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

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The 1981 essay "One is Not Born a Woman" by Monique Wittig is a criticism and discussion of "naturalized"/biological womanhood as posited by second-wave (largely American) feminists in the second half of the twentieth century, particularly the 1970s and 1980s. The title is a reference to a quote from famed...

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The 1981 essay "One is Not Born a Woman" by Monique Wittig is a criticism and discussion of "naturalized"/biological womanhood as posited by second-wave (largely American) feminists in the second half of the twentieth century, particularly the 1970s and 1980s. The title is a reference to a quote from famed contemporary French feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir.

Wittig's primary topics are gender or sex as a political identity and social label, as opposed to an intrinsic attribute of human life, and how sex and gender have been regarded through various progressions of feminist theory.

An example of Wittig's position of the differential between biology and sex as a social construct is how she compares sexual politics to racial theory through the lens of black enslavement. Pointing to the work of contemporary sociologist and feminist academic Colette Guillaumin, Wittig asserts that just as race was an entirely different concept before racism was used to justify mass enslavement of black people, gender was created as a function of female oppression, and both were then retroactively naturalized as a biological reality—saying that both sex and race are erroneously "taken as an 'immediate given,' a 'sensible given,' 'physical features,' belonging to a natural order."

"One is Not Born a Woman" is also primarily centered around lesbianism and lesbian feminism as a lens through which to view gender and sex. It is extremely radical within the context of second wave feminism, even lesbian second wave feminism, because of its assertion that womanhood is not a natural or inherent state.

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"One Is Not Born A Woman" is an influential essay by radical feminist Monique Wittig from 1981. The core of the essay is based on an observation by feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir that

one is not born, but 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.

Wittig's essay explores de Beauvoir's concept through various stages of historical feminism. She distinguishes the term "woman" from "female" and argues, along with de Beauvoir, that the societal role of "woman" is constructed by men. Wittig rejects the idea that the ability to give birth is what defines a woman and argues that, as a lesbian, the refusal to participate in heterosexuality provides a measure of freedom because lesbianism "always meant to refuse to become a man or woman."

Wittig notes that the defining of women by comparing them to or distinguishing them from men diminishes women as unique human beings. She criticizes Marxist theory for its focus on economic classes, which discouraged women from realizing that they formed their own oppressed class. She recommends that the class of "men" be suppressed in a "political struggle"; once "men" disappear as a social construct, "women" will as well. She concludes by advocating the destruction of heterosexuality to overcome societal imposition of perceived difference between the sexes.

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Monique Whittig challenges the idea that women are a "natural group" on the basis of their bodies. She disagrees that there are "natural women" and instead argues that femininity is an outcome created by society, a reference to Simon de Beauvoir. She argues against the construct of gender and proposes a sexless society to defeat women's oppression.

To support her arguments, she argues that part of the creation of the idea of "women" is based largely on the ideas and expectations of men. Therefore, the term "natural" is moot, as women are fulfilling the roles that oppression has forced them into. She references Marxism, blaming it for not challenging the idea that men are placed above women in society. She says that heteronormative conceptions of gender always exist relative to men.

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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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