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de Beauvoir, Simone

  • By: Christine Daigle
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

French existentialist philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir (1908–86) wrote what is considered one of the most significant feminist works of the 20th century, The Second Sex. In it, Beauvoir presents what appears to be a controversial view of motherhood, which has been very severely criticized as well as misunderstood.

Originally published in 1949, the work examines the “woman question.” Beauvoir analyzes the concept of woman from multiple perspectives: biological, anthropological, historical, cultural, philosophical, and phenomenological. She bases her inquiry on the idea that while there is a myth of the eternal feminine, it does not constitute an essence to which one does or ought to correspond. She is dismissive of such essentialist positions.

In her chapter on biology, Beauvoir posits that the female biology determines a ...

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