January 9, 2013

Simone de Beauvoir

Filed under: books — theresaurus @ 8:09 am


Birthday girl, born this day a hell of a long time ago. The idea of her was very important to me as a student: she was a heterosexual woman who was an intellectual and atheist, not at all interested in marriage or children. I thought she was a better writer than Sartre, but the more of her work I read the sadder she seemed to me (not that I can recall why, college was a hell of a long time ago). One of the few works of hers I never read was The Mandarins. I should get hold of a copy. Oh, and I never finished The Second Sex. I dragged around a used paperback for a decade but couldn’t get through it, maybe because of the translation. I never thought I’d get married, but then until Sam I had never met anyone who I wanted legal rights to, a legal document proving this is mine! Then I became Mrs. Jean Paul Sartre. I’m still mad about a New York Times article a couple years ago about Simone, Being and Frumpiness. This is what’s wrong, that women are still being judged by appearance, even intellectuals — everyone knows intellectuals live in their heads so why obsess about what they wear on their bodies? I have leather boots and one of them has big rip in the heel. Today I finally washed the sweater I’ve been wearing daily for months that’s full of woolly boogers. What in the hell is the difference between men and women anyway, really? The ability to look in a refrigerator and see the apple juice right in front of you?

From an interview with Simone:

“They [Americans], more than any other women, and for obvious reasons, were most aware of the contradictions between new technology and the conservative role of keeping women in the kitchen. As technology expands — technology being the power of the brain and not the brawn — the male rationale that women are the weaker sex and hence must play a secondary role can no longer be logically maintained. Since technological innovations were so widespread in America, American women could not escape the contradiction. It was thus normal that the feminist movement got its biggest impetus in the very heartland of imperial capitalism, even if that impetus was strictly one of economics, that is, the demand for equal pay for equal work.

“Women on the right do not want revolution. They are mothers, wives, devoted to their men. Or, if they are agitators at all, they want a bigger piece of the pie. … A feminist, whether she calls herself leftist or not, is a leftist by definition. She is struggling for total equality, for the right to be important, as relevant, as any man. Therefore, embodied in the revolt for sexual equality is the demand for class equality.

“Do you think the mothers you know chose to have children? Or were they intimidated into having them? Or, more subtly, were they raised into thinking that it’s natural and normal and womanly to have children and therefore chose to have them? But who made that choice inevitable? Those are the values that have to be changed.

“Because  of the publicity the word ‘liberation’ is on the tip of the tongue of every male, whether aware of sexual oppression of women or not. The general attitude of males now is that ‘well, since you’re liberated. Let’s go to bed.’ In other words, men are now much more aggressive, vulgar, violent. In my youth we could stroll down Montparnasse or sit in cafes without being molested. Oh, we got smiles, winks, stares, and so on. But now it’s impossible for a woman to sit alone in a cafe reading a book. And if she’s firm about being left alone when the males accost her, their parting remark is often salop [bitch] or putain [whore]. There’s much more rape now. In general, male aggressiveness and hostility has become so common that no woman feels at ease in this town, and from what I hear in any town in America. Unless, of course, women stay at home. And that’s what lies behind this male aggressiveness: the threat which, in male eyes, women’s liberation represents has brought out their insecurities, hence their anger resulting that they now tend to behave as if only women who stay at home are ‘clean’ while the others are easy marks. When women turn out not to be such easy marks, the men become personally challenged, so to speak. Their one idea is to ‘get’ the woman.”


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