Remembering Simone de Beauvoir

March 8, 2019

It was during my days studying philosophy when I was introduced to what became one of my most powerful and inspirational literary influencers. She was also my mentor, although she was never aware of it. Given it is International Women’s Day I thought there is no better way than to write about this galvanic female.   

Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir, born 9 January 1908 in the 6th arrondissement, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, of Paris and was 78 when she died of pneumonia in 1986. A French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist thinker and social theorist. She had significant influence on both feminist existentialism and feminist theory although she did not consider herself as a philosopher.

In my eyes she still sits on her intellectual and inspirational pedestal and I recommend women, young and old to read some of her works. She produced numerous essays, twenty ground breaking books, was decades ahead of her time and her philosophies are still relevant today.

She came to be seen as the mother of post-1968 feminism. Simone is best known for The Second Sex (1949) that contained detailed analysis of women’s oppression. She presents an historical account of women’s disadvantaged position in society and provided alternatives for how women should be treated.  Other major works are La Invitada -The Guest (1943), The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947). Memoires d’une jene fille range- Memoirs of a Beautiful Daughter (1958), The Woman Destroyed (1967).

After all these years as her fan girl, I finally had the opportunity to tell her how I felt when I was staying at the 14th arrondissement, Montparnasse. I could not believe my luck to discover I was posted just around the corner from where Simone resides. She is buried at Cimetie’re de Montparnasse, the second largest cemetery in Paris, and lies with her dear friend and lover, Jean-Paul Sartre, another of my philosophy greats.

Simone was famous for many things and in particular for her inspirational and realistic quotes. There were many, and they continue to be relevant in 2019.

Here are just a few, they bring a smile to my face:

  • Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.
  • In the face of an obstacle which is impossible to overcome, stubbornness is stupid.
  • One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.
  • One is not born a genius one becomes a genius.
  • What is an adult? A child blown up by age.
  • To catch a husband is an art, to hold him is a job.

Simone was a controversial figure throughout her life and her autobiography, The Mandarins, “beautifully captures how her life struggle brought her France’s highest literary honour”. She was called headstrong and this becomes evident as you read through her thought provoking quotes, essays and books.

On this wonderful International Women’s Day, let us remember Simone de Beauvoir whose revolutionary ideas have laid foundations for todays women.

Writing this column has inspired me to revisit her famous works, and reminds me to be grateful for what our female predecessors passionately fought for.  

Acknowledgements:  Photos: Bobb Edwards, Saku C and Ching Chi Ching, Culture Trip, The Guardian, Wikipedia

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