Meaning of DE BEAUVOIR, SIMONE (1908-86):
A Parisian philosopher and novelist, de Beauvoir is best known in the social sciences for her two-volume The Second Sex (1949). In this work she argued against the idea that there was something essentially feminine about women although she also stressed the ways in which women’s experience is biologically different from men’s. To capture the nature of women’s subordination she adopted the existentialist terminology of the other. In mainstream Western culture women are defined as the other in contrast to men. Ideas about what women are like have been developed by men as part of men’s self-understanding: where men are rational, women are emotional and so on. Women are thus the second sex because their identity has been devised by men in the course of men’s development of their own male identities. They are what men are not.