Part Two, History. Chapter 5 (128-159):
It’s been nearly a year since the last chapter, partly because I’ve been extra busy, partly because I keep getting side-tracked down other Beauvoirian rabbit holes — and I mean ‘rabbit holes’ in a good way. I’ve just finished reading the three-volume autobiography, which my hoa tane bought me for my birthday. And why has that taken so long? More rabbit holes, of course. For example, I could hardly read SdB writing about the writing of each of her novels without reading them, could I — OK, some of them; and then she ended the second volume (“Force of Circumstance”) of the autobiography with an overwhelmingly sad and/or depressing section on getting old. So that, of course, sent me off to read her book on aging (which I haven’t finished yet, but will definitely write
about). Then, at the start of the final volume (“All Said and Done 1962-1972”), she explains that that overwhelmingly sad and/or depressing section was misunderstood by pretty much everyone. Well, I thought, that must include me, and I felt a bit chastened, like I’d been rapped over the knuckles by SdB and told I was stupid. Then I thought, bullshit. We didn’t misunderstand it! Nah, SdB is trying to re-frame it after the fact. Ahem! Yet I remain fascinated by SdB’s ongoing obsession with aging. I want to understand it, and particularly, to understand how and why a woman so smart about so much — especially when it comes to what is ‘essential’ about a person and what isn’t — couldn’t do a better job of transcending (is that the right word? Overcoming? Ignoring? Co-opting?) at least some of the societal mandates around aging. True, aging is an inescapable facticity (fact), but wouldn’t an Existentialist be the best equipped of anybody to respond to it in ways that challenge the status quo. I know, I know, you can’t just overcome facticity…
I digress. Back to Le Deuxieme Sexe!
This is the last of the chapters in the History section of the book, and it traverses how (and to some extent why) women have fared so badly from the time of the French Revolution (1789) until “now” , i.e. the 1950s (with some excursions into other centuries). Obviously, there’s a fair amount of French history, which is a bit of a relief, since lately I’ve had more than enough of miserable Anglophone history and politics.