belajar itu mirip bekerjanya otak seorang anak 6-7 tahun yang seperti spons menyerap berbagai fakta, sifat-sifat fisik, dan kerumitan bahasa yang kacau dengan “cara yang menyenangkan dan bebas stres”. Bagaimana faktor-faktor umpan balik dan rangsangan dari lingkungan telah menciptakan kondisi yang sempurna untuk belajar apa saja. Hal ini menegaskan bahwa kegagalan, dalam belajar, bukan merupakan rintangan. Keyakinan untuk terus berusaha merupakan alat pendamping dan pendorong bagi keberhasilan dalam proses belajar. Setiap keberhasilan perlu diakhiri dengan “kegembiraan dan tepukan.”

Berdasarkan penjelasan mengenai apa dan bagaimana unsur-unsur dan struktur otak manusia bekerja, dibuat model pembelajaran yang dapat mendorong peningkatan kecerdasan linguistik, matematika, visual/spasial, kinestetik/perasa, musikal, interpersonal, intarpersonal, dan intuisi. Bagaimana mengembangkan fungsi motor sensorik (melalui kontak langsung dengan lingkungan), sistem emosional-kognitif (melalui bermain, meniru, dan pembacaan cerita), dan kecerdasan yang lebih tinggi (melalui perawatan yang benar dan pengondisian emosional yang sehat). Bagaimana memanfaatkan cara berpikir dua belahan otak “kiri dan kanan”. Proses berpikir otak kiri (yang bersifat logis, sekuensial, linear dan rasional), misalnya, dikenakan dengan proses pembelajaran melalui tugas-tugas teratur yang bersifat ekspresi verbal, menulis, membaca, asosiasi auditorial, menempatkan detil dan fakta, fonetik, serta simbolisme. Proses berpikir otak kanan (yang bersifat acak, tidak teratur, intuitif, dan holistik), dikenakan dengan proses pembelajaran yang terkait dengan pengetahuan nonverbal (seperti perasaan dan emosi), kesadaran akan perasaan tertentu (merasakan kehadiran orang atau suatu benda), kesadaran spasial, pengenalan bentuk dan pola, musik, seni, kepekaan warna, kreatifitas dan visualisasi.

Semua itu, pada akhirnya, tertuju pada proses belajar yang menargetkan tumbuhnya “emosi positif, kekuatan otak, keberhasilan, dan kehormatan diri.” Keempat unsur ini bila digambarkan saling terkait. Dari kehormatan diri, misalnya, terdorong emosi positif yang mengembangkan kekuatan otak, dan menghasilkan keberhasilan, lalu (balik lagi) kepada penciptaan kehormatan diri.

Dari proses inilah, quantum learning menciptakan konsep motivasi, langkah-langkah menumbuhkan minat, dan belajar aktif. Membuat simulasi konsep belajar aktif dengan gambaran kegiatan seperti: “belajar apa saja dari setiap situasi, menggunakan apa yang Anda pelajari untuk keuntungan Anda, mengupayakan agar segalanya terlaksana, bersandar pada kehidupan.” Gambaran ini disandingkan dengan konsep belajar pasif yang terdiri dari: “tidak dapat melihat adanya potensi belajar, mengabaikan kesempatan untuk berkembang dari suatu pengalaman belajar, membiarkan segalanya terjadi, menarik diri dari kehidupan.”

Dalam kaitan itu pula, antara lain, quantum learning mengonsep tentang “menata pentas: lingkungan belajar yang tepat.” Penataan lingkungan ditujukan kepada upaya membangun dan mempertahankan sikap positif. Sikap positif merupakan aset penting untuk belajar. Peserta didik quantum dikondisikan ke dalam lingkungan belajar yang optimal baik secara fisik maupun mental. Dengan mengatur lingkungan belajar demikian rupa, para pelajar diharapkan mendapat langkah pertama yang efektif untuk mengatur pengalaman belajar.

Penataan lingkungan belajar ini dibagi dua yaitu: lingkungan mikro dan lingkungan makro. Lingkungan mikro ialah tempat peserta didik melakukan proses belajar (bekerja dan berkreasi). Quantum learning menekankan penataan cahaya, musik, dan desain ruang, karena semua itu dinilai mempengaruhi peserta didik dalam menerima, menyerap, dan mengolah informasi. Ini tampaknya yang menjadi kekuatan orisinalitas quantum learning. Akan tetapi, dalam kaitan pengajaran umumnya di ruang-ruang pendidikan di Indonesia, lebih baik memfokuskan perhatian kepada penataan lingkungan formal dan terstruktur seperti: meja, kursi, tempat khusus, dan tempat belajar yang teratur. Target penataannya ialah menciptakan suasana yang menimbulkan kenyamanan dan rasa santai. Keadaan santai mendorong siswa untuk dapat berkonsentrasi dengan sangat baik dan mampu belajar dengan sangat mudah. Keadaan tegang menghambat aliran darah dan proses otak bekerja serta akhirnya konsentrasi siswa.

Lingkungan makro ialah “dunia yang luas.” Peserta didik diminta untuk menciptakan ruang belajar di masyarakat. Mereka diminta untuk memperluas lingkup pengaruh dan kekuatan pribadi, berinteraksi sosial ke lingkungan masyarakat yang diminatinya. “Semakin siswa berinteraksi dengan lingkungan, semakin mahir mengatasi sistuasi-situasi yang menantang dan semakin mudah Anda mempelajari informasi baru,” tulis Porter. Setiap siswa diminta berhubungan secara aktif dan mendapat rangsangan baru dalam lingkungan masyarakat, agar mereka mendapat pengalaman membangun gudang penyimpanan pengertahuan pribadi. Selain itu, berinteraksi dengan masyarakat juga berarti mengambil peluang-peluang yang akan datang, dan menciptakan peluang jika tidak ada, dengan catatan terlibat aktif di dalam tiap proses interaksi tersebut (untuk belajar lebih banyak mengenai sesuatu). Pada akhirnya, interaksi ini diperlukan untuk mengenalkan siswa kepada kesiapan diri dalam melakukan perubahan. Mereka tidak boleh terbenam dengan situasi status quo yang diciptakan di dalam lingkungan mikro. Mereka diminta untuk melebarkan lingkungan belajar ke arah sesuatu yang baru. Pengalaman mendapatkan sesuatu yang baru akan memperluas “zona aman, nyaman dan merasa dihargai” dari siswa.

Sumber : Septiawan Santana Kurnia, Quantum Learning bagi Pendidikan Jurnalistik: (Studi pembelajaran jurnalistik yang berorientasi pada life skill); on line : Editorial Jurnal Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan http://www.depdiknas.go.id

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Ditulis oleh pada Oktober 10, 2008 in education

 

Interview with Simone de Beauvoir 1976

 

Interview with Simone de Beauvoir 1976

The second sex 25 years later

Interview: John Gerassi, 1976;
Published: Society, Jan-Feb. 1976;
Source: Southampton University;
Proofed: and corrected by Andy Blunden, February 2005.
Copyright: 1995 by Transaction Publishers.

 

 

Gerassi. It’s now about twenty-five years since The Second Sex was published. Many people, especially in America, consider it the beginning of the contemporary feminist movement. Would you …

 

Beauvoir. I don’t think so. The current feminist movement, which really started about five or six years ago, did not really know the book. Then, as the movement grew, some of the leaders took from it some of their theoretical basis. But The Second Sex in no way launched the feminist movement. Most of the women who became very active in the movement were much too young in 1949-50, when the book came out, to be influenced by it. What pleases me, of course, is that they did discover it later. Sure, some of the older women – Betty Friedan, for example, who dedicated The Feminine Mystique to me – had read it and were perhaps influenced by it somewhat. But others, not at all. Kate Millet, for example, does not cite me a single time in her work. They may have become feminists for the reasons I explain in The Second Sex; but they discovered those reasons in their life experiences, not in my book.

 

Gerassi. You have said that your own feminist consciousness grew out of the experience of writing The Second Sex. In what way, and how do you see the development of the movement after it was published in terms of your own trajectory?

 

Beauvoir. In writing The Second Sex I became aware, for the first time, that I myself was leading a false life, or rather, that I was profiting from this male-oriented society without even knowing it. What had happened is that quite early in my life I had accepted the male values, and was living accordingly. Of course, I was quite successful, and that reinforced in me the belief that man and woman could be equal if the woman wanted such equality. In other words, I was an intellectual. I had the luck to come from a sector of society, the bourgeoisie, which could afford not only to send me to the best schools but also to allow me to play leisurely with ideas. Because of that I managed to enter the man’s world without too much difficulty. I showed that I could discuss philosophy, art, literature, etc., on “man’s level.” I kept whatever was particular to womanhood to myself. I was then reinforced by my success to continue. As I did, I saw I could earn as good a living as any male intellectual and that I was taken as seriously as any of my male peers. Being who I was, I then found that I could travel by myself if I wanted to, that I could sit in cafés and write and be as respected as any male writer, and so on. Each stage fortified my sense of independence and equality. It became, therefore, very easy for me to forget that a secretary could in no way enjoy the same privileges. She could not sit in a café and read a book without being molested. She was rarely invited to parties for “her mind.” She could not establish credit or own property. I could. More importantly still, I tended to scorn the kind of woman who felt incapable, financially or spiritually, to show her independence from men. In effect, I was thinking, without even saying it to myself, “if I can, so can they.” In researching and writing The Second Sex I did come to realize that my privileges were the result of my having abdicated, in some crucial respects at least, my womanhood. If we put it in class economic terms, you would understand it easily: I had become a class collaborationist. Well, I was sort of the equivalent in terms of the sex struggle. Through The Second Sex I became aware of the struggle needed. I understood that the vast majority of women simply did not have the choices that I had had, that women are, in fact, defined and treated as a second sex by a male-oriented society whose structure would totally collapse if that orientation was genuinely destroyed. But like economically and politically dominated peoples anywhere, it is very hard and very slow for rebellion to develop. First, such peoples have to become aware of that domination. Then they have to believe in their own strength to change it. Those who profit from their “collaboration” have to understand the nature of their betrayal. And finally, those who have the most to lose from taking a stand, that is, women like me who have carved out a successful sinecure or career, have to be willing to risk insecurity – be it merely ridicule – in order to gain self-respect. And they have to understand that those of their sisters who are most exploited will be the last to join them. A worker’s wife, for example, is least free to join the movement. She knows that her husband is more exploited than most feminist leaders and that he depends on her role as the housewife-mother to survive himself. Anyway, for all these reasons, women did not move. Oh yes, there were some very nice, very wise little movements which struggled for political promotions, for women’s participation in politics, in government. I could not relate to such groups. Then came 1968, and everything changed. I know that some important events happened before that. Betty Friedan’s book for one, was published before ’68. In fact, the American women were well on the move by then. They, more than any other women, and for obvious reasons, were most aware of the contradictions between the new technology and the conservative role of keeping women in the kitchen. As technology expands – technology being the power of the brain and not of the brawn – the male rationale that women are the weaker sex and hence must play a secondary role can no longer be logically maintained. Since technological innovations were so widespread in America, American women could not escape the contradictions. It was thus normal that the feminist movement got its biggest impetus in the very heartland of imperial capitalism, even if that impetus was strictly one of economics, that is, the demand for equal pay for equal work. But it was within the anti-imperialist movement itself that real feminist consciousness developed. Whether in the anti-Vietnam War movement in America or in the aftermath of the 1968 rebellion in France and other European countries, women began to feel their power. Having understood that capitalism leads necessarily to domination of poor peoples all over the world, masses of women began to join the class struggle – even if they did not accept the term “class struggle.” They became activists. They joined the marches, the demonstrations, the campaigns, the underground groups, the militant left. They fought, as much as any man, for a nonexploiting, nonalienating future. But what happened? In the groups or organizations they joined, they discovered that they were just as much a second sex as in the society they wanted to overturn. Here in France, and I dare say in America just as much, they found that the leaders were always the men. Women became the typists, the coffee-makers of these pseudorevolutionary groups. Well, I shouldn’t say pseudo. Many of the movement’s male “heavies” were genuine revolutionaries. But trained, raised, molded in a male-oriented society, these revolutionaries brought that orientation to the movement as well. Understandably, such men were not voluntarily going to relinquish that orientation, just as the bourgeois class isn’t going to voluntarily relinquish its power. So, just as it is up to the poor to take away the power of the rich, so it is up to women to take away power from the men. And that doesn’t mean dominate men in turn. It means establish equality. As socialism, true socialism, establishes economic equality among all peoples, the feminist movement learned it had to establish equality between the sexes by taking power away from the ruling class within the movement, that is, from men. Put another way: once inside the class struggle, women understood that the class struggle did not eliminate the sex struggle. It’s at that point that I myself became aware of what I have just said. Before that I was convinced that equality of the sexes can only be possible once capitalism is destroyed and therefore – and it’s this “therefore” which is the fallacy – we must first fight the class struggle. It is true that equality of the sexes is impossible under capitalism. If all women work as much as men, what will happen to those institutions on which capitalism depends, such institutions as churches, marriage, armies, and the millions of factories, shops, stores, etc.. which are dependent on piece work, part-time work. and cheap labor? But it is not true that a socialist revolution necessarily establishes sexual equality. Just look at Soviet Russia or Czechoslovakia, where (even if we are willing to call those countries “socialist”, which I am not) there is a profound confusion between emancipation of the proletariat and emancipation of women. Somehow, the proletariat always end up being made up of men. The patriarchal values have remained intact there as well as here. And that – this consciousness among women that the class struggle does not embody the sex struggle – is what is new. Yet most women in the struggle know that now. That’s the greatest achievement of the feminist movement. It’s one which will alter history in the years to come.

