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The Second Sex (Vintage Classics) [Paperback]

Simone De Beauvoir
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Aug 1997 Vintage Classics
Of all the writing that emerged from the existentialist movement, Simone de Beauvoir's groundbreaking study of women will probably have the most extensive and enduring impact. It is at once a work of anthropology and sociology, of biology and psychoanalysis, from the pen of a writer and novelist of penetrating imaginative power. THE SECOND SEX stands, four decades after its first appearance, as the first landmark in the modern feminist upsurge that has transformed perceptions of the social relationship of man and womankind in our time.

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The Second Sex (Vintage Classics) + The Female Eunuch (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) + The Feminine Mystique (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics; New Ed edition (7 Aug 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009974421X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099744214
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir posed questions many men, and women, had yet to ponder when the book was released in 1953. "One wonders if women still exist, if they will always exist, whether or not it is desirable that they should..." she says in this comprehensive treatise on women. She weaves together history, philosophy, economics, biology and a host of other disciplines to show women's place in the world and to postulate on the power of sexuality. This is a powerful piece of writing in a time before "feminism" was even a phrase, much less a movement. --Christine Buttery


"A masterpiece" (Vogue)

"A fresh, much expanded, more intelligible book which repays re-reading by adherents of the old version, and cries out for attention from young women who have not been exposed to this most powerful of feminist thinkers" (Irish Times)

"De Beauvoir was not just a genius as a theorist. She dared to live it. Challenging conventional marriage and sexual practice, she used her own experience to explore the emotional costs of jealousy, attachment, monogamy, bohemianism,sexuality, of love" (Susie Orbach)

"Discovering The Second Sex was like an explosion in my skull, shattering illusions bred in a conventional fifties childhood...Re-reading the book now I realise how much of it is still entirely relevant, and that (despite advances) women are as much in need of liberation as ever" (Bel Mooney)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
De Beauvoir takes us on an epic tour from the dawn of the human race to the contemporary world of 1940's commerce and culture, through the internal workings of the body to how others perceive them via the beliefs, thoughts and prejudices of societies throughout the world. Her breadth and depth of research is an attempt to answer one simple question- why are women constantly seen as inferior to men, in effect the "second sex"?
Such a question is almost impossible to answer but at just under seven hundred pages of intelligent writing TSS gets as close to the quick as any women's study or feminist book has got before or after its publication. Questioning every one of the "labels" attached to the human female De Beauvoir pulls apart traditional thinking on issues such as the "innate" maternal instinct, women's intellectual capacity and physical strength and make-up. Every chapter is a definitive case in itself and De Beauvoir's collection of facts, statistics and case studies are unshakable in their accuracy. Her conclusions are well thought through and easy to follow and it is only the sheer amount and wealth of information she gives us that can seem overwhelming at times.
The very fact that a woman has written such a masterpiece is evidence enough that women are as intellectually equal to men but it is sadly revealing of our patriarchal society that gives TSS less reverence than it deserves. Since the 1940's many other theories have developed in the area of gender studies so TSS is no longer the "one text that covers all".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Woman?" 3 Feb 2011
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
So commences Simone de Beauvoir in her monumental work concerning one of the most essential issues of human existence. She uses the singular form (but in a collective sense) and follows it with a question mark. How do women become "women", with defined places in society, and particularly vis-à-vis the opposite sex. She says that women become the "other," different from the "normal standard." De Beauvoir's erudition is astonishing; her book is grand "tour de force," examining virtually all aspects of human knowledge. The book is the classic feminist manifesto, written more than 60 years ago, and it still eclipses all subsequent works. It is dense; rich in insights, and lengthy, and clearly not for the "fun read" crowd. No review can do it justice, certainly not mine. One can only hope to throw out enough tidbits that the reader says that the effort in tackling this book will be well-compensated. De Beauvoir accomplished this remarkable feat of analysis and hypotheses just as she was turning 40. As only one example of her erudition in literature, in a couple of pages she moves from Alain Fournier's depiction of Yvonne de Galais in The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) (Penguin Classics) to Henry Miller's concept of god in a [...] to Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov sacrifices at Sonia's feet.

