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Beauvoir's TimejOur Time:

The Renaissance in
Simone de Beauvoir

Sonia Kruks

S I N C E THE EARLY SECOND WAVE, Simone de Beauvoir and her work

have provided something of a Rorschach test for feminist theory, with dif-
ferent generations and genres of feminism each projecting their own pre-
occupations upon her. First hailed as "Mother of Us All" and as the author
ofthe so-called Bible of Second Wave feminism, she was mainly treated in
the 1970s as an icon or held up as an ideal. But although in the 1970s many
feminists found personal inspiration in The Second Sex as well as in Beau-
voir's life, relatively few engaged seriously with the book as a major theo-
retical work. Mary Dietz's later observation that "like the Bible, The Second
Sex seems to have heen much worshiped, often quoted, and little read"
clearly had some truth to it.' For many it seems to have been Beauvoir's
life that was the more important. This was a life that (at least as Beauvoir
presented it in her autobiographical volumes) appeared as an ideal for the
would-he liberated woman. Her "free" union with Jean Paul Sartre; her re-
fusal of housework, marriage, and motherhood; and her intellectual seri-
ousness and creativity—all were worthy of emulation.
However, in 1979, a scholarly conference was held in New York to com-
memorate the thirtieth anniversary of the original French publication of
The Second Sex in 1949; and twenty-five years ago, in the summer of 1980, the

Feminist Studies 31, no. 2 (Summer 2005). © 2005 by Feminist Studies, Inc.
Sonia Kmks 287

first collection of North American scholarly articles o n Beauvoir and fem-

inism was published in this journal. In their preface t h e editors spoke
warmly of "the ongoing debt we owe to Beauvoir." However, the articles
that followed were more ambivalent in tone. Mary Felstiner, for example,
described the "contrary reactions" of both "ecstasy" and "disappointment"
that The Second Sex sparked in her women's studies classes. She asked rhetor-
ically: "Can't she [Beauvoir] see in the women's world anything more than
stagnation? Isn't there a culture of nurturing and sisterhood that women
can build on?" Jo-Ann Fuchs claimed in her article that Beauvoir's analysis
of female eroticism was internally contradictory a n d simplistic, a n d


Beauvoir and "The Second Sex": feminism, Rxice, and the Origins of Existentialism. By
Margaret Simons. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999.
The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir. Edited by Claudia Card. C a m -
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Sex, Gender, and the Body: The Student Edition of "What Is a Woman;'" By Toril Moi.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Toward a Phenomenology of Sexual Difference: Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Beauvoir. By
Sara Heinamaa. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.
The Other Within: Ethics, Politics, and the Body in Simone de Beauvoir. By Fredrika
Scarth. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004.
The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir: Gendered Phenomenologies, Erotic Generosities. By
Debra Bergoffen. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

Michele Le DoeufF described the book as empirically valid, yet as using a

conceptual apparatus that was, as she dryly put it, "now a trifle obsolete."^
These ambivalent essays were harbingers of what was to come. As femi-
nist theorizing exploded in the 1980s, The Second Sex was extensively
discussed, yet often only to be dismissed as methodologically naiVe and
self-contradictory. Feminist critics zealously sought to reveal what Pene-
lope Deutscher has called "the notorious contradictions of Simone de
Beauvoir."^ Beauvoir was said to be an essentialist, positing women as the
hapless victims of their biology, and yet also a radical social constructionist
288 Sonia Kruks

for whom women's oppression was entirely cultural. She was said both
to claim that women were helpless playthings of the patriarchy and that
they were free agents, responsible for their own oppression. Moreover, it
was asserted, Beauvoir was profoundly male-identified in attributing
greater freedom to men's public activities than to women's private ones,
misogynist in her contempt for most women's lives, heterosexist, and
possibly racist.
Such disparaging readings of Beauvoir were shaped intellectually and
politically by two important shifts in U.S. (and other Western Anglo-
phone) feminism. One was the turn toward "gynocentrism." As feminine
difference, including feminine eroticism, motherhood, distinctive wom-
en's values, and feminine discourse came to be celebrated, Beauvoir was
seen as increasingly old-fashioned. She was accused of taking masculinist
values as the norm to which women should aspire, of disparaging the fe-
male body (of which she was often said to have an intense personal hor-
ror), and of dismissing motherhood as inimical to women's liberation.
With, moreover, the growing influence in the United States of the "new
French feminism," of "ecriture feminine," and of poststructuralism more
generally, she was also cast as a naJfve "enlightenment" humanist. She was
portrayed as hopelessly mired in Sartre's old-fashioned and sexist existen-
tialist problematic: in a phallocentric philosophy that celebrated freedom
as the "project" of an autonomous, masculine self.
A pivotal moment in this history was the appearance of the English
translation of Julia Kristeva's essay, "Women's Time," in Signs in 1981. With-
out directly naming Beauvoir, the essay emphatically asserted that the
time of her generation of feminists (the generation of "suffragists and of
existential feminists," as Kristeva put it) was now definitively past. With
the publication also of the key volume of translations. New French Feminisms
(1981), "French" feminism came to mean, in the Anglophone context, a
neo-Lacanian, discourse-oriented feminism, celebratory of women's dif-
ference and hostile to the alleged phallocentrism of the entire Western
philosophic tradition. This was a feminism that was not Beauvoir's, and
for whom Beauvoir most often functioned as a tacit "Other."'
In addition to these gynocentric and posthumanist shifts in feminist
theory, in the 1980s there developed (especially in the United States) an in-
Sonia Kruks 289

creasing focus on differences among women. The arguments that "femi-

nism" was but an imperialistic movement of white, heterosexual, middle-
class women who silenced all others were also rapidly deployed against
Beauvoir. Thus, although in 1949 de Beauvoir's chapter on "The Lesbian"
in The Second Sex had been pathbreaking, courageously breaking a taboo,
she was now accused of stereotyping lesbians and of heteronormativity.
She was also accused of insufficient attentiveness to racial and other dif-
ferences among women. By the time of her death, in 1986-and for some
years beyond—Beauvoir did indeed seem at best an "icon" and was more
often the antagonist (explicit or implicit) for a growing body of U.S. femi-
nist theory.
Moreover, as Toril Moi noted in 1990, the feminist literature on Beau-
voir was not only predominantly critical but also peculiarly nasty in tone.
It contained an "unusual number of condescending, sarcastic, sardonic, or
dismissive accounts," such as are not found in the treatment of other,
comparable French women writers'—or, one might add, in feminist treat-
ments of a range of male French theorists, from Jacques Lacan to Jacques
Derrida to Michel Foucault. Just as the most pervasive strategy in the ini-
tial (and highly hostile) French response to The Second Sex in 1949 had been
to personalize it, "to reduce the book to the w o m a n [and] to discredit
Beauvoir as a speaker, not to enter into debate with her" (Moi, 23), so too,
in tbe 1980s, feminist readings of Beauvoir frequently dismissed her work
by reducing it to an expression of her relationship with Sartre, to her per-
sonal fears, hostilities, prejudices, and other failings. She might be the
Mother of Second Wave feminism, but she was a mother whose daughters
felt she had let them down-and because they could not ignore their ties to
her they proceeded loudly to express their disappointment and hostility.
And yet the story is not quite as neat as I have suggested; stories never
are. There was always a strand of more considered engagement as well,
one in which (as Moi put it) Beauvoir's "right to be taken seriously" as a
theorist was acknowledged. Indeed, at the end of her article in Feminist Stud-
ies in 1980, Felstiner had exhorted: "Try going back to The Second Sex, to un-
wind its arguments and rewind t h e m in a different way" (271). It was
sound advice, and a few were already following it in the 1980s. In the
course of the 1990s, however, the tenor of Beauvoir scholarship began
290 Sonia Kruks