 

Gerassi. But such a consciousness is limited to the women who are in the left, that is, women who are committed to the restructuring of the whole society.

 

Beauvoir. Well, of course, since the rest are conservative, meaning they want to conserve what has been or what is. Women on the right do not want revolution. They are mothers, wives, devoted to their men. Or, if they are agitators at all, they want a bigger piece of the pie. They want to earn more, elect more women to parliaments, see a woman become president. They fundamentally believe in inequality, except they want to be on top rather than on the bottom. But they will fit fine into the system as it is or as it will change a bit to accommodate such demands. Capitalism can certainly afford to allow women to join an army, allow women to join a police force. Capitalism is certainly intelligent enough to let more women join the government. Pseudosocialism can certainly allow a woman to become secretary-general of its party. Those are just reforms, like social security or paid vacations. Did the institutionalization of paid vacations change the inequality of capitalism? Did the right of women to work in factories at equal pay to the men change the male orientation of the Czech society? But to change the whole value system of either society, to destroy the concept of motherhood: that is revolutionary.

 

A feminist, whether she calls herself leftist or not, is a leftist by definition. She is struggling for total equality, for the right to be as important, as relevant, as any man. Therefore, embodied in her revolt for sexual equality is the demand for class equality. In a society where the male can be the mother, where, say, to push the argument on values so it becomes clear, the so-called “female intuition” is as important as the “male’s knowledge” – to use today’s absurd language – where to be gentle or soft is better than to be hard and tough, in other words, in a society where each person’s experiences are equivalent to any other, you have automatically set up equality, which means economic and political equality and much more. Thus, the sex struggle embodies the class struggle, but the class struggle does not embody the sex struggle. Feminists are, therefore, genuine leftists. In fact, they are to the left of what we now traditionally call the political left.

 

Gerassi. But in the meantime, by waging the sex struggle only within the left – since, as you’ve said, the sex struggle is, temporarily at least, irrelevant within other political sectors – aren’t feminists weakening the left, hence fortifying those who exploit both their women and the poor everywhere?

 

Beauvoir. No, and in the long run it can only fortify the left. For one thing, by being confronted as leftists, that is, as opponents of exploitation, leftist men are forced to start watering their wine. More and more groups feel compelled to keep their macho male leaders in check. That’s progress. Here in our newspaper, Libération, the male-oriented majority felt obliged to let a woman become its director. That’s progress. Leftist men are beginning to watch their language, are…

 

Gerassi. But is it real? I mean. I’ve learned. for example, never to use the word “chick.” to pay attention to women in any group discussion, to wash dishes, clean the house, do the shopping. But am I any less sexist in my thoughts? Have I rejected the male values?

 

Beauvoir. You mean inside you? To be blunt, who cares? Think for a minute. You know a racist Southerner. You know he’s racist because you’ve known him all his life. But now he never says “nigger.” He listens to all black men’s complaints and tries to do his best to deal with them. He goes out of his way to put down other racists. He insists that black children be given a better-than-average education to offset the years of no education. He gives references for black men’s loan applications. He backs the black candidates in his district both with money and his vote. Do you think the blacks give a damn that he’s just as much a racist now as before “in his soul”? A lot of the objective exploitation is habit. If you can check your habits, make it so that it’s “natural” to have counterhabits, that’s a big step. If you wash dishes, clean house, and take the attitude that you don’t feel any less “a man” for doing it, you’re helping to set up new habits. A couple of generations feeling that they have to appear non-racist at all times, and the third generation will grow up non-racist in fact. So play at being non-sexist, and keep playing. Think of it as a game. In your private thoughts, go ahead and think of yourself as superior to women. But as long as you play convincingly – that you keep washing dishes, shopping, cleaning the house, taking care of children – you’re setting precedents, especially men like you who have a certain macho “pose.” The trouble is, I don’t believe it. I don’t think you really keep doing what you say. It’s one thing to wash dishes; it’s another to change diapers day in, day out.

 

Gerassi. Well. I don’t have any children…

 

Beauvoir. Why not? You chose not to. Do you think the mothers you know chose to have children? Or were they intimidated into having them? Or, more subtly, were they raised into thinking that it’s natural and normal and womanly to have children and therefore chose to have them? But who made that choice inevitable? Those are the values that have to be changed.

 

Gerassi. Fine. And that’s why, and I understand it that many feminists have insisted on being separatists. But in terms of the revolution, theirs as well as mine, can we win if we break up into totally separate groups? Can the feminist movement achieve its ends by excluding men from its struggle? Yet the dominant part of the women’s movement today, here in France at least, and it’s also quite true for America, is separatist.

 

Beauvoir. Just a minute. We have to investigate why they’re separatist. I can’t speak for America, but here in France there are many groups, consciousness groups, which do exclude men because they find it very important to rediscover their identity as women to understand themselves as women. They can only do this by speaking among themselves, telling each other things they would never dare in front of husbands, lovers, brothers, fathers, or any other masculine power. Their need to speak with the intensity and honesty required can only be fulfilled this way. And they have managed to communicate with a profundity that I never thought possible or imaginable when I was 25. When I was among even the most intimate of my women friends then, truly feminine problems were never discussed. So now, for the first time, because of these consciousness groups and because of the toughness of the desire to genuinely confront women’s problems within these groups, real friendships among women have developed. I mean, in the past, in my youth, until very recently, women tended never to become genuine friends with other women. They saw each other as rivals, enemies even, or at least competitors. Now, mostly as a result of these consciousness groups, not only are women capable of being true friends, they have learned to be warm, open, deeply tender with each other: they are turning sisterhood and fraternity into realities – and without making that relationship dependent on lesbian sexuality. Of course, there are many battles, even strictly feminist battles with social impact, in which the women do expect men to join, and many have. I’m thinking, for example, of the struggle here to legalize abortion. When we staged the first massive demonstration on that issue, three or four years ago, I remember well the great quantity of men present. This doesn’t mean that they were not sexist: to uproot what has been anchored in one’s behavior pattern and value system from the earliest days of childhood takes years, decades. But these were men who were, at least, conscious of that sexism in society and took a political stand against it. On such occasions men are welcome, indeed encouraged, to join the struggle.

 

Gerassi. But there are also a great many groups, at least here in France, which proudly proclaim their separatism and define their struggle as strictly lesbian.

 

Beauvoir. Let’s be precise. Within the MLF [Women’s Liberation Movement] there are many groups, yes, which call themselves lesbians. Many of these women, thanks to the MLF and the consciousness groups, are now capable of saying openly that they are lesbian, and that’s great. It didn’t used to be that way at all. There are other women who have become lesbian out of a sort of political commitment: that is, they feel that it is a political act to be lesbian, the equivalent somewhat within the sex struggle of the black power advocates within the racial struggle. And, true, these women tend to be more dogmatic about the exclusion of men from their struggle. But that does not mean that they ignore the numerous struggles being waged everywhere against oppression. For example, when Pierre Overney, the young Maoist organizer, was killed in cold blood by a Renault factory policeman for failing to disperse during a demonstration, and the whole left staged a protest march across Paris, all of these so-called radical lesbian separatists joined the demonstration and carried flowers to his grave. This, on the other hand, did not mean that they expressed their solidarity with Overney the male, but that they identified with the protest against the state which exploits and abuses the people – women and men.

 

Gerassi. One of the consequences of women’s liberation, according to recent surveys carried out on American campuses, is that male impotence has vastly increased, especially among those young men trying to confront their sexism …

 

Beauvoir. It’s their own fault. They try to play roles …

 

Gerassi. But precisely, it is that they have become aware that they used to play roles, that it was easy to be macho and make believe that they were selfish, virile types when in fact, they now realize they often felt they had to make love or had to make an attempt to seduce the woman because that was what was expected, while now …

 

Beauvoir. Having become aware of the role they played, which, nevertheless satisfied them – in both respects, that is, it was easy and it satisfied them sexually – while now they must worry about satisfying the woman, they can’t satisfy themselves. Too bad. I mean that. If they felt genuine affection for the women they were with, if they are honest with themselves and with their partners, they would automatically think of satisfying both. Now they’re worried about being judged sexist if they don’t satisfy the woman, so they can’t perform at all. But it’s still a performance, isn’t it? Such men are impotent because of the contradiction they live. It is too bad that it is this group of men, who are at least conscious of sexism, which suffers most from the women’s movement. while the vast majority of men profit from it, making life more intolerable for women …

 

Gerassi. Profit?

 

Beauvoir. A while ago we were talking about how the MLF has helped women gain sisterhood. affection for each other, and so on. That might have created the impression that I think women are now better off. They’re not. The struggle is just beginning, and in the early phases it makes life much harder. Because of the publicity the word “liberation” is on the tip of the tongue of every male, whether aware of sexual oppression of women or not. The general attitude of males now is that “well, since you’re liberated. Let’s go to bed.” In other words, men are now much more aggressive, vulgar, violent. In my youth we could stroll down Montparnasse or sit in cafés without being molested. Oh, we got smiles, winks, stares, and so on. But now it’s impossible for a woman to sit alone in a café reading a book. And if she’s firm about being left alone when the males accost her, their parting remark is most often salope [bitch] or putain [whore]. There’s much much more rape now. In general, male aggressiveness and hostility has become so common that no woman feels at ease in this town, and from what I hear in any town in America. Unless, of course, women stay at home. And that’s what lies behind this male aggressiveness: the threat which, in male eyes, women’s liberation represents has brought out their insecurity, hence their anger resulting that they now tend to behave as if only women who stay at home are “clean” while the others are easy marks. When women turn out not to be such easy marks, the men become personally challenged, so to speak. Their one idea is to “get” the woman.

 

Gerassi. So what’s happened to the myth, which every Frenchman upheld but which, of course, was never true, that lovemaking is an art, and that he was the greatest artist of them all?

 

Beauvoir. Except in some very rich parasitical layers of society, the myth is dead. Frenchmen now behave like American or Italian males: they just want “to score,” as the saying goes. And except for a very few number of men who try to cope with their sexism, they take the attitude that the freer a woman claims to be, that is, the more a woman tries to fight it out materially and in terms of her career, in their world, the man’s world, the easier she should be to get to bed.

