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Situating ExistentialismKey Texts in Context$

Robert Bernasconi and Jonathan Judaken

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231147750

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231147750.001.0001

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Simone de Beauvoir in Her Times and Ours

Simone de Beauvoir in Her Times and Ours

The Second Sex and Its Legacy in French Feminist Thought

Chapter:
(p.360) 13 Simone de Beauvoir in Her Times and Ours
Source:
Situating Existentialism
Author(s):

Debra Bergoffen

Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231147750.003.0013

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines Simone de Beauvoir’s 1949 book The Second Sex and its place in contemporary French feminist discussions. In particular, it discusses the issues The Second Sex raises, the analyses it provides, and the criteria of justice it invokes in relation to de Beauvoir’s claim, in The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947), that existentialism is the philosophy for our times because it is the only philosophy that takes the question of evil seriously. It also argues that The Second Sex is relevant today not only as an analysis of patriarchy but also because it is grounded in the categories and claims of The Ethics of Ambiguity about the need to confront evil, which continue to provide insight into a host of contemporary issues such as gender oppression. Finally, the chapter outlines a genealogy of postwar French feminism that interprets their critical voices as commentators on the tensions already signaled in de Beauvoir’s scrutiny of gender oppression, giving rise to multiple avenues for feminist thought.

Keywords:   feminism, Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, The Ethics of Ambiguity, existentialism, philosophy, evil, patriarchy, gender oppression, justice

It is impossible to know where Simone de Beauvoir’s thinking would have gone had she been spared the depravation and fright of living in Nazi-occupied Paris. What we do know is that coming face-to-face with forces of injustice beyond her control gave a new urgency to the questions of evil and the other. Beauvoir spoke of the war as creating an existential rupture in time and spoke of herself as having undergone a conversion.1 She could no longer afford the luxury of focusing on her own happiness and pleasure. The question of oppression became a pressing concern. One cannot refuse to take a stand; one is either a collaborator or not.

In writing The Ethics of Ambiguity, Beauvoir took her stance. She identified herself as an existentialist and identified existentialism as the philosophy of her times because it is the only philosophy that takes the question of evil seriously.2 It is the only philosophy prepared to counter Dostoevsky’s claim that, without God, everything is permissible. Existentialism, in arguing that we live in a world that cannot look to God for redemption, argues that because we are alone we are unconditionally responsible for the condition of (p.361) the world. Taking these existential truths as her point of departure for The Ethics of Ambiguity, Beauvoir developed a logic of freedom, reciprocity, and responsibility that contests the terrors of a world ruled only by the authority of power. In speaking for the possibility of an ethics of freedom and responsibility to a world traumatized by the atrocities of two world wars, The Ethics of Ambiguity spoke to and for its times.

The relationship between The Second Sex and its times was more complicated. Beauvoir tells us that she hesitated to write this book. With so much ink spilled over the subject of feminism and so many quarrels surrounding it, perhaps it would be better to remain silent.3 Yet she wrote. Why? Because in much of the world the oppression of women was accepted and acceptable. Because the abstract equality accorded to women in some of the world had done nothing to erase their concrete inequality.4 Because feminists continued to repeat old assertions and complaints: They either claimed that women were superior to men or maintained that women were equal to men or blamed social, economic, and political conditions for women’s inferiority. Beauvoir wrote The Second Sex to reframe feminist debates—to find new ways of understanding women’s situation.5 She wrote it to describe the world from a woman’s perspective so that we might see the difficulties women confront in their aspirations to become full members of the human race.6 In speaking of and to a world already aware of the Fascist, communist, and capitalist faces of evil, The Ethics of Ambiguity was well received. In speaking of and to a world where women’s issues were considered irritating and trivial, The Second Sex took time to find its audience. Some say that time is still coming.

Noting the publication dates of The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947) and The Second Sex (1949) and the similar categories at work in their analyses, we can discern the ways that Beauvoir’s confrontation with the atrocities of World War II and the ideologies of the Cold War prepared her to confront the injustices of patriarchy. Further, if we note that, while writing The Second Sex, Beauvoir was traveling in the United States, where she encountered the legacies of American slavery (recounted in America Day by Day, published in 1948), then we can see that her references to slavery in The Second Sex were neither ahistorical nor abstract. Traveling in the American South, Beauvoir was thrown into a world structured by racism. She found herself unwillingly wearing the oppressor’s shoes. Unlike her experience with anti-Semitism in World War II, where living under the oppression of the Nazi occupation meant she lived in solidarity with the Jews, in the American South she was viewed as an agent of racism. In America she experienced the ways that the realities of racism (p.362) degraded her as well as those it oppressed. Already in the process of interrogating the ways that the systems of patriarchy exploit women, Beauvoir’s American experience opened her to the insight that patriarchy, in its oppression of women, also dehumanized men. Thus, although The Second Sex insists that demands for freedom must be made by women in the name of women, it also makes it clear that a world without a “second” sex would be liberating for both women and men.

When Time magazine named The Second Sex as one of the hundred most influential books of the twentieth century, it signaled that the ethics born from Beauvoir’s World War II experiences continue to be relevant today; for if The Second Sex still speaks to us, it is because the ethical insights that ground it remain valid. To understand the continued force of this book, and especially its place in contemporary French feminist discussions, we need to understand that the issues it raises, the analyses it provides, and the criteria of justice it invokes are concrete expressions of Beauvoir’s claim, in The Ethics of Ambiguity, that existentialism is the philosophy for our times because it is the only philosophy that takes the question of evil seriously. Understanding the continued influence of The Second Sex also requires that we question established ways of reading Monique Wittig, Luce Irigaray, and Julia Kristeva. This chapter argues that we get a better sense of the contemporary French feminist scene if we read it as a genealogy that mines the ambiguities and tensions of Beauvoir’s thought for its unsaid possibilities. The chapter establishes the ground for this reading by detailing the relationship between The Second Sex and The Ethics of Ambiguity.

If it is the case that the publication of The Second Sex is now celebrated, it is also the case that its relevance remains contested. Among feminists, The Second Sex has been criticized for being emblematic of what was wrong with the feminism of the 1970s. Like that feminism, Beauvoir is accused of “essentializing” the complex realities of women’s lives. She is accused of assuming that certain women—privileged, middle-class, white women—could speak for all women. This accusation misses the point that Beauvoir did not claim to speak for all women and did not ignore the differences among women. She did, however, assert that, because she was privileged, she was in the best position to analyze the situation of women.7 This claim of epistemic authority runs counter to the phenomenology of lived experience and situated knowledge. Dealing with it is one of the challenges of reading The Second Sex.

Elizabeth Spelman8 and Patricia Hill Collins9 are among those who have addressed this claim of privilege. They find it unsupportable and assert that (p.363) it renders Beauvoir’s thought inadequate, if not obsolete. They argue that is was precisely because she was privileged that she missed the significance of the compelling and complex ways in which our identities as women are yoked to our race, class, and sexual identities. In this chapter the question concerns the implications of these criticisms for the continued relevance of The Second Sex. Do they indicate that the categories of The Second Sex are inadequate per se or that they were inadequately deployed by Beauvoir?

