Why do Mexican men like white women
"The opposite sex"
In 1976 Alice Schwarzer, the most prominent representative of the second women's movement in West Germany, interviewed Simone de Beauvoir. Between 1972 and 1982 the journalist had a total of five conversations with the philosopher. In this conversation, Beauvoir tells, among other things, of the reactions to "The opposite sex" and their activities in the women's movement.
is a journalist, essayist and publicist. She is the founder and editor of the magazine "Emma". aliceschwarzer.de
Alice Schwarzer: It was only four years ago that you declared for the first time that you were a feminist. You, the theorist who most decisively influenced the new feminism, you were an anti-feminist until the beginning of the new women's movement. In other words, you were against an autonomous women's movement and believed in a socialist revolution and the one that followed automatic Solution to the women's question. A lot has happened since then. You yourself are active in the women's movement, and the women's struggle has entered the public eye. The so-called year of the woman seems to me to have been symptomatic. What do you mean?
Simone de Beauvoir - We feminists have often said what we think of it. They made us fools and humiliated us. Coming soon is the year of the sea, then the year of the horse, the dog and so on ... That means that women are considered objects that in this man's world are not worth taking seriously for more than a year. We are half of humanity. So it is utterly grotesque to think of one Year of the woman to speak. Every year should be a year for women, years for people in general ...
But don't you still think that - contrary to the original intention of the initiators - the open cynicism with which most men celebrated the year of women has outraged many women and thereby ultimately strengthened the women's struggle?
- I think that this is not due to the year of the woman, but to the efforts of the women's movement. So the unorganized, unofficial women. The Year of the Woman was first made because there was already a women's movement. To capture this movement, so to speak. To smooth things over. The year itself didn't get us any further. Women in Mexico were nothing more than puppets of men's politics. What was most evident in the conflict between the representatives of Israel and those of the Arab countries. Some are as patriarchal as the others, and Islam is certainly even more so than Judaism.
Alice Schwarzer and Simone de Beauvoir filming in 1973 (& copy Alice Schwarzer)Couldn't it be said that despite all this, the woman also benefited from something this year?
- Certainly. Basically, it can be said that even very pathetic reform measures always bring something, but are also dangerous. The best example is the new French abortion law. This is a totally inadequate measure that was only taken in response to our struggle. [In France, abortion was permitted for the first ten weeks in 1975. AS.] This is what Mr Giscard d'Estaing did, who wants to do things in a modern way, that is, does not attack actual privileges, but only scratches a few taboos. Well. So this is a measure that on the one hand does not change anything fundamentally. It is perfectly compatible with a capitalist and patriarchal world (the best evidence for this is that free abortion also exists in Japan and the USA). But such a reform should not be underestimated. It eases many acute problems for women and is also a start. Just like the pill it was. But just like the pill, which endangers women's health and increasingly forces women to take sole responsibility for contraception, free abortion can also become a boomerang. A counterattack by men must be expected in a man-ruled world. They are going to use it to turn it into an additional suppression. You will say. "Now that there is no longer any danger, you can let me pass. All you have to do is have an abortion ..."
In 1971 you were one of the women who publicly accused yourself of having an abortion. Since then you have taken part in a number of feminist initiatives and actions. What are your relationships with young feminists like?
- These are more like contacts with individual women who are personally and politically close to me, less with groups or tendencies. I work with them on precise projects. In other words, I am less of a militant in the narrower sense - I am no longer 30, but 67 and an intellectual whose deed is the word - but rather follow the activities of the women's movement at close quarters and be available to it. At "Les Temps Modernes" we regularly do a page together about "everyday sexism". I also act as president of the League for Women's Rights, and I support attempts to build houses for beaten women. I think that's particularly important, because the problem of violence affects almost all women - regardless of their class. It's like abortion, it goes through all classes. Women are beaten by husbands who are judges as well as husbands who are unskilled workers. We have now set up an "SOS of the beaten women". And we're trying to get houses to help such a woman and her children, at least temporarily. Those who can no longer go home because they are beaten there - often to death. After much back and forth, we are now getting a house near Paris from the municipality ...
Feminists have learned a lot from you as theoretician, Simone. Have you also learned something from us?
