Simone De Beauvoir - History

Simone De Beauvoir - History

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Simone De Beauvoir

1908- 1986


Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris on 9 January 1908. Beauvoir was a serious student. She studied math at the Institut Catholique de Paris. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne where she earned an MA.

As a philosophy student at the Sorbonne, she first encountered Jean-Paul Sartre, with whom she would maintain a lifelong relationship.

As a distinguished French essayist, novelist, and Existentialist, Simone de Beauvoir was known for her left-wing political views and her rejection of society's traditional roles for women. Among her most important works was the feminist treatise "Le Deuxieme Sexe" (The Second Sex) published in 1949.

Outstanding Women in History

Photo is courtesy of

Who is Simone de Beauvoir? Simone de Beauvoir is known as the French writer who laid the foundation for the modern feminist movement.Her best-known work is 1949’s The Second Sex, a feminist text.

Simone de Beauvoir was born on January 9, 1908, in Paris, France.She was t he eldest daughter in her family, and was raised strictly Catholic. However as a young girl, she became an atheist and decided to dedicate her life to the study of existence. At age 21, de Beauvoir left home to attend the Sorbonne, where she studied philosophy and graduated in 1929. That very same year, her life and ideals would forever change when she met famed French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.

De Beauvoir and Sartre had a life-long partnership. The two were best friends and lovers and often influenced each other’s work and philosophy. They never married because of de Beauvoir’s insistence that their relationship should not be “defined by institutional norms”. The couple even dated other people and once formed a three-way relationship in the early 1940s with a student named Olga Kosakievicz.

She was also a professor at the Sorbonne from 1941 to 1943. Surprisingly, during the Nazi occupation of France, de Beauvoir was able to continue working without opposition from the Germans. During the war, Simone was able to write books that analyzed war, its reasoning, and the moral issues behind it.

In 1943, de Beauvoir published her first fictional book, L’Invitée (She Came to Stay), based on her experiences in relationships with Sartre and Kosakievicz. L’Invitée considers existential ideals, and more specifically the complexity of relationships and the issue of a person’s conscience as related to “the other.” It seems as though her relationships with other was like experiments and evidence for her to use in her work mixing business with pleasure if I might be so bold to say.

But it wasn’t until Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex) was published in 1949 that de Beauvoir gained notoriety. The 972-page book, wanalyzes reasons why women’s role in society was characterized as inferior to men. This book was seen as highly controversial when it first came out.

De Beauvoir’s interest in politics increased a great deal after World War II. By the 1950s, de Beauvoir became a critic of Capitalism, and was even defending the Communist governments of China and the Soviet Union. In 1947, she took a five-month trip in the United States, reinforcing many of her beliefs, and then in 1948 she published L’Amérique au jour de jour (America Day by Day). It was a critical analysis on the social problems, class inequalities and racism that she witnessed during her time in the United States.

Simone de Beauvoir is considered an outstanding woman in history in my book because her work really contributed to feminist thought and it was even different from what feminists were writing about at the time. She questioned what relationships really were and what men and women’s roles were in it. She used her own relationships as experiments or evidence for her books, which made her beliefs in that subject matter more credible. Let’s not forget that this woman was still able to do research and write like she usually would do while the Nazis were occupying her nation.

Simone de Beauvoir: Freedom for Women

Inspiring the second-wave feminism movement in the 1960s, Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex” captures the true extent to which women have been oppressed throughout history as a result of being categorized as the Other. Endeavoring to explain how this categorization has occurred, Simone de Beauvoir elucidates an evident duality in society: man represents the ‘Self,’ the essential, or the transcendent, and woman embodies the Other, the inessential, or the sex. Where does this dualistic nature of thought originate? To support her argument that “otherness is a fundamental category of man thought,” (The Second Sex, xvii) Simone de Beauvoir reaches back to the dark crevices of humankind’s origin myths in order to grasp this basic idea and bring it into the light for her readers to see.

Drawing on ancient creation myths and the Bible, Simone de Beauvoir shows how women are labeled as the Other by being viewed as secondary, less perfect beings in relation to men. In creation myths, like the ancient Greek story of Helios and Semele, the sun and the moon were usually personified as a male god and a female goddess, respectively, with the female figure representing darkness. In Genesis, Adam and Eve reside in the Garden of Eden until Eve eats the forbidden fruit, implying an association between women and evil. Women in these stories embody a dark, sinful side of being. Another example presenting the Other as the half of being that transgresses or goes astray is the Ancient Greek myth of Pandora. According to the story, Pandora is the first woman on earth. Zeus, the ruling god, gives her a sealed jar containing all the evils of the world for safekeeping. Yet, Pandora opens the jar when she gives in to her own unrelenting curiosity. As a result, evil spills out into the world and Zeus blames Pandora for it. In this myth, the woman is portrayed as she who gives in to weakness and is responsible for bringing evil into the world. By using literary evidence, Simone de Beauvoir establishes the perceived role of inferiority into which men have cast women throughout history by defining that Other as the darker, inferior side of humanity.

Her work then focuses on the struggle women face in liberating themselves economically, politically, and sexually from the status of Other. Given the mistrust of women in the cultural imagination, the liberation of women is a difficult undertaking. Simone de Beauvoir believes a woman should embrace her identity as both a woman and as a human being. The concept of women and men being equal, while still different, was revolutionary in terms of the history of feminist theory. In spite of this, many women still believe they must act like men in order to gain a position of influence in the public sphere. For example, women in politics tend to wear pantsuits and act tough so that men will take them seriously. Simone de Beauvoir firmly rejects the notion that women must emulate men in order to be treated as equals or to be in a position of power because she believes that the biological difference between men and women must be acknowledged: “Women simply are not men” (The Second Sex, xiv). She discourages women, especially feminists, from getting caught up in this abstract notion that women are human beings and therefore are not women.

Women’s protest in 1960’s (

However, she also discourages women from embracing their status as the Other in society and remaining complacent towards men. Continuing the example of women in politics, some female interns use their status as the sex or the Other to have men assist them in reaching their goals by sleeping with powerful politicians. There are countless stories wherein a woman aspires to a smaller goal than a man normally would and then uses her stereotypical role as a sexual object to have a man in power make her goal become a reality for her. In a less extreme way, a woman, by acting infantile, has a man take pity on her and ease her path towards relative success because it makes him feel like an essential or a positive being, since he is making a difference in her life. Simone de Beauvoir condemns women who remain attached to the benefits of being inferior to men because they do not have responsibility for their own lives and futures: “It is an easy road on it one avoids the strain involved in undertaking an authentic existence… Woman may fail to lay claim to the status of subject because… she is often very well pleased with her role as the Other” (The Second Sex, xxi). Women must resist the temptation to remain inferior by acting docile, complacent, or infantile.

