Continental Philosophy

Jean-Paul Sartre

How was Simone de Beauvoir influential as a feminist?

Writing at a time when women did not have a recognized voice in public life—they had only received the right to vote in 1944 in France—or opportunities to pursue professions, Beauvoir offered a comprehensive account and analysis of the position of women in Western society with a focus on their life stages. For women, unlike men, “biology is destiny,” she said. She was not particularly sympathetic to the subordinate condition of women, generally, because she thought that they too easily accepted their secondary passive roles in comparison to the leading, active roles allowed and expected of men.

Beauvoir did not clearly indicate ways in which women could realize their human freedoms and transcend their object-like status, or immanence, as human beings who were not only objectified by men, but who seemed too content to objectify themselves. However, she began a trend in social and political activism, as well as intellectual life, which recognized and addressed the ways in which women were “the second sex.”


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