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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 11 April 2017
Good quality item & quick delivery.
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on 23 August 2017
Great book.
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on 8 October 2016
Bought as a present for my girlfriend who is interested in gender studies. She's happy with it
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on 11 January 2011
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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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. She examined the concept of woman in the works of five authors: Montherlant, D. H. Lawrence, Claudel, Breton and Stendhal. It was personally reassuring that she liked Stendhal the best, saying: "...from this carnival atmosphere where Woman is disguised variously as fury, nymph, morning star, siren, I find it a relief to come upon a man who lives among women of flesh and blood." Elsewhere, making a comparison with the so-called "Negro Problem" and "Jewish Problem," which she says is neither, she says that: "the woman problem has always been a man's problem." Other uncomfortable insights: "that is why superiority has been accorded in humanity not to the sex that brings forth but that which kills."

In the second book De Beauvoir speaks of the acculturation process whereby girls are taught to be "coquettish and seductive," and are ambivalent in arousing male interest. She says that "the feminine body is peculiarly psychosomatic," and that "woman's sexuality is conditioned by the total situation." The entire chapter on a Married Woman makes for more uncomfortable reading, including the insight that: "Many married women find amusement in confiding to one another the `tricks' they use in simulating a pleasure that they deny feeling in reality;" "This is indeed a melancholy science- to dissimulate, to use trickery, to hate and fear in silence, to play on the vanity and the weaknesses of a man... to `manage' him."

In the chapter on the Mother, her discussion on abortion could tumble out of today's newspapers. She says that a mother who is harsh with her child is seeking vengeance on the man. In terms of her Social Life, she repeats the familiar aphorism that "woman dresses to inspire jealousy in other women,..." and that it is only in Old Age that a woman gains her independence, and can determine who she actually is. Another acute sentiment: "Man enjoys the great advantage of having a God endorse the codes he writes..." Her conclusion certainly starts depressingly enough: "No, woman is not our brother; through indolence and depravity we have made of her a being apart, unknown, having no weapon other than her sex... but moreover, an unfair weapon of the eternal little slave's mistrust."

I found some significant information in some of the other posted reviews: There is the issue of a faulty translation, which even excludes portions of the original text, and this matter has never been resolved. There is also the very real matter of her personal life, failing to "walk the talk," and assuming a subordinate position to Jean-Paul Sartre, including the rumored procurement of younger women. Alas! Subordinate no longer, though, they lay side by side in Montparnasse cemetery, for those with pilgrimage inclinations.

Overall, a superlative book that can be read and enjoyed numerous times for the central insights De Beauvoir renders.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on June 26, 2009)
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on 7 February 2003
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". Supplementing TSS with more recent works such as those by Germaine Greer, Andrea Dworkin and Kate Millet will give you a more general picture of feminism but it still remains the greatest and most complete work on women's studies and possibly the most important book to come out of the twentieth century.
This is essential reading for any self-respecting individual, male or female, although its size and density means it is probably better to read this segments at a time.
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on 1 December 2009
This is a respectful, idiomatic and unabridged translation of Simone de Beauvoir's classic work. The language is crystal clear, not at all "translator-ese, but plain English and a pleasure to read. The talented translator team have succeeded in making Mme de Beauvoir's highly original and still eye-opening analysis more than simply understandable. They have made clear and convincing this compelling, mind-stretching journey across a variety of disciplines about how men and women misunderstand each other and how much we can gain when we try not to. Mme de Beauvoir's reasoning is set forth far more clearly and convincingly than in any previous abridged translations.

If you read excerpts of this classic work in the past, read it now in the unabridged entirety.

This will be the most appreciated Christmas book of the season.

Pat on the back to Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier for setting a new translation standard.
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on 7 December 2009
Be careful to buy the right translation when you buy this book. The 2009 translation is unabridged and reputable. The earlier one by Parshley is severely abridged and much less accurate. Amazon has accidently The Second Sex (Vintage classics)The Second SexThe Second Sex (Vintage classics)The Second Sex
linked a favourable review of the new translation to an edition of the old translation.
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on 28 March 2006
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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on 4 February 2017
I first bought a copy of The Second Sex back in 1997 and its been on my To Read list for 20 years, so it was a pleasure to finally get around to reading it. Sadly it wasn't such a pleasure in the actual reading. I gave up by page 200, unwilling to devote any more of my precious reading time to trying to dredge anything worthwhile out of this. It's not that the subject matter is bad - I'm a committed radical feminist- but the execution. As a historical document its interesting enough, a snapshot of European gender studies shortly after the second world war reveals some interesting snippets, but as a serious study into the history and critique of gender studies its a load of bobbins. In the chapter on biology, she is quite right to attack the Edwardian scientific misogynists and their use of invented science to justify their oppression of women. But her scientific facts are often outdated and thus her statements and conclusions can appear as absurd as those she critiques. Similarly, she is right to attack Freud and Freudians, but her critique of psychoanalysis is based only on a critique of Freud, as if that was the beginning and end of psychiatry! Her critique of Historical Materialism is a a broad-brush dismissal of Engels' categorisation of gender as a class, that (in my opinion) misunderstands the subject. Later on, during the section on History, she affirms and critiques historical conditions using exactly that categorisation. I am unable to understand whether this is deliberate or not. During Part II, History, her essays on prehistorical humanity and bronze age humanity are absolute nonsense. She has simply made it up out of whole cloth. She makes broad claims without citing anyone at all. She makes claims that I know are false. She doesn't present this as speculation, or as extrapolation from known facts. At this point I was reading out chunks to my partner so that we could laugh at her claims. The chapters on later history are more interesting, probably because a lot of the French history was new to me, but I was unable to trust any of the information, knowing that she was making up her earlier history! In Part II chapter 1 "Dreams, Fears, Idols" I struggled through, trying to sift the good stuff from the bad - the bad in this case being a tendency towards verbosity that taxed my poor brain and my ability to give a monkeys. Bits of it were great - her critique is often sharp and incisive - but the whole was boring. Finally I gave up, happy that I gave it a good try, but content to stick to more concise and relevant modern writers.

It's worth pointing out that I don't think that translation was very good. I suspect that it would have made a lot more sense in the original French.
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