Nonetheless, Simone de Beauvoir does not blame women for wanting to act in this manner. She places the blame on men because they are the ones who perpetuate this culture of Other. Men are the ones who rule in society. Look at our government and our businesses of today, and it is clear that men hold the positions of authority in overwhelming numbers. Therefore, women cannot possibly be held responsible for their actions because currently women are still inferior to men: “Yes, women on the whole are today inferior to men that is, their situation affords them fewer possibilities” (The Second Sex, xxiv). Women have limited options available to them in their capacity to change the current structure of society. It is up to men to give women a place in the public sphere. Yet, Simone de Beauvoir makes it clear that is up to women to have something to contribute to the public sphere when that time comes for them to sit at the table with men.

Consequently, she calls on women to embrace their sexual difference and for men to give women access to the political rights and the economic opportunities they deserve. This two-fold process towards liberation for women is outlined in her final chapter on “The Independent Woman,” where she claims that women must seize their own liberation through enlightenment and be recognized in the public sphere as human beings distinct from men but equal to them. Only by embracing their differences will men and women create a state of equality and respect for both sexes: “by and through their natural differentiation men and women unequivocally affirm their brotherhood” (The Second Sex, 732).

A Portrait of Heidegger (

This idea of brotherhood seems to be a resounding tenet of Simone de Beauvior’s idea of freedom. She references Heidegger’s word Mitsein, being as being-with others, many times throughout “The Second Sex” in an attempt to show the interconnectedness between men and women within which two distinct, intertwined experiences exist: “Male and female stand opposed with a primordial Mitsein… the couple is a fundamental unity” (The Second Sex, xix). As a result of the unifying concept of Mitsein, women liberating themselves enables others’ freedom: “To will oneself free is also to will others free” (Ethics of Ambiguity, 47). Simone de Beauvoir truly believes that through the liberation of women, men will also be liberated: “He would be liberated himself in their liberation” (The Second Sex, 720).

Simone’s de Beauvoir’s view on the necessary process of women’s liberation reflects the ideas she presents for both men and women more generally in her essay “Personal Freedom and Others.” In this essay she presents freedom as a state that can be achieved through enlightenment. As children find themselves “cast into a universe which [they] ha[ve] not helped to establish”, they realize their negative being and begin to question their perspective of the world (Ethics of Ambiguity, 39). By questioning their world, they realize their potential to become enlightened. And though they will never reach a state of enlightenment, they continuously engage with their own subjectivity in a lifelong struggle for enlightenment.

According to de Beauvoir’s analysis, women are currently still similar to children by being subject to a universe they did not create. Women only participate in a societal structure that men have forced upon them: “[Women] can exercise their freedom, but only within this universe which has been set up before them, without them… they can only submit to the law, the gods, the customs, and the truths created by males” (Ethics of Ambiguity, 37). Women therefore must find their own existence in the world by occupying a negative space in order for them to find their own individual human capacity: “To exist is to make oneself a lack of being it is to cast oneself into the world” (42). However, Simone de Beauvoir differentiates women from children because women act complacent in relation to the world man has given them: “The child’s situation is imposed upon him, whereas the woman (I mean the western woman of today) chooses it or at least consents to it,” (Ethics of Ambiguity, 38). Finding solidarity in their oppression, women should come together to help liberate each other. In liberating each other, women can then gain their deserved freedom.

Demonstration for Women’s Rights in 1970 (

Simone de Beauvior understands freedom for women as willing themselves free by finding solidarity in others and resisting the temptation to remain ignorant of the possibility of their own liberation. She also grasps the complexity that arises in attempting to answer why women are continually held in a state of oppression by men: “the constraints that surround her and the whole tradition that weighs her down prevent her from feeling responsible for the universe,” (“The Second Sex, 713). Women are torn between embracing the role of the Other and becoming independent, free thinking women.

A woman who exemplifies this conflict is Maggie Tuliver, a character in George Eliot’s novel “The Mill on the Floss.” The novel was adapted into a BBC series, which brings to life Maggie’s story. Growing up in a debt ridden, upper-class family in the English countryside, Maggie struggles between becoming an autonomous individual and surrendering to the role of Other that society demands of her. In the beginning of the series, an old farmworker insightfully remarks how Maggie “has as much spirit as her brother,” subliminally referencing how men and women start out as equally capable individuals and are conditioned through their environment and upbringing to divide into two separate roles of the sexes (“The Mill on the Floss”).

Throughout her childhood, Maggie’s relatives try to force her into the role of the Other, as a docile inferior to man, by limiting her access to education and constantly dictating what she wears and how she acts. This pressure drives Maggie to reject the role of the Other and gain her independence. For example, in one scene Maggie passionately grabs scissors and chops off her hair, after her aunt tells her that she must brush it immediately because it looks so terrible. This fiery independence that Maggie demonstrates from a young age then makes her intimidating to many men, one of whom says, “She’s much too fiery for me, not my type of woman at all” (“The Mill on the Floss”). In addition, men look down upon her self-cultivated knowledge that she has gained by secretly reading her father’s books: “It is not good for her, the woman has no business being clever” (“The Mill on the Floss”). In one scene, Maggie visits her brother Thomas at his boarding school and asks him to teach her some Latin, and he responds, “Girls are never made to learn Latin, they’re too silly” (“The Mill on the Floss”). Maggie overcomes this oppressive view held by her brother and society by liberating herself through knowledge. Her discovery of freedom of thought enables Maggie to realize her own potential agency.

Simone de Beauvoir firmly believes the solution for women to fulfill their true potential is to find liberty: “what woman needs first of all is to undertake, in anguish and pride, her apprenticeship in abandonment and transcendence: that is, in liberty” (The Second Sex, 711). Maggie achieved this liberation by utilizing knowledge to free herself from the restraints society placed upon her. By finding their subjectivity, women can then participate in the public sphere with men, and not as the Other. Simone de Beauvoir calls on every individual in our society, male and female, to help make freedom a reality for all human beings.

de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. [1st American ed.] New York: Knopf, 1953.

de Beauvoir, Simone and Bernard Frechtman. The Ethics of Ambiguity. New York: Citadel Press, 1976

Bergoffen, Debra, “Simone de Beauvoir”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

Wheeler, Michael, “Martin Heidegger”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

Wilson, Ronald, et al. The Mill On the Floss. [England]: BBC Video , 2006.

