The Second Sex | Study Guide

Simone de Beauvoir

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The Second Sex | Glossary


agnation: (n) patrimonial succession. Inheritance is exclusively through the male line of the family.

alienation: (n) Marxist diction for the worker's estrangement from himself, his work, and his species. Most powerful in Beauvoir's usage is the woman's alienation, an estrangement from her own body recognized as beyond her control.

alterity: (n) usually paired terms that are different, one from the other, in one or more ways, not reciprocal. Derived from the same root as alternative, this relation occurs between paired terms (i.e. male/female) in which opposition is the principle of relation, and one term—male—is subject and individuated, while the other—female—is summarized and objectified.

binarism or binary opposition: (n) an opposing pair. Binarism refers to two terms paired in opposition.

existential morality: (n) in which the subject experiences freedom only by perpetually moving beyond it to other freedoms. The individual justifies his existence in experiencing it as an indefinite need to transcend himself, a commitment to moving beyond selfish concerns to a larger world.

existentialism: (n) begins with the premise that existence precedes essence. Existence is a process which consists of forever bringing people into being.

immanence: (n) in existentialist thought, a mode of being attributed to the inwardness of the woman. Woman, constricted by nature and nurture by the biology of reproduction and a masculine culture that sees her as less able to tackle worldly things, exists primarily within the body's boundaries, concerned with self-image, sexuality, and maternity.

mutilated: (adj) used in this text to describe the objectified woman. This refers to the woman who has been reduced to feminine reproductive anatomy, stripped of her individuality, and the elements of her being that make her "whole."

phenomenology: (n) study of awareness or consciousness of experience from a first-person point of view

reciprocity: (n) in existential thought, the ability to engage difference. Women respond, for example, to the paired term "male/female" by entertaining, in conciliatory fashion, the specifically individual differences among the sexes.

sublimation: (n) an unconscious conversion of sexual energy. Sublimation is the substitution of an acceptable and creative act (art, music, etc.) for an impulsive and likely sexually inappropriate one.

transcendence: (n) the moral position in existentialist thought. The individual subject, the existent, operates outside of pure self-interest, looking outside the self, functioning for the benefit of humankind.

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