Beauvoir's TimejOur Time: The Renaissance in Simone de Beauvoir Studies

Sonia Kruks

Simone de Beauvoir and her work have provided something of a Rorschach test for feminist theory, with different generations and genres of feminism each projecting their own preoccupations upon her. First hailed as "Mother of Us All" and as the author ofthe so-called Bible of Second Wave feminism, she was mainly treated in the 1970s as an icon or held up as an ideal. But although in the 1970s many feminists found personal inspiration in The Second Sex as well as in Beauvoir's life, relatively few engaged seriously with the book as a major theoretical work. Mary Dietz's later observation that "like the Bible, The Second Sex seems to have heen much worshiped, often quoted, and little read" clearly had some truth to it.' For many it seems to have been Beauvoir's life that was the more important. This was a life that (at least as Beauvoir presented it in her autobiographical volumes) appeared as an ideal for the would-he liberated woman. Her "free" union with Jean Paul Sartre; her refusal of housework, marriage, and motherhood; and her intellectual seriousness and creativity—all were worthy of emulation.

However, in 1979, a scholarly conference was held in New York to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the original French publication of The Second Sex in 1949; and twenty-five years ago, in the summer of 1980, the
Feminist Studies 31, no. 2 (Summer 2005). © 2005 by Feminist Studies, Inc. 286

Sonia Kmks


first collection of North American scholarly articles o n Beauvoir and feminism was published in this journal. In their preface t h e editors spoke warmly of "the ongoing debt we owe to Beauvoir." However, the articles that followed were more ambivalent in tone. Mary Felstiner, for example, described the "contrary reactions" of both "ecstasy" and "disappointment" that The Second Sex sparked in her women's studies classes. She asked rhetorically: "Can't she [Beauvoir] see in the women's world anything more than stagnation? Isn't there a culture of nurturing and sisterhood that women can build on?" Jo-Ann Fuchs claimed in her article that Beauvoir's analysis of female eroticism was internally contradictory a n d simplistic, a n d
BOOKS DISCUSSED IN THIS ARTICLE Beauvoir and "The Second Sex": feminism, Rxice, and the Origins of Existentialism. By

Margaret Simons. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999.
The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir. Edited by Claudia Card. C a m -

bridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Sex, Gender, and the Body: The Student Edition of "What Is a Woman;'" By Toril Moi.

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Toward a Phenomenology of Sexual Difference: Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Beauvoir. By

Sara Heinamaa. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.
The Other Within: Ethics, Politics, and the Body in Simone de Beauvoir. By Fredrika

Scarth. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004.
The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir: Gendered Phenomenologies, Erotic Generosities. By

Debra Bergoffen. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

Michele Le DoeufF described the book as empirically valid, yet as using a conceptual apparatus that was, as she dryly put it, "now a trifle obsolete."^ These ambivalent essays were harbingers of what was to come. As feminist theorizing exploded in the 1980s, The Second Sex was extensively discussed, yet often only to be dismissed as methodologically naiVe and self-contradictory. Feminist critics zealously sought to reveal what Penelope Deutscher has called "the notorious contradictions of Simone de Beauvoir."^ Beauvoir was said to be an essentialist, positing women as the hapless victims of their biology, and yet also a radical social constructionist


Sonia Kruks

for whom women's oppression was entirely cultural. She was said both to claim that women were helpless playthings of the patriarchy and that they were free agents, responsible for their own oppression. Moreover, it was asserted, Beauvoir was profoundly male-identified in attributing greater freedom to men's public activities than to women's private ones, misogynist in her contempt for most women's lives, heterosexist, and possibly racist. Such disparaging readings of Beauvoir were shaped intellectually and politically by two important shifts in U.S. (and other Western Anglophone) feminism. One was the turn toward "gynocentrism." As feminine difference, including feminine eroticism, motherhood, distinctive women's values, and feminine discourse came to be celebrated, Beauvoir was seen as increasingly old-fashioned. She was accused of taking masculinist values as the norm to which women should aspire, of disparaging the female body (of which she was often said to have an intense personal horror), and of dismissing motherhood as inimical to women's liberation. With, moreover, the growing influence in the United States of the "new French feminism," of "ecriture feminine," and of poststructuralism more generally, she was also cast as a naJfve "enlightenment" humanist. She was portrayed as hopelessly mired in Sartre's old-fashioned and sexist existentialist problematic: in a phallocentric philosophy that celebrated freedom as the "project" of an autonomous, masculine self. A pivotal moment in this history was the appearance of the English translation of Julia Kristeva's essay, "Women's Time," in Signs in 1981. Without directly naming Beauvoir, the essay emphatically asserted that the time of her generation of feminists (the generation of "suffragists and of existential feminists," as Kristeva put it) was now definitively past. With the publication also of the key volume of translations. New French Feminisms (1981), "French" feminism came to mean, in the Anglophone context, a neo-Lacanian, discourse-oriented feminism, celebratory of women's difference and hostile to the alleged phallocentrism of the entire Western philosophic tradition. This was a feminism that was not Beauvoir's, and for whom Beauvoir most often functioned as a tacit "Other."' In addition to these gynocentric and posthumanist shifts in feminist theory, in the 1980s there developed (especially in the United States) an in-

Sonia Kruks


creasing focus on differences among women. The arguments that "feminism" was but an imperialistic movement of white, heterosexual, middleclass women who silenced all others were also rapidly deployed against Beauvoir. Thus, although in 1949 de Beauvoir's chapter on "The Lesbian" in The Second Sex had been pathbreaking, courageously breaking a taboo, she was now accused of stereotyping lesbians and of heteronormativity. She was also accused of insufficient attentiveness to racial and other differences among women. By the time of her death, in 1986-and for some years beyond—Beauvoir did indeed seem at best an "icon" and was more often the antagonist (explicit or implicit) for a growing body of U.S. feminist theory. Moreover, as Toril Moi noted in 1990, the feminist literature on Beauvoir was not only predominantly critical but also peculiarly nasty in tone. It contained an "unusual number of condescending, sarcastic, sardonic, or dismissive accounts," such as are not found in the treatment of other, comparable French women writers'—or, one might add, in feminist treatments of a range of male French theorists, from Jacques Lacan to Jacques Derrida to Michel Foucault. Just as the most pervasive strategy in the initial (and highly hostile) French response to The Second Sex in 1949 had been to personalize it, "to reduce the book to the w o m a n [and] to discredit Beauvoir as a speaker, not to enter into debate with her" (Moi, 23), so too, in tbe 1980s, feminist readings of Beauvoir frequently dismissed her work by reducing it to an expression of her relationship with Sartre, to her personal fears, hostilities, prejudices, and other failings. She might be the Mother of Second Wave feminism, but she was a mother whose daughters felt she had let them down-and because they could not ignore their ties to her they proceeded loudly to express their disappointment and hostility. And yet the story is not quite as neat as I have suggested; stories never are. There was always a strand of more considered engagement as well, one in which (as Moi put it) Beauvoir's "right to be taken seriously" as a theorist was acknowledged. Indeed, at the end of her article in Feminist Studies in 1980, Felstiner had exhorted: "Try going back to The Second Sex, to unwind its arguments and rewind t h e m in a different way" (271). It was sound advice, and a few were already following it in the 1980s. In the course of the 1990s, however, the tenor of Beauvoir scholarship began


