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“The Second Sex” by De Beauvoir and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman

Within the framework of this entry, the task was set to formulate an attitude towards one of the specific aspects of inclusion and exclusion from cultural discourse in American society. The decision was made to focus on the gender aspect of cultural integration as one of the most basic. The treatment of women in America and the world is a topic that will always remain relevant. Firstly, the reason for this is the inexhaustible problematics and inconsistency of the topic itself, which can be approached from different angles, from liberal to ultra-conservative. Secondly, the aspect of the liberation of women and the interpretation of their enslavement can be interpreted in different ways. Considering two key feminist texts, it becomes possible to reflect on how relevant the approaches to the topic expressed in them are now.

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The introduction to the classic feminist opus of the 20th century, The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, deserves attention as demonstrating a critical approach to the social definition of the female sex. Beauvoir turns out to be a strict and sarcastic critic of the position of a woman in society, calling her primarily a uterus for giving birth to children. A woman turns out to be closed in her social role, and in order to break out of it requires recognition, which in fact, turns out to be masculine.

The desire for gender equality seeks to erase the difference between the sexes – de Beauvoir reminds the reader that it exists and should be valued by a woman herself in the first place. The oppression of one sex by the other occurs because of the implicit correctness of the man, in which the woman represents an assembly of the negative and defective, as opposed to the positive male (de Beauvoir, 1949). The woman occupies the position of the Other in the sexual dichotomy – that is, the marginalized element necessary to constitute the opposition. Beauvoir points out the unfairness of this humiliating understatement by saying that women are not in the minority – the masculine-centric discourse of society convinces them of this.

Another important feminist text that uses literary form to express ideas is the famous short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The work is written in the format of the diary of a married woman who fell into postpartum depression. Her husband, a doctor, puts together a special treatment regimen for her – in which she is not allowed to think, walk or express herself, and all that remains for her is to go crazy looking at the wallpaper in a locked room. This work depicts the neglect with which, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, they treated women and their mental state. The main character’s husband, John, is a physicist and his treatment for his wife is to keep her hysteria at bay.

However, Gilman makes it clear that the suffering and insanity of the heroine are caused precisely by the way John treats her. The restriction of mental activity, the ban on keeping a diary, and the inability to express oneself are clear examples of patriarchal oppression. However, this behavior is perceived by John as rational and necessary (Gilman, 1892). From this, one can conclude about the lower social role that a woman plays in a traditional society. The role of a woman in “Yellow Wallpaper” is indeed reduced to a mother bearing children. The main character cannot even see her child being isolated from society in the name of treatment.

Thus, both described texts demonstrate the role of a woman as belittled in relation to the patriarchal male figure. A woman is perceived as implicitly wrong, embodying shortcomings and negative aspects. The result of such an attitude is neglect that deforms the personality of a woman, which can cripple her psyche or make her release from oppression threatening the man himself. The trauma of the process of gaining selfhood for a woman points to an unbalanced social order.

References

De Beauvoir, S. (1949). The second sex: Author’s introduction. San Jose State University. Web.

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Gilman, C. P. (1892). The yellow wallpaper. National Library of Medicine. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "“The Second Sex” by De Beauvoir and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman." January 4, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/the-second-sex-by-de-beauvoir-and-the-yellow-wallpaper-by-gilman/.

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StudyCorgi. 2023. "“The Second Sex” by De Beauvoir and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman." January 4, 2023. https://studycorgi.com/the-second-sex-by-de-beauvoir-and-the-yellow-wallpaper-by-gilman/.

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StudyCorgi. (2023) '“The Second Sex” by De Beauvoir and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Gilman'. 4 January.

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