"The Second Sex" is divided into two books, one entitled "Facts and Myths," the other "Woman's Life Today." Of course parts of the book are dated; consider that one chapter is entitled "The Point of View of Historical Materialism." Yes, Communism has wound up in the proverbial dust-bin of history, as is another chapter title, the male-dominated point of view of psychoanalysis.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant mind, fantastic book 11 Jan 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Simone was of course Sartre's muse and his intellectual equal. No mean feat. The Second Sex is a complete study of what it means to be female. Obviously it was written over fifty years ago and reflects the fact that women were less empowered than today. De Beauvoir seems to have read everything worth reading in literature and philosophy and she draws on her massive erudition to support her assertions. I could write an endless review but it's all in the book. If you are interested in how 50% of the planet think, feel, suffer, hope and survive then you MUST read this book. Even if you are not interested in matters female Simone de Beauvoir is worth reading simply for her brilliance, clear thinking, use of language and her considerable skill as a writer. It's good to have a book like this at hand for when you want to read something substantial, relevant, interesting, educational and humane. Ist Class! JP :P)
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars encyclopaedic 28 Mar 2006
By Dan
The Second Sex is a book of mammoth proportions, displaying the intellectual prowess of de Beauviour in full swing, putting women right up there in the literary firmament. It is almost impossible to overestimate this book, and it is a shame that it never recieved its due praise whence published. However, this unfairness only concretises Beauvior's arguments upon Patriarchal attitudes. TSS is encyclopaedic in scope, and dazzling in its wealth of knowledge. Opening this book is like opening Pandora's box - there is no end to what you may find inside.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hugely impressive book 9 April 2008
By Sally Wilton VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Simone de Beauvoir was scandalised and ridiculed particularly by the church when this first came out in 1949 which must have been a disappointment for her. Perhaps a radical book at the time but very relevant to the present and this is worth reading by all women and any man who agrees that women should have a better time whilst on this planet.

The book covers many aspects of being a woman, begining when humans first roamed the earth as nomads and the tyranny of life as a woman giving birth constantly as unlike many animals humans are always fertile. Infant death and infantacide were a means of survival then and the reason why the human population was realatively small for tens of thousands of years. Then tilling the earth when the male began to domineer and own all land, passing it on to their male heirs, leaving woman to be a virtual slave to fathers and husbands, the start of male domination!

I learnt some really interesting things from reading this for example: I didn't know that reproduction was properly underrstood until the mid 19th Century, all sorts of bizare beliefs were practised prior to this revelation, people even believed that sperm contained tiny little people!!! Also discussed is how man and woman are prisoners of instinctive behaviour and really cannot help themselves to a great extent, brilliant for understanding relationships, ie why men walk away after sex in many cases but instinctively a for a woman it is the start of relationship due to the feelings of wanting to nurture a pregnancy. It also explains why in some ways a woman does not always progress due to involuntarily sabotaging their own plans ie preferring part time work or not going for the promotion due to home making instincts.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars very good
It is a lovely new book and a very Big read but i expected that. It is so ahead of its time. I Love it
Published 5 months ago by Sharon
5.0 out of 5 stars The Second Sex still relevant today
Simone de Beauvoir's writing about the nature of male/female gender relations remains as pertinent today as it was 50 years ago. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Charlotte Summersell
3.0 out of 5 stars Important but imperfect
There is much to admire in this important book: it has to be judged in the context of its time, but it clearly broke significant ground. Read more
Published on 13 April 2012 by Australian
4.0 out of 5 stars A weighty tome
I read an excerpt on the internet and this book fascinated me.

I found the size of print uncomfortably small and it's not the most readable text, but am finding it worth... Read more
Published on 3 Feb 2012 by Tinkerbell502
3.0 out of 5 stars a bit biased
I started reading this book with a great interest and have to say that many thoughts I found in this book were intriguing. Read more
Published on 16 Jun 2011 by reviewer
2.0 out of 5 stars Dense, Irrelevant, Outdated, Non-Scientific
Some poeple would tell you that this book deserves five starts for its historical relevance alone. To them Ill say: 1 I am reading it NOW, not in the past. Read more
Published on 11 Feb 2010 by sanyata
2.0 out of 5 stars sex as a profession
This woman wrote many years ago this book. Firstly it was novelty. But her irregular life, contradictory with almost all principles she explains has deceived many readers. Read more
Published on 18 Sep 2009 by Carlos Vazquez Quintana
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great books of the 20th century
There is more good sense in this wonderful book than in most of the rest of all the writing by and about women. Marvellous.
Published on 26 Mar 2008 by William Podmore
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