Sonia Kruks

more generally to shift. Today, careful and creative unwindings and rewindings of Beauvoir's arguments are proliferating, and it is clear that Beauvoir scholarship is far more than either a personal therapeutic or an historical exercise. To address Beauvoir is to engage in a range of current theoretical debates about (among other issues) the sex/gender distinction, feminine embodiment, sexual difference, and feminist ethics. But why the shift in Beauvoir's theoretical fortunes? Beauvoir's death (in 1986) surely had something to do with it, making it easier to focus on Beauvoir the thinker rather than Beauvoir the icon or the Mother. Furthermore, the posthumous availability of volumes of Beauvoir's letters and diaries have shed important new light on her life (including the revelations of her numerous affairs with women) and on her early intellectual formation. These discoveries have invited new reflections on her significance for feminist theory and her status as an original philosopher.' Against the unquestioned assumptions of an earlier generation, that Beauvoir worked faithfully in the framework of Sartre's "existentialism" and that she just "applied" his philosophy to the question of women, recent work in feminist philosophy has now indubitably established Beauvoir's importance as an original philosopher in her own right. In addition, in the last few years, a growing mood of caution about the benefits of poststructuralism for feminism has stimulated yet further work on Beauvoir. The suggestion I made in 1992 that "Beauvoir's account of situated subjectivity is one from which we could begin to develop an account of the gendering of subjectivity that can avoid both essentialism and hyperconstructivism" is now being productively pursued by many feminist scholars.' Readings of Beauvoir are proving pivotal in the recent turn toward what may be called postpoststructuralism: the endeavor to move beyond poststructuralism while continuing to heed its critiques of earlier feminisms. Thus the Beauvoir "Renaissance" should not be considered as an isolated phenomenon but should rather be seen as an integral element of this ongoing shift in intellectual and political sensibilities. In addition to, and partly stimulated by, the Anglophone Renaissance, there is now also a growing body of work on Beauvoir appearing in Europe and elsewhere. Intriguingly, this includes a growth of serious attention to Beauvoir in France, where she was vilified and expunged from feminist

Sonia Kruks


discourse in t h e epoch of high poststructuralism and ecriture feminine. At a major international conference held in Paris in 1999 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of The Second Sex, papers by French scholars covered topics as diverse as Beauvoir's materialism, t h e history of Beauvoir's reception in France, and Beauvoir's political activism during the Algerian War. Equally of note, at another conference in Paris in 2003, Kristeva herself gave a surprisingly sympathetic talk on Beauvoir and Sartre.' However, for reasons of space, in what follows I shall confine myself to the Anglophone "Re-



The twofold project, to demonstrate both that Beauvoir is philosophically independent of Sartre and that she is a significant contributor in her own right to the continental philosophy "canon" and beyond, has been central to recent feminist philosophical work on Beauvoir. The attempt to achieve recognition for the woman who previously was mentioned in works on existentialism merely as Sartre's companion has been remarkably successful. Indeed, the recent publication of The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir reflects this success, for this is one of only two volumes in this extensive and prestigious series of (what their blurb calls) "companions to major philosophers" devoted specifically to a woman philosopher. Although certain ironies attend this success, and one might wonder what Beauvoir herself would have made of it, she has now been enshrined in a philosophical "canon" that includes eminent men from Plato and Aristotle to Ludwig Wittgenstein and, indeed, Sartre. But more importantly, attending to Beauvoir as a philosopher in her own right has opened up new perspectives on her work and created new spaces for innovative feminist theory. The work of Margaret Simons has been fundamental both to tbe project of demonstrating Beauvoir's philosophical originality and to indicating the potential contributions of Beauvoir to present feminist theory. Simons has also meticulously shown the glaring inadequacies of what still remains the only English translation of The Second 5ex.'° In her 1999 volume, Beauvoir and "The Second Sex": Feminism, Race, and the Origins of Existentialism, Si-

mons collects together her writings on Beauvoir from more than two


Sonia Kruks

decades. She begins the volume with "In Memoriam (1986)," in which sbe describes her first meeting with Beauvoir in 1972. To her dismay Beauvoir insisted that the only important philosophical influence on The Second Sex was Sartre's Being and Nothingness. Simons was already convinced by 1972 that Sartre's early philosophy could not be the philosophical origin of The Second Sex. With its insistence on the absolute freedom of the subject, with its dualistic core ontological distinction between being in-itself (matter) and being for-itself (human consciousness)—a distinction that could not adequately account for the complexities of human embodiment—and with its portrayal of human relations as fundamentally conflictual ones in which self and other struggle to objectify each other, Sartre's philosophy was thoroughly masculinist; Beauvoir surely could not be the passive disciple of Sartre in matters philosophical that she claimed to be. In her pathbreaking 1981 paper, "Beauvoir and Sartre: The Question of Influence" (here republished as chapter 3), Simons begins the long, painstaking task of intertextual reading to demonstrate that the relationship between the two thinkers was far more reciprocal than Beauvoir publicly acknowledged. Indeed, Simons shows, contrary to received opinion, there is evidence that influence often ran in the opposite direction, that Sartre had significant intellectual debts to Beauvoir. But if many of Beauvoir's ideas were not derived from Sartre, then on what other traditions and thinkers did she draw? Much ofthe more recent feminist philosophical literature on Beauvoir has been concerned with this question, tracing tbe influences on her thought of other figures in the phenomenological and existential tradition, including Maurice MerleauPonty, Edmund Husserl, and Martin Heidegger, as well as examining how she draws from earlier thinkers such as G.W.F. Hegel and Karl Marx, or from prior French thinkers. Simons's own contributions to identifying Beauvoir's intellectual sources are offered in the two most recent essays in her book. One considers the African American writer Richard Wright. Wright was a close friend of Beauvoir's in the late-1940s," and her account of her travels in tbe United States in 19'17 makes it clear that Wright was her cultural and intellectual guide to the world of racial segregation." Simons argues that it was from Wright's analyses ofthe experience of racism (rather than from Sartre's analyses of anti-Semitism in Anti-Semite and Jew)

