Identity without Selfhood: Simone de Beauvoir and Bisexuality

Identity without Selfhood: Simone de Beauvoir and Bisexuality

Identity without Selfhood: Simone de Beauvoir and Bisexuality

Identity without Selfhood: Simone de Beauvoir and Bisexuality


Situated at the crossroads of feminism, queer theory, and poststructuralist debates around identity, this is not a book about Simone de Beauvoir, but, rather, a book that addresses the different ways in which she is constructed as an intelligible "self" by academics, biographers and the media. It shows how key Western concepts such as individuality constrain attempts to deconstruct the self and prevent bisexuality being understood as an identity. Drawing on Deleuze and Guattari to see what this construction of bisexuality offers contemporary theories, it also critiques Foucault's work.


Heterosexuality does not have a monopoly on exclusionary logics. Indeed, they can characterize and sustain gay and lesbian identity positions … this logic is reiterated in the failure to recognize bisexuality as well as in the normativizing interpretation of bisexuality as a kind of failure of loyalty or lack of commitment - two cruel strategies of erasure.

Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of 'Sex'

The heart of this chapter is based on three related academic papers, written by Ann Ferguson, Claudia Card and Marilyn Frye, taken from a special issue of Hypatia/Women's Studies International Forum (1985) on the contemporary relevance of The Second Sex to (lesbian) feminist politics. This special edition of Hypatia is edited by Margaret Simons, whose paper 'Lesbian connections: Simone de Beauvoir and feminism' (1992), I touched on in chapters 3 and 4. I will be drawing on Simons' text briefly again in this chapter, insofar as she employs Card's thesis to frame her account of de Beauvoir's life. the articles are united by a shared commitment to explore and develop a feminist and lesbian identity politics. Published in a major feminist academic journal in the middle of the 1980s, they may be seen as indicative of a particular kind of politics and theorising born of the women's and gay liberation movements of the 1970s. Their focus lies especially on the role of responsibility and choice in the construction of individual and collective identities and the relation of these to a radical politics of change.

More specifically, Ferguson's, Card's and Frye's analyses are concerned with the relation between individual choice, responsibility, agency and the role of 'history' in determining (or not) the 'freedom' of the individual (to choose, to take responsibility, to act). All three employ The Second Sex as the springboard from which to discuss these issues, although each paper . . .

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