more generally to shift. Today, careful and creative unwindings and re-
windings of Beauvoir's arguments are proliferating, and it is clear that
Beauvoir scholarship is far more than either a personal therapeutic or an
historical exercise. To address Beauvoir is to engage in a range of current
theoretical debates about (among other issues) the sex/gender distinction,
feminine embodiment, sexual difference, and feminist ethics.
But why the shift in Beauvoir's theoretical fortunes? Beauvoir's death (in
1986) surely had something to do with it, making it easier to focus on Beau-
voir the thinker rather than Beauvoir the icon or the Mother. Further-
more, the posthumous availability of volumes of Beauvoir's letters and di-
aries have shed important new light on her life (including the revelations of
her numerous affairs with women) and on her early intellectual forma-
tion. These discoveries have invited new reflections on her significance for
feminist theory and her status as an original philosopher.' Against the un-
questioned assumptions of an earlier generation, that Beauvoir worked
faithfully in the framework of Sartre's "existentialism" and that she just
"applied" his philosophy to the question of women, recent work in femi-
nist philosophy has now indubitably established Beauvoir's importance as
an original philosopher in her own right. In addition, in the last few years,
a growing mood of caution about the benefits of poststructuralism for fem-
inism has stimulated yet further work on Beauvoir. The suggestion I made
in 1992 that "Beauvoir's account of situated subjectivity is one from which
we could begin to develop an account of the gendering of subjectivity
that can avoid both essentialism and hyperconstructivism" is now being
productively pursued by many feminist scholars.' Readings of Beauvoir
are proving pivotal in the recent turn toward what may be called post-
poststructuralism: the endeavor to move beyond poststructuralism while
continuing to heed its critiques of earlier feminisms. Thus the Beauvoir
"Renaissance" should not be considered as an isolated phenomenon but
should rather be seen as an integral element of this ongoing shift in intel-
lectual and political sensibilities.
In addition to, and partly stimulated by, the Anglophone Renaissance,
there is now also a growing body of work on Beauvoir appearing in Europe
and elsewhere. Intriguingly, this includes a growth of serious attention to
Beauvoir in France, where she was vilified and expunged from feminist
Sonia Kruks 291

discourse in t h e epoch of high poststructuralism and ecriture feminine. At a

major international conference held in Paris in 1999 to mark the fiftieth
anniversary of The Second Sex, papers by French scholars covered topics as
diverse as Beauvoir's materialism, t h e history of Beauvoir's reception in
France, and Beauvoir's political activism during the Algerian War. Equally
of note, at another conference in Paris in 2003, Kristeva herself gave a sur-
prisingly sympathetic talk on Beauvoir and Sartre.' However, for reasons
of space, in what follows I shall confine myself to the Anglophone "Re-


The twofold project, to demonstrate both that Beauvoir is philosophically
independent of Sartre and that she is a significant contributor in her own
right to the continental philosophy "canon" and beyond, has been central
to recent feminist philosophical work on Beauvoir. The attempt to
achieve recognition for the woman who previously was mentioned in
works on existentialism merely as Sartre's companion has been remark-
ably successful. Indeed, the recent publication of The Cambridge Companion to
Simone de Beauvoir reflects this success, for this is one of only two volumes in
this extensive and prestigious series of (what their blurb calls) "compan-
ions to major philosophers" devoted specifically to a woman philosopher.
Although certain ironies attend this success, and one might wonder what
Beauvoir herself would have made of it, she has now been enshrined in a
philosophical "canon" that includes eminent men from Plato and Aristo-
tle to Ludwig Wittgenstein and, indeed, Sartre. But more importantly, at-
tending to Beauvoir as a philosopher in her own right has opened up new
perspectives on her work and created new spaces for innovative feminist
The work of Margaret Simons has been fundamental both to tbe pro-
ject of demonstrating Beauvoir's philosophical originality and to indicat-
ing the potential contributions of Beauvoir to present feminist theory. Si-
mons has also meticulously shown the glaring inadequacies of what still
remains the only English translation of The Second 5ex.'° In her 1999 volume,
Beauvoir and "The Second Sex": Feminism, Race, and the Origins of Existentialism, Si-
mons collects together her writings on Beauvoir from more than two
292 Sonia Kruks

decades. She begins the volume with "In Memoriam (1986)," in which sbe
describes her first meeting with Beauvoir in 1972. To her dismay Beauvoir
insisted that the only important philosophical influence on The Second Sex
was Sartre's Being and Nothingness. Simons was already convinced by 1972 that
Sartre's early philosophy could not be the philosophical origin of The Sec-
ond Sex. With its insistence on the absolute freedom of the subject, with its
dualistic core ontological distinction between being in-itself (matter) and
being for-itself (human consciousness)—a distinction that could not ade-
quately account for the complexities of human embodiment—and with its
portrayal of human relations as fundamentally conflictual ones in which
self and other struggle to objectify each other, Sartre's philosophy was
thoroughly masculinist; Beauvoir surely could not be the passive disciple
of Sartre in matters philosophical that she claimed to be. In her path-
breaking 1981 paper, "Beauvoir and Sartre: The Question of Influence"
(here republished as chapter 3), Simons begins the long, painstaking task
of intertextual reading to demonstrate that the relationship between the
two thinkers was far more reciprocal than Beauvoir publicly acknowl-
edged. Indeed, Simons shows, contrary to received opinion, there is evi-
dence that influence often ran in the opposite direction, that Sartre had
significant intellectual debts to Beauvoir.
But if many of Beauvoir's ideas were not derived from Sartre, then on
what other traditions and thinkers did she draw? Much ofthe more recent
feminist philosophical literature on Beauvoir has been concerned with
this question, tracing tbe influences on her thought of other figures in the
phenomenological and existential tradition, including Maurice Merleau-
Ponty, Edmund Husserl, and Martin Heidegger, as well as examining how
she draws from earlier thinkers such as G.W.F. Hegel and Karl Marx, or
from prior French thinkers. Simons's own contributions to identifying
Beauvoir's intellectual sources are offered in the two most recent essays in
her book. One considers the African American writer Richard Wright.
Wright was a close friend of Beauvoir's in the late-1940s," and her account
of her travels in tbe United States in 19'17 makes it clear that Wright was
her cultural and intellectual guide to the world of racial segregation." Si-
mons argues that it was from Wright's analyses ofthe experience of racism
(rather than from Sartre's analyses of anti-Semitism in Anti-Semite and Jew)
Sonia Kruks 293