 

Beauvoir. In the sense in which you ask, no. Intellectual women, young women who are willing to risk marginalization, the daughters of the rich when they are willing and capable to discard their parents’ value system: these women, yes, are freer. That is, because of their education, life-style, or financial resources, such women can withdraw from the harsh competitive society, live in communes or on the fringes, and develop relations with other similar women or men sensitive to their problems and feel freer. In other words, as individuals, women who can afford it for whatever reason can feel freer. But as a class women certainly are not freer, precisely because, as you say, they do not have economic power. There are all sorts of statistics these days to prove that the number of women lawyers, politicians, doctors, advertising executives, etc., is increasing. But such statistics are misleading. The number of powerful women lawyers and executives is not. How many women lawyers can pick up a phone and call a judge or government official to fix anything or demand special favors? Such women must always operate through established male equivalents. Women doctors? How many are surgeons, hospital directors? Women in government? Yes, a few, tokens. In France we have two. One, serious, hardworking, Simone Weil, is Minister of Health. The other, Françoise Giroud, who is the Minister in charge of women is strictly a showpiece, meant to placate bourgeois women’s needs for integration into the system. But how many women control Senate appropriations? How many women control the editorial policy of newspapers? How many are judges? How many are bank presidents, capable of financing enterprises? Just because there are many more women in middle-level positions, as journalists say, in no way means they have power. And even those women must play the male game to succeed. Now, that doesn’t mean that I do not believe that women have not made progress in the struggle. But the progress is the result of mass action. Take the new abortion law proposed by Simone Veil. Despite the fact that abortions will not be covered by the national health program and hence will be more available to the wealthy than to the poor, the law is certainly a great step forward. But for all the seriousness with which Simone Veil fought for such a law, the reason she could present it is because thousands of women have been agitating all over France for such a law, because thousands of women have publicly claimed that they have had abortions (thus forcing the government to either prosecute them or change the law), because hundreds of doctors and midwives have risked prosecution by admitting they have performed them, because some were tried and fought the issue in the courts, etc. What I’m saying is that, in mass actions, women can have power. The more women become conscious of the need for such mass action, the more progress will be achieved. And, to return to the woman who can afford to seek individual liberation, the more she can influence her friends and sisters, the more that consciousness will spread, which in turn, when frustrated by the system, will stimulate mass action. Of course, the more that consciousness spreads, the more men will be aggressive and violent. But then, the more men are aggressive, the more women will need other women to fight back, that is, the more the need for mass action will be clear.

 

Gerassi. The talk about women being freer puzzles me. In our society, freedom is achieved with money and power. Do women have any more power today, after almost a decade of the women’s movement? Most workers of the capitalist world today are aware of the class struggle, whether they call themselves Marxists or not, in fact, whether they even heard of Marx or not. And so it must become in the sex struggle. And it will.

 

Beauvoir. No. In the first place, such a work would have to be a collective effort. And then it should be rooted in practice rather than in theory. The Second Sex went the other way. Now that’s no longer valid. It’s in the practice that one can now see how the class struggle and the sex struggle intertwine, or at least how they can be articulated. But that’s true about all struggles now: we must derive our theory from practice, not the other way around. What really is needed is that a whole group of women, from all sorts of countries, assemble their lived experiences, and that we derive from such experiences the patterns facing women everywhere. What’s more, such information should be amassed from all classes, and that’s doubly hard. After all, the women waging the fight for liberation today are mostly bourgeois intellectuals; by and large, workers’ wives and even female workers remain firmly attached to the society’s middle-class value system. Try, for example, to talk to women workers about the rights of prostitutes and the respect due them. The idea is shocking to most women workers. To raise the consciousness of women workers is a very slow process needing a great deal of tact. I know that there are MLF extremists who are trying to get workers’ wives to rebel against their husbands as male oppressors. I think that’s a mistake. A worker’s wife, here in France at least, will be quick to answer, “but my enemy is not my husband but my boss.” And this even if she has to wash her husband’s socks and make his soup after she too spends a whole day at some factory. It’s the same in America, where black women refused to listen to the women’s liberation movement proselytizers because they were white. Such black women remained supportive of their black husbands despite the exploitation, simply because the persons trying to make them aware of the exploitation were white. Gradually, however, a bourgeois feminist can reach a worker’s wife, just as in America today there are some black women – very few, I grant you – who say, “no, we do not want to submit to the oppression of our men on the pretext that they are black and that we have to struggle together against the whites; no, that is not a reason for our men to squash us, just because they are our black men.”

 

In some very concrete ways, however, the class struggle can and does encourage and develop the sex struggle. Over the past few years, for example, there have been many strikes here in France in plants where the workers were almost totally women. I’m thinking of the textile strike in Troyes, in the North, or at the Nouvelles Galeries at Thionville, or the famous strike at Lip. In each case the women workers gained not only a new consciousness but also new or stronger faith in their power, and this faith upset the male system they faced in their homes. At Lip, for example, the women seized the plant and refused to evacuate it despite threats by the police to use force to get them out. At first, the workers’ husbands were very proud of their militant wives. The men brought food, helped make picket signs, etc. But when the women decided to be totally equal to the few men who also worked at Lip and who were on strike too, then the problems arose. The Lip strikers decided to organize shifts to guard the factory from police invasion. That meant night duty. Oh oh. Now, suddenly, the striking women’s husbands were upset. “You can strike and picket all you want.” they said. “but only in the daytime, not at night. What, night guard duty? Oh no! Sleeping together in large common rooms in shifts? Oh no.” Naturally, the women workers resisted. They had fought for equality, they weren’t going to give it up now. So they became committed to a double struggle: the class struggle against the Lip bosses, the police, the government, etc., on the one hand, and the sex struggle against their own husbands. Union organizers at Lip reported that the women were completely transformed after the strike, saying “one thing I got out of all this is that never again am I going to let my husband play the boss at home. I’m now against all bosses.”

 

Gerassi. Did your consciousness about old age change as you wrote on that, in the way your consciousness about being a woman changed during the writing of The Second Sex?

 

Beauvoir. Not really. I discovered many things; I learned a great deal about old folks. But I didn’t really gain a new consciousness because it was the realization that I was old which made me undertake the book in the first place. But now I can much better relate to the old than before. I used to be much more severe. Now I understand that when an old person is too susceptible, too selfish, that he is only protecting himself, throwing up defenses. But, you see, a woman can go through life refusing to face the fact that she is fundamentally, in values, experience, and life-approach, different from men. But it is very hard to avoid becoming aware that one is growing old. There comes a time when you just know that you have to draw the line or that you’ve passed the line. I know today that I shall never be able to go wandering through the hills on foot, that I shall never again ride a bicycle, that I shall never again have relations with a man. I was very scared or at least very apprehensive about old age before I reached it. Then, when it came, when I knew I had passed the line, well, it was much easier than I expected. Of course, you must stop looking backwards. But I find living from day to day much easier than I thought. But I learned I had passed that line independently of my research for my book on old age. Work on the book simply taught me to understand the old, and to be more tolerant.

 

Gerassi. What are you working on now?

 

Beauvoir. Basically, nothing. I’m helping on a scenario on, precisely, old age, for a Swedish director. I’m going to help Sartre with his television project. You know that he has signed a contract with national television to do ten one-hour shows, starting in October, on the seventy-five years of this century, and his relation to its major events. But I have no plans to undertake some particular project. This too is new for me. I used to have in the back of my head all sorts of projects, even while I was working on a specific book.

 

Gerassi. You have written that you have had a good life and regret nothing. Do you know that there are many couples who look upon your life with Sartre as a model, especially in the sense that you were not jealous of each other, that you had what is called an open relationship, and that it worked for forty-five years?

 

Beauvoir. But that’s ridiculous to use us as a model. People have to find their own elans, their own structures. Sartre and I were very lucky but also our backgrounds were very particular, very exceptional. We met each other when we were very. young. He was 23; I, 20. We weren’t quite formed yet, though we were already molded into intellectuals with similar motivations. To both of us, literature had replaced religion.

 

Gerassi. Yet you could have been competitive, rivals …

 

Beauvoir. True, similar personalities with similar ambitions often feel competitive. But we had something else in common: we had been similarly structured in our youth. Both our childhoods were very solid, very secure. This meant that neither of us had to prove something to ourselves or the other. We were sure of ourselves. It was as if everything had been preordained from the very beginning. My parents acted as if nothing in the universe could change the normal course of my life, which was to be a nice little bourgeois intellectual. Sartre’s grandfather, who raised him – you know his father died when he was still a baby – behaved the same way, absolutely convinced that Sartre would grow up to be a professor. And that’s the way it was. So that even when crises occurred, such as when Sartre’s mother remarried when he was 12-13, or such as when I was 14-15 and learned that my father no longer loved me the way I expected it, the solidity of our childhoods made us externalize these crises. It was they who changed, not us. We were too structured to feel insecure. Besides, whatever the little variants, we were fundamentally in accord with our parents’ design for us. They wanted us to be intellectual, to read, to study, to teach, and we agreed and did so. Thus, when Sartre and I met not only did our backgrounds fuse, but also our solidity, our individual conviction that we were what we were made to be. In that framework we could not become rivals. Then, as the relationship between Sartre and me grew, I became convinced that I was irreplaceable in his life, and he in mine. In other words, we were totally secure in the knowledge that our relationship was also totally solid, again preordained, though, of course, we would have laughed at that word then. When you have such security it’s easy not to be jealous. But had I thought that another woman played the same role as I did in Sartre’s life, of course, I would have been jealous.

 

 

Gerassi. How do you see the rest of your life?

 

Beauvoir. I don’t see it at all. I guess I’ll soon start to write something again, that I’ll go back to work, but I have no idea yet what I’ll do. I know that I’ll continue to work with women, within feminist groups, the League of Women, and that I’ll continue to militate in some way, in whatever way I can, within the – let’s call it – the revolutionary struggle. And I know that I’ll remain with Sartre until one of us dies. But, you know, he’s 70 now and I’m 67.

 

Gerassi. Are you optimistic? Do you think the changes you have been struggling for will take place?

 

Beauvoir. I don’t know. Not in my lifetime anyway. Maybe in four generations. I don’t know about the revolution. But the changes that women are struggling for, yes, that I am certain of, in the long run women will win.

 

source :

http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ethics/de-beauvoir/1976/interview.htm

 

 
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Ditulis oleh pada September 5, 2008 in Simone de Beauvoir

 

On the publication of The Second Sex

 

On the publication of The Second Sex

Source: The third volume of Simone de Beauvoir’s autobiography: Force of Circumstances;
First published: in 1963, translated by Richard Howard, and published by Penguin, 1968;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden, January 2005;
Proofed: and corrected by Andy Blunden, February 2005

 

The first volume of The Second Sex was published in June; in May, Les Temps Modernes had printed the chapter on ‘Woman’s Sexual Initiation’ and followed it up in the June and July issues with the chapters on ‘The Lesbian’ and ‘Maternity’. In November, Gallirnard published the second volume.

 

I have described how this book was first conceived, almost by chance. Wanting to talk about myself, I became aware that to do so I should first have to describe the condition of woman in general; first I considered the myths that men have forged about her through all their cosmologies, religions, superstitions, ideologies and literature. I tried to establish some order in the picture which at first appeared to me completely incoherent; in every case, man put himself forward as the Subject and considered the woman as an object, as the Other. This assumption could of course be explained by historical circumstances, and Sartre told me I should also give some indication of the physiological groundwork. That was at Ramatuelle; we talked about it for a long time and I hesitated; I hadn’t expected to become involved in writing such a vast work. But it was true that my study of the myths would be left hanging in mid-air if people didn’t know the reality those myths were intended to mask. I therefore plunged into works of physiology and history. I didn’t merely compile; even scientists, of both sexes, are imbued with prejudices in favour of man, so I had to try to dig for the exact truth beneath the surface of their interpretations. From my journey into history I returned with a few ideas that I had never seen expressed anywhere: I linked the history of woman to that of inheritance, because it seemed to me to be a by-product of the economic evolution of the masculine world.

 

I began to look at women with new eyes and found surprise after surprise lying in wait for me. It is both strange and stimulating to discover suddenly, after forty, an aspect of the world that has been staring you in the face all the time which somehow you have never noticed. One of the misunderstandings created by my book is that people thought I was denying there was any difference between men and women. On the contrary, writing this book made me even more aware of those things that separate them; what I contended was that these dissimilarities are of a cultural and not of a natural order. I undertook to recount systematically, from childhood to old age, how they were created; I examined the possibilities this world offers women, those it denies them, their limits, their good and bad luck, their evasions and their achievements. That was what I put into the second volume: L’Expérience vécue.