2. Ethics

A. Pyrrhus et Cineas

For most of her life, Beauvoir was concerned with the ethical responsibility that the individual has to him or herself, other individuals and to oppressed groups. Her early work, Pyrrhus et Cinéas (1944) approaches the question of ethical responsibility from an existentialist framework long before Sartre was to attempt the same endeavor. This essay was well-received as it spoke to a war-torn France that was struggling to find a way out of the darkness of War World II. It begins as a conversation between Pyrrhus, the ancient king of Epirus, and his chief advisor, Cineas, on the question of action. Each time Pyrrhus makes an assertion as to what land he will conquer, Cineas asks him what will he do afterwards? Finally, Pyrrhus exclaims that he will rest following the achievement of all of his plans, to which Cineas retorts, “Why not rest right away”? The essay is thus framed as an investigation into the motives of action and the existential concern with why we should act at all.

This work was written by a young Beauvoir in close dialogue with the Sartre of Being and Nothingness (1943). The framework of an individual freedom engaged in an objective world is close to Sartre’s conception of the conflict between being-for-itself (l’être-pour-soi) and being-in-itself (l’être-en-soi). Differing from Sartre, Beauvoir’s analysis of the free subject immediately implies an ethical consideration of other free subjects in the world. The external world can often manifest itself as a crushing, objective reality whereas the other can reveal to us our fundamental freedom. Lacking a God to guarantee morality, it is up to the individual existent to create a bond with others through ethical action. This bond requires a fundamentally active orientation to the world through projects that express our own freedom as well as encourage the freedom of our fellow human beings. Because to be human is essentially to rupture the given world through our spontaneous transcendence, to be passive is to live, in Sartrean terminology, in bad faith.

Although emphasizing key Sartrean motifs of transcendence, freedom and the situation in this early work, Beauvoir takes her enquiry in a different direction. Like Sartre, she believes that that human subjectivity is essentially a nothingness which ruptures being through spontaneous projects. This movement of rupturing the given through the introduction of spontaneous activity is called transcendence. Beauvoir, like Sartre, believes that the human being is constantly engaged in projects which transcend the factical situation (cultural, historical, personal, etc.) into which the existent is thrown. Yet, even though much of her nomenclature and ideas obviously emerge within a philosophical discourse with Sartre, her goal in writing Pyrrhus et Cinéas is somewhat different than his. Most notably, in Pyrrhus et Cinéas, she constructs an ethics, which is a project postponed by Sartre in Being and Nothingness. In addition, rather than seeing the other (who in his or her gaze turns me into an object) as a threat to my freedom as Sartre would have it, Beauvoir sees the other as the necessary axis of my freedom-without whom, in other words, I could not be free. With the goal of elucidating an existentialist ethics then, Beauvoir is concerned with questions of oppression that are largely absent in Sartre’s early work.

Pyrrhus et Cinéas is a richly philosophical text which incorporates themes not only from Sartre, but also from Hegel, Heidegger, Spinoza, Voltaire, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard. However, Beauvoir is as critical of these philosophers as she is admiring. For example, she criticizes Hegel for his unethical faith in progress which sublates the individual in the relentless pursuit of the Absolute. She criticizes Heidegger for his emphasis on being-towards-death as undermining the necessity of setting up projects, which are themselves ends and are not necessarily projections towards death.

Beauvoir emphasizes that one’s transcendence is realized through the human project which sets up its own end as valuable, rather than relying on external validation or meaning. The end, therefore, is not something cut off from activity, standing as a static and absolute value outside of the existent who chooses it. Rather, the goal of action is established as an end through the very freedom which posits it as a worthwhile enterprise. Beauvoir maintains the existentialist belief in absolute freedom of choice and the consequent responsibility that such freedom entails, by emphasizing that one’s projects must spring from individual spontaneity and not from an external institution, authority, or person. As such, she is sharply critical of the Hegelian absolute, the Christian conception of God and abstract entities such as Humanity, Country and Science which demand the individual’s renunciation of freedom into a static Cause. All world-views which demand the sacrifice and repudiation of freedom diminish the reality, thickness, and existential importance of the individual existent. This is not to say that we should abandon all projects of unification and scientific advancement in favor of a disinterested solipsism, only that such endeavors must necessarily honor the individual existents of which they are composed. Additionally, instead of being forced into causes of various kinds, existents must actively and self-consciously choose to participate in them.

Because Beauvoir is so concerned in this essay with freedom and the necessity to self-consciously choose who one is at every moment, she takes up relationships of slavery, mastery, tyranny, and devotion which remain choices despite the inequalities that often result from these connections with others. Despite the inequity of power in such relationships, she maintains that we can never do anything for or against others, i.e., we can never act in the place of others because each individual can only be responsible for him or herself. However, we are still morally obligated to keep from harming others. Echoing a common theme in existentialist philosophy, even to be silent or to refuse to engage in helping the other, is still making a choice. Freedom, in other words, cannot be escaped.

Yet, she also develops the idea that in abstaining from encouraging the freedom of others, we are acting against the ethical call of the other. Without others, our actions are destined to fall back upon themselves as useless and absurd. However, with others who are also free, our actions are taken up and carried beyond themselves into the future-transcending the limits of the present and of our finite selves. Our very actions are calls to other freedoms who may choose to respond to or ignore us. Because we are finite and limited and there are no absolutes to which our actions can or should conform, we must carry out our projects in risk and uncertainty. But it is just this fragility that Beauvoir believes opens us up to a genuine possibility for ethics.

B. The Ethics of Ambiguity

In many ways, The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947) continues themes first developed in Pyrrhus et Cinéas. Beauvoir continues to believe in the contingency of existence in that there is no necessity that we exist and thus there is no predetermined human essence or standard of value. Of particular importance, Beauvoir expounds upon the idea that human freedom requires the freedom of others for it to be actualized. Although Beauvoir was never fully satisfied with The Ethics of Ambiguity, it remains a testament to her long-standing concern with freedom, oppression, and responsibility, as well as to the depth of her philosophical understanding of the history of philosophy and of her own unique contributions to it.

She begins this work by asserting the tragic condition of the human situation which experiences its freedom as a spontaneous internal drive that is crushed by the external weight of the world. Human existence, she argues, is always an ambiguous admixture of the internal freedom to transcend the given conditions of the world and the weight of the world which imposes itself on us in a manner outside of our control and not of our own choosing. In order for us to live ethically then, we must assume this ambiguity rather than try to flee it.