Sonia Kruks


that Beauvoir took the concept of "internalized oppression," which was to become so central to The Second Sex. The final essay in Simons's book, "Beauvoir's Early Philosophy: The 1927 Diary," is based on her careful study of Beauvoir's still unpublished diary." This diary was written when Beauvoir was nineteen, before sbe met Sartre. Here again, Simons's project is to distinguish Beauvoir from Sartre, in part by showing from the diary the range of other thinkers who entered importantly into Beauvoir's philosophical formation. The essay also discusses and quotes extensively from Beauvoir's rich meditations on her personal life and relationships, as well as her intellectual world, to demonstrate that key preoccupations that differentiate her work from Sartre's were already present before they met. I cannot do full justice here to Simons's account of this early Beauvoir, but a couple of points especially merit mention. One is Beauvoir's very early attunement to embodiment as a register of experience. Comparing herself to ber male student friend, Merleau.-Ponty, she writes, "These problems that he lives with his brain, I live them with m y arms and legs" (cited on 205). Simons also quotes some intriguing passages from the diaries concerning self-other relations. Tbese suggest that Beauvoir's sensibilities anticipate (in Carol Gilligan's term) "a different voice" to that of Hegel or Sartre, each of w h o m speaks of relations among selves wbo are posited as autonomous and in conflict. Beauvoir, by contrast, is more concerned with connectedness. Indeed, Simons argues that for Beauvoir (as for so many women), the problem is rather one of "fusion," of lack of boundaries and excessive selflessness (231-32)—issues Beauvoir later explored at length in considering tbe modalities of women's existence in The Second Sex. Questions concerning Beauvoir's status as an original philosopher, her relationship with Sartre, and the different philosophical influences on her work continue to be major preoccupations in Beauvoir scholarship, as evidenced in The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir, edited by Claudia Card. Of the fourteen essays in the volume, at least eight are concerned wholly or in part with these questions. Several focus on Beauvoir's relationship with a particular thinker. Eva Gothlin argues that Beauvoir's more radical break with Cartesian dualism locates her work nearer to Heidegger's than


Sonia Kruks

to Sartre's; Sara Heinamaa turns to Husserl as the most fundamental source of Beauvoir's conception of embodiment; and Monica Langer explores the importance of notions of ambiguity in Beauvoir's work and argues that they place her closer to Merleau-Ponty than to Sartre. Simons explores the importance of Henri Bergson for Beauvoir's philosophy, and Susan James explores affinities between Beauvoir's account of women's complicity in their own subordination and the account of hierarchical social relations offered by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, Nicolas de Malebranche. Other essays locate Beauvoir's work in terms of various areas of contemporary philosophy (Barbara S. Andrew), explore philosophical aspects of her novels (Mary Sirridge), and discuss why Beauvoir insisted on refusing the title of "philosopher" (Miranda Fricker). These essays are uniformly of excellent quality; but several of them may be of more interest to intellectual historians or historians of philosophy than to a broader audience of feminist scholars, because they do not go on (as indeed each of them well could do) to explain how their readings of Beauvoir could further contribute to feminist theory. Indeed, the project Simons began has proven somewhat double-edged. For the search for non-Sartrean intellectual origins at times results in portraying Beauvoir's work as overly derivative of other established male thinkers, and it thus may obscure or negate the sheer originality of some of her insights. For example, although Simons-to return to my discussion of her 1999 volume-does a fine job of researching the connections between Beauvoir and Wright, I see no reason to claim that it was Wright "instead" of Sartre who was the "influence" here. Why assume that Beauvoir needed an influence, that somebody else had to provide her with the concept of "internal oppression," whicb she then adapted to the situation of women? It is equally plausible to suggest that she arrived at this concept primarily from reflecting on her own experience. However, other essays in Simons's volume move beyond questions of influence in order to locate Beauvoir more directly vis-a-vis contemporary U.S. feminist theory. "Lesbian Connections: Simone de Beauvoir and Feminism" charts (from sources that include Beauvoir's posthumously published Letters to Sartre and her war diary) Beauvoir's erotic and emotional relationships with other women. It argues that in her published writings

Sonia Kruks


too, and in anticipation of more recent gender theory, Beauvoir clearly rejects the "either/or" of heterosexism versus lesbianism. In "The Second Sex and the Roots of Radical Feminism," Simons positions Beauvoir with regard to early radical and socialist feminism, suggesting that Beauvoir anticipates certain aspects of poststructuralist feminism in "extend[ing] social constructivism to sexuality" (155). This essay intimates that Beauvoir may help us to think anew about the still vexed issues of sex/gender relations and of how adequately to theorize women's embodiment. These matters are more fully explored by Toril Moi, Sara Heinamaa, and Moira Gatens, whose works I address in the next section.

The distinction between "sex" and "gender" was a key analytic of early Second Wave feminist theory; and many of the readings of Beauvoir that criticized her for inconsistency were presaged upon it, for Beauvoir's work simply did not line up with the distinction. The chapter on "Biology" in The Second Sex was said to be profoundly-for some, horribly-essentialist, depicting woman as the plaything of her hormones and reproductive biology. But then Beauvoir was also a radical social constructionist. She was said to anticipate "gender" in insisting that femininity was a social construct imposed by men on women who then, most often in bad faith, complied with it. It seemed that Beauvoir could not make up her mind; she vacillated. The poor thing was incoherent and confused, doubtless because of her own emotional baggage. During the 1990s, with the poststructuralist tide in feminist theorizing running high, the sex/gender distinction itself came to be put into question: biology was not a factual science but itself a highly politicized discursive practice; "sex" was as much a social/discursive construct as "gender"; and the relationship between bodily morphology and sexuality was wholly arbitrary. The work of Judith Butler was, of course, pivotal in this shift. In Cender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990), sex, sexuality, and

gender are collapsed together; they are all the effects of discursive and performative practices. None is "natural." Moreover, it is such practices that bring the self, or subject, into being. It follows that any sense we have of deep "inner" subjectivity, or ofthe temporal stability ofthe self, is an "illu-


Sonia Kruks

sion." Thus, "gender" is but a set of discrete but repeated stylized acts, publicly performed, that produces the "illusion of an abiding gendered self," and it is these styles that "produce the coherent gendered subjects who pose as their originators."" In Cender Trouble, Butler sharply differentiates herself from Beauvoir, whom she casts as a dualist: Beauvoir's analysis of embodiment is (like Sartre's) premised on "the uncritical reproduction of the Cartesian distinction between freedom and the body . . . [and] any uncritical reproduction of the mind/body distinction ought to be rethought for the implicit gender hierarchy that the distinction has conventionally produced, maintained, and rationalized" (12). Beauvoir, Butler argues, naively sought to maintain the freedom of the subject-and hence also, she believed, the possibility of women's resistance—only by sundering the agentic self from its body. To do so, Beauvoir had to cast the body as "a mute facticity, anticipating some meaning that can be attributed to it only by a transcendent consciousness, understood in Cartesian terms as radically immateriar'(129). Although during the 1990s the kind of poststructuralism epitomized by Cender Trouble was often criticized, with some theorists arguing that it denied subjectivity and adequate agency to individual women, others that sexual difference is a physical reality that cannot be reduced to discursivity alone, still it occupied a hegemonic position within feminist theory. But, as I have suggested, there is now a more widespread probing of the theoretical and practical limitations of—at least unmitigated—poststructuralism and a turning toward post-poststructuralism. This is one of the main factors that has fueled the Beauvoir Renaissance," for Beauvoir's work proves to be a fertile place to think anew about sex, gender, and sexual difference and about embodied subjects that may enjoy agency and even "inner" experience, yet which are not "immaterial" Cartesian consciousnesses. In the new postpoststructuralist readings of Beauvoir, what were once dismissed as hopeless contradictions or as untenable dualisms in her work now turn out to be "operative contradictions"" or else are real ambiguities of human existence that Beauvoir's synthetic method enables us to grasp.
A m o n g new works, Moi's Sex, Cender, and the Body: The Student Edition of

"What Is a Woman'"^ is of particular interest." Because Moi was instrumental in introducing poststructualism into Anglophone feminism in the

Sonia Kruks


1980s (notably with the publication of her SexualjTextual Politics: Feminist Liter-

ary Theory), this new work constitutes a tacit auto-critique, as well as a powerful plea for a more freedom-oriented feminist theory than poststructuralism permits. Moi writes in the preface that she sets out "to find a third way for feminist theory, one that steers a course between the Scylla of traditional essentialism and biologism, and the Charybdis of the idealist obsession with 'discourse' and 'construction,'" and she goes on to observe that "for such a project, Simone de Beauvoir's feminism of freedom is an obvious cornerstone" (vii). The book consists of two long essays, of which I shall discuss only the first, "What Is a Woman? Sex, Gender, and the Body in Feminist Theory," which takes its title from Beauvoir's opening
question in The Second Sex.

Moi's essay is not "about" Beauvoir so much as about bringing Beauvoir (along with a insights drawn from ordinary language philosophy) to bear on current impasses she sees in feminist theory. She wants to show that the term "woman" is not (as is so often claimed) inherently essentialist or metaphysical because its meaning is not fixed, and that the question of what "a woman" is, is still an important one to ask. However, it is a question to which, she insists, there will be a multiplicity of responses, depending on the concrete specificities of the lives being examined: "the answer to the question of what a woman is, is not one" (9). She wants also to find ways beyond what she regards as the excessive theoreticism and de facto erasure ofthe physical body by poststructuralist feminists. Moi's essay provides an elegant historical sweep through the history of the concepts of sex and gender, which will be a useful classroom resource. She begins with the history of "sex" as a biologically determinist concept as it emerged in a late-nineteenth-century "scientific" discourse, purporting to prove women's necessary incapacity for citizenship, education, and so forth, and she shows how early Second Wave feminism turned to radical social constructionism—and so to "gender" and the "sex/gender" distinction-as effective means to combat biological determinism. Next, sbe traces the emergence of the poststructuralist critique of this turn-that the depiction of "sex" as it is counterpoised to "gender" is too ahistorical and essentialist— before going on to develop her own critique of the poststructuralist critique. The pivotal section of the essay focuses on Beauvoir's no-


Sonia Kruh

tion that "the body is a situation," in which Moi finds "a powerful and sophisticated alternative to contemporary sex and gender theories" (59), a way of giving the prediscursive body its due without lapsing into biological essentialism. The core of Moi's critique of poststructuralism is not of its historicizing aims, but rather that it fails to attain them. It undermines itself by tacitly reinscribing tbe sex/gender distinction and an essentialized notion of sex such as tbe one it has set out to overturn. For what is at stake in attempts (notably Butler's) to insist that tbere is no "natural" body, tbat tbere is no significant biological aspect to sexual difference, and tbat sex is effectively indistinguisbable from gender because it is equally cultural is in fact the implied proposition tbat biological sex matters; if we once let biology into the picture it must inevitably shape oppressive social norms. "I get the impression that poststructuralists believe tbat if there were biological facts, then tbey would indeed give rise to social norms. In this way, tbey paradoxically share the fundamental belief of biological determinists" (42). But, Moi argues, if we really believe tbat nothing by way of social norms bas to follow from biology (tbat, as David Hume put it long ago, facts do not determine vcJues), tben we surely do not have to try to expunge biology from our answers to tbe question "what is a woman?" Rather, we will seek for answers tbat can better acknowledge tbe concrete experiences of women. But, as we learn from Beauvoir, tbe body is not actually lived, tbat is, it is not experienced, as eitber biology or as culture-but ratber as an indivisible "situation." Thus an approacb tbat focuses on tbe body as a situation will also be fluid and more attentive to particularities than is high poststructuralism. It may avoid the pitfalls of "theoreticism" to which Moi claims poststructuralists are prone: the belief, itself highly metapbysical, tbat "tbeoretical correctness" is itself tbe guarantor of good feminist politics (59). Contrary to tbose wbo bave wanted to retrieve Beauvoir's significance by "rescuing" her from ber existentialism, Moi insists on the central importance for feminism of Beauvoir's existential notion of freedom. However, Beauvoir's notion of freedom is not Sartre's, and Moi empbasizes its affinities witb Merleau-Ponty's more consistently embodied and historicized vision." Sbe quotes from a passage in The Second Sex that is key for ber interpretation, in wbich Beauvoir writes: "As Merleau-Ponty very justly

