Saturday, January 09, 2010

Second Sex

The lovely lady above is our 139th hero(ine) of the day. Her name is Simone de Beauvoir, born this day 1908 in Paris, France. She was the daughter of an one time lawyer, and part time actor who did not make it a secret that he wanted a son. He did tell her that she had "the brain of a man", and at that time that was an important thing for her to hear. She decided at the age of 15 that she wanted to be a writer, and was drawn to the subject of philosophy. She attended the Sorbonne, and at the age of 21 became the youngest person, and only the 9th woman to obtain the agregation in Philosophy. She took 2nd place on the final examination with Jean-Paul Sartre (her long time lover), who was taking the exam for the second time, took 1st. There was apparently a great deal of discussion about who should get the 1st, but Sartre was eventually awarded it. I suspect it had something to do with his gender, but that is just my humble opinion. It was at the Sorbonne that she obtained her life long nickname Castor, the French word for beaver. She wrote several books, and won the Goncourt Prix for "The Mandarins" in 1954. However, the book that brought her to my attention many moons ago is "The Second Sex" a ground breaking book that set out feminist existentialism. In it she argues that man has always been the ideal that woman are supposed to live up to, and that women had been considered deviant. Beauvoir stated that this belief had always made women outsiders, and that the deviant assumption had to be set aside to allow women to move forward on par with men. For that work and many others, she is considered the mother of post-1968 feminism, and that is something to write home about. It is the kind of feminism, that as a sexist pig man can support, not the shave your head, in your face, men are the root of all evil (which may be true), type of feminism. A thinking woman's (or man's) feminism. For writing that book, and for some many other contributions to the world of literature, feminism, and philosophy, Simone de Beauvoir (January 9th, 1908-April 14th, 1986, at the age of 78), you are my heroine of the day.

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