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The Second Sex [abridged English translation by H. M. Parshley] (1949)

by Simone de Beauvoir

Other authors: H. M. Parshley (Translator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,519312,489 (3.96)65
Newly translated and unabridged in English for the first time, Simone de Beauvoir's masterwork is a powerful analysis of the Western notion of "woman," and a groundbreaking exploration of inequality and otherness. This long-awaited new edition reinstates significant portions of the original French text that were cut in the first English translation. Vital and groundbreaking, Beauvoir's pioneering and impressive text remains as pertinent today as it was sixty years ago, and will continue to provoke and inspire generations of men and women to come.… (more)
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English (30)  Portuguese (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Powerful and well argued book. ( )
  brakketh | Apr 1, 2023 |
A surprisingly modern work, which is in many ways unfortunate. I was surprised by how well the scientific perspective in Part 1 held up. The section on Myth is exceptional, and, even now, is instrumental to understanding contemporary politics. Unfortunately, the latter half of the work contained in Volume II ("Lived Experience") is outdated, if not in substance then in style. Beauvoir makes concessions for the sake of argument which would be considered too great by current standards. She would do well to provide an update to these chapters, though I suspect she may not get around to it. ( )
  Joe.Olipo | Nov 26, 2022 |
I read this back when I was a teenager in the 50's when life as a woman was becoming visible in a disturbing way. I am more observer than participator but also a victim. I was very aware of my female place in the order of things and often despaired and the unfairness, the inequity, the vulnerability and the sheer workhorse aspect of being a woman, wife, mother and later office worker who put in the same hours for half the pay and came home to a second and third job. This book lingered and perhaps opened my eyes too far and tainted my experience of life but it was true in every aspect. With Roe vs Wade being overturned within the month, guaranteed, I am reminded of those years of terror of pregnancy and back alley abortions. Then having to fight my doctor for a tubal litigation after two abortions, one child given up for adoption and now raising two...I was thirty and he refused. I did manage to work around him and got my wish but it was another example of my having no control over or decision making over my own body. So here I am rereading and despairing once more for womankind. We accomplished so much, we fought and came so far but the machine is working to take us back in time, take away all our gains and put the next generation in chains again. ( )
  Karen74Leigh | Aug 16, 2022 |
I was drawn to this book by a single sentence:
One day I wanted to explain myself to myself... And it struck me with a sort of surprise that the first thing I had to say was 'I am a woman.'
De Beauvoir presents the idea that women have been set up over the centuries as the ultimate "Other". Otherness is the idea that people need to define something or someone as not the self to be able to define the self. On an individual level, everyone outside your own head is Other, but, De Beauvoir claims, the ideal of femininity has been set up as a societal Other.

De Beauvoir claims that society defines normal as masculine. That was certainly true when she wrote this book in the 1940's, and I think it is largely true today. Strength, power, rationality are all defined by society as masculine and good, while weakness, emotion, and intuition are defined as feminine and bad. I was uncomfortable at first with labeling the first set of attributes masculine and the second feminine, but I realized that De Beauvoir is considering societal archetypes that (annoyingly) still hold. It is still considered odd for a woman to desire power or a man to be emotional.

The book discusses how these ideals are embedded in society. De Beauvoir's fundamental argument is that traits such as rationality can and should be shared by all humans, but the structure of society has withheld them from women. I agree with her general argument, but I sometimes was annoyed with De Beauvoir's presentation. Her justification consists mostly of examples strung together to paint the worst picture of femininity. The examples are too specific to be generally convincing. She seems to largely draw her case from psychological literature that discusses particularly neurotic women; it is relatively rare that she discusses the case of the average woman.

De Beauvoir also seems to hate women and idealize the world of men. She wants women to acquire masculine traits and lose feminine traits. She seems to imply men have the perfect life. For example, she discusses the limitations of the home in providing a fulfilling career for women and makes the assumption that most men are fulfilled by their jobs. In general, she writes as if men have no problems. Yet I am sure there are enough cases in the psychological literature that a book can be written that makes just as sorry a case for the sad plight of men as De Beauvoir makes for women.

Going off topic a bit, I am always annoyed at those strains of feminism that assume the feminine is less valuable than the masculine. We have gotten to a point where it is generally acceptable for a woman to have so called masculine traits, but it is still unacceptable for men to have feminine traits. Focusing on the feminine plight was a logical place to start; the masculine traits are the ones associated with the power to repress and abuse others, and women needed to escape from that. However, the problems facing women now, from home/work balancing to wanting to wear skirts and still be taken seriously, are largely related to balancing of feminine and masculine. Men and women need to come to respect feminine qualities and recognize them in everyone. In short, all of these masculine and feminine qualities about need to lose their gender and be recognized as human.
  eri_kars | Jul 10, 2022 |
In The Second Sex Simone de Beauvoir attempts to define the mystery that is a woman, and she does an incredible job of that. Beauvoir goes over the history of women in the ideas that they represent and how they are represented in society. We are shown in various forms the dichotomy that woman seems to represent. A woman can be either Eve or the Virgin Mary, and for that, she is alternately repulsed and glorified. We put her on a pedestal while enslaving her to our whims at the same time. She can be a representation of life itself or of death. Some writers remember that she is made of flesh and call it disgusting that she has the necessities that it entails. In that sense, it was uncomfortable reading. On the other hand, it was really fascinating and engrossing.

The book is slightly outdated in the sense that it was written in 1949 and translated into English in 1953. So it missed the Feminist Revolution of the 1970s. However, Beauvoir lived to the ripe time of 1986 and in that she might have had some opinions on it. Also, I have heard that the translation that I have obtained is not that good, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of the book. It is easy enough to understand her position and thesis without a completely faithful translation. Although it would be interesting to read it in the original French, it would probably take really long since I would have to know French. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Beauvoir, Simone deprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Parshley, H. M.Translatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Borde, ConstanceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Crosland, MargaretIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malovany-Chevallier, SheilaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This is the abridged English translation by H. M. Parshley, which omits parts of the original work. Do not combine it with the complete and unabridged English translation, first published in 2010, or with complete versions in other languages.
(If your copy of the book is *not* the Parshley edition, but is mixed up in this one, please modify the title or ISBN of your catalog record, so that your edition can be found and properly separated.)
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Newly translated and unabridged in English for the first time, Simone de Beauvoir's masterwork is a powerful analysis of the Western notion of "woman," and a groundbreaking exploration of inequality and otherness. This long-awaited new edition reinstates significant portions of the original French text that were cut in the first English translation. Vital and groundbreaking, Beauvoir's pioneering and impressive text remains as pertinent today as it was sixty years ago, and will continue to provoke and inspire generations of men and women to come.

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    SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR

born in Paris and educated at the Sorbonne, stands at the center of the French Existentialist movement along with her close companion, Jean-Paul Sartre.

She has devoted her life to writing - producing novels, plays, travel books and essays. Simone de Beauvoir has explored every aspect of femininity - sexual, social, biological, even historical.
The Second Sex is a total picture of what she has learned, observed, and thought.

Written in French, Translated and published in principal languages throughout the world, The Second Sex is the most penetrating, frank, and inmate book ever written about Woman.
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