Australia Update! – Sydney Opera House/Ideas at the House

A huge apology for the delay in updating the blog with my current writing projects in Australia. Despite me promising to write as frequently as possible about Aus, it took me longer than expected to finally get myself settled and back into putting pen to paper.

Alas, I am back on top of things now and currently enjoying and embracing the Aussie way of life.

In March, the Sydney Opera House were holding events in relation to feminism and in conjunction with this, I wrote a piece for their website about the book ‘The Second Sex’ by Simone De Beauvoir. The text was written in the late 1940s and explores the role of women in society. It is well worth reading if you have the time as it provides some pertinent and interesting thoughts on feminism.

In reference to the article I wrote about the book, I was asked to give my opinion as to whether the text had any relevance to the modern day female. To view my thoughts you can read the article here: http://ideas.sydneyoperahouse.com/2014/classics-revisisted-the-second-sex-by-simone-de-beauvoir/ or see the article below!:

Classics Revisited –‘The Second Sex’ by Simone de Beauvoir

‘On ne nat pas femme on les devient’ (One is not born but, rather becomes, a woman.) This has been hailed as one of the most important quotes in feminist literature, and derives from the book ‘The Second Sex’ by Simone de Beauvoir. First published in 1949, it became an overnight success due to its controversial views about the oppression of women. It was one of the first pieces of writing that focused solely on women – her biology, history, psychology, the way she is portrayed in mythology and literature, and her experience in contemporary society. These are all very extremely important areas to discuss in regards to women, but how relevant is the book in today’s society? Can a woman from the 1950s who spent most of her life in the French countryside really resonate with a young woman living in today’s hustling and bustling city of Sydney?

You could easily dismiss the book as a period piece at a glance, but that central quote above is still highly applicable in today’s society. What Beauvoir is putting forward is that our notion of what a woman “is” has nothing to do with her biology. It is something that is socially constructed, and that a woman’s conception of her own femininity is  defined by the society of which she is a member. As soon as we are born, differences between boys and girls are drawn by pinks and blues. There’s been something of a reaction to this, but in the beauty industry, where I work, you are still encouraged to describe products as soft and floral for women, but woody and masculine for men, thus creating clear distinctions between the sexes.

Beauvoir also discusses the concept of the ‘eternal feminine.’ She argued that men had shaped women to their idea of the feminine and in doing so had reduced them to objects and robbed them of their identity. If we extrapolate this concept to today’s generation, it could be argued the media we are bombarded with, featuring glossy, perfectly polished and photoshopped pictures of women, is constructing an unachievable and artificial image of what women should look like, and appeals to the idea of women as objects. However, women are starting to fight back in this area with a demand for ‘natural’ images of women. For example, Dove had a campaign using ‘real’ women of different shapes, sizes and backgrounds in their advertisements. But we as women have to ensure that this is more than a marketing ploy to prevent the ‘eternal feminine’ argument having strong weighting in today’s society.

On the other hand, Beauvoir’s descriptions of married life seem outdated but this is probably due to her ideas being rooted from her childhood memories of the Belle Epoque. She also takes a very strong viewpoint on motherhood, almost to the point of hatred. She rightly points out though that ‘woman is neither exclusively a worker nor exclusively a womb.’ Since first written, we have seen an increase in working mums –women are now actively encouraged to enter back into work once they have had children. This may sound all well and good, but increased participation hasn’t led to equality. Even today it can be a struggle for women to move up the career ladder in comparison to their male counterparts, and, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, men still earn an average of 17.53% more than women in Australia.

The role of a housewife also comes under scrutiny from Beauvoir, who states: ‘few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition, the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.’ For my generation, the concept of becoming a housewife has ceded its importance to careers and financial independence. When it comes to household chores, women of my age expect men to do their fair share of the tasks too, or to hire in external help. The emergence of terms like ‘house husband’ suggest that traditionally female roles  should be an equal task between the genders.

Although there have been some changes to the role and perception of women since Beauvoir wrote this book, I it’s still an important book for anyone who cares about freedom and justice for women. The text is an important reminder that women can still be viewed as ‘the Other’ when they should be viewed as an ‘equal’. We still have a way to go, and feminist authors such as Simone de Beauvoir hopefully continues inspire my generation to strive for equality.

I was rather pleased with the publication of this article as it was my first paid commissioned piece and I am hoping that I will get more paid opportunities like this in the future.

Also, I have recently joined the writing team for a magazine known as BBM, which is a lifestyle and entertainment magazine primarily aimed at travellers/backpackers in Australia, so expect to see some posts of my work on this blog for BBM in the coming months.

Thank you for reading my latest update and hopefully I will post something on the blog again very soon!

Stephanie x


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