Simone de Beauvoir – Insufferable Sluttist
Simone de Beauvoir wrote The Second Sex , which as far as I can tell is considered every true feminist’s favorite feminist book. I often see it recommended as a feminist “primer” of sorts, in addition to it being a part of, in some way or another, women’s studies programs around the globe. Her existentialist feminism gave us the concept of “woman” as “other”, and we’ve been pretty much fucked ever since.
The Second Sex is available online at marxists.org, if you haven’t read it yet, though it’s the allegedly inaccurate original translation. Anyway, for now here are a few Amazon reviews that you can take a gander at:
This book has proved to be ground breaking in the feminist movement. However, it seems to reinforce social roles under gender categories, which is the last thing any gender (male or female) movement needs. It reinforces gender roles by outcasting one and accepting the other. It is an interesting read but one that should be taken with a grain of salt.
I agree with some of de Beauvoir’s conclusions: the importance of financial independence for every woman, female character is a result of her situation not the opposite, the difficulty of breaking free from the myth of “femininity”, and most importantly, women’s own role in reinforcing their dependency and otherness. I strongly disagree though with the claim that being a mother or a wife are unfulfilling roles that exacerbate a woman’s inferiority.
… I think she is saying that women are not born second-class citizens, they become them, through societal shaping, political pressure and self-monitoring. They become the Other because they start to believe they are. …. some of the saddest aspects of the life of the Other for women still ring true.
5 stars (multiple excerpts):
- A book that every thinking man should read, especially those of us who live with feminists. Even better, to read and then discuss it with an intelligent woman, preferrably your partner
- This book can be regarded as the defining text of the feminist movement.
- Truly, this book has the power to change one’s life. Every woman should read this book as a required owner’s manual and as a introduction to feminist theory, and every man should read this book in an attempt to escape from his outdated, ingrained perceptions relating to women.
- Simone’s treatise is the most brave and brilliant piece of literature ever written about gender and its effects on the lives of everyone we know.
Another 5 star review put it this way:
A very balanced analysis that puts the blame for discrimination both on the arrogance and hypocrisy of the dominating male gender and on the passive acceptance that women often offer in exchange for indulgence and “adoration”.
If that’s not “victim-blaming”, I don’t know what is. Maybe they teach it in graduate school. It’s not just the men, but also the “passive acceptance that women offer in exchange for indulgence and “adoration”” that are to blame, nevermind defining “passive” or “acceptance” or “indulgence” or “adoration”, de Beauvoir defined them for us in the text.
However, rarely discussed is de Beauvoir’s earlier work of ‘fiction’, She Came To Stay:
Set in Paris on the eve of World War II and sizzling with love, anger, and revenge, She Came to Stay explores the changes wrought in the soul of a woman and a city soon to fall. Although Francoise considers her relationship with Pierre an open one, she falls prey to jealousy when the gamine Xavire catches his attention. The moody young woman from the countryside pries her way between Franoise and Pierre, playing up to each one and deviously pulling them apart, until the only way out of the triangle is destruction.
Here are two reviews typical of what I found:
The novel focuses on Francois, a theatre and fiction writer, and her long time relationship with theatre director and actor, Pierre. They are wholly consumed with each other and both regard each other as part of themselves – there cannot be one without the other. They are one. Xaviere, a high minded country girl from Rouen is persuaded to move to Paris by Francois who holds a deep desire to see Xaviere lead a successful and happy life. Slowly, Francois and Pierre form a menage-a-trois with Xaviere largely due to Pierre’s attraction to her. The relationship between the two women is much more ambiguous. Sullen, impulsive, sensual, self-obsessed -Xaviere possesses morals that borders on hedonistic and is wholly consume with her own satisfaction.
Based on her relationship with the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, the book is hard going by most standards, exploring jealousy; the most basic of human emotions, and pushing the definition of personal freedom to the limits of acceptability.
When the beautiful but unstable Xaviere comes into their lives, both of them take her under their wing as their protégé, eager to experience new sensations through Xaviere’s naïveté and enthusiasm. Soon Pierre and Xaviere begin an affair, to the delight to Francoise who adores them both, but Xaviere is unable to accept their unorthodox philosophy and begins to drive a wedge between the two of them in her attempts to make Pierre’s love for her unique.
Francoise … soon finds her emotions have become out of control and that her ideas of freedom have to be sacrificed in order to fight the manipulative actions of Xaviere.
… few readers can fail to be whipped up and drawn in by the feelings of anger and jealousy that Xaviere conjures up through her actions
… a fictionalised account of the ménage a trios that de Beauvoir and Sartre (both in their 30s) had with de Beauvoir’s protégé, the 17 year old Bianca Bienenfeld*. This young and beautiful woman nearly broke the incredibly strong relationship between the two philosophers, and drove de Beauvoir to the limits of her endurance. The novel is often said to have written as an act of revenge.
The de Beauvoir character kills the meddlesome little slut in She Came To Stay, which I think is significant, but not as significant as the way nobody ever, not in any reviews or summaries or critiques, looks at the character of Xaviere as anything more than the object against which de Beauvoir compares herself. Even when people insist that her entire existentialist feminist philosophy is specifically designed to facilitate experiencing the existance of the “other” as subject, and not as object – it’s clear to us “others” that we are still the objects being pondered.
It’s quite similar to the way academic and sheltered feminists use “sluts” and “whores”, paid or not, against which to measure themselves on one side, and “housewives” on the other. Two things that they are decidedly not. They use the Second Sex to uphold their belief that they are somehow better than those other women. Though, of course, they would NEVER use the word “better”, just more “enlightened” perhaps.
They put themselves in the place of de Beauvoir, and their lovers (real or imagined) in the place of Sartre. Xaviere’s role is filled by the sluts on TV, and in porn, and everywhere – especially sex workers and their supporters. Once these roles are cast – through the Second Sex – academic feminists proceed to debate the necessity of legal rights as if it were existentialist philosophy.
“Do those women understand what they are doing? Don’t they know they don’t HAVE to contort themselves into what a man expects a woman to be? Don’t they realize that they are allowing themselves to be restricted to a role as “the other”, and thereby constraining all women to that role as well? Haven’t they read The Second Sex”
They assume that we are what de Beauvoir described. Working from a naïve romantic fantasy about “love” they have based all of their notions of what woman is, and what feminism should be, upon de Beauvoir’s foundation, when that foundation is really nothing more than the jealousy of a woman scorned.
How disgusting that they continue to wax philosophic while real lives are ruined. How pathetic that they take the words of conservative state-crafting ideologues as gospel, just because those ideologues have learned to use the de Beavoir language of oppressed other-speak. How frightening that they blindly follow those working to restrict rights, with only the flimsiest of reassurances that restrictions are really what is best for those “other” women. How sad.
Sartre corresponded exactly to the dream companion I had longed for since I was fifteen: he was the double in whom I found all my burning aspirations raised to the pitch of incandescence….
— Simone de Beauvoir, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, 1959