What role do women play in the perpetuation of patriarchy? On the one hand, popular media urges women to be independent, outspoken, and career-minded. Yet, this same media glorifies a specific, sometimes voluntary, female submissiveness as a source of satisfaction. In philosophy, even less has been said on why women submit to men and the discussion has been equally contradictory—submission has traditionally been considered a vice or pathology, but female submission has been valorized as innate to women’s nature. Is there a way to explore female submission in all of its complexity—not denying its appeal in certain instances, and not buying into an antifeminist, sexist, or misogynistic perspective?
We Are Not Born Submissive offers the first in-depth philosophical exploration of female submission, focusing on the thinking of Simone de Beauvoir, and more recent work in feminist philosophy, epistemology, and political theory. Manon Garcia argues that to comprehend female submission, we must invert how we examine power and see it from the woman’s point of view. Historically, philosophers, psychoanalysts, and even some radical feminists have conflated femininity and submission. Garcia demonstrates that only through the lens of women’s lived experiences—their economic, social, and political situations—and how women adapt their preferences to maintain their own well-being, can we understand the ways in which gender hierarchies in society shape women’s experiences. Ultimately, she asserts that women do not actively choose submission. Rather, they consent to—and sometimes take pleasure in—what is prescribed to them through social norms within a patriarchy.
Moving beyond the simplistic binary of natural destiny or moral vice, We Are Not Born Submissive takes a sophisticated look at how female submissiveness can be explained.
Awards and Recognition
- A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of the Year
Manon Garcia is assistant professor of philosophy at Yale University.
"Beautifully written and a delight to read. . . . Garcia’s book is a fascinating provocation for contemporary feminism that deserves a broad readership."—Ellie Anderson, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
"Garcia works diligently to refute the myth of the ‘eternal feminine,’ or that women are submissive by nature."—Kirkus Reviews
"[A] good book to include in your studies of lived experiences shaped around the patriarchy."—Gabby Cisneros, Porchlight
"Manon Garcia begins with the question: Why aren’t all women feminists? She looks at the complex ways gender hierarchies shape women’s experiences, and takes the radical step of placing the largely untouchable subject of female submission under the light of philosophical scrutiny. With Simone de Beauvoir as a guide, Garcia’s investigation is a signal contribution to feminism. Listening to women, she comes to a nuanced view of consent to submission as a choice—not the antithesis of freedom but the outcome of a shrewd cost-benefit analysis, showing the advantages to be gained by submission and the costs of freedom for women living in a patriarchal society. And yet, by underscoring the reality of women’s consent, she also highlights the potential for women’s resistance."—Carol Gilligan, author of In a Different Voice and coauthor of Why Does Patriarchy Persist?
"Simone de Beauvoir taught women that the intractability of sexism is a function of the rewards we receive for accepting a man’s world and of the punishments that rain down on us for not complying. In lively, compelling prose, Manon Garcia provides us with a brilliant rendering of Beauvoir’s central claims and the tools to demand a say in our own lives. This book is not only an inspiring call to women to resist, but also a lucid, accessible introduction to phenomenology, existentialism, and feminist philosophy."—Nancy Bauer, author of How to Do Things with Pornography
"We Are Not Born Submissive is a brilliant and timely treatment of a central yet undertheorized topic within feminist philosophy. This is a must-read for anyone with an interest in gendered social relations."—Kate Manne, author of Entitled and Down Girl
"Drawing on works in political and existentialist philosophy alongside women’s lived experiences, We Are Not Born Submissive makes an insightful case for the view that the submission of women repays closer conceptual and experiential analysis. A rare achievement of accessibility and rigor, this is an excellent book on Simone de Beauvoir's philosophy and contemporary relevance."—Kate Kirkpatrick, author of Becoming Beauvoir