Sonia Kmks


puts it, man is not a natural species; he is a bistorical idea. Woman is not a fixed reality, but ratber a becoming... tbe body is not a tbing, it is a situation: it is our grasp upon tbe world and a sketcb [es^wisse] of our projects" (cited 62). Tbat woman is not a "fixed reality" puts out of play botb biological determinism and tbe determinism tbat Moi (rigbtly) points out may also follow from a tborougbgoing cultural constructionism (67). Yes, tbe facts of both biology and culture are important and our lives are never wholly free of tbem; yet tbey are not merely tbe effect of tbem eitber. As Moi interprets Beauvoir, "a woman defines herself tbrougb tbe way sbe lives ber embodied situation in tbe world, or in other words, tbrougb tbe way in whicb sbe makes sometbing of wbat tbe world makes of ber. Tbe process of making and being made is open-ended: it ends only witb deatb. In tbe analysis of lived experience, tbe sex/gender distinction does not apply" (72). If, in contrast to theories tbat empbasize eitber sex, or gender, or their duality, we consider tbe body as a situation tben we grasp tbe embodied subject as it actually experiences itself: tbat is as an ambiguous and "irreducible amalgam"(74) of facticities and freedom. Reflecting on Beauvoir's famous sentence, "one is not born, but ratber becomes a woman," Moi's empbasis is on the word "becomes." How one becomes a woman does indeed require having been born witb a specific kind of biological body." However, one does not "become" only one's sex—or one's gender. "Tbe woman I bave become," writes Moi, "is a fully embodied buman being whose being cannot be reduced to her sexual difference be it natural or cultural" (78). Thus Moi goes on to criticize tbe concept of "gender identity" as a reifying closure on the fluidity of individual experience (81-83). For our lived experience is built on many otber things tbat "per se bave nothing to do with sexual difference" (78): "a woman is a buman being as mucb as sbe is a woman" (83). Tbe final section of tbe essay considers some cases discussed by feminist legal tbeorists, in order to sbow in a more applied fashion bow the sex/ gender distinction may reify difference and fail to belp us respond to the complexities of embodied existence. However, it is not clear to me wbere Moi's reading of Beauvoir finally leaves ber politically. Arguably it leads ber implicitly (and consonant with her move beyond poststructuralism) toward a post-poststructuralist revision of humanism: to a political dis-


Sonia Kmks

course that asserts freedom and human potentiality as universal values, even as it remains attuned to the dangers of universalism. Because Moi argues that in many instances sexual difference may have no significant bearing on our experience or actions, in the final analysis one is left wondering whether Moi's vision is of a world in which sexual difference is less oppressive, or whether it is one in which sexual difference simply should become less significant in the daily experiences of all human beings, toward some new version of androgyny. By contrast Heinamaa's recent book, entitled Toward a Phenomenology of Sexual Difference: Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Beauvoir, is more emphatic about the in-

dissolubility of sexual difference. She claims that Beauvoir "did not take the man/woman division as just one aspect of human experience but saw it as the dominant distinction structuring our bodily sensations and feelings and also our highest spiritual achievements, philosophy included" (xiii). Heinamaa also seeks to dissolve the sex/gender distinction, above all by focusing on The Second Sex as an original work of phenomenological philosophy, in which we are given descriptions of the experience of neither sex nor gender but of irreducible lived, feminine embodiment. Arguing that Beauvoir's phenomenological method is grounded in her readings of Merleau-Ponty and of Husserl, Heinamaa claims that the book's value lies not only in the account ofthe lived experience of feminine existence it offers, but also in its attendant critique of the objectivist and instrumental stance of both the natural and social sciences, within which male thinkers have depicted women. Thus, The Second Sex is neither a biologistic nor a "social constructionist" work, she argues, and it seeks to offer neither causal explanations nor empirical accounts of women's oppression. Contrary to the way it is most often read in the feminist literature, its descriptions do not claim to be "factual" but are rather distillations of lived experience. For example, Heinamaa claims that, in the much-criticized chapter on biology and in her accounts of pregnancy and childbirth, Beauvoir is not making any objective claims about women's physiology, let alone that it is the source of their oppression. Although Heinamaa concedes that Beauvoir's tone is sometimes "negative" (74), the important point is that Beauvoir shows us how women's bodies are seen as inferior only from the "instrumental" perspective of masculine thought. For Beauvoir, "the con-

Sonia Kmks


ceptual framework of instruments is inadequate as a whole in the description and analysis of feminine experience" (70). Biological "facts"-similar to "social" facts—do have a "reality," but as lived phenomena, as real experiences to which we should he attentive. Unlike Moi, Heinamaa points out that, for Beauvoir, h u m a n hodies, irrespective of sex, are encountered not only as integral to the self-as situation—hut also as an often threatening "alien vitality" (72). In their unpredictahle vulnerahility to arousal, pain, sickness, and so forth, our hodies are at once ourselves and alien to us. But it is still a mistake to talk generically of "the" hody, hecause women experience the "alien vitality" of their hodies differently from, and more intensely than, men. It is not just that they alone experience menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, or lactation, hut that such experiences give rise to a more heightened awareness of the alien vitality of their hodies and, punctuating their lives, enter it into the temporal structures of women's experience differently. In Heinamaa's reading, such differences in emhodied experience are fundamental to h u m a n existence, more so than "racial" distinctions which are not made hy all societies (86). Although women's oppression may heighten them, these differences are not a consequence of it. But, hecause they do not constitute a "static essence," neither can they he granted causal status in accounting for that oppression either (83). For example, Beauvoir argues that, hecause in prehistoric nomadic culture w o m e n were the ones hound to the hurdens of species reproduction and infant care, men were the ones who had "the opportunity to 'lay hold of and 'appropriate' [acca;;arer] the innovative functions common to all humanity" (cited on 106). But, Heinamaa points out, Beauvoir is making no claim here ahout causality or ahout the necessary subordination of women. And if the suhordination of women has continued down to the present day, this too has heen without causal necessity. To account for this continuity, Heinamaa finds in Beauvoir (and Merleau-Ponty) a notion of "repetition" as that which transforms contingency into a set of practices that, although not "necessary" in the strict scientific meaning ofthe term, are perpetuated hecause they acquire the feel of heing necessary and inevitahle.™ Heinamaa writes: "women's suhjection is a h u m a n formation founded on and sustained hy nothing else than repeated acts of devaluation and ohlivion....


