Simone de Beauvoir

Paris, 1908 – 1986

"Feminism is a way of living individually and struggling collectively.”

Simone de Beauvoir was a writer and existentialist philosopher and is probably one of the best-known women thinkers of the 20th century. She wrote several novels and philosophical essays, and actively participated in the political life of her time. Together with J. P. Sartre, she founded the magazine Les temps modernes, a cultural and political benchmark in French thought in the second half of the 20th century. She actively participated in women’s rights defense, especially in the legalization of abortion in France. She was one of the writers of the Manifesto of the 343 in which, together with other women, she stated that she had had an abortion, thus exposing herself to criminal prosecution.

She wrote The Second Sex between 1946 and 1949. A great scandal when it was published, it only became a classic in feminist thought over time. In this work, Beauvoir goes from vindicating the feminine condition to describing it, which places her at a middle point between the suffrage movement and 1970s radical feminism.

In this book, the author asks herself what is woman and, through her famous sentence “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”, she states that there is no coincidence between natural identity and gender identity (terms which would only be coined afterwards). Beauvoir warns us that femininity shouldn’t be considered as a fact determined by a biological or organic reality, but rather that it should be understood as a social construct.

By resorting to history, anthropology, literature and other very diverse scientific disciplines, she shows throughout The Second Sex that the definition of women is determined from a masculine perspective. This masculine perspective keeps the statute of universality, that of transcendence, for itself, while it identifies femininity with the sphere of that which is corporal, with singularity, with that which is given. In the relationship between sexes, man is defined as the subject and woman as the object; it is in this way that the feminine appears as something different from the human, something which cannot be accessed: the feminine is always the other. However, it is an absolute other, not a reciprocal one. This means that, unlike other relationships of otherness, in the relationship between the two sexes reciprocity is not possible because the woman, in order to be defined, requires the supposed essential being: man.

Selected Works

1949, Le Deuxième Sexe, Paris: Gallimard.

1958, Mémoires d’une jeune fille rangée, Paris: Gallimard.

1960, La force de l’âge, Paris: Gallimard.

1963, La force des choses, Paris: Gallimard.

1964, Une mort très douce, Paris: Gallimard.

1970, La Vieillesse, Paris: Gallimard.

1972, Tout compte fait, Paris: Gallimard.

1987, La Cérémonie des adieux, Paris: Gallimard.

Secondary Literature

BIRULÉS, Fina, 2014, Entreactes, entorn de la política, el feminisme i el pensament, Perpignan: Trabucaire.

BIRULÉS, Fina, 2000, “Fer parlar el silenci. Dues anotacions entorn de Simone de Beauvoir i Simone Weil”, Duoda, núm. 18.

BIRULÉS, Fina, 2000, “Tornant-hi a pensar. Simone de Beauvoir”, L’Avenç, núm. 248.

BRUCH, Araceli, 2010, Em sento estafada. Una lectura de Simone de Beauvoir, Tarragona, Arola.

LÓPEZ PARDINA, Teresa, 1998, Simone de Beauvoir. Una filósofa del siglo XX, Cádiz: ed. Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Cádiz.

SEGARRA, Marta, 2009, Ningú no neix dona. Antologia de textos d’«El segon sexe» de Simone de Beauvoir, Vic: Eumo.

VALCÁRCEL, Amelia, 1999, “Cincuenta años de El segundo sexo“, Pasajes, núm. 1, diciembre.