51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Amazing study of gender difference and similarity,
This review is from: The Second Sex (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
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.