Sonia Kruks

Beauvoir's original suggestion is that the suhjection of women to men has no other 'foundation' than the acts that reiterate hierarchy" (103-4) and therefore, Heinamaa concludes, sexual hierarchy "is like a hahit formed in the past hut lacking all rationale in current circumstances. It is as if we had learned to speak in a very noisy environment and never later gave up the hahit of shouting" (122). We might, however, want to ask who the "we" includes here, hecause men may well fmd a certain "rationale" in the privileges they are granted hy "current circumstances." In general, Heinamaa seems to he insufficiently attentive to Beauvoir's consideration of power relations in The Second Sex, perhaps hecause her undivided focus on its phenomenological aspects tend to occlude them from view. Power functions in the domain of the instrumental and strategic and, although phenomenological accounts of power relations are important, such phenomenologies alone do not enable us to comprehend adequately how power operates. The great value of Heinamaa's perceptive study is to show us how Beauvoir invites us to develop (against scientistic theory and analysis) noninstrumental descriptions of the experience of sexual difference. But, unlike Heinamaa, I do not read The Second Sex as an exclusively phenomenological project, hecause Beauvoir also has a fine sense of the calculated interests of women and men as well as of the institutions and social practices that perpetuate women's structural dependencies. In The Second Sex women's oppression is examined from the outside in, as well as from the inside out, as a dialectic of ohjective processes and suhjective, lived experiences. Heinamaa is correct that Beauvoir does not ask why women are oppressed, that she does not seek a "first cause," or a primary point of origin, for this oppression. But Beauvoir does ask-and seeks to answer—questions about how women are oppressed, and these cannot he adequately addressed exclusively on a phenomenological terrain. Questions ahout sex/gender, emhodiment, and sexual difference are also addressed in some of the essays in The Cambridge Companion to Sinume de Beauvoir, notahly Gatens's "Beauvoir and Biology: A Second Look." Gatens also questions the assumption that Beauvoir was "the mother" of the sex/gender distinction. In a more analytical mode than Moi or Heinamaa, she carefully unpacks Beauvoir's usage in The Second Sex of the three terms "female," "feminine," and "woman," pointing out that Beauvoir considers a range of

Sonia Kruks


permutations of these characteristics that confounds the neat binaries of sex/gender. One may, for example, be a hiologically female human heing who is not "feminine" and who is not identified (hy oneself or hy others) as a "woman." Or, after menopause, one may cease to he "female" (because one no longer has the operative reproductive apparatus this term designates), yet still be "feminine" and/or identified as a "woman" (278-79). Gatens suggests (drawing on the work of Natalie Stoljar) that "woman" is best thought about as a "cluster concept" and that Beauvoir's account of what "a woman" is should he interpreted in this way. For a "cluster concept" does not rest on a fixed, essential definition, hut on a looser and shifting set of characteristics, only some of which any particular member ofthe class needs to share to belong to it. Thus, like Moi, Gatens finds in Beauvoir a way of discussing women, or even "woman," without lapsing into essentialism or into reifying gender categories.
E M B O D I M E N T , A M B I G U I T Y , AND F E M I N I S T E T H I C S

In previous sections I have focused on works that estahlish Beauvoir's theoretical distance from Sartre and that draw from her a nondualistic and nonreductionist account of feminine embodiment. However, such undertakings necessarily interweave also with questions ahout values and ethics, for Beauvoir's "existential" preoccupations with individual freedom and responsihility and with self-other relations (be they of oppression or mutuality) are profoundly implicated in her accounts of emhodied experience.
In her essay in The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir, "Beauvoir's Old

Age," Deutscher takes Beauvoir's treatment of aging as a vantage point from which to explore how certain specificities of emhodiment may shape our practical possibilities and "impinge" on freedom. Analyzing old age requires Beauvoir to reformulate Sartre's views on our absolute and indestructible "ontological" freedom, and his consequent assertions that we have full responsihility for our own lives and fall into "had faith" when we seek to deny it. Deutscher skillfully conjoins readings of The Second Sex and Old Age, pointing out that "[Beauvoir's] depiction of aged bodies interconnects with her depiction of sexed hodies" (301). For Beauvoir, she agues, not only our hodily ability to act in the world hut also the incapacities of our hod-


Sonia Kruks

ies—the "I cannots" that we often encounter the most sharply in aging— are at once physical and yet never merely physical. Rather, "biological facts [for example, the shortness of hreath which makes one 'unable' to climb mountains any more] are always already synthesized with historical, social, and psychological factors" (289-90). For women and the aged, and especially for aged women, these "I cannots" receive their meaning within a particular social context: one of devaluation, of heing cast as Other. Deutscher notes that in The Second Sex Beauvoir still regards many (although not all) women who accept "feminine weakness" as in "had faith"; they hear a moral responsihility for their oppressed status hecause, since they enjoy "ontological" freedom, they remain free to reject such feminine characteristics as "weakness." But in Old Age, Deutscher argues, Beauvoir acknowledges a far greater "impingement" of hoth physical and social constraints not only on our field of practical action but also, thereby, on our ontological freedom; for, "if the social status of one's emhodiment leads to one's experiences ofthe world in terms ofthe 'cannot,' the status of one's ontological freedom is altered" (290). Responsihility for one's failures is now viewed as profoundly mitigated by one's situation, and Beauvoir's judgmental tone toward traditionally "feminine" women has shifted.
Fredrika Scarth, in The Other Within: Ethics, Politics, and the Body in Simone de

Beauvoir, also addresses the ambiguities of freedom and embodiment as she seeks to develop a difference-sensitive ethics from The Second Sex. Scarth, more than Deutscher, claims that Beauvoir's account of "the subject" in The Second Sex is already radically different from Sartre's. Beauvoir, she argues, rejects Sartre's ideal of the sharply demarcated "absolute subject" as an illusion, and she instead emphasizes a more permeahle, less autonomous, embodied subject, one that in The Second Sex she descrihes as "this strange amhiguity of existence made body" (cited on 164). It is men's fearful refusal of this amhiguity and their projection onto women of the menacing, uncontrollable aspects of their own embodiment that give rise to the construction of woman as Other in patriarchal society. As Beauvoir famously writes of this projection: "He is the Subject, he is the Absoluteshe is the Other." By contrast, the acceptance ofthe amhiguities of our emhodied existence-our acknowledgment, as Scarth puts it, of "the other within"—initiates the possihility of a feminist ethics in which generosity and openness to others in their differences are core values.

