Katie Roiphe reviews a new translation of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex:
In her essay on Beauvoir, Elizabeth Hardwick called The Second Sex "brilliantly confused." This is a pitch-perfect description of the massive tome, because confusion is precisely its strength: the ability to tolerate the contradictions, the nuances, the million tiny ambivalences and ambiguities of intimate life. This brilliant confusion has been all but lost by most of the great feminist books that came afterwards; it is, alas, at odds with causes and picket signs, with the more mundane ideological work of a political movement. We go in now, I am afraid, more for predictable simplicity.
De Beauvoir aficionado Freddie DeBoer wonders why de Beauvoir's other works aren't better known:
I do worry that there is a tendency to relegate women writers, and particularly women philosophers, to some cramped and reductive space called "Feminism." Search through many anthologies, of either literature or philosophy/criticism, and you will often find some sort of regimented (and thus segregated) division between non-feminist and feminist works. Feminism, in other words, becomes a chapter-- an important chapter to the anthologists and editors, I'm sure-- a discrete unit easily packaged and bundled separately from the rest of knowledge, echoing the movements that condemn women and women's interests into a narrow space defined by patriarchy.
Anyway, my point is merely that I think that it is strange that The Second Sex is the only work that many people know of de Beauvoir's at all, and I can't help but wonder if this isn't a product of a reductive view of feminism and women philosophers, one that confines each to the level of niche and segregated knowledge
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