The Second Sex


On the recommendation of Ryan Chapman, I read the Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir. I found this to be such a pivotal reading experience, helping me to understand some of the many issues in which feminism is based on. While I disagreed with the author with claims of praising the Soviet-style system, I had to remind myself of the time period in which this work was written.

That said, any book that radically alters my thinking is worth reading. This one is powerful for both the way in which the author captivates the reader and also, how the author demonstrates many forms of hidden bias in our societies today towards women.

Who is Simone de Beauvoir?

Simone de Beauvoir was a French writer, philosopher, and feminist. She is best known for her 1949 book “The Second Sex,” in which she argues that women have been historically and systematically oppressed by men and by society. She is also known for her long-term relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre, with whom she was part of the existentialist movement. She wrote many other books and articles on philosophy, literature, politics, and other subjects.

What is the Second Sex About?

There are more eloquent summaries online, but for me the Second Sex is about showcasing the real challenges women have. It is a foundational text in feminist philosophy, and argues that women have been historically viewed and treated as the “other” in society, while men have been seen as the default or norm. Beauvoir asserts that this view of women as the other is limiting and oppressive, and that it is necessary for women to claim their own subjectivity and agency in order to fully realize their potential as human beings. The book is divided into two parts: “Facts and Myths” and “Lived Experience.”

In the first part, Beauvoir examines the biological, psychological, and cultural factors that have contributed to the traditional view of women as inferior to men. In the second part, she looks at the ways in which this view has affected the lives of women, and how women have resisted and challenged it throughout history. The Second Sex is a significant work in the history of feminist thought, and continues to be widely read and discussed today.

The author however does use the basis of the differences between the sexes as reason for conflict, or even ‘war’ in some cases. de Beauvoir goes onto equate the plight of the woman as very similar to that of the working class fighting for equality, culminating in the Soviet Union’s communist system.

What did Simone de Beauvoir Call on Women to Do?

The author calls on women to recognize and reject the societal constructions of femininity that had been imposed on them, and to instead create their own identities. She argued that women should reject the idea that they are “the other” in relation to men, and that they should refuse to accept the limitations and stereotypes that society had placed on them based on their gender.

De Beauvoir also emphasized the importance of women’s autonomy, which means the ability to make one’s own choices and control one’s own destiny. She believed that for women to truly be equal to men, they must have the freedom to shape their own lives and to make their own choices, without being constrained by societal expectations or limitations.

As a Man, Will I Enjoy Reading the Second Sex?

This is a book that uncovers a lot of the hidden biases in everyday life that negatively impact women. De Beauvoir does an excellent job unpacking these blindspots we all may have and does so in a way that is both engaging and enlightening.

The book provides a detailed critique of the societal constructions of femininity and masculinity and the ways in which they have been used to justify the oppression of women. By reading the book, men can gain a better understanding of the ways in which they may have been unaware of these biases.

Additionally, the book provides an insightful look into the experiences of women and the ways in which societal expectations and limitations have affected their lives. By reading the book, men can gain a deeper understanding of the perspectives and experiences of women and can learn to be more sensitive and empathetic towards them.

Furthermore, the book can help men to better understand the societal constructions of masculinity and to question the ways in which they may have been pressured to conform to certain stereotypes and expectations.

As a man, reading books on feminism often come sometimes with sweeping generalizations on masculinity and men overall. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, but I also believe that in more recent times, there have been incredible strides made in western countries – and for men growing up in societies with progressive policies, these arguments may be lost as the description of masculinity may not fit.

With de Beauvoir’s work, I found this book to be a bold attempt to help uncover some of the many challenges women face. I can’t recommend reading this book enough.

Find this book here.


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