Sonia Kmks


In developing this reading, Scarth huilds on Dehra Bergoffen's earlier,
pathhreaking work. The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir: Cendered Phenomenologies,

Erotic Cenerosities. Bergoffen argues that two "voices" run in tension through Beauvoir's work. One is still a Sartrean voice that focuses on "the ethic of the project," accepting the masculinist claims that "suhjectivity equals transcendence," and that freedom involves autonomy and control. The other voice, which Bergoffen calls Beauvoir's "muted voice," holds, she argues, great promise for feminist ethics. By attending to this voice Bergoffen carefully begins to tease from Beauvoir's work an "ethic of generosity" and a celehration—ahsent in Sartre—of the joys of giving and of sustaining human bonds. Bergoffen explores how, for Beauvoir, a free (that is, nonalienated, thus nonpatriarchal) eroticism is a crucial site for such ethical relations, for in free relations of erotic generosity we seek neither to dominate nor to lose ourselves in the other. Rather, we come to accept differences and to let the other he, delighting in her or his otherness. "For Beauvoir, recognition means an acknowledgment of otherness. It is in recognizing our otherness, she argues, that we recognize our need of each other" (99100). Pointing here to Luce Irigaray as Beauvoir's "unlikely ally," Bergoffen also suggests that we consider the maternal body as a site for an ethic of generosity: "Maternal generosity, like the lover's erotic generosity, is the gift one makes of oneself to the other for the sake of the relationship which reveals us to each other in the intimacies of our fleshed being" (209). Similar to Bergoffen, Scarth focuses on the positive ethical aspects of Beauvoir's work, especially of The Second Sex, and she argues in detail against earlier feminist readings that claim that Beauvoir valorizes a masculine conception of freedom or that she denigrates the female hody. Scarth also emphasizes the erotic and the maternal as key sites for an ethics of generosity, and many of her arguments take their cue from Bergoffen. However, she adds a significantly new dimension to Bergoffen's work by more fully directing these arguments outward, heyond the couple (be it two lovers or mother and child) and toward questions of group relations and a politics of difference. Scarth writes, elahorating on Beauvoir: "just as woman as Other is a way for men to avoid the demands of reciprocity and the real risks of freedom, any relationship in which we project onto others what we most fear turns


Sonia Kmks

difference into Otherness" (167). Such dynamics are integral to "imperialist" politics of all kinds, and they may also hecome reinscrihed within a politics of liheration (such as feminism) in which, in the name of freeing others, we risk projecting sameness onto them and trying to make them like ourselves (169). Thus, far from heing inattentive to difference, Beauvoir points us to an ethics and a politics that celehrate difference, and she offers us resources with which to address the dangers of othering and saming. Accordingly, Scarth concludes that we may draw from Beauvoir's work a profound vision of an ethical political community. This is a community in which "receptive generosity-an openness to the foreignness of the other-[is] the guiding principle of our encounters with others" (171). For Scarth, as for other authors I have discussed, Beauvoir speaks to the concerns of present-day feminism. Important responses to current questions ahout otherness and difference are already prefigured in her work.

There are significant disagreements among the authors I have discussed here about how to read Beauvoir, as well as differences in emphasis, stance, or style. However, what these recent treatments of Beauvoir have in common is their return to her work as a site at which we may address impasses that confront feminist theory today. Taken together, they point us beyond unmitigated poststructuralism, toward a post-poststructuralism that reaffirms the importance for feminism of retrieving the lived experiences of emhodiment and of overcoming not only biological but also discursive forms of reductionism. Explicitly or implicitly then, they also reaffirm, with Beauvoir, the importance for feminism of focusing (or refocusing) on ethics: on questions of freedom and agency, of responsihility toward others and generosity, and of formulating an ethical feminist politics. What we also learn from these recent works is ahout the remarkable fecundity of Beauvoir's texts. Each of these authors engages in a productive reading of Beauvoir and skillfully reinserts her as a significant interlocutor within current feminist dehates. No longer the iconic "Mother of Us All," today the "Renaissance" Beauvoir has hecome a major theoretical source. She is a thinker with and through whom we may critically engage our own present.

Sonia Kmks



1. 2.

3. 4.

5. 6.

Mary Dietz, "Introduction: Debating Simone de Beauvoir," Signs 18 (Autumn 1992): 78. Preface, 245; Mary Lowenthai Felstiner, "Seeing The Second Sex through the Second Wave," 247-76; Jo-Ann Fuchs, "Female Eroticism in The Secmd Sex," 304-13; Michele Le Doeuff, "Simone de Beauvoir and Existentialism," 277-89, esp. 277-78; all in Feminist Studies 6 (Summer 1980). Penelope Deutscher, "The Notorious Contradictions of Simone de Beauvoir," in her Yielding Geraier (London: Routledge, 1997), 169-93. Julia Kristeva, "Women's Time," Signs 1 (Autumn 1981): 13-35; Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron, ed.. New trench Feminism (New York: Schocken, 1981). For a fine account of how "French feminism" came to be constituted as an intellectual genre in the United States-a genre that bore only a limited resemblance to what was actually going on among feminists in France at the time-see Claire Moses, "Made in America: 'French Feminism' in Academia," Feminist Studies 24 (Summer 1998): 241-74. Toril Moi, Feminist Theory and Simone de Beauvoir (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), 22-23. These publications include Simone de Beauvoir, Letters to Sartre, 2 vols., trans. Quintin Hoare (New York: Arcade, 1992); youmal de guerre: septembre 1939-jamier 1941 (Paris: Gallimard, 1990), forthcoming in English as Beauvoir's Wartime Diary (Urbana: University of
Illinois Press, 2006); A Transatlantic Love Affair: Letters to Nelson Algren, trans. Kate Leblanc,


ed. Sylvie Le Bon de Beauvoir (New York: New Press, 1998). Sonia Kruks, "Gender and Subjectivity: Simone de Beauvoir and Contemporary Feminism," Signs 18 (Autumn 1992): 89-110, 92.1 have developed this argument more fully
in Retrieving Experience: Subjectivity and Recognition in Feminist Politics (Ithaca, N.Y.: C o r n e l l


