It was a while ago when I first started The Second Sex. It has been quite the journey. In two volumes and five parts, she walks the reader through all that is woman. More accurately, all that was woman. Woman has changed significantly in some ways since Simone de Beauvoir put these thoughts on paper and she acknowledges within her pages that American women were experiencing some cultural differences apart from France even in her time. There are points where it feels like she is in my head, describing my most ridiculous fears, and then moments where I feel like we’ve veered into crazy town. I supposed much of that comes from the difference in era and culture, because it happens mostly when she talks of arranged marriages and deflowerings that things take a turn for the worst.
This book journeys from simple biology, to myths, to facts, to history and through all of the stages of life and all possible parts of the psyche. The biology took a while to wade through. There were some cultural views of the time and literature that were either grossly outdated or just really French. Once the historical section began, I was enthralled.
As explained in the Foreword, this book took a significant amount of time to write and her coverage of women and the full range of human emotion that we experience is precisely laid out and meticulously explained.
I would hope that a revisited version for modern women would need to revisit her ideas of lesbians and introduce both gender and transgender to the vocabulary used here. These words and ideas for them were not in existence at the time, so it is no fault of the original author’s.
In her conclusion, she discusses a painful process that was already beginning and a hopeful end. There are many points within this conclusion that are parts of our everyday lives now. It is interesting to see the confusion in these changing times and how perfectly it was predicted by the author.
A great read, but tread with caution. Those who are not normally on this level of intimacy with women may confuse exactly which sections are outdated and which sections are still quite relevant. Her views on femininity and the price that women pay to preserve it and to work is still quite great, for example.
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