Novel 'The Second Sex' by Simone De Beauvoir

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The essay will be based on the quote “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman” (Simone De Beauvoir in The Second Sex). Simone De Beauvoir was a French existential novelist in the eighteenth century. ‘The Second Sex’ is regarded as one of the major works of feminist philosophy and the starting point of second-wave feminism. I will be arguing that the biological sex that we are born with does not define the gender that we conform to and that the trait is mostly assigned to us based on our upbringing and the pressures put on us by society.

One of the novels I will be using for reference is ‘Mrs Dalloway’ by Virginia Woolf. The novel gives us an insight into how women were regarded and treated in the early nineteenth century. It serves as a brilliant example of how the expectations of society can slowly beat down and shape our personalities and lives in the form of Mrs Dalloway.

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The other novel I will be referencing is ‘Room at the Top’ by John Braine. This novel features two main female characters; a wealthy factory owner's daughter and a married older woman. The novel touches on the proper way that women should act in the 1940s, and on the happiness that can be found when all societal pressures and stereotypes are abolished.

I will also touch on Jane Pooveys’ text ‘The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer’. This novel Is talks about the struggles facing women in the eighteenth century, in particular women writers. It talks about several different female writers including Mary Shelly and the difficulty of becoming a respected and successful female writer despite society’s views and norms. Poovey talks about the “Proper Lady” and the repercussions of this being the norm of how women should behave. In the essay I will be briefly going over what a “Proper Lady” is and how society is affected in a negative way thanks to this ideology.

When talking about gender in the modern day I will be referencing to the book ‘Undoing Gender’ by Judith Butler. She talks about modern day feminism and the strive to achieve equality between the genders. This is very relevant in the topic I will be talking about. Furthermore, I will be talking about Social constructionism and what it is. In this book Butler talks about social transformation which ties in to the solution to undoing social constructs that are not beneficial to our society.

When talking about social constructionism I will be making ties to ‘Doing Gender’ By West, Candace; Zimmerman, Don H. I will be using several quotes and extracts from their writings on what gender is and how it is formed. In the essay I will be explaining the fundamentals of social constructionism which is important for the readers to understand in order to make sense of my arguments. Finally, I will touch briefly on Charles Cooley and on his philosophy of self-Identity. Though not specifically about gender, his views relate to the topic at hand as it is very focused on self-identity and how we perceive ourselves.

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Novel ‘The Second Sex’ by Simone De Beauvoir. (2022, March 21). WritingBros. Retrieved November 29, 2023, from
“Novel ‘The Second Sex’ by Simone De Beauvoir.” WritingBros, 21 Mar. 2022,
Novel ‘The Second Sex’ by Simone De Beauvoir. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2023].
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