University Press, 2001). See esp. chap. 2, in which I read Beauvoir with and against Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. Papers from the 1999 conference are published in Christine Delphy and Sylvie Chaperon, eds., Cinquantenaire du Deuxieme sexe (Paris: Editions Syllepse, 2003). Kristeva's talk, "Beauvoir presente," was given at the Sorbonne in June 2003, at the (first ever) joint meeting of the "Groupe d'etudes sartriennes" and the "International Simone de Beauvoir Society." It has since been published (in French) in Simone de Beauvoir Studies 20 (2003-2004): 11-22. Also of note is the recent special issue of Lcs Temps Modemes (vol. 57, juin-juillet 2002), edited by Michel Kail, "Presences de Simone de Beauvoir"; and
Catherine Rodgers, "Le deuxieme sexe" de Simmt de Beauvoir: Un Heritage amteste (Paris: L'Har-

mattan, 1998), which consists of interviews with French theorists-including Julia Kristeva, Sarah Kofman, Christine Delphy, Michele Le Doeuff, and others- about their views of Beauvoir. 9. To give a sense of the extent of the "Renaissance," over the last decade more than a dozen monographs have been published in English (or translated into English) that address the interface between Beauvoir and feminist theory and/or feminist philosophy. Key works, that I do not have space to discuss here, include: Nancy Bauer, 5i>mme de Beauvoir: Philosophy and Feminism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001); Sarah Fishwick, The Body in the Work of Simone de Beauvoir (New York: Peter Lang, 2002); Miriam


Sonia Kruks

Fraser, Identity without Selfhood: Simone de Beauvoir and Bisexuality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999); Kate Fullbrook and Edward Fullbrook, Simone de Beauvoir: A Critical Introduction (Maiden, Mass.: Polity Press, 1998); Eleanore Holveck, Simone de Beauvoir's Philosophy of Lived Experience: Literature and Metaphysics (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002); Eva Lundgren-Gothlin, Sex and Existence: Simone de Beauvoir's "The Second Sex," trans. Linda Schenk (Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press, 1996); Joseph Mahon, Existentialism, Feminism, and Simone de Beauvoir (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997); Jo-Ann Pilardi, Simone de Beauvoir: Writing the Self—Philosophy Becomes Autobiography (Westport, Conn.: Gree wood Press, 1999); Ursula Tidd, Simone de Beauvoir, Gender, and Testimony (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999); and Karen Vintges, Philosophy as Passion: The Thinking of Simone de Beauvoir (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996).

In addition, since 1995 there have been several introductory books designed for teaching purposes and at least eight edited volumes and special journal issues on Beauvoir. There are also numerous articles, extensive treatments of Beauvoir in more general books on feminist theory, and a growing number of "nonfeminist" discussions of her work within the disciplines of philosophy and French literature. For a sampling of further sources, a bibliography of recent scholarship on Beauvoir may be found in The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir, and Ursula Tidd, Simone de Beauvoi (New York: Routledge, 2004), includes a helpful annotated bibliography. 10. Beauvoir's book was published in French as Le deuxieme sexe, 2 vols. (Paris: Gallimard, 1949) and was translated into English by the American biology professor, H.M. Parshley (New York: Knopf, 1953). Parshley was not trained in philosophy, made many basic errors of translation, and extensively cut Beauvoir's text. The Second Sex has been published in several editions, most recently in the United States with a new introduction by Deirdre Bair (New York: Vintage Books, 1989). However, Knopf has never given permission for a new translation to be made. On the inadequacies ofthe translation see Margaret Simons, "The Silencing of Simone de Beauvoir: Guess What's Missing from The Second Sex" (1983), reprinted as chap. 5 of her Beauvoir and "The Second Sex." For a more recent treatment of this topic, see Toril Moi, "While We Wait: Notes on the English Translation of The Second Sex," Signs 27 (Summer 2002): 1005-35. 11. Richard Wright, whose novel Native Son Beauvoir had read in 1940, had extensive contact with her in the postwar period. Les Temps Modemes, the radical monthly journal of politics and ideas that she, Sartre, and others founded in 1945, published several translations of Wright's work (including Black Boy and various political pieces), and during his visit to Paris in 1946 a friendship began that was to last many years. 12. Simone de Beauvoir, L'Amerique au jour le jour (Paris: Morihien, 1948). Translated by Carol Cosman as America Day by Day (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990). 13. Simons is editing a series of seven volumes, forthcoming from University of Illinois Press, that will provide translations into English of all of Beauvoir's presently untranslated (and in some instances unpublished) works. The first volume, Simone de Beauvoir: Philosophical Writings, was published in 2004, and the diary will be published in two volumes, with volume one. Diary of a Philosophy Student, 1926-1927, appearing in late 2005. 14. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990), 140. Emphasis added.

Sonia Kruks


15. It is striking that Butler has also dramatically shifted tone and preoccupations. Her recent book. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (New York: Verso, 2004),

dwells extensively on inner experience and on ethical questions that would be hard to accommodate within the framework of Gender Trouble. Her contribution to The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir, "Beauvoir on Sade: Making Sexuality into an Ethic," is notably more sympathetic toward Beauvoir. 16. The term is Michele Le DoeufFs, cited in Deutscher, Yielding Gender, 173-74. 17. Moi's volume consists of a new preface and the two long essays that were previously published in her 1999 collection. What Is a Woman' and Other Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). 18. For the earliest treatment of the affinities between Beauvoir and Merleau-Ponty, see my essay, "Simone de Beauvoir: Teaching Sartre about Freedom," Simone de Beauvoir Studies 5 (1988): 74-80.1 elaborate the argument more fully in my Situation and Human Existence: Freedom Subjectivity and Society (London: Routledge, 1990). 19. Moi (in Sex, Gender, and the Body: The Student Edition of "The Second Sex," reviewed in this

essay) is not unaware of the complex issue of transexuality as she makes this claim. However, she points out that "a concept ('man,' 'woman') that is blurred at the edges is neither meaningless nor useless. . . . Hemaphroditism, transvestism, transsexuality, and so on show up the fuzziness at the edge of sexual difference, but the concepts 'man' and woman' or the opposition between them are not thereby threatened by disintegration" (39). 20. See Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962), 103: "Human existence will force us to revise our usual notion of necessity and contingency, because it is the transformation of contingency into necessity by the act of repetition." We might also want to know whether this notion of repetition is significantly different from Butler's notion (in Gender Trouble) of gender as repetitive performance under duress-or whether perhaps Butler's notion is not more indebted to French existentialism than she acknowledges!

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful