Ethnography: Are Women Still the Second Sex?
One Friday night, my fiancé’s best friend convinced us to double date with him and his
girlfriend. While on a double date with the two new lovebirds, I observed a dynamic about
relationships that I had not previously noticed. When we first arrived to
pick up our friends, the male was a complete gentleman. He opened the car door, gave his date a
jacket, and even helped her into the vehicle. When entering the restaurant, he guided her by
hand through the front door, held her jacket when she got warm, and even stood up so she could
have a seat during the long wait. When we were seated at the table, I noticed a very interesting
aspect of their relationship. When the waitress came to the table to take our drink orders, the
male ordered his dates drink without even asking what she wanted. I also noticed that when the
female would try to speak, the male would simply talk over her like was she was saying held no
importance. During appetizers, I tried to address her directly and she just looked down when he
began to answer for her. When I got up to go to the restroom I invited her along and he told her
to hurry back because he would be upset if she wasted her drink.
After ordering and receiving our meals, I noticed that he spoke on behalf of both of them.
Instead of communicating as a couple and deciding on what they wanted to do after dinner, he
respectively stated that they just wanted to go home. When it was time to pay the bill, my fiancé
paid our half, while the female paid theirs. As my fiancé and I walked a bit ahead to get in the
car, we could hear them bickering back in fourth about her embarrassing him for paying in front
of us. While in the car we began a conversation about relationships, love, and sex. I observed the
other couples views as being very different from my fiancé’s and mine. They both viewed
relationships as the male being the dominating force. The female preferred a man who had more
finances and more education, while the man wanted a woman who was completely depended on
him. While talking about infidelity, both had admitted that the male had cheated yet they
remained together because the female loved him so much. When it came to sex both preferred a
male dominating position and agreed that they make love whenever he wants. At the end of the
night I could not stop thinking about the make up of their relationship and its direct connection to
our class and Simone de Beauvior’s article about women.
Beauvior’s article “The Second Sex” introduction chapter entitled, “Woman as Other”
sheds light on a lot of women’s issues of the past and today. While on this double date I could
not help put think about this article. The part that truly sticks in my mind is the idea of a man
standing on his own, while women is defined by what a man is not. Beauvior writes “She is
defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her; she is the
incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential…” (Beauvior 3). This statement
directly relates to the relationship that I observed. The idea of the female standing on her own
is not fathomable. From the beginning of the date, the male fixated on where she stood, how she
sat, and when she entered the room. In today’s world, many women view these acts as chivalry,
when actuality they are a woman existing without a man. Letting him control her every move
and dictating when and how she acts is a prime example a woman as an other.
During the date, I observed the male often spoke over or answered for the female,
indirectly illustrating that he thought her opinion was not of importance.
Beauvior believes that a woman “…cannot think of herself without a man….” (Beauvior 3). The
suggestion that the man has to answer for the woman is demonstrating that he thinks without him
she is unable to form thoughts without him; therefore being unable to exist on her own. When
talking about sex on our date, both the man and woman agreed that male dominating positions
were preferred and while the woman seemed to want a future with the male, he simply was just
interested in the sexual aspect. The idea that he could cheat with various women and still have
her comes to Beauvior’s second point. The idea that a woman is “…simply what man decrees;
thus she is called the sex-absolute sex, no less…He is the Subject, he is the Absolute- she is the
Other” (Beauvior 3). The notion that a woman is just the opposite of a man and not a gender just
an “other” directly relates to the way the male acted towards his date and other woman in
general. He had no respect for their feelings, wants, or needs yet wanted to meet his own wants
Simone de Beauvior’s article still relates to today’s male/female dynamic. Although
many woman are independent financially, society and men still see woman as a second class
citizen. Many times the male perspective on the “other” is masked by what many would see as
chivalrous yet in actuality it’s a illustration of the ideology of Man vs. Other.
Beauvior, de Simone. "from The Second Sex: Woman as Other" 1949. Print