Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir is considered a masterpiece of feminist thinking. Her ideas about how women are subjugated are also easily applied to intersexuals.
De Beauvoir's main premise is that women are oppressed by having men define them as 'other' being opposite from men in every way. This is why intersexuals are mutilated, we blur that line between the essential and absolute male who imposes his will on the world, and the inessential incomplete female who waits for the male to rescue her. This is why the majority of us are made to look female, we are seen as lacking that essential masculine quality to earn manhood, and yet we are close enough that we challenge men's authority and thus cannot be allowed to remain as is. The fear these cultural myths creates perpetuates the mistreatment of intersexuals, just as it does to women.
Even though we live in more enlightened times then De Beauvoir, these subconscious paradigms are pervasive, especially when it comes to gender roles. De Beauvoir discusses various mythical representations of women and demonstrates how these myths have imprinted human consciousness. De Beauvoir hoped to debunk the persistent myth of the “eternal feminine” by showing that it arose from male discomfort with the fact of his own birth. Throughout history, maternity has been both worshiped and reviled: the mother both brings life and heralds death. These mysterious operations get projected onto the woman, who is transformed into a symbol of “life” and in the process is robbed of all individuality. In previous blog entries I have written about the many mythologies surrounding hermaphrodites as being mystical, monstrous, and hyper-fertile (ironic since most intersexuals are sterile). these myths create the attitude that intersexuals are somehow subhuman (or perhaps superhuman) and thus robs them of their humanity, making them into something out of legend.
De Beauvoir's most famous quote from Second Sex is that one is not born a women, but becomes one. She claims women are shaped by a thousand external processes. At each stage of her upbringing, a girl is conditioned into accepting passivity, dependence, repetition, and inwardness. Every force in society conspires to deprive her of subjectivity and flatten her into an object. Denied the possibility of independent work or creative fulfillment, the woman must accept a dissatisfying life of housework, childbearing, and sexual slavishness. Some people, on the other hand, are born hermaphrodites and are forced to become a woman by far more rigorous methods. Most intersexuals are also unhappy with what society has forced on them. These changes are done for the same reason, to preserve male domination.