Thursday 29 April 2021

6 Quotes and Takeaways from The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir


'The Second Sex' by Simone de Beauvoir was published in 1949 after the second world war ended. It was the starting point of second-wave feminism.

The essay explores the way in which women have been treated throughout history and how gender conditioning governs the life of a woman. 

I recently studied this essay and felt that the points discussed in the essay are so much relevant even today.

Here are 6 quotes and takeaways from the revolutionary essay "The Second Sex":

1. “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”

Simone de Beauvoir states that women are not born 'feminine' but are shaped that way by a thousand external processes. At each stage of her upbringing, a girl is conditioned into being docile, soft-spoken, dependent, and passive. Society tries to flatten the girl into an object so that she can accept the life of housework and childbearing without ever protesting. The girl will think that to be her very duty, the reason she is born.

2. ..her wings are cut and then she is blamed for not knowing how to fly.”

Simone de Beauvoir says that the situation of a woman is not a result of her character. If we find a woman who rarely has any material accomplishments, is labeled as lazy, mediocre, and complacent, it simply means that these are the consequences of the way she has been brainwashed by society. Her wings were cut during her growing up years and now she is criticized for not knowing how to fly. 

3. “Women's mutual understanding comes from the fact that they identify themselves with each other, but for the same reason each is against the others.”

Simone de Beauvoir beautifully said that women need to develop gender loyalty in order to dismantle patriarchy. One of the reasons why women's movements lose power is because women do not have great gender loyalties. The biggest proof is how society pits the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law against each other. Women need to recognize these patterns and develop gender loyalty because united we stand, divided we fall.

4. “That the child is the supreme aim of woman is a statement having precisely the value of an advertising slogan.”

Simone de Beauvoir stated that throughout history, maternity has been both worshipped and criticized - the mother both brings life and brings death. The woman is transformed into a symbol of 'life' and in that process, she is robbed of all individuality. It is expected that women are born to give birth, raise children and forget their own individuality to become great mothers. 

5. “And without a doubt it is more comfortable to endure blind bondage than to work for one's liberation; the dead, too, are better suited to the earth than the living.”

Simone de Beauvoir stated that at times, women support their own dependency and accept their second-class status without challenging it. Years of gender conditioning play a major role in it. Some women trade their freedom for security. Some women chose comfort over conquering. Only in work can a woman achieve autonomy and can support herself. But years of gender conditioning pushes many women to accept a life of bondage than fight for liberation. 

6. “Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.”

Simone de Beauvoir said that the difficulty of sacrificing security and comfort for some 'notion' of equality persuades many women to accept the unfulfilling roles in life. And she has beautifully described those roles by comparing them to the myth of Sisyphus. 

"The Second Sex" is a magnificent work in feminism that helps us understand how women have been treated in society for centuries, how women are conditioned, why women make different choices, and how not having great gender loyalty has prevented women from dismantling the patriarchy. 

"This post is part of Blogchatter's CauseAChatter"


  1. I also feel that not having enough role models plays a part in how you tailor your dreams. Your expectations are curtailed as per your experiences and that conditioning is hard to break.

  2. The quotes are so relevant even today. That shows how far ahead of her time Simone de Beauvoir was. The Sisyphus image reminds me of a Malayalam movie I saw recently called 'The Great Indian Kitchen'. An amazing analysis of a classic!

    1. Thank you so much, Deepti. I will definitely check out the movie.


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