In addressing the question of relevance, everything depends on what we mean by “relevance.” For me, the continued significance of The Second Sex is not determined by whether the issues that are central for us today (e.g., globalization, violence against women, the use of rape as a weapon of war) were central for Beauvoir but rather by whether the categories of The Second Sex continue to provide logical and imaginative possibilities for understanding these contemporary issues. From this perspective, in signaling the ways that the dynamics of racism, imperialism, and slavery mimic the dynamics of sexism and in using such terms as “oppression” and “subjugation” (terms that are usually associated with class, colonial, and race domination) to characterize women’s situation, Beauvoir’s relevance lies in her insistence that we associate the condition of women with the condition of other exploited people. In citing the example of the harem woman, and in noting the ways that her cultural and social condition complicates her condition as a woman, Beauvior points to ways that women’s oppression is multifaceted. She shows that we need to go beyond associating the situation of the woman and the slave and interrogate the situation of the woman who is a slave. Beauvoir does not pursue the implications of this example. In bringing the situation of the harem woman to our attention, however, she suggests that we should. Spelman and Collins say that we must.

Years later, Beauvoir returned to this problem of privilege when she took up the case of Djamila Boupacha.10 Boupacha’s torture and rape and Beauvoir’s intervention spoke to the fact that the way one lives one’s sex and gender is intimately implicated in the way one exists as raced and classed. Boupacha, accused of being a member of the Algerian resistance, was arrested, raped, and tortured by the French authorities. Her torture included rape because she was a woman. But it is not only because she was a woman that she was raped and tortured. It was because she was an Algerian, young, virgin woman who could become unmarriageable because she was raped. In coming to Boupacha’s defense, Beauvoir was not just one woman coming to the aid of another. She came to Boupacha’s defense as a French intellectual woman of standing who (p.364) knew that her privileged position could make a difference. If The Second Sex’s explicit claim that being privileged provides the vantage point for analyzing the condition of all women has been discredited, Beauvoir’s implicit claim, in defending Boupacha, that being privileged carries responsibilities has not. The question concerns the nature of these responsibilities and the way to enact them.

The issue of the continued relevance of The Second Sex becomes clearest when we turn to the matter of the “we”: the matter of creating the solidarity necessary for social and political change. Contemporary feminists, in alerting us to the dangers of essentialism and in focusing on the diverse materialities of women’s lives, are sensitive to the ways that theories of difference complicate the demands of praxis. They have attempted to resolve this problem by offering strategic arguments for common action. Returning to Beauvoir, we might find more solid grounds for a political activism that speaks for women in the name of their oppression as woman.

Beauvoir saw the problem of the “we” as a pressing issue in 1949. She attributed it to several factors at work in women’s lives: their inability to affirm their subjectivity; their economic, social, and cultural situations; their dispersion among men; and the unique tie that binds them to men.11 For Beauvoir, the diversity of women’s lives—the economic, social, racial and religious differences through which they identify themselves—sabotages the political solidarity necessary for challenging the status quo. This is no accident. Keeping women isolated from each other serves the oppressive agenda of patriarchy. Seen from the perspective of the problem of solidarity, The Second Sex needs to be read phenomenologically and politically. Its phenomenological descriptions contest the reifying powers of the myth of woman by capturing the particularities of women’s lives. These descriptions also show us how to invoke the category “woman” for a politics of resistance.

The analytic power of this phenomenology of singularity and solidarity is captured in Beauvoir’s unique use of the category of the other: in the question that opens The Second Sex—“What is a woman?”—and in the famous sentence that opens Book Two of The Second Sex—“One is not born, but becomes a woman.” To fully appreciate the critical power of this phenomenology, we need to remember that The Second Sex’s feminism as grounded in The Ethics of Ambiguity is committed to the propositions that separate existents can be bound to each other, that individual freedoms can forge laws valid for all, and that the condition of particularity can also become the source of a common cause.12

(p.365) The Categories of Freedom and Oppression

The Second Sex identifies patriarchy as a politics of oppression that systematically deprives women of their freedom. The obvious sign of this depravation is material and psychological: women are economically dependent on men and psychologically groomed for the romanticized roles of wife and mother. They are destined to a life of service to others. Their status and value is derived from the value and status of the men in their lives. Yet the more serious but camouflaged mark of this deprivation is phenomenological: women are said to have an essence (biology, they are told, is destiny) that precludes them from becoming authors of the meaning of the world. In accordance with their essence, women live in the world as another, a world where values are established without reference to their perspectives or desires. As women they are hypervisible but silenced. As hypervisible they are objectified. As silenced they are alienated from their humanity. From this ethical and phenomenological perspective, granting women economic independence and political rights within the terms of the sexual contract would not alleviate the grounds of their oppression, for their phenomenological and ethical status as worldembedded beings who bring values to the world would remain in question.

These are strong claims. They are hyperbolic to those who find The Second Sex offensive. They are unintelligible to those who believe in the natural order of things. But to those who heard the injustice of their situation finally given a voice, these claims were liberating.

The Second Sex is a phenomenological, ethical, and political text. Its ethics and politics are tied to Beauvoir’s phenomenology, specifically to the analyses of The Ethics of Ambiguity, in which Beauvoir developed the ethical and political implications of the phenomenological understanding of consciousness as a meaning-giving activity. Phenomenology, as understood by Beauvoir, establishes two truths of the human condition. The first is that to be human is to exist as the spontaneous activity of disclosing the meaning of the world. The second is that to be human is to exist at an unbridgeable distance from the world. This distance, by precluding my identity with the world, is the ground of the relationship I sustain to it. However embedded I may be in the world, I cannot make it serve my ends. It will always exceed my grasp. The project of mastery founders in this gap that separates me from the world. The project of finding meaning in the world thrives in it. The world cannot belong to me. It does, however, speak to me. For Beauvoir, my (p.366) passion and joy finds its home in this intersection of disclosure (the ways that I give the world meaning) and failure (these meanings are never final; the world will exceed my words). The joys of disclosing the wonders of the world would be destroyed if it were possible to appropriate the fullness of the world once and for all.13 This phenomenology of disclosure takes on ethical and political significance once we realize that, in disclosing the already present meanings of the world, we are also questioning them. The revelation of the way things are entails the question: Why are things this way rather than that? The realities of the world are always accompanied by its other possibilities. From an ethical and political perspective, the joy of disclosing these possibilities is also and necessarily the freedom that opens the world to transformation.14 From this perspective, disclosure is the agency of change.

The phenomenology of The Ethics of Ambiguity establishes the joys of disclosure and the desires of freedom as our birthright.15 To be oppressed is to be robbed of these rights. Thus, for Beauvoir, oppression—before being identified in terms of economic, social, or political factors—must be understood phenomenologically: to be oppressed is to be deprived of the joy and responsibility of being a human being. Oppression at its most fundamental level exists wherever people do not or cannot experience themselves as world-disclosing beings who bring meaning and value to life. To be oppressed is to live as the other in the world of another.

It is easy to see how this fundamental form of oppression is materialized in such institutional practices as slavery, colonialism, and human trafficking. It is not always easy to see how it is materialized in sex/gender institutions. When, in the introduction to The Second Sex, Beauvoir tells us that the world belongs to men—that they determine the truths of the world and that women are the other16—she is identifying patriarchy with this fundamental form of oppression. In alerting us to the economic, political, and social realities of women’s subordination to men, Beauvoir asks us to see these inequities as symptomatic of this more basic oppression—that “women” as the other become “woman”—the one who is robbed of her phenomenological-ethical status as a world-disclosing being. Women may acquiesce in their oppression for practical, historical, or bad faith reasons.17 In their acquiescence, they are often said to be happy. However, in happily accepting the honors accorded them as embodiments of femininity, women forfeit the joys of being human.

(p.367) On Becoming a Woman

If The Ethics of Ambiguity is read as providing the philosophical concepts necessary for deciphering what Beauvoir means when she identifies women as the oppressed, then The Second Sex can be read as using these concepts to critique the ethics and politics of sex/gender domination. The descriptions of The Second Sex make it clear that becoming a woman—the one who passively receives men’s meanings of the world, the one who depends on men for validation and status, the one who experiences herself as powerlessness—cannot be simply mandated. It must be embodied and felt as real. It is a matter of becoming habituated to living one’s body as fragile, vulnerable, and weak, of sabotaging the body’s “I can” powers by learning to “throw like a girl” so that women will distrust their ability to engage the world or lose it entirely. Becoming a woman is a matter of embodying a specific set of habits and behaviors. Habits, however, can be broken. That is the point of The Second Sex.

From the standpoint of later feminists, Beauvoir missed the radical implications of her explosive declarations. Though she spoke of postmenopausal women as embodying a third sex (insofar as they were no longer embodied as feminine and were never embodied as masculine) and though she suggested that lesbians might escape the traps of the myth of woman, she never critiqued the two-sex system and never saw heterosexuality as a problem. Feminists who came after her did. Asking the question that drove the analyses of The Second Sex, “What is a woman?,” they read the line “One is not born but becomes a woman” more radically and more diversely than Beauvoir could have anticipated.

That this line continues to provoke discussion is one indication of the continued relevance of Beauvoir’s thought. Another indication is the ways that her concepts and analyses created philosophical openings that continue to be fruitful for critiquing the politics of exploitation. By turning to the work of three prominent and theoretically distinct French feminists—Monique Wittig, Luce Irigaray, and Julia Kristeva—this chapter shows that the best way to gauge the influence of Beauvoir today is not by counting her defenders and critics but by seeing how those who align themselves with Beauvoir, as well as those who do not, move through the spaces, ambiguities, and tensions of The Second Sex to create new routes for feminist thinking.

(p.368) Monique Wittig

In her foreword to Monique Wittig’s 1992 collection of theoretical writings, Louise Turcotte remarks: “If a single name has been associated with the French Women’s Liberation Movement [then] it is surely that of Monique Wittig.”18 In her own preface to these writings, Wittig identified herself as a materialist lesbian and associated herself with Christine Delphy, who had coined the term “materialist feminism.” Wittig also heralded the influence of Sande Zeig, an actor with whom she collaborated and who helped her understand that the effects of oppression on the body—which give it its form, its gestures, its movements, its “motricity,” and even its muscles—“have their origin in the abstract domain of concepts through the words that formalize them.”19 Beauvoir’s name is absent from this list of those who informed her thinking. Her signature, however, is unmistakable.

When Wittig referred to Beauvoir in several of her essays, and cited Beauvoir by proxy in her essay titled “One Is Not Born but Becomes a Woman,” she was alerting us to the ways that The Second Sex rendered the Marxist categories of labor, class, and alienation inadequate. Traditional Marxists, attentive to the exploitations of the labor contract between men, missed the uniquely alienated position of woman as the other of man. Insofar as the inequality of women was noted, Marxists claimed that women and men would become each other’s equals once the classless society came into being. For Wittig and the feminist materialists, however, resolving the inequities of the labor contract would not resolve the injustices of the sexual contract. Bringing Beauvoir’s “one is not born but becomes a woman” to the Marxist concept of class, Wittig argued that women are a class and not a natural group, and that as a class they exist in an antagonist relationship to the class “man.”20

Comparing sex to race, Wittig contended that the class woman is the product of the ways that the myth of woman appropriates the consciousness and bodies of women.21 She credited Beauvoir with alerting us to this appropriation and with warning us against “the false consciousness which consists of selecting among the features of the myth (that women are different from men) those which look good and using them as a definition for women.”22 Thus, Wittig heard Beauvoir rejecting a feminist politics of difference and took up this rejection by insisting that arguments that extol women’s differences from men fail to solve the problem of women’s subjugation because they do not challenge the categories of man and woman through which the subjugation of women is enforced.

(p.369) Materialism, as it was shaped by Wittig, speaks more of alienated consciousness than of alienated labor (though this is not ignored). For what makes women a class is not so much their economic condition (women are too economically diverse ) but the material effects of the category woman. It is because the class woman cannot be mapped economically that feminist materialism is particularly attuned to the effects of language and the symbolic on our bodies and minds.

In returning to Beauvoir’s “one is not born but becomes a woman,” Wittig did not follow Beauvoir’s phenomenological analysis of how those identified as female at birth are acculturated to live their bodies in ways that identify them as women, for she believed that attending to these issues addressed the symptom but not the cause of women’s position. Where contemporary feminists such as Sara Heimämaa23 and Eva Lundgren-Gothlin24 argue that recovering Beauvoir’s relationship to Hegel, Heidegger, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty would enrich the ethical and political implications of her analyses of embodiment, Wittig took another route. She argued that the disabling effects of embodying femininity cannot be undone without undoing the system of compulsory heterosexuality. The disabled female body is a direct effect of the ways that the sex/gender symbolic system constitutes woman as the other. Reenacting the shock of Beauvoir’s “one is not born but becomes a woman,” Wittig startles us with her announcement that “lesbians are not women.”25

For Wittig, that lesbians are not women is the logical consequence of the materialist frame birthed by Beauvoir. If women are habituated to live their bodies in ways that materialize the myth of woman, and if the myth of woman situates women as the object of men’s desire, then refusing to live their bodies in relationship to men is the only path to liberation. As slaves exist only so long as they are owned by masters, women exist only so long as they are tethered to men. In escaping from their masters, slaves destroy the slave class.26 In severing relationships with men, lesbians demolish the class woman. Echoing Marx’s anticipation of a classless society, Wittig looks forward to a sexless one.27 Beauvoir had agreed to provisionally admit that women existed so that she might pose the question of woman.28 Wittig contended that, once the question of woman is adequately posed, it is no longer necessary to admit (provisionally or otherwise) that women exist.

Beauvoir’s sympathy with this appropriation of The Second Sex became evident in 1972 when she joined with other Marxist feminists to launch Questions féministes, a radical feminist journal dedicated to exposing and challenging the power relationships between women and men. The hostile relationship (p.370) between those feminists affiliated with Questions féministes and those who founded Psych et po—a journal devoted to the analysis of women’s oppression through the categories of language and the advocacy of difference—seemed to indicate that those who approached the question of woman/women psychoanalytically, rather than materially, were breaking with Beauvoir’s line of thought. I think things are more complicated. It is difficult, for example, to miss the irony in Wittig’s scathing critique of those who have taken the linguistic analytic turn for reducing the misery of the oppressed “to a few figures of speech”29 when she argued that it is the materiality of language, not just the meager paycheck, that oppresses women. It is difficult to miss the ways that both feminist camps draw out the implications of Beauvoir’s attention to the power of the myth of woman.