that Beauvoir took the concept of "internalized oppression," which was to

become so central to The Second Sex.
The final essay in Simons's book, "Beauvoir's Early Philosophy: The 1927
Diary," is based on her careful study of Beauvoir's still unpublished diary."
This diary was written when Beauvoir was nineteen, before sbe met Sartre.
Here again, Simons's project is to distinguish Beauvoir from Sartre, in part
by showing from the diary the range of other thinkers who entered impor-
tantly into Beauvoir's philosophical formation. The essay also discusses and
quotes extensively from Beauvoir's rich meditations on her personal life
and relationships, as well as her intellectual world, to demonstrate that key
preoccupations that differentiate her work from Sartre's were already pre-
sent before they met.
I cannot do full justice here to Simons's account of this early Beauvoir,
but a couple of points especially merit mention. One is Beauvoir's very
early attunement to embodiment as a register of experience. Comparing
herself to ber male student friend, Merleau.-Ponty, she writes, "These
problems that he lives with his brain, I live them with m y arms and legs"
(cited on 205). Simons also quotes some intriguing passages from the di-
aries concerning self-other relations. Tbese suggest that Beauvoir's sensi-
bilities anticipate (in Carol Gilligan's term) "a different voice" to that of
Hegel or Sartre, each of w h o m speaks of relations among selves wbo are
posited as autonomous and in conflict. Beauvoir, by contrast, is more con-
cerned with connectedness. Indeed, Simons argues that for Beauvoir (as
for so many women), the problem is rather one of "fusion," of lack of
boundaries and excessive selflessness (231-32)—issues Beauvoir later ex-
plored at length in considering tbe modalities of women's existence in The
Second Sex.
Questions concerning Beauvoir's status as an original philosopher, her
relationship with Sartre, and the different philosophical influences on her
work continue to be major preoccupations in Beauvoir scholarship, as evi-
denced in The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir, edited by Claudia Card.
Of the fourteen essays in the volume, at least eight are concerned wholly
or in part with these questions. Several focus on Beauvoir's relationship
with a particular thinker. Eva Gothlin argues that Beauvoir's more radical
break with Cartesian dualism locates her work nearer to Heidegger's than
294 Sonia Kruks

to Sartre's; Sara Heinamaa turns to Husserl as the most fundamental

source of Beauvoir's conception of embodiment; and Monica Langer ex-
plores the importance of notions of ambiguity in Beauvoir's work and ar-
gues that they place her closer to Merleau-Ponty than to Sartre. Simons
explores the importance of Henri Bergson for Beauvoir's philosophy, and
Susan James explores affinities between Beauvoir's account of women's
complicity in their own subordination and the account of hierarchical so-
cial relations offered by the seventeenth-century French philosopher,
Nicolas de Malebranche. Other essays locate Beauvoir's work in terms of
various areas of contemporary philosophy (Barbara S. Andrew), explore
philosophical aspects of her novels (Mary Sirridge), and discuss why Beau-
voir insisted on refusing the title of "philosopher" (Miranda Fricker).
These essays are uniformly of excellent quality; but several of them may
be of more interest to intellectual historians or historians of philosophy
than to a broader audience of feminist scholars, because they do not go on
(as indeed each of them well could do) to explain how their readings of
Beauvoir could further contribute to feminist theory. Indeed, the project
Simons began has proven somewhat double-edged. For the search for
non-Sartrean intellectual origins at times results in portraying Beauvoir's
work as overly derivative of other established male thinkers, and it thus
may obscure or negate the sheer originality of some of her insights. For
example, although Simons-to return to my discussion of her 1999 vol-
ume-does a fine job of researching the connections between Beauvoir and
Wright, I see no reason to claim that it was Wright "instead" of Sartre who
was the "influence" here. Why assume that Beauvoir needed an influence,
that somebody else had to provide her with the concept of "internal op-
pression," whicb she then adapted to the situation of women? It is equally
plausible to suggest that she arrived at this concept primarily from reflect-
ing on her own experience.
However, other essays in Simons's volume move beyond questions of
influence in order to locate Beauvoir more directly vis-a-vis contempo-
rary U.S. feminist theory. "Lesbian Connections: Simone de Beauvoir and
Feminism" charts (from sources that include Beauvoir's posthumously
published Letters to Sartre and her war diary) Beauvoir's erotic and emotional
relationships with other women. It argues that in her published writings
Sonia Kruks 295

too, and in anticipation of more recent gender theory, Beauvoir clearly re-
jects the "either/or" of heterosexism versus lesbianism. In "The Second Sex
and the Roots of Radical Feminism," Simons positions Beauvoir with re-
gard to early radical and socialist feminism, suggesting that Beauvoir an-
ticipates certain aspects of poststructuralist feminism in "extend[ing] social
constructivism to sexuality" (155). This essay intimates that Beauvoir may
help us to think anew about the still vexed issues of sex/gender relations
and of how adequately to theorize women's embodiment. These matters
are more fully explored by Toril Moi, Sara Heinamaa, and Moira Gatens,
whose works I address in the next section.

The distinction between "sex" and "gender" was a key analytic of early
Second Wave feminist theory; and many of the readings of Beauvoir that
criticized her for inconsistency were presaged upon it, for Beauvoir's work
simply did not line up with the distinction. The chapter on "Biology" in
The Second Sex was said to be profoundly-for some, horribly-essentialist, de-
picting woman as the plaything of her hormones and reproductive biolo-
gy. But then Beauvoir was also a radical social constructionist. She was
said to anticipate "gender" in insisting that femininity was a social con-
struct imposed by men on women who then, most often in bad faith,
complied with it. It seemed that Beauvoir could not make up her mind;
she vacillated. The poor thing was incoherent and confused, doubtless be-
cause of her own emotional baggage.
During the 1990s, with the poststructuralist tide in feminist theorizing
running high, the sex/gender distinction itself came to be put into ques-
tion: biology was not a factual science but itself a highly politicized discur-
sive practice; "sex" was as much a social/discursive construct as "gender";
and the relationship between bodily morphology and sexuality was wholly
arbitrary. The work of Judith Butler was, of course, pivotal in this shift. In
Cender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990), sex, sexuality, and
gender are collapsed together; they are all the effects of discursive and per-
formative practices. None is "natural." Moreover, it is such practices that
bring the self, or subject, into being. It follows that any sense we have of
deep "inner" subjectivity, or ofthe temporal stability ofthe self, is an "illu-
296 Sonia Kruks

