It is the birthday of French existentialist Simone de Beauvoir, who had she been alive would have been 106 today.
Existentialists believe that philosophy should start with the human experience, that our individual experiences are unique and that our choices create our nature (or essence).
In her book the Second Sex, she emphasized (in line with her existential philosophy) that one is not born a woman, one becomes one, and that the concept of a woman has historically been defined by males and their difference to men.
She argued that men had shaped women to their idea of the the feminine and in doing so had reduced them to objects and robbed them of identity. Other works which won her acclaim include The Mandarins, which traces the lives of herself and Sartre’s inner circle and philosophical novels The Blood of Others and She Came to Stay.
De Beauvoir had romances with both men and women, but her life partner was Jean Paul Satre. However she never lived with him and they often critiqued each others works. She also had no children but signed the the Manifesto of the 343 in 1971 whilst active in the women’s liberation movement. This was a list of well-known women who claimed to have had an abortion. However some have argued that they never took place. Her writing still resounds today. Here are some of her most profound quotes.
"One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion."
"To catch a husband is an art; to hold him is a job."
"Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female - whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male. "
"Sex pleasure in woman is a kind of magic spell; it demands complete abandon; if words or movements oppose the magic of caresses, the spell is broken."
"I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom."
"All oppression creates a state of war."
"Society cares for the individual only so far as he is profitable."
"It is old age, rather than death, that is to be contrasted with life. Old age is life's parody, whereas death transforms life into a destiny: in a way it preserves it by giving it the absolute dimension. Death does away with time."
"Change your life today. Don't gamble on the future, act now, without delay."
"One is not born a woman, but becomes one."
"When an individual is kept in a situation of inferiority, the fact is that he does become inferior."
"There is only one good. And that is to act according to the dictates of one's conscience."
"The curse which lies upon marriage is that too often the individuals are joined in their weakness rather than in their strength, each asking from the other instead of finding pleasure in giving."
"If you live long enough, you'll see that every victory turns into a defeat."