Simone de Beauvoir

Becoming A Woman: Simone de Beauvoir on Female Embodiment

Felicity Joseph finds that sometimes it’s hard to become a woman.

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman”
Simone de Beauvoir

Generally for existentialists, one is not born anything: everything we are is the result of our choices, as we build ourselves out of our own resources and those which society gives us. We don ’t only create our own values, we create ourselves. Simone de Beauvoir, although an avowed life-long existentialist, posits limits to this central existentialist idea of self-creation and self-definition, qualifying the absolute freedom Jean-Paul Sartre posited in Being and Nothingness. By contrast de Beauvoir presents an ambiguous picture of human freedom, in which women struggle against the apparent disadvantages of the female body.

In The Second Sex, her most famous work, de Beauvoir sketches a kind of existential history of a woman ’s life: a story of how a woman’s attitude towards her body and bodily functions changes over the years, and of how society influences this attitude.

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