Throughout history, women have had the misfortune of being labeled as “the other” to men. According to many philosophers, women are the second sex. This idea of women as the second sex is fueled by the notion that the feminine is a mistake, and that masculinity is the correct approach to life. This idea has even been given a new name recently: androcentrism. Androcentrism is a new kind of sexism that, rather than just favoring men over women, favors masculinity over feminist universally. This new term perfectly sums up what many philosophers have touted during this course: women are the second sex, and masculinity is the norm. These ideas can be spotted in the rhetoric of Freud, Gilligan, Aristotle, Schopenhauer, The Bible, and even de Beauvoir. However, how masculinity and femininity are defined affect both men and women negatively, and I believe the idea of women as a second sex that has been popularized by the patriarchy is oppressing both men and women.
The term androcentrism was recently coined by The Society Pages, a website that documents sociological trends. The article, written by Lisa Wade (a professor at Occidental College) is extremely brief. The point is one that doesn’t need much explanation: it’s acceptable for women to act like men, because being a boy is good. For a boy to look like or act like a girl, however, is degrading. Being a woman is seen as degrading. Wade provides about ten examples that prove this idea. Among them, articles about people using derivations of female descriptors as insults (sissy, for example), or articles that inflate the importance of doing things “like a dude”: in short, do everything you can to not be feminine. The problem of course, as Wade points out, is that women are both required to do femininity and simultaneously punished for it. The idea of women as the second sex began early in human history, with the philosophy of Aristotle. Aristotle has a belief in dualities in nature; that is, his philosophy holds that in the universe there are several sets of complimentary principles. For each of these sets, one principle cannot exist without the other, and in the absence of one the other must be true. For example, if something is not female, according to Aristotle, it is male. In “On the Generation of Animals”, Aristotle describes what principles he believes are more masculine, and which are more feminine.
The principle of movement and generation is given to men, regarded as a masculine quality. This sets the stage for the rest of Aristotle’s passage, which focuses on the importance of the masculine and the miniscule importance of the feminine. Aristotle even regards the heavens as being masculine. (23) The masculine is that which generates all life, while the feminine is observed by Aristotle as being a secondary aid to the creation of life. It is easy to see in Aristotle’s composition that he views women as a secondary being to men, even from the...