21 Quotes by Simone de Beauvoir: Important Feminist Philosopher
Simone de Beauvoir was a French writer, professor and philosopher who fought for gender equality and the vindication of women’s rights during the 20th century. She wrote several texts on political, social and philosophical issues. She is considered the mother of feminism and free love.
Her thought is framed within the philosophical current of existentialism and her most famous work, entitled The Second Sex, is one of the fundamental roots of modern feminism. In this text, she tries to answer the question “Why are women not as free as they should be?”
At the time, it was such a controversial work that it was even on the list of books banned by the Vatican. Next, let’s see who this great thinker was and get to know her most famous phrases.
Simone de Beauvoir’s brief biography
Simone de Beauvoir was born on January 9, 1908 in the city of Paris, in the heart of a bourgeois family with a very strict Christian morality. Therefore, in her childhood and part of her adolescence, she received a Catholic education in a school of nuns, which led her to consider becoming one of them.
However, at the age of 14, her intellectual curiosity led her to rebel against religious faith, declaring herself an atheist and defending that religion was a way to subjugate human beings.
At 15, Simone de Beauvoir was already determined that she wanted to be a writer. After passing the baccalaureate in 1925, she began her higher studies at the Institut Catholique de Paris, where she completed her mathematical training, while she furthered her literary education at the Institut Sainte-Marie de Neuilly.
In 1926 she began her philosophy studies at the Sorbonne. There she would meet the philosopher Jean Paul-Sartre, with whom she established a romantic relationship that, for her time, was highly questionable.
She refused Sartre’s marriage proposal, asked never to live under the same roof and to be free to have other lovers. Thus, with these agreements, they remained together until his death in 1980.
Works and studies
She worked as a professor of literature and philosophy, but, when the Second World War came, she couldn’t continue teaching. So she focused on her literary career and published her first novel: She Came to Stay (1943), where she raises the complexity of interpersonal relationships in an existentialist framework.
In the 1940s, she founded with Sartre the magazine Les temps modernes, which served to spread her ideology. In this magazine, she presented The Second Sex (1949), Beauvoir’s most important work, considered one of the main foundations of modern feminism.
In the 1950s she collaborated with Sartre and supported the independence of Algeria and Hungary. In the 1970s she participated in demonstrations for abortion rights and women’s equality.
In addition to her contributions to feminism, her reflections on literary creation, the development of the left before and after World War II, pain and the perception of the self, the boundaries of psychoanalysis, and the deep premises of existentialism are worth mentioning.
At the end of her career, she devoted herself to the study of aging, old age, and death. She died in Paris on April 14, 1986, at the age of 78. She shares a tomb with Sartre in the Montparnasse cemetery.
The best quotes of Simone de Beauvoir
Here are the most famous quotes of Simone de Beauvoir, which reflect very well her existentialist and feminist thought.
Phrases on free love
In these quotes we see how Simone de Beauvoir defends free, independent, and unbound love. But above all, love for oneself. Moreover, we see that this great thinker was not only in favor of love between a man and a woman, but also between people of the same sex.
1. “I am too intelligent, too demanding, and too ingenious for anyone to be able to take complete charge of me. No one knows me or loves me completely. I have only myself.”
2. “The day a woman can love not with her weakness, but with her strength, not escape from herself, but find herself, not humble herself, but assert herself, that day love will be for her, as for man, a source of life and not a mortal danger.”
3. “There is a secret to living happily with your loved one: not to pretend to modify it.”
4. “In itself, homosexuality is as limiting as heterosexuality: the ideal thing should be able to love a woman or a man; either one of them, a human being, without feeling fear, restriction or obligation.”
5. “Why only one man and not another? It was odd. You find yourself involved with a fellow for life, just because he was the one you met when you were nineteen.”
Phrases about women
For Simone de Beauvoir, it is civilization that has defined what it means to be a woman. However, it is she herself, as an individual, who must configure her own concept and identity, leaving behind the notion imposed and shared by all.
6. “You are not born a woman: you become one.”
7. “A free woman is just the opposite of an easy woman.”
8. “Man defines himself as a human being and woman as feminine. When she behaves like a human being, she is said to be imitating the male.”
9. “No biological, physical or economic destiny defines the figure that the human female has within society; it is civilization as a whole that elaborates that intermediate product between the male and the castrated, which is qualified as feminine.”
10. “Women are not victims of a mysterious destiny: our ovaries do not condemn us to a life of submission.”
Phrases on freedom
Simone de Beauvoir’s existentialist thought is evident in her emphasis on individual freedom. A life independent of categories that define us a priori and that bind us to pre-established patterns.
11. “Let nothing define us. Let nothing subjugate us. Let freedom be our own substance.”
12. “Live in such a way that nothing you do should merit the reproach or condemnation of those around you.”
13. “No existence can be validly realized if it is limited to itself.”
Discover more: What is the Glass Ceiling and Why Do We Need to Break It?
Phrases on androcentrism
Simone de Beauvoir also addressed androcentrism, which consists of the male-centered view of the world, to the detriment of women.
14. “The representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they mistake for absolute truth.”
15. “Thus, humanity is masculine and man defines woman not in herself, but as relative to him.”
16. “No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or contemptuous, than the man who cares about his manhood.”
17. “The woman’s problem has always been a man’s problem.”
Quotes on feminism and equality
Simone de Beauvoir defended gender equality and fought for the vindication of women’s rights. The following reflections show part of her position in this regard.
18. “The question is not that women should simply take power from men, since that would not change anything in the world. It is precisely a question of destroying this notion of power.”
19. “It is through work that women have been able to bridge the distance that separates them from men. Work is the only thing that can guarantee her complete freedom”.
20. “Feminism is a way of living individually and fighting collectively”.
21. “Never forget that a political, economic, or religious crisis will be enough for women’s rights to be questioned”.
Simone de Beauvoir was a great thinker who challenged the precepts of her time and spoke out against the injustices towards women. Today, some of her works are the foundation of demands for freedom and gender equality.It might interest you...