Beauvoir and the Question of a Woman’s Point of View

Mann, Bonnie. “Beauvoir and the Question of a Woman's Point of View,” Philosophy Today, 52(2): 136–149, 2008.


Recently, philosophers have taken to announcing a revival or a renaissance in the study of the philosophical work of Simone de Beauvoir. Sonia Kruks argues that feminist Beauvoir studies, having passed through an early ( 1970s) phase in which women related to Beauvoir as an icon, and through a middle (1980s) phase in which feminist thinkers related to Beauvoir as an adversary, has now entered a phase of serious philosophical engagement. This latter phase tends to be celebratory and corroborative, and is marked by “careful and creative unwindings and rewindings of Beauvoir’s arguments.” The new feminist work on Beauvoir is, to my mind with great success, in the process of repudiating a series of claims that were frequently stated with certainty during the age of antagonism: that Beauvoir was simply Sartre’s mouthpiece; that she in fact disparaged women and particularly loathed female bodies; that she was an essentialist; alternately that she was a radical constructivist with a voluntaristic notion of sexual difference; and that she unequivocally and unapologetically adopted a masculine point of view. The repudiation of these claims has required detailed attention to the now well-documented failures of the (still, though this is soon to change) only English translation of the text; careful studies of the many philosophical influences on Beauvoir’s work besides Sartre; studies that attempt to show, through engagement with Beauvoir’s autobiographical and literary works in relation to the philosophical works of both Beauvoir and Sartre, that she in fact influenced him; and attention to the originality of Beauvoir’s philosophical method and often parodie voice.

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