The Second Sex // Review

Article excerpt


In taking stock of feminist victories in this century, we must give credit where it is due. In this regard, The Second Sex is the Odyssey of feminist literature-though most of us know about it, few of us seem to have taken the time to sit down and read it. Despite the fact that is has been a source of wonder for many of us, little is known about it. Perhaps this is as good a time as any to look back in herstory, to a book written by a profoundly unique woman in search of herself.

The Second Sex is the most controversial work by feminist/ philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. Popularly known as the confidante and consort of existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre ("the kingly couple"), de Beauvoir was an impressive academic and essayist, particularly suited to lead the feminist movement in her native France. Even at the time of her death at 78 in April 1986, she was still actively involved with the many feminist and socialist liaisons that she had accrued throughout her remarkable life. This famous book was a partial result of one such relationship: political activist Colette Audry had frequently conversed with de Beauvoir about a book about women which would "enrage them, inflame them, make them unite to end the injustice in their lives." As fate would have it, Audry was so immersed in her political concerns that it later occurred to de Beauvoir to write the book, yet from a more philosophical perspective. As she later stated, "One day I wanted to explain myself to myself. I began to reflect all about myself and it struck me with a sort of surprise that the first thing I had to say was 'I am a woman.'"

Essentially, The Second Sex foreshadowed almost every book written on women today, dealing with everything from birth control and abortion to women's status as simply 'the other'-human, yet stil not quite equal to man. …