- Yes! Very much! You have radicalized me in many of my views! I, I was used to living in this world where men are what they are: namely, oppressors. I don't even think I suffered too much from it myself. I've escaped most of the typical female slave labor, never been a mother and never a housewife. And professionally I was one of the privileged, because in my time there were even fewer women who were teachers of philosophy. There you were recognized by the men too. I was an exceptional woman, and - I accepted it. Today feminists refuse to be alibi women. And you are right! One has to fight! Most of all, what they taught me is vigilance. Don't let anything go! Not even the most mundane things, that everyday sexism we're so used to. It starts with the language.
"The opposite sex", which is the "Bible" of feminism, so to speak (over a million copies sold in America alone), was originally a pure one intellectual and theoretical Work, not polemic. How were the reactions when it came out in 1949?
- Very intense! Very much against me! Very, very hostile!
From which side?
- From all sides. Maybe we were a little clumsy too. We published the chapter on sexuality in "Les Temps Modernes" even before the book was published. That may have caused a storm! Of a vulgarity ... Mauriac, for example, promptly wrote to a friend who works with us at "Les Temps Modernes": "Oh, I just learned a lot about your boss's vagina while reading it ..." and Camus, who was still at the time was a friend, said: "You have made a fool of the French man!" I've seen professors throw the book across the classroom because they couldn't bear to read it, and when I went to the restaurant, dressed as always - more "feminine", as is my way - then People looked and whispered: "Aha, that's her ... I thought that ... So she will be both ..." I had a juicy reputation as a lesbian at the time. That's the way it is: a woman who dares to say such things cannot be "normal". The communists also beat me up, scolded me as "bourgeois" and claimed: "The workers in Billancourt don't care what you say." - What was wrong! So I had neither the right nor the left.
Some have even gone so far as to say that it was not you but Sartre who wrote your books. And in any case, for public opinion - which is male-dominated - you have always remained the "relative essence" that you have analyzed in the "opposite sex". That means that you have remained the woman who does not exist herself but only in relation to the man, namely: "Sartre's partner". To call Sartre the "life companion of Beauvoir" - unthinkable!
- Exactly. In France especially, they were completely unleashed. It was better abroad. A foreigner is easier to tolerate. That is far away and therefore less threatening.
The relationship between the left and feminists has not improved. On the contrary. I would even say it got worse. Most comrades have internalized their "superiority complex" to such an extent (as you yourself once called it) that they generally defame the feminists, who have always seen themselves as part of the left, as "bourgeois" or "reactionary". The gender contradiction is only a "secondary contradiction", it is said, and divides the class struggle, the "main contradiction".
- The poor darlings, they can hardly do otherwise. Pashas are comrades too. They have that in their blood ... That is also one of the great tricks of men, the one with the secondary contradiction. The woman / man contradiction is just as essential as any other. After all, half of humanity stands against the other half. Both gender and class contradiction are important. It is very complex and the women's movement has to find a link between the two. Basically it can also be said that the idea of the priority of the class struggle in general is increasingly questionable, also for the left. There are so many revolutionary struggles today that go beyond the scope of the class struggle. The struggle of the guest workers, for example, the struggle for autonomy in the regions, the youth movement and the struggle of the soldiers in the French barracks. The women's fight has a special place here. He goes through all classes. Sure, the oppression of women takes different forms depending on the class. There are women who are victims on both sides: as a worker in the factory and as the wife of a worker in the kitchen. Others suffer only one of these oppressions: namely as wives and mothers. But even the non-working wife of a bourgeois man is not privileged like him: She ends up in the proletariat very quickly if her husband leaves her. Then she stands there with no job, no qualifications, no money of her own ... Denying that is a man's trick that men use to negotiate the fights among themselves; because class struggles are struggles between men! The women, the sweethearts, are only allowed to help out once in a while. Then they are sent back to the kitchen.
In your opinion, is the situation of women in socialist countries the same, better or worse?
- First of all, it must be said that the socialist countries are not really socialist: nowhere has the socialism of which Marx dreamed has been realized. The relations of production have been changed. Today we know that changing the relations of production is not enough to really change society and people. As a result, despite the different economic system, the traditional man-woman roles are retained. But I do not think that the situation of women in the socialist countries is worse. On the contrary. The women there are more respected and also respect themselves more. Because they work 95 percent outside the home and despise all women who don't. So you are economically independent and have more relief when it comes to marriage, divorce or illegitimate children. As working women, they are exposed to much more interesting areas. But they still have the so-called female tasks under their belts. For example, a female manager in Russia has to queue after her job to go shopping to get food for her husband and children. The women in the socialist countries are therefore more tired - even more tired - than the women in the capitalist countries, but they are valued more. You have the right to certain "male" privileges - not all - and retain all "female" duties.