In Sartrean terms, she sets up a problem in which each existent wants to deny their paradoxical essence as nothingness by desiring to be in the strict, objective sense a project that is doomed to failure and bad faith. In many ways, Beauvoir’s task is to describe the existentialist conversion alluded to by Sartre in Being and Nothingness, but postponed until the much later, incomplete attempt in his Cahiers Pour une Morale. For Beauvoir, an existentialist conversion allows us to live authentically at the crossroads of freedom and facticity. This requires that we engage our freedom in projects which emerge from a spontaneous choice. In addition, the ends and goals of our actions must never be set up as absolutes, separate from we who choose them. In this sense, Beauvoir sets limits to freedom. To be free is not to have free license to do whatever one wants. Rather, to be free entails the conscious assumption of this freedom through projects which are chosen at each moment. The meaning of actions is thus granted not from some external source of values (say in God, the church, the state, our family, etc.), but in the existent’s spontaneous act of choosing them. Each individual must positively assume his or her project (whether it be to write a novel, graduate from university, preside over a courtroom, etc.) and not try to escape freedom by escaping into the goal as into a static object. Thus, we act ethically only insofar as we accept the weight of our choices and the consequences and responsibilities of our fundamental, ontological freedom. As Beauvoir tells us, “to will oneself moral and to will oneself free are one and the same decision.”

The genuine human being thus does not recognize any foreign absolute not consciously and actively chosen by the person him or herself. This idea is perhaps best seen in Beauvoir’s critique of Hegel which runs throughout this text. Although Hegel is not the only philosopher with whom she is in dialogue (she addresses Kant, Marx, Descartes, and Sartre, as well) he represents the philosophical crystallization of the desire for human beings to escape their freedom by submerging it into an external absolute. Thus Hegel, for Beauvoir, sets up an “Absolute Subject” whose realization only comes at the end of history, thereby justifying the sacrifice of countless individuals in the relentless pursuit of its own perfection. As such, Hegel’s Absolute represents an abstraction which is taken as the truth of existence which annihilates instead of preserves the individual human lives which compose it. Only a philosophy which values the freedom of each individual existent can alone be ethical. Philosophies such as those of Hegel, Kant, and Marx which privilege the universal are built upon the necessary diminution of the particular and as such, cannot be authentically ethical systems. Beauvoir claims against these philosophers of the absolute, that existentialism embraces the plurality of the concrete, particular human beings enmeshed in their own unique situations and engaged in their own projects.

However, Beauvoir is also emphatic that even though existentialist ethics upholds the sanctity of individuals, an individual is always situated within a community and as such, separate existents are necessarily bound to each other. She argues that every enterprise is expressed in a world populated by and thus affecting other human beings. She defends this position by returning to an idea touched upon in Pyrrhus et Cinéas and more fully developed in the Ethics, which is that individual projects fall in upon themselves if there are not others with whom our projects intersect and who consequently carry our actions beyond us in space and time.

In order to illustrate the complexity of situated freedom, Beauvoir provides us with an important element of growth, development and freedom in The Ethics of Ambiguity. Most philosophers begin their discussions with a fully-grown, rational human being, as if only the adult concerns philosophical inquiry. However, Beauvoir incorporates an analysis of childhood in which she argues that the will, or freedom, is developed over time. Thus, the child is not considered moral because he or she does not have a connection to a past or future and action can only be understood as unfolding over time. In addition, the situation of the child gives us a glimpse into what Beauvoir calls the attitude of seriousness in which values are given, not chosen. In fact, it is because each person was once a child that the serious attitude is the most prevalent form of bad faith.

Describing the various ways in which existents flee their freedom and responsibility, Beauvoir catalogues a number of different inauthentic attitudes, which in various forms are all indicative of a flight from freedom. As the child is neither moral nor immoral, the first actual category of bad faith consists of the “sub-man” who, through boredom and laziness, restrains the original movement of spontaneity in the denial of his or her freedom. This is a dangerous attitude in which to live because even as the sub-man rejects freedom, he or she becomes a useful pawn to be recruited by the “serious man” to enact brutal, immoral and violent action. The serious man is the most common attitude of flight as he or she embodies the desire that all existents share to found their freedom in an objective, external standard. The serious man upholds absolute and unconditioned values to which he or she subordinates his or her freedom. The object into which the serious attitude attempts to merge itself is not important-it can be the Military for the general, Fame for the actress, Power for the politician-what is important is that the self is lost into it. But as Beauvoir has already told us, all action loses meaning if it is not willed from freedom, setting up freedom as its goal. Thus the serious man is the ultimate example of bad faith because rather than seeking to embrace freedom, he or she seeks to lose into an external idol. All existents are tempted to set up values of seriousness (say, for example, by claiming that one is a “republican” or a “liberal” as if these monikers were substantial “things” that defined us in any essential sense) so as to give meaning to their lives. But the attitude of seriousness gives rise to tyranny and oppression when the “Cause” is pronounced more important than those who comprise it.

Other attitudes of bad faith include the “nihilist” which is an attitude resulting from disappointed seriousness turned back on itself. When the general understands that the military is a false idol that does not justify his existence, he may become a nihilist and deny that the world has any meaning at all. The nihilist desires to be nothing which is not unlike the reality of human freedom for Beauvoir. However, the nihilist is not an authentic choice because he or she does not assert nothingness in the sense of freedom, but in the sense of denial. Although mentioning other interesting attitudes of bad faith (such as the “demoniacal man” and the “passionate man”) the last attitude of importance is the attitude of the “adventurer.” The adventurer is interesting because it is so close to an authentically moral attitude. Disdaining the values of seriousness and nihilism, the adventurer throws him or herself into life and chooses action for its own sake. But the adventurer cares only for his or her own freedom and projects, and thus embodies a selfish and potentially tyrannical attitude. The adventurer demonstrates a tendency to align him or herself with whoever will bestow power, pleasure and glory. And often those who bestow such gifts, do not have the welfare of humanity as their main concern.

One of Beauvoir’s greatest achievements in The Ethics of Ambiguity is found in her analyses of situation and mystification. For the early Sartre, one’s situation (or facticity) is merely that which is to be transcended in the spontaneous surge of freedom. The situation is certainly a limit, but it is a limit-to-be-surpassed. Beauvoir, however, recognizes that some situations are such that they cannot be simply transcended but serve as strict and almost unsurpassable inhibitors to action. For example, she tells us that there are oppressed peoples such as slaves and many women who exist in a childlike world in which values, customs, gods, and laws are given to them without being freely chosen. Their situation is defined not by the possibility of transcendence, but by the enforcement of external institutions and power structures. Because of the power exerted upon them, their limitations cannot, in many circumstances, be transcended because they are not even known. Their situation, in other words, appears to be the natural order of the world. Thus the slave and the woman are mystified into believing that their lot is assigned to them by nature. As Beauvoir explains, because we cannot revolt against nature, the oppressor convinces the oppressed that their situation is what it is because they are naturally inferior or slavish. In this way, the oppressor mystifies the oppressed by keeping them ignorant of their freedom, thereby preventing them from revolting. Beauvoir rightly points out that one simply cannot claim that those who are mystified or oppressed are living in bad faith. We can only judge the actions of those individuals as emerging from their situation.