 

I spent only two years on this, work.1 already knew some sociology and psychology. Thanks to my university training, I had the habit of efficient working methods; I knew how to sort books out and strip the meat off them quickly, how to reject those that were merely rehashes of others or pure fantasies; I made a pretty exhaustive inventory of everything that had appeared on the subject in both English and French; it was one that had given rise to an enormous literature but, as is usually the case, only a small number of these studies were important. When it came to the second volume, I also profited from the continual interest that Sartre and I had had for so many years in all sorts of people; my memory provided me with an abundance of material.

 

The first volume was well received: twenty-two thousand copies were sold in the first week. The second one also sold well, but it shocked people. I was completely taken aback by the fuss it provoked when the extracts from the book appeared in Les Temps Modernes. I had completely failed to take into account that ‘French bitchiness’ Julien Gracq mentioned in an article in which – although he compared me to Poincaré making speeches in cemeteries – he congratulated me on my ‘courage’. The word astonished me the first time it was used. ‘How courageous you are!’ Claudine Chonez told me with an admiration full of pity. ‘Courageous?’ ‘You’re going to lose a lot of friends!’ Well, I thought to myself, if I lose them they’re not friends. In any case, I had written this book just the way I wanted to write it, but there had been no thought of heroism in my mind at any time. The men whom I knew well – Sartre, Bost, Merleau-Ponty, Leiris, Giacometti and the staff of Les Temps Modernes – were real democrats on this point as well as on any other; if I had been writing it for them I would have been in danger of breaking down an open door. In any case I was accused of doing just that; also of inventing, parodying, digressing and ranting. I was accused of so many things: everything! First of all, indecency. The June, July and August issues of Les Temps Modernes sold like hot cakes; but they were read, as it were, with averted eyes. One might almost have believed that Freud and psychoanalysis had never existed. What a festival of obscenity on the pretext of flogging me for mine! That good old esprit gaulois flowed in torrents. I received some signed and some anonymous epigrams, epistles, satires, admonitions, and exhortations addressed to me by, for example, ‘some very active members of the First Sex.’ Unsatisfied, frigid, priapic, nymphomaniac, lesbian, a hundred times aborted, I was everything, even an unmarried mother. People offered to cure me of my frigidity or to temper my labial appetites; I was promised revelations, in the coarsest terms but in the name of the true, the good and the beautiful, in the name of health and even of poetry, all unworthily trampled underfoot by me. Certainly it is monotonous writing inscriptions on lavatory walls; I could understand that many sexual maniacs might prefer to send their lucubrations to me for a change. But I was a bit surprised at Mauriac! He wrote to one of the contributors to Les Temps Modernes: ‘Your employer’s vagina has no secrets from me,’ which shows that in private life he wasn’t afraid of words. When he saw them printed, it upset him so much that he began a series in Le Figaro littéraire urging the youth of France to condemn pornography in general and my articles in particular. Its success was slight. Although the replies of Pouillon and Cau, who had flown to my rescue, were suppressed – and probably those of many others as well – I had my defenders: among others, Domenach; the Christians were only gently indignant, and on the whole the youth of the nation did not seem excessively outraged by my verbal excesses. Mauriac lamented the fact bitterly. Exactly at the right moment to close his series, an angelic young lady sent him a letter so perfectly calculated to grant his every wish that a lot of us got a great deal of amusement out of what was obviously a godsend for Mauriac! Nevertheless, in restaurants and cafés – which I frequented much more than usual because of Algren – people often snickered as they glanced towards me or even openly pointed. Once, during an entire dinner at Nos Provinces on the Boulevard Montparnasse, a table of people nearby stared at me and giggled; I didn’t like dragging Algren into a scene, but as I left I gave them a piece of my mind.

 

The violence and level of these reactions left me perplexed. Among the Latin peoples, Catholicism has encouraged masculine tyranny and even inclined it towards sadism; Italian men have a tendency to combine it with coarseness, and the Spaniards with arrogance, but this sort of meanness was particularly French. Why? Primarily because in France a man feels himself economically threatened by feminine competition; to maintain, or to assert the maintenance of a superiority no longer guaranteed by the customs of the country, the simplest method is to vilify women. A tradition of licentious talk provides a whole arsenal calculated to reduce women to their function as sexual objects: sayings, images, anecdotes and the vocabulary itself. Also, in the erotic field, the ancestral myth of French supremacy is being threatened; the ideal lover is now generally attributed to the Italian rather than the Frenchman; finally, the critical attitude of liberated women wounds or tires their partners; it makes them resentful. This meanness is simply the old French licentiousness taken over by vulnerable and spiteful men.2


In November, the swords were unsheathed once more. The critics went wild; there was no disagreement: women had always been the equal of men, they were forever doomed to be their inferiors, everything I said was common knowledge, there wasn’t a word of truth in the whole book. In Liberté de l’esprit, Boideffre and Nimier outdid each other in contempt. I was a poor neurotic girl, repressed, frustrated, and cheated by life, a virago, a woman who’d never been made love to properly, envious, embittered and bursting with inferiority complexes with regard to men, while with regard to women I was eaten to the bone by resentment.3 Jean Guitton, with great Christian compassion, wrote that The Second Sex had affected him painfully because one could so clearly see running through it the thread of ‘my sad life’. Armand Hoog outdid himself: ‘Humiliated by being a woman, agonizingly conscious of being imprisoned in her condition by the eyes of men, she rejects both their eyes and her condition.’

 

This theme of my humiliation was taken up by a considerable number of critics who were so naively imbued with their own masculine superiority that they could not even imagine that my condition had never been a burden to me. The man whom I placed above all others did not consider me inferior to men. I had many male friends whose eyes, far from imprisoning me within set limits, recognized me as a human being in my own right. Such good fortune had protected me against all resentment and all bitterness; my readers will know too that I was never infected by such feelings during my childhood or my adolescence.4 Subtler readers concluded that I was a misogynist and that, while pretending to take up the cudgels for women, I was damning them; this is untrue. I do not praise them to the skies and I have anatomized all those defects engendered by their condition, but I also showed their good qualities and their merits. I have given too many women too much affection and esteem to betray them now by considering myself as an ‘honorary male’; – nor have I ever been wounded by their stares. In fact I was never treated as a target for sarcasm until after The Second Sex; before that, people were either indifferent or kind to me. Afterwards, I was often attacked as a woman because my attackers thought it must be my Achilles’ heel; but I knew perfectly well that this persistent petulance was really aimed at my moral and social convictions. No; far from suffering from my femininity, I have, on the contrary, from the age of twenty on, accumulated the advantages of both sexes; after L’Invitée, those around me treated me both as a writer, their peer in the masculine world, and as a woman; this was particularly noticeable in America: at the parties I went to, the wives all got together and talked to each other while I talked to the men, who nevertheless behaved towards me with greater courtesy than they did towards the members of their own sex. I was encouraged to write The Second Sex precisely because of this privileged position. It allowed me to express myself in all serenity. And, contrary to what they suggest, it was precisely this placidity which exasperated so many of my masculine readers. A wild cry of rage, the revolt of a wounded soul – that they could have accepted with a moved and pitying condescension; since they could not pardon me my objectivity, they feigned a disbelief in it. For example I will take a phrase of Claude Mauriac’s which perfectly illustrates the arrogance of the First Sex. ‘What has she got against me?’ he wanted to know. Nothing; I had nothing against anything, except the words I was quoting. It is strange that so many intellectuals should refuse to believe in intellectual passions.5

 

I stirred up some storms even among my friends. One of them, a progressive academic, stopped reading my book and threw it across the room. Camus, in a few morose sentences, accused me of making the French male look ridiculous. A Mediterranean man, cultivating Spanish pride, he would allow woman equality only if she kept to her own, and different, realm; also, he was of course, as George Orwell would have said, the more equal of the two. He had blithely admitted to us once that he disliked the idea of being sized up and judged by a woman: she was the object, he was the eye and the consciousness. He laughed about it, but it is true that he did not accept reciprocity. Finally, with sudden warmth, he said: ‘There’s one argument that you should have emphasized: man himself suffers from not being able to find a real companion in woman; he does aspire to equality.’ He too wanted a cry from the heart rather than solid reasoning; and what’s more, a cry on behalf of men. Most men took as a personal insult the information I retailed about frigidity in women; they wanted to imagine that they could dispense pleasure whenever and to whomever they pleased; to doubt such powers on their part was to castrate them.

 

The Right could only detest my book, which Rome naturally put on the blacklist. I had hoped it would be well received by the extreme Left. Our relations with the Communists couldn’t have been worse; all the same, my thesis owed so much to Marxism and showed it in such a favourable light that I did at least expect some impartiality from them! Marie-Louise Barron, in Les Lettres françaises, confined herself to remarking that The Second Sex would at least give the factory girls at Billancourt a good giggle; which implies a very low estimate of the factory girls at Billancourt, replied Colette Audry in a ‘review of the critics’ she did for Combat Action devoted an anonymous and unintelligible article to me, delightfully decorated with the photograph of a woman held fast in the passionate embraces of an ape.

 

The non-Stalinist Marxists were scarcely more comforting. I gave a lecture at the École Émancipée and was told that once the Revolution had been achieved, the problem of woman would no longer exist. Fine, I said; but meanwhile? The present apparently held no interest for them.

 

My adversaries created and maintained numerous misunderstandings on the subject of my book. Above all I was attacked for the chapter on maternity. Many men declared I had no right to discuss women because I hadn’t given birth; and they?6 They nevertheless produced some very distinct opinions of their own in opposition to mine. It was said that I refused to grant any value to the maternal instinct and to love. This was not so. I simply asked that women should experience them truthfully and freely, whereas they often use them as excuses and take refuge in them, only to find themselves imprisoned in that refuge when those emotions have dried up in their hearts. I was accused of preaching sexual promiscuity; but at no point did I ever advise anyone to sleep with just anyone at just any time; my opinion on this subject is that all choices, agreements and refusals should be made independently of institutions, conventions and motives of self-aggrandizement; if the reasons for it are not of the same order as the act itself, then the only result can be lies, distortions and mutilations.

 

I devoted a chapter to the problem of abortion; Sartre had already written about it in The Age of Reason, and I myself in The Blood of Others; people were always rushing into the office of Les Temps Modernes asking Mme Sorbets, the secretary, for addresses. She got so irritated that one day she designed a poster: WE DO IT ON THE PREMISES, OURSELVES. One morning, when I was still asleep, a young man knocked on my door. ‘My wife is pregnant,’ he said distractedly. ‘Give me an address …’ ‘But I don’t know any,’ I told him. He swore at me and left. ‘No one ever helps anyone!’ I didn’t know any addresses; and I should scarcely have been inclined to have any confidence in a stranger endowed with so little self-control. Women and couples are forced by society into secrecy; if I can help them I have no hesitation in doing so. But I did not find it very pleasant to discover that I was apparently thought of as a professional procuress.

 

There were people who defended The Second Sex: Francis Jeanson, Nadeau, Mounier. It provoked public controversy and lectures, it brought me a considerable amount of correspondence. Misread and misunderstood, it troubled people’s minds. When all is said and done, it is possibly the book that has brought me the greatest satisfaction of all those I have written. If I am asked what I think of it today, I have no hesitation in replying: I’m all for it.

 

Oh! I admit that one can criticize the style and the composition. I could easily go back and cut it down to a much more elegant work. But at the time I was discovering my ideas as I was explaining them, and that was the best I could do. As for the content, I should take a more materialist position today in the first volume. I should base the notion of woman as other and the Manichaean argument it entails not on an idealistic and a priori struggle of consciences, but on the facts of supply and demand; that is how I treated the same problem in The Long March when I was writing about the subjugation of women in ancient China. This modification would not necessitate any changes in the subsequent developments of my argument. On the whole, I still agree with what I said. I never cherished any illusion of changing woman’s condition; it depends on the future of labour in the world; it will change significantly only at the price of a revolution in production. That is why I avoided falling into the trap of ‘feminism’. Nor did I offer remedies for each particular problem I described. But at least I helped the women of my time and generation to become aware of themselves and their situation.