This is not to suggest that the differences between the materialist and psychoanalytic French feminists were minimal; they were not. The point is to suggest that one way of responding to Beauvoir’s admonition to end the fruitless quarrels between those who insist that the path to liberation lies in the affirmation of women’s equality with men and those who claim that the end of the women’s oppression requires an affirmation of women’s difference from men is to see their diverse assessments of gender politics as pursuing different strains of Beauvoir’s thought. If we read materialist and psychoanalytic feminists as thinking through the tensions in Beauvoir’s thought and if we see these tensions as productive rather than antithetical, then we may be able to analyze contemporary French feminist debates in ways that avoid the ruts Beauvoir identified as the pitfalls of feminist thinking.

Luce Irigaray

Where Wittig pursued the radical implications of Beauvoir’s critique of marriage by tracing the oppression of women to the heterosexism of the heterosexual couple, Irigaray discerns the liberatory possibilities of Beauvoir’s reference to the unique bond between the woman and man who form a heterosexual couple. Using a term borrowed from Martin Heidegger, Beauvoir referred to this bond as an original Mitsein. According to Beauvoir, the relation between men and women, though analogous to that of the master and slave, is fundamentally different. Unlike the master-slave relationship, which can be justifiably broken, “male and female stand opposed within a primordial Mitsein. … The couple is a fundamental unity with its two halves riveted (p.371) together and the cleavage of society along the line of sex is impossible. Here is to be found the basic trait of woman; she is the Other in a totality of which the two components are necessary to each other.”30

If we accept the idea that there is an essential bond between the man and woman of the heterosexual couple, then the current structure of this bond presents a unique problem. Is marriage as we know it a perversion of this original Mitsein? When did this perversion occur? How is such a perversion possible? Though we may not be able to answer the question of the Mitsein’s origin, to claim that the heterosexual couple is an original Mitsein requires that we ask how the perversion is possible. For unless we probe this second question, it will be impossible to understand the distinction Beauvoir made between sexism and other forms of oppression. In class and race oppression, for example, otherness operates as the source of violence. The resolution of these oppressions requires that we subordinate the idea of difference to the idea of equality. According to Beauvoir, however, resolving sex/gender oppression requires that we recognize sexual difference as the source of a unique form of joyful otherness. She told us that “in sexuality [we find] … the tension, the anguish, the joy, the frustration and the triumph of existence,” and wrote, “when we abolish the slavery of half of humanity, together with the whole system of hypocrisy it implies, then the ‘division’ of humanity will reveal its genuine significance and the human couple will find its true form.”31 Beauvoir teased us with these references to the perversions and possibilities of the heterosexual Mitsein; Irigaray teases out the possibilities of this Mitsein in her ethics of sexual difference and politics of equity.

Irigaray takes The Second Sex in unexpected but not necessarily foreign directions by bringing Beauvoir’s question of woman as the other to the matter of the Mitsein of the couple. Beauvoir rejected the possibility of a social Mitsein. According to her, it runs counter to our experience of singularity and to the realities of conflict. The experience of individuality belies the idea of an original bond. The prevalence of conflict, whether it takes the more or less benign forms of competition, trade, and festivals or erupts in the violence of war, also discredits the idea of the Mitsein, for the category of the Mitsein suggests that conflict can be avoided. In arguing that violence is a tragic fact of the human condition, Beauvoir saw the heterosexual couple as an exception to this rule of the other. She alludes to the preservation of the species as an argument for this exception. Given her insistence, however, that biological facts acquire their meaning from social practices, this argument is unsupportable.32

(p.372) Within the context of The Second Sex, the anomaly of the heterosexual couple’s Mitsein remains a puzzle. We might try to solve the puzzle by arguing that the heterosexual couple is a Mitsein because the sexual difference is an illusion. Beauvoir, however, rejects this solution. She writes:

There will always be certain differences between man and woman; her eroticism, and therefore her sexual world, have a special form of their own and therefore cannot fail to engender a sensuality, a sensitivity of a special nature. This means that her relations to her own body, to that of the male, to the child, will never be identical with those the male bears to his own body, to that of the female, and to the child; those who make much of equality in difference could not with good grace refuse to grant me the possible existence of differences in equality.33

Beauvoir further complicates her account of an original heterosexual Mitsein on two counts. First, she tells us that this Mitsein exists because women value the bonds of intimacy more than the recognition of reciprocity.34 Second, she fails to find a time when women were not the second sex. Putting these observations together suggests that the heterosexual Mitsein is original not in the sense of existing at some earlier, utopian moment of time but rather in the sense of originating in women’s desire for the bonds of intimacy. Beauvoir endorses the desire for intimacy but not the price women were being asked to pay for it. The values of recognition and reciprocity cannot be sacrificed for the utopian promise of the heterosexual Mitsein.

Between Beauvoir’s axiom that the couple is an original Mitsein and her principle that the category of the other and the conflict it engenders are fundamental to the human condition, we are left with a dilemma. Insofar as she affirms the otherness of the sexual difference, Beauvoir cannot affirm the Mitsein of the heterosexual couple. Insofar as she affirms the Mitsein of the heterosexual couple, she cannot argue for the otherness of the sexual difference. Offering us the utopian promise of the heterosexual Mitsein as a way of giving us hope for the end of sexual exploitation, but refusing to abandon either of these two principles, Beauvoir leaves us at loose ends. How can we justify calling the heterosexual couple an original Mitsein? Why should we embrace it as a utopian promise? Irigaray, accepting the category of the other and otherness as fundamental to the human condition but rejecting Beauvoir’s reading of this otherness as a prescription for conflict and violence, provides a way to resolve the conundrums of Beauvoir’s analysis.

(p.373) From Irigaray’s perspective, Beauvoir was correct in recognizing the original Mitsein of the heterosexual couple. Her inability to account for it lies in her failure to challenge the metaphysics of the One, a metaphysics grounded in the idea that there is a hierarchy of truths whereby each truth is legitimated through its reference to a single absolute Truth. Anything not consistent with this one Truth is dismissed as false. If we abandon this metaphysics of the One and recognize a metaphysics of the Two—a metaphysics grounded in the idea that we cannot reduce the Two truths of sexual difference to a One absolute truth that is authorized to silence the other—then the different other would not be experienced as a threat. Instead of a world structured by the violence of the One there would be room in the world for the otherness of the Two. For Irigaray, Beauvoir’s observation that the other is a fundamental category of consciousness revealed the truth of a metaphysics of the Two that grounds the ethics of sexual difference, an ethics embodied and lived in the heterosexual couple. Whereas Wittig abandoned the heterosexual couple, finding that its exploitive class “two” destroyed women’s humanity, Irigaray endorses the heterosexual couple as the ground of an ethics of sexual difference that affirms women’s and men’s distinct dignity.

There is just one problem. As currently constituted, the heterosexual couple is not a Two. It is structured according to the oppressive law of the One. This law precludes the existence of women because, according to Irigaray, to exist as a woman I must have access to a language and a symbolic system that allow me to express the unique sensuality of my desire. Current symbolic systems follow the logic of the One. They allow for the expression of men’s desire but not women’s. Both Beauvoir and Wittig were aware of this problem. They saw it in terms of the power of the myth of woman, which allowed women to exist only as figments of men’s desire.