Only the authentically moral attitude understands that the freedom of the self requires the freedom of others. To act alone or without concern for others is not to be free. As Beauvoir explains, “No project can be defined except by its interference with other projects.” Thus if my project intersects with others who are enslaved-either literally or through mystification-I too am not truly free. What is more, if I do not actively seek to help those who are not free, I am implicated in their oppression.

As this book was written after World War II, it is not so surprising that Beauvoir would be concerned with questions of oppression and liberation and the ethical responsibility that each of us has to each other. Clearly she finds the attitude of seriousness to be the leading culprit in nationalistic movements such as Nazism which manipulate people into believing in a Cause as an absolute and unquestionable command, demanding the sacrifice of countless individuals. Beauvoir pleads with us to remember that we can never prefer a Cause to a human being and that the end does not necessarily justify the means. In this sense, Beauvoir is able to promote an existential ethics which asserts the reality of individual projects and sacrifice while maintaining that such projects and sacrifices have meaning only in a community comprised of individuals with a past, present, and future.


To support herself early in her writing career Simone de Beauvoir also taught in secondary schools. In 1941 she was dismissed from her post by the occupying Nazi forces due to her teachings on pacifism and feminism. When she later returned to teaching, she would be accused of morally corrupting the youth and was again dismissed.

In 1943 Beauvoir published her first book, She Came to Stay. The book gives a fictionalised account of the romantic liaisons of Beauvoir, Sartre and two of her students. The book was quite successful and was followed by, The Blood of Others. The Blood of Others deals with the struggles of two students who join the resistance during the Second World War. In 1944 Beauvoir wrote a philosophical essay on existentialist ethics. French existentialism was a growing movement at the time and Beauvoir&rsquos 1947 work, The Ethics of Ambiguity, is considered the most accessible of French existential texts.

After the Second World War Simone de Beauvoir joined the board of the Sartre edited publication, The Modern Times. The Modern Times was a mostly left-leaning publication that was profoundly influential in post-war France. Beauvoir worked as an editor with the Modern Times until her death.

In 1949, Simone de Beauvoir published her best-known work, The Second Sex. The book deals with feminism and sexuality. In it, Beauvoir describes how women through every aspect of life is a set apart as lesser than men. Beauvoir explains that women are the quintessential Other. Many commentators see the book as marking the beginning of the second wave of feminism.

A second was soon published, and in later works, Beauvoir declared socialism like all other movements had failed women, previously Beauvoir had believed socialist revolution was capable of bringing equality. The book was initially poorly translated in America and did not receive a proper academic translation until sixty years later.

Simone de Beauvoir also wrote travel diaries, in 1947 she wrote America Day by Day about a tour of America, and in 1957 she wrote The Long March about a previous visit to China with Sartre. Beauvoir enjoyed success in 1954 when her novel, The Mandarins, was awarded the Prix Goncourt, France&rsquos premier literary honour. The book tells the story of Beauvoir and her philosopher and literary friends at the end of the Second World War. The book features intimate descriptions of Beauvoir and the group&rsquos relationships which caused much embarrassment to some of the people depicted in the book.

Beauvoir&rsquos later works deal with the issues of aging and the struggles all individuals face as their bodies begin to fail them. She remained a committed feminist and in the 1970s became active in the women&rsquos liberation movement.


Feminism is defined as the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. The goal of feminism is to challenge the systemic inequalities women face on a daily basis.

Selección de la entrevista del año 1975.

One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman. No biological, psychological, or economic destiny defines the figure that the human female acquires in society it is civilization as a whole that develops this product, intermediate between female and eunuch, which one calls feminine.

Simone de Beauvoir is a feminist icon. She didn’t just write the feminist book, she wrote the movement’s bible, The Second Sex. She was an engaged intellectual who combined philosophical and literary productivity with real-world political action that led to lasting legislative change.

Simone de Beauvoir was a significant philosopher of existentialism and a pioneering figure of contemporary philosophical feminism. Her lifelong association with the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, her lover and intellectual companion, contributed to her worldwide celebrity.

De Beauvoir takes up this idea and applies it to men’s perception of women. The very concept of ‘woman‘, de Beauvoir argues, is a male concept: woman is always ‘other’ because the male is the ‘seer’: he is the subject and she the object – the meaning of what it is to be a woman is given by men.

Beauvoir’s emphasis on the fact that women need access to the same kinds of activities and projects as men places her to some extent in the tradition of liberal, or second-wave feminism. She demands that women be treated as equal to men and laws, customs and education must be altered to encourage this.

Themes in Existentialism

  • Importance of the individual. …
  • Importance of choice. …
  • Anxiety regarding life, death, contingencies, and extreme situations. …
  • Meaning and absurdity. …
  • Authenticity. …
  • Social criticism. …
  • Importance of personal relations. …
  • Atheism and Religion.

Simone de Beauvoir : cual fue el recibimiento en la sociedad a su obra “el segundo sexo” entrevista en 1975 ¿por qué ser feminista? Simone de Beauvoir en 1975 explicaba cual fue el recibimiento en la sociedad a su obra “el segundo sexo” y como fue recibida por la izquierda, los intelectuales y los comunistas. Quizas te sorprenderá… o no.

