From Monique Wittig’s excerpt:
“Thirty years ago Simone de Beauvoir underlined particularly the false consciousness which consists of selecting among the features of the myth (that women are different from men) those which look good and using them as a definition for women. What the concept of “woman is wonderful” accomplishes is that it retains for defining women the best features (best according to whom?) which oppression has granted us, and it does not radically question the categories “man” and “woman,” which are political categories and not natural givens.” (547)
In this passage, Wittig posits the idea that defining the terms of not only woman, but of ‘wonderful’ is problematic. Because the term is subjective, it is not possible to define woman in terms of wonderful – whose idea of wonderful do we use? What she seems to really have a problem with is the ‘concept’ of woman who appears to be the same ‘myth’ that de Beauvoir speaks of in her piece. Where does this concept come from? Whose concept is it?
After our conversation in class, I am most troubled by the continuous – though I believe in some cases unconscious – shaping of the concept by women in particular. I understand that both men and women have been shaped by the privileged oppressor, in this case patriarchy, but more disturbing is that women who have been made aware of the concept, or myth of women, continue to buy into it (in varying degrees, myself included). Wittig says that “[c]onsciousness of oppression is not only a reaction to (fight against) oppression. It is also the whole conceptual reevaluation of the social world” (550). She believes that this reevaluation has to include a “cognitive practice,” and I would agree. As evidenced by our classroom discussion yesterday, we are in that reevaluation stage of our own awareness of the concepts and myths that we know to exist. According to Wittig, we must continually contemplate not only women, or woman, but power structures and their subsequent influences on our thinking.
P.S. I did not have my theory book with me today, so I used the Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism text which includes the excerpt of Wittig’s.