The Second Sex

Simone De Beauvoir

The Second Sex



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“One is not born, but rather becomes, woman”: the famous quote by author Simone de Beauvoir, philosopher, writer and social existentialist, as well as feminist icon, comes from her years of in-depth research into women’s lives throughout history, and is still valid right up to the present day. In her book: The Second Sex, Beauvoir questions the meaning of femininity and of what it means to be a woman, as well as looking at the reasons for the continuous subordination of women. In this powerful analysis of the Western notion of “woman” she begins by contemplating whether there is some natural or biological destiny that relegates women to the lower ranks of society, and explores the concepts of inequality and otherness. The book is as pioneering and pertinent today as it was sixty years ago, and continues to provoke and inspire generations of men and women alike.

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Analysis and key concepts


Since the dawn of time, men have been thought of as perfect human beings, while women are considered a variant: the second sex


Throughout history, women’s fate has always been predominantly linked to the concept of private property


Femininity is associated with multiple myths or stereotypes that help perpetuate women’s position of diversity and isolation


Becoming a woman is a process that begins in very early childhood, and which puts females on a path of restricted lifestyles, and shrouds them in a cloak of obligation which they wear for most of their lives


The transition from childhood to adulthood is particularly traumatic for the girl, above all for the freedom it deprives her of, and for the sudden narrowing of future prospects that it entails


The adult woman who is now a wife and mother, soon realises that the dream of love that she had been sold is not enough for her to feel completely fulfilled


The subordination of women is also perpetuated through unrelenting barriers to any freedom in how she manages her body, her motherhood or her sexuality


Women have never managed to come together in solidarity for one another, which is why they have not successfully been able to oppose patriarchy as a collective


The only possible condition for both sexes to enjoy true happiness and for women’s liberation is the achievement of equal independence through collective processes




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Understand the deep rooted reasons for sexual inequality.
  • Look back at the history of inequality between men and women.
  • Appreciate the point of view of a great feminist author whose work is still highly relevant.
  • Imagine a society in which men and women are truly equal.

Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris, 1908 and died in 1986. She was a feminist icon, and pioneer of the feminist movement, as well as an existentialist philosopher, writer, and social theorist. De Beauvoir graduated from the Sorbonne in 1926, and in 1929, she qualified as a teacher of philosophy. At university she met her life partner, Jean Paul Sartre. The couple was bound by a deep intellectual friendship, but Beauvoir also had other relationships with both men and women. Beauvoir wrote novels, essays, biographies, and monographs on philosophy, politics, and social issues. Her autobiography, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter offers an insight into her childhood and her upbringing, as well as the developments of her rebellious nature.

Publishing house:

Vintage Books