sion." Thus, "gender" is but a set of discrete but repeated stylized acts,
publicly performed, that produces the "illusion of an abiding gendered self,"
and it is these styles that "produce the coherent gendered subjects who
pose as their originators."" In Cender Trouble, Butler sharply differentiates
herself from Beauvoir, whom she casts as a dualist: Beauvoir's analysis of
embodiment is (like Sartre's) premised on "the uncritical reproduction of
the Cartesian distinction between freedom and the body . . . [and] any un-
critical reproduction of the mind/body distinction ought to be rethought
for the implicit gender hierarchy that the distinction has conventionally
produced, maintained, and rationalized" (12). Beauvoir, Butler argues,
naively sought to maintain the freedom of the subject-and hence also,
she believed, the possibility of women's resistance—only by sundering the
agentic self from its body. To do so, Beauvoir had to cast the body as "a
mute facticity, anticipating some meaning that can be attributed to it only
by a transcendent consciousness, understood in Cartesian terms as radi-
cally immateriar'(129).
Although during the 1990s the kind of poststructuralism epitomized by
Cender Trouble was often criticized, with some theorists arguing that it denied
subjectivity and adequate agency to individual women, others that sexual
difference is a physical reality that cannot be reduced to discursivity alone,
still it occupied a hegemonic position within feminist theory. But, as I have
suggested, there is now a more widespread probing of the theoretical and
practical limitations of—at least unmitigated—poststructuralism and a turn-
ing toward post-poststructuralism. This is one of the main factors that has
fueled the Beauvoir Renaissance," for Beauvoir's work proves to be a fertile
place to think anew about sex, gender, and sexual difference and about em-
bodied subjects that may enjoy agency and even "inner" experience, yet
which are not "immaterial" Cartesian consciousnesses. In the new post-
poststructuralist readings of Beauvoir, what were once dismissed as hope-
less contradictions or as untenable dualisms in her work now turn out to
be "operative contradictions"" or else are real ambiguities of human exis-
tence that Beauvoir's synthetic method enables us to grasp.
A m o n g new works, Moi's Sex, Cender, and the Body: The Student Edition of
"What Is a Woman'"^ is of particular interest." Because Moi was instrumen-
tal in introducing poststructualism into Anglophone feminism in the
Sonia Kruks 297

1980s (notably with the publication of her SexualjTextual Politics: Feminist Liter-
ary Theory), this new work constitutes a tacit auto-critique, as well as a
powerful plea for a more freedom-oriented feminist theory than post-
structuralism permits. Moi writes in the preface that she sets out "to find a
third way for feminist theory, one that steers a course between the Scylla
of traditional essentialism and biologism, and the Charybdis of the idealist
obsession with 'discourse' and 'construction,'" and she goes on to observe
that "for such a project, Simone de Beauvoir's feminism of freedom is an
obvious cornerstone" (vii). The book consists of two long essays, of which
I shall discuss only the first, "What Is a Woman? Sex, Gender, and the
Body in Feminist Theory," which takes its title from Beauvoir's opening
question in The Second Sex.
Moi's essay is not "about" Beauvoir so much as about bringing Beauvoir
(along with a insights drawn from ordinary language philosophy) to bear
on current impasses she sees in feminist theory. She wants to show that
the term "woman" is not (as is so often claimed) inherently essentialist or
metaphysical because its meaning is not fixed, and that the question of
what "a woman" is, is still an important one to ask. However, it is a ques-
tion to which, she insists, there will be a multiplicity of responses, depend-
ing on the concrete specificities of the lives being examined: "the answer
to the question of what a woman is, is not one" (9). She wants also to find
ways beyond what she regards as the excessive theoreticism and de facto
erasure ofthe physical body by poststructuralist feminists.
Moi's essay provides an elegant historical sweep through the history of
the concepts of sex and gender, which will be a useful classroom resource.
She begins with the history of "sex" as a biologically determinist concept
as it emerged in a late-nineteenth-century "scientific" discourse, purport-
ing to prove women's necessary incapacity for citizenship, education, and
so forth, and she shows how early Second Wave feminism turned to radi-
cal social constructionism—and so to "gender" and the "sex/gender" dis-
tinction-as effective means to combat biological determinism. Next, sbe
traces the emergence of the poststructuralist critique of this turn-that the
depiction of "sex" as it is counterpoised to "gender" is too ahistorical and
essentialist— before going on to develop her own critique of the poststruc-
turalist critique. The pivotal section of the essay focuses on Beauvoir's no-
298 Sonia Kruh

tion that "the body is a situation," in which Moi finds "a powerful and so-
phisticated alternative to contemporary sex and gender theories" (59), a
way of giving the prediscursive body its due without lapsing into biological
The core of Moi's critique of poststructuralism is not of its historicizing
aims, but rather that it fails to attain them. It undermines itself by tacitly
reinscribing tbe sex/gender distinction and an essentialized notion of sex
such as tbe one it has set out to overturn. For what is at stake in attempts
(notably Butler's) to insist that tbere is no "natural" body, tbat tbere is no
significant biological aspect to sexual difference, and tbat sex is effectively
indistinguisbable from gender because it is equally cultural is in fact the im-
plied proposition tbat biological sex matters; if we once let biology into the
picture it must inevitably shape oppressive social norms. "I get the impres-
sion that poststructuralists believe tbat if there were biological facts, then
tbey would indeed give rise to social norms. In this way, tbey paradoxically
share the fundamental belief of biological determinists" (42). But, Moi ar-
gues, if we really believe tbat nothing by way of social norms bas to follow
from biology (tbat, as David Hume put it long ago, facts do not determine
vcJues), tben we surely do not have to try to expunge biology from our an-
swers to tbe question "what is a woman?" Rather, we will seek for answers
tbat can better acknowledge tbe concrete experiences of women. But, as
we learn from Beauvoir, tbe body is not actually lived, tbat is, it is not expe-
rienced, as eitber biology or as culture-but ratber as an indivisible "situa-
tion." Thus an approacb tbat focuses on tbe body as a situation will also be
fluid and more attentive to particularities than is high poststructuralism. It
may avoid the pitfalls of "theoreticism" to which Moi claims poststruc-
turalists are prone: the belief, itself highly metapbysical, tbat "tbeoretical
correctness" is itself tbe guarantor of good feminist politics (59).
Contrary to tbose wbo bave wanted to retrieve Beauvoir's significance
by "rescuing" her from ber existentialism, Moi insists on the central im-
portance for feminism of Beauvoir's existential notion of freedom. How-
ever, Beauvoir's notion of freedom is not Sartre's, and Moi empbasizes its
affinities witb Merleau-Ponty's more consistently embodied and histori-
cized vision." Sbe quotes from a passage in The Second Sex that is key for ber
interpretation, in wbich Beauvoir writes: "As Merleau-Ponty very justly
Sonia Kmks 299

