Simone de Beauvoir and Feminist Existentialism

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With an extensive opus of writings and long-time work as a feminist and philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir is considered as one of the greatest existentialist philosophers. Besides that, she worked with a lot of other immensely prominent names, including her lover Jean-Paul Sartre, then Albert Camus, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. 

She created plenty of writings, including those on feminism, ethics, and politics, but she also wrote fiction.

The Extensive Work of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir thought a lot about the human struggle to be free, but being a woman in her period, she couldn’t overlook the efforts women had to go through. In her book The Second Sex, she adequately explained how the many centuries have looked at women in the same way – as passive parts of humanity that are there to accept the roles that are appointed to them.

The one thing that connects her works is the emphasis she places on freedom, ambiguity, and responsibility. All of these are mostly at the core of existentialism. 

For example, her roman à clef The Mandarins exude her beliefs. In it, Simone de Beauvoir has made a fictional account of the struggles of existence. These superbly display through the social and personal relations of several people at the end of the Second World War. 

These two books have arguably made her who she is today. The Mandarins were awarded the highly sought Prix Goncourt award and The Second Sex laid the groundwork and brought upon the second wave of feminism. 

The New Wave of Feminism

While the first wave of feminism was preoccupied with women’s suffrage and the right to vote and own a property, the second wave moved on to win all the other right women were lacking – the concerns of family, sexuality, the workplace, reproduction, and more. 

You could say that the essential rights were won in the first feminist wave, but Simone de Beauvoir heralded the fight for the remaining powers that are supposed to make women truly equal to men. In the end, there is no real difference between the two genders, and the second wave of feminism was there to point out that.

The name of de Beauvoir’s book outlines that effectively – women have been treated as the second sex throughout centuries, while men are the first and the default sex.

It’s worth remembering one of the most famous lines from the book: “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” What Simone de Beauvoir meant by this is that women do not become women by birth, but they became that which the society deems they should be – the second sex.

It might be evident to us today that one’s gender is not important as we are all human beings, but in de Beauvoir’s time, it was a genuinely radical idea to not think of women as the second sex and as people with specific roles in society that must be followed.

Looking at how much we’ve moved from this in such a short time, one cannot be but happy and hopeful that in the future, we’ll move even further.

We need to think about and work towards a better future for all people, and that’s the goal of the next World Happiness Agora, where we will discuss the future of many important topics for humanity. Join us and help us bring about a happier globe!