Noting a problem is not the same as getting as its root. From Irigaray’s perspective, Wittig—in thinking that lesbians could escape their destiny as women by disengaging from men—missed the fact that as long as women are captured by a symbolic system that alienates them from their desire, whether they live with men or apart from them will be irrelevant. Beauvoir was also naive. Her focus on the habits of our bodies and the economics of our lives ignores the fact that if the only symbolic system available to women is one that speaks exclusively of men’s desire, then women’s status as the inessential other will remain unchanged.

Trained in the psychoanalytic traditions of Freud and Lacan, Irigaray exposes the masculine footprints of psychoanalysis. To rewrite the answer to (p.374) Beauvoir’s question of how one who is not born a woman becomes one, Irigaray takes up Freud’s question: What do women want? In answering Freud, she also answers Beauvoir. Irigaray’s response to Freud is twofold: first, under the rule of a symbolic system that expresses only masculine desire, women can want only what masculine desire allows them to want. Second, women want to speak their own desire, but when they try to do so according to the symbolic laws of patriarchal language, they are dismissed as unintelligible.

When Freud raised the question of woman’s desire and acknowledged that he could not answer it, he exposed what Irigaray discerns as both the problem and possibility of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis, as long as it follows Freud in not seeing the problem of women’s desire in terms of a symbolic system that is only capable of expressing masculine desire, will not resolve the problem of women’s desire. It may, however, follow Freud in noting that its descriptions of the Oedipus complex do not adequately account for women’s sexuality. It may, like Freud in his essay “On Femininity,” return to the question of woman to leave it unanswered and open. Freud expected that women analysts would be more successful than he (and other male analysts) in deciphering the enigma of women’s desire. In this he may have anticipated Irigaray. He certainly did not anticipate that in returning to the place where psychoanalysis begins—the maternal body and the Oedipus complex—this woman analyst would upend the psychoanalytic story of the family romance.

As Irigaray sees it, the law of return drives desire. Our desire, she tells us, is born as a longing to return to the place where we began.35 It is structured by the hope that there are routes of return and is assuaged by the assurance that such routes can be found. Given that we are all of woman born, the maternal body stands as the origin of the human. But given that we are not all born women, we cannot all return to this body in the same way. This is the source of sexual difference. We learn who we are and secure our place in the symbolic order that structures the social world by discovering how our lived bodies are related to and differentiated from the source of our desire. This is what analysts call resolving the Oedipus complex. For the male analysts, Freud and Lacan, resolving the Oedipus complex required rejecting the bond with the mother for the authority of the father. For Irigaray, however, this account of the Oedipus complex has the effect of erasing our debt to the mother. It is tantamount to murdering her. It is a recipe for violence and destruction.

Resolving the Oedipus complex is not, according to Irigaray, a matter of abandoning the mother’s body. It is a matter of creating symbolic systems where each sexed embodiment of the human can discover its unique route (p.375) of return. The only road that exists today follows a patriarchal geography of masculine fantasies. These fantasies reduce women to the mother (the origin of his being and ground of his desire) and then transform them into the wife (the one through whom he will/can return to the origin/ground). Serving as the image of the desired origin and the possibility of his return, woman guarantees man’s desire. As long as she is denied her own desire, she can be counted on to anchor and secure his. The myth of woman attempts to ensure that women will anchor and secure man’s desire by portraying women as wanting to be the object of men’s desire.

In directing us to think our way back to the maternal body, Irigaray is neither essentializing women as mothers nor romanticizing motherhood. Rather, she is laying the ground for her account of the transition from a natural to a civic identity. Like the democratic social contract theorists, Irigaray finds that we are not born but become citizens. Unlike the contract theorists—who sever the civic realm from the “natural” domain of the family, allowing only men to enter the public realm and become citizens—Irigaray ties the private and public domains to each other. She argues that both men and women must make the transition from their natural to their civic identities by transforming their biological differences into civic ones. Civic identity is two. Equity, not equality, must ground civil law.

Irigaray is insistent and clear: the transition from natural to civic identity occurs in the intimacies of the heterosexual couple or it does not occur at all. The affections of friendship, the love of parents and children, same-sex love, cross-cultural respect, interracial affiliations—all of these socialities of difference are possible only if and after the unique desires of men and women are intelligibly and legitimately expressed. The clearest discussion of how Irigaray envisions the give-and-take between the natural and civic domains is her essay “Toward a Citizenship of the European Union.” There she describes the civil code as “a code for us and for the between us.”36 This code sets the conditions for “a civil relationship between a man and a woman” that “safeguards and protects human identity … and coexistence in the community.”37 This code defines civil identity “at the intersection of individual, natural identity and of community, relational identity, a transition which each person, male and female would have to make on their own behalf and consent to the other, male or female.”38

For all of its differences from Beauvoir’s politics of economic, political, and social equality, Irigaray’s politics of equity may be read as attentive to the ghost of the myth of woman that continues to haunt Beauvoir’s independent (p.376) woman. In challenging this ghost with the Two of civic identity, Irigaray may be seen as pursuing Beauvoir’s invitation to imagine how women who were not woman (i.e., not bound by the laws of men’s desire) might navigate the world.

Julia Kristeva

Kristeva also takes up Beauvoir’s invitation. Unlike Wittig, who addressed it through the question of class, and Irigaray, who attends to it through the question of the heterosexual Mitsein, Kristeva probes Beauvoir’s phenomenology of intentionality. In her account of intentionality, Beauvoir described us as bringing meaning and value to the world and as putting the meanings and values of the world into question. According to Beauvoir, it is because I am free to question the present meanings and values of the world that I am free to create new meanings and values for the world. Kristeva pursues the implications of aligning the intentionality of freedom, meaning-making, and value formation with the process of questioning. She asks what this entails for our understanding of the subject.

For Kristeva, to understand ourselves as beings who question the world we must also understand ourselves as the process of questioning. In order to put the world in question we must also put ourselves in question. Questioning is seen by both Kristeva and Beauvoir as a negating activity. To question something is to negate its certainty. Using the categories of psychoanalysis, Kristeva speaks of the questioning subject in terms of the creative negativity of the drives that reveal alternatives to the status quo. In translating Beauvoir’s concepts of intentionality into the discourse of psychoanalysis Kristeva gives us new ways of understanding how women living under the spell of the myth of woman might live otherwise. For Kristeva, the liberation of women from the myth of woman requires that we tap into the transformative powers of the questioning subject. In creatively negating or questioning the subject designated as woman, we will find ourselves in a world where one who is not born a woman does not become one.

That Beauvoir and Kristeva address the same questions through different paradigms should not deflect us from hearing the ways that they speak to each other. We can detect these affinities by listening for the echoes of Beauvoir’s ethics and politics of joy in Kristeva’s ethics and politics of jouissance, by hearing Kristeva’s allusions to the weakness of language in terms of Beauvoir’s (p.377) attention to the meaning of failure, and by discerning the resonance between Kristeva’s discussions of the maternal body as the original site of the semiotic challenge to the law’s authority and Beauvoir’s descriptions of the destabilizing effects of the generosities of the erotic body. The point of identifying these affinities is not to erase the differences between Beauvoir and Kristeva. The point is to alert us to the fruitfulness of putting existential and psychoanalytic analyses in conversation with each other.

