The philosophical monocle

09 Mar 2023

Life can get quite complicated - and sometimes, you need help from the world's greatest philosophers to figure it out. In her new blog, Jara Majerus looks at life through the philosophical monocle, employing the help of some of history's brightest thinkers. Today's philosopher: Simone de Beauvoir.

Like many international students, I don’t get to see my family very often. And while I absolutely adore the time I get to spend with my family, I was hit by a worrying realisation the last time I visited them in Austria: the women of the family bear the sole responsibility for the household.

Now, to some people with conservative families, this might not be shocking. However, my family is not conservative. I grew up with a mother who worked fulltime and a father who looked after the kids and cooked. I always felt like my family had moved beyond dusty gender roles. And yet, there I was, doing the dishes together with my mom and sister while the men were watching sports programmes on tv. I mean, how much more traditional can it get?

And with this troublesome situation that I found myself in, I would like to welcome you to the first piece of my new column, The Philosophical Monocle. Once a month, I will look at the everyday thoughts and struggles of students – and reflect on them with the help of some of history’s brightest minds: the philosophers. This time, I got help from the famous French feminist, philosopher, and novelist Simone de Beauvoir.

Cleaning up my brother’s mess in the kitchen, I experienced a spiritual awakening. Before my mind’s eye, I saw De Beauvoir shaking her head at me disappointedly. Her voice echoed through my head saying: ‘Woman is shut up in a kitchen […], and astonishment is expressed that her horizon is limited. Her wings are clipped, and it is found deplorable that she cannot fly.’

Standing in my parents’ kitchen, I found myself in a situation I thought I had escaped by reading feminist books and protesting for women’s rights. But, as it turned out, the most crucial part of my personal emancipation was not marching for freedom on the streets. It was declaring my freedom in my childhood home.

If I wanted to be a free woman, I could not allow anyone – not even my family – to shut me up in a kitchen. If I wanted to develop my full potential, I needed to throw in the kitchen towel. So, with De Beauvoir’s words in mind and a firm voice, I told my brother to clean up his mess himself and, thereby, I liberated myself.

Read Jara Majerus's blogs here

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