Tensions that remain inherent in recognizing Women’s Rights.
The French feminist writer, Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) writes about the perceptions of women, their role and significance in society. In her work,’The Second Sex (1949), she argues that:
“One is not born, but rather becomes a woman. No biological, psychological or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society;
it is civilization as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine.” ( Simone de Beauvoir (1949) in Cohen p. 603)
Beauvoir’s analysis alludes to the idea that the feminine gender is not a biological variable, but a sociological construct, one in which the particular sociopolitical cultural context in which a woman finds herself determines her role, identity and significance in that particular society. The question, therefore, of ‘what is a woman’ that Beauvoir poses has to be answered with reference to the categories of masculinity and femininity assigned by societies that may be influenced by values within androcentric or patriarchal structures.
Beauvoir posits that: ”all of us, men and women , whoever we are , should be considered as human beings.”. The idea that women derive their identity and role in relation to the way men perceive them is inherent in Beauvoir’s writings. She writes: “woman does not think herself without man .
And she is nothing other than what man decides’ she is thus called ‘the sex’, meaning that the male sees her essentially as a sexed being for him she is sex, so she is in the absolute. He is the Subject; he is the Absolute. She is the Other.’
(Simone de Beauvoir (1949) in Cohen p. 605)
This objectification and impersonalization of the feminine gender may not be as palpable as the way it is graphically depicted by Beauvoir in this era of modernity that advocates for an equality of rights among the genders. Yet the dehumanization of women is prevalent in States that violate human rights of individuals. Consider the massacres and rapes of Rohingya women and children by the Burmese army post 2017; the singling out of villages of Yazidi women for abduction, rape and sexual slavery by Isis in Iraq post 2014. It is indisputable that the ‘gendered nature’ of sexual violence and rape of an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 of mostly Bosnian Muslim women in Bosnia- Herzegovina by the Serb military in 1992 continues to traumatize the victims and their families to this day. (NewStatemanAmerica 2017).
Radical feminism’s views on sexual violence against women
The gendered nature of violence experienced by women can be further perceived as an outcome of the domination and the unequal treatment of women by men in the social and political spheres of life. Radical feminist thinker, Catherine MacKinnon argues that:
‘the common failing of theories associating equality with equal treatment or with different treatment is that they implicitly accept a male yardstick: women are either the same as or different from a male norm.” ( MacKinnon (1987) in Chinkin 2016, p. 42)