Happy birthday, Simone de Beauvoir!
Today marks the 115th birthday of one of the most influential feminist philosophers of all time. But before we dive into her ideas and accomplishments, let’s start with a little bit of background on the woman herself.
Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris on January 9, 1908, the oldest of two daughters in a bourgeois family. She was a precocious child, excelling in her studies and eventually earning a degree in philosophy from the Sorbonne. It was there that she met Jean-Paul Sartre, who would become not only her lifelong companion, but also a crucial collaborator in her philosophical endeavors.
De Beauvoir is perhaps best known for her landmark work, “The Second Sex,” which was published in 1949 and remains a cornerstone of feminist thought to this day. In it, she famously declared that “one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” This statement challenged the commonly held belief that gender roles and identities are innate and unchangeable, and instead argued that they are socially constructed and imposed upon individuals.
But de Beauvoir’s contributions to feminist philosophy go far beyond “The Second Sex.” She was also a vocal advocate for reproductive rights and birth control, and was heavily involved in the French resistance movement during World War II.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: this all sounds very serious and academic, and where’s the humor in that? Never fear, dear reader, for de Beauvoir had a sharp wit and a mischievous sense of humor, as evidenced by her many clever quips and anecdotes.
For instance, when asked about the nature of her relationship with Sartre, de Beauvoir famously replied, “We are inseparable, but not in the way people think.” And when a journalist once asked her if she believed in God, she quipped, “I don’t believe in God, but I’m afraid of Him.”
But perhaps my favorite de Beauvoir-ism is this gem: “I am too intelligent, too demanding, and too resourceful for anyone to be able to take charge of me entirely. No one knows me or loves me completely. I have only myself.” This statement perfectly encapsulates de Beauvoir’s philosophy of individual freedom and agency, which was central to her feminist beliefs.
In addition to her philosophical pursuits, de Beauvoir was also a successful writer and novelist. She published numerous novels, essays, and memoirs, and was even awarded the Prix Goncourt, one of France’s highest literary honors, for her book “The Mandarins.”
Despite her many accomplishments and contributions to philosophy and literature, de Beauvoir faced significant backlash and criticism during her lifetime, especially from those who opposed her feminist ideas. But she remained unfazed by the haters and continued to speak out on issues of gender and social justice until her death in 1986.
So on this day, the 115th anniversary of her birth, let’s take a moment to celebrate the life and work of Simone de Beauvoir. Her ideas may have been controversial in her time, but they continue to inspire and influence feminists and philosophers today. Happy birthday, Simone!