Simone de Beauvoir and a brief overview of her life and legacy
FeminismsSexuality and Gender

Simone de Beauvoir and a brief overview of her life and legacy 

by Nuala Szler, translated by David Crowe

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman” declared Simone de Beauvoir during the tumultuous 20th Century and couldn’t be heard. This is because Beauvoir asserted that femininity should not consider itself developed merely due to biology or organs, rather it should consider itself a social construction. Time has concluded that these were and are the fundamentals of the feminist struggle throughout the world. 

Women, as presented in The Second Sex, are defined from the masculine perspective which reserves for itself the universal, transcending identification that femininity is defined by the body, particularly that which it gives. 

In a relationship between the sexes, the man is portrayed as the subject and the woman as the object, to the extent that femininity emerged as something inhuman; something unattainable, and something other. It’s an absolute which isn’t reciprocal. That is to say, in contrast to other relationships, the relationship between the sexes isn’t reciprocal because the woman, by definition, requires the supposed essential being: the man. 

Simone de Beauvoir

Here the key is the form in which Beauvoir moved between the specific ways in which tradition, literature, culture, religion, and politics, in the world, created the artificial ideas of femininity and so produced an ideology of the ‘natural’ inferiority of women to justify their subjugation and the oppression of their liberty. 

Simone de Beauvoir, her life, her legacy. 

“Soon the future will exist and it will transform me into another who could say I, but I won’t be the same. I presented all of the breaks, the surrenders, the abandonment, and the proceedings of my deaths.” (from Beauvoir: 2016; 11) writes Simone de Beauvoir in the opening pages of Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, the first part of which serves as a memoir and that, nevertheless, anticipates and warns what is to come. 

Daughter of Georges Bertrand de Beauvoir and Françoise Brasseur, Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris in 1908 and died in 1986 in the same city. A renowned philosopher, professor, and writer, well she couldn’t conceive a life without writing, her work covers three topics: literary (The Invited, The Mandarins), teachings (The Second Sex), and memoirs (Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, The Prime of Life, Force of Circumstance, All Said and Done, and, after the death of Sartre, The Ceremony of Goodbye).

Dedicating all her life to reclaiming the abilities and rights of women, today, one cannot speak of Feminisms without mentioning her name. She participated actively in the defense of the rights of women, especially as it came to the legalisation of abortion in France, converting herself into a precursor to Feminisms we know today. 

Simone de Beauvoir, moreover, contributed intensely to the ideological debates of her time, she fiercely attacked the French right and assumed the role of an occupied intellectual. She was also the founder of the paper Modern Times alongside Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty; the first edition of which was published on the 15th October 1945 and became a reference for political and cultural thought in France from the middle of the 20th Century. 

Simone, one of the pioneers of Feminism 

Educated and raised in the heart of a Christian family, Simone started to distinguish herself from a young age. At fourteen years old, a crisis of faith transformed her into an atheist. To be free, she felt the need to discard this pre-established belief. 

Isolated by her intellectual abilities and shunned for the reputation of her family, which after the First World War was plagued by dishonour when her maternal grandfather, Gustave Brasseur, president of the Bank of the Meuse, declared bankruptcy. Nevertheless, all of Simone’s education went on uninterrupted until her university degree. Her first degree, in Literature and Latin, was awarded to her in the summer of 1924. 

Simone de Beauvoir and a brief overview of her life and legacy  | Rock & Art

Later, in 1925, Simone graduated at the same level in philosophy and mathematics. She studied literature and languages at the Institut Sainte-Marie in Neuilly a private school for working on Bachelor of Arts degrees, and the Catholic Institute in Paris, where she studied mathematics. In 1929 she began her philosophical development in the Arts Faculty of Sorbonne where Simone won second place in her classification, being the ninth woman to graduate from that university. In that establishment, she met other young intellectuals including Jean-Paul Sartre, her companion for fifty years. 

Clinging to the questions about existence and life in all forms, the fundamental, for her, was liberty. She never married nor lived with Sartre, but they had a polygamous and bisexual relationship, reflecting their disposition to deny any restriction placed upon them by society. 

“It seemed that I existed in two ways; between that which was I and that which others believed me to be which had no relation to me” (143) writes Simone in her memoirs, demonstrating that all her life, she reinforced the idea of being genuinely oneself and deconstructing to the maximum what that means.