The second wave of feminism in the United States came as a delayed reaction against the renewed domesticity of women after World War II: the late 1940s post-war boom, which was an era characterized by an unprecedented economic growth, a baby boom, a move to family-oriented suburbs and the ideal of companionate …


Beauvoir's major theoretical study, The Second Sex, is often said to be the first full-length socio-philosophical examination of the status of women in society. In this work Beauvoir incorporated existentialist concepts concerning personal freedom, or individual guidance by choice alone responsibility, or accepting the consequences of one's choices bad faith, or denying one's freedom by shifting responsibility to an outside source and the role of the other, or the relation of an inessential being to an essential being. Positing that men have achieved the favorable status of transcendence while women have assumed that of immanence, Beauvoir proposed assimilation into the male universe as a means of achieving gender equality. Further, she called the existence of essentially feminine and maternal traits a myth and presented the female body in extremely negative terms, highlighting ways in which a woman's freedom is inhibited by her sexuality and fertility. Mémoires d'une jeune fille rangée (1958 Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter), is Beauvoir's account of her early years, particularly her intellectual development as a young woman in bourgeois Paris. In this work Beauvoir applied many of the theories she had set forth in The Second Sex to her personal experiences, namely her realization that the myths of her childhood did not apply to her burgeoning adult life. In her fiction Beauvoir often portrayed women who depended on the men in their lives for happiness and were disappointed with the results. Her collection of novellas, La femme rompue (1967 The Woman Destroyed), characterized women whose dependencies on men have crippled their abilities to create positive identities and construct autonomous lives.

Biography – Simone de Beauvoir – Writer, Philosopher

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman. No biological, psychological or economic fate determines the figure that the human female presents in society it is civilisation as a whole that produces this creature, intermediate between male and eunuch, which is described as feminine.” – Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

Simone de Beauvoir was one of the most influential feminist thinkers of the 20th century. A novelist, political activist, memoirist and philosopher, she is most well-known for writing the 1949 text ‘The Second Sex’ which was revolutionary in its discussions on the role of women in society. In addition to her work, de Beauvoir had a lifelong polyamorous relationship with fellow existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.

Born in 1908 to a Catholic bourgeois family in Paris, the de Beauvoir family lost the last of their wealth after World War One. Whilst at the Sorbonne in 1929, she met Jean-Paul Sartre when they were studying for a postgraduate examination in philosophy. De Beauvoir became the ninth woman to pass the exam and the youngest ever to pass. She ranked second overall in the examination with Sartre, who, in re-sitting the exam, beat her to first place.

Following her graduation, de Beauvoir worked as a teacher, and she and Sartre began a relationship which would last until his death in 1980. Based on their belief in radical freedom, de Beauvoir characterised their love as ‘essential’ with an emphasis on emotional honesty. Both engaged in romantic relationships with men and women throughout their relationship and although they saw each other daily, they never lived together and did not have any children.

De Beauvoir and Sartre’s relationship was also based on a profound admiration of each other’s philosophy and intelligence, with de Beauvoir believing that she’d found her intellectual equal in Sartre. Indeed, following the publication of Sartre’s ‘Being and Nothingness’ in 1943, de Beauvoir published ‘The Ethics of Ambiguity’ in 1945 which developed the ideas in Sartre’s work and outlined existentialist ethics.

‘She Came To Stay’ was de Beauvoir’s literary debut and was published in 1943. Influenced by her relationship with Sartre, and the sisters Olga and Wanda Kosakiewicz, the novel explores what happens to a couple in an open relationship when they form a ménage à trois. Characterised as a metaphysical novel, it explores the fundamental existentialist belief that humans are ultimately responsible for themselves – a theme which would recur throughout de Beauvoir’s work.

In 1949, ‘The Second Sex’ was published in France. Presented in two parts, the first part looks at history through a feminist lens and explores how women came to occupy a subordinate place in society. The second part examines the reality of women’s lives under de Beauvoir’s contemporary context. Throughout the work, de Beauvoir argues that there is no reason for the unfair treatment of women throughout history, but rather, asserts that gender norms have been deliberately constructed, and then reinforced, by society. ‘The Second Sex’ was, and remains, incredibly popular and influential, and is seen as one of the key early texts for second wave feminism.

Simone de Beauvoir continued to publish fiction and nonfiction throughout her life. She won the Prix Goncourt for her novel ‘The Mandarins’ in 1954 which satirised the lives of Sartre, Camus and other leading French intellectuals. Her other novels included ‘The Blood of Others’, ‘All Men Are Mortal’, ‘Les Belles Images’ and ‘The Woman Destroyed’. She also published four memoirs which examined her life with great intellectual insight, including ‘Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter’, ‘Force of Circumstance’, ‘The Coming of Age’ and ‘All Said and Done’. After Sartre’s death in 1980, she published ‘Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre’ which poignantly discussed the last years of her beloved’s life.

Throughout her life, de Beauvoir continued to speak out on political issues. She was a great champion of women’s rights and supported the abortions laws in France and Algeria and Hungary’s battles for independence. De Beauvoir also condemned the Vietnam war.

She died on 14 April 1986 at the age of 78. She is buried next to Jean-Paul Sartre in the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris. Upon her death, her fellow feminist writers Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan both praised her influence, with Steinem proclaiming that “if any single human being can be credited with inspiring the current international women’s movement, it’s Simone de Beauvoir.”

Simone de Beauvoir, “The Second Sex,” 1949

Longtime companion to Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir was the other half of France’s glamour couple of the Left Bank. Both philosophers were arguably brilliant and both took up pre-exiting ideas and brought them into the late Twentieth Century. The Second Sex (1949) by de Beauvoir brings up the age-old “woman question” yet again. Asserting that a woman is not born but made, de Beauvoir turned the assumption that women were determined by their “natures” on its head. Writing in the face of a near universal acceptance of the dictum of Sigmund Freud that the anatomy of women was their destiny, de Beauvoir countered his “nature” with her “culture.”

In order to replace The Second Sex as an essential expression of existentialism is not to take the book out of women’s studies but to reassert its role in philosophy. The pieces of her life informed her writing, which took place in the immediate post-war period, a time still heavy with the realization of the “Final Solution” to the “Jewish Problem” or the problem of the Other. In addition, Beauvoir attended lectures by Lacan and by Claude Lévi-Strauss and, on a visit to America in 1947, she was exposed to racism. In contrast to Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre who took a universalist taken on the “subject,” Beauvoir’s very comprehensive volume demonstrated the very real effects of what it means to establish a philosophical and theoretical and sociological order in which the One opposes itself to the Other.

Simone de Beauvoir undertook the unprecedented task of writing a book about women, something a man would never do—there was no need to write a book about men because all books were about men.Opposed to “essentialism”, the writer asked, “Are there women, really”? She asserted that the social and functional answer was that a woman is a womb, meaning that all cultures since the dawn of time had defined women in terms of procreation. Given that this is the case, then women are “less than human” and thus have no lives, much less identity or history. And yet women have lived and their lives have been determined by their biology and by what society decided to make of this biology.

