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 What Is a Woman?

            Defined by the dictionary, a woman
is an adult female person, a wife, the female human being, as distinguished
from a girl or man, and is referred to an adult human being who is biologically
female; that is, capable of bearing offspring. 1
However, when I think of what is a woman, I think of myself and all the woman
that surround my everyday life. Being a woman is deeper than biology and body
parts, being a woman is to be put inside boxes and stereotypes and still manage
to defeat odds, not because women are inferior but because still in today’s
society there are political, social, and economic factors that differentiate
both sexes. In terms of the political aspect, there are fewer women in the
position of power vs men, social aspects include traditional roles, and
economically speaking the average woman still makes less than a man. Being a
woman is having to endure all these limits, and still want to bring a life into
the world, and bear a child for nine months. To me, being a woman is to be
strong, powerful, and capable.

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We live in a world where inequalities of race and gender
co-exist within wealth, income, and occupation between men and women, and
people of color.2
The premise of the American culture results in women being treated unequal to
men, because we are seen as the ‘incidental’ being.3
Women have never had the same equal shares as a man – in a workplace, political
office or in society itself. Years ago, a woman’s job was to be a housewife, as
they cooked, cleaned, and didn’t have an actual job where they got paid for. Nowadays,
we see a handful of women fighting for their rights to be heard, whether it be protesting,
or spreading awareness about being a feminist. Women in the 21st
century are getting their voices heard.

Simone De Beauvoir, a philosopher, political activist, and
leading feminist, published The Second
Sex, which focuses on what it is to be a woman and how women are seen as
the “other” gender, while men are portrayed to be the first sex.4
As a woman herself, she explores the reality of both sexes and the experiences
that women face. She also highlights the “obstacles and the way toward woman’s liberation
and existential fulfillment.” 5
As females, and having the power of being a woman, we encounter many problems that
relate to our gender. De Beauvoir depicts this issue as she first compares
being a woman to different races. “The whole of feminine history has been man-made.

Just as in America there is no Negro problem, but rather a white problem; just
as anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem, it is our problem; so, the woman
problem has always been a man problem.”6
She draws a similarity between women and oppressed classes of society because
she wants to recognize that a woman is not
a minority.  We make up half the
world’s human population, and De Beauvoir uses the term “lower caste” to
emphasize the quality of the female subordination.

Our political and economic situations between men
and women are completely different. Simone De Beauvoir points out a very strong
point where she says, “and even today woman is heavily handicapped, though her
situation is beginning to change.” 7
As women, we have very few rights, compared to men where they have a variety of
privileges, and because of this we are forced to depend on a man. She makes the
comparison of handicaps, to then translate into a social subservience when she
says, “since she is anyway doomed to dependence, she will prefer to serve a god
rather than obey tyrants… She chooses to desire her enslavement so ardently
that it will seem to her the expression of her liberty.”8
De Beauvoir states the obvious of what it is to be women in our society. We
have no other option but to depend on a man because our economic and political
shares will never be the same. We live in a society where we are forced to

1
“Woman.” Dictionary.com

2 Emmanuel College –
Intranet for Students, Staff and Faculty.

3 De Beauvoir,
Simone. “The Second Sex.” In World
Ethics, 302-08. Wanda Torres, Gregory & Donna Giancola.

4 De Beauvoir,
Simone. “The Second Sex.” In World
Ethics, 302-08. Wanda Torres, Gregory & Donna Giancola.

5 De Beauvoir,
Simone. “The Second Sex.” In World
Ethics, 302-08. Wanda Torres, Gregory & Donna Giancola.

6 De Beauvoir,
Simone. “The Second Sex.” In World
Ethics, 302-08. Wanda Torres, Gregory & Donna Giancola.

7 De Beauvoir,
Simone. “The Second Sex.” In World
Ethics, 302-08. Wanda Torres, Gregory & Donna Giancola.

8 De Beauvoir,
Simone. “The Second Sex.” In World
Ethics, 302-08. Wanda Torres, Gregory & Donna Giancola.

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