Below is a rare television video of de Beauvoir being interviewed by journalist, Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber.
de Beauvoir died of pneumonia in 1986 at the age of 78. (Her full name was Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir.) You can visit her tombstone in Montparnasse Cemetery, next to her companion and intellectual equal, Jean-Paul Sartre.
de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex is considered a foundational work in the history of feminism. The work has had a profound influence, opening the way for second-wave feminism in the USA, Canada, Australia, and around the world. Future feminist authors all acknowledged their profound debt to de Beauvoir, visiting her in France and consulting with her at crucial moments. Betty Friedan, author of the 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique, said that she looked to de Beauvoir for philosophical and intellectual authority. (WIKI)
FROM MY BOOK (a short excerpt)
“Growing up in Canada, I took it for granted that Europe would be as enlightened as my home country with regard to gender parity and feminist activism. I was wrong. From the outside, France appeared to be an avant-garde society, but upon closer inspection I found it to be terribly traditional and conservative. The book that I had read when I was sixteen – Simone de Beauvoir’s groundbreaking opus in modern feminist theory, The Second Sex, written in 1949 – had done nothing to modify the archaic vision of society there. Madame de Beauvoir was decades ahead of her time.”
IT BEGGARS BELIEF that in this 1975 video, de Beauvoir talks about the importance of a woman’s right to abortion (and mentions the name of Simone Veil, Minister of Health, who pushed through the abortion bill in France, also in 1975) while – leap forward 47 years – the US Supreme Court overturned Roe and ended the constitutional right to abortion. The word “regression” barely describes this bombshell.
So pour yourself a glass of wine (or coffee if it’s morning) and sit back and listen to this edifying conversation.
Both Beauvoir and the interviewer confirmed what you wrote in your book, namely that The Second Sex was better received in America than in France. Camus even said it was an attack on French men.
Somewhere in her autobiography (I can’t find the passage) Beauvoir explained how she got the idea of writing The Second Sex — it was Sartre’s suggestion.
When I went to their grave in 2014, it was covered with kiss marks and notes on little slips of paper, mainly in English and addressed to Beauvoir. https://operasandcycling.com/montparnasse-cemetery/
The notion that de Beauvoir got the idea of writing The Second Sex from J.P. Sartre bothers me. As if she was not capable of coming up with the idea for herself … that a man had to suggest the idea to her! No, I completely reject that supposition.
I can’t find the passage, but it must be in the third volume of her autobiography, La force des choses, since that is the one that deals with this part of her life. Overall, I have the impression that she had at least as much influence on his writing as he did on hers.
Thanks for this, Jules. I’ve always been a fan of Simone. I look forward to actually seeing and listening to her. You’re right, she was decades ahead of her time.
Thanks, Cordy. Isn’t it great that we can easily access these precious archives?