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Beauvoir was then a thirty-eight-year-old public intellectual who had been enfranchised for only a year. Legal birth control would be denied to French women until , and legal abortion, until Not until the late s was there an elected female head of state anywhere in the world. Girls of my generation searching for examples of exceptional women outside the ranks of queens and courtesans, and of a few artists and saints, found precious few.
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Simone de Beauvoir
20th WCP: Is The Second Sex Beauvoir's Application of Sartrean Existentialism?
Margaret A. Simons Southern IllinoisUniversity at Edwardsville msimons siue. Critics have claimed a Sartrean origin for Beauvoir's central theses: that under patriarchy woman is the Other, and that 'one is not born a woman, but becomes one. In this diary, Beauvoir affirms her commitment to doing philosophy, defines the philosophical problem of 'the opposition of self and other,' and explores the links between love and domination. In , she thus lays the foundations of both Sartre's phenomenology of interpersonal relationships and of her own thesis, in The Second Sex , that woman is the Other. Tracing Beauvoir's shift from her apolitical position of to the feminist engagement of The Second Sex points to the influence of the African-American writer, Richard Wright, whose description of the lived experience of oppression of blacks in America, and whose challenge to Marxist reductionism, provide Beauvoir with a model, an analogy, for analyzing woman's oppression.
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The Second Sex
Beauvoir researched and wrote the book in about 14 months between and Some chapters first appeared in Les Temps modernes. Beauvoir asks "What is woman? She describes women's subordination to the species in terms of reproduction, compares the physiology of men and women, concluding that values cannot be based on physiology and that the facts of biology must be viewed in light of the ontological, economic, social, and physiological context. Beauvoir argues that while Engels, in his The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State , maintained that "the great historical defeat of the female sex" is the result of the invention of bronze and the emergence of private property , his claims are unsupported.
There are some thinkers who are, from the very beginning, unambiguously identified as philosophers e. There are others whose philosophical place is forever contested e. Simone de Beauvoir is one of these belatedly acknowledged philosophers. That place is now uncontested.