puts it, man is not a natural species; he is a bistorical idea. Woman is not a
fixed reality, but ratber a becoming... tbe body is not a tbing, it is a situa-
tion: it is our grasp upon tbe world and a sketcb [es^wisse] of our projects"
(cited 62). Tbat woman is not a "fixed reality" puts out of play botb bio-
logical determinism and tbe determinism tbat Moi (rigbtly) points out
may also follow from a tborougbgoing cultural constructionism (67). Yes,
tbe facts of both biology and culture are important and our lives are never
wholly free of tbem; yet tbey are not merely tbe effect of tbem eitber. As
Moi interprets Beauvoir, "a woman defines herself tbrougb tbe way sbe
lives ber embodied situation in tbe world, or in other words, tbrougb tbe
way in whicb sbe makes sometbing of wbat tbe world makes of ber. Tbe
process of making and being made is open-ended: it ends only witb deatb.
In tbe analysis of lived experience, tbe sex/gender distinction does not
apply" (72). If, in contrast to theories tbat empbasize eitber sex, or gender,
or their duality, we consider tbe body as a situation tben we grasp tbe em-
bodied subject as it actually experiences itself: tbat is as an ambiguous and
"irreducible amalgam"(74) of facticities and freedom.
Reflecting on Beauvoir's famous sentence, "one is not born, but ratber
becomes a woman," Moi's empbasis is on the word "becomes." How one
becomes a woman does indeed require having been born witb a specific
kind of biological body." However, one does not "become" only one's
sex—or one's gender. "Tbe woman I bave become," writes Moi, "is a fully
embodied buman being whose being cannot be reduced to her sexual dif-
ference be it natural or cultural" (78). Thus Moi goes on to criticize tbe
concept of "gender identity" as a reifying closure on the fluidity of indi-
vidual experience (81-83). For our lived experience is built on many otber
things tbat "per se bave nothing to do with sexual difference" (78): "a
woman is a buman being as mucb as sbe is a woman" (83).
Tbe final section of tbe essay considers some cases discussed by feminist
legal tbeorists, in order to sbow in a more applied fashion bow the sex/
gender distinction may reify difference and fail to belp us respond to the
complexities of embodied existence. However, it is not clear to me wbere
Moi's reading of Beauvoir finally leaves ber politically. Arguably it leads
ber implicitly (and consonant with her move beyond poststructuralism)
toward a post-poststructuralist revision of humanism: to a political dis-
300 Sonia Kmks

course that asserts freedom and human potentiality as universal values,

even as it remains attuned to the dangers of universalism. Because Moi ar-
gues that in many instances sexual difference may have no significant
bearing on our experience or actions, in the final analysis one is left won-
dering whether Moi's vision is of a world in which sexual difference is less
oppressive, or whether it is one in which sexual difference simply should
become less significant in the daily experiences of all human beings, to-
ward some new version of androgyny.
By contrast Heinamaa's recent book, entitled Toward a Phenomenology of Sex-
ual Difference: Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Beauvoir, is more emphatic about the in-
dissolubility of sexual difference. She claims that Beauvoir "did not take
the man/woman division as just one aspect of human experience but saw
it as the dominant distinction structuring our bodily sensations and feel-
ings and also our highest spiritual achievements, philosophy included"
(xiii). Heinamaa also seeks to dissolve the sex/gender distinction, above all
by focusing on The Second Sex as an original work of phenomenological phi-
losophy, in which we are given descriptions of the experience of neither
sex nor gender but of irreducible lived, feminine embodiment. Arguing
that Beauvoir's phenomenological method is grounded in her readings of
Merleau-Ponty and of Husserl, Heinamaa claims that the book's value lies
not only in the account ofthe lived experience of feminine existence it of-
fers, but also in its attendant critique of the objectivist and instrumental
stance of both the natural and social sciences, within which male thinkers
have depicted women. Thus, The Second Sex is neither a biologistic nor a
"social constructionist" work, she argues, and it seeks to offer neither
causal explanations nor empirical accounts of women's oppression. Con-
trary to the way it is most often read in the feminist literature, its descrip-
tions do not claim to be "factual" but are rather distillations of lived expe-
rience. For example, Heinamaa claims that, in the much-criticized chapter
on biology and in her accounts of pregnancy and childbirth, Beauvoir is
not making any objective claims about women's physiology, let alone that
it is the source of their oppression. Although Heinamaa concedes that
Beauvoir's tone is sometimes "negative" (74), the important point is that
Beauvoir shows us how women's bodies are seen as inferior only from the
"instrumental" perspective of masculine thought. For Beauvoir, "the con-
Sonia Kmks 301

ceptual framework of instruments is inadequate as a whole in the descrip-

tion and analysis of feminine experience" (70). Biological "facts"-similar to
"social" facts—do have a "reality," but as lived phenomena, as real experi-
ences to which we should he attentive.
Unlike Moi, Heinamaa points out that, for Beauvoir, h u m a n hodies,
irrespective of sex, are encountered not only as integral to the self-as situ-
ation—hut also as an often threatening "alien vitality" (72). In their unpre-
dictahle vulnerahility to arousal, pain, sickness, and so forth, our hodies
are at once ourselves and alien to us. But it is still a mistake to talk generi-
cally of "the" hody, hecause women experience the "alien vitality" of their
hodies differently from, and more intensely than, men. It is not just that
they alone experience menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, or lacta-
tion, hut that such experiences give rise to a more heightened awareness
of the alien vitality of their hodies and, punctuating their lives, enter it
into the temporal structures of women's experience differently.
In Heinamaa's reading, such differences in emhodied experience are fun-
damental to h u m a n existence, more so than "racial" distinctions which
are not made hy all societies (86). Although women's oppression may
heighten them, these differences are not a consequence of it. But, hecause
they do not constitute a "static essence," neither can they he granted
causal status in accounting for that oppression either (83). For example,
Beauvoir argues that, hecause in prehistoric nomadic culture w o m e n
were the ones hound to the hurdens of species reproduction and infant
care, men were the ones who had "the opportunity to 'lay hold of and
'appropriate' [acca;;arer] the innovative functions common to all humanity"
(cited on 106). But, Heinamaa points out, Beauvoir is making no claim
here ahout causality or ahout the necessary subordination of women. And if
the suhordination of women has continued down to the present day, this
too has heen without causal necessity. To account for this continuity,
Heinamaa finds in Beauvoir (and Merleau-Ponty) a notion of "repetition"
as that which transforms contingency into a set of practices that, although
not "necessary" in the strict scientific meaning ofthe term, are perpetuated
hecause they acquire the feel of heing necessary and inevitahle.™ Heinamaa
writes: "women's suhjection is a h u m a n formation founded on and sus-
tained hy nothing else than repeated acts of devaluation and ohlivion....
302 Sonia Kruks