Do you believe in the need for a women's movement in the socialist countries?
- O yes! But whether that's possible ... I don't know. I think that would be very, very badly received in the socialist countries, where power is also in male hands.
Let's come back briefly to the reactions to your work. I know that for 30 years you have received letters from women all over the world every day. For many women you, Simone, were an idol before the new collective women's struggle existed, and you remain the embodiment of our revolt. Which, by the way, certainly not only has to do with your very profound and extensive theoretical analysis, but also with your autobiographical novels, which showed you as a woman who dares to exist. - My question: Have you learned anything from the numerous women's reactions?
- I understood the immeasurable extent of the oppression! There are women who are actually imprisoned! And that's not uncommon! They write to me secretly before the husband comes home ... The most interesting letters come from women between 35 and 45 who got married, thought it was very nice and are now betrayed and sold ... They ask me: "What can I do? I have not even a job. I have nothing. I am nothing. " At 18/20 you marry for love, and then you wake up at 30 - and getting out of there is very, very difficult. That could have happened to myself, that's why I'm so receptive to it.
Advice is always very tricky, but when a woman asks you ...
- I believe a woman should beware of the trap of motherhood and marriage! Even if she would like to have a child, she must think carefully about the circumstances under which she would have to raise it: motherhood today is true slavery. Fathers and society leave women pretty much alone with responsibility for their children. It is women who skip when there is a toddler. Women take vacation when the child has measles. Women have to rush because there aren't enough cribs ... And if women still want a child, they should have it without getting married. Because marriage is the biggest trap.
But what if women are already married or mothers?
- In the interview with you four years ago I said that a housewife of 35 was more or less lost. Then I received a lot of very likeable letters in which women wrote to me: "But that's not true at all! We can still defend ourselves very well!" - All the better. But in any case they would have to try to find a paid job in order to have at least a certain degree of autonomy and independence.
And the housework? What about it? Should women refuse to do more than men in household chores and child-rearing?
- Yes. But that's not enough. We have to find other forms for the future. Housework must no longer be done by women alone, but must be done by everyone. And very important! - she has to get out of the isolation! By this I do not mean a socialization of the work of the style as it was practiced in the USSR at a certain time: namely, special troops who then did the work. That seems to me to be very dangerous, because the result is an even sharper division of labor. Then there are people who sweep or iron for their entire life. That is no solution. What I find very good, however, is what seems to exist in some areas of China, where all people - men, women, even children - get together on a certain day and make housework a public cause that can be funny. For example, everyone washing or cleaning together at a certain hour. There is no activity that is inherently degrading. All activities are equivalent. It is the entirety of the workconditionsthat is demeaning, cleaning windows, why not? That’s worth as much as typing a typewriter.The conditions under which you clean windows are humiliating: loneliness, boredom, unproductivity, non-integration into the collective. That's what's bad! And also this division of labor inside / outside. Everything should be outside, so to speak!
There are currents in the women's movement that - like voices in political parties, by the way - demand wages for housewives ...
- I'm totally against it! Understood! Well, maybe housewives who, because of their age, have no other option, would be content to get a wage. But in the long run that would mean empowering women to believe that being a housewife is a job, an acceptable way of life. But exactly that, this condemnation of women into the housewives and mother ghetto, this male-female division of labor from outside and inside, women have to reject that if they want to become full human beings!
Some women argue that the demand "wages for housework" creates an awareness of the value of housework
- I Agree! But in my opinion this is not how it is achieved! It is the terms of housework that need to be changed. As it works now, this value is so linked to the conditions with the housewives ghetto that a reward would change some things, but nothing fundamental. The housework must be shared with the men, and it must no longer be done in isolation, privately, but rather in public. It has to be integrated in communities, in collectives, where everyone works together. The family ghetto must be blown up!
You yourself, Simone, have solved the problem individually. You have no children and you do not live with Sartre, which means you have never done housework for a family or a husband. You have been attacked many times for your attitude towards motherhood - including by women. They accuse you of opposing motherhood.
