The extraordinary life of Simone de Beauvoir

Hulton-archiveAnne Hollander at The New Republic (from the archives):

They help to create a world, she wrote, where men are forever feeling betrayed, not supported, by the true character and the quality of women, because when fantasy is governing perception, the truth appears as a blasphemy. Neutral facts about women are perceived by men, and by women themselves, not as welcome illuminations but as bad news, festering blemishes on the lovely structure that both sexes agree is woman's proper moral and physical shape. Men need the structure and try to force its preservation; but they also feel entitled to hate the rituals of fakery that women perform to maintain it, especially when they tail. Women in such a world feel chronically in the wrong, most acutely wrong in moments when the truth of the self betrays the fantasy, but obscurely wrong in essence for consenting to the fantasy in the first place. Woman as Object may be spared the burden of responsibility carried by primary Subjects only by suffering the dishonor of constant two-way self-betrayal. Much heavier burdens and worse sufferings then follow, as women are given and often meekly accept every form of raw deal in punishment tot representing falsity and moral weakness.

The sophistication of Beauvoir's account gave her book a lasting resonance, but her brisk solutions of 1949 were too simple for the way that history was going.

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