Beauvoir's original suggestion is that the suhjection of women to men has

no other 'foundation' than the acts that reiterate hierarchy" (103-4) and
therefore, Heinamaa concludes, sexual hierarchy "is like a hahit formed in
the past hut lacking all rationale in current circumstances. It is as if we had
learned to speak in a very noisy environment and never later gave up the
hahit of shouting" (122).
We might, however, want to ask who the "we" includes here, hecause
men may well fmd a certain "rationale" in the privileges they are granted
hy "current circumstances." In general, Heinamaa seems to he insufficient-
ly attentive to Beauvoir's consideration of power relations in The Second Sex,
perhaps hecause her undivided focus on its phenomenological aspects tend
to occlude them from view. Power functions in the domain of the instru-
mental and strategic and, although phenomenological accounts of power
relations are important, such phenomenologies alone do not enable us to
comprehend adequately how power operates. The great value of Heina-
maa's perceptive study is to show us how Beauvoir invites us to develop
(against scientistic theory and analysis) noninstrumental descriptions of
the experience of sexual difference. But, unlike Heinamaa, I do not read The
Second Sex as an exclusively phenomenological project, hecause Beauvoir also
has a fine sense of the calculated interests of women and men as well as of
the institutions and social practices that perpetuate women's structural de-
pendencies. In The Second Sex women's oppression is examined from the out-
side in, as well as from the inside out, as a dialectic of ohjective processes
and suhjective, lived experiences. Heinamaa is correct that Beauvoir does
not ask why women are oppressed, that she does not seek a "first cause," or
a primary point of origin, for this oppression. But Beauvoir does ask-and
seeks to answer—questions about how women are oppressed, and these can-
not he adequately addressed exclusively on a phenomenological terrain.
Questions ahout sex/gender, emhodiment, and sexual difference are also
addressed in some of the essays in The Cambridge Companion to Sinume de Beauvoir,
notahly Gatens's "Beauvoir and Biology: A Second Look." Gatens also ques-
tions the assumption that Beauvoir was "the mother" of the sex/gender
distinction. In a more analytical mode than Moi or Heinamaa, she carefully
unpacks Beauvoir's usage in The Second Sex of the three terms "female,"
"feminine," and "woman," pointing out that Beauvoir considers a range of
Sonia Kruks 303

permutations of these characteristics that confounds the neat binaries of

sex/gender. One may, for example, be a hiologically female human heing
who is not "feminine" and who is not identified (hy oneself or hy others) as
a "woman." Or, after menopause, one may cease to he "female" (because
one no longer has the operative reproductive apparatus this term desig-
nates), yet still be "feminine" and/or identified as a "woman" (278-79).
Gatens suggests (drawing on the work of Natalie Stoljar) that "woman" is
best thought about as a "cluster concept" and that Beauvoir's account of
what "a woman" is should he interpreted in this way. For a "cluster con-
cept" does not rest on a fixed, essential definition, hut on a looser and shift-
ing set of characteristics, only some of which any particular member ofthe
class needs to share to belong to it. Thus, like Moi, Gatens finds in Beauvoir
a way of discussing women, or even "woman," without lapsing into essen-
tialism or into reifying gender categories.

E M B O D I M E N T , A M B I G U I T Y , AND F E M I N I S T E T H I C S
In previous sections I have focused on works that estahlish Beauvoir's
theoretical distance from Sartre and that draw from her a nondualistic
and nonreductionist account of feminine embodiment. However, such
undertakings necessarily interweave also with questions ahout values and
ethics, for Beauvoir's "existential" preoccupations with individual free-
dom and responsihility and with self-other relations (be they of oppression
or mutuality) are profoundly implicated in her accounts of emhodied ex-
In her essay in The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir, "Beauvoir's Old
Age," Deutscher takes Beauvoir's treatment of aging as a vantage point
from which to explore how certain specificities of emhodiment may shape
our practical possibilities and "impinge" on freedom. Analyzing old age re-
quires Beauvoir to reformulate Sartre's views on our absolute and inde-
structible "ontological" freedom, and his consequent assertions that we
have full responsihility for our own lives and fall into "had faith" when we
seek to deny it. Deutscher skillfully conjoins readings of The Second Sex and
Old Age, pointing out that "[Beauvoir's] depiction of aged bodies intercon-
nects with her depiction of sexed hodies" (301). For Beauvoir, she agues, not
only our hodily ability to act in the world hut also the incapacities of our hod-
304 Sonia Kruks

ies—the "I cannots" that we often encounter the most sharply in aging— are
at once physical and yet never merely physical. Rather, "biological facts [for
example, the shortness of hreath which makes one 'unable' to climb
mountains any more] are always already synthesized with historical, social,
and psychological factors" (289-90). For women and the aged, and especial-
ly for aged women, these "I cannots" receive their meaning within a partic-
ular social context: one of devaluation, of heing cast as Other. Deutscher
notes that in The Second Sex Beauvoir still regards many (although not all)
women who accept "feminine weakness" as in "had faith"; they hear a
moral responsihility for their oppressed status hecause, since they enjoy
"ontological" freedom, they remain free to reject such feminine character-
istics as "weakness." But in Old Age, Deutscher argues, Beauvoir acknowl-
edges a far greater "impingement" of hoth physical and social constraints
not only on our field of practical action but also, thereby, on our ontologi-
cal freedom; for, "if the social status of one's emhodiment leads to one's ex-
periences ofthe world in terms ofthe 'cannot,' the status of one's ontologi-
cal freedom is altered" (290). Responsihility for one's failures is now viewed
as profoundly mitigated by one's situation, and Beauvoir's judgmental
tone toward traditionally "feminine" women has shifted.
Fredrika Scarth, in The Other Within: Ethics, Politics, and the Body in Simone de
Beauvoir, also addresses the ambiguities of freedom and embodiment as she
seeks to develop a difference-sensitive ethics from The Second Sex. Scarth,
more than Deutscher, claims that Beauvoir's account of "the subject" in
The Second Sex is already radically different from Sartre's. Beauvoir, she ar-
gues, rejects Sartre's ideal of the sharply demarcated "absolute subject" as
an illusion, and she instead emphasizes a more permeahle, less autono-
mous, embodied subject, one that in The Second Sex she descrihes as "this
strange amhiguity of existence made body" (cited on 164). It is men's fear-
ful refusal of this amhiguity and their projection onto women of the
menacing, uncontrollable aspects of their own embodiment that give rise
to the construction of woman as Other in patriarchal society. As Beauvoir
famously writes of this projection: "He is the Subject, he is the Absolute-
she is the Other." By contrast, the acceptance ofthe amhiguities of our em-
hodied existence-our acknowledgment, as Scarth puts it, of "the other
within"—initiates the possihility of a feminist ethics in which generosity and
openness to others in their differences are core values.
Sonia Kmks 305

