I found myself thinking last week that it's time I reread The Second Sex. In truth, it might be even considered a first reading, since the translation I read in university (the one that was in print for over 60 years) was translated by a zoology professor and widely acknowledged to be a botched job. Knopf published a new translation last year.
In 1946, when Simone de Beauvoir began The Second Sex, the woman's vote in France was just over a year old, most women were not employed and birth control remained illegal until 1967. The repressive times account for the vehemence of text and the extreme reactions it elicited; The Vatican placed it on the Index of Forbidden Books. And I, reading it in 1995, with a feminist father and happily ensconced in academia, approached the book primarily as a philosophical and historical text.
But while I don't share her hostility for marriage or motherhood, Beauvoir's ideas have taken on a broader meaning for me since my first reading. Her criticism of women who simply see themselves in other's eyes, seems now to apply as much in the eyes of other women as those of men. It's something I see all the time in blogging and that I feel conflicted about - as we project and curate and craft ourselves for an audience. It's difficult to be a woman and not become objectified, either in our own or another's eyes.
And after a recent post on the Sartorialist (yes, the "sturdy"-legged one), I found myself thinking about this again. Thankfully, there are examples of blogs on a similar theme (like Lisa's) that make a deeper cut into something resembling humanness, soul, identity... whatever you want to call it. It's a balance that I think is worth striving for, and that I need to work on cultivating too.
Yes, I think it's time to reread The Second Sex again...
Book: The Second Sex
Review of new translation in the NYT
Review of new translation in the Guardian
Photograph of Simone de Beauvoir by Henri Cartier Bresson via