Within the feminist frame, the question of woman as the other is the question of sexual difference. As we saw with Irigaray, within the psychoanalytic frame this question must be configured in terms of the drives—specifically, the drive to return to the mother and the relationship between this drive and the symbolic order. Bringing a feminist perspective to the traditional psychoanalytic account of how our desires are lived, Kristeva finds what Irigaray finds—that although each of the sexes has its own sensuality, only masculine desire has secured the right to express itself in language. Women’s desire is either silenced or rendered unintelligible. It has no symbolic voice. Everyone who wishes to speak must become homologous to the male speaking body.39

Where Irigaray attributes this state of affairs to the power of the logic of the One, Kristeva finds it symptomatic of a more fundamental issue: our current ways of anchoring the structure of the subject in a secure identity whose health is measured by its stability. By immunizing itself from the destabilizing effects of the question, however, the securely identified subject severs itself from its life blood. Challenging this mode of subjectivity, Kristeva calls for a “herethical” ethics.40 This ethics is grounded in the concept of the subject as a process of self-formation and self-transformation, a questioning that is open to the creative and disruptive energies of the bodied rhythms that Kristeva terms the semiotic. Kristeva calls her ethic a “herethic” not because it expresses a unique female desire but because it is anchored in the maternal body.

The maternal body, according to Kristeva, is the paradigmatic subject in process. It challenges current depictions of the subject as the stable core of our identity on two counts. First, the pregnant body is a subject divided within itself: instead of immunizing itself against the disruptions that challenge our secure identities, it embodies the disruptive forces that ground our existence as questioners. As the embodiment of the subject as a process of formation and transformation, the pregnant body is the home of the semiotic’s creative energies. In letting these energies circulate, it contests current masculine modes of subjectivity that approach these energies as forces to be controlled and mastered. Second, the maternal body is the site of our first (p.378) encounter with the touch, rhythm, and flow of the semiotic. This unnamed and unnamable experience, the source of desire and language, is alluded to in the term jouissance. Literally translated as “joy,” the word jouissance has been appropriated by Kristeva and others influenced by the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan to denote an explosive experience of vitality that breaks all boundaries and laws. Drawing on this psychoanalytic meaning, Kristeva adopts the term jouissance to characterize her politics of revolt. This politics is distinguished by the fact that, like the semiotic, which cannot be contained by the laws of language but is the site of new language forms, it refuses to be bound by absolute goals in order to foster the disruptions that preserve the creative energies of the questioning subject. This politics translates the jouissance of our creative energies into the right to happiness and insists that the right to happiness is essential to human dignity.

Kristeva’s herethics may be seen as both critiquing and probing Beauvoir’s erotic ethic. When she argues for an ethics and politics of “alterity”—where, instead of confronting each other as threats to our stable gendered identities, we are drawn to each other as the source of a joyful, destabilizing renewal—Kristeva may be seen as developing Beauvoir’s analyses of the erotic encounter as a site where men’s and women’s gendered identities are questioned.41 Unlike Beauvoir, who reserved this experience of renewal to the destabilizing effects of hetersosexual passion, Kristeva identifies it with motherhood and the birthing body. She refuses to be be duped by the ideology of motherhood and rejects the idea that, in becoming a mother, a woman is the author of her own oppression. For Kristeva, in becoming a mother, a woman materializes the transformations, alterity, and otherness that speak the truth of the subject who questions, creates, and re-creates. As we are all of woman born, the semiotic truths of the maternal body’s jouissance are bequeathed to us. The truths of a herethics and a politics of revolt are part of this bequest.42 Although Kristeva finds that Beauvoir was right to reject a social order that imposes motherhood on women, she also finds that Beauvoir’s opposition to motherhood goes too far. In ignoring the pleasures of motherhood and the power of the mother-infant bond, Beauvoir lost the chance to analyze the forces that co-opt the revolutionary resources of the maternal body.

For Irigaray, Beauvoir’s description of the other as a fundamental category of human thought points to the truth of the metaphysics of the Two; for Kristeva, Beauvoir’s descriptions of otherness as a fundamental category of consciousness and a constant factor in social life are materialized in the splitting and otherness of the maternal body.43 More specifically, for Kristeva the (p.379) split that the category of the other names (i.e., the split between myself and another) reflects a more basic split: the split at the threshold of language, where the laws that structure the symbolic and the semiotic’s disruption to those laws intersect and resist each other.44 Whereas the split between the I and the other may be reconciled through a praxis of mutual recognition, no such reconciliation is possible for the split between the symbolic and the semiotic. Attending to the maternal body makes this clear. For this body “brings to light and imposes without remedy the separation that precedes pregnancy … [the] abyss between the mother and the child.”45 Radicalizing Beauvoir’s refusal to deny a priori that separate existents can be bound to each other by a common law, Kristeva asks: “What connection is there between myself … between my body and this internal graft and fold, which once the umbilical cord has been severed is an inaccessible other?”46

To answer this question, Kristeva invites us to see the artist, and in particular the poet, as playing with the laws of language in order to return language to the creative energies of its semiotic source—that is, to the place where the symbolic risks the security of its laws for the creative possibilities of their semiotic disruption. The poet and the artist may be seen as answering the question posed by the maternal body concerning the connection between itself and its issue once the umbilical cord is severed. The poet reconnects language to the nourishing and maternal motility of the semiotic.47 She plays with the rules of grammar to open language to the expressions and meanings of sound and meter, thereby giving language new ways to speak.

Moving between the maternal body and the artist, Kristeva rejects romantic images of either. Both are playing with fire. The disruptive splitting of the maternal body carries the threat of psychosis. The poetic disruptions of the laws of language expose the weakness of those laws.48 This weakness is characteristic of all principles of law: freed from all constraints, the semiotic cuts a path of destruction, aggressivity, and death.49 The maternal body invokes the laws of creative negativity to counter the threat of psychosis. It does not give the psychotic split the last word. That is given to the changes and stases of the subject in process whose paradigm of unity provides an alternative to the model of identity authorized by the stable subject.50

Artistic practices mimic the maternal body’s laws of creative negativity. They do not give the weakness of language the last word. When artistic practices call on the energies of the semiotic to counter the ossifications of the laws of order, they call on language to respond to the challenges of the semiotic by refashioning the structures of the law. Language, like the subject, is an (p.380) organizing process that allows us to question and re-create structures without destroying the order that protects us from the chaos of psychosis or anarchy.

Like Irigaray, Kristeva links the problem of ethics to the problem of the question of the subject. For Kristeva, however, Irigaray’s ethics of sexual difference still invokes the notion of the subject as a structure; it simply increases the number of acceptable structures from one to two. Insisting that the subject be understood as a structuring and not a structure, Kristeva argues that since we cannot anticipate how the encounter between the semiotic and the symbolic will be lived, we can neither predict the forms that future subjects may assume nor limit their possible number.

To understand how Kristeva moves from psychoanalytic analyses of the subject and the maternal body and discussions of the relationship between the semiotic and the symbolic to a politics of revolt, we need to understand that in invoking the right to transgress the law, Kristeva does not advocate abolition of the law. This became clear in her support of the May ’68 student–worker protests in France.

