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The Second Sex

dazzling terms that seem to have been borrowed
from the vocabulary of the seers, and indeed in the
times of St Thomas it was considered an essence
as certainly defined as the somniferous virtue of
the poppy
But conceptualism has lost ground. The
biological and social sciences no longer admit the
existence of unchangeably fixed entities that
determine given characteristics, such as those
ascribed to woman, the Jew, or the Negro. Science
regards any characteristic as a reaction dependent
in part upon a situation. If today femininity no
longer exists, then it never existed. But does the
word woman, then, have no specific content? This
is stoutly affirmed by those who hold to the
philosophy of the enlightenment, of rationalism,
of nominalism; women, to them, are merely the
human beings arbitrarily designated by the word
woman. Many American women particularly are
prepared to think that there is no longer any place
for woman as such; if a backward individual still
takes herself for a woman, her friends advise her
to be psychoanalysed and thus get rid of this
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