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Simone de Beauvoir - Feminism and WomenSimone de Beauvoir - Feminism and Women


Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986)


French philosopher (pictured right) and lifelong partner of Jean-Paul Sartre (pictured together below).

 Simone de Beauvoir - Feminism and Women

Her most famous book is...

The Second Sex (1949), the bible of feminism.


What did she say about women?


Simone de Beauvoir - Feminism and Women

1. They are inferior because they choose to be

Like Sartre (pictured right), she was an existentialist, believing that women are free to choose to be the equal of men.

But they accept inequality, because of:

  • self-deception
  • fear of being regarded as too powerful and aggressive
  • a false sense of responsibility (particularly to family). 


2. Change now

It’s up to women to remove oppression by men (without any outside interference including the Church) and not passively accept their inferiority.

To do what’s right everyone must achieve individual freedom, whilst coping with a hostile world (what de Beauvoir called the “ethics of ambiguity” ).

This is what she meant by her famous assertion:

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” .


3. Think about other people as well as yourself

Freedom isn’t a licence to do what you want but an acceptance of your responsibilities to others.

So women must:Simone de Beauvoir - Feminism and Women

  • encourage men to free themselves from their misconceptions about women.
  • seek equal partnerships with men (which bring happiness)
  • have a compassionate (as well as sexual) view of love.  

 Simone de Beauvoir - Feminism and Women

4. Throw away the duster

Creative fulfilment is just as important to women as to men.

So all women must receive:

  • childcare
  • equal education
  • legal abortion
  • help with housework (which de Beauvoir described as “torture”).

Simone de Beauvoir - Feminism and Women 

5. The myth of the “Eternal Feminine”

This is the false view that men have of the ideal woman (a suffering servant at home and in bed).

This ideal:

  • places impossible demands on women. 
  • means that women are never as happy and fulfilled as they could be.


Key quotes on women and men

One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.

This has always been a man’s world.

Society, being codified by men, decrees that woman is inferior; she can do away with this inferiority only by destroying the male’s superiority”.

You can’t assume the responsibility for everything you do – or don’t do.


Key quote on change

Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future.

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