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He is the Subject, he is the Absolute—she is the Other,”

Simone de Beauvoir's provocative declaration, “He is the Subject, he is the Absolute—she is the Other,”
 We create risk when we endanger something we value, 

Feminist Perspectives on the Self

First published Mon Jun 28, 1999; substantive revision Mon Jul 6, 2015
The topic of the self has long been salient in feminist philosophy, for it is pivotal to questions about personal identity, the body, sociality, and agency that feminism must address. Simone de Beauvoir's provocative declaration, “He is the Subject, he is the Absolute—she is the Other,” signals the central importance of the self for feminism.

To be the Other is to be the non-subject, the non-person, the non-agent—in short, the mere body. In law, in customary practice, and in cultural stereotypes, women's selfhood has been systematically subordinated, diminished, and belittled, when it has not been outright denied.

Throughout history, women have been identified either as pale reflections of men or as their opposite, characterized through perceived differences from men and subordinated as a result of them; in both cases, women have been denigrated on the basis of these views.

Since women have been cast as lesser forms of the masculine individual, the paradigm of the self that has gained ascendancy in U.S. popular culture and in Western philosophy is derived from the experience of the predominantly white and heterosexual, mostly economically advantaged men who have wielded social, economic, and political power and who have dominated the arts, literature, the media, and scholarship.

As a result, feminists have not merely perceived the self as a metaphysical issue but have also drawn attention to its ethical, epistemological, social, and political imbrication..

Modern philosophy in the West championed the individual. Extending into contemporary moral and political thought is this idea that the self is a free, rational chooser and actor—an autonomous agent. .
Modern Western philosophy's regnant conceptions of the self minimize the personal and ethical import of unchosen circumstances and interpersonal relationships. They eclipse family, friendship, passionate love, and community, and they reinforce a modern binary that divides the social sphere into autonomous agents and their dependents.

While women are no longer classified as defective selves, the caregiving responsibilities that once defined their status as dependents on male heads of households continue to place a special burden on women for labor that is devalued in society.

 Prevailing conceptions of the self ignore the multiple, sometimes fractious sources of social identity constituted at the intersections of one's gender, sexual orientation, race, class, age, ethnicity, and so forth.

Structural domination and subordination are thought not to penetrate the “inner citadel” of selfhood. Likewise, these conceptions deny the complexity of the dynamic, intrapsychic world of unconscious fantasies, fears, and desires, and they overlook the ways in which such materials intrude upon conscious life. T

he modern philosophical construct of the rational subject projects a self that is not prey to ambivalence, anxiety, obsession, prejudice, hatred, or violence. A disembodied mind, the body is peripheral

. Age, looks, sexuality, biological composition, and physical competencies are considered extraneous to the self. Yet, as valuable as rational analysis and free choice undoubtedly are, feminists argue that these capacities do not operate apart from affective, biosocial, socio-economic and other heterogeneous forces that orchestrate the multilayered phenomenon that we call the self. For many feminists, to acknowledge the self's dependency is not to devalue the self but rather to revalue dependency, as well as to call into question the supposed free agency of a self that implicitly corresponds to a masculine ideal.

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