In developing this reading, Scarth huilds on Dehra Bergoffen's earlier,

pathhreaking work. The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir: Cendered Phenomenologies,
Erotic Cenerosities. Bergoffen argues that two "voices" run in tension through
Beauvoir's work. One is still a Sartrean voice that focuses on "the ethic of
the project," accepting the masculinist claims that "suhjectivity equals
transcendence," and that freedom involves autonomy and control. The
other voice, which Bergoffen calls Beauvoir's "muted voice," holds, she ar-
gues, great promise for feminist ethics. By attending to this voice Bergoffen
carefully begins to tease from Beauvoir's work an "ethic of generosity" and
a celehration—ahsent in Sartre—of the joys of giving and of sustaining hu-
man bonds. Bergoffen explores how, for Beauvoir, a free (that is, nonalien-
ated, thus nonpatriarchal) eroticism is a crucial site for such ethical rela-
tions, for in free relations of erotic generosity we seek neither to dominate
nor to lose ourselves in the other. Rather, we come to accept differences
and to let the other he, delighting in her or his otherness. "For Beauvoir,
recognition means an acknowledgment of otherness. It is in recognizing
our otherness, she argues, that we recognize our need of each other" (99-
100). Pointing here to Luce Irigaray as Beauvoir's "unlikely ally," Bergoffen
also suggests that we consider the maternal body as a site for an ethic of
generosity: "Maternal generosity, like the lover's erotic generosity, is the
gift one makes of oneself to the other for the sake of the relationship
which reveals us to each other in the intimacies of our fleshed being" (209).
Similar to Bergoffen, Scarth focuses on the positive ethical aspects of
Beauvoir's work, especially of The Second Sex, and she argues in detail against
earlier feminist readings that claim that Beauvoir valorizes a masculine
conception of freedom or that she denigrates the female hody. Scarth also
emphasizes the erotic and the maternal as key sites for an ethics of generos-
ity, and many of her arguments take their cue from Bergoffen. However,
she adds a significantly new dimension to Bergoffen's work by more fully
directing these arguments outward, heyond the couple (be it two lovers or
mother and child) and toward questions of group relations and a politics of
Scarth writes, elahorating on Beauvoir: "just as woman as Other is a way
for men to avoid the demands of reciprocity and the real risks of freedom,
any relationship in which we project onto others what we most fear turns
306 Sonia Kmks

difference into Otherness" (167). Such dynamics are integral to "imperial-

ist" politics of all kinds, and they may also hecome reinscrihed within a
politics of liheration (such as feminism) in which, in the name of freeing
others, we risk projecting sameness onto them and trying to make them
like ourselves (169). Thus, far from heing inattentive to difference, Beau-
voir points us to an ethics and a politics that celehrate difference, and she
offers us resources with which to address the dangers of othering and
saming. Accordingly, Scarth concludes that we may draw from Beauvoir's
work a profound vision of an ethical political community. This is a com-
munity in which "receptive generosity-an openness to the foreignness of
the other-[is] the guiding principle of our encounters with others" (171).
For Scarth, as for other authors I have discussed, Beauvoir speaks to the
concerns of present-day feminism. Important responses to current ques-
tions ahout otherness and difference are already prefigured in her work.

There are significant disagreements among the authors I have discussed
here about how to read Beauvoir, as well as differences in emphasis, stance,
or style. However, what these recent treatments of Beauvoir have in com-
mon is their return to her work as a site at which we may address impasses
that confront feminist theory today. Taken together, they point us beyond
unmitigated poststructuralism, toward a post-poststructuralism that reaf-
firms the importance for feminism of retrieving the lived experiences of
emhodiment and of overcoming not only biological but also discursive
forms of reductionism. Explicitly or implicitly then, they also reaffirm, with
Beauvoir, the importance for feminism of focusing (or refocusing) on
ethics: on questions of freedom and agency, of responsihility toward others
and generosity, and of formulating an ethical feminist politics.
What we also learn from these recent works is ahout the remarkable fe-
cundity of Beauvoir's texts. Each of these authors engages in a productive
reading of Beauvoir and skillfully reinserts her as a significant interlocutor
within current feminist dehates. No longer the iconic "Mother of Us All,"
today the "Renaissance" Beauvoir has hecome a major theoretical source.
She is a thinker with and through whom we may critically engage our
own present.
Sonia Kmks 307

1. Mary Dietz, "Introduction: Debating Simone de Beauvoir," Signs 18 (Autumn 1992): 78.
2. Preface, 245; Mary Lowenthai Felstiner, "Seeing The Second Sex through the Second
Wave," 247-76; Jo-Ann Fuchs, "Female Eroticism in The Secmd Sex," 304-13; Michele Le
Doeuff, "Simone de Beauvoir and Existentialism," 277-89, esp. 277-78; all in Feminist
Studies 6 (Summer 1980).
3. Penelope Deutscher, "The Notorious Contradictions of Simone de Beauvoir," in her
Yielding Geraier (London: Routledge, 1997), 169-93.
4. Julia Kristeva, "Women's Time," Signs 1 (Autumn 1981): 13-35; Elaine Marks and Is-
abelle de Courtivron, ed.. New trench Feminism (New York: Schocken, 1981). For a fine
account of how "French feminism" came to be constituted as an intellectual genre in
the United States-a genre that bore only a limited resemblance to what was actually
going on among feminists in France at the time-see Claire Moses, "Made in America:
'French Feminism' in Academia," Feminist Studies 24 (Summer 1998): 241-74.
5. Toril Moi, Feminist Theory and Simone de Beauvoir (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), 22-23.
6. These publications include Simone de Beauvoir, Letters to Sartre, 2 vols., trans. Quintin
Hoare (New York: Arcade, 1992); youmal de guerre: septembre 1939-jamier 1941 (Paris: Galli-
mard, 1990), forthcoming in English as Beauvoir's Wartime Diary (Urbana: University of
Illinois Press, 2006); A Transatlantic Love Affair: Letters to Nelson Algren, trans. Kate Leblanc,
ed. Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir (New York: New Press, 1998).
7. Sonia Kruks, "Gender and Subjectivity: Simone de Beauvoir and Contemporary Femi-
nism," Signs 18 (Autumn 1992): 89-110, 92.1 have developed this argument more fully
in Retrieving Experience: Subjectivity and Recognition in Feminist Politics (Ithaca, N.Y.: C o r n e l l
University Press, 2001). See esp. chap. 2, in which I read Beauvoir with and against
Michel Foucault and Judith Butler.
8. Papers from the 1999 conference are published in Christine Delphy and Sylvie Chaper-
on, eds., Cinquantenaire du Deuxieme sexe (Paris: Editions Syllepse, 2003). Kristeva's talk,
"Beauvoir presente," was given at the Sorbonne in June 2003, at the (first ever) joint
meeting of the "Groupe d'etudes sartriennes" and the "International Simone de
Beauvoir Society." It has since been published (in French) in Simone de Beauvoir Studies 20
(2003-2004): 11-22. Also of note is the recent special issue of Lcs Temps Modemes (vol. 57,
juin-juillet 2002), edited by Michel Kail, "Presences de Simone de Beauvoir"; and
Catherine Rodgers, "Le deuxieme sexe" de Simmt de Beauvoir: Un Heritage amteste (Paris: L'Har-
mattan, 1998), which consists of interviews with French theorists-including Julia Kris-
teva, Sarah Kofman, Christine Delphy, Michele Le Doeuff, and others- about their
views of Beauvoir.
9. To give a sense of the extent of the "Renaissance," over the last decade more than a
dozen monographs have been published in English (or translated into English) that
address the interface between Beauvoir and feminist theory and/or feminist philoso-
phy. Key works, that I do not have space to discuss here, include: Nancy Bauer, 5i>mme
de Beauvoir: Philosophy and Feminism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001); Sarah
Fishwick, The Body in the Work of Simone de Beauvoir (New York: Peter Lang, 2002); Miriam
308 Sonia Kruks

