A Tradition That Has No Name: Nurturing the Development of People, Families, and Communities

By Mary Field Belenky; Lynne A. Bond et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
CONFRONTING OTHERNESS: PREVIOUS RESEARCH

Often when you come up in an oppressive culture, you question the importance of your very existence; you have to search for courage to express yourself. You have to talk to yourself so that when you speak with your voice, it is your heart, your mind, your eyes, your living, that supplies the text.

BERNICE JOHNSON REAGON ( 1993, p. 24)

FOUNDER, SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK

When the first half of the twentieth century culminated in a Holocaust, many struggled to understand why one group of people declared another group as Other and believed its members to be the cause of all that was evil in the world. Studying great sweeps of human history, Simone de Beauvoir ( 1957) found the tendency of human beings to pit themselves against an Other recurring across many centuries and cultures. She concluded that people always view "the world under the sign of duality. . . . At the moment when man asserts himself as subject and free being, the idea of the Other arises" (pp. 69, 79). "Thus it is," she writes, "that no group ever sets itself up as the One without at once setting up the Other over against itself" (p. xvii).

De Beauvoir used this conceptual framework for examining the relations between men and women while her colleague and consort, Jean-Paul Sartre, pursued similar ideas in Anti-Semite and Jew ( 1948). In her book, The Second Sex, de Beauvoir described women's demeaned status as Other. Her powerful portrayal played a major role in unleashing this century's second wave of feminism in the United States as well as in Europe. De Beauvoir was, it is believed, the very first person to

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