Kristeva takes May ’68 as her point of reference for describing a politics of revolt that avoids the destructive dead ends of anarchism and authoritarianism. May ’68, Kristeva writes,

expresses a fundamental version of freedom: not freedom to change or to succeed, but freedom to revolt, to call things into question … liberty as revolt isn’t just an available option, its fundamental … by putting things into question … “values” stop being frozen dividends and acquire a sense of mobility, polyvalence, life … May ’68 was a … desire to come up with new, perpetually contestable configurations … for an exhilarating and joyful permanent revolution … it was a sexual and cultural contestation.51

For Kristeva, May ’68 was quintessentially French. First, because it expressed the impulse of the 1789 French Revolution that Kristeva identifies as driven by the idea of happiness for the most disadvantaged. Second, because the politics of 1968, like the politics of 1789, linked the idea of happiness to the aspiration for dignity.52 Returning to Beauvoir’s distinction between happiness (satisfaction with the securities and comforts offered by the status quo) and joy (experiencing oneself as bringing meaning and value to the world), Kristeva describes the happiness of jouissance as the antithesis of the satisfaction of consumer needs.53

(p.381) Again, it would be a mistake to take the resonances of Beauvoir in Kristeva too far. Their differences are marked, and it is the importance of these differences that makes their ability to “speak” to each other so significant. One way to see how their differences matter—to see how attending to these differences opens alternative and intersecting paths for considering the situation of women—is to compare Beauvoir’s and Kristeva’s understanding of the condition of women living in a harem. According to Beauvoir, women living in a harem are so alienated from their meaning-giving powers that they are unable to even imagine transcending their allotted situation. Their oppression is complete in that they do not recognize that they are oppressed. It thus becomes the responsibility of privileged women, women who know they are human and who know the power of the right to imagine oneself free, to intercede. In arguing that privileged women ought to alert the women of the harem to the possibilities of freedom, Beauvoir did not argue that these women have the right to tell the women in the harem what to do with their freedom. The meanings and values that the harem women bring into the world will speak to their experiences and desires. Beauvoir’s point here was that the condition of the possibility of freedom is the ability to imaginatively transcend the conditions that tie one to the present. Fighting oppression in the name of freedom is not a matter of providing prescriptions for the future but a matter of fostering the creative powers of the imagination. To be free is to live in a world where one’s desires count. Beauvoir is clearest on this in All Men Are Mortal, where Fosca (the immortal man) asks Armand (his mortal revolutionary great grandson): “What will man do with this freedom?” To which Armand replies: “What’s the difference, he’ll do whatever he likes.”54

Kristeva, examining the mores of harem women, finds that they trigger her imagination by opening up the question of the homosexuality endemic among women. Instead of seeing these women as having no way of bringing their values to the world or as unable to imagine themselves giving their meanings to the world, Kristeva—attentive to the universal attachment of daughter to mother and mindful of Freud’s descriptions of the male homoerotic bonds that ground contemporary forms of civilization—suggests that the female bonds of the women in the harem might provide the basis for a more democratic community where women would live among men without being subordinated to or dependent on them.55

These different understandings of the harem point to the critical differences between Beauvoir and Kristeva. Beauvoir, who focused on the position of woman as the inessential other, could not imagine that the women in the (p.382) harem might create an erotic bond and a way of life that escaped the scrutiny of masculine power. Kristeva, attentive to the ways that the maternal body can destabilize the patriarchal configurations of civilization, sees that the mores of the women in the harem might effect this destabilization by invoking the dignity of women’s jouissance.

Beauvoir and Kristeva took up the question of women’s subjectivity in the name of an ethics and politics of solidarity. In asking similar questions and appealing to similar values (for example, the values of joy and jouissance), they relied on different principles and offered distinct paradigms for rewriting the meaning of woman. Equality in difference was a key principle of Beauvoir’s feminism. In organizing the Parisian centennial celebration of Beauvoir’s birth, I hear Kristeva suggesting a complementary feminist principle: solidarity in difference. I hear her directing us to take up Beauvoir’s challenge to abandon the ruts of our quarrels for new beginnings, in which we endorse practices that welcome the disruptions we bring to each other’s positions.

An Opening by Way of an Ending

The Second Sex began its life as a contested text. It remains a site of contestation. It was rejected in 1949 for creating a problem where none existed and dismissed as the hysterical rant of a sexually frustrated woman. It has outlived these charges. Today, however, it faces other difficulties. Though we agree that the problems detailed in The Second Sex are real and recognize it as one of the most influential works of the twentieth century, we do not give The Second Sex its due. Instead, we either treat it as an interesting but dated work (after all, it was written more than fifty years ago) or render it passé by identifying it with existentialism (a theory that is said to be obsolete). By looking at The Second Sex as belonging more to the past than to the present we miss its complexities and lose it as a resource for contemporary feminist and philosophical thought.56

This chapter protests that loss. It situates The Second Sex within the context of Beauvoir’s existential phenomenology to show how her philosophy of intentionality, in tying the concept of oppression to practices that rob people of their freedom to bring value and meaning to the world, gave birth to the category of the other and to a phenomenology of embodiment captured in the (p.383) phrase “one is not born a woman; one becomes one.” These words and the analyses supporting them debunked the idea that biology was destiny. They gave women the space to speak and act in the name of their freedom and desire. In rooting The Second Sex in Beauvoir’s phenomenological commitments and existential ethics I do not intend to confine it to these roots. Reading the work of Wittig, Irigaray, and Kristeva as taking up different strains of the ambiguities and tensions of The Second Sex is one way of showing how Beauvoir’s logic of intentionality (and the concept of the subject that is allied with it) bursts its existential-phenomenological frame. It is one way of showing that we pay our debt to Beauvoir by recognizing how the language of The Second Sex is at work in the different iterations of contemporary feminism. This language is attentive to the material effects of the myth of woman. It argues for a politics of particularity and solidarity. It links the concept of the subject to the notions of disclosure, desire, critique, and transformation. It speaks of the contest between freedom and oppression as a struggle between the energetic joy that refuses to accept the status quo in the name of the possibilities of the world and the forces of authority that claim that the established meanings of the world are absolute and that we have no choice but to submit. This language is a discourse of liberation and transformation that ties theory to practice. It identifies feminist politics as a politics grounded in concepts of the human and of oppression, where the differences of the human cannot become an excuse for exploiting those who are different. Grounding feminist politics in this way saves it from fragmenting into a series of unfocused reactions to this or that particular offense.

Keeping The Second Sex on our bookshelves as a resource, rather than a historical artifact, may remind us that the new beginning it hoped to inaugurate has yet to occur. We are still entrenched in old and familiar ruts. We have yet to create a politics of solidarity guided by our respect for difference and commitment to dialogue—a politics that creates the space for us to meet through what we share and what we do not and a politics in which we surprise and encroach on each other and are in this way mutually transformed.57 Solidarity conceived of in this way keeps the disorientation of the other in play without allowing the challenge of the other to degenerate into a declaration of war. It repositions the other from the one who has no voice to the one whose disruptive voice, in disclosing other world possibilities, is essential to the feminist work of critique and transformation—a work perhaps best described by Kristeva: “I revolt therefore we are still to come.”58

(p.384) Notes

(1.) Simone de Beauvoir, After the War: Force of Circumstance, vol. 1, 1944–1952 (New York: Paragon, 1992), 5.

