French writer, intellectual, social theorist, feminist, and philosopher (though she did not accept this) Simone de Beauvoir was born on this day, in 1908.
Completing her studies in mathematics and literature, Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) presented her Philosophy thesis in 1928, becoming only the ninth woman to receive a degree from the Sorbonne.
Around this time, de Beauvoir became involved with reknowned writer and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Their lifelong relationship challenged the accepted societal norms, as they engaged in an open relationship, and formed an equal partnership based on intellectual exchange and discourse.
A prolific writer, de Beauvoir explored many themes from politics and morality to existentialism and sexuality, and is probably best known for her treatises on women.
In "The Second Sex", she explains that hundreds of years of traditions and learned behavior have established a society where women have become the "second sex". She argues that gender is a social construct, by which men have historically been placed at the top of the hierarchy, oppressing the "inferior" women. Of course, this phenomenon is not strictly limited to gender... De Beauvoir further explains the differences between society's definition of man and woman: a man would never be defined or referred to by his gender, nor would he need to apologize for it. The pre-established patriarchy in which society is organized has exacerbated women's position, and as such, femininity is treated as an "issue". Humanity is thus male and revolves around men; women can only be seen as relative to men: "[h]e is the Subject, he is the Absolute - she is the Other." || "It is perfectly natural for the future woman to feel indignant at the limitations posed upon her by her sex. The real question is not why she should reject them: the problem is rather to understand why she accepts them."