Simone de Beauvoir Explains “Why I’m a Feminist” in a Rare TV Interview (1975) [Open Culture]
In Simone de Beauvoir’s 1945 novel The Blood of Others, the narrator, Jean Blomart, reports on his childhood friend Marcel’s reaction to the word “revolution”:
It was senseless to try to change anything in the world or in life; things were bad enough even if one did not meddle with them. Everything that her heart and her mind condemned she rabidly defended—my father, marriage, capitalism. Because the wrong lay not in the institutions, but in the depths of our being. We must huddle in a corner and make ourselves as small as possible. Better to accept everything than to make an abortive effort, doomed in advance to failure.
Marcel’s fearful fatalism represents everything De Beauvoir condemned in her writing, most notably her groundbreaking 1949 study, The Second Sex, often credited as the foundational text of second-wave feminism. De Beauvoir rejected the idea that women’s historical subjection was in any way natural—“in the depths of our being.” Instead, her analysis faulted the very institutions Marcel defends: patriarchy, marriage, capitalist exploitation.
In the 1975 interview above with French journalist Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber—“Why I’m a Feminist”—De Beauvoir picks up the ideas of The Second Sex, which Servan-Schreiber calls as important an “ideological reference” for feminists as Marx’s Capital is for communists.
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