Up@dawn 2.0

Friday, April 29, 2016

PostTwo- Simone de Beauvoir: Fighting for Women's Rights

Emily Blalock
Section 4
Dr. Oliver
Simone de Beauvoir: Fighting for Women’s Rights

As my last installment stated, John Stuart Mill was an advocate for individuality and was an important influential philosopher of the nineteenth century.  He was also known as an early feminist, and wrote The Subjection of Women in order to campaign the importance of equality of the sexes.

Similarly, another philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir, is credited with creating works with an emphasis on freedom and the liberation of women, thereby laying the foundation for the modern feminist movement. Born in 1908, she became a crucial figure in the fight for women’s rights.  She was also the life-long companion of philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, and their relationship was thought to have shaped both of their lives and philosophical beliefs.  Although considered to be a French novelist during her life, she was later acknowledged as a philosopher.

One of her most famous works, The Second Sex, continues to be of importance in feminism.  Written in 1949, this book laid the groundwork for second-wave feminism, which broadened the concerns of women’s role in the family and the workplace, as well as reproductive rights, whereas the first-wave was primarily concerned with suffrage and property rights.  She emphasizes that women are seen as “other” in society. 

One of the most famous lines from her work is, “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” In other words, the idea of what a woman is and should be is socially constructed, not biological as many people believed.  She expressed that women are told what role they must fill and what they are and are not capable of doing.  Her idea of socially constructed gender roles was extremely radical for her time.  This constant pressure of being told who to be and how to act restricts a woman’s sense of freedom.  Here are some quotes from The Second Sex:

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

“All oppression creates a state of war. And this is no exception.”

“Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with absolute truth.”

“And without a doubt it is more comfortable to endure blind bondage than to work for one's liberation; the dead, too, are better suited to the earth than the living.”

Her insight was extremely important and radical for her time.  We have changed a lot as a society in thanks to thinkers like John Stuart Mill and Simone de Beauvoir, and their works continue to be read and remain of importance. Their ideas of freedom and equality have had a major impact on how we view the role of women in society, as well as emphasized why it is important that people truly have the opportunity to be free.  It is impossible to address a problem if no one talks about it, and that is why is was so crucially important that these two philosophers were willing to voice their thoughts, although they were so radical for their time. 

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