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One is born a woman

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One is born a woman

For as long as humanity has existed, or anthropologically speaking Homo Sapien Sapien, it is intuitive to accept male and female must also exist. Anatomically it is apparent the human species is not asexual, and thus the different sexes must necessarily serve some purpose. Strictly speaking that purpose would be procreative, barring all notions of interpersonal communication bringing such emotions as love, happiness and belonging. In a scientific Darwinian fashion two sexes are necessary not only to perpetuate the species, but also to negate a "monoculture" of sorts and create the crucial adaptability needed to survive. However, it doesn't take science to explain, or solidify, the existence of two sexes; rather it is physically evident that two sexes exist - male and female. Yet the natural notion of two sexes which is taken as a given in recent years has come under scrutiny. In the school of Social Constructionist thought the pervading idea is, all perceived relations between the individual and the external world are a product of the social milieu. Monique Wittig argues dogmatically this very ideal in her essay One Is Not Born A Woman. Wittig is a Material Feminist; consequently she analyzes the definition of what a woman is, and tries to move away from the notion of naturalness in women. She concedes there is no naturalness in male or female, rather the notion of sex is a gross misrepresentation created by the social milieu. Subsequently she argues for a type of class uprising to free "women" from this oppressive label, and likens it to the Marxist idea of the proletariat rebellion against the bourgeois class. Wittig in her reasoning pushes the limits of what can be conceivable and thus becomes absurd in her conclusion, there is nothing natural to a woman - even sex. By virtue of her absurdity Wittig's paper faces a conceptual problem, and has an inherent personal bias that has affected the forcefulness of the paper.

Before any elucidation as to the exact argument Wittig sets forth a distinction must first be made clear. According to Wittig there is a fundamental problem between "woman" and "women." "Woman" is a myth, and is consequently the product of a social construction where economic, political and ideological forces are at work. These numerous factors create the category "woman" and thus affect the minds and psyches of "women." The label creates a sense of totality that negates the individualistic nature of the "women." There is a process of socialization which individuals go through; from the moment a child is born there are numerous social influences placed on the child. Historically boys are taught to be aggressive and girls to be passive. Even in the earlier part of this century there was the conception "women" had a particular place in the household and workplace. Thus Wittig wants to argue "woman" is a mythic social construction, creating an oppressive category which the individual "women" has no room to maneuver in the social totality of "woman." To further illustrate how the category of "woman" has been created she offers the example of black slavery as explained by Colette Guillaumin. Before the oppression of blacks the concept of race did not exist, but ever since the oppression race has been taken as a given. What the argument aims to do is show how physical features get re-interpreted by society, thus a construction is made. Hence the myth "woman." In this way the notion of "woman" is an interpretation created by the heterosexual and patriarchal norms which rule society; the same way black identity had been defined through the prejudice eyes of the white man. Furthermore, lesbian society destroys the belief there is a natural group "woman." A lesbian is considered neither man nor woman, and thus "? reveals that the division from men which women have been the object is a political one and shows how [women] have ideologically been rebuilt into a natural group (Course Kit p. 68)." There is a fundamental assumption built into Wittig's reasoning here. Provided there is something natural to man and woman, this would necessarily exclude lesbianism. That is if men and women have natural roles, heterosexuality being normal because of two sexes in the species, then lesbianism should not occur since it would be unnatural. Lesbians are beyond the categories of sex (man and woman). Since what defines a "woman" is a conceptual relation to a man, lesbians are free from this dependence due to their lifestyle of rejecting heterosexual norms. Thus, if a woman chooses to live, love and sleep with another woman this intuitively contradicts any notion of naturalness. Because of this reasoning Wittig is lead to her assertion "woman" is an ideological group and not a natural one. Consequently the problem is a creation of the patriarchal and heterosexual norms which pervade the social milieu, and function to oppress "women." In order to combat the oppression Wittig wants a class uprising to take place, that is for "women" to realize the patriarchal despotism and rise up in revolt to it. The individual woman must first become aware she is the object of an oppressive male category; thereupon she can function as an individual within the category to crush the controlling social norms. "Once the class "men" disappears, "women" as a class will disappear as well, for there are no slaves without masters (Beta p. 70)." Hence there must be an individual awakening which contributes to the creation of class consciousness, so when change takes place ideological transformation will occur as well.

To this point there has been a discussion of the basic arguments Wittig sets forth in trying to establish sex as being a categorical and unnatural distinction. There is a large conceptual problem with the assertion there is nothing natural, even sex. She wants to argue there is no biological basis, rather everything is a social construction. Yet her logic is puzzling. If indeed sex is a social construction there must necessarily be some sort of base. By this it is meant something cannot be created from nothing. For example, if a contractor wishes to build a house, ...

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