Reviewing Simone DeBeauvoir’s The Second Sex

Simone Debauvoir

Reviewing Simone DeBeauvoir’s The Second Sex

“One is not born but becomes a woman”. This quote is the founding philosophy of Simone Debauvoir’s exponentially known feminist work “The Second Sex”.

The book was written originally in French during the second wave of the feminist movement. The book tries to show the naiveness and the failure of the first feminist movement. DeBeauvoir tries to tell us that just having legal rights does not liberate or emancipate the conditions. 

The Second Sex tries to explain how patriarchy is rooted more in the social and the familial concepts of feminine identity. The book is more radical than any oher feminist prose.

The book traces the history of women’s oppression with wide intensity and depth. The second sex first describes the identity of a woman by asking “What is a woman?” DeBeauvoir abrashedly expresses that women have always been “the other’ while man is more closely associated with humanity.

The Second Sex closely analyses that how physiology led to women suppression and the fact that nature had a big role to play in that cause and claims that the value of women cannot be judged on the basis of her physiology. Next, the book examines the historical events that led to women’s oppression.

The book cites examples of Greek and Roman civilization where women were worshipped as a goddess but were used as sex slaves in the royal court.

DeBeauvoir feels that the advent of the industrial revolution and the division of labor added to the women’s misery.

As we read further, we find criticism against marriage and how the girl’s upbringing, which differs from the boys, has a potent role in her subordinating condition. DeBeauvoir feels that motherhood is a curse and a blessing because it protects the woman from perverse male gaze but in the long run reduces her role in the outside world.

The second sex also critiques religion to be cause of women’s suppression. DeBeauvoir shows that the Original Sin made EVe the villain and the ways religion creates myth about the feminine identity.

The Second Sex is a strong book which has given many women the voice to demand for their rights. Whatever DeBeauvoir proposed in the 1950s is still applicable to women today. Everywhere in the world women are demanding the right to their own body, the right to use contraception. Even we saw how the Taliban regime suppressed the conditions of women in Afghanistan.

But DeBeauvoir turns out to be an extremist. She fails to understand the value of choice and circumstances. She ignores facts such sterility and transexual behaviour present in women.

She fails to acknowledge the fact that women are different and they should not be conforming to be like men.

One of the biggest reasons I find to criticize in this book is the fact that it does not pay much attention to lesbianism and calls it a deliberative perverse action and fails to recognize the fact that it is a part of women’s identity too.

With all the pros and cons, we have to acknowledge the fact that it is a brilliantly written book that has influenced many future female activists. It surely mobilizes the contemporary feminist movement all over the world.


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