According to Beauvoir, the male is “human,” positive and neutral, and the common use of the term “man” is used to designate humanity. Women represent only the negative and are defined by limiting criteria or the particular. She is defined “relative to” a man. She is not autonomous. The woman is always wrong, not just different but negative in the sense that she is not “right” because she is not male. She is imprisoned in her own (inadequate and defective) body and is understood only in terms of her uterus and ovaries. She is defined simply as “Sex” in that she appears to the male only as a sexual being and once her sexual duty, that is, her reproductive duty, is done, she is incidental and inessential.

Thus he is the Subject, he is the Absolute she is the Object, the Other. To be the Other is not simply being “othered”. To be the Other is to be so excluded, so outside the realm of discourse, that the other is inexpressible, falling beyond the scope of discourse into formlessness. The only language available to “explain” women is man-made language that expresses maleness. The question is how to insert the female into the body of discourse and to retake language so that a new term “the Mistress Bedroom” could penetrate the culture and become as dominant a term as “the Master Bedroom”. If language is gendered male, how does the female speak? Language condemns the Other to a speech of absurdity. As a result, practically, the only language available to “explain” women is man-made language that expresses maleness. As Beauvoir wrote, reject the notions of the eternal feminine, the black soul, or the Jewish character is not to deny that there are today jews, blacks, or women the denial is not a liberation for those concerned but an inauthentic flight…The category of the Other is as original as consciousness itself. The duality between Self and Other can be found in the most primitive societies, in the most ancient mythologies this division did not always fall into the category of the division of the sexes, it was not based on ay empirical given..”

Beauvoir traced the concept of the Other back to primordial consciousness. The Self and the Other is an ancient expression of duality. Groups create themselves as the One by setting up another tribe as the Other. But in the limited paleolithic world of tribes, it seems that the primal groups were male and female and that sexism is the first act of discrimination. As Claude Lévi-Strauss pointed out in Les Structures Élémentaires de la Parenté,

Passage from the state of nature to the state of culture is marked by man’s ability to view biological relations as a series of contests, duality, alteration, opposition, and symmetry, whether under definite or vague forms, constitutive not so much phenomena to be explained as fundamental and immediately given data of serial reality.

For the male, there is no one else to have “biological relations” with other than the female. Lévi-Strauss implicitly understood “man” to be male, not female. It is the male who “viewed” these relations and therefore it must the the male who set the terms of “duality, alteration, opposition,” etc. In perceiving women to be opposed or the Other to the man, men put themselves in charge. De Beauvoir asked why was it that women did not dispute male sovereignty?

She stated that women have always been subordinated to men because they did not bring about a change in status or position. The oppression of women is so absolute it seems a historical fact because it is without historical fact. Even if women wanted to assert themselves, they lack the means for organization. Isolated, women cannot communicate with one another. Put together, they are thrown into a condition of competition and begin to identify with male goals. Thanks to the social practice of “exchanging women” among men, women are dispersed from father to husband and are attached to male residences and their social standing is aligned with men. Consumed by the male world, women have no past, no history, no religion and no solidarity and thus no group identity.

The invisible oppression of women as Other cannot be compared to other oppressions. The bonds that unite her to her oppressor is not comparable to any other situation. Men and women must come together to continue the human race. Driven together by instinct, they must mate and in order to organize a society men and women must come together to raise the offspring. However, once society formed, a social hierarchy formed and women were designated as the Other, although means of the primal subordination women remains unclear. Beauvoir asserts that the division or the segregation of human sexes is a biological fact not an event in human history.

Nevertheless the results of this division are real: nowhere is woman equal to man and everywhere the economic sector is divided into two castes and the entire political and economic world belongs to men. Therefore for a woman to renounce a man or men, she would renounce all the advantages conferred upon her—indirectly—as an associate of the ruling caste. Although women have the possibility of renouncing these privileges, there are similarities between their lot and that of African-Americans. Women are kept separate and not equal, and their lives are governed by Jim Crow type laws. The Master wants to keep both in their “place” and to keep them in a situation of inferiority. Beauvoir stated (predicted) that men regarded the equality of women to be a threat and their emancipation would menace the dominance of men who dread female competition.

The question is how to insert the female into the body of discourse and to retake language so that a new term “the Mistress Bedroom” could penetrate the culture and become as dominant a term as “the Master Bedroom”. If language is gendered male, how does the female speak? According to Robin Lackoff’s critique in Language and a Woman’s Place, Language condemns the Other to a speech of absurdity.Although men feel that women have no place in “their” world, men never doubt their rights to this world in its entirety. The subordination of women serves the needs of both sexes. Women are “protected” by men and are kept out of the game. Their exclusion allows any man to feel superior to any woman. The Second Sex was an examination of the mechanisms whereby women are “made.” De Beauvoir thematically examined the lives of (European) women from birth to old age, always discussing their life time situation in relation to the dominance by men. Men can be written about as autonomous human begins women can be written about only as appendages to the male.

In the post-War stress on a return to “normalcy”, that is the return of women to the home, any political, social, or economic needs of the “The Second Sex” would be overlooked. Just as Beauvoir would be overshadowed by her more famous companion, the lives of women were always incidental and contingent to their roles designated by society. As the women who found freedom during the war years when men were away did not forget their “liberation,” times began to change. Simone de Beauvoir’s book on The Second Sex would proved to be more relevant in later years than Sartre’s work. Her insightful book laid the ground for theories post-War feminism and anticipated the Postmodern assertion that humans are socially constructed and that all gender roles are artificial constructs.

The Second Sex was an examination of the mechanisms whereby women are “made.” Beauvoir thematically examined the lives of (European) women from birth to old age, always discussing their situation in relation to the dominance by men. In the post-War stress on a return to “normalcy”, that is the return of women to the home, any political, social, or economic needs of the “The Second Sex” would be overlooked, just as Beauvoir would be overshadowed by her companion. But times would change, as the women who found freedom during the war years when men were away did not forget their “liberation.” Beauvoir book would proved to be more relevant in later years than Sartre’s work would prove to be. Her book would lay the ground for post-War feminism.

Despite the slow gains in women’s “liberation”, the writing of Simone de Beauvoir proved its accuracy. Not all women welcomed knowledge about themselves or their oppression or wanted liberation. The Woman’s Movement encountered a great deal of on-going opposition from women as well as men. The Equal Rights Amendment would be defeated. Abortion clinics would become sites of murder, harassment, and terrorism. Women would encounter the notorious “glass ceiling” which allowed them to teach in a classroom but not to preside in a board room. Cultural conservatism and male control was reasserted when Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980. Affirmative action was stalled and the white male backlash against women began. For women and people of color, it was one step forward and two steps back. Indeed, in her own lifetime, Beauvoir would be challenged on all fronts–most surprisingly from an inpatient younger generation of women. Although she lived long enough to be part of the French feminism of the seventies and the eighties, she did not live long enough to see the struggle continue and start to show real results.

