Sunday, November 15, 2009
On Simone de Beauvoir's "Second Sex"
On Simone de Beauvoir's "Second Sex": When French feminist, Simone de Beauvoir, published The Second Sex in 1949, few understood its significance with respect to the emerging philosophy of existential feminism. In fact, one of the most well-known phrases surrounding the feminist movement originated with Beauvoir's book. It follows that "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman." Such a statement makes an important distinction between the terms of 'gender' and 'sex.' Whereas 'gender' is more of an acquired trait, 'sex' is a permanent condition. Today, people can have 'sex' changes at the hands of a skilled surgeon, but attributes of their original 'sex' still exist underneath the surgical work. Building on the themes expressed in Beauvoir's "Second Sex," Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963. This book effectively launched feminism onto the same stage as the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s; as Friedan went on to establish the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. Much of the feminist legacy, however, has shifted in scope since the mid-twentieth century. Naomi Wolf, the woman in the above video, advocates "third-wave feminism," which basically seeks to redefine the feminist movement in the wake of the Cold War by getting women more involved in politics and creating a greater awareness over issues like reproductive rights and sexual harassment.