- Oh no! I do not mind! I have something against the ideology that requires all women to be mothers and the circumstances in which women have to be mothers. Motherhood is a nasty trap for women today. For this reason, I would advise a young woman not to become a mother. There is also a terrible mystification of the mother-child relationship. If people care so much about family and children, it is because they all live in such solitude. They have no love, no tenderness, no friends, no one. They are alone. So they make children to have someone. And that's horrible. For the child too. You make an emergency stopper out of it to fill the void. The child goes away as soon as it grows up. It is no guarantee against loneliness at all.
You have often been asked: Do you regret not having a child today?
- Oh no! I congratulate myself every day! When I see the grandmothers who - instead of finally having a little time for themselves - have to take care of small children ... It doesn't always make them happy ...
Another question: In your opinion, what role does sexuality, as it works today, play in the oppression of women?
- I think that sexuality can be a pretty terrible trap. Not just for the women who are made frigid - because that may not even be the worst for themselves. Worst of all, it is for the women who are unfortunate enough to find sexuality with men so exhilarating that they are more or less become dependent on men. This bondage can be an additional link in the chain that ties women to men.
If I understand you correctly, does frigidity in power-impotence relationships between men and women seem to you to be a more cautious and appropriate response for women, because it reflects the impotence and discomfort of women and makes women less dependent?
There are women in the women's movement who refuse to share their private life with men in this male-dominated world, i.e. who do not have sexual and emotional relationships with men. That is, these women turn female homosexuality into a political strategy. What do you make of it?
- I understand very well this political rejection of a compromise. Exactly for the reason I just mentioned. Because love can be a trap that makes women accept a lot. In the name of love women are humiliated and exploited and allow themselves to be exploited. But in itself exclusive homosexuality is just as restrictive as heterosexuality. The ideal would be to be able to love a woman as well as a man, simply a human being. Without fear, without constraints, without obligations. But as it stands today, I understand very well the great mistrust which, for some women, has resulted in homosexuality. Mistrust of the man, but also of himself - because in the relationship between woman and man not only is the man a chauvinist and oppressor, but the woman too often falls into the masochistic female role.
You made the famous sentence: "You are not born a woman, you are made into it." Today this "fabrication" of the sexes can be proven. The result is that women and men are very different: they think differently, feel differently, walk differently ... But this difference is not just a difference, it includes the inferiority of women. The so-called "masculine" qualities are not accidentally those of the ruling sex, and the "feminine" are not accidentally those of the ruled, for they are easier to exploit. In this context it is significant that a new mystification of the Eternal Feminine is heralding.
- There are certainly "feminine" qualities. For example, I think women miss certain masculine defects. So the masculine grotesque - the way of taking yourself seriously, being vain, taking yourself seriously, and so on. That said, women who make careers for men are very good at accepting these mistakes as well. But they still have a little bit of humor, a healthy distance from these hierarchies. And then the way of crushing competitors - women generally don't. Plus, they have more patience - which is a quality up to a point, then becomes a failure after that. And irony. And a very concrete way, because women are rooted in everyday life because of their role. So these "feminine" qualities are not innate, but result from our oppression. But we could keep it after a liberation - and men would have to learn it. But you shouldn't go to the other extreme: say that the woman has a special connection to the earth, has the rhythm of the moon and the ebb and flow in her blood and all that stuff ... She has more soul, is naturally less destructive, etc. No! There is something to it, but that is not our nature, it is the result of our living conditions. The so "feminine" little girls are fabricated and not born! Numerous studies prove it! A woman has no special value a priori just because she is a woman! That would be dark biologism and is in stark contrast to everything I think.
And what does this call for "femininity" mean?
- When we are told "Always be a beautiful woman. Leave all these annoying things to us: power, honor, careers ... Be satisfied that you are like this: earthly, concerned with human tasks ..." If we are told that, we should get up be the hat! On the one hand, it is correct that women are no longer ashamed of their bodies, their pregnancy and their period. Right, that they get to know their bodies, for example in the "self help" groups, which I think are excellent. All of this is very good. But you shouldn't make it worth it, don't believe that the female body gives you a new vision of the world. That is ridiculous and absurd. That would mean making a counter-penis out of it. Women who believe this fall back into the irrational, the mystical, the cosmic. They play the game of men - because that way they will be better suppressed, better kept away from knowledge and power. The eternally feminine is a lie, because nature plays a very minor role in the development of a person, we are social beings. In addition, since I do not think that women are by nature inferior to men, I also do not think that they are by nature superior to him.
The interview was first published in "Spiegel" on April 5, 1976 and is reprinted here with the kind permission of Alice Schwarzer.
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