I would like a brief overview of Monique Wittig's essay "One Is Not Born a Woman"

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choucksolace eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Monique Wittig is a radical feminist theorist. Her essay "One Is Not Born a Woman" challenges the essentialist view of the sexes. Essentialism states that we are born male or female and that each sex has inherent biological characteristics as well as qualities that make them better suited for certain roles in society. Traditionally, women have been regarded as the weaker sex, while early feminists took the opposite view, claiming that women were more evolved. Wittig argues that "women" is just a social construction. Women are defined by the society in which they live, not the anatomical features they possess. In other words, women are not born but made. Therefore, we cannot make broad generalizations about what women are like or what they should be allowed to do.

Wittig points out that in order for women to be seen a certain way, the dominant culture had to make them that way. Women are, first and foremost, conditioned to function within a heterosexual marriage, so attempting to be anything but a wife and mother means going outside the boundaries of womanhood. Wittig therefore suggests that lesbians are not women because they reject heterosexuality as the natural state of existence. In order to liberate women, we must first acknowledge that womanhood itself is a fiction.

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