SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR
Marcel’s fearful fatalism represents everything De Beauvoir condemned in her writing, most notably her groundbreaking 1949 study, The Second Sex, often credited as the foundational text of second-wave feminism. De Beauvoir rejected the idea that women’s historical subjection was in any way natural—“in the depths of our being.” Instead, her analysis faulted the very institutions Marcel defends: patriarchy, marriage, capitalist exploitation.
In the 1975 interview above with French journalist Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber—“Why I’m a Feminist”—De Beauvoir picks up the ideas of The Second Sex, which Servan-Schreiber calls as important an “ideological reference” for feminists as Marx’s Capital is for communists. He asks De Beauvior about one of her most quoted lines: “One is not born a woman, one becomes one.” Her reply shows how far in advance she was of post-modern anti-essentialism, and how much of a debt later feminist thinkers owe to her ideas: