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What is a Woman

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 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 philosophical imagination? Is a rustling petticoat enough to bring it down to earth? - Simone de Beauvoir


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.
the reality), however, give them their own individual spaces rather than tying them to a trans-historical universal characteristic.

Hence, acknowledge that different social identities exist (thats

Some Questions to ponder

Why are scientists generally men? If science is, at all, about

intelligence why are women not so intelligent?

Why Power has always been embedded in Men? Why female actors paid less that male actors? Women account for only 3% of the CEOs at the helm of the

biggest 500 U.S. companies (2010). Why did we celebrate Indra Nooyi CEO status so much?

Why differential wage rates at all levels in labour market?

Is human anatomy so important

Are women what they are because of their body?

[Aristotle said: The female is a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities we should regard the female nature as afflicted with a natural defectiveness] arguing as to why should womens subjectivity be tied to their bodies and not mens. Both have glands; both secrete hormones. in relation to men (often secondary; without any autonomy).

Simone de Beauvoir presents a scathing critique by

Humanity becomes male and women are represented

Biological or Sociological ?

Sex is biological ascribed Gender is social achieved Margaret Mead s work (1935, Sex and Temperament in Three

Primitive Societies); the concepts of gender were cultural; vary across different environments.

1940s and 1950s the biological based views dominated Sex Role Theory

Role theory brought out the relation between society and

the individual.

Had been critiiqued

These critiques led to emergence of gender as a concept Naturalism to social constructionism (natural

precedes the social)


Social authority creates 'culturally appropriate' forms of male and female behaviour
Sexual and economic institutions interact. (Interesting to look at works of Marcuse).

There is a definite process through which the interaction of institutions and individuals happen
Gender boundaries are drawn with certain political, economic and social functions.

Boundaries have been drawn and redrawn over centuries (Think of those historical moments)


Political issues of concern - how women continued to be

excluded from formal political activity; what was the different style of political action of women (as compared to other marginalized groups - think about women saints as revolutionaries; prostitutes as rebels; also think about how they were sought to be controlled). of time and labour has differential value based on sex.

In economics the question raised is why similar amount

Some Comparison


Package ($) 10.7 million Male



Indra Nooyi


CEO (Pepsi Co)

CEO (McDonald's) 20 million

James Skinner

-----------------------------------------------------------Lynn Laverty 1.5 million 18.6 million Female Male CEO (Sunoco's) CEO (Tesoro)