I remember first encountering Simone DeBeauvoir during my twenties while at the university. In various philosophy and literature classes I was treated to works such as Ambiguity of Ethics, A Very Easy Death, and her tome, The Second Sex. Neither fond of Existentialism nor Feminism, I didn't much care for her, and her writing itself made me cringe. At the time, I was frustrated by her seemingly shadowing and echoing of her lover's, Jean Paul Satre, philosophy while at the same time asserting Feminism. And I loathed her Feminism--a cold and sterile speculum attempting to shine light on the truth of our wombs, attempting to capture womanhood--motherhood--without herself ever having been a mother, and clearly disdainful of it.
In the end, the largest fault I found with DeBeauvoir's thinking, in regards to Feminism, was the nonsequitor of her argument; that is, that woman is and has been the "second sex" without any historical precedent or cause. In other words, unlike any other form of subjugation, the supression of woman simply is and has been, without event or seeming justification--and that the solution to this subjugation is education. For me, she built so strongly and captivatingly a case for this mysterious subjugation (and it is indeed mysterious) that her posture of education as a remedy simply fell short of the crisis. It's not as though one is correcting a historical fact.
I was angry with DeBeauvoir with not instead seeking further into the depths of this mystery. As a philosopher, DeBeauvoir, it is our charge to delve into the crevices of Wh(Y).
I never forgave her...
And now, what chance is it, that after shortly moving into this grand abode, I begin moving the mountains of books (which have been for so many years in storage) into this space, and among the first, I find DeBeauvoir's The Second Sex (along with Judith Butler's Gender Trouble). That at this moment of crisis--the crisis of Woman--this book appears?
And is it any wonder that, in this crisis, I once again pick it up and begin reading?
My how the years form a woman. I think back to my younger self, a self so confident and naive in her gender, and am envious. Before years spent atop that large, erect ivory tower gleaming in the sun. Before years spent climbing the hard and thick walls of that steeple. Before years spent riding atop the long one-eyed barrel of the Great War machine... To say nothing of all those tiny little pin pricks.
I am still critical of DeBeauvoir (out of respect for her as a fellow philosopher I am obligated to be), yet much more understanding and forgiving. Understanding of the context in which she writes, and how revolutionary her works were at the time. And so forgiving, for she does not have the century of education in Woman to so draw from.
(aha, and there, perhaps her assertion for education has made a liar of me yet.)
I am also profoundly impacted by her work, and this feeling of realization of a problem to which she points (the problem of Woman) which has yet, even in a Century, to be understood or fully grasped, but rather danced around, again subjugated, and all at once repressed, in the name of "Feminism."
For in our attempts to fling off the chains of our subjugation and find liberty, we have done nothing but don male prosthetics and declare the death of our gender. In an attempt to evade the mania that our gender derives from the subjugation of our wombs, we perform hysterectomies upon ourselves, and declare ourselves cured.
But I don't feel cured at all.
In fact, I feel more alone, more alienated. I feel wholly Other...