A 1975 French television interview, transcript by Gabrielle Dubois #5
You say it’s not productive, but many women listening to us believe that raising their children, succeeding in that very difficult task of preparing the next generation to do their best ― it’s basically women who do this job ― and other little things like creating a nice home and family environment, that all of that doesn’t count…
Simone de Beauvoir:
I didn’t say it didn’t count, I said it is not productive, it doesn’t create a so called “economic value”. In this work, which can also be interesting and rewarding, a large part of it ― I’m speaking of housework ― is routine, repetition, doing things over and over again. Above all, it makes women terribly dependent. Because in fact, women can only do this work if they are maintained by a husband who earns a living. If the husband takes another wife or gets tired of her, or makes life impossible for her, if they separate or divorce, the woman often has no other means of support. I’m quite familiar with this situation. Since The Second Sex ( Link ) was published, 25 years ago, I’ve received a lot of letters from women who have confided in me in more or less long letters, but often in great detail ― with some, correspondences have followed. One case which is quite frequent is that of a woman who writes to me when she’s in her 30’s, who gladly got married at 20, who enjoyed keeping house and raising her children, who was happy. And then, at 30, things go wrong with her husband, he leaves her, or she can’t stand him any longer. Suddenly she has nothing, no job, and her children become more of a burden than a pleasure because she has to bring them up alone which is a considerable task. She often comes to bitterly regret the fact that she didn’t get a job and even thought she was married maybe, provide for some sort of financial independence.
Moreover, at 30, she has still a chance of finding a job, but at 50, it’s impossible. The current debate about reforming the divorce law raises this problem. A 50 years old housewife and mother is entitled to nothing. And since, of course, she has no job, she currently has no means of support.
Simone de Beauvoir:
That’s right. But even at 40, which is quite frequently the case, women don’t have the time to learn a new job. In some amazing cases, women take up a new career, but they are the exception. It takes a lot of energy for a woman to rebuild her life when she finds herself on her own at 40 without her children who’ve grown up and married or a husband to support her. Even if she has one, a man she gets along with more or less. She’s not part of society in any interesting way for her.
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Link: History law divorce in France