(2.) Beauvoir, The Ethics of Ambiguity (New York: Philosophical Library, 1948), 34.

(3.) Beauvoir, The Second Sex (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), xix.

(4.) Ibid., xxii.

(5.) Ibid., xxxiii.

(6.) Ibid., xxxv.

(7.) Ibid., xxxiii.

(8.) Elizabeth V. Spelman, Inessential Woman: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist Thought (Boston: Beacon, 1998).

(9.) Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment (London: HarperCollins, 1990).

(10.) Mary Caputi, “Beauvoir and the Case of Djamila Boupacha,” in Simone de Beauvoir’s Political Thinking, ed. Lori Jo Marso and Patricia Moynagh (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006), 109–26; Julien Murphy, “Beauvoir and the Algerian War: Toward a Postcolonial Ethics,” Feminist Interpretations of Simone de Beauvoir, ed. Margaret Simons (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995); Karen Shelby, “Beauvoir and Ethical Responsibility,” in Marso and Moynagh, Beauvoir’s Political Thinking, 93–108.

(11.) Beauvoir, The Second Sex, xxv.

(12.) Beauvoir, Ethics of Ambiguity, 18; Beauvoir, The Second Sex, xxxiv.

(13.) Beauvoir, Ethics of Ambiguity, 12, 16.

(14.) Ibid., 20, 27.

(15.) Ibid., 32, 34.

(16.) Beauvoir, The Second Sex, xxi–xxii.

(17.) Ibid., xxvii.

(18.) Monique Wittig, The Straight Mind and Other Essays (Boston: Beacon, 1992), vii.

(19.) Ibid., xv.

(20.) Ibid., 9.

(21.) Ibid., 11.

(22.) Ibid., 13.

(23.) Sara Heinamaa, Toward a Phenomenology of Sexual Difference: Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Beauvoir (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003).

(24.) Eva Lundgren-Gothlin, Sex and Existence: Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press, 1996).

(25.) Wittig, The Straight Mind, 32.

(26.) Ibid., 9.

(27.) Ibid., 24.

(p.385) (28.) Beauvoir, The Second Sex, xii.

(29.) Wittig, The Straight Mind, 21–24.

(30.) Beauvoir, The Second Sex, xxv–xxvi.

(31.) Ibid., 731.

(32.) Ibid., xxii–xxiii.

(33.) Ibid., 731.

(34.) Ibid., xxv.

(35.) Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985), 18.

(36.) Irigaray, Democracy Begins Between Two (New York: Routledge, 2000), 64.

(37.) Ibid.

(38.) Ibid., 65.

(39.) Julia Kristeva, “Revolution in Poetic Language,” in The Portable Kristeva, ed. Kelly Oliver (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 305.

(40.) Ibid., 330.

(41.) Ibid., 301–4.

(42.) Ibid., 308.

(43.) Ibid., 302.

(44.) Ibid., 304.

(45.) Ibid., 322–23.

(46.) Ibid., 322.

(47.) Ibid., 35–36.

(48.) Ibid., 322.

(49.) Ibid., 37.

(50.) Ibid., 322.

(51.) Kristeva, Revolt, She Said (New York: Semiotext, 2002), 12.

(52.) Ibid., 14.

(53.) Ibid., 37.

(54.) Beauvoir, All Men Are Mortal (New York: Norton, 1955), 319.

(55.) Kristeva, Revolt, She Said, 205.

(56.) Margaret Simons, “The Second Sex: From Marxism to Radical Feminism,” in Feminist Interpretations of Simone de Beauvoir, ed. Margaret Simons (University Park: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995) 243–362.

(57.) Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Dialogue and the Perception of the Other,” in Merleau-Ponty, The Prose of the World, trans. John O’Neill (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1973), 142.

(58.) Kristeva, Revolt, She Said, 42.

Notes:

(1.) Simone de Beauvoir, After the War: Force of Circumstance, vol. 1, 1944–1952 (New York: Paragon, 1992), 5.

(2.) Beauvoir, The Ethics of Ambiguity (New York: Philosophical Library, 1948), 34.

(3.) Beauvoir, The Second Sex (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), xix.

(4.) Ibid., xxii.

(5.) Ibid., xxxiii.

(6.) Ibid., xxxv.

(7.) Ibid., xxxiii.

(8.) Elizabeth V. Spelman, Inessential Woman: Problems of Exclusion in Feminist Thought (Boston: Beacon, 1998).

(9.) Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment (London: HarperCollins, 1990).

(10.) Mary Caputi, “Beauvoir and the Case of Djamila Boupacha,” in Simone de Beauvoir’s Political Thinking, ed. Lori Jo Marso and Patricia Moynagh (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006), 109–26; Julien Murphy, “Beauvoir and the Algerian War: Toward a Postcolonial Ethics,” Feminist Interpretations of Simone de Beauvoir, ed. Margaret Simons (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995); Karen Shelby, “Beauvoir and Ethical Responsibility,” in Marso and Moynagh, Beauvoir’s Political Thinking, 93–108.

(14.) Ibid., 20, 27.

(15.) Ibid., 32, 34.

(17.) Ibid., xxvii.

(18.) Monique Wittig, The Straight Mind and Other Essays (Boston: Beacon, 1992), vii.

(19.) Ibid., xv.

(20.) Ibid., 9.

(21.) Ibid., 11.

(22.) Ibid., 13.

(23.) Sara Heinamaa, Toward a Phenomenology of Sexual Difference: Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Beauvoir (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003).

(24.) Eva Lundgren-Gothlin, Sex and Existence: Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press, 1996).

(26.) Ibid., 9.

(27.) Ibid., 24.

(31.) Ibid., 731.

(32.) Ibid., xxii–xxiii.

(33.) Ibid., 731.

(34.) Ibid., xxv.

(35.) Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985), 18.

(36.) Irigaray, Democracy Begins Between Two (New York: Routledge, 2000), 64.

(38.) Ibid., 65.

(39.) Julia Kristeva, “Revolution in Poetic Language,” in The Portable Kristeva, ed. Kelly Oliver (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 305.

(40.) Ibid., 330.

(41.) Ibid., 301–4.

(42.) Ibid., 308.

(43.) Ibid., 302.

(44.) Ibid., 304.

(45.) Ibid., 322–23.

(46.) Ibid., 322.

(47.) Ibid., 35–36.

(48.) Ibid., 322.

(49.) Ibid., 37.

(50.) Ibid., 322.

(51.) Kristeva, Revolt, She Said (New York: Semiotext, 2002), 12.

(52.) Ibid., 14.

(53.) Ibid., 37.

(54.) Beauvoir, All Men Are Mortal (New York: Norton, 1955), 319.

(56.) Margaret Simons, “The Second Sex: From Marxism to Radical Feminism,” in Feminist Interpretations of Simone de Beauvoir, ed. Margaret Simons (University Park: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995) 243–362.

(57.) Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Dialogue and the Perception of the Other,” in Merleau-Ponty, The Prose of the World, trans. John O’Neill (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1973), 142.