Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir
Giclée print 11’ x 14’ // 27,9 x 35,6 cm
Printed on 300 gsm paper, slightly textured with a chalky smooth cotton feel.
Signed and numbered.
Includes A5 card detailing Simone’s extraordinary story.*
*SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR’S STORY
Simone de Beauvoir was a French intellectual, philosopher, writer, feminist and activist. In 1949, she published The Second Sex, a revolutionary book in which she explores the meaning of ‘being woman’. At a time when women had obtained the right to vote (1944), why were women still facing substantial social and economic inequalities? Women couldn’t open their own bank accounts until 1965!
In her work, she explains that growing up woman has a bigger influence on a person than most people - women included - realise. From early in life, women’s everyday experiences were tremendously different from those of men’s, with profound consequences in their adult life. “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman”.
From a young age, boys were told to be brave, to run, to climb, to build and explore; girls were told to be pretty, to wear nice dresses, to not get dirty, to behave modestly and decorously. Fairy tales told of stories of men who were heroes, princes, warriors, explorers; and stories of women who were beautiful princesses, locked up in towers, put to sleep, waiting to be saved. This was reflected in their personal lives, with their own mothers staying at home, like imprisoned princesses, while their fathers went off to the outside world, like conquerors discovering new lands.
The same continued into adolescence and adulthood, with these practices and influences accumulating to create rigid structures, which contributed to hold women back, limiting their opportunities and their accomplishments.
These are the concepts, which underpin Simone’s description of women as the ‘second sex’: because women are generally defined in relation to men, as the Other. Man is the subject, while Woman is the object and not a subject in its own right. Even language reinforces these constructs, with ‘he’ and ‘man’ being the default terms. As a result, women constantly try to picture themselves, as they would look to a male gaze, instead of looking out to the world as it presents itself to them.
Although she believed that women had an individual responsibility and that they could change their lives, the book concludes that to ensure women’s equality, radical social changes are necessary. Firstly, women should work so to ensure economic independence from men. There should be universal childcare, equal access to education and to the same kinds of activities and projects as men, as well as contraception and legal abortion. Women must be treated as equal to men and laws, customs and education must be altered to encourage this.
The Second Sex was received with great shock. But if men found it uncomfortable, women who read it often found themselves thinking about their lives in a new way.