Today, sixty years after the publication of The Second Sex and thirty years after the resurgence of a conservative agenda in America and Europe, the struggle to free the Second Sex from its Otherness continues. Post 2010 in the United States ushered in an unprecedented number of political efforts, mostly successful, to pass laws that take constitutional rights away from women, who are still regarded mainly as a womb. Equally unprecedented have been uncounted and unreported sexual assaults and rapes of women in the armed forces and those crimes that have been reported have rarely been prosecuted must less have the predators been brought to justice. There are days when one wonders if we have not reverted to those dark days when Beauvoir was trying to write women back into Existentialism and back into meaningful existence. And then there are other days when it is possible to see powerful women standing up for the rights of women, women with political power and social prominence, women who have made the propositions of Simone de Beauvoir come true: women are made, yes, and today they make themselves.

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French writer Simone de Beauvoir laid the foundation for the modern feminist movement. Also an existentialist philosopher, she had a long-term relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre.

Who Was Simone de Beauvoir?

Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris, France, in 1908. When she was 21, De Beauvoir met Jean-Paul Sartre, forming a partnership and romance that would shape both of their lives and philosophical beliefs. De Beauvoir published countless works of fiction and nonfiction during her lengthy career—often with existentialist themes—including 1949’s The Second Sex, which is considered a pioneering work of the modern feminism movement. De Beauvoir also lent her voice to various political causes and traveled the world extensively. She died in Paris in 1986 and was buried with Sartre.

Catholic Upbringing and Atheism

Simone de Beauvoir was born Simone Lucie-Ernestine-Marie-Bertrand de Beauvoir on January 9, 1908, in Paris, France. The eldest daughter in a bourgeois family, De Beauvoir was raised strictly Catholic. She was sent to convent schools during her youth and was so devoutly religious that she considered becoming a nun. However, at the age of 14, the intellectually curious De Beauvoir had a crisis of faith and declared herself an atheist. She thus dedicated herself to the study of existence, shifting her focus instead to math, literature and philosophy.

In 1926, De Beauvoir left home to attend the prestigious Sorbonne, where she studied philosophy and rose to the top of her class. She completed her exams and a thesis on German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in 1929. That same year De Beauvoir met another young student, budding existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, with whom she would soon form a lasting bond that would profoundly influence both of their personal and professional lives.

Relationship With Sartre and WWII

Impressed by De Beauvoir’s intellect, Sartre had asked to be introduced to her. In a short time, their relationship became romantic but also remained wholly unconventional. De Beauvoir rejected a proposal of marriage from Sartre early on. The two would also never live under the same roof and were both free to pursue other romantic outlets. They remained together until Sartre&aposs death decades later in a relationship that was at times fraught with tension and, according to biographer Carole Seymour-Jones, eventually lost its sexual chemistry.

The individual liberties their relationship structure granted the couple allowed De Beauvoir and Sartre to part ways for a time, with each accepting teaching jobs in different parts of France. De Beauvoir taught philosophy and literature throughout the 1930s, but during World War II was dismissed from her post by the Vichy government after the German army occupied Paris in 1940. Meanwhile, Sartre, who was drafted into the French army at the start of the war, was captured in 1940 but released the following year. Both De Beauvoir and Sartre would work for the French Resistance during the remainder of the war, but unable to teach, De Beauvoir soon launched her literary career as well.

Debut: &aposShe Came to Stay&apos

De Beauvoir’s first major published work was the 1943 novel She Came to Stay, which used the real-life love triangle between De Beauvoir, Sartre and a student named Olga Kosakiewicz to examine existential ideals, specifically the complexity of relationships and the issue of a person&aposs conscience as related to “the other.” She followed up the next year with the philosophical essay Pyrrhus and Cineas, before returning to fiction with the novels The Blood of Others (1945) and All Men Are Mortal (1946), both of which were centered on her ongoing investigation of existence.

During the 1940s, De Beauvoir also wrote the play Who Shall Die? as well as editing and contributing essays to the journal Les Temps Modernes, which she founded with Sartre to serve as the mouthpiece for their ideologies. It was in this monthly review that portions of De Beauvoir’s best-known work, The Second Sex, first came to print.

&aposThe Second Sex&apos

Published in 1949, The Second Sex is De Beauvoir’s nearly 1000-page critique of patriarchy and the second-rate status granted to women throughout history. Now reckoned as one of the most important and earliest works of feminism, at the time of its publication The Second Sex was received with great controversy, with some critics characterizing the book as pornography and the Vatican placing the work on the church&aposs list of forbidden texts.

Four years later, the first English-language edition of The Second Sex was published in America, but it is generally considered to be a shadow of the original. In 2009, a far-more-faithful, unedited English volume was published, bolstering De Beauvoir’s already significant reputation as one of the great thinkers of the modern feminist movement.

&aposThe Prime of Life&apos

Although The Second Sex established De Beauvoir as one of the most important feminist icons of her era, at times the book has also eclipsed a varied career that included many other works of fiction, travel writing and autobiography, as well as meaningful contributions to philosophy and political activism. Among the most notable of her written works were the Prix Goncourt–winning novel The Mandarins (1954), the travel books America Day by Day (1948) and The Long March (1957) and four autobiographies: Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958), The Prime of Life (1960), Force of Circumstance (1963) and All Said and Done (1972).

Not content to rest on the laurels of her literary and intellectual achievements, De Beauvoir used her fame to lend her voice to various political causes as well. She joined Sartre in support of Algeria&aposs and Hungary’s struggles for independence during the 1950s and the student movement in France in the late 1960s, also condemning American foreign policy during the Vietnam War. During the 1970s, De Beauvoir’s work brought her to the forefront of the feminist movement, to which she shared her intellect through lectures and essays as well as by participating in demonstrations for abortion rights and women&aposs equality.

&aposOld Age&apos and Death

In the later stages of her career, De Beauvoir devoted a good deal of her thinking to the investigation of aging and death. Her 1964 work A Very Easy Death details her mother’s passing, Old Age (1970) analyzes the significance and meaning of the elderly in society andꂭieux: A Farewell to Sartre (1981), published a year after his death, recalls the last years of her partner’s life.

De Beauvoir died in Paris on April 14, 1986, at the age of 78. She shares a grave with Sartre in the Montparnasse Cemetery. 

Watch the video: Jean-Paul Sartre au micro de Jacques Chancel: Radioscopie 1973


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