Simone de Beauvoir, Why I am a Feminist, 7

Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre

Transcript by Gabrielle Dubois of a 1975 television interview #7

They say that if there’s a revolution and society changes, things will automatically change for women?

Simone de Beauvoir:
Yes. And, even when I wrote in The Second Sex in 1949, I was dupe. I thought the priority was to fight for the revolution because I’m very much on the Left. I want a total change of regime, and capitalism to be overthrown. I thought that was all that was needed for women to obtain equality with men. But I realised I was wrong. Neither in the USSR (link ) or in Czechoslovakia or any socialist country, nor in the Communist Party or in the unions or even in today’s most progressive left-wing movements is women’s destiny the same as men’s. And that’s why I decided to become what I call feminist in a very active way. An active feminist means coming here to speak about feminism to all the women who want to listen to me. I realized there was a specifically feminist struggle, that fighting against “patriarchal values” isn’t to be confused with fighting against capitalist values. These two struggles should be fought together. It is not possible to radically change the situation of women without radically changing society in terms of class. But it’s illusory to think that the class struggle alone would be enough to support the women’s struggle. It’s a struggle that has to be carried out by women. So movements that are often derided like the MLF (link  ) ― Women’s Liberation Movement ― are absolutely necessary in today’s society.

Therefore, you’re saying that feminism has a role to play in our society, the one you and I live in, as well as communist countries where it doesn’t exist yet?

Simone de Beauvoir:
In communist countries, I don’t think women are able to create women’s liberation movements. But if they could, it would be very useful. I think this movement is useful in many ways. To begin with, one of its idea is that women get together and talk. What they go through at home often creates acrimony and resentment. Because housewives aren’t always sweet little angels. In spite of it all, they feel the injustice. Instead of enduring this injustice, complaining uselessly on their own, it’s better that women talk to each other about their problems. Just between themselves, not with men, and they seek solutions. It would save them a lot of bitterness. It would also help them to understand their situation, to think about it. And afterwards, I’m sure they’ll all want to unite in order to change it. So it’s something which would be extremely useful with such far-reaching effects that it would change society as a whole.

Gabrielle Dubois©

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