Simone de Beauvoir, Why I am a Feminist,
Transcript by Gabrielle Dubois of a 1975 television interview #1
Good evening. This is probably the first time you are seeing Simone de Beauvoir. She has always refused, until this year, to appear on TV. The public knows her as one of the greatest writers of today. But it is through her essay The Second Sex, published over 25 years ago, that she has played a historic role in transforming the ideas of our time. This thick, arduous two-volume work was the first to describe and explain for the first time, the secondary status of women throughout human history. Feminists all over the world refer today to The Second Sex. Some underestimate the impact of the changes that victories of feminism will bring about in the future in the world we live in. It is this rising force and its promise of profound changes that Simone de Beauvoir will discuss with us tonight.
Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex ― were we to try and sum it up which is indeed a difficult task ― could be said to revolve around this idea, which has often been repeated since, but which I’d like you to explain to us:
“One is not born a woman, one becomes one.”
Simone de Beauvoir:
Yes, the formula is the basis of all my theories and its meaning is very simple: that being a woman is not an natural fact. It’s the result of a certain history. There is no biological or psychological destiny that defines a woman as such. She’s the product of history, of civilisation, first of all, which has resulted in her current status, and secondly, for each individual woman, of her personal story in particular, that of her childhood. This determines her as a woman, creates in her something which is not at all innate, or an essence, something which has been called the “eternal feminine”, or femininity. The more we study the psychology of children, the deeper we delve, the more evident it becomes that baby girls are manufactured to become women. There’s an excellent book written by an Italian, Elena Belotti, Dalla Parte delle Bambine (side note by Gabrielle Dubois: the book first published in 1974, has not been translated into English, the title could be: On the little girls’ side or What are little girls made of?). Elena Belotti shows that long before a child is conscious, the way it is breastfed or held or rocked, etc, inscribes in its body what may later appear to be a destiny.
The biological differences, which are obvious, are not part of, in your opinion, the way the individual behaves later on?
Simone de Beauvoir:
Certainly, they are part of it, but the emphasis placed on these differences, the importance they take on, come from the social context around them. Of course, it is important that it is women who get pregnant and have children and not men, that is a major difference. But it is not the basis for the difference in status or the exploitation and oppression which women are subjected to. It is a pretext around which the feminine condition is built, but it is not what determines this condition.
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#feminism #feminists #equality
#History #oppression #women #girls #education
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