Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir (January 9, 1908 – April 14, 1986), born  Simone-Lucie-Ernestine-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir was a French author, existential philosopher, political activist, feminist and social theorist. Born in Paris, de Beauvoir was very religious in her youth and intended on becoming a nun until a “crisis of faith” at age 14 pushed her to become an atheist. This remained central to her philosophy for the rest of her life.

She received a dual Bachelor’s degree in mathematics and philosophy in 1925 from the Institut Catholique. She continued her studies at the Sorbonne, studying philosophy, as well as passing exams for Certificates in History of Philosophy, Greek, Logic Ethics, Sociology, and Psychology. She was the only the ninth woman to receive a degree from Sorbonne — she wrote her thesis on Leibniz at a time when women had just recently been able to study at colleges. Quite the scholar, at 21 years of age de Beauvoir became the youngest teacher of philosophy in France.

Simone de BeauvoirDesperate to be accepted as part of Jean-Paul Sartre’s intellectual circle, it didn’t take her long to succeed. In addition to Sartre, other existentialists such as Albert Camus and Maurice Merleau-Ponty were part of this world. She and Sartre became lovers in an open relationship. They never married, and though they shared an incredible intellectual and romantic bond. “We have pioneered our own relationship — its freedom, intimacy, and frankness,” as she described it. She had many relationships with both men and women.

From 1941 to 1943 she worked on her first novel, The Blood of Others, considered one of the most important existential novels of the French Resistance. In 1943 she was dismissed from her teaching post, as some parents felt she was ‘corrupting’ her students. She decided then to pursue her passion, which was to write full time, and never returned to teaching.

Simone de Beauvoir’s most popular and enduring work is The Second Sex, published in 1949. It is still read and studied to this day as an essential manifesto on women’s oppression and liberation. Filled with ideas deemed radical at the time, the book made her an intellectual force and inspired a generation of women to question the status quo, and better yet, to change it.

Simone de Beauvoir’s body of work encompasses fiction, nonfiction, essay, and memoir. Her novel The Mandarins received the prestigious Prix Goncourt award in 1954. Simone de Beauvoir died in Paris of a pulmonary edema in 1986.

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Quotes by Simone de Beauvoir

de beauvoir, simone“Man is defined as a human being and woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.”

“I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.” (The Blood of Others, 1946)

“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”

“It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself… It seems unfair. You can’t assume the responsibility for everything you do — or don’t do.” (Les Belles Images, 1966)

“Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day. The housewife wears herself out marking time: she makes nothing, simply perpetuates the present … Eating, sleeping, cleaning – the years no longer rise up towards heaven, they lie spread out ahead, grey and identical. The battle against dust and dirt is never won.”

“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation, compassion.” (As quoted in Successful Aging : A Conference Report, 1974, by Eric Pfeiffer)

Simone de Beauvoir at her desk“To emancipate woman is to refuse to confine her to the relations she bears to man, not to deny them to her; let her have her independent existence and she will continue nonetheless to exist for him also: mutually recognizing each other as subject, each will yet remain for the other an other.” (The Second Sex, 1952)

“When we abolish the slavery of half of humanity, together with the whole system of hypocrisy that it implies, then the ‘division’ of humanity will reveal its genuine significance and the human couple will find its true form.” (The Second Sex, 1952)

“Self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, but it is on the side of happiness and can supply the courage to fight for it.” (Force of Circumstances Vol. III, 1963)

“On the day when it will be possible for woman to love not in her weakness but in strength, not to escape herself but to find herself, not to abase herself but to assert herself – on that day love will become for her, as for man, a source of life and not of mortal danger.”

“Defending the truth is not something one does out of a sense of duty or to allay guilt complexes, but is a reward in itself.” (As quoted in The Book of Positive Quotations, 2007, by John Cook, Steve Deger and Leslie Ann Gibson)

Simone de Beauvoir, 1945“Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.” (As quoted in The Book of Positive Quotations, 2007, by John Cook, Steve Deger and Leslie Ann Gibson)

“…my father’s individualism and pagan ethical standards were in complete contrast to the rigidly moral conventionalism of my mother’s teaching. This disequilibrium, which made my life a kind of endless disputation, is the main reason why I became an intellectual. (Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter)

“Patience [is one of those] ‘feminine’ qualities which have their origin in our oppression but should be preserved after our liberation.”

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