Fraser, Identity without Selfhood: Simone de Beauvoir and Bisexuality (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1999); Kate Fullbrook and Edward Fullbrook, Simone de Beauvoir: A Criti-
cal Introduction (Maiden, Mass.: Polity Press, 1998); Eleanore Holveck, Simone de Beauvoir's
Philosophy of Lived Experience: Literature and Metaphysics (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield,
2002); Eva Lundgren-Gothlin, Sex and Existence: Simone de Beauvoir's "The Second Sex," trans.
Linda Schenk (Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press, 1996); Joseph Mahon, Existen-
tialism, Feminism, and Simone de Beauvoir (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997); Jo-Ann Pilardi,
Simone de Beauvoir: Writing the Self—Philosophy Becomes Autobiography (Westport, Conn.: Gree
wood Press, 1999); Ursula Tidd, Simone de Beauvoir, Gender, and Testimony (Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, 1999); and Karen Vintges, Philosophy as Passion: The Thinking of Si-
mone de Beauvoir (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996).
In addition, since 1995 there have been several introductory books designed for
teaching purposes and at least eight edited volumes and special journal issues on
Beauvoir. There are also numerous articles, extensive treatments of Beauvoir in more
general books on feminist theory, and a growing number of "nonfeminist" discus-
sions of her work within the disciplines of philosophy and French literature. For a
sampling of further sources, a bibliography of recent scholarship on Beauvoir may be
found in The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir, and Ursula Tidd, Simone de Beauvoi
(New York: Routledge, 2004), includes a helpful annotated bibliography.
10. Beauvoir's book was published in French as Le deuxieme sexe, 2 vols. (Paris: Gallimard,
1949) and was translated into English by the American biology professor, H.M. Parsh-
ley (New York: Knopf, 1953). Parshley was not trained in philosophy, made many
basic errors of translation, and extensively cut Beauvoir's text. The Second Sex has been
published in several editions, most recently in the United States with a new introduc-
tion by Deirdre Bair (New York: Vintage Books, 1989). However, Knopf has never
given permission for a new translation to be made. On the inadequacies ofthe transla-
tion see Margaret Simons, "The Silencing of Simone de Beauvoir: Guess What's Miss-
ing from The Second Sex" (1983), reprinted as chap. 5 of her Beauvoir and "The Second Sex."
For a more recent treatment of this topic, see Toril Moi, "While We Wait: Notes on
the English Translation of The Second Sex," Signs 27 (Summer 2002): 1005-35.
11. Richard Wright, whose novel Native Son Beauvoir had read in 1940, had extensive con-
tact with her in the postwar period. Les Temps Modemes, the radical monthly journal of
politics and ideas that she, Sartre, and others founded in 1945, published several trans-
lations of Wright's work (including Black Boy and various political pieces), and during
his visit to Paris in 1946 a friendship began that was to last many years.
12. Simone de Beauvoir, L'Amerique au jour le jour (Paris: Morihien, 1948). Translated by
Carol Cosman as America Day by Day (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).
13. Simons is editing a series of seven volumes, forthcoming from University of Illinois
Press, that will provide translations into English of all of Beauvoir's presently untrans-
lated (and in some instances unpublished) works. The first volume, Simone de Beauvoir:
Philosophical Writings, was published in 2004, and the diary will be published in two vol-
umes, with volume one. Diary of a Philosophy Student, 1926-1927, appearing in late 2005.
14. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge,
1990), 140. Emphasis added.
Sonia Kruks 309

15. It is striking that Butler has also dramatically shifted tone and preoccupations. Her re-
cent book. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (New York: Verso, 2004),
dwells extensively on inner experience and on ethical questions that would be hard to
accommodate within the framework of Gender Trouble. Her contribution to The Cam-
bridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir, "Beauvoir on Sade: Making Sexuality into an Ethic,"
is notably more sympathetic toward Beauvoir.
16. The term is Michele Le DoeufFs, cited in Deutscher, Yielding Gender, 173-74.
17. Moi's volume consists of a new preface and the two long essays that were previously
published in her 1999 collection. What Is a Woman' and Other Essays (Oxford: Oxford Uni-
versity Press, 1999).
18. For the earliest treatment of the affinities between Beauvoir and Merleau-Ponty, see
my essay, "Simone de Beauvoir: Teaching Sartre about Freedom," Simone de Beauvoir
Studies 5 (1988): 74-80.1 elaborate the argument more fully in my Situation and Human Exis-
tence: Freedom Subjectivity and Society (London: Routledge, 1990).
19. Moi (in Sex, Gender, and the Body: The Student Edition of "The Second Sex," reviewed in this
essay) is not unaware of the complex issue of transexuality as she makes this claim.
However, she points out that "a concept ('man,' 'woman') that is blurred at the edges
is neither meaningless nor useless. . . . Hemaphroditism, transvestism, transsexuality,
and so on show up the fuzziness at the edge of sexual difference, but the concepts
'man' and woman' or the opposition between them are not thereby threatened by
disintegration" (39).
20. See Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962), 103: "Human existence will force us to revise our usual
notion of necessity and contingency, because it is the transformation of contingency
into necessity by the act of repetition." We might also want to know whether this no-
tion of repetition is significantly different from Butler's notion (in Gender Trouble) of
gender as repetitive performance under duress-or whether perhaps Butler's notion is
not more indebted to French existentialism than she acknowledges!