The Deleted Vagina
‘The theory of historical materialism has brought to light some important truths. Humanity is not an animal species, it is a historical reality. Human society is an antiphysis – in a sense it is against nature; it does not passively submit to the presence of nature but rather takes over the control of nature on its own behalf. This arrogation is not an inward, subjective operation; it is accomplished objectively in practical action.’
Simone de Beauvoir
I feel a touch sorry for Simone de Beauvoir . . . or at least for the legacy of Beauvoir. The commentariat carousel of plastic-stallion postmodernism has quoted her with gusto, haste, but most of all circular reasoning. She remains often cited, but rarely read.
And by rarely read . . . I should perhaps say hardly read at all. Quick-draw gender idolators lift a single line from the entire corpus of Le Deuxième Sexe in service to their blown-bubble cause.
And actually by quote — I should just say ripped naively out of context with wilful intellectual disingenuousness by people who haven’t actually read her book.
So I don’t so much feel sorry for Beauvoir, but rather a feminist indignation at the wanton and willful application of her complex, paradigm shattering philosophy in service to male short-term memory and total textual-deficit in regards to what she actually wrote.
“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”
“On ne nait pas femme; on le devient.”
A shallow solipsism, as a mealymouthed replacement for Beauvoir’s rigorous phenomenology, loves to throw down such a line of course. Ignoring that the surrounding analysis that frames this passage is written with an emphasis on passivity — “one becomes” rather than “one is becoming” — identarian thrill-seekers instead insist this line initializes an existentialist commandment to just do it!
Be the woman. Redefine realness. You do you.
And once the wicked step-sisters of materiality and dialectics have been dismissed, the glass-slipper becomes a one-size fits all for the happily ever after terms of self-indulgence.
Obviously, trans activists are thrilled at the possibility of nicking some verse from a foundational feminist to serve as an open access license to lay claim that biology doesn’t really factor in womanhood. The “feeling is first” mentality of womanhood can thus banish the corporeality of the body for an abstract discussion of “the female” as an idiosyncrasy of individual desire. Hocus pocus identity locus.
Trans activists will have you think that Beauvoir really implies here the existential sense of is making; as opposed to what she is actually analysing: female reality is an imposed, limiting criteria of is made.
Indeed, she had a very precise material analysis, very much driven by the asymmetrical categorizing of sex as somatic reality. Beauvoir begins with the skin in assessing dominance and control of one group over another. Of the fundamental insufficiency by which women are denied reflexivity and are instead shunted into the margins of fragmented references.
“… FOR MAN REPRESENTS BOTH THE POSITIVE AND THE NEUTRAL . . . . WOMAN REPRESENTS ONLY THE NEGATIVE [LE NÉGATIF], DEFINED BY LIMITING CRITERIA, WITHOUT RECIPROCITY.”
“He is the Subject, the Absolute; she is the Other [il est le Subjet, il est l’Absolu : elle est l’Autre].”
And if one actually reads the preceding context of where the “is made” quote is situated, Beauvoir in fact describes a brutal physicalism, not a romantic idealism:
Beauvoir is a “TERF”, it would seem. But let’s put that demeaning and trite slur aside that reduces decades of feminist writing to a retweetable heckle.
Beauvoir’s classificatory system was simple and immediate: male humans of the species exercising consistent, insistent, and incessant abuse and dominance over human females as a process of imposition and definition based upon physical embodiment.
It’s not that Beauvoir wished to affirm the immutable reality of biology as destiny; she forcefully accuses masculinism of instituting, as an historical project of authority and subjugation, that woman is an afterthought.
And this project’s blueprint of this according to Beauvoir: “Biological considerations are extremely important. In the history of woman they play a part of the first rank and constitute an essential element in her subjugation” (The Second Sex 65). Beauvoir accuses this unchallenged biological predestinationism built according to males who are controlling the teleology of females: “it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine” (SS 295). To “be made” is not agency in any sense! It is an inflicted degradation of femaleness on females, fashioned according to the essentialness of man and the inessentialness of women.
Thus, the absolute core of feminist practice must begin with the liberation for female humans — not by metaphysical escape into ideas and identities but as a confrontation with material control: “Biology is not enough to give us an answer to the question before us: why is the woman other?”
When Beauvoir says that a woman is made, she is referring to the entirety of a project of gender (of ‘femininity’ as a false flag). According to Beauvoir, gender is that mythological archive of all the misdeeds that males have done to females as a compilation account of cruelty and control. Men have always had the power to define themselves independently of women; however, such a self-sufficiency of dominance demands that women are forcibly redefined relationally to the man to account for their erasure and imperfect othersness. Males set the rules, creates the myth, emboldens the patterns. Females exist as contingents to what those parameters requite. So when Beauvoir describes the “myth” of the woman, she is pointing to gender as an exploitative management protocol for treating the female body as a token of exchange for male libidinal economies. She cites Aristotle, the Bible — the ancient classics — as irrefutable evidenced throughout The Second Sex of this one alienating reality:
. . . it has never been a good outcome when non females define women for females; more precisely, when males stipulate the constitution of femaleness for females — on the contrary, the results have been catastrophic and always will be . . .
Indeed, it’s almost as if people born with testes are assigned the dominant class FOR LIFE and people born with ovaries are assigned the subjugated class FOR LIFE.
Very radical? No, very realistic.
Any serious understanding of Beauvoir, and the fundamental critique of feminist analysis, must begin with the systematic violence of imparity between males and females, not as coincidental side effect but as deliberate historical enactment: “she is simply what man decrees” (SS 15).
What men capriciously delineate.
Pioneer 11 was dropped kicked on a trajectory to leave our solar system in 1973; and the male engineers in command of its mission implanted a message on its gold-anodized membrane. The laudable possibility of contact inspired these gentlemen to present, in as a presumably universal semiotics as possible, the story of the human race — of people, our planet, and our place upon it. The result was the Pioneer Plaque, as seen below:
Note the male: foregrounded, penis-bearing, hand raised. And then the woman. Passive, retreating, secondary, following, and … look closely … biologically erased. Her sex. Her physicality. Her partial vanishing before the censoring male gaze.
They deleted her vagina. Her vulva. On purpose.
This is the commandment of masculinism’s ideological empire: deny female reality, blank out femaleness, expunge the content of female self-awaress as a corporeal event of oppression. So really, the Pioneer engineers enacted the ancient patriarchal dictum: man is made in God’s image, and women is made (not born) in the image of man (who is, in the name of the Father, the proxy of God). Just as Beauvoir says that patriarchy does. Pioneer’s deleted vagina … telling off abortion rights groups to STFU for referring to ovaries as female . . . the pattern is obvious to those who suffer because of it.
As Pioneer projects its self-confident asymmetry to the edges of the unknown, the deletable woman is made to inform the universe for those who would encounter its proclamation.
A woman is not born. She is made.
So who makes her?
The patriarchal strategy in which man tells the whole of humanity as an assertion first and foremost fomented in erasure.