Thursday, May 28, 2009

One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman

Photo of Simone de Beauvoir taken by Nelson Algren

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir is a book I consider to be quite lifechanging for me. It asserts, well before feminism had taken hold, that women are not subordinates of men. It defines "sex" and "gender" as separate individual characteristics.

I was first exposed to this book during my time studying in Paris. The influence this book has had on me could possibly be attributed to the fact that the time I spent living in Paris was itself a lifechanging experience. (To be living alone in a foreign city brings about personal characteristics one may never know one had.) And certainly, reading The Second Sex in Paris is much different than reading it in New York or San Francisco. You can almost feel Simone de Beauvoir's presence while sitting in a cafe on Rue St. Germain. But I think that the power of this book exists no matter when or where it is read.

I truly admire the strength and tenacity that de Beauvoir must have had to be able to publish such a book in 1949, long before any of the content was commonly discussed.

There are several reasons why I bring this book up today. One is that a very close friend of mine just recently purchased the book and began reading it. She made a point to tell me about her purchase because I had brought the book up so many times in conversation that she just finally had to know what it was really all about.

The second reason I bring it up is because This year marks 60 years since the book was published and a new and IMPROVED English translation is scheduled to come out in November. I'm starting to get anxious about reading it.

And thirdly, de Beauvoir makes many claims about the equality of men and women. Recently, I listened to a radio segment that featured a discussion with scientists about how similar men and women really are. It is exciting for me to see that what de Beauvoir claimed so many years ago is becoming a reality today.

Check out the radio piece:

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