The Second Sex

The Confusion of the Biological and the Social in The Second Sex

Although Simone de Beauvoir is widely considered a primary influence on contemporary feminism, she notably criticizes women in her most famous book, The Second Sex. In illustrating the history of female oppression, Beauvoir emphasizes all the deficiencies of character that result from ill treatment. She accuses women of narcissism, irrationality, indecision, emotionalism, and selfishness. Despite raising such harsh criticism of her own sex, Beauvoir goes to great lengths to argue that it is a woman's situation, and not her essence, which is responsible for her inferiority. Women suffer from these character flaws according to Beauvoir, because male dominance has prevented them from developing normally within society. Although woman is a "free and autonomous human being" like man is, male-dominated society forces her into the role of the Other. Her liberty and her chances of success are limited, and she is thus forced into immanence. Despite her emphasis on social causes, Beauvoir's explanation for the flaws in the female character appears inadequate in light of her biological arguments. Reading The Second Sex, it becomes clear that Beauvoir considers nature to pose a serious disadvantage to the female sex. She...

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