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The Second Sex

Simone de Beauvoir

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The Praying Mantis

Women who try to achieve transcendence, reject the passivity imposed on them, and attain some mastery over their lives are looked on unkindly by patriarchal society. Among the many negative stereotypes heaped on this sort of woman is that of the praying mantis. This unflattering symbol refers to the female insect’s habit of devouring the male immediately following intercourse. The shrewish, nagging wife, the “ogress” who demands too much out of life, the tyrannical lover who withholds her body—any woman who threatens male supremacy is accused of cannibalism. Many women fear being regarded as too aggressive or powerful, and thus being called a praying mantis.

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