Journal of the ...Volume 12 Issue 1 & 2 Femininity, lov...
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Research Article

Femininity, love, and alienation: the genius of The Second Sex

orcid-imageKate Kirkpatrick*email-imageKate Kirkpatrick*

Kate Kirkpatrick is Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy and Christian Ethics at Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford. Her research focuses primarily on French phenomenology and existentialism; feminism; and philosophical and religious ethics. She is the author of several articles and books on these subjects, including Sartre on Sin (Oxford University Press, 2017), Sartre and Theology (Bloomsbury, 2017), and the internationally acclaimed biography Becoming Beauvoir: A Life (Bloomsbury, 2019), which has been translated into over a dozen languages.

email-image kate.kirkpatrick@philosophy.ox.ac.uk

Abstract

This article presents an axiological reading of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, reframing its most famous sentence ‘one is not born, but becomes, a woman’ as a claim about femininity, love, and alienation under particular conditions of sexual hierarchy. Because this sentence is often taken to express the thesis of The Second Sex on social constructionist readings, Section 1 rejects the aptness of this approach on three grounds. Section 2 outlines an alternative, axiological reading, which better attends to all of the work’s parts, and to Beauvoir’s emphasis on the concrete inseparability of the physiological, sexual, economic, legal, religious, moral, and aesthetic dimensions of women’s situations. Section 3 turns to the sister ‘one is not born’ clause, in Volume I—‘one is not born, but becomes, a genius’—to show that Beauvoir’s account of frustrated freedom in The Second Sex concerns not only alienated labour, sex, and love, but also aesthetic creativity and moral invention. The article arises from a British Academy Lecture delivered on 17 October 2023.

Keywords

Simone de Beauvoirgenealogysexual hierarchyfreedomrecognitionreciprocitymythvalues
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Published on: 22 May 2024
Volume: 12
Issue: Issue 1 & 2
Article ID: a02
Copyright statement
© The author(s) 2024.
Cite this article
Kirkpatrick (2024), ' Femininity, love, and alienation: the genius of The Second Sex ', Journal of the British Academy, 12(Issue 1 & 2): a02 https://doi.org/10.5871/jba/012.a02

Research article

Normal View Dyslexic View

Femininity, love, and alienation: the genius of The Second Sex

orcid-imageKate Kirkpatrick*email-imageKate Kirkpatrick*

Kate Kirkpatrick is Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy and Christian Ethics at Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford. Her research focuses primarily on French phenomenology and existentialism; feminism; and philosophical and religious ethics. She is the author of several articles and books on these subjects, including Sartre on Sin (Oxford University Press, 2017), Sartre and Theology (Bloomsbury, 2017), and the internationally acclaimed biography Becoming Beauvoir: A Life (Bloomsbury, 2019), which has been translated into over a dozen languages.

email-image kate.kirkpatrick@philosophy.ox.ac.uk