 

Many of them, of course, disapproved of my book; I disturbed them or opposed them or exasperated them or frightened them. But there were others to whom I did some service, as I know from numberless testimonies to the fact, especially from the letters that I am still receiving and answering after twelve years. These women have found help in my work in their fight against images of themselves which revolted them, against myths by which they felt themselves crushed; they came to realize that their difficulties reflected not a disgrace peculiar to them, but a general condition. This discovery helped them to avoid the mistake of self-contempt, and many of them found in the book the strength to fight against that condition. Self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, but it is on the side of happiness and can supply the courage to fight for it. Psychiatrists have told me that they give The Second Sex to their women patients to read, and not merely to intellectual women but to lower-middle-class women, to office workers and women working in factories. ‘Your book was a great help to me. Your book saved me,’ are the words I have read in letters from women of all ages and all walks of life.

 

If my book has helped women, it is because it expressed them, and they in their turn gave it its truth. Thanks to them, it is no longer a matter for scandal and concern. During these last ten years the myths that men created have crumbled, and many women writers have gone beyond me and have been far more daring than I. Too many of them for my taste take sexuality as their only theme; but at least when they write about it they now present themselves as the eye-that-looks, as subject, consciousness, freedom.

 

I should have been surprised and even irritated if, when I was thirty, someone had told me that I would be concerning myself with feminine problems, and that my most serious public would be made up of women. I don’t regret that it has been so. Divided, lacerated, in a world made to put them at a disadvantage, for women there are far more victories to be won, more prizes to be gained, more defeats to he suffered than there are for men. I have an interest in them; and I prefer having taken a limited but real hold upon the world through them to drifting in the universal.

 

SUMBER :

http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/ethics/de-beauvoir/1963/interview.htm

 

1 It was begun in October it 946 and finished in June 1949; but I spent four months of 1947 in America, and America Day by Day kept me busy for six months.

2 There exists a hatred of women among American men. But even the most venomous writings, such as Philip Wylie’s A Generation of Vipers, do not descend to the level of obscenity; their sights are not on degrading women sexually.

3 When Christiane Rochefort’s Warrior’s Rest appeared ten years later, there was less scandal, but there were still plenty of male critics ready to chant the old refrain: ‘She’s an ugly and frustrated woman!’

4 I by no means despise resentment and bitterness, or any other of those negative emotions; they are often justified by circumstances and one might consider that I have missed something in not having experienced them. If I reject their attribution to me here it is because I would like The Second Sex to be understood in the spirit in which I wrote it.

5A novelist pamphleteer of the Right, having been sharply attacked by Bost in Les Temps Modernes, exclaimed, very hurt: ‘But why so much hate? He doesn’t even know me!’

6 They went out and questioned mothers; but so did I.

 
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Ditulis oleh pada September 5, 2008 in Simone de Beauvoir

 

the second sex

 

Simone de Beauvoir 1949

The Second Sex

Source: The Second Sex, 1949, translated by H M Parshley, Penguin 1972;
Written: in French and first published as Le Deuxième Sexe, in 1949;
First Published in English: by Jonathan Cape in 1953;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden for the Value_of_Knowledge website, 1998;
Proofread: from the Penguin edition by Andy Blunden, February 2005.

Introduction
Chapter One, Biology
Chapter Two, Psychology
Chapter Three, History
from Part II, on the Master-Slave Relation

Conclusion



Introduction
Woman as Other

FOR a long time I have hesitated to write a book on woman. The subject is irritating, especially to women; and it is not new. Enough ink has been spilled in quarrelling over feminism, and perhaps we should say no more about it. It is still talked about, however, for the voluminous nonsense uttered during the last century seems to have done little to illuminate the problem. After all, is there a problem? And if so, what is it? Are there women, really? Most assuredly the theory of the eternal feminine still has its adherents who will whisper in your ear: ‘Even in Russia women still are women’; and other erudite persons – sometimes the very same – say with a sigh: ‘Woman is losing her way, woman is lost.’ One wonders if women still exist, if they will always exist, whether or not it is desirable that they should, what place they occupy in this world, what their place should be. ‘What has become of women?’ was asked recently in an ephemeral magazine.

But first we must ask: what is a woman? ‘Tota mulier in utero’, says one, ‘woman is a womb’. But in speaking of certain women, connoisseurs declare that they are not women, although they are equipped with a uterus like the rest. All agree in recognising the fact that females exist in the human species; today as always they make up about one half of humanity. And yet we are told that femininity is in danger; we are exhorted to be women, remain women, become women. It would appear, then, that every female human being is not necessarily a woman; to be so considered she must share in that mysterious and threatened reality known as femininity. Is this attribute something secreted by the ovaries? Or is it a Platonic essence, a product of the philosophic imagination? Is a rustling petticoat enough to bring it down to earth? Although some women try zealously to incarnate this essence, it is hardly patentable. It is frequently described in vague and dazzling terms that seem to have been borrowed from the vocabulary of the seers, and indeed in the times of St Thomas it was considered an essence as certainly defined as the somniferous virtue of the poppy

 

But conceptualism has lost ground. The biological and social sciences no longer admit the existence of unchangeably fixed entities that determine given characteristics, such as those ascribed to woman, the Jew, or the Negro. Science regards any characteristic as a reaction dependent in part upon a situation. If today femininity no longer exists, then it never existed. But does the word woman, then, have no specific content? This is stoutly affirmed by those who hold to the philosophy of the enlightenment, of rationalism, of nominalism; women, to them, are merely the human beings arbitrarily designated by the word woman. Many American women particularly are prepared to think that there is no longer any place for woman as such; if a backward individual still takes herself for a woman, her friends advise her to be psychoanalysed and thus get rid of this obsession. In regard to a work, Modern Woman: The Lost Sex, which in other respects has its irritating features, Dorothy Parker has written: ‘I cannot be just to books which treat of woman as woman … My idea is that all of us, men as well as women, should be regarded as human beings.’ But nominalism is a rather inadequate doctrine, and the antifeminists have had no trouble in showing that women simply are not men. Surely woman is, like man, a human being; but such a declaration is abstract. The fact is that every concrete human being is always a singular, separate individual. To decline to accept such notions as the eternal feminine, the black soul, the Jewish character, is not to deny that Jews, Negroes, women exist today – this denial does not represent a liberation for those concerned, but rather a flight from reality. Some years ago a well-known woman writer refused to permit her portrait to appear in a series of photographs especially devoted to women writers; she wished to be counted among the men. But in order to gain this privilege she made use of her husband’s influence! Women who assert that they are men lay claim none the less to masculine consideration and respect. I recall also a young Trotskyite standing on a platform at a boisterous meeting and getting ready to use her fists, in spite of her evident fragility. She was denying her feminine weakness; but it was for love of a militant male whose equal she wished to be. The attitude of defiance of many American women proves that they are haunted by a sense of their femininity. In truth, to go for a walk with one’s eyes open is enough to demonstrate that humanity is divided into two classes of individuals whose clothes, faces, bodies, smiles, gaits, interests, and occupations are manifestly different. Perhaps these differences are superficial, perhaps they are destined to disappear. What is certain is that they do most obviously exist.

 

If her functioning as a female is not enough to define woman, if we decline also to explain her through ‘the eternal feminine’, and if nevertheless we admit, provisionally, that women do exist, then we must face the question “what is a woman”?

 

To state the question is, to me, to suggest, at once, a preliminary answer. The fact that I ask it is in itself significant. A man would never set out to write a book on the peculiar situation of the human male. But if I wish to define myself, I must first of all say: ‘I am a woman’; on this truth must be based all further discussion. A man never begins by presenting himself as an individual of a certain sex; it goes without saying that he is a man. The terms masculine and feminine are used symmetrically only as a matter of form, as on legal papers. In actuality the relation of the two sexes is not quite like that of two electrical poles, for man represents both the positive and the neutral, as is indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general; whereas woman represents only the negative, defined by limiting criteria, without reciprocity. In the midst of an abstract discussion it is vexing to hear a man say: ‘You think thus and so because you are a woman’; but I know that my only defence is to reply: ‘I think thus and so because it is true,’ thereby removing my subjective self from the argument. It would be out of the question to reply: ‘And you think the contrary because you are a man’, for it is understood that the fact of being a man is no peculiarity. A man is in the right in being a man; it is the woman who is in the wrong. It amounts to this: just as for the ancients there was an absolute vertical with reference to which the oblique was defined, so there is an absolute human type, the masculine. Woman has ovaries, a uterus: these peculiarities imprison her in her subjectivity, circumscribe her within the limits of her own nature. It is often said that she thinks with her glands. Man superbly ignores the fact that his anatomy also includes glands, such as the testicles, and that they secrete hormones. He thinks of his body as a direct and normal connection with the world, which he believes he apprehends objectively, whereas he regards the body of woman as a hindrance, a prison, weighed down by everything peculiar to it. ‘The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities,’ said Aristotle; ‘we should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness.’ And St Thomas for his part pronounced woman to be an ‘imperfect man’, an ‘incidental’ being. This is symbolised in Genesis where Eve is depicted as made from what Bossuet called ‘a supernumerary bone’ of Adam.

 

Thus humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being. Michelet writes: ‘Woman, the relative being …’ And Benda is most positive in his Rapport d’Uriel: ‘The body of man makes sense in itself quite apart from that of woman, whereas the latter seems wanting in significance by itself … Man can think of himself without woman. She cannot think of herself without man.’ And she is simply what man decrees; thus she is called ‘the sex’, by which is meant that she appears essentially to the male as a sexual being. For him she is sex – absolute sex, no less. She is defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute – she is the Other.’

The category of the Other is as primordial as consciousness itself. In the most primitive societies, in the most ancient mythologies, one finds the expression of a duality – that of the Self and the Other. This duality was not originally attached to the division of the sexes; it was not dependent upon any empirical facts. It is revealed in such works as that of Granet on Chinese thought and those of Dumézil on the East Indies and Rome. The feminine element was at first no more involved in such pairs as Varuna-Mitra, Uranus-Zeus, Sun-Moon, and Day-Night than it was in the contrasts between Good and Evil, lucky and unlucky auspices, right and left, God and Lucifer. Otherness is a fundamental category of human thought.

 

Thus it is that no group ever sets itself up as the One without at once setting up the Other over against itself. If three travellers chance to occupy the same compartment, that is enough to make vaguely hostile ‘others’ out of all the rest of the passengers on the train. In small-town eyes all persons not belonging to the village are ‘strangers’ and suspect; to the native of a country all who inhabit other countries are ‘foreigners’; Jews are ‘different’ for the anti-Semite, Negroes are ‘inferior’ for American racists, aborigines are ‘natives’ for colonists, proletarians are the ‘lower class’ for the privileged.

 

Lévi-Strauss, at the end of a profound work on the various forms of primitive societies, reaches the following conclusion: ‘Passage from the state of Nature to the state of Culture is marked by man’s ability to view biological relations as a series of contrasts; duality, alternation, opposition, and symmetry, whether under definite or vague forms, constitute not so much phenomena to be explained as fundamental and immediately given data of social reality.’ These phenomena would be incomprehensible if in fact human society were simply a Mitsein or fellowship based on solidarity and friendliness. Things become clear, on the contrary, if, following Hegel, we find in consciousness itself a fundamental hostility towards every other consciousness; the subject can be posed only in being opposed – he sets himself up as the essential, as opposed to the other, the inessential, the object.

 

But the other consciousness, the other ego, sets up a reciprocal claim. The native travelling abroad is shocked to find himself in turn regarded as a ‘stranger’ by the natives of neighbouring countries. As a matter of fact, wars, festivals, trading, treaties, and contests among tribes, nations, and classes tend to deprive the concept Other of its absolute sense and to make manifest its relativity; willy-nilly, individuals and groups are forced to realize the reciprocity of their relations. How is it, then, that this reciprocity has not been recognised between the sexes, that one of the contrasting terms is set up as the sole essential, denying any relativity in regard to its correlative and defining the latter as pure otherness? Why is it that women do not dispute male sovereignty? No subject will readily volunteer to become the object, the inessential; it is not the Other who, in defining himself as the Other, establishes the One. The Other is posed as such by the One in defining himself as the One. But if the Other is not to regain the status of being the One, he must be submissive enough to accept this alien point of view. Whence comes this submission in the case of woman?

 

There are, to be sure, other cases in which a certain category has been able to dominate another completely for a time. Very often this privilege depends upon inequality of numbers – the majority imposes its rule upon the minority or persecutes it. But women are not a minority, like the American Negroes or the Jews; there are as many women as men on earth. Again, the two groups concerned have often been originally independent; they may have been formerly unaware of each other’s existence, or perhaps they recognised each other’s autonomy. But a historical event has resulted in the subjugation of the weaker by the stronger. The scattering of the Jews, the introduction of slavery into America, the conquests of imperialism are examples in point. In these cases the oppressed retained at least the memory of former days; they possessed in common a past, a tradition, sometimes a religion or a culture.

 

The parallel drawn by Bebel between women and the proletariat is valid in that neither ever formed a minority or a separate collective unit of mankind. And instead of a single historical event it is in both cases a historical development that explains their status as a class and accounts for the membership of particular individuals in that class. But proletarians have not always existed, whereas there have always been women. They are women in virtue of their anatomy and physiology. Throughout history they have always been subordinated to men, and hence their dependency is not the result of a historical event or a social change – it was not something that occurred. The reason why otherness in this case seems to be an absolute is in part that it lacks the contingent or incidental nature of historical facts. A condition brought about at a certain time can be abolished at some other time, as the Negroes of Haiti and others have proved: but it might seem that natural condition is beyond the possibility of change. In truth, however, the nature of things is no more immutably given, once for all, than is historical reality. If woman seems to be the inessential which never becomes the essential, it is because she herself fails to bring about this change. Proletarians say ‘We’; Negroes also. Regarding themselves as subjects, they transform the bourgeois, the whites, into ‘others’. But women do not say ‘We’, except at some congress of feminists or similar formal demonstration; men say ‘women’, and women use the same word in referring to themselves. They do not authentically assume a subjective attitude. The proletarians have accomplished the revolution in Russia, the Negroes in Haiti, the Indo-Chinese are battling for it in Indo-China; but the women’s effort has never been anything more than a symbolic agitation. They have gained only what men have been willing to grant; they have taken nothing, they have only received.

 

The reason for this is that women lack concrete means for organising themselves into a unit which can stand face to face with the correlative unit. They have no past, no history, no religion of their own; and they have no such solidarity of work and interest as that of the proletariat. They are not even promiscuously herded together in the way that creates community feeling among the American Negroes, the ghetto Jews, the workers of Saint-Denis, or the factory hands of Renault. They live dispersed among the males, attached through residence, housework, economic condition, and social standing to certain men – fathers or husbands – more firmly than they are to other women. If they belong to the bourgeoisie, they feel solidarity with men of that class, not with proletarian women; if they are white, their allegiance is to white men, not to Negro women. The proletariat can propose to massacre the ruling class, and a sufficiently fanatical Jew or Negro might dream of getting sole possession of the atomic bomb and making humanity wholly Jewish or black; but woman cannot even dream of exterminating the males. The bond that unites her to her oppressors is not comparable to any other. The division of the sexes is a biological fact, not an event in human history. Male and female stand opposed within a primordial Mitsein, and woman has not broken it. The couple is a fundamental unity with its two halves riveted together, and the cleavage of society along the line of sex is impossible. Here is to be found the basic trait of woman: she is the Other in a totality of which the two components are necessary to one another.

 

One could suppose that this reciprocity might have facilitated the liberation of woman. When Hercules sat at the feet of Omphale and helped with her spinning, his desire for her held him captive; but why did she fail to gain a lasting power? To revenge herself on Jason, Medea killed their children; and this grim legend would seem to suggest that she might have obtained a formidable influence over him through his love for his offspring. In Lysistrata Aristophanes gaily depicts a band of women who joined forces to gain social ends through the sexual needs of their men; but this is only a play. In the legend of the Sabine women, the latter soon abandoned their plan of remaining sterile to punish their ravishers. In truth woman has not been socially emancipated through man’s need – sexual desire and the desire for offspring – which makes the male dependent for satisfaction upon the female.

 

Master and slave, also, are united by a reciprocal need, in this case economic, which does not liberate the slave. In the relation of master to slave the master does not make a point of the need that he has for the other; he has in his grasp the power of satisfying this need through his own action; whereas the slave, in his dependent condition, his hope and fear, is quite conscious of the need he has for his master. Even if the need is at bottom equally urgent for both, it always works in favour of the oppressor and against the oppressed. That is why the liberation of the working class, for example, has been slow.

 

Now, woman has always been man’s dependant, if not his slave; the two sexes have never shared the world in equality. And even today woman is heavily handicapped, though her situation is beginning to change. Almost nowhere is her legal status the same as man’s, and frequently it is much to her disadvantage. Even when her rights are legally recognised in the abstract, long-standing custom prevents their full expression in the mores. In the economic sphere men and women can almost be said to make up two castes; other things being equal, the former hold the better jobs, get higher wages, and have more opportunity for success than their new competitors. In industry and politics men have a great many more positions and they monopolise the most important posts. In addition to all this, they enjoy a traditional prestige that the education of children tends in every way to support, for the present enshrines the past – and in the past all history has been made by men. At the present time, when women are beginning to take part in the affairs of the world, it is still a world that belongs to men – they have no doubt of it at all and women have scarcely any. To decline to be the Other, to refuse to be a party to the deal – this would be for women to renounce all the advantages conferred upon them by their alliance with the superior caste. Man-the-sovereign will provide woman-the-liege with material protection and will undertake the moral justification of her existence; thus she can evade at once both economic risk and the metaphysical risk of a liberty in which ends and aims must be contrived without assistance. Indeed, along with the ethical urge of each individual to affirm his subjective existence, there is also the temptation to forgo liberty and become a thing. This is an inauspicious road, for he who takes it – passive, lost, ruined – becomes henceforth the creature of another’s will, frustrated in his transcendence and deprived of every value. But it is an easy road; on it one avoids the strain involved in undertaking an authentic existence. When man makes of woman the Other, he may, then, expect to manifest deep-seated tendencies towards complicity. Thus, woman may fail to lay claim to the status of subject because she lacks definite resources, because she feels the necessary bond that ties her to man regardless of reciprocity, and because she is often very well pleased with her role as the Other.

 

But it will be asked at once: how did all this begin? It is easy to see that the duality of the sexes, like any duality, gives rise to conflict. And doubtless the winner will assume the status of absolute. But why should man have won from the start? It seems possible that women could have won the victory; or that the outcome of the conflict might never have been decided. How is it that this world has always belonged to the men and that things have begun to change only recently? Is this change a good thing? Will it bring about an equal sharing of the world between men and women?

 

These questions are not new, and they have often been answered. But the very fact that woman is the Other tends to cast suspicion upon all the justifications that men have ever been able to provide for it. These have all too evidently been dictated by men’s interest. A little-known feminist of the seventeenth century, Poulain de la Barre, put it this way: ‘All that has been written about women by men should be suspect, for the men are at once judge and party to the lawsuit.’ Everywhere, at all times, the males have displayed their satisfaction in feeling that they are the lords of creation. ‘Blessed be God … that He did not make me a woman,’ say the Jews in their morning prayers, while their wives pray on a note of resignation: ‘Blessed be the Lord, who created me according to His will.’ The first among the blessings for which Plato thanked the gods was that he had been created free, not enslaved; the second, a man, not a woman. But the males could not enjoy this privilege fully unless they believed it to be founded on the absolute and the eternal; they sought to make the fact of their supremacy into a right. ‘Being men, those who have made and compiled the laws have favoured their own sex, and jurists have elevated these laws into principles’, to quote Poulain de la Barre once more.

 

Legislators, priests, philosophers, writers, and scientists have striven to show that the subordinate position of woman is willed in heaven and advantageous on earth. The religions invented by men reflect this wish for domination. In the legends of Eve and Pandora men have taken up arms against women. They have made use of philosophy and theology, as the quotations from Aristotle and St Thomas have shown. Since ancient times satirists and moralists have delighted in showing up the weaknesses of women. We are familiar with the savage indictments hurled against women throughout French literature. Montherlant, for example, follows the tradition of Jean de Meung, though with less gusto. This hostility may at times be well founded, often it is gratuitous; but in truth it more or less successfully conceals a desire for self-justification. As Montaigne says, ‘It is easier to accuse one sex than to excuse the other’. Sometimes what is going on is clear enough. For instance, the Roman law limiting the rights of woman cited ‘the imbecility, the instability of the sex’ just when the weakening of family ties seemed to threaten the interests of male heirs. And in the effort to keep the married woman under guardianship, appeal was made in the sixteenth century to the authority of St Augustine, who declared that ‘woman is a creature neither decisive nor constant’, at a time when the single woman was thought capable of managing her property. Montaigne understood clearly how arbitrary and unjust was woman’s appointed lot: ‘Women are not in the wrong when they decline to accept the rules laid down for them, since the men make these rules without consulting them. No wonder intrigue and strife abound.’ But he did not go so far as to champion their cause.

 

It was only later, in the eighteenth century, that genuinely democratic men began to view the matter objectively. Diderot, among others, strove to show that woman is, like man, a human being. Later John Stuart Mill came fervently to her defence. But these philosophers displayed unusual impartiality. In the nineteenth century the feminist quarrel became again a quarrel of partisans. One of the consequences of the industrial revolution was the entrance of women into productive labour, and it was just here that the claims of the feminists emerged from the realm of theory and acquired an economic basis, while their opponents became the more aggressive. Although landed property lost power to some extent, the bourgeoisie clung to the old morality that found the guarantee of private property in the solidity of the family. Woman was ordered back into the home the more harshly as her emancipation became a real menace. Even within the working class the men endeavoured to restrain woman’s liberation, because they began to see the women as dangerous competitors – the more so because they were accustomed to work for lower wages.

 

In proving woman’s inferiority, the anti-feminists then began to draw not only upon religion, philosophy, and theology, as before, but also upon science – biology, experimental psychology, etc. At most they were willing to grant ‘equality in difference’ to the other sex. That profitable formula is most significant; it is precisely like the ‘equal but separate’ formula of the Jim Crow laws aimed at the North American Negroes. As is well known, this so-called equalitarian segregation has resulted only in the most extreme discrimination. The similarity just noted is in no way due to chance, for whether it is a race, a caste, a class, or a sex that is reduced to a position of inferiority, the methods of justification are the same. ‘The eternal feminine’ corresponds to ‘the black soul’ and to ‘the Jewish character’. True, the Jewish problem is on the whole very different from the other two – to the anti-Semite the Jew is not so much an inferior as he is an enemy for whom there is to be granted no place on earth, for whom annihilation is the fate desired. But there are deep similarities between the situation of woman and that of the Negro. Both are being emancipated today from a like paternalism, and the former master class wishes to ‘keep them in their place’ – that is, the place chosen for them. In both cases the former masters lavish more or less sincere eulogies, either on the virtues of ‘the good Negro’ with his dormant, childish, merry soul – the submissive Negro – or on the merits of the woman who is ‘truly feminine’ – that is, frivolous, infantile, irresponsible the submissive woman. In both cases the dominant class bases its argument on a state of affairs that it has itself created. As George Bernard Shaw puts it, in substance, ‘The American white relegates the black to the rank of shoeshine boy; and he concludes from this that the black is good for nothing but shining shoes.’ This vicious circle is met with in all analogous circumstances; when an individual (or a group of individuals) is kept in a situation of inferiority, the fact is that he is inferior. But the significance of the verb to be must be rightly understood here; it is in bad faith to give it a static value when it really has the dynamic Hegelian sense of ‘to have become’. Yes, women on the whole are today inferior to men; that is, their situation affords them fewer possibilities. The question is: should that state of affairs continue?

 

Many men hope that it will continue; not all have given up the battle. The conservative bourgeoisie still see in the emancipation of women a menace to their morality and their interests. Some men dread feminine competition. Recently a male student wrote in the Hebdo-Latin: ‘Every woman student who goes into medicine or law robs us of a job.’ He never questioned his rights in this world. And economic interests are not the only ones concerned. One of the benefits that oppression confers upon the oppressors is that the most humble among them is made to feel superior; thus, a ‘poor white’ in the South can console himself with the thought that he is not a ‘dirty nigger’ – and the more prosperous whites cleverly exploit this pride.

 

Similarly, the most mediocre of males feels himself a demigod as compared with women. It was much easier for M. de Montherlant to think himself a hero when he faced women (and women chosen for his purpose) than when he was obliged to act the man among men – something many women have done better than he, for that matter. And in September 1948, in one of his articles in the Figaro littéraire, Claude Mauriac – whose great originality is admired by all – could write regarding woman: ‘We listen on a tone [sic!] of polite indifference … to the most brilliant among them, well knowing that her wit reflects more or less luminously ideas that come from us.’ Evidently the speaker referred to is not reflecting the ideas of Mauriac himself, for no one knows of his having any. It may be that she reflects ideas originating with men, but then, even among men there are those who have been known to appropriate ideas not their own; and one can well ask whether Claude Mauriac might not find more interesting a conversation reflecting Descartes, Marx, or Gide rather than himself. What is really remarkable is that by using the questionable we he identifies himself with St Paul, Hegel, Lenin, and Nietzsche, and from the lofty eminence of their grandeur looks down disdainfully upon the bevy of women who make bold to converse with him on a footing of equality. In truth, I know of more than one woman who would refuse to suffer with patience Mauriac’s ‘tone of polite indifference’.

 

I have lingered on this example because the masculine attitude is here displayed with disarming ingenuousness. But men profit in many more subtle ways from the otherness, the alterity of woman. Here is a miraculous balm for those afflicted with an inferiority complex, and indeed no one is more arrogant towards women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility. Those who are not fear-ridden in the presence of their fellow men are much more disposed to recognise a fellow creature in woman; but even to these the myth of Woman, the Other, is precious for many reasons. They cannot be blamed for not cheerfully relinquishing all the benefits they derive from the myth, for they realize what they would lose in relinquishing woman as they fancy her to be, while they fail to realize what they have to gain from the woman of tomorrow. Refusal to pose oneself as the Subject, unique and absolute, requires great self-denial. Furthermore, the vast majority of men make no such claim explicitly. They do not postulate woman as inferior, for today they are too thoroughly imbued with the ideal of democracy not to recognise all human beings as equals.

 

In the bosom of the family, woman seems in the eyes of childhood and youth to be clothed in the same social dignity as the adult males. Later on, the young man, desiring and loving, experiences the resistance, the independence of the woman desired and loved; in marriage, he respects woman as wife and mother, and in the concrete events of conjugal life she stands there before him as a free being. He can therefore feel that social subordination as between the sexes no longer exists and that on the whole, in spite of differences, woman is an equal. As, however, he observes some points of inferiority – the most important being unfitness for the professions – he attributes these to natural causes. When he is in a co-operative and benevolent relation with woman, his theme is the principle of abstract equality, and he does not base his attitude upon such inequality as may exist. But when he is in conflict with her, the situation is reversed: his theme will be the existing inequality, and he will even take it as justification for denying abstract equality.

 

So it is that many men will affirm as if in good faith that women are the equals of man and that they have nothing to clamour for, while at the same time they will say that women can never be the equals of man and that their demands are in vain. It is, in point of fact, a difficult matter for man to realize the extreme importance of social discriminations which seem outwardly insignificant but which produce in woman moral and intellectual effects so profound that they appear to spring from her original nature. The most sympathetic of men never fully comprehend woman’s concrete situation. And there is no reason to put much trust in the men when they rush to the defence of privileges whose full extent they can hardly measure. We shall not, then, permit ourselves to be intimidated by the number and violence of the attacks launched against women, nor to be entrapped by the self-seeking eulogies bestowed on the ‘true woman’, nor to profit by the enthusiasm for woman’s destiny manifested by men who would not for the world have any part of it.

 

We should consider the arguments of the feminists with no less suspicion, however, for very often their controversial aim deprives them of all real value. If the ‘woman question’ seems trivial, it is because masculine arrogance has made of it a ‘quarrel’; and when quarrelling one no longer reasons well. People have tirelessly sought to prove that woman is superior, inferior, or equal to man. Some say that, having been created after Adam, she is evidently a secondary being: others say on the contrary that Adam was only a rough draft and that God succeeded in producing the human being in perfection when He created Eve. Woman’s brain is smaller; yes, but it is relatively larger. Christ was made a man; yes, but perhaps for his greater humility. Each argument at once suggests its opposite, and both are often fallacious. If we are to gain understanding, we must get out of these ruts; we must discard the vague notions of superiority, inferiority, equality which have hitherto corrupted every discussion of the subject and start afresh.

 

Very well, but just how shall we pose the question? And, to begin with, who are we to propound it at all? Man is at once judge and party to the case; but so is woman. What we need is an angel – neither man nor woman – but where shall we find one? Still, the angel would be poorly qualified to speak, for an angel is ignorant of all the basic facts involved in the problem. With a hermaphrodite we should be no better off, for here the situation is most peculiar; the hermaphrodite is not really the combination of a whole man and a whole woman, but consists of parts of each and thus is neither. It looks to me as if there are, after all, certain women who are best qualified to elucidate the situation of woman. Let us not be misled by the sophism that because Epimenides was a Cretan he was necessarily a liar; it is not a mysterious essence that compels men and women to act in good or in bad faith, it is their situation that inclines them more or less towards the search for truth. Many of today’s women, fortunate in the restoration of all the privileges pertaining to the estate of the human being, can afford the luxury of impartiality – we even recognise its necessity. We are no longer like our partisan elders; by and large we have won the game. In recent debates on the status of women the United Nations has persistently maintained that the equality of the sexes is now becoming a reality, and already some of us have never had to sense in our femininity an inconvenience or an obstacle. Many problems appear to us to be more pressing than those which concern us in particular, and this detachment even allows us to hope that our attitude will be objective. Still, we know the feminine world more intimately than do the men because we have our roots in it, we grasp more immediately than do men what it means to a human being to be feminine; and we are more concerned with such knowledge. I have said that there are more pressing problems, but this does not prevent us from seeing some importance in asking how the fact of being women will affect our lives. What opportunities precisely have been given us and what withheld? What fate awaits our younger sisters, and what directions should they take? It is significant that books by women on women are in general animated in our day less by a wish to demand our rights than by an effort towards clarity and understanding. As we emerge from an era of excessive controversy, this book is offered as one attempt among others to confirm that statement.

 

But it is doubtless impossible to approach any human problem with a mind free from bias. The way in which questions are put, the points of view assumed, presuppose a relativity of interest; all characteristics imply values, and every objective description, so called, implies an ethical background. Rather than attempt to conceal principles more or less definitely implied, it is better to state them openly, at the beginning. This will make it unnecessary to specify on every page in just what sense one uses such words as superior, inferior, better, worse, progress, reaction, and the like. If we survey some of the works on woman, we note that one of the points of view most frequently adopted is that of the public good, the general interest; and one always means by this the benefit of society as one wishes it to be maintained or established. For our part, we hold that the only public good is that which assures the private good of the citizens; we shall pass judgement on institutions according to their effectiveness in giving concrete opportunities to individuals. But we do not confuse the idea of private interest with that of happiness, although that is another common point of view. Are not women of the harem more happy than women voters? Is not the housekeeper happier than the working-woman? It is not too clear just what the word happy really means and still less what true values it may mask. There is no possibility of measuring the happiness of others, and it is always easy to describe as happy the situation in which one wishes to place them.

 

In particular those who are condemned to stagnation are often pronounced happy on the pretext that happiness consists in being at rest. This notion we reject, for our perspective is that of existentialist ethics. Every subject plays his part as such specifically through exploits or projects that serve as a mode of transcendence; he achieves liberty only through a continual reaching out towards other liberties. There is no justification for present existence other than its expansion into an indefinitely open future. Every time transcendence falls back into immanence, stagnation, there is a degradation of existence into the ‘en-sois’ – the brutish life of subjection to given conditions – and of liberty into constraint and contingence. This downfall represents a moral fault if the subject consents to it; if it is inflicted upon him, it spells frustration and oppression. In both cases it is an absolute evil. Every individual concerned to justify his existence feels that his existence involves an undefined need to transcend himself, to engage in freely chosen projects.

 

Now, what peculiarly signalises the situation of woman is that she – a free and autonomous being like all human creatures – nevertheless finds herself living in a world where men compel her to assume the status of the Other. They propose to stabilise her as object and to doom her to immanence since her transcendence is to be overshadowed and for ever transcended by another ego (conscience) which is essential and sovereign. The drama of woman lies in this conflict between the fundamental aspirations of every subject (ego) – who always regards the self as the essential and the compulsions of a situation in which she is the inessential. How can a human being in woman’s situation attain fulfilment? What roads are open to her? Which are blocked? How can independence be recovered in a state of dependency? What circumstances limit woman’s liberty and how can they be overcome? These are the fundamental questions on which I would fain throw some light. This means that I am interested in the fortunes of the individual as defined not in terms of happiness but in terms of liberty.

 

Quite evidently this problem would be without significance if we were to believe that woman’s destiny is inevitably determined by physiological, psychological, or economic forces. Hence I shall discuss first of all the light in which woman is viewed by biology, psychoanalysis, and historical materialism. Next I shall try to show exactly how the concept of the ‘truly feminine’ has been fashioned – why woman has been defined as the Other – and what have been the consequences from man’s point of view. Then from woman’s point of view I shall describe the world in which women must live; and thus we shall be able to envisage the difficulties in their way as, endeavouring to make their escape from the sphere hitherto assigned them, they aspire to full membership in the human race.

————————————————————————————-

Introduction
Chapter One, Biology
Chapter Two, Psychology
Chapter Three, History
from Part II, on the Master-Slave Relation

Conclusion

 

 

 
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Ditulis oleh pada September 5, 2008 in Simone de Beauvoir

 

Colonial Education


Colonial Education

 

John Southard, Fall 1997 (jsoutha@emory.edu)

 

What is colonial education?

The process of colonization involves one nation or territory taking control of another nation or territory either through the use of force or by acquisition. As a by-product of colonization, the colonizing nation implements its own form of schooling within their colonies. Two scholars on colonial education, Gail P. Kelly and Philip G. Altbach, help define the process as an attempt “to assist in the consolidation of foreign rule” (Kelly and Altbach 1).

 


 

The purpose of colonial education

The idea of assimilation is important when dealing with colonial education. Assimilation involves those who are colonized being forced to conform to the cultures and traditions of the colonizers. Gauri Viswanathan points out that “cultural assimilation (is)…the most effective form of political action” (Viswanthan 85). She continues with the argument that “cultural domination works by consent and often precedes conquest by force” (85). Colonizing governments realize that they gain strength not necessarily through physical control, but through mental control. This mental control is implemented through a central intellectual location, the school system. Kelly and Altbach state that “colonial schools,…sought to extend foreign domination and economic exploitation of the colony” (2). They find that “education in…colonies seems directed at absorption into the metropole and not separate and dependent development of the colonized in their own society and culture” (4). The process is an attempt to strip the colonized people away from their indigenous learning structures and draw them toward the structures of the colonizers.

Much of the reasoning that favors such a learning system comes from supremacist ideas of leader colonizers. Thomas B. Macaulay asserts his viewpoints about a British colony, India, in an early nineteenth century speech. Macaulay insists that he has “never found one among them [Orientalists, an opposing political group] who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia”. He continues stating, “It is, no exaggeration to say, that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England”. The ultimate goal of colonial education might be deduced from the following statement by Macaulay: “We must at present do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.” While all colonizers may not have shared Macaulay’s lack of respect for the existing systems of the colonized, they do share the idea that education is important in facilitating the assimilation process.

 


 

The impact of colonial education

Often, the implementation of a new education system leaves those who are colonized with a lack of identity and a limited sense of their past. The indigenous history and customs once practiced and observed slowly slip away. The colonized become hybrids of two vastly different cultural systems. Colonial education creates a blurring that makes it difficult to differentiate between the new, enforced ideas of the colonizers and the formerly accepted native practices. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, a citizen of the once colonized Kenya, displays his anger toward the isolationist feelings colonial education causes. He asserts that the process “annihilate(s) a peopleÕs belief in their names, in their languages, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves. It makes them see their past as one wasteland of non-achievement and it makes them want to distance themselves from that wasteland. It makes them want to identify with that which is furthest removed from themselves” (Decolonising the Mind 3).

Not only does colonial education eventually create a sense of wanting to disassociate with native heritage, but it affects the individual and the sense of self-confidence. Thiong’o believes that “…education, far from giving people the confidence in their ability and capacities to overcome obstacles or to become masters of the laws governing external nature as human beings tends to make them feel their inadequacies and their ability to do anything about the condition of their lives” (The Global Education Process).

 


 

The decolonization process

In order to eliminate the harmful, lasting effects of colonial education, post-colonial nations or territories must remove the sense of nothingness that is often present. Thiong’o insists that “To decolonize our minds we must not see our own experiences as little islands that are not connected with other processes” (The Global Education Process). Post-colonial education must reverse the former reality of “education as a means of mystifying knowledge and hence reality” (The Global Education Process). A new education structure boosts the identity of a liberated people and unites previously isolated individuals.

 


 

Case study

Kelly and Altbach define “classical colonialism” as the process when one separate nation controls another separate nation (3). However, another form of colonization has been present in America for many years. The treatment of the Native Americans falls into the category of “internal colonization,” which can be described as the control of an independent group by another independent group of the same nation-state (Kelly and Altbach 3). Although the context of the situation is different, the intent of the “colonizers” is identical. This includes the way in which the educational system is structured. Katherine Jensen indicates that “the organization, curriculum, and language medium of these schools has aimed consistently at Americanizing the American Indian” (Jensen 155). She proceeds and asks, “If education was intended to permit native people mobility into the mainstream, we must ask why in over three centuries it has been so remarkably unsuccessful” (155). In a supporting study of 1990, Census statistics indicate that American Indians have a significantly lower graduation rate at the high school, bachelor, and graduate level than the rest of Americans

(http://homer.louisville.edu/groups/librarywww/ekstrom/govpubs/subjects/indians/inded .html Census statistics comparing Native Americans to the rest of the nation).

 


 

Works Cited

Jensen, Katherine. “Civilization and Assimilation in the Colonized Schooling of Native Americans.” Education and the Colonial Experience. Ed. Gail P. Kelly and Philip G. Altbach. New Brunswick: Transaction, 1984. 117-36.

Kelly, Gail P. and Philip G. Altbach. Introduction: “The Four Faces of Colonialism.” Education and the Colonial Experience. Ed. Gail P. Kelly and Philip G. Altbach. New Brunswick: Transaction, 1984. 1-5.

Macaulay, Thomas B. “Minute on Indian Education.” http://humanitas.ucsb.edu/users/raley/english/macaulay.html

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o. Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. Portsmith, NH: Heinemann, 1981.

—.”The Global Education Process.” 18 par. Online. Internet. nd. Available: http://ultrix. ramapo.edu/global.thiongo.html

Viswanathan, Gauri. “Currying Favor: The Politics of British Educational and Cultural Policy in India, 1813-1854.” The Oxford Literary Review 85-104. (unknown volume and date)

“American Indians/Native Americans: Education” 1990. npag. Online. Internet. Available: http://homer.louisville.edu/groups/library-www/ekstrom/govpubs/subject/indians/inded.html

 


 

Author: John Southard, Fall 1997 (jsoutha@emory.edu)

 
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Ditulis oleh pada Agustus 27, 2008 in cultural studies

 

Geography and Mapping

Geography and Mapping


Introduction and Definition of Terms

The Oxford Dictionary of the English Language defines geography as “the description of the earth’s surface.” Its Greek root words, geo- and graphein, literally mean “earth writing.”  Maps are defined as “a representation usually on a flat surface of the whole or a part of an area.”  The English word “map” is a shortened version of the French mappamonde, derived from the Latin phrase mappa mundi, or “sheet (napkin) of the world.”  Maps might hence be defined as a “textual” product of geography.  Thus as a “written” representation, maps might be described as something “scribed” upon landscape–an imposition. The cultural and historical implications of maps (and hence geography) as a means of representation entail an enormous amount of power.  Maps and geographical representation have influenced the power relationships between European nations and their colonies and have likewise revealed the nature of these power relationships.  As such, maps play a significant role within postcolonial theory and the postcolonial novel.

 


The Evolution of the Map and the Discipline of Geography

The Babylonians leave us with the oldest examples of attempts to chart the cosmos and represent it geographically; the oldest example is a cadastral plan of the city of Babylon dating back to 2200 BCE.  The Babylonians were also the first to apply the four cardinal points that we now know as North, South, East, and West.  The Egyptians also leave evidence of early mapping, including the famous Turin Papyrus, a sketch of an Egyptian gold mine (Tooley 3).  However, the Greeks are considered to be the founders of geography as a scientific discipline.  In the second century BCE, Crates created the first globe, a spherical representation of the Earth, and even today, the globe is considered to be the most spatially accurate depiction of the Earth.  Indeed, early Greek cartographers struggled with the dilemma of representing a spherical world on a flat surface.  Hipparchus was the first to experiment with different forms of longitudinal and latitudinal projection, creating what we now know as the stereographic and orthographic projections.  Both forms remain true to the shape of landmasses, but the stereographic projection distorts the scale of the map by making the peripheral latitudes to large in relation the central ones.  The orthographic projection does the reverse.  These early “geographers” can certainly be cited as the first mapmakers, yet it is the philosopher Eratosthenes who is considered to be father of geography as a discipline.  He was the first cartographer to estimate the circumference of the earth by measuring the shadow of the sun at Alexandria and Syene, which he assumed to be on the same meridian.  Modern technology has found his estimate to be fairly accurate.  Much of our knowledge of these early Greek geographers comes from Geographia, published by the Roman scribe Strabo in the first century BCE (James 21-48).

 


The Emergence of Mapping as an Artform

The era of ancient geography drew to a close when Ptolemy published his eight volume Guide to Geography in the second century of the Common Era.  However, Ptolemy marked the beginning of a tradition of misguided and unfounded geographical theories that held dominance for the next 1500 years.  He asserted that the earth was the stationary center of the universe and concluded that regions of the earth near the equator were uninhabitable due to strenuous heat.  He also vastly underestimated the breadth of space separating the Western coasts of Europe from Asia.  He assumed that the entire span was taken up by ocean, and thus Columbus assumed he had arrived in Asia upon “discovering” the Americas in 1492.  Yet perhaps the most poignant legacy of Ptolemy is the establishment of mapmaking as an art.  Whereas his predecessors left unexplored regions blank on their maps, Ptolemy filled these blanks with theoretical conceptions, a tradition which later mapmakers followed by inserting fantastic monsters or cannibals to represent unexplored continents such as Africa and the Americas (Tooley 5-8).

With the fall of the Roman Empire, very few advances were made in the science of geography, and it increasingly became an art of mythical speculation.  Ptolemy’s theories dominated until the Renaissance.  The next monumental leap in mapmaking came in 1538, when Mercator published his first map of the world.  Put simply, this map depicted the world as two heart-shaped “pictures” of a globe (one from the northern pole, the other from the southern pole).  Today this type of representation is known as a spherical projection; it is the closest two-dimensional projection of the earth to the ideal globe.  The map soon became the most common depiction of the earth as a whole.  However, an age of exploration was dawning in Europe and his map was largely impractical for navigators.  His later map published in 1569 was the first example of the more practical mercator projection.  This map largely distorted the scale of landmasses as they approached the poles, yet the longitudinal and latitudinal meridians followed a straight-line grid pattern throughout the world. This grid allowed oceanic navigators to chart courses on a map using straight lines rather than curves line, and the map became the most widely used projection for navigating near the equator (James 102-110).

For the next 400 years, the science of mapmaking progressed largely through extensive exploration and advances in technology that gave European cartographers a closer look at areas previously unexplored.  “Islands” such as Florida and India were revealed to be peninsulas, and monsters and cannibals gave way to colonies and new territorial boundaries.  However, geography and the power to map were increasingly used by European colonial powers to assert dominance over much of the world.

 


The Geography of Imperialism and Mapmaking

Creating accurate maps was essential to colonial powers in order to chart trade routes and establish colonies beyond the familiar boundaries of Europe.  Maps also allowed European powers to assess the regions that they controlled and the potential resources contained within them.  Accurate knowledge of geography and the physical boundaries of the earth entailed with it the power to draw political boundaries and thus establish colonial territories.  David Turbull compares European maps with “primitive” Australian aboriginal maps and comes to several poignant conclusions concerning the relationship between the power to map and the power to control:

[T]he real distinguishing characteristic between Western maps is that they are more powerful than aboriginal maps, because they enable forms of association that make possible the building of empires, disciplines like cartography and the concept of land ownership that can be subject to juridical processes. (55)

Turbull also points out the means by which various projections with different spatial distortions might be favored over one another because of the regions that they emphasize.  For instance, in the famous mercator projection, Britain and Europe appear relatively large compare to most of the colonized world.  The use of such means of geographic representation may not be an overt assertion of power, yet its influence on how regions and nations are perceived is undeniable (7-9).  Thus the power to map was crucial to the power of European nations to control much of the world: to map at least in part implies claiming it (Livingstone 24-30).

 


Postcolonialism and “De-Mapping” the Empire

The end of imperialism in the twentieth century left behind an enormous legacy of imposed geography and a myriad of newly independent nations drawn upon the territorial lines of colonialism.  Many contemporary geographers have sought to reestablish geography as an objective science in order to create less biased representations of landscape.  Aviation and satellite technology have allowed us to see our planet on a grand scale, as we never have before (Hanson 145-150).  Likewise, postcolonial theorists have sought to “de-map” nations formerly colonized and thereby shed a landscape imposed upon much of the world by Europe.  Edward Said asserts that the “slow and often bitterly disputed recovery of geographical territory which is at the heart of decolonisation is preceded–as empire had been–by the charting of cultural territory” (252).  Thus, he is asserting that “decolonisation” seeks to shed the political boundaries imposed upon colonies by Europe in favor of a geography that complements the cultural “geography” of nations.  Maps are a representation,and as such, they must be understood in relation to whoseperspectivethey are representing as opposed to simply what (or where) they are representing.

However, Richard Phillips asserts that the evolution of maps does not follow a necessarily linear progression, stating that while newer maps are “generally more crowded, successive maps [are] not necessarily more truthful” (6).  Thus, despite the efforts of geographers, perhaps maps are ultimately inescapable from their condition as a representation of human design and therefore a representation of human bias.  Today technology has given us maps that come perhaps as close as possible to spatial accuracy, yet we still have the power to impose our own will upon this spatial landscape and manipulate its representation to suit biased needs (James 505-510).

 


Works Cited

Hanson, Susan. Ten Geographic Ideas that Changed the World. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1997.

James, Preston E. All Possible Worlds: A History of Geographical Ideas. Indianapolis: Odyssey P, 1972.

Livingstone, David N. The Geographical Tradition: Episodes in the History of a Contested Enterprise. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992.

Oxford English Dictionary. Second Ed. 1989.

Phillips, Richard. Mapping Men and Empire: A Geography of Adventure. London: Routledge, 1997.

Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism. London: Vintage, 1993.

Tooley, R.V. Maps and Map-Makers. London: B.T. Batsford, 1949.

Turnbull, David. Maps are Territories: Science is an Atlas. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987.

 


Suggested Reading

Brotton, Jerry. Trading Territories: Mapping in the Early Modern World. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1998.

Brown, Lloyd A. The Story of Maps. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1949.

Edney, Matthew H. Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India, 1765-1843. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1997.

Kish, George. A Source Book in Geography. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1978.

Mallory, William E. & Paul Simpson-Housely eds. Geography and Literature: A Meeting of the Disciplines. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1987.

Massey, Doreen & John Allen eds. Geography Matters! A Reader. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984.

McClintock, Anne. Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Moreland, Carl & David Bannister. Antique Maps. Oxford: Phaidon, 1986.

Stoddart, D.R. On Geography and its History. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986.

Thrower, Norman J.W. Maps and Man: An Examination of Cartography in Relation to Culture and Civilization. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1972.

Whitfield, Peter. New Found Lands: Maps in the History of Exploration. New York: Routledge, 1998.

The Image of the World: 20 Centuries of World Maps. London: The British Library, 1994.
 

 


Links to Related Sites


Author: Nathan White, Spring 1999.

 
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Ditulis oleh pada Agustus 27, 2008 in cultural studies

 
 
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